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Humanitarian aid is overtly politicised, just not in favour of the Palestinians

A young boy carries food aid distributed UNRWA at Al-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on 15 January 2018 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
A young boy carries food aid distributed UNRWA at Al-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on 15 January 2018 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

The 2019 humanitarian plan for Palestinians in the occupied territories will allocate $350 million for aid intervention, according to Ramallah’s Minister of Social Development Ibrahim Al-Shaer and UN envoy Jamie McGoldrick. The people of Palestine remain divested of their legitimate human and civil rights in order to retain the imposed status of near-total aid dependency.

Despite decades of humanitarian aid sent their way since 1948, the Palestinians have still not recovered from the immediate deprivation of basic necessities created by the Nakba. This paradox could have been resolved if their rights had been fulfilled with equal enthusiasm. Indeed, if human rights are truly universal, where is the international impediment preventing them from becoming a reality for the Palestinians?

Human rights, it seems, are official opportunities for personal advancement at the UN. Is that not a means of the politicisation of humanitarian aid? According to Ma’an news agency, Al-Shaer “reaffirmed the danger of politicising humanitarian aid because that would undermine and threaten human rights.” The context for the statement was the deficits in funding, which stem from Machiavellian political motivation behind the scenes that is detrimental to the Palestinians.

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It is pertinent to at least acknowledge that humanitarian aid is managed by political actors. There can no longer be any talk of depoliticising humanitarian aid for the simple fact that such a requirement is only expected of the Palestinians. If colonial politics determined Palestinian dispossession – that is, if the UN rendered itself complicit in the process and is now determining the parameters within which humanitarian aid will be administered – why should Palestinians not politicise their situation within the context of aid? The elimination of Palestinians’ political rights for the purposes of humanitarian aid makes the inclusion of such rights imperative.

Humanitarian aid is no longer fulfilling the Palestinians’ temporary need. Nevertheless, UN agencies and officials continue to expound upon this defunct theory, with the result that no amount of financial aid will ever compensate for the perpetual cycle of human rights violations inflicted upon the population by political decisions taken by others.

During the launch of the humanitarian plan, McGoldrick stated that 77 per cent of the funds are required in in the Gaza Strip, “due to the huge number of Palestinian victims during demonstrations” in the enclave. If it had been stated specifically that these “Palestinian victims” are actually the victims of Israel’s colonial violence along Gaza’s nominal border due to their politically-charged participation in the Great March of Return protests, would the aid narrative suddenly change due to the acknowledgement of Palestinians’ political rights?

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What governments and international institutions are expecting of Palestinians has only been made possible by removing the people from their own narratives and categorising them as a population plagued by necessities. The end result is that the same institutions supporting Israel are now solely responsible for delivering humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

It is convenient only to these bodies that humanitarian aid is not politicised. By doing so, the political endeavours of donors can be separated from their collaboration in human rights violations, while Palestinians complete the cycle by waiting for a trickle of alleviation from the institutions managing their absence from the political arena.

Furthermore, the UN is still insisting that the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza would be the panacea for “this catastrophic humanitarian situation” in the enclave. Given that the PA has exacerbated Gaza’s humanitarian conditions by imposing sanctions of its own for entirely political reasons to force Hamas to cede control, what would its hypothetical return actually mean for the Palestinian people? Would there not be a revengeful purge in Gaza that would result in yet more humanitarian aid being required as compensation for forfeiting the right to political representation? Humanitarian aid is overtly politicised, no matter how you look at it, just not in favour of the recipients in this case, the people of occupied Palestine.

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