Demeaning airdrops over Gaza are humanitarian aid theater

Aerial image of parachutes descending onto land

The Jordanian air force drops aid packages into the Gaza Strip. (King Abdullah / Twitter)

The United States, in collaboration with the Jordanian air force, dropped aid packages into Gaza on Saturday.

What is being marketed as benevolent assistance amounts to humanitarian aid theater that does nothing to end the systematic and intentional campaign of starvation Israel and its American and European allies, with the complicity of regional regimes, are waging against Palestinians.

Experts and aid officials have made clear that these airdrops are not an effective way to alleviate the starvation of 2.3 million people in Gaza deliberately caused by Israel, with the full backing of the United States.

By participating in these drops, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but especially Jordan whose air force is carrying them out, are providing public relations cover for countries directly involved in Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

The effect – whether intentional or not – is to relieve Israel and its backers of pressure to lift the total siege Tel Aviv has imposed on the coastal enclave with the clear intent of causing maximum suffering and death to as many people as possible.

Children starving

Right now, children in Gaza “are being starved at the fastest rate the world has ever seen,” said Melanie Ward, CEO of the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians.

“It’s very simple. It’s because the Israeli military won’t let it in,” Ward told CNN on Thursday, explaining why aid is not reaching Gaza. “We could end the starvation tomorrow very simply if they would just let us have access to people there.”

But on Saturday, the United States military and Jordan dropped supplies along Gaza’s coast, supposedly to alleviate the rapidly worsening famine.

This comes after the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and even Egypt – all staunch allies of Israel – have already taken part in similar stunts, often facilitated by Jordan.

US Central Command – or CENTCOM – said Saturday’s airdrops of “over 38,000 meals” contribute “to ongoing US government efforts to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to the people in Gaza.”

According to the UN, 576,000 people in Gaza – a quarter of the population – “are one step away from famine” and the entire population is in desperate need of food.

Israel blocks thousands of aid trucks

Meanwhile, satellite imagery shows thousands of aid trucks stuck at the Rafah crossing with Egypt, unable to enter Gaza because Israel won’t allow them in and Washington refuses to use any of its enormous leverage to compel Tel Aviv to do so, or to end its siege on Gaza.

That makes Egypt’s participation in these airdrops even more bizarre, since Egypt controls the Rafah land border with Gaza, but refuses to exercise its sovereignty and control there.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to murder and maim hundreds of people every day with US-made bombs and missiles, including while they are desperately queuing for or seeking food.

Since October, the Biden administration has given Israel carte blanche to carry out its genocide and deliberate starvation in Gaza with total impunity, near-constant delivery of weaponry, even bypassing Congress to greenlight arms deliveries to Israel.

Dramatic stunts coordinated with Israel

Jordan has been airdropping supplies into Gaza since November.

Jordan’s King Abdullah has participated in some of the airdrops as seen in a dramatic, two-minute clip published by the Jordanian Royal Court.

The video, reminiscent of a trailer for a Hollywood action movie, shows the monarch commanding an operation to drop packages via parachute.

These airdrops are coordinated with Israel, since no aircraft can enter the airspace over Gaza without explicit Israeli permission or they risk being shot down.

Tel Aviv knows that in practical terms these drops will not substantially interfere with its policy of deliberately starving Palestinians to death, but it is happy with the propaganda imagery falsely suggesting that people in Gaza are receiving significant assistance.

“An airdrop operation successfully delivered 160 packages of food and medical supplies to residents of southern Gaza and to the Jordanian field hospital in Khan Yunis,” COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, bragged on Wednesday.

Washington could stop the starvation

Before the airdrops on Saturday, four unnamed US officials told media outlet Axios that Washington was considering the move “as deliveries by land become increasingly difficult” – as if some kind of natural force was causing the problem.

In reality, Israeli leaders know that without Washington’s supply of weapons, they would have to halt their genocide in a matter of days.

So if the Biden administration had any real intention of ending the famine and extermination campaign, it would use its leverage to command Israel to allow the aid trucks in immediately and to stop the bombing.

In addition to preventing all but a handful of aid trucks from entering Gaza, Tel Aviv is allowing mobs of Zionist fanatics to stage rallies blocking aid trucks carrying vital supplies from entering Gaza.

These genocidal racists are encamped in tents and enjoy the protection of the Israeli army. They are even hosting outdoor dance parties.

“Undignified and demeaning”

International aid agencies and even a former US official dismiss the airdrops as ineffective and even counterproductive.

“Oxfam does not support US airdrops to Gaza, which would mostly serve to relieve the guilty consciences of senior US officials whose policies are contributing to the ongoing atrocities and risk of famine in Gaza,” said Scott Paul, an official with the UK-based charity.

“While Palestinians in Gaza have been pushed to the absolute brink, dropping a paltry, symbolic amount of aid into Gaza with no plan for its safe distribution would not help and be deeply degrading to Palestinians,” Paul added.

“Instead of indiscriminate airdrops in Gaza, the US should cut the flow of weapons to Israel that are used in indiscriminate attacks, push for an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages, and insist that Israel uphold its duty to provide humanitarian aid, access, and other basic services.”

“Air drops are inefficient, expensive, dangerous and only helpful when there are no other delivery options,” said David Harden, a former official with USAID, the US international development agency.

“Air drops are primarily for the Biden administration’s benefit — to paper over a massive policy failure.”

Aid falls in sea, Israel

In recent days, thousands of Palestinians gathered on a beach in central Gaza as Jordan and France dropped supplies, some of which fell into the sea.

Palestinians ran into the cold water to try to retrieve some of it.

A few days later, the Jordanian air force accidentally dropped packages into southern Israel instead of northern Gaza.

Even when supplies do land in Gaza, those lucky enough to get their hands on some may sell them at high prices amid desperate shortages, in what one Palestinian from Gaza called “an undignified and demeaning process that is hurtful to those truly in need.”

Cover for complicity in genocide

For Jordan and other regional states, these stunts are likely intended for domestic consumption, an effort to pacify public rage over their governments’ inaction to stop a genocide that is about to enter its sixth month.

Jordan has even involved an Instagram influencer, an American filmmaker and invited US radio network NPR along on one of the airdrops.

But there is no sign the population has been placated, as Jordanians continue to demonstrate and call an end to Jordanian trade with Israel, including the supply of agricultural produce.

The United Kingdom, which has consistently opposed an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, also participated in one such airdrop operation in collaboration with Jordan.

France, although it has called for an immediate ceasefire, remains a staunch backer of Israel and is resisting calls to halt arms exports to Israel.

Canada, an implacable enemy of Palestinian rights, and another arms supplier to Tel Aviv, is also set to airdrop aid into Gaza, possibly also in collaboration with Jordan.

And just as egregiously, the Netherlands, which supplies spare parts for Israeli warplanes as they bomb Palestinians, also took part in an aid airdrop with Jordan last month.

Although a Dutch court ordered a halt to the exports of spare parts to Israel, the government, determined to continue assisting the genocide, has vowed to appeal the decision.

By facilitating airdrops on behalf of such countries, Jordan is effectively helping them whitewash their role in the genocide.

Now, the United States, the country most responsible for the genocide alongside Israel, wants a piece of the action. Some see this as a sign of Washington’s weakness. But this is a mistake.

“I’ve seen Israel humiliate previous US administrations, but aside from murderous 1967 Israeli airstrike against US navy ship Liberty, now forcing [the United States] to do airdrops of aid to Gaza as if [the United States] is no better than Egypt and Jordan is Israel’s worst humiliation of [the United States] I’ve ever seen,” Robert Ford, a former US diplomat, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“I should add that [the United States] will do humanitarian aid airdrops to Gazans if the Israeli air force graciously agrees not to shoot down the American planes over Gaza.”

That sentiment may be understandable, but it turns reality on its head: Washington is in control. Washington wants the genocide to continue. It just wants to pretend that it is aiding Palestinians while it helps Israel murder them.

Washington clearly sees the airdrops as means to that end.

Ali Abunimah is executive director, and Tamara Nassar is associate editor of The Electronic Intifada.