Tue 9-July-2024

Humanitarian aid and Israel’s ‘voluntary migration’ scheme

Friday 21-June-2024

Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said earlier this week that, “We have offered ourselves to host injured people from Palestine but also children from Palestine to come to Europe and stay here until the war is over.” Israel would be thrilled at such an idea, for sure. “Voluntary migration” in the guise of humanitarian aid could not get any better for Israel’s colonial expansion plans.

In October last year, Gerapetritis declared his government’s pro-Israel stance: “Greece, from the very first moment, supported the right of Israel to defend itself in line with international law.” No such right exists for an occupation state against the people living under its brutal military occupation.

In the same month, Greece also abstained from the UN General Assembly vote calling for a humanitarian ceasefire. A month earlier, the Greek government purchased 300 precision-guided munitions from Israel, known as spice bombs, for $130 million. And in a move aimed at curbing activism on university campuses, nine EU and UK individuals are facing deportation for participating in protests against the Gaza genocide, with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stating that the authorities would forbid “universities from becoming sites for protest”.

As the genocide continues, the ways that politicians and diplomats try to make amends are becoming even weaker. The suggestion by Gerapetritis plays directly into the humanitarian paradigm which the EU hides behind, even as it continues to invest in Israel’s military and surveillance systems, all field tested on Palestinians in Gaza, of course.

There is not a single European country that can speak with honesty about Gaza and Israel, because investment in the latter has generated high stakes in terms of profit and complicity.

Humanitarian gestures, meanwhile, are becoming meaningless for Palestinians and strategically valuable for Israel, because there is no deterrent, no measure that forces Israel to stop the genocide.

Keeping in mind that Israel wants Gaza empty of Palestinians, why would the EU, which is complicit in arming the apartheid state, offer a humanitarian gesture that would help the settler-colonial entity in its ethnic cleansing? This begs a bigger question: why do diplomats insist on depoliticizing humanitarian aid for the recipients, when the donors are involved in human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity?

Offering temporary safe haven for Palestinian children maimed by the war might be an acceptable humanitarian gesture if European countries weren’t complicit in the genocide conducted by the settler-colonial state which maimed them in the first place. “We have to remind ourselves of one thing: It is not enough to build only settlements,” said far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir recently, in the context of emphasizing the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians, otherwise known as normalized ethnic cleansing.

A look at the recent statement by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shows how the Gaza genocide is not called to attention, but rather focuses on specific Israel violations while still recognizing “Israel’s right to defend itself”. Josep Borrell also called for “the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas,” which essentially tells Palestinians that, as the colonized population, they should remain voiceless and not articulate any demands. Palestinians are facing genocide, and the EU’s statement is careful to protect Israel’s ability to act with impunity.

Any plan for EU states to host Palestinian children from Gaza cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. Such a safe haven in Europe is part of the colonial framework that aids Israel, as does Europe’s complicity in Israel’s bombing and destruction of hospitals in Gaza, and murder of medical personnel. Apart from the fact that the number of Palestinian children taken in by Greece would be symbolic more than anything else, politicizing medical treatment to aid Israel’s “voluntary migration” scheme is depraved and self-serving. Gerapetritis should have been more honest and said that his country will not stop the genocide, but will host and treat an insignificant percentage of its victims that will not jeopardize its relationship with Israel.

No political gesture will disguise the fact that Europe has much bigger obligations than playing humanitarian savior to a relatively few wounded and severely traumatized Palestinian children.

-Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger. Her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America. Her article appeared in MEMO.

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