Israel must stop using starvation as a weapon of genocide

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are suffering an unprecedented descent into hunger and starvation which affects the entire population. The Israeli occupation’s destruction of food systems and water supplies – combined with blockades of humanitarian aid – amount to intentional starvation of the population. This briefing paper outlines multiple human rights violations, including use of starvation as a weapon of genocidal war against Palestine, and calls for an immediate ceasefire and unconditional provision of humanitarian aid.

No one in Gaza has access to sufficient food and water. Some, including young children, have already starved to death, agricultural systems have almost collapsed, and famine is imminent.

In a new briefing note Israeli occupation is using starvation as a weapon of genocide against Palestinians, FIAN and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)  a Palestinian member of La Via Campesina – highlight the connections between use of starvation as a weapon, human rights, food sovereignty and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

Starvation as a tool of genocide

Additionally, it focuses on how deliberate actions such as starvation and destruction of food and health infrastructure violate the human rights of Palestinians and endanger the rights of future generations.

“Israel’s intentional destruction of food systems, blockades on humanitarian aid and the deliberate starvation of a population are not only violations of the right to food,” says FIAN International Secretary General Sofia Monsalve.

“They also constitute a war crime, as starvation is implemented as a tool of genocide.”

Gaza’s agricultural infrastructure and crops have been decimated. Severe fuel restrictions have crippled water infrastructure and electricity supply, leaving only limited power from solar panels and generators. Food stocks are almost nonexistent. Livestock farmers are facing substantial losses, with high mortality rates among animals due to bombings and lack of fodder.

Fisheries are an essential food source for Palestinians in Gaza and fishing was already heavily restricted before Israel’s genocidal war began in October. Most of Gaza’s fishing fleet has since been destroyed by the Israeli occupation forces, which have imposed a complete blockade of the sea for Palestinians, firing on boats and even individual fishers.

Denial of food a violation of international law

Peasants and small-scale farmers face land theft, water scarcity, and restrictions on market access, hindering food production and exacerbating food insecurity. Israeli settler colonial expansion in the West Bank of Palestine further disrupts Palestinian livelihoods, with Israeli forces frequently targeting agricultural lands and infrastructure.

It is impossible to realize human rights and exercise food sovereignty in a context of settler colonialism and occupation.

“Our struggle for food sovereignty is interconnected with the struggle for our national sovereignty and self-determination,” says Yasmeen El-Hasan, UAWC International Advocacy Coordinator.

“If we had control over our land and natural resources, Palestine wouldn’t be facing issues of food insecurity and starvation.”

The intentional denial of food to the Palestinians in Gaza violates international human rights law and criminal law and can constitute a genocidal act under international law. Israel's attacks have destroyed infrastructure, leading to famine-like conditions and a public health catastrophe. The recent massacre of people queuing for flour in the Gaza Strip is a stark example of a disturbing pattern of lethal attacks on Palestinians seeking assistance.

Permanent ceasefire

Palestinian children in Gaza face malnutrition and lack of access to healthcare, with long-term consequences for their physical and mental health. Children have already died of starvation. The destruction of the environment and natural resources – including through the use of white phosphorus bombs – will have lasting effects on future generations, perpetuating intergenerational poverty.

The international community must act now to ensure a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Sanctions and arms embargoes should be used to pressure Israel to comply with international law and ensure the unconditional provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Justice requires a dismantling of systems of oppression: an end to the siege on Gaza and an end to the Israeli settler colonial occupation of Palestine.

Affirming food sovereignty as a guiding framework, for ensuring the realization of the human rights of current and future generations, this briefing asserts that Palestinians must have sovereignty over their land. Palestine must be free from occupation in order for justice to prevail. It is incumbent upon the international community to support this process of Palestinian liberation. 

Download here: Israeli occupation is using starvation as a weapon of genocide against Palestinians