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US Holds Direct Complicity in Gaza Famine, Former and Current US Officials Say

“I believe the U.S. to be complicit in creating the conditions for famine,” one USAID staffer said.

Sharon Zhang 

Current and former Biden administration staff are saying that the U.S. bears direct responsibility for the famine that Israel has caused in Gaza and threatens to grip the entire population.

A sprawling report by The Independent published this week lays out an extensive account of ways that U.S. officials have been publicly and internally notified of Israel’s starvation campaign but have declined to intervene, despite having numerous pathways to do so over the past seven months.

The investigation highlighted actions that staffers in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which oversees U.S. foreign aid, have taken to draw attention to the famine that has been ignored by senior officials. The continued refusal to stop the famine, in the face of vast amounts of evidence of its existence, points instead to an implicit endorsement of Israel’s policy of starvation, current and former staff said.

“I believe the U.S. to be complicit in creating the conditions for famine,” an anonymous USAID employee told The Independent. “Not only has our response been woefully inadequate, but we’re actively responsible in large part for it.”

The USAID staffer said leadership was saying “nothing” about the famine and that the U.S. has pursued “no real effort to force Israel’s hands” to increase humanitarian aid. Senior officials and USAID administrator Samantha Power have failed to change course in spite of receiving numerous letters and memos from staff critical of the U.S. support for Israel’s slaughter.

In fact, there has been a historic amount of dissenting memos within USAID over Gaza — at least 19 since October. A former senior adviser to Power, Jeremy Konyndyk, said that is “an extraordinary number,” noting that he hadn’t seen a single dissent memo in five years serving under former President Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The administration’s actions go further than just ignoring “the man-made starvation of an entire population, it is direct complicity,” former State Department official specializing in foreign arms deals Josh Paul told The Independent.

The report lays out a timeline showing the numerous moments when the U.S. could have intervened in Israel’s starvation campaign over the past seven months.

The first moment was Israel’s immediate and extreme reaction to the October 7 attack. The humanitarian aid blockade, cutting off of water and electricity, and targeting of humanitarian workers combined with the constant bombardments of civilian areas made it extremely difficult to deliver aid within Gaza. Israel has a long history of weaponizing food access that began before October 7, and humanitarian aid groups began warning that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war weeks after Israel’s genocidal campaign began.

Then, in December, a major warning came from a UN-backed report. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), informed by international hunger experts, warned that a quarter of the 2.2 million people of Gaza were already facing famine, while the rest were in an acute hunger “crisis.” Experts already called this one of the worst modern famines ever seen — and then, in March, the IPC released another report warning that famine had spread to half of the population and that it was “imminent” across the region.

“When the warnings start signaling that risk, there should be a forceful reaction, both on the relief aid front and on the diplomatic front,” Konyndyk told The Independent. “Nothing about the Biden administration’s response to the December famine forecast demonstrated that kind of hard pivot toward famine prevention.”

Internal assessments also found famine was underway. A USAID cable circulated to other agencies like the State Department said that officials had found famine conditions were “severe and widespread” in northern Gaza and spreading to southern areas.

Despite warnings that famine could end up taking more lives than Israel’s bombing and that the starvation will stunt surviving Palestinian children’s growth and development for life, Biden has to this day not recognized the famine in public remarks.

U.S. officials responded to The Independent report by pointing to times the U.S. asked Israel to open aid access, even though Israeli officials rebuffed these requests and the U.S. continued sending weapons. The U.S. did make one airdrop of aid to Gaza in March, though air drops, Konyndyk has noted, are typically considered a last resort due to being an extremely inefficient form of aid delivery.

Further, humanitarian groups have said for months that only a ceasefire combined with huge influxes of aid could stop the famine. The U.S. has, at many points, undermined ceasefire talks.

The U.S. has also contributed to the crisis due to its ongoing suspension of funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the primary humanitarian aid agency for Palestinians. The U.S. suspended funding for the agency in January following allegations made by Israel against the agency — but Israel still has yet to provide evidence to support its claims, reports have found.

Since October, Biden officials have been providing thousands of weapons to Israel as it continues its genocide. Just yesterday, a week after Israel further escalated its humanitarian blockade, reports found Biden was pursuing a shipment of another $1.2 billion worth of weapons to Israel that could aid in its goal of the “total annihilation” of Rafah.

Under current conditions with the Rafah siege, humanitarian experts say it is now “impossible” for groups to distribute resources to combat the famine, meaning it will now spread even quicker than before if the current humanitarian crisis continues.

“Famine relief efforts require water, sanitation, proper infrastructure, healthcare,” said UNRWA director of planning Sam Rose in an interview with Al Jazeera English. “We have half a million people on the move in Rafah. It’s simply impossible to provide those services in these conditions.”

At the same time, Palestinians are dying en masse due to starvation — and the exact death toll will likely not be known for many years as the Palestinian government’s official death count, which currently sits at 35,000, doesn’t take into account deaths by hunger.

“We have children here at the age of 10 and 12 years old who have the weight of children aged four or five years old,” a U.K. doctor working in a hospital near Khan Yunis told The Independent. “There’s chronic malnourishment and malnutrition across most of the children — if not all of them — and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see what’s happening to them.”

Courtesy: Information Clearing House

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