Israeli government must face consequences for blocking humanitarian aid

Australian Council for International Development

Media release | Monday, 8 April 2024

A coalition of humanitarian, global health and faith groups are demanding the Australian Government hold Israel accountable for blocking lifesaving aid into Gaza and using starvation as a weapon of war.

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), Australian Global Health Alliance (AGHA), National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) call on the Australian Government to:

  • Apply and implement targeted sanctions on Israeli officials who have called for the denial of aid, and military and civil servants denying essential food and materials to civilians of Gaza;
  • End any trade for military purposes between Australian and Israeli companies;
  • Use all diplomatic measures to achieve a permanent ceasefire.

Chief Executive Officer of ACFID Marc Purcell said:

“As the world watched in horror and condemned unequivocally the militant attacks on Israel on October 7, so now do we unequivocally condemn the use of starvation of the Palestinian people as a weapon of war against them.

“High-ranking Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Energy Minister Israel Katz have made public statements expressing their aim to deprive civilians in Gaza of food, water and fuel. We have seen this approach of denying aid being carried out with effects on the civilian population since the conflict began.

“Starvation is being used as a weapon of war, amounting to a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. What we are witnessing in Gaza is a man made, preventable famine, and it will have a permanent stain on all our collective humanity.

“The deliberate prevention of aid convoys, including the United Nations, from reaching people in the north of Gaza, is a complete and total violation of international humanitarian law which must be condemned with tangible punishment attached.”

AGHA Executive Director Dr Selina Namchee Lo said:

“Without adequate healthcare and nutrients, malnutrition has continued to deepen its grip on people in Gaza, many of whom are now facing starvation. Starvation is the most extreme form of malnutrition and can cause a horrific, slow death as people’s vital organs shut down.

“There is a vicious cycle between malnutrition and illness. As the immune system weakens, someone who is severely malnourished becomes more susceptible to infections, such as diarrhoeal diseases. In the same way, someone who is already sick due to an infection such as diarrhoea is more susceptible to malnutrition. This makes it ever more challenging to ingest life-saving nutrients or medication. If these infections don’t kill them, eventually the prolonged deprivation of nutrition and energy sources will.

“It is unconscionable to continue to withhold access to life-saving food aid from those who desperately need it.”

NCCA President Rev John Gilmore said:

“The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) is dismayed by news of the deaths of the seven aid workers. There can be no excusing this terrible action, nor for starvation coming from the impact of the war. Provision of food is a human right. We continue to plead for an unconditional ceasefire, restoration of the provision of the needs of daily life for the people of Gaza and for peace with justice.”

ANIC President Imam Shadi Alsuleiman said:

“We strongly condemn the targeting of civilians and aid workers. The people of Gaza continue to face severe humanitarian crisis perpetrated by the Israeli occupation, leading to the killing of over 30,000 people, mostly women and children, and starving an entire city of over 2 million people.

“These worsening conditions are exactly why the International Court of Justice has called for ‘unhindered provision at scale of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance’ in line with Israel’s obligations under the Genocide Convention. We demand for an immediate end to this war and for the accountability of Israel.”

The purposeful blockade of food and basic materials necessary for survival – medical equipment, materials for water purification, coupled with the targeted destruction of civilian infrastructure such as power plants – is widespread and systemic.

Additionally, the targeting of those who are assisting in reaching the starving population is unprecedented. The brutal killings of Australian Zomi Frankcom and her six colleagues adds to an already documented 196 deaths of aid workers, the highest number of casualties of humanitarian workers in any other context.

The results of starvation are horrific and repugnant to our common humanity. When a government starves a people, all are dehumanized in the process.

/Public Release.