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Benjamin Netanyahu's Targeting of World Central Kitchen Aid Workers Was Not 'Unintentional'

By Dustin Rowles | Podcasts | April 3, 2024 |

By Dustin Rowles | Podcasts | April 3, 2024 |


I have a brilliant friend who is a producer on Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio podcast. I often listen to the podcast because it’s good and because my friend is going to be a BFD someday. This week, José Andrés was on the podcast, and I was only vaguely familiar with him and the World Central Kitchen.

For those who don’t know, the WCK has been around since 2010, and it has gone to places like Turkey, Syria, Ukraine, Hawaii, and, most recently, Gaza. Basically, where there is hunger after natural disasters or in war zones, Andrés and the WCK are there.

“When you have fires, you send in firefighters. When you have wounded, you send in doctors,” Andrés said in the podcast. “So, the simple idea was, ‘Who will be the better people to activate in a food emergency?’” But the WCK is more than a simple food bank or soup kitchen. They deal with the problem by bringing in cooks, sourcing local food, and empowering the community to provide help. By using community members — and there are always hundreds of people willing to help out their own communities in these situations, he said — they can serve thousands of meals a day.

In fact, he said that in Gaza, they were providing 350,000 meals a day and had already served 34 million meals. Still, he was disappointed because they hadn’t been able to serve more meals because it was difficult to get more food inside of Gaza, so he was trying to arrange various ways (air drops, shipments by sea) to bring in more food to provide even more than 350,000 meals a day. The WCK had even established a route to bring in more than 100 million tons of food. He said that the WCK “feeds people no matter what. Bring food as fast as you can. Bring water as fast as you can. And do whatever it takes to make it happen.”

For the WCK to suspend operations out of Gaza, as it did yesterday, is a huge deal for an organization that has been in some really awful places and is known to do “whatever it takes.” Unfortunately, seven WCK aid workers were killed in a targeted IDF strike. There’s no reason to think that it won’t happen again. “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,” the WCK said through its representative. “This is unforgivable.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Trump, basically chalked it up to “this is war. Shit happens,” and he even gave his statement with this appalling, condescending smirk.

Recently, there was a raid on the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, essentially the hub of the Palestinian medical system. It was thoroughly destroyed. Untold lives were lost. But Israel also captured 500 members of Hamas, and killed 200 more militants. Why were militants in a hospital? Exactly. However, Netanyahu has made the calculation that taking out 700 militants is worth that trade-off in the loss of civilian life. I don’t agree with it, but a very, very generous read of that might put it in the category of what Netanyahu calls the price of war.

But these seven aid workers, who were in marked, armored vehicles and in a pre-approved route, were precisely targeted. They were bombed three times. It was no accident. It was not unintentional. The IDF thought that a member of Hamas was with them, but according to Haaretz, “the target, an armed man thought to be a terrorist, never left the warehouse with the cars.”

In other words, the IDF knew what they were doing. They thought they were killing one Hamas militant, and they made the calculation that killing that member of Hamas was worth the certain deaths of seven aid workers (again, the convoy was bombed three times. Their deaths were not in doubt).

“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,” José Andrés said in a statement on X.

Andrés is right, except about one thing: That wasn’t an “indiscriminate killing.” It was calculated. Netanyahu believed that removing one militant was worth the cost of seven aid workers feeding starving Palestinians. And if the World Central Kitchen decides to pause humanitarian aid? I’m guessing that Netanyahu probably isn’t losing sleep over that, either.

As Andrés wrote in a NYTimes essay this morning.

I have been a stranger at Seder dinners. I have heard the ancient Passover stories about being a stranger in the land of Egypt, the commandment to remember — with a feast before you — that the children of Israel were once slaves.

It is not a sign of weakness to feed strangers; it is a sign of strength. The people of Israel need to remember, at this darkest hour, what strength truly looks like.