War on Gaza

Tumble into the abyss

Gaza is being starved and the world is watching. An immediate reversal is needed.

Nothing is spared. Hospitals, schools, mosques, ancient monuments, universities, churches, archives and libraries have been destroyed. The cultural memory, the accumulated knowledge, the bearers of an independent, self-determined future - everything has been bombed. And now the people of Gaza are threatened with starvation before our very eyes. The people in Gaza, including the surviving Israeli hostages, are without rescue, without protection. And there is no end in sight.

In addition to the bombs, food parcels have recently started to fall from the sky, and now aid is also supposed to reach the sealed-off strip by sea. A glimmer of hope? Hardly. Dropping aid from the sky is not only time-consuming, expensive and imprecise. Once on the ground, without structures to distribute the aid, it is impossible to ensure that those most in need receive the goods they need to survive. On the contrary: those who are among the neediest are generally not among the quickest and strongest to share the aid among themselves. Established humanitarian minimum standards, which have been painstakingly developed after dealing with mistakes in humanitarian aid, are therefore not even close to being met by airdrops. Here, distribution is not based on need, but on the power of the strongest.

This form of aid is not only aimless, it is degrading and dehumanising. The horrific scenes of starving people fighting over the goods that have been thrown away are going around the world, and the roles are clearly assigned: here the brown, uncivilised masses, there the noble helpers and masters of the latest technology. The German armed forces  is also involved. In view of the tenfold increase in arms exports from Germany, this aid embedded in the war, which does more harm than good, is nothing other than a form of legitimising the war.

Elimination of UNRWA

While lorries carrying essential goods are backed up for kilometres at the border crossings and while the existing, albeit severely damaged, structures would still be able to supply the two million people in the Gaza Strip whose very existence is at risk, Israel, together with its closest allies Germany and the USA, is building a new system that does not represent a rescue. The existing international and UN aid structures are being deliberately bypassed and aid is now being provided by the military. This also supports the Israeli goal of eliminating the UN aid organisation UNRWA with its approximately 13,000 Palestinian employees.

The USA estimates that it will take 60 days to set up the aid infrastructure via the sea route from Cyprus to Gaza. By then, thousands of people could have starved to death. And even this aid is not to be channelled through UNRWA, which is the only organisation with the necessary infrastructure to ensure a reasonably fair and appropriate distribution.

Humanitarian aid via the sea corridor and from the air is also in the interests of the Israeli government because it could pave the way for the long-announced Israeli offensive on the completely overcrowded Rafah in the far south of the Gaza Strip. The bombing there has been going on for months, and now the people seeking help are being directed a few kilometres north again. It is almost pointless to say that in the event of a ground offensive, even more death and devastation can be expected in Rafah than is already the case.

Palestinian life in the Gaza Strip is supposed to exist only as naked, bare life. The Israeli government even wants to send sick people and mothers with small children back to this hell after they have received medical treatment in occupied East Jerusalem and partly in Israel. The Israeli medico partner organisations Hamoked and Physicians for Human Rights were able to prevent this plan, at least for the time being, with an urgent appeal to the Supreme Court in Israel.

Graveyard of humanitarian law

The Gaza Strip, said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, is also the graveyard of humanitarian law. Militarily embedded aid, as is now being practised in Gaza, abolishes the independence of aid. Dropping bombs and bread at the same time is cynicism and a form of war propaganda.

If nothing is done, in the coming days and weeks we will see a drastic worsening of the purely man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, which will go far beyond what has already happened. According to the United Nations, the north of Gaza is already experiencing an acute famine. The fact that this is happening under our noses makes us spectators, complicit. Silent acceptance is not only expressed in the lack of protest in the face of inhumane warfare, as is self-evident in the case of Ukraine. Once authorised, this can be repeated anywhere in the world. This is the end of the West's self-narrative of being the better, more humane choice in a bad situation. In this way, the Israeli government believes it has achieved a comprehensive victory. But after 7 October, this war marks another turning point in Israel's constitution. The consequences for Israel itself are incalculable. A tumble into the abyss.

Without equal rights for all, there will be no solution, said the philosopher Omri Boehm in his award-winning speech at the Leipzig Book Fair in mid-March 2024. Understanding this requires an immediate reversal, an end to the war, an end to the idea of victory for one side alone claiming security for itself. Only signs of humanity can point the way out.

medico international on 25 March 2024

Published: 27. March 2024

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