Watching the watchdogs: Piers, airdrops, and mediagenic spectacles in Gaza

The US ‘humanitarian’ strategy in Gaza offers false salvation for real starvation.

Palestinian workers move concrete blocks to be used in building temporary pier, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Khan Younis on the southern Gaza Strip, March 12, 2024. REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot
Palestinian workers move concrete blocks to be used in building temporary pier, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip on March 12, 2024 [Reuters/Ahmed Zakot]

For two weeks now, American media has given plenty of airtime and front-page space to US humanitarian aid initiatives in Gaza. The United States Air Force has started participating in aid airdrops on Gaza, while US President Joe Biden announced plans to build a temporary floating dock in order to increase the supply of food and other essential goods to the 2.3 million Palestinians under Israeli siege and bombardment.

These initiatives may sound like a noble effort to save Palestinian lives, but the reality is very different. This is because the American plan is not a serious attempt by a credible and disinterested state to relieve Palestinian suffering. Rather, it is just another diversionary ruse, which – with the help of the media – has been deployed to cover up what really is a diplomatic band-aid for an Israeli-made famine and to divert attention away from the Israeli genocide the US itself has enabled.

The American government regularly uses its military abroad for spectacular feats that often have three common characteristics: they do not achieve their main aim, they mainly respond to domestic American political dictates, and they offer theatrical displays of America’s impressive power.

Yet the power in action behind these mediagenic moves ultimately reflects Washington’s inability to conduct rigorous foreign policy that is anchored in global realities.

Indeed, the US could achieve its declared goals of saving Palestinian lives more quickly and at far less cost, if it forces Israel to stop its genocidal campaign in Gaza and allow normal levels of food and medical aid to flow into the territory. This is doable because without US arms, funds, and diplomatic protection, Israel could not carry on its aggression and siege.

Furthermore, many analysts also question the technical efficacy of the temporary pier because so many crucial dimensions remain unclear. Who will distribute the imported food, medicines, and basic life supplies? Can we expect these goods to reach all Palestinians in need, while Israel continues its campaign of bombing, assassinations, and scorched-earth attacks? Will the humanitarian imports only reach the centre and south of Gaza, as Israel continues to make northern Gaza an uninhabitable buffer zone along the southern Israel border?

And if Israel provides the security to protect the pier facility, will this represent a permanent Israeli armed presence in the middle of Gaza? Will Israel close all other border points and only use this new one? Could Israel quietly use the dock in the near future as an exit route for Palestinians forced out of Gaza?

If security for food shipments by road is not guaranteed across all of Gaza, will lawless conditions allow gangs and organised criminal groups to resume their recent theft of some aid trucks and selling the contents for profit? Will Israel and the US compel some hapless and desperate Palestinians who get contracts to deliver food and medicine into becoming local accomplices who cement Israel’s long-term control of Gaza – just as the shameless “South Lebanon Army” did in the 1980s before it fled for its soulless life when Hezbollah and other Lebanese resistance groups liberated the south?

Apart from the lack of clarity on effectiveness and feasibility, this plan sets a dangerous precedent: America has directly and enthusiastically supported Israel’s genocide by starvation for five months, and then in month six, it steps in with emergency humanitarian action. This relieves Israel of its legal responsibility to protect civilians under its belligerent control, and may shield it from being held accountable for its war crimes.

The US will probably continue deploying the same diversionary tactics in the coming months while also extending its military support for its ally, which in the first five months of the war amounted to more than 100 deadly weapons transfers carried out without congressional approval.

The mainstream media in the US and other Western states will play a crucial role in promoting this show in the weeks and months ahead, as it has already done. It will relay the American and Israeli official announcements without much scrutiny, conveniently forgetting the many American and Israeli pronouncements in the last five months that later proved false.

Then we will see regular television and video reports of how the military does its magic – in the desert, in the sea, in the air, anywhere that entertainment producers and directors can shape a failed foreign policy into a spectacle of genuine technological awe alongside the false human caring.

Some American and British journalists will open their reports by noting that in this region where Jews “made the desert bloom” and God parted the waters for Moses and his people to find refuge, the Anglo-Americans today miraculously turn the sea into a source of salvation from starvation.

But in the end, the deployment of the US military to carry out a “humanitarian” mission in Gaza will remain a captivating but delusional display, much like the ones we saw in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Indeed, not only has the US-Israel combine used starvation as an instrument of war and a negotiating tactic, but it has also tried to cover up this grotesque show by launching the dazzling spectacle of the US military’s astounding global reach and capabilities.

What is the alternative? A more logical and less expensive way forward was laid out by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell at the United Nations Security Council earlier this month. Borrell made clear that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war and blocking humanitarian land routes, which are the only effective way to deliver aid to Gaza.

According to him, countering Israel’s deadly tactics should start with the UN Security Council unanimously adopting a resolution endorsing a two-state solution, and “defining the general principles which might lead to this result”. He maintained this could pave the way for a permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian and the wider Arab-Israeli conflicts.

It could also, I would add, end the clown shows of razzle-dazzle entertainment, hocus-pocus illusions, and now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t war crimes that emanate from Tel Aviv and Washington, and propel the Palestine-Israel conflict into its second gruesome century.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.