November 16, 2010

United Nations director: Humanitarian action can drive two-state solution

Educating the people of the Gaza strip, stronger humanitarian efforts, and open borders between Gaza and Israel will be essential for peace in the Middle East Gazan educational activist John Ging said in a Thursday talk at the Harris School.

Ging, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA,) stressed that people on both sides of the border desire a peaceful resolution. Opening communications across the border would meet the needs of both Gaza and Israel, Ging said.

“The conflict will not be resolved while the people are in a physical state of destitution and despair. The first step is to open the connections,” said Ging, an Irish national who directs 11,000 United Nations aid workers in Gaza.

Ging said he aims to educate three-quarters of a million young people. “Seventy-three percent of Gazans are pro-peace, and pro-two-state solutions, because they know where their best future lies.”

According to Ging, Israeli and Egyptian blockades lead to increased illegal activity and black markets. “The blockade is counterproductive, because it is feeding extremism. It doesn’t justify it, but it is an inevitable consequence,” he said.

Humanitarian efforts addressing the deficient Gazan infrastructure and the lack of educational institutions are also essential, according to Ging. Half of his funding, roughly a half billion dollars, goes toward education in Gaza.

Ging has taught in Gaza and Lebanon, and his curriculum, which includes a history of the Holocaust, has instigated action from Israelis.

Approximately 30 people attended the lecture, including first-year Janelle Johnson, who said she was inspired to learn more about Gazan schools. “The statistics were very helpful, along with the comments about the curriculum in the schools, and I want to learn more about that,” said Johnson, a public policy student.

The lecture was hosted in conjunction with J Street U, a pro-Israel nationwide student organization which advocates for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.