Empathy on display? Not really.

April 2nd, 2024 by Tom Lynch

In 2005, the late Thomas Crombie Schelling won the Nobel Memorial Prize in economic science for “having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game theory analysis.”

Schelling is also known for his 1961 article Dispersal, Deterrence, and Damage, in which he coined the term “collateral damage.”

Militarily, collateral damage has been a constant since the dawn of humanity. I saw it on a couple of occasions during my time in Vietnam, and, to this day, there is still a never-to-be-healed tear in the fabric of my soul because of it.

Yesterday, collateral damage was on full display in Gaza when Israel launched an airstrike on a convoy of World Central Kitchen (WCK) trucks delivering 240 tons of aid to Gazans in desperate need of it.

The attack killed seven WCK staffers, as heroic a group as you’ll ever see. Six of the killed are from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Palestine, and one was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada.

Founded by noted Chef José Andrés in 2010 in response to a devastating earthquake in Haiti, World Central Kitchen has gone on to feed millions around the world when disaster has struck, which is why the organization has been laboring in Gaza where food has all but disappeared.

“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. This is unforgivable,” said World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore.

World Central Kitchen said that its convoy had “coordinated movements with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), that they were traveling in a deconflicted zone, and that their vehicles were clearly branded.”

One shell tore straight through WCK’s logo on top of one of the vehicles, put there so military aircraft could see it.

Two other convoy vehicles were incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple hits.

According to Israel, its IDF suspected an armed man of being a terrorist and hiding in the convoy. Consequently, its Air Force fired three consecutive missiles at the multi-car convoy — even as the aid workers in the vehicles tried to move cars and send messages that they’d been attacked following the first hit. In the end, the armed man wasn’t even in the convoy; he’d stayed back in the food warehouse.

Yesterday’s strike on the aid workers came hours after a new delivery with some 400 additional tons of food and supplies organized by World Central Kitchen and the United Arab Emirates arrived in three ships from Cyprus, following a pilot run last month.

Around 100 tons were unloaded before the charity suspended operations, and the rest was being taken back to Cyprus, Cypriot Foreign Ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis said.

Additionally, the United Arab Emirates has suspended its aid that travels the same route, pending assurances from Israel that its convoys won’t suffer the same fate.

Finally, Anera, a Washington-based aid group that has been operating in the Palestinian territories for decades, said that in the wake of the strike it was taking the “unprecedented” step of pausing its own operations in Gaza, where it had been helping to provide around 150,000 meals daily.

The strike on the WCK convoy wasn’t the only instance of collateral damage caused by Israel’s IDF yesterday.

Two other Israeli strikes late in the day killed at least 16 Palestinians, including eight children, in Rafah, where Israel has vowed to expand its ground operation despite the presence of some 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere.

One of the strikes hit a family home, killing 10 people, including five children, according to hospital records. Another hit a gathering near a mosque, killing at least six people, including three children.

Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said the strike on the WCK convoy was “not an isolated incident,” noting that around 200 humanitarian workers have been killed thus far in the war.

Early this morning, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the WCK incident moments after being released from hospital following hernia surgery.

Addressing the media, Netanyahu said, “Unfortunately, on the last day, there was a tragic event of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip. This happens in war; we are checking thoroughly, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything to prevent this from happening again. I would also like to thank you, the multitudes of citizens of Israel, for sending your wishes for recovery.”

Then he went on to thank his doctors for their great work.

Let’s think about all that for a moment.

“Unintentionally hitting innocent people?” Not quite accurate. There were three trucks. The IDF suspected one armed man, who might (or might not) have been a terrorist, of being in the convoy. So, aircraft fired three missiles that destroyed all the trucks in an attempt to kill everyone.

“This happens in war?” Netanyahu’s right. It does. But it doesn’t have to with a little care. The World Central Kitchen folks had done everything right, and seven of them died.

And thanks for all the good wishes? No words are necessary.

The frigid lack of empathy is breathtaking. I doubt there’s much of a tear in the fabric of that man’s soul, presuming he has one.