Gaza is experiencing mass starvation like no other in recent history. Before the outbreak of fighting in October, food security in Gaza was precarious, but very few children – less than 1% – suffered severe acute malnutrition, the most dangerous kind. Today, almost all Gazans, of any age, anywhere in the territory, are at risk.
There is no instance since the second world war in which an entire population has been reduced to extreme hunger and destitution with such speed. And there’s no case in which the international obligation to stop it has been so clear.
These facts underpinned South Africa’s recent case against Israel at the international court of justice. The international genocide convention, article 2c, prohibits “deliberately inflicting [on a group] conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.
In ordering provisional measures to prevent potential genocide last Friday, the ICJ didn’t rule on whether Israel is actually committing genocide – that will take years of deliberation – but the judges made it clear that the people of Gaza face “conditions of life” in which their survival is in question. Even Justice Aharon Barak, appointed by Israel to sit on the panel, voted in favour of immediate humanitarian relief.
But a humanitarian disaster such as Gaza’s today is like a speeding freight train. Even if the driver puts on the brakes, its momentum will take it many miles before it stops. Palestinian children in Gaza will die, in the thousands, even if the barriers to aid are lifted today. [Continue reading…]