War Method of Starvation-How Effective?

UN to Israel: Ease ‘devastating’ Gaza blockade – Haaretz – Israel News

“It’s wholly and totally inadequate,” John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said about the amount of goods Israel permits into the
territory, where some 1.5 million Palestinians live.

“It’s having a very devastating impact on the physical circumstances and also the mindset of people on the ground,”
“… Ging said access to goods was still a severe problem. “We need access,” he said. “It’s the number one issue. It’s the number two issue. It’s the number three issue, and so on. Until we get it, there’s nothing.”

Interestingly, the Israeli newspaper write the word devastating between apostrophes, which can generally implies disagreeing with the term.

One of the main consequences (parts) of war that we often fail to see is starvation of victims; starving those who live in war-zones. When we see populations that are starving, we usually tend to blame it on poverty and lack of education, and say that we can not help-it is poverty. Nonetheless, what about starvation that we cause and create under pretext that we need to punish certain groups? This is one of the main war methods that are being used by the powerful nowadays. This was the subject of former US president Jimmy Carter in the article:
Carter calls Gaza blockade a crime and atrocity | World | Reuters

“Speaking at the American University in Cairo after talks with Hamas leaders from Gaza, Carter said Palestinians in Gaza were being “starved to death”, receiving
fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa.”

Indeed, we are so good at condemning poverty and starvation in Africa–(because we ‘could not help it’) but are also good at starving entire populations for the sake of punishing one faction.

” Israel has been blockading Gaza most of the time since Hamas took control of the impoverished coastal strip in June last year, allowing only basic supplies to enter. Israel has not accepted Hamas proposals for a truce including an end to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and to Israeli attacks on Hamas personnel in Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli officials say a truce would enable Hamas to rearm.

In other words, ‘starving entire populations is acceptable.’ Nonetheless, the main question remains, does this help? The answer is obvious, considering the blockade has so far failed to weaken Hamas, on the contrary, where the same article states:

“Carter said Israel and its ally the United States were trying to make the quality of life in Gaza markedly worse than in the West Bank, where the rival Fatah group is in control.
“I think politically speaking this has worked even to strengthen the popularity of Hamas and to the detriment of the popularity of Fatah,” he added. The United States has been trying to achieve the opposite outcome.”

Indeed, starving people can often alter their behaviors and enable them to do what they would never be able to do during normal circumstances, and thus, can often lead to opposite and unexpected effects. Ishmael Beah’s Long Way Gone presents quite an interesting example to what people can do when they are hungry:

” So hunger drove us back to Mattru Jong again. It was danger¬ous, but hunger made us not care that much.” (Beah, 31). …
“… one day when I was very hungry and thirsty. I arrived at a village where there was nothing to eat except for the coconuts that sloppily hung from the trees, as if teasing me, daring me to pluck them. It is difficult to ex¬plain how it happened, but I mounted the coconut tree quite fast and unexpectedly. By the time I realized what I was doing and thought about my inexperience in this particular art, I was already at the top of the branches and plucking coconuts. I climbed down just as quickly and looked around for something to crack them with. Luckily, I found an old machete and got to work on the coconut shells. After I was done snacking, I found myself a hammock and rested for a while.
I got up well rested and thought, I think I have enough energy now to climb and pick more coconuts for the road. But it was impossible. I couldn’t even climb past the middle of the trunk. I tried again and again, but each attempt was more pitiful than the last.” (Beah, 47).
“… One evening we actually chased a little boy who was eating two boiled ears of corn by himself. He was about five years old and was en¬joying the corn that he held in both hands, taking turns biting each ear. We didn’t say a word or even look at each other. Rather, we rushed on the boy at the same time, and before he knew what was happening, we had taken the corn from him. We shared it among the six of us and ate our little portion while the boy cried and ran to his parents. The boy’s parents didn’t confront us about the incident. I guess they knew that six boys would jump on their son for two ears of corn only if they were desperately hungry.” (Beah, 29).

If hunger can do this much to this 12-year-old kid, it can surely does just as much to an entire population that is being starved in Gaza, and thus, starving these people will end up fueling up the war and encouraging these people to rebel, making the situation even worse than it presently is. Indeed, such would bring up the question about how many people (who would generally not even consider joining Hamas) are joining Hamas due to the barbaric siege that is being imposed upon them. Such is clearly implied in Carter’s quote above when indicating that the siege has strengthened Hamas’ popularity instead of weakening it, and thus, it is obvious that war starvation method is ineffective and can often fuel war instead of stopping it.

Carter calls Gaza blockade a crime and atrocity | World | Reuters

UN to Israel: Ease ‘devastating’ Gaza blockade – Haaretz – Israel News

Ishmael Beah’s Long Way Gone


7 Responses to “War Method of Starvation-How Effective?”

  1. mervenne Says:

    Moe, this is a great post. I like all the questions this post raises and the dialectic it could lead to. This is the kind of thing many people don’t consider when weighing the factors that lead to war. Often there is a “go get ‘em” attitude that obfuscates the real victims, the innocent victims, the hidden casualties of war. Your post delved into said subjects. I like when you point out: “If hunger can do this much to this 12-year-old kid, it can surely does just as much to an entire population that is being starved in Gaza, and thus, starving these people will end up fueling up the war and encouraging these people to rebel, making the situation even worse than it presently is.” There is such a vicious cycle with no easy answers happening in many areas around the world. On the other hand, if we allow aid to warring factions, it is often used by despots to also encourage starving people to fight. Do we provide leverage for dictators or do we let people starve? There are cycles within cycles, like a mad universe—if we stop the sun from spinning, will the planets cease their orbits? Unfortunately, there are many more easy questions than easy answers.

  2. kmcoppens Says:

    This is an interesting and moving post to say the least. You bring up some really great points throughout the whole writing. You hit the point right on when saying that most individuals correlate starvation with poverty and lack of education, healthcare, etc. Although, in many instances those are the causes of starvation, one large cause gets forgotten. Just think back to the Holocaust, the usage of starvation as a torture tactic was so prevalent that it seemed to be the method of choice for most S.S. guards. In those instances, the starvation had no relation to poverty but the victims suffered just as badly. On another note, I completely agree that those modes of starvation can breed these individuals to rebel and create rebel groups against their oppressors. In those instances, the victims may believe they are getting justice, but we are right back at the drawing board with regards to violence and lack of overall peace in the region. After all, I think that we can all agree to some extent that in such cases as extreme as this, violence definitely breeds violence.

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  5. scribnej Says:

    You make such good points here about what having plenty and having nothing at all can do to a population. As Americans, in general, we don’t deal with living on the brink of death due to starvation on a daily basis. In all wars, perhaps most prevalently in the American consciousness Nazi Germany during WWII, people are driven to do horrible things in order to survive. In Beah’s novel we are able to see how a seemingly normal child is driven to do horrible things because he is hungry, scared, and fighting to survive. American youth is not faced with these issues, we have no concept of what it’s like to live in such extreme circumstances, and there fore it is not really fair for us to make judgments about people who are trying to survive in these extreme circumstances. It is terribly sad that we live in a country that is so rich with natural resources and in the ‘land of plenty’ and yet we do not extend what we have to those less fortunate citizens of our planet. How much food do Americans waste on a daily basis while people in other parts of the world are starving to death. There is something very wrong with the mindset that lets us believe that because it is not happening within our borders, it is not our concern. As human beings we should have compassion and empathy for the suffering of other human beings, regardless of where they live.

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