• Joe Biden has done more than arm Israel. He’s complicit in Gaza’s devastating famine | The Independent

    Extrait d’un long et important article dans lequel des fonctionnaires US de l’USAID déclarent (anonymement) que l’administration Biden a sciemment contribué à affamer la population de Gaza.

    By December, the two international institutions used by governments around the world to determine when famine is occurring – the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network – had come to the same conclusion: famine was imminent, and threatened more than one million people.

    Mr Konyndyk, who led USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance for three years, said those warnings should have compelled the White House to act urgently. If the same conditions were appearing in most other countries in the world, he said, it would have. But the US had stubbornly refused to do anything that would hamper Israel’s war effort.

    “When the warnings start signalling that risk, there should be a forceful reaction, both on the relief aid front and on the diplomatic front,” he said. “Nothing about the Biden administration’s response to the December famine forecast demonstrated that kind of hard pivot toward famine prevention.”

    What followed was a pattern of defence, deflection and outright denial from the White House.

    Under questioning from The Independent, Biden administration spokespersons have routinely highlighted Mr Biden’s repeated requests for the Israeli government to open up more crossings to aid, and pointed to temporary increases in aid trucks entering Gaza as proof of what they describe as his effectiveness.

    What was left unsaid by those Biden aides was the fact that those piecemeal influxes of aid were not consummate to the scale of the crisis. Hunger continued to spread, and still the White House refused to use its leverage by threatening to condition military aid.

    Nothing about the Biden administration’s response to the first famine report demonstrated that kind of hard pivot toward famine prevention

    Jeremy Konyndyk, former director of USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance

    “Behind the scenes, my impression is that the Biden administration was pushing Israel to resume opening crossings to aid. But it was this posture of pretty extensive deference to how Israel was choosing to fight the war, while continuing to supply it with arms and not putting any real conditions on that,” Mr Konyndyk said.

    A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said: “Since the beginning of this conflict, president Biden has been leading efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza to alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinians who have nothing to do with Hamas.”

    “Before the president’s engagement, there was no food, water, or medicine getting into Gaza. The United States is the largest provider of aid to the Gaza response. This is and will continue to be a top priority to address dire conditions on the ground since much more aid is needed,” the spokesperson added.

    Inside USAID, career civil servants with extensive experience were horrified by the lack of urgency from their politically appointed leaders.

    Internal USAID documents seen by The Independent showed that staff were passing their concerns about the lack of action up the chain to USAID administrator Samantha Power and other senior leaders in the form of letters and internal dissent memos, often to no avail.

    “What was surprising to me, and deeply disappointing, was the fact that we were hearing nothing about imminent famine in Gaza,” said a USAID staffer, who asked to remain anonymous because they are still employed by the agency.
    A Palestinian child transporting portions of food walks past a building destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City in May
    A Palestinian child transporting portions of food walks past a building destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City in May (Getty)

    Dissent memos – a kind of sanctioned internal protest through a dedicated channel for offering critical feedback on policy – are relatively rare in USAID compared with the state department. However, the USAID staff member said they were aware of at least 19 memoranda being sent in objection to the lack of action by the agency – and the government – over the looming famine.

    Mr Konyndyk described it as “an extraordinary number,” and noted that he didn’t recall encountering a single dissent memo at USAID during his more than five years there under Mr Obama and Mr Biden.

    By mid-January, aid agencies on the ground in Gaza were issuing desperate pleas for a humanitarian ceasefire so that food supplies could be delivered. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 378,000 people in Gaza were facing catastrophic levels of hunger, and all 2.2 million people in Gaza were facing acute food insecurity.
    A graphic showing the number of trucks to enter Gaza since the 7 October Hamas attacks
    A graphic showing the number of trucks to enter Gaza since the 7 October Hamas attacks (UNRWA)

    “This is a population that is starving to death, this is a population that is being pushed to the brink,” the World Health Organisation’s emergencies director Michael Ryan said at a press conference on 31 January.

    The same day Mr Ryan described Gaza’s grim outlook, White House national security communications adviser John Kirby defended the Biden administration’s decision to suspend aid to UNRWA. Mr Kirby denied that cutting off assistance to the UN entity with the largest footprint in Gaza would have a detrimental effect on the humanitarian situation there, and instead claimed that the US was “working so hard to get more [humanitarian] assistance into the people of Gaza”.

    Even at this point, the White House was focused on giving Israel everything it needed to win its war against Hamas.
    UNRWA loses ability to function

    Hunger spread rapidly over the next month as the war raged on. On 27 February, three senior United Nations officials told a security council that at least 576,000 people were now “one step away from famine”.

    “Unfortunately, as grim as the picture we see today is, there is every possibility for further deterioration,” Ramesh Rajasingham, director of UN’s OCHA, told the chamber.

    In one of the most deadly massacres of the conflict, dozens of Palestinians desperately trying to access supplies were killed after Israeli troops fired on a crowd collecting flour from aid trucks on 29 February near Gaza City. The Israeli army initially blamed a stampede for the chaos, but in a later review claimed that Israeli forces “did not fire at the humanitarian convoy, but did fire at a number of suspects who approached the nearby forces and posed a threat to them.”

    “During the course of the looting, incidents of significant harm to civilians occurred from the stampede and people being run over by the trucks,” the Israeli army review added. More than 100 Palestinians were killed trying to access aid that day.

    Before the war, UNRWA, the largest UN agency working in Gaza, provided and distributed the basic necessities for people to survive in the blockaded territory, such as food, medicine and fuel. The US was by far the largest donor to UNRWA, contributing nearly half the agency’s yearly operating budget.
    World Central Kitchen team prepare food for displaced Palestinians after resuming work in Gaza in this handout picture released on 30 April
    World Central Kitchen team prepare food for displaced Palestinians after resuming work in Gaza in this handout picture released on 30 April (Reuters)

    But the US suspended that funding following allegations by Israel that some 12 UNRWA employees were involved in the 7 October attack and around 10 per cent of its staff had ties to militants. (An independent review led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna later found that Israel has yet to provide any supporting evidence of these claims.)

    By the end of February, UNRWA said Israel had effectively banned it from entering the north of Gaza.

    At least 188 of its staff had been killed since the beginning of the war, more than 150 of its facilities were hit – among them many schools – and more than 400 people were killed “while seeking shelter under the UN flag”, the organisation said.