Two weeks ago, under the headline “US Humanitarian Aid Going to ISIS,” a Daily Beast exposé described how non-governmental organizations (NGOs), funded by the United States and European governments, were paying bribes “disguised and itemized as transportation costs” to gain access to areas of Syria controlled by Islamic State (IS or ISIS).
In addition to monetary contributions to IS, the article noted “fears [that] the aid itself isn’t carefully monitored enough, with some sold off on the black market or used by [IS] to win hearts and minds by feeding its fighters and its subjects.”
In other words, NGOs, ostensibly committed to human rights and guided by humanitarian values, have been supporting IS on multiple levels.
International and Israeli NGOs, including Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Gisha and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, have campaigned intensively to “end the blockade of Gaza.” However, this slogan has not been accompanied by realistic and responsible proposals to ensure that aid is only used for humanitarian purposes and that a new policy does not facilitate weapons smuggling.
Likewise, the international NGO community has lobbied for construction materials to be brought into Gaza, despite serious concerns that they may, once again, be exploited for the construction of tunnels. While Hamas has announced that it has begun rebuilding the tunnels destroyed during the war, the NGOs have not adjusted their message.
…human rights and humanitarian aid groups, as well as their funders, need to establish best practices to minimize the risks of exploitation.
They must also engage in critical examination of whether their work encourages or otherwise facilitates the very problems they claim they are trying to prevent.