Israeli Siege Has Placed Gazans at Risk of Starvation − Prewar Policies Made Them Vulnerable in the First Place

Yves here. As we learn more about the Israel genocide campaign against Palestinians, we see how its mechanisms are not just deliberate but rise to a level of study and calculation that can be called scientific….much like the one perpetrated by the Nazis. The Israelis have heeded too well their saying, “Love your enemy, for you will become him.”

And the starvation campaign has become even more blatant than before. Today as Mondoweiss pointed out, the US confirmed that Israel has been blocking flour shipments into Gaza. From Axios:

Israeli ultranationalist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is blocking a U.S.-funded flour shipment to Gaza because its recipient is the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), two Israeli and U.S. officials told Axios.

Why it matters: U.S. officials said this is a violation of a commitment Benjamin Netanyahu personally made to President Biden several weeks ago and another reason the U.S. leader is frustrated with the Israeli prime minister.

And confirming that Israel is going full Amalek, they are making sure the pets of Gazans die too. From TPS (hat tip BC):

Israel’s Ministries of Agriculture and Health asked the public to refrain from bringing dogs and cats from the territories of the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and from over the northern border into the territory of Israel.

The official excuse is as lame as the ones used to hold up truck deliveries of humanitarian aid.

By Yara M. Asi, Assistant Professor of Global Health Management and Informatics, University of Central Florida . Originally published at The Conversation

The stories of hunger emerging from war-ravaged Gaza are stark: People resorting to grinding barely edible cattle feedto make flour; desperate residents eating grass; reports of cats being hunted for food.

The numbers involved are just as despairing. The world’s major authority on food insecurity, the IPC Famine Review Committee, estimates that 90% of Gazans – some 2.08 million people – are facing acute food insecurity. Indeed, of the people facing imminent starvation in the world today, an estimated 95% are in Gaza.

As an expert in Palestinian public health, I fear the situation may not have hit its nadir. In January 2024, many of the top funders to UNRWA, the U.N.’s refugee agency that provides the bulk of services to Palestinians in Gaza, suspended donations to the agency in response to allegations that a dozen of the agency’s 30,000 employees were possibly involved in the Oct. 7, 2023, attack by Hamas. The agency has indicated that it will no longer be able to offer services starting in March and will lose its ability to distribute food and other vital supplies during that month.

With at least 28,000 people confirmed dead and an additional 68,000 injured, Israeli bombs have already had a catastrophic human cost in Gaza – starvation could be the next tragedy to befall the territory.

Indeed, two weeks after Israel initiated a massive military campaign in the Gaza Strip, Oxfam International reported that only around 2% of the usual amount of food was being delivered to residents in the territory. At the time, Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam’s Middle East director, commented that “there can be no justification for using starvation as a weapon of war.” But four months later, the siege continues to restrict the distribution of adequate aid.

Putting Palestinians ‘on a Diet’

Israeli bombs have destroyed homes, bakeries, food production factories and grocery stores, making it harder for people in Gaza to offset the impact of the reduced imports of food.

But food insecurity in Gaza and the mechanisms that enable it did not start with Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attack.

A U.N. report from 2022 found that a year before the latest war, 65% of Gazans were food insecure, defined as lacking regular access to enough safe and nutritious food.

Multiple factors contributed to this food insecurity, not least the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and enabled by Egypt since 2007. All items entering the Gaza Strip, including food, become subject to Israeli inspection, delay or denial.

Basic foodstuff was allowed, but because of delays at the border, it can spoil before it enters Gaza.

A 2009 investigation by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz found that foods as varied as cherries, kiwi, almonds, pomegranates and chocolate were prohibited entirely.

At certain points, the blockade, which Israel claims is an unavoidable security measure, has been loosened to allow import of more foods; for example, in 2010 Israel started to permit potato chips, fruit juices, Coca-Cola and cookies.

By placing restrictions on food imports, Israel seems to be trying to put pressure on Hamas by making life difficult for the people in Gaza. In the words of one Israeli government adviser in 2006, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

To enable this, the Israeli government commissioned a 2008 study to work out exactly how many calories Palestinians would need to avoid malnutrition. The report was released to the public only following a 2012 legal battle.

The blockade also increased food insecurity by preventing meaningful development of an economy in Gaza.

The U.N. cites the “excessive production and transaction costs and barriers to trade with the rest of the world” imposed by Israel as the primary cause of severe underdevelopment in the occupied territories, including Gaza. As a result, in late 2022 the unemployment rate in Gaza stood at around 50%. This, coupled with a steady increase in the cost of food, makes affording food difficult for many Gazan households, rendering them dependent on aid, which fluctuates frequently.

Hampering Self-Sufficency

More generally, the blockade and the multiple rounds of destruction of parts of the Gaza Strip have made food sovereignty in the territory nearly impossible.

Much of Gaza’s farmland is along the so-called “no-go zones,” which Israel had rendered inaccessible to Palestinians, who risk being shot if they attempt to access these areas.

Gaza’s fishermen are regularly shot at by Israeli gunboats if they venture farther in the Mediterranean Sea than Israel permits. Because the fish closer to the shore are smaller and less plentiful, the average income of a fisherman in Gaza has more than halved since 2017.

Meanwhile, much of the infrastructure needed for adequate food production – greenhouses, arable lands, orchards, livestock and food production facilities – have been destroyed or heavily damaged in various rounds of bombing in Gaza. And international donors have hesitated to hastily rebuild facilities when they cannot guarantee their investment will last more than a few years before being bombed again.

The latest siege has only further crippled the ability of Gaza to be food self-sufficient. By early December 2023, an estimated 22% of agricultural land had been destroyed, along with factories, farms, and water and sanitation facilities. And the full scale of the destruction may not be clear for months or years.

Meanwhile, Israel’s flooding of the tunnels under parts of the Gaza Strip with seawater risks killing remaining crops, leaving the land too salty and rendering it unstable and prone to sinkholes.

Starvation as Weapon of War

Aside from the many health effects of starvation and malnutrition, especially on children, such conditions make people more vulnerable to disease – already a significant concern for those living in the overcrowded shelters where people have been forced to flee.

In response to the current hunger crisis in Gaza, Alex de Waal, author of “Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine,” has made clear: “While it may be possible to bomb a hospital by accident, it is not possible to create a famine by accident.” He argues that the war crime of starvation does not need to include outright famine – merely the act of depriving people of food, medicine and clean water is sufficient.

The use of starvation is strictly forbidden under the Geneva Conventions, a set of statutes that govern the laws of warfare. Starvation has been condemned by United Nations Resolution 2417, which decried the use of deprivation of food and basic needs of the civilian population and compelled parties in conflict to ensure full humanitarian access.

Human Rights Watch has already accused Israel of using starvation as a weapon of war, and as such it accuses the Israeli government of a war crime. The Israeli government in turn continues to blame Hamas for any loss of life in Gaza.

Yet untangling what Israel’s intentions may be – whether it is using starvation as a weapon of war, to force mass displacement, or if, as it claims, it is simply a byproduct of war – does little for the people on the ground in Gaza.

They require immediate intervention to stave off catastrophic outcomes. As one father in Gaza reported, “We are forced to eat one meal a day – the canned goods that we get from aid organizations. No one can afford to buy anything for his family. I see children here crying from hunger, including my own children.”

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  1. nycTerrierist

    no words — just anguish and disgust

    the Biden admin should be despised for enabling this genocide

    never let them forget

    1. Steve Ruis

      It isn’t just the Biden administration. Don’t act as it the current administration invented blind support of Israel. Every US president since 1948 has done the exact same thing–sent a blank check to Israel for whatever they wanted to do.

      1. nycTerrierist

        I was referring to this genocide-in-progress, which the Biden admin could stop right now
        by refusing to fund it.

      2. JonnyJames

        More or less true, although Eisenhower put the kabosh on the Suez Crisis and reined in Israel/UK./FR but that was a different era.

        It won’t matter who is “elected” as next pres, Israel will still have carte blanche and more $$ and weapons from the US

      3. sy rosenbaum

        Every US president since 1948 has done the exact same thing–sent a blank check to Israel for whatever they wanted to do.

        JFK was going to cut funding to Israel if they wouldn’t allow inspections at Dimona – they didn’t – and if their various orgs would continue to refuse to register under FARA. The Israeli orgs just dissolved and then reappeared under different names. RFK was given the task of enforcing US-Israel FARA policy. JFK wound up dead, as did RFK a few years later when he presumably would have had a legitimate investigation into his brother’s death. And he would have continued his brother’s policies vis-a-vis Israel, which were generally friendly, but correctly suspicious and in no way deferential or at odds with US interests.

        Lyndon Johnson was licentiously (Mathilde Krim) and treasonously cozy and deferential to Israel.

        Previous to Kennedy, Eisenhower had seriously threatened to cut funds to Israel over Sinai and Suez canals and unless they withdrew from Gaza to the agreed-upon armistice line. The Eisenhower admin submitted a draft resolution to the UN calling for this! It was vetoed by France and Britain, but Eisenhower persisted and he stood up to the Israel lobby of the time and prevailed. Previous to this, Truman did the same:

    2. Telee

      In a recent interview, Professor John Mearsheimer, was asked if there was any likelihood of Biden would threaten to stop arms shipments to Israel. Mearsheimer replied that it is not likely because Biden wants to get reelected and wants to be on the god side of the Israeli lobby. Our president would rather be complicit to genocide by delivering weopons and help starve the inhabitants of Gaza by withdriving aid to UNRWA than anger AIPAC. It also helps to keep the corporations who make the weopons happy.

      1. JonnyJames

        I agree with Mearsheimer on many points, but I would say if Congress was not so institutionally corrupt, The Lobby would not be successful. It’s a bit silly but: which came first? Corruption in Congress (and US gov) or the Israel Lobby?

        It’s not just The Lobby, it’s the oligarchy in general. The “Israel Lobby” represents a convergence of other domestic interests: BigOil, BigFinance and, as you point out, the war, weapons, surveillance, academia, think tank, media complex

        1. Darius

          Don’t vote for anyone who takes AIPAC money. Which means boycotting the two-party gaslighting operation. That is where we are now. Don’t worry. The system runs on money, influence, and propaganda. None of which any of us who frequent this site have any access to anyway.

          1. Valerie Living in Australia

            Agreed! I really hope people will be out in large numbers with signs that say, “Who owns our government?” or something like that right before election time. I don’t know anyone who is OK with a foreign government, that receives obscene amounts of aid, coercing/bribing our Congress and POTUS to do what it tells them to do. I say no more! As long as my vote counts (which I have had my doubts in the past), it is going to count for something.

  2. Candide

    Garrison Keillor’s stories included a typical sibling squabble in which kids in the back seat experienced the trick of a mischievous kid reaching behind the next kid and pulling the hair of the third kid who would strike out at the adjacent kid, not realizing who’d pulled hair.
    On a similar level the NPR reporter in Lebanon was interviewing an Israeli military officer about how after ceasefire was declared during Israel’s invasion, it was always the defense forces who would break the ceasefire. It’s easy, explained the officer. When you take a tank or armored personnel carrier and press the wall where the defenders are based, until it cracks, they will shoot.
    It does not take a genius to see through the use of manufactured atrocity stories to distance people in the US from the last vestige of compassion for the often attacked Gazan residents. Yet, the psychological and psychological warfare dimensions of today’s genocide have paralyzed millions, leaving us “in chains.”
    After a safe number of years have passed, college psychology classes will note how easy it was.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Thought for a long time that it is bad practice to condemn people based on the country that they come from. But recently I am beginning to wonder with a country like Israel if it cannot reach a ‘critical mass’ of people that subscribe to pure evil in their actions that might make it a valid one. After all, we condemn Nazi Germany as a country as a critical mass of people was reached that also subscribed to massacres, atrocities and genocide. Israeli IDF officers themselves have noted how some of their tactics against the Palestinians were lifted from the WW2 Wehrmacht book. Nobody is stopping them so they feel free to do whatever they want to do and bring civilians along for the ride. I was just reading today of how when the IDF torture suspects, that they bring in Israeli civilians to watch them torture Palestinians and to even film them. Is the next step IDF snuff films?

    1. digi_owl

      It may well be many that want to speak up, but they fear for themselves or their loved ones should they do so.

      Keep in mind that Rabin got assassinated for signing the Oslo Accords…

    2. CA

      “Thought for a long time that it is bad practice to condemn people based on the country that they come from…”

      Interesting thought, but at what point does an unfortunate national characteristic become defining for a society unless at least partially set firmly aside? There was just no significant effort to lessen the gulf between Israelis and Palestinians for decades, so why expect an understanding of the part of Israelis now? Are Americans more sympathetic to Cubans now than 20 or 40 years ago? How long must Cuba be punished for being Cuba?

      I am finding the open antipathy expressed in America for China to be increasingly fearsome. Other Chinese-Americans evidently agree, but the antipathy suggests no abating.

    3. gk

      > Israeli IDF officers themselves have noted how some of their tactics against the Palestinians were lifted from the WW2 Wehrmacht book

      According to Uri Avnery, Ben-Gurion read about the Nuremberg trials, and learnt one lesson: Don’t give orders in writing. He says that the British-trained office who was supposed to expel the Palestinians from Nazareth refused to do so without a written order (which never came).

    4. JonnyJames

      Since Israel claims to be a “Jewish State”, it is a bit different than the other European settler-colonial states. They claim to speak for all Jews, yet most Jews don’t live there. I think all Zionists will be condemned in future history books, if humans survive. The anti-Zionists, Jews, and non-Jews, will be on the “right side of history”.

      The same can be said of the US. The US gov is directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of many millions of innocent people, especially since 1945. The US is notorious for supporting anti-democratic coups, regime changes, right-wing death squads, siege warfare, carpet bombing entire countries etc. The “peaceful” DT regime imposed illegal siege warfare against Venezuela, resulting in the destruction of the economy, lack of food and medical supplies etc. This has resulted in millions of people dead or displaced. Very few mention that. These “sanctions” continue under the JB regime. Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Yemen are also under siege.

      Should we condemn the citizens of the US and UK for always “voting” for bloodthirsty imperialist and Zionist politicians and funders/supporters/enablers of Israel?

      1. Valerie Living in Australia

        I am beginning to think that the citizens of the U.S. (and I am a citizen of the U.S.) are responsible and deserving of some – if not a great deal – of condemnation. We all learned about the NAZIs in high school and we have all been taught that it was wrong and inexcusable. And yet, here we sit as a nation, for the most part, silent, uninvolved and unwilling to even bear witness. If every Democrat and Republican who thought the genocide was evil and wrong publicly committed to NOT voting for either candidate, wouldn’t that make a big enough difference? Surely, even the bought and paid for Legacy Media would have to report it.

        And for those unwilling to speak out against this modern day holocaust, don’t they deserve our condemnation? This is a genocide taking place in real time – no one gets to sit this one out.

  4. Eclair

    Hatred is contagious. For the past decades, hatred has been simmering in Palestine, as evidenced by the small and repeated acts of violence; the Occupiers taunting the Occupied, always trying to make their lives more unbearable.
    After the events of October 7 2023, when the carefully nurtured hatred of the Occupied against their Occupiers, erupted, and in retaliation, the Occupiers unleashed the full fury of their US-supplied bombs and bullets and bulldozers against the Occupied, their homes, their places of worship, their schools, their hospitals, leaving behind the mangled bodies of children and the ruined shells of their communities.

    Clouds of poisonous hatred, released over Gaza, multiplying, reproducing, fed by the energy of 2,000 pound bombs, climbed through the atmosphere, a perfect mushroom cloud of evil. Winds blew it, circling the globe, releasing its deadly toxins over all the lands.

    The seeds of hatred rain down over Europe and America, regions with discontented and fertile soil, sharpening divisions between Right and Left, between Muslim and Christian, between Rich and Poor.

    I scroll through my twitter feed every morning and evening, an almost religious obligation, to bear witness to the awful sufferings of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. I feel helpless because my anguish and rage can only be a tiny fraction of what the Palestinians are experiencing. And what can I do? Write another letter to a Senator, only to be answered by a mush-mouthed reply full of platitudes? Be present at the weekly protest led by the Palestinian diaspora? Wear the black and white keffiyeh to the grocery store?

    I feel helpless, without agency or power. And, so the seeds of hatred, rising up from the ruins of Gaza and borne west on the high altitude winds, reach my shores, darken my skies and float down and find me a willing host. I feel that burgeoning hatred grow within me: for the Occupier, for those that support the Occupier. I fight against it, because hatred is destructive. But, it is all I have. It empowers me with an inner light that soon turns into a raging fire. I feel strong, glowing with a sense of purpose: destroy the hated-ones.

    This is what I could become. So much of my energy is devoted to fighting off that infection of hate so that I will not become the Occupier.

  5. thoughtful person

    I always blame the elite and politicians, not the average people who are fully ignored when it comes to decision making, and only get censored info. Many don’t support the policies in any case. In terms of total killed in recent decades the country where I’m from, the US, is far ahead in genocidal policy, killing millions in my lifetime.

    Given there has already been a conference in Israel about what to do with the land of Gaza, to be aquired by Israel, not to mention the rhetoric of many of the far right politicians in Israel, it is clear the plan is elimination of the Palestinians in Gaza (and those in the west Bank likely will be next, attacks there are way up as well).

    What will the response be? How will this all play out? The US is clearly in favor, as appears to be most of Western Europe, Canada and Australia.

    I wonder how long countries like Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, even monarchies in the region like Jordan, possibly Saudi Arabia, can contain their citizens? China is not one to intervene, but has been brokering peace deals in the region. Perhaps as the deaths mount from the low 5 figures to the high 6 figures there will be a realignment, and eventually a wider war (hopefully not nuclear). The end of the state of Isreal and an expulsion of the US from the region?

    Time will tell

    1. jan

      Many don’t support the policies in any case

      I hoped that to be true for Israel, but then you read this

      Polls Show Broad Support in Israel for Gaza’s Destruction and Starvation

      Israeli Jews, however, seem unperturbed by the scale of the suffering, if the polls are any indication. One of the questions in the Tel Aviv University poll deals with the amount of force the Israeli army is using in Gaza. Less than 2 percent of the respondents said they believed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was using too much firepower. Perhaps even more horrifyingly, nearly 58 percent said they were using too little firepower.


  6. JonnyJames

    Some observers had hoped the ICJ ruling would alter Israel’s behavior. On the contrary, we see the continuation and possible mass expulsion of Gaza survivors. The US continues to give Israel billions in cash and high-tech weapons, political support, protection from the UN and the global majority etc.

    As most agree, this is truly sickening. But then again, the destruction of Iraq (based on a pack of transparent lies) likely resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and the displacement of millions more. Bush Jr. and Tony Blair are making a killing selling books, paintings, public engagements, influence peddling etc. No justice there either.

    Afghanistan is another example: the US imposes siege warfare on the formerly occupied country – arguably the poorest or nearly so, in the world. This has just added insult to injury and continues to cause huge numbers of refugees, deaths, etc. We could go on but the point being:

    The Genocide of Palestine is more flagrant, more provocative than other atrocities resulting from US foreign police, but perfectly consistent with other elements of US foreign policy.

  7. zach

    “And confirming that Israel is going full Amalek, they are making sure the pets of Gazans die too. From TPS (hat tip BC):

    Israel’s Ministries of Agriculture and Health asked the public to refrain from bringing dogs and cats from the territories of the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and from over the northern border into the territory of Israel.

    The official excuse is as lame as the ones used to hold up truck deliveries of humanitarian aid.”

    I don’t know what the official excuse is, but a starving pet isn’t really a pet anymore.

  8. Librarian Guy

    As much as I despise George H.W. Bush, he stood up to Israel & paid a price for it when the Lobby went to Bubba Clinton instead & thus led to the complete immiseration of any pro-labor or humane policies from the Dem faux “left”. Could anyone (okay, perhaps Biden & the despicable Richie Torres, also child actor Ben Shapiro comes to mind) be more insanely NeoCon & Zionist than the Clinton dynasty? That’s pretty tough competition.

  9. vidimi

    not much to say but that this is the worst thing I have ever witnessed in my lifetime and the world must not stand idly by. the west must be ended for this crime. I would rather be rebuilding a defeated West than be among the genocidal victors.

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