[News] Israel’s Formula for a Starvation Diet

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 24 11:41:05 EDT 2012

October 24, 2012

How 400 Trucks to Feed Gaza Became Just 67

  Israel’s Formula for a Starvation Diet



Six and a half years go, shortly after Hamas won the Palestinian 
national elections and took charge of Gaza, a senior Israeli official 
described Israel’s planned response. “The idea,” he said, “is to put the 
Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

Although Dov Weisglass was adviser to Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of 
the day, few observers treated his comment as more than hyperbole, a 
supposedly droll characterisation of the blockade Israel was about to 
impose on the tiny enclave.

Last week, however, the evidence finally emerged to prove that this did 
indeed become Israeli policy. After a three-year legal battle by an 
Israeli human rights group, Israel was forced to disclose its so-called 
“Red Lines” document. Drafted in early 2008, as the blockade was 
tightened still further, the defence ministry paper set forth proposals 
on how to treat Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Health officials provided calculations of the minimum number of calories 
needed by Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. Those 
figures were then translated into truckloads of food Israel was supposed 
to allow in each day.

The Israeli media have tried to present these chilling discussions, held 
in secret, in the best light possible. Even the liberal Haaretz 
newspaper euphemistically described this extreme form of 
calorie-counting as designed to “make sure Gaza didn’t starve”.

But a rather different picture emerges as one reads the small print. 
While the health ministry determined that Gazans needed daily an average 
of 2,279 calories each to avoid malnutrition – requiring 170 trucks a 
day – military officials then found a host of pretexts to whittle down 
the trucks to a fraction of the original figure.

The reality was that, in this period, an average of only 67 trucks – 
much less than half of the minimum requirement – entered Gaza daily. 
This compared to more than 400 trucks before the blockade began.

To achieve this large reduction, officials deducted trucks based both on 
an over-generous assessment of how much food could be grown locally and 
on differences in the ”culture and experience” of food consumption in 
Gaza, a rationale never explained.

Gisha, the organisation that fought for the document’s publication, 
observes that Israeli officials ignored the fact that the blockade had 
severely impaired Gaza’s farming industry, with a shortage of seeds and 
chickens that had led to a dramatic drop in food output.

UN staff too have noted that Israel failed to factor in the large 
quantity of food from each day’s supply of 67 trucks that never actually 
reached Gaza. That was because Israeli restrictions at the crossings 
created long delays as food was unloaded, checked and then put on to new 
trucks. Many items spoiled as they lay in the sun.

And on top of this, Israel further adjusted the formula so that the 
number of trucks carrying nutrient-poor sugar were doubled while the 
trucks carrying milk, fruit and vegetables were greatly reduced, 
sometimes by as much as a half.

Robert Turner, director of the UN refugee agency’s operations in the 
Gaza Strip, has observed: “The facts on the ground in Gaza demonstrate 
that food imports consistently fell below the red lines.”

It does not need an expert to conclude that the imposition of this 
Weisglass-style “diet” would entail widespread malnutrition, especially 
among children. And that is precisely what happened, as a leaked report 
from the International Committee of the Red Cross found at the time. 
“Chronic malnutrition is on a steadily rising trend and micro-nutrient 
deficiencies are of great concern,” it reported in early 2008.

Israel’s protests that the document was merely a “rough draft” and never 
implemented are barely credible – and, anyway, beside the point. If the 
politicians and generals were advised by health experts that Gaza needed 
at least 170 trucks a day, why did they oversee a policy that allowed in 
only 67?

There can be no doubt that the diet devised for Gaza – much like 
Israel’s blockade in general – was intended as a form of collective 
punishment, one directed at every man, woman and child. The goal, 
according to the Israeli defence ministry, was to wage “economic 
warfare” that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular 
uprising against Hamas.

Earlier, when Israel carried out its 2005 disengagement, it presented 
the withdrawal as marking the end of Gaza’s occupation. But the “Red 
Lines” formula indicates quite the opposite: that, in reality, Israeli 
officials intensified their control, managing the lives of Gaza’s 
inhabitants in almost-microscopic detail.

Who can doubt – given the experiences of Gaza over the past few years – 
that there exist in the Israeli military’s archives other, 
still-classified documents setting out similar experiments in social 
engineering? Will future historians reveal that Israeli officials also 
pondered the fewest hours of electricity Gazans needed to survive, or 
the minimum amount of water, or the smallest living space per family, or 
the highest feasible levels of unemployment?

Such formulas presumably lay behind:

* the decision to bomb Gaza’s only power station in 2006 and 
subsequently to block its proper repair;

* the refusal to approve a desalination plant, the only way to prevent 
overdrilling contaminating the Strip’s underground water supply;

* the declaration of large swaths of farmland no-go areas, forcing the 
rural population into the already overcrowded cities and refugee camps;

* and the continuing blockade on exports, decimating Gaza’s business 
community and ensuring the population remains dependent on aid.

It is precisely these policies by Israel that led the United Nations to 
warn in August that Gaza would be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

In fact, the rationale for the Red Lines document and these other 
measures can be found in a military strategy that found its apotheosis 
in Operation Cast Lead, the savage attack on Gaza in winter 2008-09.

The Dahiya doctrine was Israel’s attempt to update its traditional 
military deterrence principle to cope with a changing Middle East, one 
in which the main challenge it faced was from asymmetrical warfare. The 
name Dahiya derives from a neighbourhood of Beirut Israel levelled in 
its 2006 attack on Lebanon.

This “security concept”, as the Israeli army termed it, involves the 
wholesale destruction of a community’s infrastructure to immerse it so 
deeply in the problems of survival and reconstruction that other 
concerns, including fighting back or resisting occupation, are no longer 

On the first day of the Gaza offensive, Yoav Galant, the commander in 
charge, explained the aim succinctly: it was to “send Gaza decades into 
the past”. Matan Vilnai may have been thinking in similar terms when, 
months before Operation Cast Lead, he warned that Israel was preparing 
to inflict on Gaza a “shoah”, the Hebrew word for Holocaust.

Seen in this context, Weisglass’ diet can be understood as just one more 
refinement of the Dahiya doctrine: a whole society refashioned to accept 
its subjugation through a combination of violence, poverty, malnutrition 
and a permanent struggle over limited resources.

This experiment in the manufacture of Palestinian despair is, it goes 
with saying, both illegal and grossly immoral. But ultimately it also 
certain to unravel – and possibly sooner rather than later. The visit 
this week of Qatar’s emir, there to bestow hundreds of millions of 
dollars in aid, was the first by a head of state since 1999.

The Gulf’s wealthy oil states need influence, allies and an improved 
image in a new Middle East wracked by uprisings and civil war. Gaza is a 
prize, it seems, they may be willing to challenge Israel to possess.

//*Jonathan Cook* won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. 
His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran 
and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0745327540/counterpunchmaga> (Pluto 
Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human 
(Zed Books). ///His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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