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Ramadan for the Indomitable People of Gaza

13/03/24

Despite the war and hunger, have a blessed Ramadan.” (Message sprayed on a wall in Gaza)

This year, the advent of Ramadan has been a source of distress for many, following over five months of conflict in Gaza, where the UN reports approximately two million Palestinians have been displaced. Numerous individuals are now seeking refuge in displacement camps, educational facilities, and temporary shelters.

On 9th of October, Israel ceased all deliveries of fuel, food, water, aid, and electricity to Gaza. The continuous aerial attacks targeting hospitals, bakeries, grocery stores, and pharmacies have completely devastated the healthcare system, compelling residents to scavenge for food scraps for survival.

Since the conflict began on 7 October, over 30,900 Palestinians in Gaza have lost their lives, and another 70,000 have been injured. The UN disclosed last Saturday that 80 percent of Gaza has become uninhabitable, with the entire population suffering from food scarcity. [1]

The UN along with various humanitarian organizations have consistently alerted that Gaza is nearing a severe famine, urging Israel to permit immediate aid entry. Since the conflict’s inception, malnutrition and dehydration have claimed the lives of at least 25 individuals, including a 10-year-old child with cerebral palsy. The rampant hunger has intensified the apprehension surrounding Ramadan, a period when Muslims traditionally fast from dawn till dusk. [1]

In an attempt to alleviate the situation, a ship with 200 tonnes of aid set sail from Cyprus to Gaza on Tuesday, marking an initiative to establish a maritime route for supply delivery. Additionally, Morocco has aligned with countries like the US, Egypt, Jordan, France, and the UAE in air-dropping assistance into Gaza. This effort by Morocco, reported by local media on Monday, marks its first venture into delivering aid via air to the embattled region. However, experts argue that the volume of aid being airdropped is minuscule compared to the actual needs, labeling it as grossly inadequate amidst the deliberate starvation imposed by Israeli restrictions. Despite the dire need, Israel persists in obstructing the entry of aid trucks into Gaza as millions confront the threat of starvation. [2]

On Tuesday, the World Food Program announced its success in delivering food aid to northern Gaza for the first time in three weeks, highlighting the extreme challenges in providing essential humanitarian assistance to the region’s famished population, as reported by Anadolu Agency. “WFP delivered food sufficient for 25,000 individuals to Gaza City early Tuesday, marking the first successful convoy to the north since February 20,” stated the UN agency on X. The agency emphasised the critical need for daily deliveries and direct access points into northern Gaza, given the imminent threat of famine facing its inhabitants. [2]

Before the onset of Ramadan, Palestinians in Gaza were compelled to take drastic measures to combat increasing starvation, a situation exacerbated by Israel’s continuous bombings and a complete blockade initiated in October. In an attempt to mitigate food shortages, many households throughout the besieged territory resorted to blending various ingredients with flour to produce bread using traditional methods. This led to the consumption of bread made from animal feed and birdseed, which, while addressing hunger, has resulted in health issues, especially among children. The lack of clean water and adequate sanitation has further compromised their health, leaving residents with no alternative but to consume such harmful substances.

Abu Anas, a resident living near a mill, expressed that the scarcity of affordable food in Gaza, compounded by the destruction of nearly all bakeries and supermarkets due to bombings, has forced families to revert to primitive cooking methods and makeshift ovens. Those who can afford it try to sell the food they make, despite the challenges.

A UN report from December highlighted that 93% of Gaza’s inhabitants are experiencing “crisis levels of hunger,” with one-fourth of the territory’s population facing “catastrophic hunger and starvation.” The World Food Programme (WFP) remarked on Thursday, stating that “the entire population is acutely food insecure, with over a quarter of them – half a million people – suffering at IPC5, the highest level of hunger, meaning they are enduring starvation.” Euro-Med Human Rights has recorded several starvation-related deaths, including among infants. [3]

Human Rights Watch has accused the use of starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza, labeling it a war crime. According to their report, “Israeli forces are purposefully obstructing the supply of water, food, and fuel, as well as obstructing humanitarian aid, apparently destroying agricultural zones, and removing essential survival resources from civilians.” The situation is further exacerbated by Israeli protesters, including family members of those taken to Gaza on October 7th, who are preventing emergency aid from entering the area via the Kerem Shalom border crossing. [3]

The crisis in Gaza is raising alarms in Israel as well. Israeli doctors are concerned about the health crisis in Gaza and the potential for disease transmission to Israel. After reviewing data from international health organisations in Gaza, they’ve observed a rise in serious illnesses such as severe pneumonia, intestinal inflammations, diarrhea, chickenpox, and hepatitis A. Nadav Davidovitch, an Israeli professor and chair of the Public Health Association, warned that these outbreaks could threaten both Israel and Israeli hostages. Additionally, the flow of sewage water from Gaza into the sea might contaminate Israeli beaches and water desalination plants. [3]

In their fight for survival, the people of Gaza are subjected to additional suffering through the psychological warfare waged by the Israeli Defense Forces, which includes dropping leaflets from the sky. These leaflets urge the population to “feed the needy and speak kindly” during a period when the Israeli blockade has left hundreds of thousands at risk of starvation, lacking access to food and water. The leaflets, printed in Arabic and adorned with images of lanterns commonly used in Ramadan decorations, carry a prayer hoping for the acceptance of fasts, forgiveness of sins, and a bountiful iftar for Palestinians in the area. [4]

Meanwhile, in France, the daily newspaper Liberation is facing backlash for a cartoon that ridicules the dire situation of Palestinians in Gaza as they search for food amidst fasting. Created by artist Corinne Rey, the cartoon shows a gaunt Palestinian man attempting to catch rats and cockroaches in a backdrop of ruins and devastation, while a woman rebukes him with a reminder not to eat before sunset. [5]

Critics have condemned the cartoon as a gross example of Western and French media’s dehumanisation of Palestinians and insensitivity towards the ongoing severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza. One social media user criticised the depiction as trivialising the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, while another commentator accused the center-left publication of making light of what they described as the fastest, most catastrophic, deliberate starvation of a population, emphasising the plight of 2.3 million starving Palestinians under bombardment, half of whom are children. This incident is part of a troubling pattern in France, where media outlets have previously faced criticism for insensitively mocking Muslim countries experiencing humanitarian crises, including a controversial instance in February 2023 when the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was criticised for mocking the victims of the devastating Turkey-Syria earthquake, which resulted in over 55,000 deaths and left thousands injured.

Despite the overwhelming catastrophe that has unfolded, a beacon of hope and inspiration shines brightly through the superhuman dignity, resilience, courage, and honor displayed by the Palestinian people. In areas of northern Gaza, families have spray-painted the portions of their homes that remain intact with Ramadan wishes. In the midst of this holy month, their unwavering spirit has transcended borders and faiths, serving as a profound source of inspiration not only to Muslims around the globe but to all individuals who hold the values of decency and justice in high regard. Their ability to persevere, maintain hope, and exhibit profound strength in the face of unprecedented adversity highlights the indomitable spirit of humanity.

 

 

[1] Middle East Eye. (2024). Starving Palestinians in Gaza prepare for Ramadan amid death and destruction. [online] Available at: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/war-gaza-starving-palestinians-gaza-prepare-ramadan-destruction-death.

[2] Middle East Monitor. (2024). At Least 15 children have died from malnutrition and dehydration at gaza hospital. [online] Available at: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20240303-live-updates-at-least-15-children-have-died-from-malnutrition-and-dehydration-at-gaza-hospital/.

[3] Middle East Eye. (2024). Palestinians in Gaza forced to mix animal fodder with flour to make bread. [online] Available at: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/war-gaza-palestinians-forced-mix-animal-fodder-flour-make-bread.

[4] Middle East Eye. (2024). ‘Feed the needy’: Israel air drops Ramadan leaflets on Gaza amid widespread starvation. [online] Available at: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/war-gaza-israel-air-drops-ramadan-leaflets-gaza-amid-widespread-starvation.

[5] Middle East Eye. (2024). French newspaper Liberation accused of racism over cartoon mocking starving Palestinians. [online] Available at: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/war-gaza-french-newspaper-liberation-criticised-over-cartoon-mocking-starving-palestinians.

 

Tariq Kurd was born and grew up in Hertfordshire. His family is originally from Halabja, Kurdistan but due to periodic migration currently reside across the Baluchistan region.
He has a BA Hons. in History from the Open University. Besides English, Tariq can speak Baluchi and Brahvi, he is also conversant in Persian and Pashto.
His has an eclectic range of interests including military and tribal history. Tariq lives in London and is currently studying Islamic apologetics through the Sapience Institute.