The ‘Flour Massacre’ and Israel’s licence to kill, maim and massacre

Iqbal Suleman

A winter’s night. Dark and desolate. A nation starved. A people under occupation. Closed off from the rest of the world. Caged in a concentration camp. Nothing can enter, neither food nor water. Two million people. Hungry and homeless. More than 70 per cent of homes destroyed and bombed beyond repair. Collective punishment. Denied water, electricity and food for five months.

Pangs of hunger fill the wretched air as it fuses with the stench of death from the bodies that lie underneath the rubble in the grey, cold, Gaza winter night. Men and women, children and grandparents. All come out at the promise of food. They have survived by eating grass and drinking sewer water. Living like animals. They queue up like humiliated slaves seeking crumbs from their Zionist colonial masters. The colonisers use food as the bait, and then shoot them. The gun shots. Screams of horror and death. The blood oozes out of starving bodies that haven’t eaten for a week or more. One hundred and eighteen corpses are strewn across the beach. Blood red mixes with white flour. The colour of genocide. The waves echo a curse. It’s a massacre. The Flour Massacre.

Starvation was evident in Gaza before last week’s Flour Massacre of very hungry people. “The official records yesterday or this morning said there was the tenth child officially registered in a hospital as having starved to death,” said WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier on 1 March.

He added that the actual number of Palestinians killed by starvation will be very much higher. Most of the hospitals in Gaza are inaccessible. The majority would have died without going to hospital and their deaths will not have been recorded. Israel has destroyed most of the hospitals in Gaza and the few that are open are not properly functional. When media outlets like CNN show actual footage of a Palestinian doctor using a kitchen knife on his kitchen table to amputate a young girl’s leg without anaesthesia, then the chances of someone who is “just” dehydrated of getting a drip in hospital are slight.

Why is the world shocked at the Flour Massacre when Israel has been given a licence to kill, maim, starve and massacre Palestinians? Biblical verses have been cited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to justify the killing of every Palestinian child, women and man. According to far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, “It’s time to be cruel.” Israeli President Isaac Hertzog said that all Palestinians are legitimate targets. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant insisted that “no water, no electricity, no food” will get into Gaza. “Everything is closed.”

The leaders of the Zionist state have made their genocidal intent clear, and the US, the UK and other governments, as well as the mainstream media, have danced to the Israeli tune. Israel has bombed hospitals, which should have been a red line. But no, Israel’s Western allies provided cover for the occupation state and defended its barbarism as “self-defence”. Israel has bombed residential areas, ambulances, mosques and churches, museums and cultural centres. Another red cline crossed? Apparently not. Israel has targeted and killed women and children. No red line there, either.

According to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, at least 25,000 women and children have been killed by Israel, but this was still not enough to warrant the US backing a ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council. Israel is allowed to act with impunity. The Flour Massacre was not the first time that starving Palestinians queueing for food have been attacked by Israeli troops: it happened on 7 November, 29 December, 25 January and 5 February. No US condemnation of Israel was forthcoming on any of those occasions. And it happened again yesterday.

There were no Hamas fighters at the scene of the Flour Massacre. The frequent “caught in the crossfire” excuse couldn’t be used. How did Israel spin itself out of responsibility? What it always does: it lied. We are accustomed to this. Remember when an Israeli soldier shot and killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in 2022? Lies followed as sure as night follows day.

Now the message is all about US airdrops of food aid by parachute. This is a cynical PR exercise. “Hypocrisy in action,” as one commentator has described the airdrops.

“Oxfam does not support US airdrops in Gaza which would mainly serve to relieve the guilty conscience of senior US officials whose policies are contributing to the ongoing atrocities and risks of famine,” said Oxfam’s Scott Paul. He is being incredibly generous when he presumes that senior US officials have a conscience. The food dropped by parachute would not even fill one truck, and Gaza needs at least 100 hundred trucks of food aid every single day. The trucks are lined up at the border crossings, but Israel does nothing to stop fanatical Jewish settlers who are blocking the aid from getting through.

While the US can find the means to deploy arms, ammunition and military equipment to the Middle East at the drop of a hat, it is incapable of telling Israel to let the aid in, or sending US troops to escort the aid across the border. Why? Because Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war and a bargaining chip to maximise its gains in any ceasefire agreement, and the US is complicit.

The free people of the world are not fooled by this. They are calling not only for a ceasefire, but also an end to Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine. And their calls are getting louder and more insistent.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.