Passports of the aid workers, screenshot taken from X.

By Juan Cole / Informed Comment

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Israeli fighter-jets routinely bomb dense urban areas, sometimes with massive bombs, in ways that President Joe Biden characterized as “indiscriminate.” Indiscriminate bombing of civilians is a war crime. On Monday, an Israeli airstrike hit an aid convoy mounted by Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, killing at least 7 persons — an American of Palestinian heritage along with Polish, Australian and British nationals. Yes, once again Israel has rubbed out an American.

The organization responded at X, saying, “This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER.”

It seems pretty clear that the WCK believes that the Israelis deliberately struck their food convoy. Such attacks on aid workers and attempts at food delivery are routine on the part of the Israeli Air Force, and have come to be known as “flour massacres.”

Chef Andrés himself lashed out at the Israeli government on X, saying,

“Today @WCKitchen lost several of our sisters and brothers in an IDF air strike in Gaza. I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family. These are people…angels…I served alongside in Ukraine, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Bahamas, Indonesia. They are not faceless…they are not nameless. The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

There’s that charge of indiscriminate killing again, alongside an accusation that the Israeli government is deliberately starving the people of Gaza (“using food as a weapon”).

Andrés, trained in Spain, came to the US at the age of 21 to become a celebrity chef and renowned restaurateur. He began the World Central Kitchen in 2010 to address the Haiti crisis of that year. Haiti is one of the more dangerous places on earth and Haitian gangs are notorious for brutality, but even they never killed WCK aid workers.

At its website, the World Central Kitchen implicitly explained why it thinks its volunteers were targeted.

The site says, “The WCK team was traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle.

Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.”

So that’s it. The cars were clearly marked as WCK, and the organization had given its coordinates to the Israeli military (in retrospect perhaps a fatal mistake). Either Israeli fighter jet pilots are blind or they are deliberately hitting aid workers.

Marking oneself as a noncombatant in a war zone has long been problematic. I had friends who served in Vietnam who were convinced that medics wearing a red cross were actively targeted by the Viet Cong.

The CEO of World Central Kitchen, Erin Gore, lambasted the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: “This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable.”

Just in case Israel and the US did not get the message, Ms. Gore laid it out even more explicitly:

“I am heartbroken and appalled that we—World Central Kitchen and the world—lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF. The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact they made in countless lives will forever be remembered and cherished.”

She concludes that it was a targeted attack.

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Juan Cole

Juan Cole, a TomDispatch regular, is the Richard P. Mitchell collegiate professor of history at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A New Translation From the Persian and Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires. His latest book is Peace Movements in Islam. His award-winning blog is Informed Comment. He is also a non-resident Fellow of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Doha and of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

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