On one level, the UK government’s announcement of £3 million in new aid for the Gaza Strip is to be welcomed. The funding is destined for the World Food Programme’s emergency appeal, and comes on top of £4 million sent to UNRWA and £3 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
There is no doubt that Palestinians in Gaza are in urgent need of assistance to deal with the devastation caused by Israel’s bombardment, with homes destroyed, mass displacement, food shortages, overwhelmed hospitals, and power outages. A few million is, sadly, a drop in the ocean.
But the problem here is not so much the quantity of aid being allocated. David Cameron is sending money to help Palestinians who are suffering as a direct consequence of a brutal attack he has justified and defended, conducted by a military who benefit from UK-issued arms export licenses.
In the first days of the bombardment, Cameron spoke to PM Benjamin Netanyahu to offer “staunch support” and underline “Israel’s right to defend itself. As on previous occasions, Israel has felt free to kill Palestinians, and commit systematic violations of international law, in part due to the support and impunity it enjoys when it comes to the U.S. and European governments.
At the very least, one could describe it as counter-productive for the British government to throw money at a “crisis” that is entirely the result of a military assault it has repeatedly defended. But it’s more than that of course – it’s morally reprehensible.
This is symptomatic of a wider, and long-standing, problem in the approach of the UK and other Western powers: namely, that without the political will to end the root causes of Palestinian displacement and impoverishment – that is, racist and illegal Israel policies – our politicians simply end up subsidizing Israeli crimes.
Strangled by a colonial occupation-cum-de facto one state, the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is donor-dependent, and, as comprehensively documented by Palestinians and international bodies like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, will never flourish under Israeli restrictions.
Even Cameron, announcing the aid for Gaza, noted that “the facts on the ground” were “beginning to make a two-state solution impossible”.
But if the UK government is serious about responding to the outcry against Israel’s massacre in Gaza, then aid is insufficient. Instead, it should listen to those demanding an arms embargo, such as the 35,000 people who have supported this call from Amnesty International UK.
The horrific scale of this latest massacre should be a wake-up call to MPs and civil servants: rather than defending the brutal attacks of an occupying power, blaming the victims, and continuing to foot the bill for Israeli atrocities, there must be accountability, and an end to our complicity.