Aid has historically been one of the most uncontroversial actions a nation can take. Aid is given to humans, usually victims of some terrible force, which makes it difficult to oppose the principle of it.
However, the practicalities of aid often make it more controversial than it would appear.
As I have already said, aid is typically given to the victims of a terrible force. When that force is nature, there is little controversy. However, when that force is another human being or a state or non-state actor, the distinction between aid and political support become increasingly blurry.
Israel’s harassment of European Union officials distributing aid to Palestinians whose houses have been destroyed by the Israeli military (thereby rendering them homeless) in the name of constructing illegal settlements demonstrates the increasing complexity of settlements in today’s age.
When international, in this case EU, diplomats seek to give aid to the Palestinian victims of Israeli oppression, the aggressor, Israel, views this as a political gesture. In spite of the fact that the EU diplomats are seeking to end the human cost of the settlement issue rather than take a stand one way or the other, pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, Israel will always perceive the aid issue as a political gesture to legitimize Palestine.
Moreover, aid today has been transformed to include foreign aid to governments. In reality, this money is not “aid” in the traditional sense based on weakness or poverty. Rather, this aid is given in exchange for strong alliances. Nothing proves this point better than America’s largest recipient of foreign aid. It is not a developing African nation, nor an Asian tiger economy, nor a recovering Eastern bloc nation. Rather, it is Israel. One of the strongest and richest nations in the world is the largest recipient of American “aid”.
As such, we cannot blame Israel. We cannot blame the Syrian regime angered by humanitarian aid devoted to rebels. We cannot blame the Sudanese for their legitimized anger at giving aid to South Sudanese over Sudanese who need it equally urgently.
The fact of the matter is that strings are attached to virtually every type of aid today. Instead of serving as a way to alleviate poverty and help the citizens of a nation, aid has come to represent a political act. Who we give the aid to and how it is distributed ultimately shape perspectives on aid and its political implications, a sad reality in a world where giving aid on solely humanitarian grounds has become a thing of the past.