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The inhumanity of humanitarian aid

March 5, 2024 at 3:53 pm

Palestinian people try to remove the debris from a heavily damaged humanitarian aid vehicle, which has been the target of Israeli airstrikes resulting in the death of nine and dozens of injured, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on March 3, 2024. [Belal Khaled – Anadolu Agency]

The genocide in Gaza is reaping no end of collaboration. Israeli settlers have been blocking humanitarian aid from reaching Palestinians, purportedly in protest at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not doing enough to secure the hostages’ release from Gaza. Yet the protest is not eliciting any response from the Israeli government, which portrays another aspect of State and settler complicity in genocide.

Governments, on the other hand, are calling attention to the plight of starvation without pointing towards genocide, and the US recently embarked upon humanitarian assistance airdrops into Gaza – 38,000 meals for over a million forcibly displaced Palestinians. Not only did the US illustrate how humanitarian assistance always falls short in comparison to the scale of need, US President Joe Biden also sent a strong message to Israel that it approves of mass starvation as part of its genocidal plan for Palestinians. The message to Palestinians, unequivocally, is to die either way.

Israel, meanwhile, used the humanitarian assistance as traps to massacre even more Palestinians whose only aim was to alleviate their hunger. Media reports and footage of the airdrops and the aftermath of Israel’s massacres are not serving a proper purpose. The sensationalism of food dropped by means of parachutes, the scrambling for food, the carnage after Israel’s deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians, are becoming a spectacle that diverts attention away from genocide, despite evidence of it taking place.

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The reports on the “flour massacre” are reminiscent of so many atrocities perpetrated by the Zionist paramilitary gangs – predecessors to the IDF – during the 1948 Nakba. For decades, the Nakba remained the focal part of Palestinians’ collective memory and a testimony to the horrors unleashed by the Zionist colonial ideology.

In recent years, Israel relied on normalising human rights violations and the international community was only too glad not to have to deal with colonial violence. Human rights discourse, after all, is a powerful political tool designed to weave impunity for the unfolding colonial violence against Palestinians, in this case. Settlement expansion, displaced Palestinians, demolished infrastructure, detention and torture – all were discussed through the Western concept of human rights where the downtrodden are forced to appeal repeatedly, and futilely, for recognition, and given humanitarian aid instead of political autonomy.

Humanitarian aid is the latest feature of global diplomacy which Israel is exploiting for its genocide. The US is, lately, condemning mass starvation, yet it still supplies Israel with weapons to destroy Gaza and kill its Palestinian population. It sees no contradiction in dropping insufficient aid parcels to trap Palestinians under Israel’s precision killing. Food as a weapon of genocide does not enter the US rhetoric. And the images that are pouring out of Gaza – proof of genocide – are only contributing to alienation. No one expects Israel to act differently – it is proud of its violence, displays it with impunity, and holds complete monopoly over the narrative of genocide. But the least anyone can do is to rethink the concept of humanitarian aid and the unprecedented levels of its inhumanity, as Israel and the international community conveniently exposed, with complete impunity.

OPINION: The ‘Flour Massacre’ and Israel’s licence to kill, maim and massacre

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