Airdropping aid to Gaza little more than a photo op: CJPME

Montreal, February 29, 2024 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) warns that Canada’s plan to airdrop aid into Gaza is a completely inadequate response to the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe, and argues that it amounts to little more than a photo op to distract from Canada’s ongoing suspension of funding to UNRWA. CJPME urges the Trudeau government to immediately restore funding to UNRWA and hold Israel’s officials responsible for the deliberate obstruction of aid to a population facing famine and genocide.

“It is comical to suggest that airdropping a few supplies can in any way compensate for the harm that Canada is causing by its inept defunding of UNRWA,” said Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. CJPME points out that the scale of aid that can be airdropped is a fraction of what is possible with trucks, and at a much higher cost. “Instead of holding Israel accountable for lying about UNRWA and for the deliberate starving of the Palestinian population, an act of genocide, Canada turns to expensive photo ops that simply cannot address the problem,” added Bueckert.

Yesterday, International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office told the press that Canada intends to work with other countries to airdrop aid into Gaza within days. However, the airdrops will not use Canadian aircraft, and US officials told Axios that a military plane “can only drop the amount of supplies equivalent to that transported by one or two trucks.” This raises concerns about the serious limitations of the potential volume for Canada’s proposed contributions. Recent airdrops by other countries have fallen into the sea, while Israel regularly opens fire on starving people waiting for food aid.

CJPME questions why, rather than proposing airdrops, Canada isn’t pressuring Israel to fulfill its responsibilities under international law and allow the free flow of aid to Gaza’s civilian population.  “If the problem with getting aid to Gaza was simply about logistics, airdrops would already be a failing approach. They are a drop in a bucket. But the true issue is political: Israel is deliberately obstructing aid, and attacking convoys, as part of a campaign to deliberately starve the Palestinian population. Canada is not proposing serious solutions to this genocide. Hussen’s policy approach would be laughable if not for the magnitude of harm inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza. This is why we have been calling on him to resign,” said Bueckert.

Minister Hussen’s announcement comes one month after he suspended funding to UNRWA based on unsubstantiated and flimsy Israeli allegations, and without seeing any evidence to back up the claims. UNRWA is the UN agency for Palestine refugees, which is the primary aid organization in Gaza and the only organization with the capacity and infrastructure to administer aid at scale. The UN warns that defunding URNWA threatens to cause the collapse of the humanitarian system, and CJPME has warned that Canada’s defunding of UNRWA may directly violate the International Court of Justice’s orders to increase humanitarian aid and prevent genocide. Last week, over 100 Canadian Palestinian and civil society organizations issued an open letter to Minister Hussen urging him to immediately and unconditionally restore humanitarian aid to UNRWA or else resign from his role.

“If Canada was doing everything in its power to force Israel to allow sufficient aid into Gaza, then additional airdrops could be seen as a helpful additional form of assistance. But given Hussen’s defunding of UNRWA and refusal to hold Israel accountable for its obstructions of, and attacks on, aid convoys, this looks more like an attempt to deflect from his complicity in Israel’s genocide,” said Bueckert.