GAZA STRIP, GAZA – APRIL 23: United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) aid trucks wait for Israel’s permission before entering Gaza on April 23, 2024. The trucks waiting near Gaza Valley will enter the north via Rashid Street after the permission to be given by Israel. Among the aid materials prepared to be delivered to Kemal Adwan and Awde Hospitals in the north, there are medicines and food materials as well as fuel. (Photo by Anas Zeyad Fteha/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Last week, the United Nations’ World Food Program said, “The threat of famine in Gaza never loomed larger,” while the New York Times asked how food and medicine “will enter and be distributed across Gaza.” But why, then, were there hundreds of “sleeping trucks” with undistributed humanitarian aid at the Kerem Shalom crossing when I visited Israel to investigate the situation of humanitarian assistance?  

“Sleeping trucks” is the term used to describe Israeli-inspected vehicles filled with food and humanitarian supplies that have been transferred to the Palestinian side of a crossing but are not picked up by international aid organizations to distribute to Gazan civilians. One of the primary distribution culprits is UNWRA, the U.N. agency infected with Hamas.  

UNRWA’s former general counsel, James Lindsay, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that “UNRWA’s leadership is incompetent and willfully obstructionist … [and] has made no serious efforts to avoid hiring terrorists. … It would not be surprising to learn that as many as half of UNRWA’s employees were Hamas supporters — of whom some likely would-be Hamas members.” 

Lt. Col. (ret.) Avi Shalev, an expert on Israel’s humanitarian work with the Palestinians for over 20 years and a former government adviser for Palestinian Affairs, told me, “Regarding famine in Gaza, it should be stated that when the U.N.’s interests and perspectives are synchronized with that of radical Islamic terror organizations, the sufferings of the people of Gaza and Israel are heightened and guaranteed.”  

In America, the media and critics of Israel report verbatim the allegations against Israel of these humanitarian aid agencies.  

Israel’s actual goal is to “overwhelm” Gaza with food so that Hamas’s looting of food won’t create a famine, which will in turn be blamed on Israel. To understand the challenge, Hamas regularly targets the Karen Shalom crossing, recently killing four Israeli soldiers there. On Oct. 7, Hamas destroyed all the humanitarian crossings, taking some soldiers hostage and killing others. 

With Israel’s war now focused on Rafah, on the Egyptian-Gaza border, Egypt has responded by closing its border. Even with Egypt barring aid to the Palestinian people in protest of the Rafah operation, about 451 trucks were able to cross into Gaza via two border crossings this week. Many trucks are coming through other border crossings in the center and the north of the Gaza Strip. This does not count the new U.S. pier, expected to bring an additional 60 trucks daily. 

Why Egyptian Arabs are punishing fellow Palestinian Arabs by stopping aid is another discussion. Then again, the Egyptians have also refused to accept any Palestinian Gazans trying to escape the Hamas war. 

Lt. Col. Shalev told me that “Rafah remains important because Kerem Shalom and the Erez crossing continue to suffer from mortar and missile attacks from Gaza militants to this day,” a fact conveniently omitted in the media’s reporting that paints Israel in the worst possible light.  

According to the Israeli government, on May 15, even with the Egyptians closing Rafah, 248 trucks were inspected and transferred to the Gaza Strip. Twenty-six bakeries were operational last month, providing close to 5 million loaves of bread, rolls and pita breads daily, and there are eight operational field hospitals

Are Gazans dying of thirst and starving? An Israeli aid official told me that the caloric intake available per person is 2,700 calories. According to the Cleveland Clinic website, adults 21 years and older should consume anywhere between 1,600 and 3,000 calories per day. However, the water situation is more challenging, as 30 liters per day per person are available — below the 70 liters available before the war. Israel provides tens of thousands of liters per day via pipelines, and has approved a new one at the Nahal Oz crossing. And Israel is working to restore cellular service to Gaza, a far cry from a nation committing a siege.  

During a brutal war started by Hamas, using its civilian homes and citizens as human shields to hide its munitions and its 300-mile underground terror tunnel system, it is inevitable there would be times of significant food insecurity. But the current claims of deliberately withholding food are false. Much like the overstated Hamas and U.N. claims of Palestinian civilian casualties, which were significantly downgraded last week by the U.N., the administration appears to take the word of compromised international aid organizations and Hamas without scrutiny.  

In February, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) accused Israel of using famine as a weapon of war.  

“Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food,” he said. “That is a war crime … and that makes those who orchestrate it, war criminals.”  

In response, an Israeli government official said, “The only people withholding food from kids in Gaza are Hamas, which is hijacking aid. That’s a war crime, and UNRWA is complicit with it by covering it up. … (There is) excess capacity at its crossings for as much food, water, medicine, and shelter equipment as international donors want to send.”  

What I learned firsthand and through research directly contradicts Van Hollen’s accusations. Much of the problem lies with the international aid organizations’ logistical incompetence and Hamas’s looting and reselling of aid. The accusations against Israel will almost certainly continue, but that does not mean we need to take the word of compromised actors at face value.  

President Biden, challenging our primary ally to keep up the humanitarian aid is fair. But joining with those who want to make Israel an international pariah for political gain this election season undermines your legacy. You chose the right path in the months after Oct. 7, supporting our indispensable ally in the Middle East. American security interests benefit when we publicly support Israel, giving it the benefit of the doubt, and keeping our criticism private. 

Eric R. Mandel is director of the Middle East Political Information Network. 

By mepin