Politicians marked World Food Day – but ignored Israel starving Palestinians as they spoke

Crossing check-point into Gaza. Israel has blocked aid from reaching over two million Palestinians.
Support us and go ad-free

On Monday 16 October, the United Nations (UN) Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) hosted its annual ‘World Food Day’ event. At the opening ceremony, politicians issued bold platitudes to peace, food sovereignty, and a world without hunger.

However, speakers ignored Israel’s ongoing war crimes in Gaza, which is intentionally cutting off food, water, and electricity to over two million Palestinian inhabitants.

Water is life

High-profile politicians from across the world attended the FAO event in Rome. This included a remote appearance from the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, and a representative of the Pope. Italian president Sergio Mattarella, Irish president Michael Higgins, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) minister for climate change Mariam Almheiri spoke during the opening ceremony.

Of course, on a day dedicated to discussing access to food, you might expect representatives to make at least a cursory attempt to condemn a state denying it to an occupied population.

Instead, participants exhibited stupefying levels of cognitive dissonance. This year’s theme carried the slogan “Water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind” – and it made for a jarring juxtaposition at the event and across social media.

The FAO invited people to tune into their discussions on taking water action for food security:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Meanwhile, Israel’s onslaught in Gaza is currently driving some two million Palestinians to the brink of starvation.

Israel starving Palestinians trapped in Gaza

Since 9 October, Israel has shut off electricity and implemented a “total” blockade on the entry of food, water, and medical supplies into the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). As a result, food and water is in short supply.

On Saturday 14 October, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) warned that Israel’s blockade was causing water in the besieged Strip to run out. Of course, since then, the situation has deteriorated further. Now, water has actually run dry in the schools where a quarter of a million Palestinians have taken shelter:

After pressure from US president Joe Biden, Israel began resupplying water in Southern Gaza on Sunday 15. However, as multiple people on X pointed out, this does not mean that Palestinians will now have access to safe drinking water:

As such, Israel’s continued weaponisation of a resource crucial to survival has furthered its control over Palestinian lives:

Aid chief stayed silent

Given the humanitarian crisis developing in Gaza, speakers at the UN’s high-profile ‘World Food Day Event’ might have mentioned Israel’s criminal bombardment of Gaza. However, most skirted round the issue.

For example, only a few days before the event, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) Cindy Hensley McCain highlighted the stark challenges the WFP faced delivering aid to Gaza. Of course, her post stopped short of pointing the finger at Israel’s blockade:

Notably, the WFP recently made its largest ever cut to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Over the summer, WFP cut food aid to 200,000 Palestinian people – 60% of food aid recipients in the OPT.

Given that Gazan residents are facing the imminent threat of starvation, McCain could have taken this opportunity to call out Israel’s war crimes. Naturally, she didn’t – not even giving the briefest namecheck to Palestine in her entire speech.

Russia and Israel: double-standards

Italian president Sergio Mattarella was the only speaker to reference the ongoing siege. Unsurprisingly however, his token mention of Israel’s attempted genocide epitomised the double standards politicians and pundits have been shamelessly parading.

On the one hand, Mattarella condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for causing:

Death and destruction at the very heart of Europe

Criticising Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain initiative, Mattarella followed this declaration without a hint of irony that:

It is a crime to turn food and water into instruments of conflict

Conversely, there were no strong words of condemnation against Israel’s bombing campaign and resource blockade in Gaza. Instead, Mattarella spoke out only against Hamas’s attack on Israel, saying:

The Middle East is again in flames, because of the cowardly attack that has already succeeded in elevating to unprecedented levels the spiral of horror and violence.

Mattarella ignored Israel’s retaliation against the entire civilian population of Gaza. In doing so, he participated in the atrocious ‘collective punishment as defence’ discourse which Israel it is using to justify its abhorrent bombing campaign. What’s more, the penny didn’t even drop when Mattarella called out the:

reappearance of imperialistic attitudes and nationalisms.

But then, why would Italy’s president call out a settler colonial state to which it supplies millions of euros in arms?

Complicity in the settler colonial project

Of course, Israel has long operated an apartheid process of systematically depriving the Palestinian people of their basic rights to food, water, and land. The settler colonial project has stolen and restricted access to Palestinian agricultural lands, and uprooted hundreds of thousands of olive trees essential to Palestinian livelihoods.

Likewise, political leaders and international institutions’ silence on Israel’s illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing in Palestine is nothing new. They were complicit before this siege, and they are just as complicit now.

So as Palestinians begin to starve, and risk a deadly slew of waterborne disease from polluted water sources, politicians either bury their heads in the sand or out themselves as apologists for Israel’s apartheid regime. On World Food Day, Palestinians starved as world leaders passively looked on.

Feature image via CNA/Youtube screengrab. 


Support us and go ad-free

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
      1. There has been little the “rest of the world” could do because the USA sat on top of the process handing out its weapons.

        But now China and Russia (& BRICS) are throwing their collective weight behind dethroning the US from its biassed role, and implementing the UN agreed 2 State Solution.

        Needless to say, Israel, the UK & US, won’t like this.

        Which tells the wise exactly WHY this “conflict” has continued on so long, and so bloodily. “Neutral mediators” my arse!

    1. It’s a poor show when we have to rely on Russia, China and the BRICS to stand on the right side of history and lead the world out from under the thumb of the the US military and towards a lasting solution.
      This has been coming for a long time.
      The US (and its UK running dog) have shit on too many countries in the past.
      This day of reckoning is long-overdue.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.