Creepy Israeli Planning for Palestinian Food Insecurity in Gaza Revealed

An Israeli human rights organization, Gisha, sued in Israeli courts to force the release of a planning document for ‘putting the Palestinians on a diet’ without risking the bad press of mass starvation, and the courts concurred. The document, produced by the Israeli army, appears to be a calculation of how to make sure, despite the Israeli blockade, that Palestinians got an average of 2279 calories a day, the basic need. But by planning on limiting the calories in that way, the Israeli military was actually plotting to keep Palestinians in Gaza (half of them children) permanently on the brink of malnutrition, what health professionals call “food insecurity”. And, it was foreseeable that sometimes they would slip into malnutrition, since not as many trucks were always let in every day as the Israeli army recommended (106 were recommended, but it was often less in the period 2007-2010).

Planning for keeping people on the edge is nearly as bad as planning actually to starve them. A prudent person would know that a blockade is a blunt enough instrument, with shipments up and down in a given week, that such a policy would from time to time produce real misery. Were any physicians involved? They should be boycotted by the international community.

And, the Israeli army’s way of trying to minimize the document must be the worst example of propaganda in history! They are saying that the plan was produced but not consulted. But this document aimed at making sure just enough trucks got in to keep people on the edge. If the government didn’t consult it, does that mean it did not care if the food shipments slipped below the basic calorie allowance? Wouldn’t it have been better if they had known about the 106-truck recommendation?

The food blockade had real effects. About ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition.

A recent report [pdf] by Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians found that, in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.

I mean, don’t those figures make you want to do something for those mothers and children? Wouldn’t they melt anyone’s heart?

Although, under international pressure, the Israeli government eased its blockade slightly in 2010, and foodstuffs are no longer interdicted, it still limits imports into Gaza, and its wide-ranging ban on exports has thrown Palestinians into unemployment at Depression levels, imperiling their ability to afford food even when it is available.

A UN Report out last month predicts that if Israel does not change its policies toward Gaza, the strip will be uninhabitable by 2020, when the population will likely be 2.1 million (think Houston). The deterioration of the water, and the sharp downward mobility of the Palestinians, are only some of the problems the territory will face.

Note that the Israeli government did not voluntarily cease its policy of keeping Palestinians on a diet in 2010. It was forced to by Turkish and European aid activists, and 9 people, one an American citizen, were martyred for this change when Israeli commandos illegally boarded a civilian, unarmed ship in international waters and shot it up.

In any case, there are other ways to starve out the people of Gaza than bluntly preventing food from coming in. Nobel-prize-winning economist Amartya Sen showed that the real cause of famines is not lack of food but that the price of the food rises above the ability of people to pay for it. By keeping Gaza on the edge of economic collapse, the Likud government has continued the food blockade by other means.

The Israeli members of Gisha, who are Mensches, care that their government is contributing in a systematic and deliberate way to damaging childrens’ health because of the way their parents voted in 2006! And they want to embarrass it into ceasing this illegal and inhumane treatment of people who are under Israeli military Occupation and protected from such measures by the Geneva Convention of 1949 (a convention on occupation designed to prevent a recurrence of the excesses and atrocities of the Fascist Powers in World War II, and which you would think an Israeli government would be embarrassed to contravene).

Aljazeera English has a video report, valuable because unlike CNN or other Western cable news channels, it actually interviews the Palestinians affected.

It is precisely because the Israeli blockade of Palestinian non-combatants in Gaza is considered creepy and evil not just by me but by any ethical person that a number of European members of parliament have boarded the aid ship Estelle, and will make another attempt to deliver food and other aid to Gaza, despite Israeli threats.

The blockade has medical as well as nutritional bad effects. Palestinians in Gaza have to get Israeli permission (!) to leave the strip for medical care. Palestinian hospitals, having been starved of funds and materiel by Israel, are dilapidated. A study published this month in The Lancet found that 10% of such requests were delayed or rejected by Israeli authorities (the rejection or delay rate for the Palestinian territories over all is nearly a fifth). Israel’s delays murdered 6 Palestinians in Gaza last year, as surely as though they had been taken out and shot twice behind the ear. How would you like to have to apply to an arbitrary foreign government for permission to go next door to a neighboring country for medical care?

The [pdf] Lancet article says,

“In 2011, 1082 (10%) of 10,560 applicants in the Gaza Strip had their access permits denied or delayed, with no reason given, and 197 (2%) were called for security interview. Patients aged 18–40 years had the highest rate of denied or delayed permits. Tracer interviews with Gazan families of patients who had their permits denied or delayed showed that six patients died while waiting for the permits.”

The Gaza Strip is a small expanse of land on the coast of the Mediterranean to Israel’s southeast, which also borders on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Some 40% of its 1.7 million people are victims of Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign, and many, having been chased off their farms and out of their homes by the military forces of the Yishuv (the Jewish settler community in British Mandate Palestine), still live, or their descendants do, in refugee camps. The territory was captured by Israel in 1967, and until 2005 Israelis were actually encouraged to colonize it. The Kadima government gave up on that enterprise, but did not let its Palestinian people go.

In January of 2006, Hamas won the elections for the Palestine Authority (it had been allowed to run at the insistence of Bush, who, however, backed down in a cowardly way from ‘democratization’ when the Israelis insisted that the outcome was unacceptable). The Bush administration and the Israeli government connived in staging a coup by Fateh in the West Bank. The coup failed in Gaza, where the elected Hamas government retained control.

From 2007, Israel imposed a blockade on the exports and imports of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. It vastly limited the number of trucks that were allowed in from Israel and disallowed most exports. Dov Weinglass, an aide to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, announced that the Palestinians would be ‘put on a diet.’ That is, the Israeli government had decided to wage economic and nutritional warfare against the Palestinians.

Obviously, allowing them to become malnourished would raise an outcry even in an international community that typically allows Israel’s settler colonialism to get away with murder toward the Palestinians. So the policy was to keep the Palestinians “food insecure.” That is, they wouldn’t be starved, but they’d be one step away from starving — if they lost a source of income, for instance.

Wikileaks revealed a US embassy cable that confirmed, “As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to [U.S. embassy economic officers] on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge…”

Note that the cowardly US government went along with this policy of ruining the lives of civilian non-combatants as a way of trying to defeat the Hamas party-militia (five years later, I think we can safely pronounce the policy a failure).

The most horrible thing is that the Israelis, and the international community, have no long-term plans for Gaza. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no vision for how this blockade of innocents will ever end. People pay lip service to a ‘two state solution,’ but everyone knows that Israel won’t allow the Palestinians to have a state! Although Qatar has just announced a multi-million-dollar aid program, it remains to be seen whether Israel will allow it. And, aid is secondary to the dignity of being citizens in a state, which is what Palestinians really need (the economic efflorescence would come from that statehood better than from outside charity). The people of Gaza are apparently to be kept in a large out-door concentration camp forever. Unless the world cares enough to rescue them from that fate.

21 Responses

  1. What can an American, that is definitely not a 1%r, do to help this situation? This is an honest question from someone who sees the unfairness in these policies, but has little clout in the political realm. I am asking what can we try to do as average Americans? This is not an idle question.

    • Dan, i guess that all we can do is vote for a 3rd party candidate! Thats what i am doing. I see little differentiation between Obama’s policy and his predecessor G.W.Bush

    • You can join Jewish Voice for Peace, link to and support them both financially and with activism. You don’t have to be Jewish to be a member.

      This is a growing movement willing to stand up to AIPAC. While congress and the administration pay little attention to them at this time, that could change if enough of the electorate speak out.


  2. When I hear about this sort of stuff the image that immediately comes into my head is that of the Warsaw Ghetto. The National Socialists half starved the Jews in the ghettos (before they slaughtered them).

    I know I will be accused of playing the “Hitler card” but the truth is that this sort of blockage is the hallmark of some very unsavory regimes.

  3. This just screams war crimes to me. The purpose of the blockade was and is mainly about collective punishment of the people for voting in Hamas as their democratically elected government. A significant aspect of that punishment is restricting supplies to the area and limiting the amount of food so that Palestinians stay on the “brink of malnourishment” as Juan writes. Disgusting. And so much of the American public is enamored in the propaganda that Israel is our greatest ally and what’s best for Israel is best for America.

    Their actions against the Palestinians and their occupation is criminal. The US’ reputation around the world is tarnished by our reflexive support of Israel no matter how heinous Israel’s actions get regarding Gaza and the West Bank. We could do a lot of good for America by drawing a line in the sand and not denouncing Israel’s crimes (and actually meaning it).

    • The 462-page Goldstone Commission Report found credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israel during the Operation Cast Lead incursion and what was done as a result of the findings and conclusions of this commission?

      Very little.

  4. Israel’s plan is, of course, to drive them out into neighboring countries like Egypt and Jordan. I’ve had Israelis tell me “The Palestinians have a homeland–it’s called Jordan.” Of course, Israelis do not say this publicly. I’m sure you know, also, that many Israelis have a view that Palestinians were somehow “planted” in Palestine by unfriendly interests and didn’t in fact live there when Israel was founded. Of course they don’t talk about this belief in polite company either. But in Israeli minds, this is all the fault of neighboring Arab countries for refusing to take Palestinians in (although they have, to the tune of millions of people).

    So, how does the world have the discussion when they won’t bring up the elephant in the room–that Israel intends to make Palestinian lives miserable until they simply leave? How do we approach this? Accuse Israel of having this intention publicly? I’m sure that’s not very diplomatic.

    • Reply to Tinwoman: Congressman Henry Waxman told me exactly that. The Palestinian problem is due to the neighboring state’s relectance to absorb them.

      • Of course, if the Palestinians were all packed into Jordan, they would then have to be denied any voice in government since they’d be the majority. If the Palestinians then tried to take over Jordan by force the way they tried in 1970, Rep. Waxman would be the first to scream that the US has to nuke the place to protect Israel. But in fact Israel would probably already be lining up a launch window for its own nukes.

        There was no place the Palestinians could go where they wouldn’t be a threat to Israel, because they would always keep alive the fact of what the Zionists did to the people they found in their way. If they were “absorbed” into neighboring Arab states, those states would “absorb” that fact as proof of an unending Israeli expansionist agenda. Which may well be true.

  5. “… I think we can safely pronounce the policy a failure.” The US has a way of letting special interests fossilize failed policy, e.g., the permanent blockade of Cuba, which is always just about to topple Castro, but never does.

  6. The Torah is imbued with a view of God’s law as being one with justice. Jews are not allowed to ask or force their servants to labor on the Sabbath because it is a day of rest for all. Even the oxen plowing the fields cannot be muzzled; they are allowed to munch freely as they work.

    Israel has perverted this sacred obligation for fair behavior into permission to starve children and commit war crimes.

  7. The theory of rationing calories was used at Auschwitz by the Nazi SS administration. The Nazis allowed 1300 calories per day for those inmates assigned to manual labor.

    This is not the first time food deprivation was used as a weapon. during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces, per credible evidence cited by the 462-page Goldstone Commission Report, had bulldozed a chicken farm that produced 10% of the eggs to feed Gazans. This caused the deaths of 31,000 hens.

    After the withdrawal from Gaza, there was much publicity that greenhouses left behind in Jewish settlements were being purchased for the benefit of Gazans to grow crops therein. Turns out that products of Gazan-grown produce from these greenhouses were denied entry into Israel as an export, thus denying these Gazans engaged in operating the greenhouses needed income from distribution of the produce inside Israel.

    In another assault on animals and children the IDF, in a separate incident preceding Operation Cast Lead, had massacred animals in the Rafah Zoo, which had been one of the few diversions in that area for children to enjoy. An ostrich was decapitated and the only animals left alive were a pony and a few parrots.

    The U.S. government has been willingly complicit via its inaction despite actual notice of these atrocities.

  8. Excuse my political ignorance, but:

    Can’t the US Government break all ties with Israel and its corrupt government?

    “–Palestinians in the Occupied Territories under Israeli control face conditions much worse than those suffered by African-Americans in the Old South under Jim Crow.”

    link to

    Could the US Government replace Israel with another country to be the keystone military power maintaining peace in the Middle East that would be provided with the military power that would include relocating all the military power, equipment and nuclear bombs that the US has located in Israel through foreign aide? Most, if not all of the nuclear bombs should be retired. Whose crazy enough to start a nuclear war?

    Israel is maintaining peace in the Middle East?

    1. How is the mass news media allowed to continue spreading the out and out lies and propaganda of Netanyahu?

    2. Why does Israel annually continue to received the largest amount of US foreign aide of all foreign countries?

    3. Why hasn’t Israel signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?

    4. 132 UN members recognize the State of Palestine, but the Security Council keeps vetoing it’s membership. The Security Council should be reformed, more democratic. Many instances that required immediate attention didn’t get it and tens of thousands of deaths occurred. This is more BS.

    “The United States is working to gather enough United Nations Security Council members to resist a planned Palestinian statehood bid so as to avoid having to use its veto power, Israeli and U.S. sources said on Saturday.” What the hell is going on? The corrupt billionaires, MIC and others keep trouble available. The billionaires’ get rich game disguised as the phony game of world politics and the MIC.

    • I wish you’d quit saying, “Excuse my political ignorance”. Why not brush up on reality a bit more.

      • Swimmer is in touch with reality, RBTL. He admits that as an ordinary American, he is politically ignorant. Maybe he also feels that brushing up is difficult when the corporate media is completely in the bag for Israel and the Internet is full of competing ideologues who lie in their sleep.

        I guess he’s actually a lot sharper than ordinary Americans.

      • I am politically ignorant. Don’t have the ability to brush up – dysfunctional memory. Most of my comments come from my heart, common sense and from what I read here and google.

        I’m simple minded. I see the game of politics as a diversion by the billionaire dictators ruling America and the world.

        Half of Congress are millionaires and the other half are becoming millionaires who can’t(won’t) relate nor represent the 99% of Americans.

        The Federal Reserve, a private corporation keeps its owners and select group of share holders rich and richer by loaning money(out of thin air) to the US government.

    • Yours is an excellent question, but the US has a rotten track record when it comes to choosing a pet country to rule the Middle East for us. Recall that our favorite in the ’60s and much of the ’70s was Iran. We loaded it up with our best weapons, even “peaceful” nuclear technology. Yet the Shah was one of the most aggressive members of OPEC in terms of gouging us for oil. You know what happened next.

      The problem, I guess, is that there is no culture truly native to that region that has enough in common with our elites that they can really understand what they’re dealing with. We gravitated inexorably to the white European/American culture recently implanted in that region by Jewish settlers who themselves were consciously replicating the ethnic cleansing agenda of our own settler forefathers, who in turn consciously replicated the violent acts of the ancient Jews in the Old Testament.

      Terribly stupid things to base a blind alliance on, but we’ve been just as stupid in East Asia over the last 65 years. The Republic of Vietnam was a complete waste of our time, money and lives, again based on our inability to “understand the natives”.

    • There is no functional airport in Gaza, BUT …

      If any countries actually cared, they could send food to Gaza via Egypt. There are good roads from the Egyptian ports to the Gaza border. There is also a decent Egyptian military airport just south of Gaza in the desert. Of course if planes start landing at the Egyptian military base, the Israelis will go crazy and threaten to invade the Sinai again. Any planes landing at the Egyptian airport would also have to contend with “mock attacks” by Israel aircraft violating Egyptian air space (which they already do), designed to scare the pilots delivering food.

      If any countries actually cared, an alternative is to park war ships off the Gaza coast and protect any cargo ships that want to dock in Gaza. If enough countries parked their war ships off Gaza, the US and Israel would be forced to back down.

      But …

      the bottom line reality is no country on earth cares enough to spit on the US and try to minimize how many Gazans starve. The Saudis could easily fund food for Gaza and could put together a sea force to protect the ships, but they will not. They are all talk and no action.

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