World Jewish Relief to provide aid to Gaza

The UK-based charity will help the International Medical Corps provide neonatal and maternal care


The Red Cross say we are witnessing an 'unbearable human tragedy' in Gaza (Photo: Getty Images)

World Jewish Relief will begin assisting Israel with its aid effort in Gaza by partnering with a charity located in the territory for the first time ever.

The UK-based charity will provide funding and support for the International Medical Corps (IMC), a medical provider assisting pregnant women, mothers and newborns in the enclave.

Speaking exclusively to the JC, CEO Paul Anticoni said WJR wanted to work with Israeli authorities to reduce the suffering of Palestinian civilians.

“We would only do it if it was in support of what Israel wanted us to do and it didn't compromise or denigrate the state of Israel in any way whatsoever, and that our community might come along with us on this journey,” he said.

The project supported by WJR, located at an undisclosed site within the Gaza Strip, will see direct care delivered to mothers and their babies outside any preexisting local medical infrastructure, having created their own field hospitals.

Several major hospitals in the enclave have served as bases for Hamas, forcing the IDF to carry out repeated operations at the medical facilities over the course of the war.

According to the International Rescue Committee, there are now no fully functional hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

“We needed to be able to guarantee that the service provided was as least risky [as possible] in [terms of] being compromised by Hamas or others,” Anticoni said.

By avoiding providing food aid or trucking other humanitarian supplies into Gaza, he said, WJR reduced the possibility that the resources they were supplying could be stolen by terrorists.

“We are really just providing additional resourcing,” he continued. “Our focus is almost exclusively on the provision of maternity obstetric newborn services and additional medical support to enable those services to be provided.”

IMC will not treat armed combatants under any circumstances, WJR said.

Anticoni said his colleagues had conducted an extensive due diligence process to identify a local partner that they could trust, which had made no political statements on Israel’s war and which had no ties to Hamas.

“It's a partner that supported us [and] supported agencies responding in Israel straight after October 7. It's a partner we've known about for many years, a US based partner,” he said.

IMC, which has been registered in Gaza since 2008, has also received approval from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat), the Israeli authority responsible for aid assistance into Gaza.

WJR was introduced to the humanitarian organisation by IsraAid, an Israeli disaster relief NGO.

Anticoni said: “They've gone through incredible vetting. They are also in receipt of US government funding.

“And in order to be in receipt of US government funding, you have to be able to prove that you have a level of scrutiny of staff and control over your logistics, procurement supplies and service delivery that is exemplary.”

WJR will not launch an appeal to fund the project after securing private funding.

“We're not going to be taking World Jewish Relief core funding to support this,” Anticoni said.

“We're not appealing for funds from our community for this project. We're not asking any of our supporters for money. We've got the partner, we've got the funding.”

The “critical bit” of the WJR’s support for Gaza, Anticoni claimed, was that the Israeli government backed the plan.

“We wouldn't touch it if we felt it in any way compromised Israeli authority policy or compromised our love of Israel.

“We clearly wanted, and have seen Israel wants, the world to see that [Israel is] doing what it can to conduct this conflict [while] recognising its responsibility to civilians and trying to encourage support, humanitarian assistance, to reach those civilians through trusted partners.”

To ensure the IDF would support the project, WJR approached the office of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who introduced them to Cogat authorities.

Anticoni said: “So we found the partner, we've secured and got the encouragement and endorsement of Israeli authorities to pursue this very targeted piece of work.

“And it takes no funding away from everything else we're doing in other parts of the world in support of vulnerable Jewish communities or others.

“We saw it solely as a humanitarian intervention, not a political one, but we had to hear it clearly that Israel would be in approval, and encourage and endorse it.”

Over eight months after the start of Israel’s war against Hamas following the October 7 terror attack, a string of international aid agencies have insisted that Gaza is experiencing a deep humanitarian crisis.

According to Anticoni, who provided humanitarian relief during the Bosnian War and Rwandan genocide, however, Gaza presents less of challenge than other currently ongoing conflicts.

“If I look at what's going on in Sudan or Ethiopia, the scale of complexity probably exceeds what's going on in Gaza, but there's no doubt [that] delivering assistance to civilians caught up in conflict is complex, wherever it may be,” he said.

The IDF is also trying to ensure humanitarian assistance gets to those that need it, Anticoni claimed.

He said: “In the context of any conflict, there are immense casualties. I'd be proud if a Jewish organisation could be providing support with Israel and show Israel in the light that we all want Israel to be seen.”

WJR was originally founded in 1933 by leading members of the British Jewish community to provide help to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe.

The charity’s mission gradually expanded over the following decades as it aided Jewish communities in Egypt, Ethiopia, and eastern Europe, before it became a global humanitarian agency in the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

“We don’t build offices, we don’t deploy expatriates, we play on the strengths of local organisations that traditionally know better about the local problems and obviously therefore can devise local solutions,” Anticoni said.

Until October 7, however, WJR had never provided aid in Israel following a 1990s agreement that split the world between Britain’s various Jewish charities.

Following “horror” at the Hamas attack which saw hundreds of civilians killed, the aid agency started providing direct support to the Israel Trauma Coalition, which it had previously worked with in Ukraine.

Anticoni said: “We started working or supporting partners in Israel and we are very proud of that.”

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