Is it only when Israel kills white aid workers that it matters to the world?

So far, Israel has killed more than 200 aid workers in Gaza, but it took the death of white people from countries like Australia, Canada, and Poland for the Israeli prime minister to apologise, writes Global Bar Magazine’s editor-in-chief David Isaksson after the attack on the World Central Kitchen aid convoy.

The opinions in the article are those by the author.

The article has been translated from Swedish and updated with new facts.

No other state in the world has killed as many aid workers in recent decades as Israel. This is a fact that no one can ignore. And the number of deaths continues to rise. 

For several months we have regularly reported on the attacks by Israel against aid workers in Gaza and how the number of deaths has steadily increased and the fact that in early February the number of deaths was already approaching 200. One high-profile case involved a six-year-old girl, Hind Rajab, who was trapped in a car that was shot at in Gaza, killing her family, killing the girl, and killing those who came to help her.

Surely Hind is forgotten by now, after all it has been several weeks since then.

The Red Cross, Save the Children, Anera, USAID and of course UNRWA (with a reported 176 deaths so far) are among the organisations that have seen their staff killed. In early March, we reported that a fifth MSF aid worker was confirmed killed.

On 31 March, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported how Israel attacked the Al Aqsa hospital where the organisation provides aid. MSF writes about how this happened:

At noon, 31 March 2024, an Israeli airstrike hit the yard of the Al Aqsa hospital compound where many internally displaced people are sheltering, just outside of the emergency room. People were killed and injured.

After the attack, part of the MSF team had to stop providing care. “When our team heard a loud explosion nearby, they stopped what they were doing right away to seek cover inside the hospital, until confirmed that the attack was over,” said one of the MSF coordinators.

MSF provides medical and surgical wound care in Al Aqsa hospital, the only facility in the Middle Area with the capacity to offer trauma care. We reiterate our call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire. Civilians, healthcare premises and medical staff must be protected.

What will it take for Israel to apologise?

But the killing of Palestinians and other Middle Easterners is not enough for the world to react. It takes dead white aid workers for the Israeli Prime Minister to apologise.

On Tuesday 2 April, the aid organisation World Central Kitchen (WCK) reported that seven of its workers were killed in a ”targeted attack” by the Israeli military. The dead came from Palestine, Australia, Poland, the UK and one citizen from the US and Canada. Ordinary ”white” boys and girls, one of whom was described on Australian television as follows:

WCK described how the attack occurred as staff delivered food from the latest shipment to Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been pushed to the brink of starvation by Israel’s offensive.

Images showed the bodies of those killed in a hospital in the central city of Deir el-Balah. Several of them were wearing protective gear with the charity organisation’s logo.

Images also show that there was not one attack, but three, and that the aim was clearly to eliminate the aid workers, according to many observers.

Unknown – until now

Until now, the World Central Kitchen has been an unknown organisation to most people. Founded after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti by Spanish-American chef and restaurateur José Andrés, WCK has worked with the Swedish organisation A Demand for Action to deliver food to Ukrainian refugees in Poland and Lebanon.

Now they were to do their utmost to relieve the suffering in Gaza: a ship carrying 200 tonnes of supplies set sail for Gaza and a temporary harbour was built. The effort made headlines and was favoured by both the US and Israel. 

However, the organisation’s working methods have not been fully appreciated by others and many organisations have expressed reluctance to bring in food by ship as the main problem is that Israel does not want to let through the food waiting on the other side of the border.

The WCK announced the immediate suspension of its activities in the region, while the world’s social media is filled with condolences. Of course, it’s good that so many world leaders are now at least paying attention to what they wrote in their status updates, because Israel is by far the country that has killed the most aid workers of all in recent decades.

But will anyone put force behind the words? Biden says he is ”outraged”, but will that translate into actions – or sanctions? It doesn’t seam likely.

Does no one dare mention Israel?

In an op-ed in New York Times, José Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen, writes:

Israel is better than the way this war is being waged. It is better than blocking food and medicine to civilians. It is better than killing aid workers who had coordinated their movements with the Israel Defense Forces.

In the worst conditions, after the worst terrorist attack in its history, it’s time for the best of Israel to show up. You cannot save the hostages by bombing every building in Gaza. You cannot win this war by starving an entire population.

Meanwhile, many other organisations choose to tread carefully. They talk about the children they have rescued, the children who need food, about people on the move, but almost always without mentioning the perpetrator, i.e., Israel. In the case of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), absolute neutrality is a way for the organisation to access both sides, but why is the fear so great among other organisations?

Current campaign images from Save the Children Sweden, Plan Sweden, and SOS Children’s Villages Sweden.

In fact, several organisations are raising money for Gaza without even mentioning Israel once. Words such as ”famine” and ”humanitarian disaster” are used in every other sentence, but no one mentions that this is an induced famine, a created famine.

Surely this is a way for the organisations to ensure the possibility of continued access to Gaza: those who are openly critical of Israel may risk being excluded altogether, or the ”accidental” killing of the organisations’ staff.

At the same time, one has to ask who benefits in the long run from this favouritism. Is it really the children in Gaza?

David Isaksson

Footnote: The US-based organisation Anera (which previously had an employee killed by Israel) announced later on 2 April that it was suspending its activities in Gaza.


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