Palestinians wait in line to receive food

Palestinians wait in line to receive food distributed by charitable organizations amid Israeli attacks in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on May 28, 2024.

(Photo: Hassan Jedi/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Biden Claims Israel Isn't Starving Gazans. Rights Groups Say 'It Is Clear as Day'

"The fact that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza is not in contention," said a Human Rights Watch researcher.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in an interview published Tuesday that he does not believe the Israeli government is using starvation as a weapon of warfare in Gaza, contradicting the findings of leading human rights organizations that have documented Israel's deliberate obstruction of food aid as Palestinians die of malnutrition.

"No, I don't think that," Biden said in response to TIME magazine's Washington bureau chief Massimo Calabresi and editor-in-chief Sam Jacobs, who noted some have "alleged that Israel is intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare."

The president, who has approved more than 100 arms sales to Israel during its eight-month assault on the Gaza Strip, acknowledged that Israel's military has "engaged in activity that is inappropriate" and that "Palestinians have suffered greatly."

But he stopped well short of the conclusions reached by Oxfam International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the International Criminal Court, which recently applied for arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for their role in the "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare" and other war crimes.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has also determined that Israel has unlawfully impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, leading to a "deterioration of food security and nutrition in Gaza [that] is unprecedented in modern history."

"The fact that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza is not in contention. It is clear as day," Hiba Zayadin, a researcher at HRW, wrote in response to Biden's TIME interview, pointing to her group's December report that found the Israeli military was "deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel, while willfully impeding humanitarian assistance, apparently razing agricultural areas, and depriving the civilian population of objects indispensable to their survival."

"The evidence is even stronger today," Zayadin added, citing HRW's April report that focused specifically on the Israeli military's starvation of Gaza children. Dozens of Palestinian kids, some just months old, have died of malnutrition since October, a figure that is almost certain to grow as Israel's bombing campaign and ground offensive in Rafah continue.

The World Food Program said Wednesday that unless Israel's assault on Gaza ends and desperately needed humanitarian aid is allowed to flow, more than a million people in the occupied enclave "are expected to face death and starvation... by mid-July."

Humanitarian groups and experts—including an outspoken former U.S. State Department official—have argued that by continuing to arm Israel and provide it with diplomatic cover on the world stage, the Biden administration is complicit in Gaza's increasingly dire hunger crisis.

"This is not just turning a blind eye to the man-made starvation of an entire population, it is direct complicity," Josh Paul, who resigned from the State Department in October over the administration's support for Israel's assault on Gaza, toldThe Independent last month.

In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) displayed photos of emaciated children as he explained his decision to boycott Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress.

"Blocking humanitarian aid and creating the conditions for famine is not only an act of extreme cruelty—using starvation as an act of war—but it is a violation of both American and international law," Sanders added. "It is a war crime."

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