Israeli Army War Crime against Aid Workers Could Have Killed Me

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 Apr 2024

Robin Edward Poulton, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

2 Apr 2024 – Delivering aid is a dangerous business. Before the tragic assassination of the seven World Central Kitchen staff, a lot of aid workers have died while on mission.  If I were younger, I might well have been in Gaza on that air mission.

Seven aid workers from NGO World Central Kitchen were killed by Israeli drones on April 1st -2nd while making an Israel-approved journey in clearly-marked NGO famine relief vehicles.

Refugee relief work is very often carried out in war zones. Our daughter Catherine Leïla spent 12 years in refugee camps (in Sudan, Chad, Central Africa, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan) aiding and protecting women and girls who were fleeing war.  Catherine confronted armed Janjaweed rebels and had stray bullets hit her house – fortunately without wounding anyone.  I spent years persuading armed rebels to put down their weapons, end war and join a peace process (in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Cambodia, Afghanistan). Soldiers can be as dangerous as rebels. At any time, a guy with a loaded Kalashnikov rifle could have pointed it at me.

One time it happened: at the last second the soldier turned his rifle away from our driver (a friend of mine) and fired a volley of bullets across the bonnet of our vehicle.  A lucky escape in a country where soldiers have impunity.

Even so, the main danger for aid workers is usually travel – land mines, old vehicles, poor aircraft maintenance, speeding drivers and dangerous road management  ….  In 30 years of this sort of work, I never, ever, imagined that I might be the victim of a government missile attack.  But then, I never worked in Israel or in Palestine.

Israel has gone beyond the pale.

Britain’s David Cameron says “these deaths are completely unacceptable.”  WHAT a pathetic response from this Tory Toff !  I assume Cameron loves Netanyahu and want to help him stay out of jail?   What Cameron should have said is: “These deaths are Murder. They are War Crimes.“

Three vehicles were destroyed, apparently sequentially: so they were being chased and targeted. All three were clearly marked with the NGO logo and all three were cleared by Israel for the trip.

War crimes are no longer a question: Israeli war crimes are dominating the airwaves, because NOW it is not Palestinians who have been killed, but aid workers from Britain, Australia, Poland, USA (it is said there are dual nationals among the victims).

Hey guys!  These are Rich White people you have killed and now – at last – their governments are being forced to become angry.  30,000 Palestinians have died, and western nations still support Israel’s criminal war enterprise.  It is only when 3 Brits, an Aussie girl and a Polish hero are killed that we hear David Cameron (UK), Anthony Albanese (Oz) and Donald Tusk (Poland’s new prime minister) making serious complaints.  They are not happy. Why not?

Because they all know – and US president Joe Biden knows as well – that their voting populations have abandoned support for Israel’s war.  Biden may well lose the election in November because of his support for Netanyahu.

Anatomy of a Genocide

We can all see that the destruction of Gaza is no longer a defence of Israel: it is vengeance and genocide …. As the International Court of Justice in The Hague very nearly declared last month when it demanded that Israel avoid acts of genocide. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, confirmed genocide when she presented her report to UN member states in Geneva in March. Francesca Albanese chose as the title of her report: “Anatomy of a Genocide” and she was obviously not seeking to be diplomatic. We are long past the time when diplomatic words will help Gaza.

Genocide is a specific legal term, with roots in the Nazis’ condemnation for the Holocaust. Dr Albanese’s report suggests some of the legal criteria have been fulfilled by Israel’s actions.  She cites Israel’s apparent intention to destroy Palestinians as a group “in whole or in part”, a key clause in the Convention against Genocide.  The report argues that the death toll of 32,000 (according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry), the bombing of densely populated areas, and the restrictions on aid supplies (bringing Gaza to the brink of famine), are all proof of intent to destroy the group.

Let us not forget that two Palestinians were also among the seven victims of the IDF drone attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated claims that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) do not target civilians appear to be lies.  More than 200 aid workers have been killed in Gaza. More than 100 employees of UNRWA, the United Nations refugee have been killed in Gaza. More than 12,000 children have been killed in Gaza.

The charity World Central Kitchen said: “Despite coordinating movements with the [Israeli army], the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.  [ … ] This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable.”

The Guardian newspaper reported that 240 tonnes of urgently needed food has been turned away from Gaza following the attack on WCK.  Almost 400 tonnes funded by the United Arab Emirates arrived by ship organised by WCK:  but workers had only offloaded around 100 tonnes before the drone attack led the charity to order the vessels to return to Cyprus. The WCK agency has suspended its operations. The famine will get worse. More Palestinian children will die.

The UN has said at least 576,000 people in the coastal territory – a quarter of the population – are on the brink of famine

How Netanyahu lost the sympathy of the whole world

On October 7th 2023, the whole world was on the side of Israel after a brutal invasion by Hamas and the slaughter of 1200 Israelis (another 250 were said to have been taken as hostages).  We were all stunned, shocked and angry.

Since October, the deaths of 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza (including more than 12000 children) and Israel’s systematic destruction of the cities and towns and villages of Gaza, have changed the balance: we are all stunned, shocked and angry at the brutality of Israel’s retaliation.

Netanyahu has lost the support of most of the world.

Now we are all witness to his IDF drones bombing aid workers, killing the dedicated volunteers devoted to alleviating the famine Netanyahu has created in Gaza. These aid workers could have been my friends, or members of my family.

Netanyahu’s drones have destroyed our sympathy for Israel. 

“These things happen” said Netanyahu on television, wearing on his face something that looked very much like a “smirk”.

Well, NO!  These things do not just “”happen” ….. because it is people who make decisions to carry out assassinations using drones.  Israeli soldiers targeted these aid workers and killed them, apparently using three separate drone attacks.

War crimes are no longer a question: Israeli war crimes are dominating the airwaves, because NOW it is not Palestinians who have been killed, but air workers from Britain, Australia, Poland, USA ….. hey guys!  These are Rich White guys: you can kill Palestinians and your Rich White friends will stay mum. But if you kill their own people, the Rich White will complain.

So UK, Australia, Poland leaders have spoken, the UN has spoken, and the USA will have to speak out in condemnation of Israeli actions.  Biden had better make it good: his election date is only seven months away.

The idea that Israel could “destroy Hamas” was always a nonsense: Hamas is a branch of the Arab-wide Muslim Brotherhood, and you cannot destroy ideology with weapons. Ideas can only be defeated with better ideas – which means using dialogue, conflict transformation and the search of mutually acceptable peace.

The Americans in Afghanistan made the mistake of trying to destroy the Taliban. They failed. The Taliban are (or were at the beginning) mostly Ghilzai Pashtuns, so the Americans would have had to practice genocide to achieve their aims. Look what happened to the Americans after twenty years of military mismanagement in pursuit if a hopeless target. Who runs Afghanistan today?

Israel’s policies in Gaza are hopeless, destructive and self-defeating.

We need an IMMEDIATE CEASEFIRE and we need PEACE.

Meanwhile people like me – the aid workers and the peace makers – get killed.

War crimes must be punished, and the war must end.

__________________________________

Robin Poulton, Chevalier de l’Ordre Royal du Sahametrei (Cambodia), Chevalier de l’Ordre National (Mali), is a member of the TRANSCEND Network who has been working in West African peace and development since 1980. An International Peace Consultant and founder of EPES Mandala Consulting Ltd., former Weapons-for-Development advisor to EU-ASAC, researcher with UNIDIR Geneva (United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research), School of World Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, West Africa Research Association and elsewhere, he is author most recently of Peace Is Possible about peace building and disarmament in Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge. Website: https://robinpoulton.com/. Email: poultonrobin@gmail.com


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 8 Apr 2024.

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