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The looming famine in Gaza is an extension of Israel’s exertion of colonial power

June 20, 2024 at 4:00 pm

Palestinian children wait in line to get food distributed by charitable organizations at a UNRWA school in Jabalia camp, Gaza on June 08, 2024. [Mahmoud Zaki Salem Issa – Anadolu Agency]

Since October last year, it is estimated that approximately 70,000 tons of bombs have been dropped by Israel on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. The devastating death toll currently stands at around 36,550 Palestinians, including more than 15,000 children, and a further 10,000 missing, presumed dead, under the rubble of what remains of their homes. With famine looming in Gaza, these figures are set to be eclipsed, with the most recent warning from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN projecting that over a million people — more than half of Gaza’s population — will face death by starvation by mid-July.

This catastrophic analysis makes it clear that, in the absence of meaningful international aid intervention and an end to this latest onslaught against the Palestinian population, more civilians will die due to enforced starvation than as a direct result of unprecedented Israeli military bombardment.

It is important to be clear that this famine is entirely man-made. It is equally important to identify who is responsible. And there is plenty of opprobrium to go around. With backing from Western allies, who have continued to send military aid to Israel whilst failing to intervene meaningfully and secure a ceasefire, Israel has been given a green light to enforce starvation on the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Whilst famine is often a consequence of armed conflict, enforced starvation of a civilian population is something else.

It is a tactic deployed routinely by colonial powers to exert dominance over a colonised people. The current starvation of the civilian population in Gaza, therefore, involves numerous intersecting factors, all of which relate directly to Israel’s decades-long and enduring domination over Palestinian lives and livelihoods.

READ: 67% of water, sanitation infrastructure destroyed in Gaza since 7 October: UN Refugee agency

By preventing humanitarian aid supplies from entering the Gaza Strip, whilst imposing additional layers of bureaucratic hurdles to control what can and cannot be let in, Israel continues to create the conditions that perpetuate, and even accelerate, the starvation of Palestinians living in the Strip. Attacks on civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including the apparatus needed to provide and distribute food to the Palestinian population, we suggest, is a deliberate Israeli military tactic. And the evidence stacks up. Water sanitation stations, factories for processing food, aid warehouses, bakeries and flour mills have all been targeted routinely by Israeli military bombardment. Alongside infrastructure, those responsible for delivering life-saving aid have also been singled out for attack.

Hence, this manufactured famine cannot be analysed in isolation, but must be seen within the context of decades of colonial practices that have targeted Palestinians, attempting to erase both their physical and historical presence in Palestine. Indeed, since the start of the blockade against Gaza in 2007, Israel has engaged in a policy of enforced food insecurity through discriminatory and multi-layered policies, including the monitoring of certain food stuffs that are and are not permitted entry into the Strip. Siege warfare — illegal under international law — has meant that Palestinians’ daily calorie intake in Gaza is monitored and controlled by the occupation state, with food essentials such as meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables becoming a luxury.

According to a report released by Oxfam, food insecurity has increased rapidly during this ongoing genocide, to the point whereby the average daily calorie intake for Palestinians living in the north of the Gaza Strip has been decimated to just 245.

People of northern Gaza suffer as famine spreads, particularly children – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Yet those who are scouring the streets for food in Gaza today could receive humanitarian aid in less than fifteen minutes, if Israel opened the border crossings that it has closed purposefully, those crossings being in some instances a mere five kilometres away. Consequently, it is unsurprising that both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant stand accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of, amongst other alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, using starvation as a weapon of war.

It was Gallant who made very clear Israel’s intent to starve the Palestinian civilian population in October last year, when he declared a complete siege on Gaza and said: “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”

To this day, no Western governments are taking decisive action to intervene, and they stand accused of aiding and abetting such crimes.

It could be argued that the international community, with insufficient aid and continued business-as-usual approach with its well-protected Israeli ally, is complicit in this erasure of Palestinian life. It should also be remembered that international allies, including British Prime Minister-in-waiting Sir Keir Starmer, were quick to suggest that Israel did, in fact, have a right to turn off water supplies to the Palestinian population in Gaza.

That the Israeli state can manufacture a famine that is starving children at the fastest rate ever recorded, whilst simultaneously enjoying impunity, is a damning indictment of international law. Forcing starvation on a civilian population who have endured over eight months of western-sponsored military bombardment, is a stain on the international community and our institutions, one that will be impossible to repair. International intervention must be forthcoming immediately.

READ: Hamas welcomes UN inquiry results as ‘another’ confirmation of Israel’s crimes in Gaza

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.