Stand Against Israeli’s Famine. Please.

Trigger warning–this contains first-hand accounts of starvation.

People are starving to death because Israel is using food as a weapon.  This was clear from the beginning: two days after October 7th, Israel’s defense minister ordered a ‘complete siege,’ of Gaza, saying “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.”  Gaza has a border with Egypt, too—but a Washington Post article about the Israeli restrictions clarified that “Israel has effectively wielded a military veto over what enters and exits, bombing the crossing on multiple occasions early in the war.”

The border stayed completely closed for almost two weeks after October 9th—and Israel would have liked to keep blocking it.  When Israeli politicians criticized Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, for slightly loosening his siege, Gallant said he didn’t have a choice:

“The Americans insisted and we are not in a place where we can refuse them. We rely on them for planes and military equipment. What are we supposed to do? Tell them no?”

Israel bowed to American pressure—but only to the extent it had to: a very small amount of aid is getting through.  Before the war, 500 trucks a day were entering Gaza.  Since then, it’s been a small fraction of that.  Now Gazans are eating animal feed and grass—and starting to die.  Ali, a Palestinian infant, was one of several babies who just starved to death in an overcrowded hospital in northern Gaza. 

“Ali was born in wartime,” his father said, in a plea for other children who could still be saved.  “There was no food or anything for his mother to eat…We tried to get him treated at hospitals, but there was no help… Ali died in front of the entire world, which kept watching him pass away.”

Mohammed Alshannat, another resident of Gaza and a linguistic student doing a remote PhD from a South African university, wrote a desperate series of texts to the outside world, after getting Wifi for the first time in many days:    

I am still in the north with my family. We are in a great famine. My injured son’s health is deteriorating because of the famine. There is no milk, meat, vegetables, fruit or anything to feed him. He lost most of his weight. Medicine and other stuff completely disappeared from the markets. My mother’s diabetes medicine has run out and she is very, very sick.  My children are crying from hunger all the time. People are hoping that Israel nukes us so we get rid of this pain…

Rice, on which we have been living off in the last four months, has completely disappeared from the markets. Me and my wife have decided to eat a meal every two days just to keep our kids alive as long as we can. What is left for us is hay. We have started grinding it, bake it and eat it. Because we have started eating the hay bread, we now defecate blood mixed with hay.

I lost my house, my car and my olive farm. Yesterday my cousin lost her 2-month-old baby because there is no milk to breastfeed him, because there is nothing for her to eat. He was her only and she is 45 years old. She also lost her house and her husband in December. She is a brilliant brain surgeon. She is refusing food and has not spoken a word since…

When the Israeli army invades an area, we run to safer places. When they withdraw, some of the Israeli soldiers’ leftovers like tuna cans, bread, etc. remain. My cousin, Esa, thought that they have withdrawn and quickly rushed in the hope that he finds leftovers to eat.

After the Israeli army finally withdrew, we found him dead, rotten and half eaten by wild dogs. He seemed to be carrying some tuna cans. We couldn’t bury him as his body was so decomposed. We covered him with sand and left him.

His name is Esa Alshannat. He was 20 years old. He was a sophomore student in the department of computer science at Gaza university. He was a brilliant pianist who wanted to pursue a music degree in Italy. I still remember my last meeting with him. He had big dreams and was full of hope, peace and love. He was very hungry and very skinny. We were telling each other that despite what is being inflicted on us, we have nothing against the Israelis but love.

That was the last message sent, on February 29th.  Today, Mohammed Alshannat—a hopeful scholar who condemned violence and believed in co-existence and democracy—is probably dead of hunger.

Israel claims it isn’t using starvation as a weapon—but there’s absolutely no reason to trust this.  First—if the Israeli government didn’t want a famine, it wouldn’t have completely blocked food for two weeks and then opened the border only slightly, under intense US pressure, and kept the border almost blocked for five months.  Blocking food for the whole population isn’t a case of “some civilian casualties are inevitable.”  Blocking food for the whole population is a genocide. 

The other reason not to trust Netanyahu is that some of the most powerful people in Israel openly want to push Palestinians out of Gaza so they can fill it with Israeli settlers.  Israel’s national security minister is a man so anti-Arab that a previous Israeli government convicted him of supporting a terrorist organization.  Before he entered politics, Imatar Ben-Gvir had a picture in his living room of Baruch Goldstein, an extremist who entered a holy site with an assault rifle and murdered 29 Arab worshipers.  According to a long-form article about Gvir, he even visited Goldstein’s grave on his first date with his future wife.

Now, Gvir is the head of Israel’s police, and leads a political party called Jewish Power.  Recently, he was one of many Israeli politicians who attended a ‘victory conference’ about resettling Gaza.  Gvir opposes food aid and spoke of voluntary migration of Palestinians—as if leaving somewhere so you don’t starve to death is ‘voluntary.’  Danielle Weiss, one of the leaders of the Israeli settlement movement, was also at the conference, and she described her plan for the Palestinians this way:

“They will leave. We don’t give them food, we don’t give them anything. They have to leave.  The world will accept them.” 

Netanyahu claims that he doesn’t plan to resettle Gaza—but given what his political allies are saying about starving the Palestinians out, there’s simply no reason to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Either Netanyahu himself or allies he’s not capable of controlling want exactly that.  It shows in the small number of trucks that are reaching Gaza—and in the famine that was predictable and predicted from the start.  It shows in the Israeli protesters trying to keep food from Gaza—and in the Israeli government doing nothing in response.

Israeli security forces are extremely good at cracking down on Palestinian protesters who try to stop bulldozers destroying their homes.  But when the protesters are blocking aid for starving Gazans, then it turns out that Israeli security forces are extremely good at doing nothing.  That’s exactly what you would expect if Israel is only doing the minimum America is making it do.

Biden says he wants more humanitarian aid, and behind the scenes he’s been working to increase it.  But he hasn’t done the one thing that will matter—cutting off weapons to Israel.  Think about it: people do things because they want to, or because they have to.  Israel’s government doesn’t want food for Gaza—Yoav Gallant made that abundantly clear when said he was letting a little food in because “the Americans insisted.”  That means Israel will only let in food if it has to.  It will only let in food when the costs of blocking food are too high.  It will only let in food when the US stops giving weapons. 

Without US weapons, Israel would have to agree to a cease-fire.  How do we know?  Because top Israeli officials have said so.  Remember, Gallant slightly loosened his ‘complete siege’ because, again,

‘The Americans insisted and we are not in a place where we can refuse them. We rely on them for planes and military equipment. What are we supposed to do? Tell them no?’

And according to an article in the Guardian,

“Retired Israeli Maj Gen Yitzhak Brick went even further than Gallant. ‘All of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the US,’ Brick said in an interview in November. ‘The minute they turn off the tap, you can’t keep fighting. You have no capability … Everyone understands that we can’t fight this war without the United States. Period.’”

So Biden could end the famine now.  He could withhold weapons and then there would be a ceasefire, and a hostage deal trading prisoners for prisoners, and food would get in.  Biden either doesn’t understand this, or else he’s willing to see two million Palestinians starve just to try to destroy Hamas. 

Americans have to keep pressuring Biden—because pressure works.  Biden’s behind-the-scenes pressure on Israel is why there’s been a trickle of food instead of none.  And our pressure on Biden works to make him pressure Israel.  Biden is worried about losing the election over this.  100,000 voters in the Michigan democratic primary voted ‘uncommitted’ to protest his policy in Gaza.  After that, Biden began some inadequate but better-than-nothing airdrops of food.  And now one of Biden’s key allies, the centrist senator Chris Coons, is re-thinking military aid to Israel.  Even Biden himself is now entertaining the idea of putting conditions on military aid.

None of this is enough.  Biden should completely stop arming a country that is starving two million people to deathIf you live in a country besides America, write to your leader and tell them to pressure Biden.  Tell your American friends to write to their leaders.  And if you are American—this is your chance to end a genocide.  You just have to convince one person to stop arming Israel.  You just have to make it so Biden has to do what he doesn’t want to. 

So go to protests.  Write to the media and tell them to cover this atrocity.  Write to Biden and every other politician you know.  Point out that Biden has the power to end a famine.  Say that even an Israeli general admitted that there would be a cease-fire if the US wasn’t sending weapons.  Tell Biden that he needs to decide if his legacy will be enabling a genocide.  Tell Biden he can continue this war or he can stay president, but he can’t do both.  Tell Biden your vote depends on making this Fucking.  Shit.  STOP. 

And do it now—because people are starving to death now, because your tax money is buying the weapons keeping this going.  Here’s how to contact Biden, and all the senators and representatives in the US. 

If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done during the Holocaust…it’s whatever you’re doing now.  So please—act as you would want bystanders to act if you were starving and other people had the power to save your life.  Thank you for reading—and send this on to anyone you think might act.