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While the rest of the world bickers over its political point-scoring, the people of Gaza have a chronic shortage of food, clothes and medicines, as they endure one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises.
The politics I refer to is not just that of spineless Western governments and their Israeli lobby-funded re-election campaigns, nor is it just that of the almost cryogenic apathy of most Britons; rather it is also that of the stubbornly doctrinal Palestinian lobby, which seems too often to forget the plight of the starving Gaza citizen.
The goal of a humanitarian mission is a simple one: to relieve immediate suffering by the provision of aid. It cannot become more complex. The reason humanitarian aid workers and missions receive such privilege in conflict situations, and such respect on the international stage is that they are apolitical.
The relief of suffering must not take on distinct political goals. It cannot assign to actors the roles of good and of bad, or decide who is to blame and plot a solution. It must stick firmly on the narrow path to which it belongs.
The aid ships which on Sunday raised a further confrontation with Israel’s trigger-happy pirate force strayed far from this path, and deep into the realm of politics.
Whilst Israel may be stupid enough to execute aid workers en route to a humanitarian crisis, it is not stupid enough to deny the passage of all aid into Gaza. Ships which approach the naval blockade are re-directed to an Israeli port where their aid is unloaded, screened, and then distributed. This process though far from perfect is at least translucent – a delegation from the ship is allowed to accompany the aid until the end of the process should they wish.
I do not know enough about what happened on the ill-fated mission of last week to comment in much depth on their ambitions, and I also wish not to cast aspersions on the deaths of people who I believe acted with the best intentions and, in their minds at least, in the best interests of Gazans. This latest ship, however, has made its intentions clear.
They set sailing straight at the blockade, openly declaring beforehand that they would defy Israeli orders because they did not recognise the legality of the naval blockade. They professed they would refuse the Israeli mechanism of distributing aid because they restricted and would not pass on an arbitrary set of entirely normal foodstuffs, such as pasta and chocolate. In short, they made their voyage a political one.
Quite simply, this is not their job. It is not their job to make political statements at the expense of the Gazan people. Whilst aid ships decide to protest against Israel, Gazans wait longer between each next meal. While humanitarian groups put boxes of pasta in every container to spite Israeli officials, Gazans go hungry.
This is not to say that the politics of protestors is wrong. For too long Israel has held its position as self-appointed arbiter of security and terror, justice and unjustice; labelling tanks good and rockets bad, rather than admitting its own transgressions and permitting a humble peace. It must not be allowed to keep up its campaign of moral piracy, holding another nation under siege.
What needs to happen is that the governments of the West need to grow a backbone. They need to stop turning a blind eye to the activities of Israel and order it to behave – if Israel can order about Palestine, then it too must learn to do what it’s told.
The response of the Israeli Defense Force to a few iron bar wielding aid workers was incredibly disproportionate, and they should not escape with immunity. As with all things, there is a time and a place for this protest to be made. Now is certainly the time, but aid ships are too costly a place.