After decades of aggression between Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian people, the past weeks witnessed relentless attacks on civilians and wide-scale human rights violations. Driven by their right to self-determination, Palestinian armed resistance forces have long fought for their independence and rights over their land. Israel’s response remains violent, launching bombs, air strikes and dangerous chemicals on its occupied territories, detaining civilians, cutting off access to water, power, food and medical supplies, forcing millions of Palestinians to leave their homes, and blocking humanitarian assistance.
The attacks have resulted in deaths of thousands of civilians and a humanitarian crisis for those surviving as they face shortages in goods and crucial services. Attacks on Gaza have caused massive destruction of homes, neighborhoods, refugee camps, schools, health centers, and places of worship. In addition to the bombing of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, the Israeli forces recently launched 300 air attacks over Gaza, adding to the unacceptable death toll of 5,100 Palestinians dead, with nearly half of these children. The conflict also led to the death of 1,400 Israeli civilians and a total of 23,000 wounded.
There is also concern that the aggression will have spillover effects in the rest of the Middle East and North African region, especially those who share borders with the two countries, causing displacement and increasing poverty. While various members of the international community have denounced the violence brought about by the conflict and its impacts on civilians, the continued financial, security and political support to Israel and its armed forces have allowed these killings to continue. Even the United Nations Security Council has failed to call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, due to dissenting votes from the US, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, aid has been instrumentalized to support such attacks on the Palestinian people, with the majority of military aid channeled to Israel coming from the United States and its allies. While Palestinians remain at the forefront of these crises, they face shortages and blockages in receiving much-needed humanitarian assistance. The securitization of aid and the lack of political will by donors to address the root causes of conflict serve as major hindrances to the attainment of lasting just peace in Palestine.
Aid as a cornerstone in military strategy
Despite the recognition and commitment of donor countries to provide Official Development Assistance (ODA) in order to address long-standing development challenges, aid has been increasingly used to further donor interests, especially in widening their influence and furthering their security interests. According to Murad and Tartir, “The provision of military aid, military trade, and other forms of economic, cultural and political exchange strengthens Israel’s ability to occupy, colonize, and dispossess Palestinians.” Likewise, the urgent need of Palestine for aid and assistance stems from the continued attacks on their land and rights by Israeli occupation forces.
Comparing the financial assistance given to Israel and Palestine, it can be seen that while the West Bank and the Gaza Strip received a total of USD 2.1 billion as aid in 2021, Israel got USD 3.8 billion from the US alone in the same year. It can be observed that Israel’s military capacity is built on US aid, as it mobilized a total of USD 264 billion as military aid from 1946 to 2023, making Israel the largest recipient of US aid in the post-war period.
Palestine only received USD 40 billion in aid from the last 30 years. Meanwhile, Israel allotted more than half of that towards its military expenditure, with a total of USD 23.4 billion, or 4.5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Largely supplemented by US aid, this has been used to set up the Iron Dome, train military personnel, and purchase weapons, aircraft and naval power also from the US. American defense companies, who produce and sell these machineries for war, benefit the most as they rake in profits.
A drop in the aid bucket
Not only lacking, development and humanitarian assistance are also not immediately delivered to Palestinians in need. Israeli forces enacted a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, hindering the entry of water, food, fuel, and medical supplies, which can lead to an outbreak of infectious diseases. Israeli forces also bombed the Rafah border crossing, destroying the roads and prohibiting the entry of goods and development workers. Prior to the attacks this year, the Israeli government prohibited the delivery of humanitarian assistance too, due to disagreements with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the established governing body over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from the Oslo Accords. Likewise, the PA also serves as a hindrance as it receives bulk of the aid being channeled to Palestine and does not forward the Palestinian people’ needs and interests.
As hundreds of billions of dollars have been used to support the colonization and displacement of Palestinians, the need for humanitarian, development, and peace assistance increases and has become more urgent. With the increase of military aid from the United States and its allies, conflict worsens, fragility persists and the marginalized in Palestine remain in need of humanitarian assistance to merely survive.
From the river to the sea
In the face of increasing threats and attacks on the Palestinian people, people’s movements have mobilized support and expressed their solidarity. In various cities around the globe, thousands have taken to the streets to call for immediate ceasefire, denounce crimes against humanity of Israeli forces, for actors to uphold international humanitarian law, and to allow for the urgent entry of aid.
Civil society continues to call on the international community to denounce these crimes against the Palestinian people, ensure that international humanitarian law is upheld, and guarantee that humanitarian assistance is delivered. The United States, along with other donor countries, must stop deploying aid to Israel to serve its own military interests. Aid and support should be deployed to humanitarian actors and civil society organizations on the ground that are best placed to respond to people’s needs. The international community must work together to enact humanitarian, development, and peace programs that will address immediate needs, work towards solving the root causes of the conflict, and promote long-standing just peace and development.
The Reality of Aid-Asia Pacific (RoA-AP) condemns the numerous attacks of Israeli forces leading to loss of human lives, displacement of families, arrest of civilians, and violation of fundamental rights. RoA-AP continues to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their fight towards self-determination, and the realization of their basic human rights and genuine, people-centered sustainable development.