analysisU.S.-Israel Relations

Israel perplexed

Biden’s false ‘starvation politics’ help with his base

Israel has succumbed to American pressure, but it is being attacked by those same U.S. officials with the claim that it is starving 2.2 million people.

U.S. President Joe Biden giving a Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, May 29, 2023. Credit: Philip Yabut/Shutterstock.
U.S. President Joe Biden giving a Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, May 29, 2023. Credit: Philip Yabut/Shutterstock.
Ariel Kahana
Ariel Kahana is a diplomatic correspondent for Israel Hayom.

No issue gets under the Israeli skin more than watching the massive amounts of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip. In recent weeks, hundreds of trucks have been crossing Israel, from the Jordanian border to the Kerem Shalom crossing to southern Gaza, under heavy security escort by Israeli police, bound for Nuseirat, Jabalia and Rafah.

Due to an ultimatum set by President Joe Biden to Netanyahu, around 500 trucks are already entering the Strip daily. For comparison, on regular days before the war, the daily number of trucks was 800. In other words, the amount entering now is not far from what it used to be before Oct. 7. Incidentally, most of them carry food, resulting in an 80% increase in the number of food trucks compared to the pre-war period.

What is particularly irksome is the fact that this abundance is being showered on the Gazans who democratically chose Hamas, have never revolted against it, and still support the horrific massacre—all while our captives languish in Gaza’s tunnels, enduring unimaginable torture.

Israel is carrying out this massive undertaking despite the government’s decision at the start of the war to sever all civilian ties with the Strip.

And as if that weren’t enough, we now reveal that according to Israeli experts, Gaza is receiving far more than it needs, and the Americans know this down to the smallest details. For months now, a quadrilateral forum has been meeting every evening at 8, with representatives from Israel, the U.S., the U.N. and Egypt, where a daily report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza is presented.

On Israel’s behalf, representatives from the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit attend the meeting. The Americans are represented by Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues David Satterfield. Together, they count how many trucks were inspected and entered the Strip, how many unloaded their contents inside, how many did not, and the extent to which people in Gaza are hungry.

Well, surprise, surprise—they’re not.

Here are the key data presented by COGAT to the Americans: Twenty-one bakeries are operating in southern and central Gaza and another three in the north. They bake millions of pitas daily. The amount of water produced in the Strip exceeds 5 gallons of drinking and cooking water per person per day.

There have been 3,350 coordination efforts—83% of requests—made between the IDF and aid organizations to facilitate the entry of aid (contrary to the organizations’ claim that there was no such coordination). So far, almost 19,000 aid trucks have entered the Gaza Strip, carrying 350,000 tons of humanitarian aid and 250,000 tons of food.

In total, since the start of the war, 22,763 trucks carrying around 428,710 tons (945 million pounds), mostly food, have entered.

Endless demands

“There is no food shortage in Gaza, and there never was,” says an Israeli official familiar with the details. “The stores are full, the markets are bursting with goods. Fruits, vegetables, shawarma, pitas, everything is available. You can even see it in the pictures.

“Do you know why they’re no longer looting the incoming convoys? Because there’s no shortage. The quantities entering are out of the ordinary, so there’s no reason to take over the trucks. Nothing is lacking.”

This picture is well known to the official American representatives. Yet, they are hounding the Israeli leaders with endless demands.

Biden personally demanded that Netanyahu reopen the Port of Ashdod for Gaza supplies and allow the entry of goods from the northern Strip, citing the claim that Israel is allowing only 100 trucks per day into the Strip, even though he—or at least his people—know that even on the leanest days, the number was at least double that.

In addition, everyone dealing with the issue, including international actors, knows that Israel is allowing far more than Gaza can absorb. For many weeks now, long lines of trucks have been lining up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing because there is no one to receive and distribute their contents. This is the only criticism that Israelis, in a muted way, are willing to voice publicly and officially.

Last week, COGAT head Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian issued an unusual statement, saying: “We have extended operating hours and added inspection measures. The logistical gaps in collecting and distributing aid prove that Israel is not a bottleneck when it comes to providing humanitarian aid.

“The U.N. needs to do the job it is responsible for and do it properly. The U.N.’s lack of capabilities is effectively undermining the humanitarian effort led by Israel.”

Blood libel

These statements are just the tip of the iceberg regarding what those involved in aid provision are saying behind closed doors.

“There is no need to open a crossing in the northern Strip, no need to open the Port of Ashdod, and no need for a seaport in Gaza either. Because there is no food shortage,” asks an Israeli who, while not being an official, is privy to the data.

“The seaport is a crazy operation. The airdrops are unnecessary too. They’re expensive, the quantities are small, and people have already died from consuming them. But they make for good photos, so they continue.

“The Americans are driving [Strategic Affairs] Minister Ron Dermer [an observer member of the War Cabinet] crazy 24/7 with all these things, knowing there’s no need for them. The U.N. inside Gaza is failing to distribute what’s coming in. So why is more needed?” the official asks.

The American pressure is straining the Israeli system to the breaking point. Soldiers are required to secure the massive supply convoys, the construction of the seaport on the Gaza coast, the laying of a new water pipeline to the Strip, and the opening of a crossing in the north.

Defense Ministry inspectors spend nights and days examining the contents destined for the enemy, even though the enemy doesn’t need it. There is nothing more frustrating for them, and they say this to the Israeli activists who ingeniously and creatively manage to stop the trucks from time to time.

These are the practical and immediate costs Israel is paying. The long-term damage is far more severe.

If the U.S. administration were honest in its approach, it would publicly affirm COGAT’s words and place some responsibility on the U.N. But Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and their people are directing their criticism solely at Israel. In fact, the administration is tacitly endorsing, and sometimes explicitly using the blood libel about “starvation in Gaza,” much like Jews were once accused of baking matzot with the blood of Christian children.

Satterfield well aware

Satterfield, the American envoy for humanitarian affairs and a former ambassador to several countries in the region, has known Israel for decades. Sometimes he, and sometimes his staff, participate in the daily update meetings on the supplies entering Gaza. In other words, Satterfield is well aware that there is no shortage in Gaza.

Yet, this did not prevent him from telling the American Jewish Committee in a Zoom briefing last week that “there is an immediate risk of starvation, for most if not all 2.2 million people in Gaza.”

The data shows that in the three days preceding his statement, around 300 trucks per day were entering the Strip. State Department spokespeople make similar statements in their daily briefings.

As mentioned, Satterfield, Blinken, and others are well aware that there was never any danger of starvation, not for a million people and not for a single person. Israel has been monitoring the humanitarian situation in the Strip from day one and would never allow, God forbid, such cruel and collective punishment. Yet, the official and deliberate message is “immediate risk of starvation.”

The administration’s endorsement of the “starvation” lie fuels the anti-Israel propaganda machine, which has been spreading the falsehood of “genocide in Gaza” around the world for months now. Here’s one example of how the ploy works.

“Why did you use the term ‘rolling genocide’ in your speech to Congress?” host Steven Colbert asked Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on his popular TV show. His question was not innocent, but AOC did not miss the opportunity.

“We were on the brink of a mass famine that would have indiscriminately killed nearly a million innocent civilians, men, women, and children,” she said with a pained expression into the camera. In other words, the “starvation” the administration is talking about is immediately translated into “genocide” by professional Israel-haters.

AOC is still considered moderate. Those dubbed “human rights organizations,” such as Amnesty, explicitly talk about “200 days of genocide risk and famine in Gaza.” Masses of pro-Hamas protesters across the U.S. don’t need these convoluted phrasings. They shout “genocide” at every opportunity, including during Biden’s speeches. If he whistles past the facts, why shouldn’t they?

“Satterfield’s and others’ rhetoric is shocking,” an official who has been active in Israel-U.S. relations for years told Israel Hayom. “The only explanation for the gap between what they know and what they say must be political. There are elections, there’s Michigan, so they’re saying what will be pleasing for voters to hear. Incidentally, you can see that the actual policy is not changing.”

Another official elaborates: “You see it starts with the president. He’s not making things up. In direct conversations with the Americans, you see they are well-versed in the data. We, inside the room, wonder where they’re getting these statements from. They know what’s happening. They have an interest in not presenting what they know, and not affirming what Israel is saying.

“They should be saying, ‘There is no starvation in Gaza, and Israel is doing everything it can to get food in. The bottleneck is not its fault.’ But they choose not to say that because they don’t want to echo the Israeli message.”

Why is the administration acting this way? The State Department did not respond to a query from Israel Hayom.

Disarray in American Jewry

It’s not just Israelis that are bothered by the voices coming from the Democratic administration, but also leaders of the American Jewish community. The mainstream of American Jewry has been the flesh and blood of the Democratic Party for decades. These are not just about voting patterns of around 80% of Jews voting, but also the robust financial support for Democratic candidates and deep involvement in the party’s path and values.

But this historic alliance has been rapidly unraveling since the war began. Early signs of change in the Democrats’ attitude towards Jews and Israel were already present during the Barack Obama era, but the outburst of hatred towards Israel and Jews in the Democratic camp is shaking American Jews’ relationship with the party to its core.

Not only Michigan

The loudest and boldest public voice was raised recently by Reform Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In an unprecedented warning speech that directly addressed senior Democratic officials, Hirsch said: 

“Neither I nor our synagogue engage in partisan politics. So allow me to express a nonpartisan word to all of our friends in elected office from the Democratic Party,” he said. “From one who is finely attuned to American Jewish sentiment, do not take American Jews for granted.”

The rabbi noted that “so many American Jews in the past few months who have surprised me with their anxiety about developments in the Democratic Party and their perception that it is becoming increasingly hostile to Israel, and increasingly tolerant of anti-Zionism and antisemitism in its own ranks.

“Be careful. The results of the upcoming election do not only depend on Michigan,” Hirsch said. 

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which is a nonpartisan umbrella organization that avoids public controversies like the plague, has decided to take a stance—and not a muted one.

In response to a call to replace Netanyahu by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York—himself Jewish, and someone who could be described as No. 3 in the Democratic Party—the conference wrote:

“It is not a time for public criticisms that serve only to empower the detractors of Israel, and which foster greater divisiveness when unity is so desperately needed. … In actuality, what is really needed is U.S. leverage to bolster and support the Jewish state in this time of need.”

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, the founding chairman of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition, who leads the Conservative Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md., confirms in a conversation with Israel Hayom that a dramatic shift is underway. However, Donald Trump is also not an exciting alternative for most Jews.

“Since the days of FDR in the middle of the last century, American Jewry has felt that the Democratic Party was its natural home. Now something is changing. Biden is in danger of losing Jewish support in many places because of his attitude towards Israel. It’s true that his actual policy is supporting Israel through the transfer of ammunition and so on, but the way he and his people talk is opening the door for Israel-haters to speak extremely harshly. And these words carry meaning.”

Weinblatt, who has been at the heart of Jewish community activism for decades, rightly points out that many in the Democratic Party do support Israel. But he believes this is the biggest crisis between the Jewish establishment and the party.

“A lot of people are hesitating when it comes to whom they would vote for, and this is the biggest dilemma I can recall among Jews. They are not enthusiastic about voting for Trump, because of his personal background and concerns about how he would act towards Israel in a second term, so many would want a third candidate if that was possible. But the needle will move, and in November we’ll know by how much.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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