InternationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 49

A PR stunt amid a massacre in Gaza

October 20 was supposed to be a particularly humanitarian day for the “world’s most moral army”, ie, the one that has slaughtered more than 4,000 humans in the Gaza Strip over the past two weeks, half of them children.

According to United States President Joe Biden – who continues to wholeheartedly back the Israeli slaughter-fest in Gaza both morally and financially while pretending to care a tiny bit about the victims of the whole arrangement – Israel had agreed to allow some 20 humanitarian aid trucks to enter the besieged Palestinian enclave via the shuttered Rafah crossing from Egypt. Depending on how that went, the US president said, more aid trucks could then follow.

A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office affirmed that, “in light of President Biden’s demand, Israel will not thwart humanitarian supplies from Egypt as long as it is only food, water and medicine for the civilian population in the southern Gaza Strip”.

Biden, it seems, was a tad more excited about the PR stunt than everyone’s favourite “moral army”. To be sure, the non-thwarting pledge would have been slightly more credible had Israel not repeatedly bombed Rafah and the other areas of southern Gaza to which thousands of civilians from the north have evacuated under orders from Israel itself. As might have been predicted, the aid trucks were held up all day on the Egyptian side of the border as the Israeli army continued its pulverisation efforts in the Palestinian territory.

They only managed to enter Gaza next morning after another nighttime killing spree by Israeli warplanes which killed at least 46 Palestinians. The fewer people left alive in Gaza, the fewer “humanitarian supplies” needed, right?

Of course, if Israel was actually concerned with allowing aid to reach Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, it could simply suspend the illegal land, air and sea blockade of Gaza which it has maintained for more than 16 years. Over this period, the fluctuating catalogue of banned and restricted items has proved consistently diabolically ludicrous, and has included everything from medical devices to flour, rice, salt, toilet paper, soap, notebooks and pens.

Israel also happens to share its very own land border with the Gaza Strip. This means that, were the Israeli government ever in a genuinely non-thwarty mood, it could with superlative ease permit the cross-border movement of cancer medication and other helpful stuff.

As this latest war underscores, however, Israel prefers the “shooting fish in a barrel” approach to Gaza, and the 20 aid trucks allowed to go through Rafah are merely a drop in the bucket (or barrel) in a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions. Normally, some 450 trucks enter Gaza daily carrying supplies to help residents survive the debilitating blockade.

Back in 2012, a United Nations report warned that, in the absence of “Herculean efforts … in such sectors as energy, education, health, water and sanitation”, the Gaza Strip would not be “a liveable place” by 2020. Obviously, regular bouts of mass killing by the Israeli army have done nothing to increase chances of “liveability” over the years; ditto for Israeli attacks on infrastructure pertaining to each and every one of the aforementioned “sectors”.

Now, three years past the 2020 marker, Gaza appears to have entered into a state of distinct uninhabitability, particularly in the aftermath of Israel’s announcement on October 9 that it would commence a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip, including a total ban on the passage of food, water, and fuel into the territory. This, mind you, was nine days prior to the promise to “not thwart humanitarian supplies from Egypt”.

What happens, then, to 2.3 million people without food, water, electricity or medicine who are trapped in a sliver of land that is rapidly being reduced to rubble? In Joe Biden’s view, apparently, we won’t have to find out – so long as we can get a couple of aid trucks in.

In reality, though, hunger is as good a weapon of war as any – just ask the Nazis, among others. As Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, noted in a 2017 essay for the London Review of Books, “forced starvation was one of the instruments of the Holocaust” and an “effective instrument of mass murder”.

And regardless of whatever smattering of aid is allowed into Gaza without being “thwarted” by Israel, death by hunger remains a living threat.

But there are still plenty of other ways to die, as was underscored on Tuesday, October 17, when an attack on Gaza City’s al-Ahli Arab Hospital killed some 470 people. Notwithstanding Israel’s extensive track record of targeting Palestinian healthcare facilities, ambulances and medical personnel, the Israeli government undertook to deny committing the atrocity – a denial that was quickly backed up by the ever-omniscient Biden, head of another country known for bombing hospitals.

A rather more convincing picture was painted by British-Palestinian surgeon Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, the co-founder of the Conflict Medicine Programme at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, who was present at al-Ahli Hospital at the time of the attack and who described it as an Israeli “massacre by appointment”.

Writing on his Facebook page, Abu-Sittah pointed out that the Israeli government had been “openly saying it was going to target hospitals for the last week and the world just stood by and did nothing”. He continued: “I saw a body of a toddler who was missing a head”.

And as those meagre 20 humanitarian aid trucks roll into Gaza, any fig leaf of aid can’t hide the fact that this is one big massacre by appointment.