Even Israel’s apologists are recoiling from the horror

Threshold for genocide met

Death toll will climb and climb. Israel’s war on Gaza has reached new depths of depravity - but it won’t stop there, warns Ian Spencer

On March 26, Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on Palestine, presented her findings (entitled ‘The anatomy of a genocide’) to the UN Human Rights Council.

What was obvious to anyone with eyes to see, nearly six months ago, was confirmed in official legalese. She noted the deaths of “more than 30,000 Palestinians, including 13,000 children, and a further 12,000 missing, presumed dead” and “71,000 injured, most with life-changing wounds, made worse by the decimation of the healthcare system”. She affirmed that the threshold for genocide has been met.

Moreover, Albanese said that the “colonial amnesia of the west has condoned Israel’s colonial settler project” and went on to “implore member-states to abide by their obligations, which start with imposing an arms embargo and sanctions on Israel”.1 The scale of the horror is as revolting as it is unsurprising, given that 25,000 tonnes of explosive, equivalent to two nuclear bombs, has been dropped onto one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Albanese was also forthright enough to say that Israel has adopted the strategy of lying often enough, so that eventually some will believe what it says.

Unsurprisingly, her report was rejected by Israel as “an obscene inversion of reality”. US state department spokesman Mathew Miller also dismissed it and threw in the unsubstantiated assertion that Albanese has a “history of making anti-Semitic comments”. Despite this, the UN security council managed to pass a resolution on the same day calling for a ceasefire in Gaza - without a US veto. Israel’s response was to ignore the resolution and cancel a planned meeting in Washington. We still await the verdict of the International Court of Justice. However, the court too has issued further instructions to Israel, to prevent the commission of genocide, following additional submissions by South Africa, in light of the worsening situation in Gaza.2


From the outset, the deliberate killing of medical personnel and the destruction of medical infrastructure has been part of the Israeli Defence Forces strategy. Al Shifa hospital has now been totally destroyed, bringing an end to its 78-year history after a two-week siege. Al Shifa was the Gaza Strip’s most modern, best-equipped hospital with specialist surgical and paediatric centres. Equipped with 700 beds, Al Shifa was housing up to 7,000 patients shortly before it was finally liquidated, with a siege that saw a further 400 Palestinian civilians killed. Israel produced not one shred of evidence of the “Hamas command centre” beneath it, which had served as the pretext for its destruction.

The IDF left Al Shifa littered with human remains. The courtyard of Al Aqsa hospital was also bombed by the IDF on March 31 - the main target being the tents of displaced civilians, sheltering nearby. The workers of the French medical charity, MSF, were forced to stop work and seek cover during the attack.3 The Palestinian Red Crescent have had 26 members of staff killed by the IDF and there is now not one single fully functioning hospital left in the whole of the Gaza Strip.

‘Genocide Joe’ Biden, with one eye on his re-election, has made a token humanitarianism gesture by ‘urging restraint’ on Netanyahu - there should not be a major ground offensive against the beleaguered refugees in Rafah. In the meantime, the US airforce and the RAF have been dropping aid, none of which comes anywhere close to the barest minimum to prevent famine.

Simultaneously, the US, UK and other Nato powers are supplying the weapons for the annihilation of Palestinians. Recently, this has incorporated an $18 billion transfer of arms to Israel, including 25 F-35 jets. At the same time, there are other voices in the US and Israel rejecting Biden’s pathetic pleas for ‘restraint’. Republican congressman Tim Walberg has even gone so far as to call for a nuclear attack to “make it like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick.”4 The barbarism is only just getting started.

On April 2 seven people working for the food aid charity, World Central Kitchen (WCK), were killed by the IDF. The food convoy used clearly marked vehicles, travelling along an agreed route, at a time pre-arranged with the IDF.5 Three British nationals were killed, along with a dual US-Canadian, an Australian, Polish, and Palestinian citizens, when they were attacked in Deir al-Balah.

As if more were needed, the hypocrisy has been topped up further. While Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the killings were unintentional, the IDF achieved its intended result, as WCK halted all relief operations. Australia’s prime minister has demanded “full accountability” for the attack. David Cameron and Rishi Sunak have both responded with sorrow at the killing of the British aid workers, while displaying blithe indifference to the murder of hundreds of Palestinian health workers since October 7, many of whom were deliberately targeted - or in hospitals that were bombed without even the pretence of being ‘Hamas command centres’.

The withdrawal of WCK, which provided meals to many thousands, via a sea route from Cyprus, must be seen in the context of Israel’s attack on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (Unrwa), which was the biggest food aid provider in Gaza. The US, UK, Germany and others suspended funding for Unrwa after unsupported allegations, made in the Knesset, that 12 of its staff were complicit in the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. Complying with proven liars is a political choice. By contrast, other countries, such as Spain and Eire, have increased their contributions. Over 152 Unrwa staff have been killed by the IDF since the beginning of the current Israeli orgy of violence - it is alleged that Israel has tortured Unrwa staff into making false admissions of complicity with Hamas on the October 7.6


From the outset, Israel’s aim has been the ethnic cleansing of Gaza and the genocide of the Palestinian people. Famine is not, as in some wars, an unintended consequence. Residents now depend entirely on food aid from outside, controlled and restricted by Israel.7 Aside from the indiscriminate killing of civilians, reminiscent of the carpet-bombing of Dresden by allied airforces in World War II, there has been the targeted destruction of food production, supplies and supply infrastructure. The IDF have destroyed farmland, greenhouses, fishing boats, shops, flour mills and bakeries and even turned their weapons on hungry people queuing for food aid.

And the strategy is working: famine is imminent throughout Gaza. The food supply has been restricted since at least 2007, with the population dependent on carbohydrate for most of their calories. The consequence was that even before the current genocide vitamin deficiency was widespread. As most of the food supplies come through Israel, they have been severely restricted. All agencies agree that the most efficient way to deliver food aid is by road. Prior to the start of the genocide around 500 trucks a day were necessary to do this, but that is now limited to around 150 - for a population in even greater need than before October 7.8 Over 677,000 of the 2.3 million population of Gaza is already suffering from ‘famine’ - phase 5 in the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification9 - while 39% of the population is in phase 4 (emergency), and the entire population in Phase 3, ‘crisis’.

People are resorting to eating animal fodder to survive. Also, 97% of the ground water supplies are unfit for human consumption. Desalination plants, if not destroyed, are unable to work because of a lack of fuel.10 In famines, one of the biggest single killers of children is diarrhoea, contracted from contaminated water, but Israel has deliberately prevented the delivery of water purification tablets.11 Northern Gaza is particularly susceptible, where a third of children are suffering from acute malnutrition.12

While some children have already been recorded as having died from starvation, the main killer will be disease, spreading through a severely immunocompromised population. Even if most of the population survives, the long-term consequences for ill health will be felt for generations. There is substantial evidence that malnutrition in early pregnancy increases the likelihood of conditions as diverse as type-two diabetes and schizophrenia, owing to epigenetic damage to the foetus, in part due to folic acid deficiency. Even malnutrition in late pregnancy can lead to growth restriction in the child (there are an estimated 52,000 pregnant women in Gaza).13

While the ICJ has debated the precision of the definition of genocide, war crimes are being perpetrated by Israel in plain sight and with the complicity of the imperialist powers. Even the British government’s legal advice is that Israel has breached international humanitarian law in Gaza and the UK should cease all arms sales to Israel. (Naturally, Lord Cameron failed to make that public, but it was leaked to The Observer.14) Collective punishment, the denial of water, food and medicine, the deliberate targeting of facilities expressly protected by the Geneva conventions, and the ethnic cleansing of the entire population, if it were being conducted by Serbia, Russia or any Nato opponent, would lead to a demand for the government responsible to face trial for war crimes in the Hague.

Now the people of Gaza face the prospect of an intense ground war on the 1.4 million refugees in Rafah. Ostensibly, this has not taken place so far, owing to a temporary restriction on violence for the period of Ramadan. The likelihood is that the US construction of its vaunted pier will soon be complete, but it is hard to avoid the suspicion that the objective is not so much to bring in food aid, but to facilitate the potential removal of the Palestinian population - it is not difficult to see how this might be rationalised in ‘humanitarian’ terms.


The epidemiological forecasts projecting future deaths in Gaza from all causes, including epidemics, range from over 48,000 to nearly 200,000 by August 2024.15 Famine, beyond a certain point, requires careful medical management. Refeeding syndrome in those who have been suffering from starvation can be a potential further cause of death, due to electrolyte imbalance.16 Careful medical management is one thing that the IDF have ensured the Palestinians do not have. In the meantime, in Egypt, along the border between the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, construction machines are levelling the ground on a narrow strip of land. Satellite images show an area intended to accommodate Palestinian refugees. The walled enclosure will have a capacity for more than 100,000.17

Given all we know about the conduct of Israel and its allies - the lies, the brutality, the growing support for a final completion of the Zionist project of removing the entire Palestinian population, the wilful disregard for international law - an attack on Rafah is highly likely and is certainly being planned. Of course, that could be prevented, but, whatever the outcome of the elections in the USA or UK, the drive to war will continue - and not just in Rafah.

  1. news.un.org/en/story/2024/03/1147976.↩︎

  2. www.icj-cij.org/sites/default/files/case-related/192/192-20240328-ord-01-00-en.pdf.↩︎

  3. Al Jazeera April 1.↩︎

  4. Al Jazeera March 31.↩︎

  5. Al Jazeera April 2.↩︎

  6. www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2024/3/8/israels-war-on-gaza-live-60000-pregnant-women-face-malnutrition-in-gaza?update=2759153.↩︎

  7. www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20240108_israel_is_starving_gaza.↩︎

  8. Al Jazeera April 2.↩︎

  9. www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2024/3/8/israels-war-on-gaza-live-60000-pregnant-women-face-malnutrition-in-gaza?update=2759153.↩︎

  10. press.un.org/en/2024/sc15604.doc.htm.↩︎

  11. edition.cnn.com/2024/03/01/middleeast/gaza-aid-israel-restrictions-investigation-intl-cmd/index.html.↩︎

  12. www.reuters.com/default/gaza-starving-children-fill-hospital-wards-famine-looms-2024-03-19.↩︎

  13. www.researchgate.net/publication/378892579_From_Past_Famines_to_Present_Crises_The_Epigenetic_Impact_of_Maternal_Malnutrition_on_Offspring_Health_in_Gaza.↩︎

  14. www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/30/uk-government-lawyers-say-israel-is-breaking-international-law-claims-top-tory-in-leaked-recording.↩︎

  15. www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/mar/21/we-are-about-to-witness-the-most-intense-famine-since-world-war-ii-in-gaza.↩︎

  16. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2440847.↩︎

  17. www.lemonde.fr/en/international/article/2024/02/18/egypt-builds-security-zone-in-sinai-anticipating-influx-of-refugees-from-gaza_6536619_4.html.↩︎