When aid is not

The reality of the World we are living in is that in a conflict every possible means to effect political and military leverage will be exploited. This includes the activities which used to be viewed as neutral and enjoy special protection, like humanitarian aid.

A perfect example of an aid effort whose primary aim was not to help but to exert political pressure was the infamous Gaza flotilla of 2010. It set sail from Turkey with a dual purpose of delivering supplies to Gaza and breaking the Israel imposed blockade in the process. Israel advised that the aid could be brought into Gaza only by land through a border checkpoint but the flotilla sailed on regardless.  After multiple warnings which were ignored the Israeli commandos boarded the ships from helicopters on 31/5/2010 whereupon they got attacked by “peace activists” armed with clubs and knives. When a gun taken from one of the commandos was reportedly fired by the “peace activists” the commandos opened fire and killed nine people before overcoming the resistance on board. Ten commandos were wounded in the action, one of them seriously. The supplies carried by the ships ended up being trucked into Gaza through a border crossing, as originally proposed by Israel.

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From the turn of events described above it is clear that the flotilla was a PR stunt conceived to put political pressure on Israel. The humanitarian aid aspect was just a convenient cover. The supplies could have been trucked into Gaza as advised by Israel without the offshore drama, but this is not what the flotilla organisers wanted. It was not about the aid – it was about the drama.

A similar scenario is currently developing in Ukraine where a Russian convoy with supplies is heading for the area controlled by the separatists. While ostensibly humanitarian, the true purpose of the action is to put the Ukrainian authorities in a no win situation. If they let the convoy through, Putin will look like a saviour. If they stop it, Moscow will cry foul. The authorities in Kiev said they would allow the passage of supplies but only through their checkpoints (not directly from Russia into the rebel-held territory) and only under the supervision of the Red Cross. We will see if the organisers of the convoy are willing to play by these rules – I suspect that some sort of drama will unfold at the border.

A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine

Hamas have perfected the urban guerrilla warfare in which their own citizens are used as human shields. They store the Qassam rockets  in the UN school compounds:

http://af.reuters.com/article/egyptNews/idAFL6N0Q45TO20140729

which presents a dilemma to the IDF planners. If they do not attack these arms caches, the rockets end up being fired at Israel. If on the other hand they do, there will be international uproar that Israel bombs schools. So the UN compounds which used to be viewed as neutral enclaves and safe shelters are used by Hamas to leverage military pressure on Israel. The rockets are typically fired from mobile launchers parked in the residential areas, preferably next to hospitals or mosques, which again puts IDF in an impossible position.

Of course the crucial element of all these machinations is us, the gullible public in the West, who are incapable of seeing the true motives behind “humanitarian” actions. If we accept there are no free lunches why do we naively assume there is free aid?

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