Working towards peace and sustainability

May All be Fed

When is the last time you went a full day without eating? Thankfully, for most of us here in Missouri it’s a rare occurrence. Fasting, for us, if done at all, is most likely to be part of a religious ritual or something believed to have health benefits, not the result of a shortage of food.

A group of more than 60 of us, however, have signed up with Mid-Missouri Peaceworks to participate in “Peace, Not Famine,” a rolling hunger strike, to call attention to the horrific situation facing 2.2 million people in Gaza. Those participating in the fasting are doing so one day each week. My day is Saturday.

Israel’s attacks on Gaza have already killed more than 30,000 noncombatant civilians, the majority of them women or children, and injured many tens of thousands more. While most of these casualties have been due to aerial bombardment or artillery fire, a growing concern is mass starvation, due to the siege of the enclave imposed by the Israelis. They have been severely limiting the flow of needed food, water, medicine and fuel.

A report from the World Health Organization states: “An unprecedented 93% of the population in Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger, with insufficient food and high levels of malnutrition.” WHO goes on to document the heightened incidence of many ailments attributed the lack of food, medicines and basic sanitation. Infants are the most susceptible, due in part to the fact that many mothers are unable to produce sufficient breast milk and infant formula is generally unavailable.

Israel’s ability to cause such loss of life and limb is due, in no small part, to U.S. backing. It is our government that supplies much of their arms. And it’s the U.S. veto at the UN Security Council that has prevented any enforceable resolutions being passed that would sanction Israel for its war crimes.

Of late, the Biden administration, politically pressured, has been calling on the Israelis to allow more food and other necessities to be delivered to the Gazan people, but the reality falls short of the rhetoric.

A few weeks ago the media reported the U.S. was dropping Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) in by plane. It seemed like a cause for celebration until the details came out. They were delivering 38,000 MREs, which might, at first blush, sound like a lot. But there are 2.2 million Gazan mouths to feed. That means 6.6 million meals a day are needed and these 38 thousand meals provide the food needed to feed just over one-half of one percent of the population for one day. Basically, a drop in the bucket.

Shortly thereafter, at President Biden's State of the Union speech, he announced a more ambitious initiative; having the U.S. military install a temporary pier so ships can bring needed food in by sea. We don’t know how much can be delivered this way, but the experts are saying it will take at least two months to install the facility, a long time to wait when one is starving.

More to the point, there is no good reason sufficient food can’t be delivered by truck and distributed to the population throughout Gaza. The only real impediment is Israel’s unwillingness to allow the food in. And, who is arming Israel? Who has the leverage to get Netanyahu to relent on this? That’s right, it’s our government and thus it is urgent that we let them know we insist on a ceasefire now.

The “Peace, Not Famine” rolling hunger strike is ongoing with participants picking one day a week to fast. We are also holding a daily vigil calling for letting Gaza live at the Keyhole outside City Hall from 12:15-12:45 seven days a week. All are invited to join us, whenever they can, whether fasting or not. It’s really up to us—people of conscience across the country—to create the pressure needed to end this senseless, lethal conflict. We urge you to make your voice heard.

By Mark Haim, Director, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks