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Starvation as a weapon of War

There is no fuel and no food in Gaza. At the beginning of the Gaza Invasion, the Israeli Defence minister expressed the government’s genocidal intent when he said that “There will be no food, no electricity, no fuel, everything is closed”. Indeed, Israel has actualized this genocide. There is no food, fuel, or electricity in Gaza. Gaza is a mass concentration camp, with its more than 2 million people starving. Children are having their limbs amputated without anaesthesia. Imagine for a moment, if it were your child having her leg amputated without anaesthesia, would you tolerate it, would you accept it?  The people of Gaza are now eating grass and grinding barely edible animal feed to make flour.  The leading international authority on food insecurity, the IPC Famine Review committee estimates that 90% of Gazan’s, some 2.08 million people are facing food insecurity. It is estimated that 95% of the total world population facing imminent starvation are the people living in Gaza. For those who believe that this conflict erupted on October 7, the U.N. report of 2022 found that one year before that, 65% of Gazan’s were food insecure as a result of the unlawful siege Israel imposed on Gaza with the tacit complicity of the Egyptian government as well as the U.S and Europe.

This mass starvation is being played out in real time and the world is witnessing this horror on their smartphones and TV screens. The wealthy nations, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have at this unprecedented and dire moment of starvation in Gaza,  suspended funding to the UNRWA on mere allegations by Israel that some UNRWA staff members were involved in the October 7 attacks on Israel. No evidence has been provided to even substantiate the allegations but the wealthy nations have elected to strangle this aid lifeline to Gaza, thereby being complicit in starving the Palestinians.

At the beginning of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, Oxfam reported that only 2% of the usual amount of food was being delivered to Gaza.  Oxfam’s Sally Abi Khalil stated that “There can be no justification for using starvation as a weapon of war”. The Zionist state of Israel has been determined in strategically using starvation as a weapon of war. Israeli forces have been shooting at poor Palestinians waiting in line to collect food. They have attacked convoys delivering food. For the most part, they have prevented food from entering Gaza.

Not even Israel’s allies in the United States believe the lies that the Zionist regime spins when it says that it is allowing humanitarian aid to flow in. US senators Chris van Hollen and Jeff Merkley went to Rafah to observe and monitor aid going into Gaza.  According to Van Hollen “Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food”. In a speech in the senate, he accused Israel of a textbook war crime. “This is a war crime; it is a textbook war crime that makes those who orchestrate it war criminals. Van Hollen has called upon the U.S. government to invoke the U.S foreign assistance law which prohibits arms exports to any country that impedes the provision of U.S humanitarian assistance. Van Hollen has seen with his very own eyes how Israel has actively prevented foreign aid from reaching the poor and starving people of Palestine. Van Hollen told the New Yorker that ‘Goods like medical kits used to deliver babies, water testing kits, water filters, solar powered desalinization units and tents with poles” were among the items that Israel rejected entry into Gaza.  Van Hollen also observed that when one item in a truck is rejected, the Israelis send the entire truck back. etc

Israeli forces have also been targeting agricultural land in Gaza, food production factories and grocery stores. This is a cold, calculated and callous strategy to starve the people of Gaza. Allan de Wind, author of “Mass Starvation, The History and Future of Famine”, says while it may be possible to bomb a hospital by accident, it is not possible to create a famine by accident’.

The whole world is calling for a ceasefire and an end to the Israeli barbarism in Gaza. However, the United States, Israel’s primary military and economic backer, has throughout the invasion of Gaza, green lighted the actions of the Israeli State and still refuses to leverage its financial and military aid to compel Israel to comply with international human rights and humanitarian law. Everyone knows that without a complete ceasefire, it is impossible for aid to reach all the people of Gaza who desperately need it.  This week the U.S shamelessly vetoed the Algerian resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire while the people of Gaza are subjected to the most atrocious horrors. There are seventeen thousand Palestinian kids that are orphaned because their parents were butchered by Israeli Zionists. Hospitals have been destroyed and this week the U.N has reported on credible reports of Israel violating the rights of Palestinian women. The U.N experts on human rights reported on the 19th February “We are particularly distressed by reports that women and girls in detention have been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault such as being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli officers. At least two female detainees were raped while others were threatened with rape and sexual violence. The experts also noted the despicable conduct of Israeli soldiers who uploaded degrading photos of Palestinian female detainees. According to the experts, Israel has unlawfully detained hundreds of Palestinian women. Some were kept in a cage in the rain and cold. These U.N experts are part of what is known as the special procedures of the Human Rights Council which is the largest body of international experts in the U.N human rights system.

Israeli barbarism has resulted in approximately one hundred thousand Palestinian casualties of war with over twenty-nine thousand killed and sixty-nine thousand wounded. The Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor estimates that 90% of these casualties of war were Palestinian civilians. Israel has killed twelve thousand and three hundred children as well as eight thousand and four hundred women. The U.N. office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs says that Israel has destroyed approximately 360 000 thousand Palestinian homes.392 educational facilities as well as 123 ambulances and 267 places of worship (mainly mosques) have also been demolished. 85% of Gaza’s population is internally displaced by the Israeli Occupation and 1.7 million Gaza’s live in refugee camps. Israel calls all of this self-defence but to the majority of the world’s people, it is genocide.

The U.S veto this week has angered people throughout the world who are now fed up with watching international law and institutions fail the people of Palestine for more than 75 years. Is it not time for self-respecting delegates to stage a walk out immediately when the U.S vetoes a resolution for a ceasefire and urgently call for the democratisation of the United Nations where all countries share equal rights. Despite the Israeli genocide, Palestinians are defiant, they do not accept to be subjugated, subordinates and slaves to Israeli colonial masters. The suffering triggers a memory in their historical consciousness as they remember their beloved Prophet who was also sanctioned, sieged, and starved in Shib Abi Talib where the Messenger and his comrades were starved to the point where they too had to eat grass in order to survive. The Prophet lost his most beloved and committed comrades, his wife Khadija and the great Abu Talib who were casualties of the inhumane siege. Perhaps the most potent trigger of faith consciousness is the slaughter of Palestinian children which invoke the memory of the slaughter of the children of the household of Muhammad, particularly the baby of Hussein,  Ali Asghar. Palestinians, like Hussein feel that they are fighting a lone struggle abandoned by earthly powers against a powerful oppressor. Despite being the victims of genocide, they are inspired by Muhammad and Hussein to be defiant and resolute in the struggle for self-determination and independence. To keep on resisting like Hussein after experiencing the most painful event which is the killing of their innocent children. Palestinians have issued calls for solidarity, more marches, more boycotts, for activists to fast in solidarity with their struggle to end the genocide, for activists to wake up at 2am in the morning and engage in prayer seeking God’s corrective justice and an end to their oppression and for an urgent immediate ceasefire and end for this barbaric war.

Iqbal Suleman

Suleman is a social justice lawyer and former head of the law clinic for Lawyers for Human Rights in Pretoria.