Starving people and targeting them with biological weapons is as American as cherry pie

Last week the Associated Press reported:

Israeli authorities blockading the Gaza Strip in 2008 went so far as to calculate how many calories would be needed to avert a humanitarian disaster in the impoverished Palestinian territory, according to a newly declassified military document… [Critics said] the document was new evidence that Israel used food as a pressure tactic to try to force Gaza’s Hamas rulers from power…

What bothers me are the number of parallels to this right here, throughout US history. We’ve used chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare against our alleged enemies, have had concentration camps for far more people than the Japanese; starved our enemies with “sanctions” while denying them medical care at the same time; and much worse -back well into the First World War and the Civil War. But people don’t like to remember these things, whether they’re about Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, or Japan or against the enemies in our midst, like the Red Man – and god only knows how many others. Starving people through sanctions or sieges is, as Allen says, just a primitive form of biological warfare.

In its early years, our beloved, exceptional Republic, used germ warfare by deliberately giving small-pox infected blankets to groups of Native Americans, often wiping out entire tribes – and then grabbing their land. The concentration camps we devised for them still exist in places like the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota, the Tohono O’odham desert outside Ajo, Arizona, or the dustlands of Oklahoma. Go back to the Crusades for examples of enforced starvation and creative torture such as the art of burning living people at the stake in the name of religion.

As for chemical weapons, how many people know that US forces used “Mark 77,” a new and improved form of Napalm, in Iraq? Or that we’ve permanently poisoned the environments of Basra and Fallujah through the metals used in our weapons? The nuclear cases are well-known, as is the example of depleted uranium and white phosphorus. Reports out three years ago detailed the astonishing rise in birth defects in infants, metals in their systems, and spontaneous abortions by women who’d had no difficulty conceiving prior to our little adventure.

The point isn’t to generate a list, it’s to say that for every barbaric act committed by the Israelis there are parallels that came first in the United States (and before that, in Europe) – one reason our government sits silently by when Israel uses newfangled weapons like DIMEs, with strange chemical components such as tungsten in them, on human beings in Gaza to cause unspeakable amputation wounds.

Personally, I’m surprised by the article – as if it wasn’t common knowledge during Cast Lead and before it that government officials were calculating the number of calories each Gazan could live on per day under the blockade. This was talked about openly in Israel as Tzipi Livni self-righteously exclaimed, “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza”. (The Arab media played her saying this over and over while showing war footage in the background that, to my knowledge, has never been seen in this country, as I’m sure you know.)

This was true – and written about – a long time ago when Dov Weisglass spoke openly of putting Gaza on a “starvation diet” (just enough food to live on but to stay hungry) or when the blockade authorities would authorize, week by week, which food stuffs not to let in (hence the reason why, at one point, spaghetti and macaroni were prohibited, and at another point, citrus fruits, or certain vegetables would not be allowed in, etc. It made perfect sense to those cheering on the IDF that one of the first factories bombed in Dec. 2008 was the last remaining flour mill in Gaza. So much for making bread. The Gazans must be made completely dependent on outside aid organizations, often the same ones paying for the US/Israel’s occupation, or the sum total of the damages inflicted on peoples’ homes, businesses, and factories.

Way back in the 1990s and before, curfews and closures left thousands of people ‘food insecure’ or malnourished. It just wasn’t framed the same way as ‘counting calories for a blockade,’ though in essence it was the same tactic. Probably started in 1948. I believe most of us have yet to view Israeli and US history with our eyes wide open. If we could see it that clearly we’d have to renounce our citizenship to live with ourselves. Just as an aside, it is now well known that before 1500 (or 1492, to be exact) somewhere between 10 and 17 million Native Americans (a conservative estimate) lived on this land. By 1900 that number was 250,000. What American history textbook teaches that?

About Jennifer Loewenstein

Jennifer Loewenstein is faculty associate of Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; LEAP project administrator (http://www.leapsummerprogram.org); freelance journalist; and founder of the Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund (www.chomskyfund.org) Currently on leave in Washington DC, Jennifer’s email is [email protected]
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 14 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Walid says:

    Jennifer, you forgot to list Martin Kramer and the infamous Gaza starvation plan he proposed at the Herzliya gathering in 2010.

  2. libra says:

    So you can go back as far as you want and dig as deep as you want into what those awful Americans or, indeed, Gentiles in general got up to but if you dare…

  3. RE: “What bothers me are the number of parallels to this right here, throughout US history. We’ve . . . had concentration camps for far more people than the Japanese . . .” ~ Jennifer Loewenstein

    MY COMMENT: The (so-called) “war on drugs”, in conjunction with the biases inherent to our system of (so-called) “justice”, has virtually turned our prisons into concentration camps for black males!

  4. MRW says:

    So what? This is 2012.

  5. piotr says:

    I would say that what Israel is doing does not fit the framework of genocide. If Martin Kramer proposed a “starvation plan” (he was kind of musing in a moronic vein rather than planning), it indicates a certain frame of mind that is accepted enough that he can speak loudly without being dis-invited from the next conference, but this is not genocide.

    In my view, what we see is a level of hostility that overrides any rational impulses. In the same time, Israel is acutely aware that it can be in deep, deep trouble would it resort to genocide etc. Additionally, even internally, actually planning genocide is a taboo (although not to the point of tarring and feathering Martin Kramer). The essence of the project of “Gaza on diet” was to create as many hardships for Gazans as Israel can get away with, rationalized as being “anti-terrorist policy” or something like that. The mental process as I see it is to create an image of “demonic enemy” and any hardship that this enemy suffers is a source of joy and satisfaction.

    Thus investigations on the caloric needs of inhabitants of Gaza. Within humane parameters of “sufficient diet” the goal was to make it as unpalatable as possible. Similarly, while there were many deaths in 2008, the top objective was to destroy as many buildings as possible, preferably without killings, to make the life of the survivors as hard as possible. Of course, with that mindset, supplying materials for reconstruction was out of the question. Any goals attached to such policies were simply rationalizations. Mind you, in Israeli politics it works like a well tuned violin. Some more extreme people kwetch that the government is coddling terrorists, some self-hating treacherous leftist show sympathy to the monsters on the other side of the fence, but for 90% such policies seem to be just fine.

    Now let us read Martin Kramer. He noticed with considerable trepidation that the rate of population increase in Gaza is extremely high. As this is undesired (forget for a while why, there are good reasons too) he muses about solutions. How about decreases in food?

    Would the presumably well paid think tanker pause to think, he could check that some African countries with starvation problems also have a very high birth rate. Short of genocidal starvation, decreasing food supplies actually has the opposite effect. On the other hand, there are reports what decreases birth rates most: increasing the education and employment of women and men. When bulk of men cannot be employed anyway, economic achievement ceases to be a condition for an acceptable marriage partner, which eliminates the motivation to avoid teen marriages etc. If you were a demonic anti-natalist you should make Gaza a region with export oriented sweatshops with clear ways of spending the family savings (building houses and furnishing them better than neighbors etc., making it prestigiously necessary for children to have this or that). I mean, if you were a devilishly clever anti-natalist.

    But this is totally unthinkable! Improving life in Gaza? For those monsters? Perish the thought!

    • Walid says:

      “If Martin Kramer proposed a “starvation plan” (he was kind of musing in a moronic vein rather than planning), it indicates a certain frame of mind that is accepted enough that he can speak loudly without being dis-invited from the next conference, but this is not genocide.” (piotr)

      Not an actual call to genocide, piotr, and not to be belittled as the simple musings; it was a suggestion of a means to start one, especially in light of the composition of Kramer’s target audience at Herzliya where innovative methods of eliminating Palestinians are discussed each year while senior representatives of the Palestinians and other Arab states attend and sit through this shit while it’s being discussed. At the 2010 Herzliya, the year Kramer presented his idea, Salam Fayyad and Ahmed Tibi were participants, but we never heard of any dramatic walking out on their part. To simply discuss ways of limiting Palestinian birthrates as a means to reduce terrorism is vile because it’s a subtle way of propagating the Zionist message that all Palestinians are inherently terrorists. In any event, the concept of stopping pro-natal subsidies isn’t really Kramer’s but that of Gunnar Heinsohnn that had detailed it in a 2009 WSJ (Europe) article, “Ending the West’s Proxy War Against Israel: Stop funding a Palestinian youth bulge, and the fighting will stop too.” Heinsohnn also coined the phrase “superfluous young men” that Kramer used at Herzliya.

      The genocidal Heinsohnn went on to say in the WSJ article:

      “… As long as we continue to subsidize Gaza’s extreme demographic armament, young Palestinians will likely continue killing their brothers or neighbors. And yet, despite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By generously supporting UNRWA’s budget, the West assists a rate of population increase that is 10 times higher than in their own countries. Much is being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza’s untenable population explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war by proxy against the Jews of Israel.”

  6. dimadok says:

    Gaza growth rate – 3.108% vs. US growth rate- 0.899%. Some starvation I say and this article belongs to the trash can before it was typed in.

    • seafoid says:

      Dimadok

      Pauperisation increases the growth rate of the population. Israel shoots itself in the foot . Those Gazans are not going to leave either.

      And it’s the fastest growing population in Erez Israel!

      What a Zionist car crash, eh?

      • dimadok says:

        But the point was that they were starving? Please choose whatever nonsense you would like to promote- either they are starving or they are growing in scary pace and that would scare Israel or something. I see this as the problem for Egypt not Israel.

        • AP Whitewashes Israel’s Deliberate Starving Of Gaza

          Here is the point that AP is missing. The Israelis calculated the minimum needs of the Gazans and then deliberately delivered less than what was needed. As Haaretz noticed in its report on the issue:

          Altogether, therefore, COGAT concluded that Israel needed to allow 131 truckloads of food and other essential products into Gaza every day …

          The point of the “red lines” document was to see if this number of trucks in fact met Gaza’s needs. But according to Gisha, UN data shows that the number of trucks allowed into Gaza each day often fell below this level.

          That is something the AP does not mentioned at all. Its readers will believe that Israel delivered what it calculated. It did not. Israel intentionally delivered less than the minimum quantity it had calculated the people in Gaza would need.

          ………

          Then the AP inserts a serious lie:

          Despite the shortages and hardship, at no point did observers identify a nutritional crisis developing in the territory, whose residents rely overwhelmingly on international food aid.

          Even a cursory search for “Gaza malnutrition” gives these organizations which wrote reports about the nutritional crisis in Gaza and the related headlines:

          Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in April 2007:
          Poll: 10% of Palestinian children have lasting malnutrition effects
          International Committee of the Red Cross November 2008:
          Chronic malnutrition in Gaza blamed on Israel
          UNHCR in 2009:
          Signs of worsening malnutrition among children [in Gaza]
          Palestinian Medical Relief Society in 2010:
          52% of Gaza children suffer from malnutrition

          more at the link.

        • seafoid says:

          Dim

          The kids in Gaza and the poor are suffering because of what Israel does. 10% of the kids are stunted because they can’t get enough vitamins.

          This policy is deeply shameful which is why it was so hard for Gisha to get a copy of the report.

          If you think this is a good advertisement for Israel and Zionism can you go and have your head checked out ?

        • marc b. says:

          either they are starving or they are growing in scary pace

          how does one debate with someone who can’t even grasp the most basic concepts? no, it’s not an ‘either/or’. between 2000 and 2006 haiti’s population grew from 8 to 9.4 million. during that same period, haiti’s under 5 mortality rate, a function of lack of nutrition and medical care, was worse than that of bangladesh, and its caloric intake rate was one of the lowest in the world. is any of this making a dent?

      • marc b. says:

        seafoid, eyal weizman has a great article dealing with the issues of proportionality, lawfare, and other camouflage for atrocities. i don’t have the time right now to summarize all of his points, but here is a quick cut and paste on the importance of potential violence, which is not necessarily a mark of restraint or evidence of humanitarian considerations, but a tactical, military choice.

        In contemporary war, the principle of proportionality has become the main translator of the relation between violence, law, and its political meaning. The communicative dimension of military threats can function only if gaps are maintained between the possible destruction that an army is able to inflict and the actual destruction that it does inflict. It is through the constant demonstration of the existence and size of this gap that a military communicates with the people it fights against and occupies. Sometimes the gap opens wide, such as when the military governs the territories it occupies—its violence in a state of potential, existing as a set of threats and possibilities that are not, for the time being, actualized. In a state of war, the gap closes—but rarely does it do so completely. Even in the most brutal wars, something of the gap still exists as the stronger side restrains and moderates its full destructive capacity. Restraint is also what allows for the possibility of further escalation, an invitation for the victims violence to make their own cost-benefit calculation and opt for consent. A degree of restraint is thus part of the logic of almost every military operation: however bad military attacks may appear to be, they can always get worse. The size of the gap is measured also against “the potentiality of the worst”—an outburst of performative violence without rules, limits, proportion, or measures—which has to be demonstrated from time to time.

        The gap thus communicates the potential for destruction without the need for further violence. When the gap between the possible and the actual application of force closes completely, violence loses its function as a language. War becomes total war—a form of violence stripped of semiotics, in which the enemy is expelled, killed, or completely reconstructed as a subject. Degrees in the level of violence are precisely what makes war less than total. Game theory, as applied by military think tanks since the early Cold War days of RAND, is conceived to simulate the enemy’s responses, and help manage the gap between actual and potential violence. This practical form of military restraint is now often presented as adherence to the laws of war.

        link to e-flux.com

        if you have time, the whole article is worth a read.

        • seafoid says:

          Thanks for the link. Looks very interesting.

          I can’t help thinking that there is no military solution to Israel’s existential crisis.