Israel Refuses to Stop Waging its ‘Campaign’ to Starve the Palestinians – Frank Wright 4/30/24


On April 20, an independent report commissioned by the United Nations found that Israel had supplied “no evidence” to back its claims that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was “totally infiltrated by Hamas.”

The claim, made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a U.N. assembly on January 31, was backed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said the charge was “very, very credible.”

U.S. backing for the claims led to the suspension of funding for UNRWA, which is widely acknowledged to be the main provider of food, water, and medical supplies to the Palestinians in Gaza. According to Israeli media, this was the aim of an Israeli “campaign” to defund the only agency capable of preventing famine in Gaza.

Following the publication of the report, authored by the former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and published by the U.N. here, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on April 24 that: “Top Israeli Officials Acknowledge Failure of Campaign to Halt UNRWA International Funding.”

The admission comes after the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a “quantum leap” in humanitarian funding to “avert imminent famine, and further preventable deaths.”

To avert imminent famine, and further preventable deaths, we need a quantum leap in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

Humanitarian agencies, led by @UNRWA, must be able to move food & other supplies safely & via all possible routes & crossings, into & throughout Gaza.

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 18, 2024

On the same day, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. told the assembly “the time has come to defund UNRWA,” saying “UNRWA is giving the Palestinians destructive hope that Israel can be destroyed.”

As long as the UN and countries continue to fund UNRWA, you are giving the Palestinians destructive hope that Israel can be destroyed. But history will not be rewritten. The State of Israel exists and is here to stay.

The time has come to defund UNRWA.

Watch and retweet >>

— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) April 18, 2024

Despite the collapse of widespread support for Israel’s campaign against UNRWA, it appears to be determined to continue its effort to cut off this lifeline to the Palestinians alongside its traditional allies, the U.S. and the U.K.

This is the aim of the “campaign” announced in the Israeli press to smear and defund the aid agency which is keeping Palestinians barely alive.

U.S. support for claims

Blinken’s remarks of unqualified support for the Israeli allegations came in response to a dossier created by Israeli intelligence. In it, 12 UNRWA members were said to have taken part in Operation Aqsa Flood on October 7.

It is now alleged that the contents of the dossier were generated in part by confessions forced through torture.

Blinken gave this opinion during a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on January 29: “We haven’t had the ability to investigate [the allegations] ourselves. But they are highly, highly credible.”

UNRWA ‘at breaking point’

As the Times of Israel reported, the groundless allegations which Blinken found “highly credible” led to the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan all halting funds to the only relief agency capable of averting what the U.N. has called a “man-made famine” in Gaza.

As a result, the head of UNRWA, Philip Lazzarini, warned weeks later that the agency “was at breaking point” and would soon run out of money to provide water, food and medicine in the ruins of Gaza.

Israel announced on March 24 that it “would no longer approve UNRWA food aid to northern Gaza.” Lazzarini responded, “This is outrageous & makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man-made famine.”

Yesterday, @UNRWA & @UNICEF jointly undertook a high-risk mission to North #Gaza to provide life-saving medical & water-purification aid to people in Jabalia.@UNRWA is the backbone of the humanitarian effort, bringing life-saving assistance to people across the #GazaStrip

— UNRWA (@UNRWA) April 24, 2024

With Israeli cooperation halted, UNRWA continues to attempt to deliver vital supplies to the stricken population of Gaza – in defiance of the danger to aid workers, as evidenced by the killing of the World Central kitchen aid workers in early April.

‘Intentional’ killing of aid workers

The IDF struck their convoy three times, as Haaretz reported, killing one Palestinian, three Britons, and a U.S. citizen – as well as two further aid workers from Poland and Australia.

Munition dropped right through the World Central Kitchen logo

— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) April 2, 2024

The strike on a clearly marked aid vehicle, traveling on an approved route, came after the Israeli authorities were notified of the convoy. Speaking of the attack, Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip. This happens in war, and we will investigate it to the end.”

The investigation concluded with two officers fired, three more reprimanded, and a statement from the Netanyahu government reported by CBS News on April 5.

“Despite the deaths of the aid workers, however, a spokesperson for Israel’s government insisted Thursday that his country was setting a ‘new gold standard’ in preventing civilian casualties,” the report said.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders portrayed a far more disturbing reality, saying in February that Israel intentionally targets its own and other aid workers. Christopher Lockyear, its secretary general, told the U.N. Security Council on February 22:

This is all too familiar – Israeli forces have attacked our convoys, detained our staff, and bulldozed our vehicles, and hospitals have been bombed and raided. Now, for a second time, one of our staff shelters has been hit. This pattern of attacks is either intentional or indicative of reckless incompetence.

He spoke of his “fear … rooted in experience” that Israel will launch a further assault on the Gazan city of Rafah:

As I speak, more than 1.5 million people are trapped in Rafah. People violently forced to this strip of land in southern Gaza are bearing the brunt of Israel’s military campaign. 

We live in fear of a ground invasion.

With a million-and-a-half Palestinians concentrated in a city built for 150,000 inhabitants, and with Israel now saying an assault on Rafah “looms,” Lockyear’s fears seem justified.

Children starving in Gaza: Reuters

— Aarefah (@Aarefah_M) April 19, 2024

When we watch videos like this which starkly illuminate Israel’s genocidal slaughter of children in Gaza, we must ask ourselves what we can do to make wealthy, hyper-entitled Jewish students feel safer on Ivy League campuses

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) December 6, 2023

U.S., U.K. continue funding freeze

Despite the Israeli claims having been found to be baseless, the U.S. and U.K. restrictions on funding UNRWA remain in place. Switzerland has also announced it will not resume funding to UNRWA “until Hamas lays down its arms,” echoing the false claims the aid agency is “infiltrated” by the group.

The U.S. Special Envoy for Humanitarian Issues recently said the risk of famine was “very high” in Gaza. The Israelis acknowledged the mounting catastrophe arising from the starvation of two million Gazans, but said the U.N. was to blame. CBS, who reported the Israeli response, also noted “a third of children under the age of two in Gaza are currently acutely malnourished, according to the U.N. children’s charity UNICEF.”

Only UNRWA could ‘stave off famine’

How important is UNRWA in preventing mass starvation? Conor Echols reported for Responsible Statecraft on April 2 that UNRWA is “the only aid agency that could stave off famine in Gaza faces an existential crisis.”

Citing “U.S., Israeli attacks” which have pushed UNRWA “toward collapse,” he warns along with many others of a looming famine in Gaza.

As a result of the unevidenced Israeli claims, the U.S. Congress passed a bill last month halting all funding to UNRWA until March 2025.

Canada and Sweden resumed UNRWA funding on the March 9, as witnesses came forward from UNRWA to claim the Israelis had forced their confessions by torture.

On March 14, Janez Lenarčič, the head of humanitarian aid and crisis management at the European Commission, said he had seen no evidence of Israel’s claims, nor had any other nation been supplied with evidence by Israel.

Reuters reported him saying, “Even if those allegations, at the end of the day, prove to be true, that doesn’t mean that UNRWA is the perpetrator.”

Australia followed suit in resuming UNRWA funding the next day, March 15, citing the recognition that “we have children and families who are starving. We have a capacity … to assist them and we know that UNRWA is central and vital to delivering that assistance.”

Germany resumed “working with UNRWA” on April 24, following a similar move by Japan. Only the U.K., the U.S., and Switzerland remain committed to the undeclared policy of deliberate starvation of the Palestinians.

When the State Department cannot see

Whilst it was swift to rate Israeli claims as credible without evidence, the U.S. State Department simply “has not seen” testimony from UNRWA workers which states they were tortured to produce confessions for the Israeli dossier.

A Times of Israel piece from March 8 describes the claims, recorded in an unpublished UNRWA report of February 2024 “seen by Reuters”:

The document says several UNRWA Palestinian staffers had been detained by the Israeli army, and added that the ill-treatment and abuse they said they had experienced included severe physical beatings, waterboarding, and threats of harm to family members.

The report continued with a description of methods used against the general Palestinian population:

In addition to the alleged abuse endured by UNRWA staff members, Palestinian detainees more broadly described allegations of abuse, including beatings, humiliation, threats, dog attacks, sexual violence, and deaths of detainees denied medical treatment.

So how did the State Department respond to these allegations? On March 18, The Intercept’s Ryan Grim asked deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel to respond to the claim that UNRWA staff members “were tortured” to extract confessions of involvement with Hamas.

.@ryangrim asks about UNRWA saying Israel tortured its staff to coerce confessions. StateSpox says he hasn’t seen that report, which is over a week old.

The US cut funding to a vital aid agency during a crisis, but isn’t up to speed on reports that directly impact that funding?

— Assal Rad (@AssalRad) March 18, 2024

Grim said to the State Department spokesman:…

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