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In defiance of internationalism - Israel's manipulation of humanitarian aid

January 24, 2014 at 3:25 am

As Israel’s heavily publicised humanitarian mission in the Philippines commenced, the IDF has been constantly updating its achievements in the ravaged land through a twitter account which briefly utilised the hashtag #IDFWithoutBorders, until activists exploited the irony implied within the chosen vocabulary, relating the implied lack of confines to Israel’s unbridled usurpation of Palestinian land and expanding territorial borders.

Social media has been inundated with examples of gratitude and assimilation which competently portray the propaganda campaign. A baby named Israel by ‘the thankful mum’, children photographed while holding the Israeli flag; and the teaching of the Hebrew language to students emphasise an expected compliance, as opposed to collaboration, in return for its involvement in the Philippines. IDF officials have been emphasising their selective implementation of humanitarian work, clearly eliminating its atrocious human rights violations against Palestinians from the equation: “Saving lives is not only a motto but a way of life”. “Medicine is a bridge between people.” For a passive observer, the rhetoric, combined with photography depicting the IDF contingent as actively involved in internationalism would undoubtedly influence public opinion with regard to the application of humanitarian aid.

However, any merit of Israel’s venture in the Philippines must be questioned in light of its manipulation of internationalism, international law violations and the blockade on Gaza – issues which are conveniently relegated to the periphery while promoting the colonising power’s alleged ‘moral army’. The exhibited propaganda dictates a restricted perception of the Israeli army in an attempt to disassociate the same entity from its human rights violations against the Palestinian population.

Paraphrasing Peruvian political philosopher Jose Carlos Mariategui, internationalism practiced in solidarity should counter capitalist exploitation, which is another form of internationalism designed to generate subservience to imperialist agenda. In 1960, Fidel Castro evoked the politics of internationalism and solidarity in reference to exploitation and imperialism: “A country that exploits the people of Latin America, or any other parts of the world, is an ally of the exploiters of the rest of the world.”

In 1965, Ernesto che Guevara elaborated upon the importance of emerging from colonial dominance in order to combat the forces which ostracised the individual’s worth into a commodity. Israel has practiced its own exploitation procedures, attempting to describe itself as adhering to internationalist principles while remaining ensconced within the category of oppressors. Exceeding the invalidation of an individual’s worth, Israel has also strived to render Palestinians a negligible collective through its extermination policies, demonstrating its ability to function as oppressor through its imposition of colonialism upon Palestinians – a fact which fails to resonate as much as the occasional indulgence in humanitarian propaganda.

In the case of Israel, humanitarian aid has been practiced as a form of exploitation through which the Israeli army is able to further its oppression of the occupied population. Competence and prestige have amalgamated themselves into a propaganda exhibition of solidarity, which creates a disparity with the intense human rights violations the colonising power has created for Palestinians. The manipulation of internationalist solidarity is exposed in the words uttered by the IDF Commander of the Home Front Command: “Providing aid is part of who we are.” The sliver of alleged humanity comes at a lethal expense which exposes the characteristics of a state founded upon land usurpation and a fictitious nationhood– an ongoing colonisation which is sustained by Israel’s allies through collaboration regarding impunity, military aid and economic benefits.

Indeed, the Israeli propaganda campaign has managed to evoke the imperialist trend of humanitarian aid as prestige. Besides the obvious correlation between humanitarian aid and human rights abuses, personified by the colonising power, Israel has manipulated the dynamics of solidarity into decadent subservience. The combination of competence and prestige has exceeded the humanitarian impact, transforming the IDF’s role into one intrinsically detached from the mission it has set to accomplish in the Philippines. Altruism has been overshadowed by the campaign’s emphasis on its accomplishments and obvious gestures of gratitude bordering upon idolisation, instead of evoking a mutual collaboration between recipient and donor. The manipulation necessitates a deconstruction of Israel’s role from within the geographical borders it occupies, translating into a colonising power which indulges in human rights violations with impunity against Palestinians selectively opting to ‘save lives’ according to the actual opportunity translated into a moral obligation.

Selectivity remains a key feature of Israel’s contribution to humanitarian welfare – necessitating the invention of alternative terminology to describe its protection of humanity within communities abroad, and the destruction of the indigenous population which it has colonised for decades. While glorifying its role in ‘exploring solutions to the serious water problem in the Philippines’, depriving Palestinians of water remains a priority on the Zionist agenda. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with 95% of the water supply deemed unfit for consumption, has been conveniently disregarded by the same entity embarking upon providing relief abroad. Behind the illusion of humanitarian aid professionally depicted by Israel lies the slow extermination of Palestinians, sanctioned by the complicit international community.

Beyond the lauded and publicised spectacle, the camouflage of human rights violations perpetrated by the same entity embarking upon humanitarian missions creates a necessity for the occupied population to articulate their definition of what constitutes human rights, as well as the ramifications of power and its effect upon Palestinian civilians. The Israeli government has sanctioned an exhibition of humanitarian aid abroad and human rights violations within the territory it has occupied and besieged, creating the necessity of two divergent narratives relating to the implementation of human rights protection, as well as the fictitious conjecture of human rights protection with regard to Palestinians. Both narratives have occupied and dominated public discourse, relegating Palestinian discourse of regarding human rights to oblivion as Israel continues to impose its own configuration of Palestinian life upon the international community.

To combat this hegemony, Palestinians need to reclaim and disseminate their narrative from within their reality, challenging the duplicitous agenda of both Israel and the international community -entities which have dominated Palestinian expression under the guise of human rights concern.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.