A rights‐based approach (RBA) to humanitarian aid is intrinsic to Norwegian policy and should inform Norwegian aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, one of the main receivers of Norwegian aid. However, this is the case only to a limited extent. While Norwegian humanitarian non‐governmental organisations (NGOs) take RBA seriously, and design their projects in accordance with its principles, they are unable to pursue a programme of long‐term structural change. This is because the main duty‐bearer, Israel, is indifferent or hostile to their work, while Norway's foreign policy is given higher priority than following through a rights‐based agenda. The result of this situation is a large, long‐standing aid effort that is unable to provide more than temporary relief in a steadily deteriorating situation. The Palestinian case suggests that RBA in humanitarianism may lead to frustration rather than human liberation when not backed up by political power.