As Biden dithers, Israel is the driving force behind starvation in Gaza

As Biden dithers, Israel is the driving force behind starvation in Gaza


Megan K. Stack writes:

The threat of starvation is believed to be most intense in the bomb-scarred remains of northern Gaza, where by January, nutrition screenings found that more than 15 percent of children ages 6 months to 23 months were acutely malnourished, a condition rarely seen in Gaza before the current war. “Such a decline in a population’s nutritional status in three months is unprecedented globally,” UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the U.N. World Food Program said in reporting the latest grim statistics last week.

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, troubled by stories of starvation, texted Cindy McCain, the head of the World Food Program, to ask whether “children have now crossed the awful threshold from being on the verge of starvation to dying of starvation,” he said in the Senate on Feb. 12.

“She wrote back, and I quote, ‘This is true,’” Mr. Van Hollen said, reading from Ms. McCain’s text message. “‘We are unable to get in enough food to keep people from the brink. Famine is imminent. I wish I had better news.’”

Michael Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, put it bluntly: “This is a population that is starving to death.”

We should not pretend these deaths were inevitable. All of this we already knew: Palestinian residents of Gaza have been reduced to eating grass. They drink fetid water. Grains meant for animal feed are pulverized into makeshift flour, but even that lowly sustenance has been running out. Palestinian starvation has been documented and reported. We knew.

It is a harsh death. Muscles weaken and shrink. The immune system falters, and infections take hold. Vital organs break down. The weakest die first — babies, the elderly, the sick.

In the early days of its onslaught, Israel’s defense minister declared that food, electricity and fuel would be cut off to Gaza’s 2.2 million inhabitants, nearly half of whom are children. Israel eventually began allowing some food and medical supplies to enter, but aid organizations warned it wasn’t enough.

As international disapproval has mounted, Israeli officials have said there was no shortage of food in Gaza and denied that they were responsible for people going hungry, accusing Hamas of pilfering aid bound for civilians and saying the United Nations failed to distribute food.

But these contentions have been dismissed by aid organizations trying to move supplies into Gaza. Israel has been blamed for creating byzantine delays at crossings and for failing to ensure safe passage in Gaza. It is accused of opening fire on U.N. aid vehicles returning from delivering aid and on crowds waiting for food. Acute hunger only increases the chaos: The World Food Program suspended food deliveries to northern Gaza last week because looters and desperate crowds were attacking the trucks. Jordanian and French military planes dropped food and other supplies into central Gaza on Monday, but some of the boxes fell into the sea, forcing people to scramble into the water to retrieve them.

On Monday the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said it had a new plan to provide aid to Gaza but gave no details.

The Palestinian writer Laila El-Haddad, who has family members in Gaza, told me that she has spoken to relatives who haven’t had fruit, vegetables or meat in three months. They are trying to survive, she said, by hunting for canned food and foraging for wild plants like sorrel and mallow. A few miles away, meanwhile, Israeli protesters have physically blocked aid trucks from entering the Gaza Strip.

The ominous absurdity of the situation is impossible to overstate. A freighter with food bound for Gaza, enough to feed more than one million people, languished for weeks at the Israeli port of Ashdod because Israeli customs authorities refused to process the food. The United States paid for 90,000 metric tons of flour on the freighter, and President Biden thanked Israel for letting it pass — except that Israel had done the opposite. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.