World Central Kitchen staff worked for UK-govt back security firm

  • Post last modified:April 3, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

The three British World Central Kitchen staff Israel slaughtered were all ex-Royal Marines or Special Forces who also worked for a private, UK-government approved security firm. The news poses more questions than it gives answers – as the NGO was a US-backed, Israel-supported operation in Gaza whose ‘celebrity chef’ head has close ties to government, while the UK has also been flying reconnaissance missions over the strip, where Israel has killed over 33,000 people in its ongoing genocide.

World Central Kitchen: Israel slaughtering staff

As the Canary’s James Wright previously reported, on Monday 1 April:

NGO World Central Kitchen aid workers were coordinating their journey with Israel and in clearly marked vehicles when the Israeli military murdered them with repeated drone strikes.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) killed seven people working with the NGO after the aid workers dropped off 100 tonnes of food at a warehouse in central Gazan city Deir al Balah. Those killed include people from Britain, Poland, Australia, and Palestine.

World Central Kitchen is an international food aid organisation that chef Jose Andres started and is on the ground in Gaza as well as other places like Ukraine.

Since the incident, more details have come to light:

  • Israeli forces carried out a triple tap on World Central Kitchen’s convoy – appearing like they targeted it.
  • They claimed it was because Hamas operative were in the trucks.
  • Israel’s leadership has distanced themselves from the attack – saying it was carried out by IDF soldiers who had essentially gone rogue.

Israel often uses the above excuses to try and play down what is clear targeting of aid workers or medical staff. However, on this occasion is has not washed internationally – with rounded condemnation of the massacre.

However, this is not the full story.

Just who is the NGO?

As the Sun reported, the three British World Central Kitchen staff were all ex-military. Moreover, they all worked for Solace Global. It is a private security, cyber security, and intelligence/risk company whose cyber arm is approved by the UK government’s National Cyber Security Centre. However, as Charlie Herbert noted on X it is routine for NGOs to use ex-military in what he called “high-risk areas”.

Meanwhile, World Central Kitchen’s founder José Andrés has previously been written about. As the Grayzone described, he is:

State Department-linked Spanish celebrity chef José Andrés has emerged as the US government’s preferred conduit for aid to enter Gaza, following the Biden administration’s decision to suspend funding to the enclave’s main supplier of food, aid and education, the UNRWA.

It noted that he works for the US State Department and his NGO has also operated in Ukraine. The Grayzone went on to say that:

Andrés’ organization, World Central Kitchen, has already finished constructing its own jetty, which was made from the rubble heaps in Gaza

The NGO since delivered aid to Gaza via boat. As the Grayzone noted, it:

is only able to operate in Gaza with the explicit permission of the Israeli military. The New York Times… [noted] “the Israeli military helped World Central Kitchen’s operation, providing security and coordination” and that “every step was carried out with permission from the Israeli military.”

Moreover, in the aftermath of Hamas’s 7 October attacks, World Central Kitchen was actually providing meals to the IDF.

After Israel killed the seven World Central Kitchen workers, Biden phoned Andrés personally to offer his condolences. Meanwhile, the Israeli state called the NGO’s work in Gaza “critical”.

Finally, founder of Declassified UK Matt Kennard said on social media that flight logs showed that on 1 April the British military flew what he called a “six hour spy mission” over Gaza.

So, what does all this mean?

Israel removing UNRWA and replacing it with World Central Kitchen?

Director of Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah said on X that he believes one possibility is:

There’s reason why Israel provided so much support to World Central Kitchen, while it blocks UNRWA convoys and Joe Biden defunds UNRWA. And none of it has to do with the welfare or survival of Palestinians in Gaza. They want to destroy UNRWA and replace it with PR.

He also noted that World Central Kitchen issued a statement on 29 March, addressing speculation about it’s close working with the Israeli state and rumours about it replacing UNRWA. Since then, Israel’s killing of World Central Kitchen staff has actually led to it and other NGOs pausing or ceasing operations in Gaza.

Moreover, since 7 October Israel has killed nearly 200 aid workers – yet none of these murders prompted a response like World Central Kitchen’s staff’s killings have.

All this is unconfirmed or speculative. However, the idea that governments use NGOs as cover for their own agendas and operations is hardly new. As author and journalist Naomi Klein was documenting in the 2000s, so-called “disaster capitalism” has form on this.

Before releasing her seminal work The Shock Doctrine, Klein wrote for the Nation in 2005 that:

In Afghanistan, where the World Bank… administers the country’s aid through a trust fund, it has already managed to privatize healthcare by refusing to give funds to the Ministry of Health to build hospitals. Instead it funnels money directly to NGOs, which are running their own private health clinics on three-year contracts.

It has also mandated “an increased role for the private sector” in the water system, telecommunications, oil, gas and mining and directed the government to “withdraw” from the electricity sector and leave it to “foreign private investors.”

Neo-colonialism and disaster capitalism happening in Israel

Overall, Klein broadly noted on her website that:

“We used to have vulgar colonialism,” says Shalmali Guttal, a Bangalore-based researcher with Focus on the Global South. “Now we have sophisticated colonialism, and they call it ‘reconstruction.’”

It certainly seems that ever-larger portions of the globe are under active reconstruction; being rebuilt by a parallel government made up of a familiar cast of for-profit consulting firms, engineering companies, mega-NGOs, government and UN aid agencies and international financial institutions.

And from the people living in these reconstruction sites—Iraq to Aceh, Afghanistan to Haiti—a similar chorus of complaints can be heard.

The work is far too slow, if it is happening at all. Foreign consultants live high on cost-plus expense accounts and thousand-dollar-a-day salaries, while locals are shut out of much-needed jobs, training and decision making.

Expert “democracy builders” lecture governments on the importance of transparency and “good governance” yet most contractors and NGOs refuse to open their books to those same governments, let alone give them control over how their aid money is spent.

Could this be what we are beginning to witness in Gaza – with World Central Kitchen being one of the proxies? It is early days and the evidence is so far unclear – and there is currently no indication any of the NGO staff that Israel murdered were in Gaza for any other reason than to support relief efforts and to try to save lives.

However, questions do need to be asked of World Central Kitchen’s role in Israel’s ongoing genocide – as do questions over how the IDF has once again slaughtered aid workers without recourse.

Featured image via POLITICO – YouTube

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