Chris Hedges: Let Them Eat Dirt

The Nazis in 1942 systematically starved the 500,000 men, women and children in the Warsaw Ghetto. This is a number Israel intends to exceed.

Let Them Eat Dirt – by Mr. Fish.

By Chris Hedges

There was never any possibility that the Israeli government would agree to a pause in the fighting proposed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, much less a ceasefire.

Israel is on the verge of delivering the coup de grâce in its war on Palestinians in Gaza – mass starvation.

When Israeli leaders use the term “absolute victory,” they mean total decimation, total elimination. The Nazis in 1942 systematically starved the 500,000 men, women and children in the Warsaw Ghetto. This is a number Israel intends to exceed. 

Israel, and its chief patron the United States, by attempting to shut down the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides food and aid to Gaza, is not only committing a war crime, but is in flagrant defiance of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

The court found the charges of genocide brought by South Africa, which included statements and facts gathered by UNWRA, plausible. It ordered Israel to abide by six provisional measures to prevent genocide and alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe. The fourth provisional measure calls on Israel to secure immediate and effective steps to provide humanitarian assistance and essential services in Gaza. 

UNRWA’s reports on conditions in Gaza, which I covered as a reporter for seven years, and its documentation of indiscriminate Israeli attacks illustrate that, as UNRWA said, “unilaterally declared ‘safe zones’ are not safe at all. Nowhere in Gaza is safe.” 

UNRWA’s role in documenting the genocide, as well as providing food and aid to the Palestinians, infuriates the Israeli government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused UNRWA, after the ruling, of providing false information to the ICJ. Already an Israeli target for decades, Israel decided that UNRWA, which supports 5.9 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East with clinics, schools and food, had to be eliminated.

Israel’s destruction of UNRWA serves a political as well as material objective. 

“UNRWA’s role in documenting the genocide, as well as providing food and aid to the Palestinians, infuriates the Israeli government.”

The evidence-free Israeli accusations against UNRWA that a dozen of the 13,000 employees had links to those who carried out the attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, which saw some 1,200 Israelis killed, did the trick. 

It led 16 major donors, including the United States, the U.K., Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Estonia and Japan, to suspend financial support for the relief agency on which nearly every Palestinian in Gaza depends for food.

Israel has killed 152 UNRWA workers and damaged 147 UNRWA installations since Oct. 7. Israel has also bombed UNRWA relief trucks. 

More than 27,708 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, some 67,000 have been wounded and at least 7,000 are missing, most likely dead and buried under the rubble. 

More than half a million Palestinians — one in four — are starving in Gaza, according to the United Nations. Starvation will soon be ubiquitous. Palestinians in Gaza, at least 1.9 million of whom have been internally displaced, lack not only sufficient food, but clean water, shelter and medicine. 

There are few fruits or vegetables. There is little flour to make bread. Pasta, along with meat, cheese and eggs, have disappeared.

Black market prices for dry goods such as lentils and beans have increased 25 times from pre-war prices. A bag of flour on the black market has risen from $8 to $200 dollars. The healthcare system in Gaza, with only three of Gaza’s 36 hospitals left partially functioning, has largely collapsed.

Bombing a Designated ‘Safe Zone’

Some 1.3 million displaced Palestinians live on the streets of the southern city of Rafah, which Israel designated a “safe zone,” but has begun to bomb.

Families shiver in the winter rains under flimsy tarps amid pools of raw sewage. An estimated 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes.

“There is no instance since the Second World War in which an entire population has been reduced to extreme hunger and destitution with such speed,” writes Alex de Waal in The Guardian. He is executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University and the author of Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine. “And there’s no case in which the international obligation to stop it has been so clear,” he said.

The United States, formerly UNRWA’s largest contributor, provided $422 million to the agency in 2023. The severance of funds ensures that UNRWA food deliveries, already in very short supply because of blockages by Israel, will largely come to a halt by the end of February or the beginning of March. 

Israel has given the Palestinians in Gaza two choices. Leave or die.

I covered the famine in Sudan in 1988 that took 250,000 lives. There are streaks in my lungs, scars from standing amid hundreds of Sudanese who were dying of tuberculosis. I was strong and healthy and fought off the contagion. They were weak and emaciated and did not. The international community, as in Gaza, did little to intervene. 

“Israel has given the Palestinians in Gaza two choices. Leave or die.”

The precursor to starvation — undernourishment — already affects most Palestinians in Gaza. Those who starve lack enough calories to sustain themselves.

In desperation people begin to eat animal fodder, grass, leaves, insects, rodents, even dirt. They suffer from diarrhea and respiratory infections. They rip up tiny bits of food, often spoiled, and ration it. 

Soon, lacking enough iron to produce hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles, coupled with a lack of vitamin B1, they become anemic.

The body feeds on itself. Tissue and muscle waste away. It is impossible to regulate body temperature. Kidneys shut down. Immune systems crash. Vital organs — brain, heart, lungs, ovaries and testes — atrophy.

Blood circulation slows. The volume of blood decreases. Infectious diseases such as typhoid, tuberculosis and cholera become an epidemic, killing people by the thousands.

It is impossible to concentrate. Emaciated victims succumb to mental and emotional withdrawal and apathy. They do not want to be touched or moved. The heart muscle is weakened. Victims, even at rest, are in a state of virtual heart failure. Wounds do not heal.

Vision is impaired with cataracts, even among the young. Finally, wracked by convulsions and hallucinations, the heart stops. This process can last up to 40 days for an adult. Children, the elderly and the sick expire at faster rates.

Israel’s Master Plan

(CSIS | Center for Strategic & International Studies, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I saw hundreds of skeletal figures, specters of human beings, moving forlornly at a glacial pace across the barren Sudanese landscape. Hyenas, accustomed to eating human flesh, routinely picked off small children.

I stood over clusters of bleached human bones on the outskirts of villages where dozens of people, too weak to walk, had laid down in a group and never gotten up. Many were the remains of entire families. 

In the abandoned town of Maya Abun bats dangled from the rafters of the gutted Italian mission church. The streets were overgrown with tussocks of grass.

The dirt airstrip was flanked by hundreds of human bones, skulls and the remnants of iron bracelets, colored beads, baskets and tattering strips of clothing. The palm trees had been cut in half.

People had eaten the leaves and the pulp inside. There had been a rumor that food would be delivered by plane. People had walked for days to the airstrip. They waited and waited and waited. No plane arrived. No one buried the dead. 

Now, from a distance, I watch this happen in another land in another time. I know the indifference that doomed the Sudanese, mostly Dinkas, and today dooms the Palestinians.

The poor, especially when they are of color, do not count.  They can be killed like flies. The starvation in Gaza is not a natural disaster. It is Israel’s masterplan. 

There will be scholars and historians who will write of this genocide, falsely believing that we can learn from the past, that we are different, that history can prevent us from being, once again, barbarians.

They will hold academic conferences. They will say “Never again!” They will praise themselves for being more humane and civilized.

But when it comes time to speak out with each new genocide, fearful of losing their status or academic positions, they will scurry like rats into their holes.

Human history is one long atrocity for the world’s poor and vulnerable. Gaza is another chapter.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR.  He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”

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18 comments for “Chris Hedges: Let Them Eat Dirt

  1. Will Durant
    February 11, 2024 at 19:45

    The only action that will humble and chasten the proud, supremacist, racist state of Israel is for non-aligned and non-Western bloc countries to cut off economic and diplomatic ties, including refusing visas and travel of Israelis to those countries. Such action would be a clear signal in support of international law and the only rebuke that is likely to change the equation. We are all waiting for a sign that Israel’s actions and designs have serious consequences other than posturing by the world community of nations.

  2. Voltaria Voltaire
    February 11, 2024 at 13:18

    The Genocidal maniacs have given the Palestinians 2 choices die or die. The Sinai is not a choice to live. It’s hard for people to believe that people who are motivated solely by destruction can rise to power and influence. They get others to do the killing so they can get away with it longer. They give “justifications” so they can get away with it longer. Only holding them to account and CONTINUING to hold them to account will change things. The owners of the big media, Adelsons, Murdochs, Princes, and others inciting and forwarding this madness need to be investigated for any and all crimes and convicted. Their media mouthpieces need to be boycotted. Only support truth telling independent media.

  3. Bruce Edgar
    February 11, 2024 at 09:06

    Thanks so much Chris. If my dates are correct, it seems the deadline for Israel’s report would be about 15 days from today. I am wondering whether the court is currently gathering reports and evidence that will prepare it to make an instantaneous decision–or will their judgment on compliance be another slow process. I have always thought the the lack of urgency behind having a month to report was a mistake–what justification could there ever be for waiting a month to see compliance when the situation is obviously so urgent. Do you have insights on court behavior behind the scenes, and whether or not they are up to getting their ducks in order in timely fashion?

  4. Piotr Berman
    February 10, 2024 at 20:07

    Frankly, the events in Gaza are so terrible that it is hard for me to follow. Relentless cruelty that would not be possible without the protective shield and assistance of the “collective West”, lead by the most deranged Administration I recall, insanely following clues from the most rabid Israeli government since its inception.

    This descent was gradual, and normalized step by step, but now there is an inferno. So far, the backlash is relatively muted, but I guess it will not stay that way.

  5. Sam F
    February 10, 2024 at 18:00

    Those able to donate to UNRWA to solve this problem can do so at this link:


    Thanks to Chris Hedges for his always valuable work.

  6. mary-lou
    February 10, 2024 at 16:48

    it’s infuriating to realise only one, big international organisation is responsible for aid and relief efforts for the Palestinians. decentralise already, try to establish ways to coöperate on a local or regional level to get support where it’s needed. where are the Red Cross and the Red Crescent initiatives for humanitarian aid?

  7. Mireya
    February 10, 2024 at 15:58

    we are the witness. and we cannot stop it.

    • Diane Rejman
      February 12, 2024 at 12:07

      How many US Veterans were involved in the January 6th insurrection? And yet – not one person has come forth to consider that ALL veterans are responsible.
      Comparisons like this could go on – forever. But, this time, because it is Israel’s decision, they think it’s ok to blame all of UNWRA (whether it is true or not). They have already blamed ALL Palestinians for the actions of Hamas.

      It’s all pretty sickening.

  8. Will Durant
    February 10, 2024 at 14:04

    I see little difference in mindset and methods between what the Nazis did to the Jews and other “undesirables” and how the Zionists view their victims and the crimes they have committed against the Palestinians since the inception of the state of Israel. That my country and others have withdrawn funding prior to a proper investigation of Israel’s allegations shows the rot at the core of the world’s “democracies” and their actual attitude toward international law, which is to say, utter contempt. My own country is descending into a hell of its own making, and pulling the “free world” with it. Who expected this level of folly, barbarity and cruelty at the beginning of the twenty-first century? It is difficult to have hope, but justice will be served because all actions have consequences. We must have hope in the young people who see and are reacting to the horrors, and I am quite proud of the Jewish voices, both here and in Israel, which condemn the perpetrators of the Gaza tragedy. These voices cannot and will not be silenced.

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    February 10, 2024 at 11:55

    HOW??? can a people be so utterly morally deprived??? These actions will NOT be forgotten…

  10. PeeF
    February 10, 2024 at 11:49

    het ergste is: we raken aan de beelden gewend

  11. Eddie S
    February 10, 2024 at 11:03

    Disturbingly real assessment of the situation in Gaza/Israel and the world at large in the final paragraphs. The utter hypocrisy of my U.S. government and the vast indifference of too many of my fellow citizens, which allowed them to vote in these militaristic conservatives starting with ‘St Ronnie’, which pushed the whole zeitgeist to the right such that even the briefly liberal Democrats returned to the historic war-mongering policies that this country tacitly embraces. Where are all the Clintonites with their ’R2P’ when it comes to Gaza? They could bomb Libya when they thought that there MIGHT be an attack on civilians, but when there’s indisputable attacks ACTUALLY HAPPENING in places like Gaza, then I guess they’re too busy worrying about correct pronouns to be bothered.
    More and more I’m resigning myself to the seemingly inevitable accidental nuclear Armageddon that the reactionary forces in the US are pushing us towards. I’ll continue to support peace candidates (the few that there are) and organizations, but realistically it’s looking very bleak in the long term…

  12. SlidingRules
    February 10, 2024 at 09:21

    ” The Nazis in 1942 systematically starved the 500,000 men, women and children in the Warsaw Ghetto. ”

    It was normal practice to aggregate primarily “Jewish populations” into ghettos to render such populations malleable in order to facilitate the final solution of the “Jewish problem” which was never final.

    “When Israeli leaders use the term “absolute victory,” they mean total decimation, total elimination.” but may be disappointed in the aggregation created within “The Greater Israel Ghetto misrepresented as Greater Israel” in order to facilitate at least an emulation of the final solution of the “Jewish problem” not limited to the Samson option.

    Perhaps it would have been better if Mr. Jabotinsky and his disciples had not believed themselves to be “experts” in matters of “nationalism” ?

  13. Drew Hunkins
    February 10, 2024 at 01:22

    Now the Zionist supremacists are set to decimate Rafah. They’re going to send in ground troops to shoot toddlers, murder women, and demolish tent housing!

    Anyone 0f any prominence in the mainstream establishment media, government, NGOs, academic, entertainment, or corporate world who doesn’t speak out against the most disgusting and heinous ethnic cleansing the world has ever witnessed in real time on phone screens and computer monitors is either on the take with Zionist money, a sick little Zionist freak themselves, a sociopath, or is merely a moron.

    This period in time is a real point of distinction — the Zionist state has essentially laid everyone’s cards on the table. It’s one side or the other.

    To view the countless social media clips of Palestinian 6- and 7-year-olds crying in hysterics for their dead moms is something that’s inconceivable and maddening beyond words. And remember, over 80% of the Israeli population supports ostensibly everything the Israeli Defense [sic] Forces has been doing in Gaza!

    A brand of cowardice should be stamped with permanent ink on the foreheads of anyone who knows the score and sits and does absolutely nothing.

    • Sam F
      February 12, 2024 at 09:26

      Yes, most of the politicians/judges/media serve Zionist money as their means to election and advancement, and many of the Zionists are very dumb Christian fundamentalists, socially and economically dependent upon their church tribe. But as H.L. Mencken put it:

      “The average man avoids truth as diligently as he avoids arson, regicide, and piracy on the high seas, and for the same reasons: it is dangerous, no good can come of it, and it doesn’t pay.”

      So the root causes are:
      1. Our excessive social and economic dependency upon tribes;
      2. The failure of the US and the West to exclude the corruption of money from elections;
      3. The failure of the US and the West to exclude the corruption of money from mass media;

      The solutions are:
      1. Public and mass media education to identify tribes, and to avoid social dependency upon them;
      2. Laws and enforcement prohibiting employer discrimination on the basis of politics or tribal identity;
      3. Constitutional amendments prohibiting election activity or funding beyond limited individual donations;
      4. Constitutional amendments prohibiting mass media activity beyond limited individual donations.

      • Drew Hunkins
        February 12, 2024 at 09:54

        I love your solutions Sam F!

  14. TomLaney
    February 10, 2024 at 00:12

    God help us all!

  15. firstpersoninfinite
    February 9, 2024 at 19:15

    An excellent commentary, Chris Hedges. And it can only be concluded that this moment, this extermination, is the apogee of our civilization to the minds of those perpetuating it, paying for it, or hoping for results by its completion that provide without fail what they have dreamed of having: the absolute validity to kill anyone they choose whenever they wish. What kind of fever dream must it be to expect a genocide to have no repercussions except the ones you wish to see fulfilled? At the very least you don’t embark on such a dark experiment in power unless you have made certain beforehand that any collective action against you can be avoided or turned back to those personal ends you were always seeking to achieve. It seems to me that this is an Armageddon of the earthly variety, not the universal variety that John of Patmos dreamed up in a cacophony of temple hieroglyphics and heat lightning. This is a moment chosen to conform to a historical idea which someone believes no force within its own realm can defer or deny. The nation state has no real meaning anymore; it is but a chess piece waiting for a clear space on the board to open, but the global capital state still has many borders to draw.

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