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Head of WCK, whose 7 aid workers were killed: ‘Israel is better than the way this war is being waged’

‘Food is not a weapon of war,’ says Andrés; NGO has fed meals to both Israelis and Palestinians since Oct. 7

U.S. first lady Jill Biden and Spanish chef Jose Andres greet volunteers of the World Central Kitchen association, during her visit with Spain's Queen Letizia to a reception centre for Ukrainian refugees in Pozuelo de Alarcon, on the sidelines of NATO summit, near Madrid, Spain, June 28, 2022 (Photo: Oscar del Pozo/Pool via File Photo/ REUTERS).

The head of the World Central Kitchen humanitarian organization, which lost seven volunteers on Monday in an IDF airstrike, wrote an opinion piece for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and its website Ynet News on Wednesday. 

José Andrés, the founder of the NGO World Central Kitchen (WCK), started as a chef who recognized the need for food professionals to get involved in food relief. Since 2010, the group has provided millions of meals around the world in disaster areas and war zones. 

Andrés noted how WCK fed families in Israel’s southern communities after the Oct. 7 invasion. 

In the op-ed, Andrés said he welcomed the decision to investigate the incident that led to the deaths of seven aid workers in his organization. 

“The seven people killed on a World Central Kitchen mission in Gaza on Monday were the best of humanity. They risked everything for the most basic human activity of all: sharing our food with others,” Andrés wrote. 

“We don't ask what religion you belong to. We're just asking how many meals you need,” he said. 

Andrés said WCK provided “more than 1.75 million hot meals” across Israel. “We fed families displaced by Hezbollah rockets in the north. We fed grieving families from the south. We delivered meals to hospitals where hostages were reunited with their families.” 

Palestinian inspect the car of the international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen, that was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Dair El-Balah, Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024. (Photo: Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

The WCK head said that his group “made sure to communicate extensively and comprehensively with Israeli military and civilian officials” about their work in Gaza. At the same time, he said, the group “also worked closely with community leaders in Gaza, as well as with Arab countries in the region” to provide meals to Palestinians in Gaza. “There is no way to bring a ship full of food to Gaza without doing so,” he stated. 

Andrés said he hoped to see better from Israel and Israelis. 

“We know Israelis. Israelis, in their hearts, know that food is not a weapon of war. Israel is better than the way this war is being waged. It is better than withholding food and medicine for citizens. It is better than killing aid workers who coordinated their movements with the IDF.” 

He also welcomed the decision of a military investigation but said it should begin “from the top.” 

“We welcome the promise of the IDF and the Israeli government to investigate exactly how and why our WCK family was killed. This investigation should start from the top, not just from below.” 

Andrés rejected Israel's claim that the airstrike was “an unfortunate mistake.” 

“The airstrikes on our convoy were not just some unfortunate mistake that happened in the fog of war. This was a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movement was known to the IDF,” he wrote. 

He also said Israel should stop restricting the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, saying the team “would not have made the journey if there was enough food, transported by trucks over land, to feed the residents of Gaza.” 

Highlighting that Middle Eastern culture “values food as a powerful statement of both humanity and hospitality,” he urged Israelis to remember the tradition of the Passover Seder meal by calling on them to recognize that feeding strangers is “not a sign of weakness” but as a potent gesture of goodwill.

“The people of Israel must remember, in this darkest hour, what power really looks like,” Andrés wrote. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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