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Alexandria Fanjoy Silver

To AOC: You keep using that word

Starvation can indeed be a feature of genocide – I just think you've forgotten who is the one generating that famine

Hey Alexandria, I’m also Alexandria. I also like to go by my three initials. I suspect that’s where the similarities between us and our lives end. I am blessedly not as well-known as you are, and I have no knowledge or interest in political spheres. I suspect that there are a great many things that you know way more about than I do. But, Alexandria to Alexandria (can we speak like this, woman to woman?), I suspect that I know more about what the term genocide means than you do. Despite the fact that you have gone on TV and couldn’t define what “the occupation of Palestine” really meant and admitted that you weren’t “an expert in geopolitics,” that doesn’t seem to have stopped you from weighing in on things that you don’t actually understand very well. 

See, I’m a scholar of genocide. I’ve actually got a PhD in it. Yes, my primary focus is the Holocaust, but I have also done extensive studies on the genocide in Rwanda, and upon the beginning of the war in Ukraine, I also dedicated many hours to study of the Ukrainian genocide. I, like you, agree that the concept of “forced famine” is genocidal. However, my concern about your statement is the government you are ascribing genocidal intent to. 

The situation in Gaza is absolutely horrific. As a mother, I look at the kids who are teetering on the brink of starvation, and my heart cries out for them. As a human being, I look at the realities of their lives, and I feel broken-hearted. And as a scholar of genocide, this falls short on every level, but let’s come back to that question later. Let’s say you are right, there is a forced famine in Gaza. Then aren’t you actually calling Hamas genocidal? (That would be something else you and I agree on). Hear me out. 

You said on CNN that the actions of Hamas don’t excuse the starvation of the Palestinian people. I agree with you there. But what about when the actions of Hamas are, in fact, stealing said food aid? I notice that you don’t mention that. Why are people in Gaza complaining that the food aid is “too expensive” or that it is “missing protein”? Why is aid food for sale? Why is it of poor quality? Because Hamas has taken almost all of it. Hamas, who drew this war into their own borders, who built an underground city on purpose so that when Israel finally had to come after them, they had to cut through vast swathes of civilians. Hamas who embedded themselves in civilian infrastructure. Hamas, who worked hand-in-hand with UNRWA. UNRWA has even tweeted a few times about how people “purporting to be from the ministry of health” took all of the water and food — don’t worry, those were deleted almost immediately, can’t have them acknowledging the truth behind the incestuous Hamas/ UNRWA working relationship. Given the nature of how Hamas has been stealing aid from the beginning hours of this war (or, really, since the first hour of their election), doesn’t that make them even a little bit responsible? Or, you know, almost exclusively responsible for it? This weekend alone, COGAT (the Israeli organization organizing humanitarian aid) reports over 7 million pounds of food entered Gaza. I suspect the citizens of Gaza, those who are serving, will not see all of that. 

Taken from @cogatonline https://twitter.com/cogatonline/status/1771956760716132862/photo/1

To be honest, the number of times you’ve accused Israel of committing genocide is becoming almost farcical. In all of the genocides I’ve studied, never has a supposed perpetrator of said genocide provided or helped facilitate the provision of food to the people they’re supposed to be murdering. Or repeatedly offered ceasefires, which would aid in food distribution. To act with genocidal intent usually requires the full diversion of food away from the population and many men and materiel towards murder. Israel is a country that is struggling to get food aid to people while simultaneously not giving it to Hamas, who has demonstrated repeatedly their willingness and ability to steal everything that is supposed to go to their civilians. Do you think that the head of Hamas is living in a fancy hotel in Qatar for no reason? 

Now, is there insufficient aid getting in? Absolutely. But there are also actual images of huge amounts of aid awaiting distribution on the Gaza side of the Rafah border, none of which has been distributed.

Taken from COGAT twitter @cogatonline https://twitter.com/cogatonline/status/1771887185161069023

And yes, the reports that Israelis blocked food aid trucks for a number of days are true — but you know which Israelis they were? The families of the hostages who the Red Cross has yet to even lay eyes on. Perhaps we can understand that emotional reaction a little bit more (one which the “genocidal” government of Israel has now put an end to), given that many of them watched Hamas livestream the rape and abduction of their sons and daughters into Gaza while people cheered.

You need to be more careful about bandying around words that I’m afraid you don’t understand. In your rush to blame Israel for all of the evils of the world, you’re very willing to hold them responsible for committing genocide, the most barbarous of crimes. What has happened to the people of Gaza is horrific. But don’t be so naive as to assume that just because you have a framework in your head through which you view all of the actions of the world, that that lens demonstrates an absolute truth. 

Israel is a country at war, and war is lethal and messy and horrible. Egypt too seeks to ensure Hamas’ destruction, because they are an almost equal threat to their own security. Many of those trucks that are backed up at the border are there waiting to go through Egyptian inspection. But, in the morality play in your head, what, since the Egyptians are “brown” and apparently powerless, they therefore escape your notice and aspersions? Your lens of the world tends to equate anyone who is not white as powerless and therefore automatically imbued with greater morality; thus the only evil in the region is the one actor that is perceived as white? This morality play you have seems to make you see everything in binaries, but aren’t politicians supposed to be some of the best educated among us (or, you know, at least they used to be)? Complexity and nuance are significant here, and it alarms me how little of you seem to be able to handle. There are many actors at play here who are responsible for the tragedy of the Palestinian people, and if a forced famine is occurring, it is largely occurring at the hands of Hamas. And because of useful idiots like you, they can get away with stealing food out of the mouths of their own hungry people, and have the world blame Israel exclusively for that privation.

Genocide is a big term, and it has an actual definition. And ultimately, if you’re going to argue that forced starvation is part of said definition, as a historian, I wouldn’t disagree with you. I just think you’ve forgotten who is the one generating that famine; it’s the same genocidal death cult you’ve somehow backed yourself into defending.

– AFS

About the Author
Dr. Alexandria Fanjoy Silver has a B.A. from Queen's University, an MA/ MA from Brandeis and a PhD from the University of Toronto (all in history and education). She lives in Toronto with her husband and three children, and works as a Jewish history teacher. She writes about Jewish food history on Substack @bitesizedhistory and talks about Israeli history on Insta @afanjoysilver.
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