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Global South confronts hypocrisy of West on Gaza

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Children walk past the rubble of a collapsed building with a pot of food provided by a charity organisation ahead of the fast-breaking “iftar” meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Picture: Said Khatib / AFP / March, 2024

By Alvin Botes

The selective morality of the West has been on full display when it comes to the Palestinians and the genocide being perpetrated in Gaza. It was Nelson Mandela who said, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim summed up the sentiments of the Global South when he said in a press conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last week, “Where have we thrown away our humanity? Why this hypocrisy?”

Ibrahim spoke of the ambivalent attitude towards one race and that the West often only mentions one victim and ignores the thousands of Palestinians who have suffered for decades since the Nakba of 1947. “What I reject strongly is this narrative, this obsession, as if the entire problem begins and ends with October 7,” Ibrahim said.

The Global South is more determined than ever to take on this Western hypocrisy whether at the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, at the UN, or on the streets.

The complicity of Western governments in the suffering of the Palestinians was never more evident than when 18 major donors suspended contributions to the UN Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) totalling $450 million at a time when more than 2 million Gazans have been facing famine.

Since March 4, there have been 25 deaths from malnutrition and dehydration reported at two hospitals in Gaza. According to UN agencies and the Gazan health ministry, the estimated 300,000 Palestinians who remain in the north of Gaza are the most vulnerable to famine.

The countries that suspended their contributions to UNRWA are: the US which suspended US$343 million, Germany US$202 million, the EU US$114 million, Sweden US$61 million, Japan US$30 million, France US$28 million, Switzerland US$25 million, Canada US$23 million, the UK US$21 million, the Netherlands US$21 million, Australia US$ 13 million, Italy US$18 million, Austria US$8 million, Finland US$7 million, and New Zealand, US$560,000, Iceland US$558,000, Romania US$210,000, and Estonia US$90,000.

Western countries took this decision without Israel having ever provided UN investigators any evidence to back up their claim that a dozen UN staff from UNRWA were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack. The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services reviewed the initial information received by UNRWA from Israeli authorities but have received no new evidence from Israel to corroborate its claims. An assessment by the US National Intelligence Council assessed with “low confidence” that a handful of UNRWA staffers had participated in the October 7 attack.

The reality is that since 1949 Israel has called for UNRWA to be dismantled and is carrying out a major slander campaign to fully dismantle the UN agency. The Israeli Defence Force recently presented a plan for the full dismantling of UNRWA in both Gaza and the West Bank, and has frozen UNRWA’s accounts in Israeli banks, is refusing to transfer goods from its territory, and is blocking residency visas for UNRWA employees.

Israel is undermining the only UN body capable of staving off the starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. This has led to allegations that the Israeli political system is invested in the genocide of the Palestinians.

UNRWA has 30,000 staff, 13,00 of which are in Gaza, and it dwarfs every other of the UN agencies, which have a combined total of 200 in Gaza. UNRWA provides government like services to one of the most destitute communities in the region. The World Food Programme has said it cannot stave off starvation, as that can only be done by UNRWA. But UNRWA says it is approaching breaking point, and only has sufficient funds to continue functioning for the next few weeks at most. This is thanks to the intransigence of Western governments.

The UN has repeatedly said that Gaza is facing imminent famine, and it is widely acknowledged that starvation is being used as a weapon of war. The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said in a speech to the UN Security Council last week that Gaza’s population is “fighting for its survival … but it is not a natural disaster”. He said that land crossings into Gaza had been “artificially closed” by the Israeli government, accusing it of using “starvation … as a weapon of war”.

On March 7, US President Joe Biden announced plans for the US military to build a floating pier capable of receiving 200 truck loads of aid a day, but the Pentagon has said this would not be completed until early May. As UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in Britain’s House of Lord’s last week, “If Israel really wanted to help, they could open Ashdod port, which is in Israel. It is a fully functioning port that could really maximise the delivery of aid from Cyprus straight into Israel, and then into Gaza.”

Despite the unprecedented levels of desperation on the ground, the US is yet to reduce the amount of military aid it provides to Israel, which currently stands at an annual amount of US$3.8 billion. In addition to this amount President Biden announced in October that he had asked Congress for an additional US$14 billion in aid for Israel. US officials recently told Congress that the US has approved and delivered on more than 100 arms sales to Israel since October 7.

Former Biden administration official Jeremy Konyndyk told the Washington Post that the “extraordinary number of sales over the course of a pretty short amount of time” suggests that Israel would not be able to maintain its operation against Hamas in Gaza “without this level of US support.” Konyndyk is the current President of Refugees International and has called on the US to use weapons sales to pressure Israel to accept a ceasefire in Gaza.

To date the US has provided an additional US$11 billion in military aid to Israel since the start of the war, including tens of thousands of artillery and tank shells, and several thousand precision-guided bombs.

The most powerful protest against the genocidal campaign that Israel is exacting on the Palestinians is for the international community to cease funding and arming the Israeli government, and to restart the funding for UNRWA so that we don’t have hundreds or thousands of Palestinians dying from starvation.

It was Emperor Haile Selassie who said, “Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice, that it has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Alvin Botes is deputy minister of International Relations and Co-operation