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The Mass Media

Gaza beyond the death toll

Every time I’ve sat down to write this, I have been stunned into silence by the sheer cruelty and callousness that the millions living in Gaza have faced and continue to face. As of March 7, the Palestinian death toll stands at 31,224 people, with more than 8,000 missing or trapped underneath rubble, according to Al Jazeera. [1] That’s a shocking enough number on its own—if a comparable percentage of people in the United States had been killed, that would be equivalent to 4,488,981 dead Americans, based on population data from the United States Census Bureau. [2] However, there’s more to the massacre in Gaza than just these statistics can reveal.  

In addition to the dead, at least 72,298 Palestinians in Gaza are injured. [1] In Gaza, being injured can be a death sentence, in and of itself. An article from NBC tells a horrifying story of a 10-year-old girl injured in a bombing in Rafah, which had been designated as a safe zone earlier in the war. The doctor who saw her recounted, “In a functioning hospital, stabilizing her would have taken three minutes. In Gaza, she died within 10 minutes.” The article goes on to explain that as of mid-January, there are no functioning hospitals in Gaza, and only 15 remain partially functional, all of which are overwhelmed with injured patients and are severely understaffed. As a result, “people are dying very slowly and with no dignity and often in a lot of pain.” [3] 

What that death statistic also won’t tell you is how many Palestinians are currently starving in every corner of Gaza. CNN reported that hundreds of thousands of Gazans are in famine, and the entire population of Gaza is facing acute food insecurity. As Israel blocks nearly all aid from entering Gaza, the head of the World Food Programme said, “People in Gaza risk dying of hunger just miles from trucks filled with food.” [4] Another headline reads, “Newborns die of hunger and mothers struggle to feed their children as Israel’s siege condemns Gazans to starvation.” [5] 

Even when aid reaches Gazans, they are massacred for it. Just last week, the Associated Press reported that more than 100 people were murdered and hundreds more injured by Israeli soldiers, according to eyewitness accounts. Doctors receiving wounded patients reported that most of the wounded had bullet wounds, contrary to Israel’s official stance that many died from being trampled, and that troops only fired when they “felt endangered” by the crowd. [6] Even in the unlikely event that recount is true, it is still unimaginably cruel. Dozens of armed soldiers gunned down hundreds of unarmed, starving Palestinians desperately trying to get to aid, because their rushing toward the trucks was, apparently, threatening. This is inexcusable.  

Think about the ripple effect every casualty in Gaza has. For every mother that dies, she leaves behind her children, now potentially orphans. Entire families are being wiped out with no recourse for their relatives or friends, who may never know what happened to their loved ones. Hundreds of journalists, paramedics and hospital workers are among the dead. [1] Millions of people, nearly half of whom are children, are left without food, shelter, water and medicine. 

Israel’s occupation of Palestine has destroyed more than “just” lives. The Israeli Defense Forces indiscriminately bomb mosques, churches, universities and other cultural institutions. Many of these buildings are among the oldest in the world, and it’s not as easy as simply rebuilding them. They represent a purposeful destruction of Palestinian culture, art and education. There is, of course, the mental toll that every Gazan takes after months of relentless bombing, especially when they are targeted for even trying to access food and medicine. And according to an article published by the Middle East Eye, Palestinians across the world struggle with survivor’s guilt, grief and loss as their relatives and loved ones are massacred and stranded in a war zone. [7] 

The United States is not doing enough. There is nothing the United States could possibly do to make up for its months of inaction, but it still isn’t even doing the bare minimum. Following Israel’s food truck massacre, the U.S. dropped 38,000 MREs onto a beach in Gaza, according to Task & Purpose, a publication devoted to reporting on veteran and military affairs. [8] The U.S. military opted to drop MREs instead of Humanitarian Daily Rations, the latter of which contains twice as many calories and is far easier to prepare, citing an urgent need to release meals as quickly as possible. The Army also dropped the rations during extremely windy conditions, causing many of them to fly away.

Tahani Mustafa, the senior Palestine analyst for the International Crisis Group, said, “The entire distribution system has just been a complete and total failure.” The Biden administration also announced a deeply flawed weeks-long plan to build an aid port in Gaza, despite having no existing infrastructure to distribute any aid that might come into the port. [9] 

America needs to do more. All of us need to do more. The U.S. response has been one of overwhelming support—even as Biden lightly criticizes Netanyahu, he turns around and continues to send Israel millions of dollars in military aid while retaliating against Yemen for their blockading it. [10] There is no possible “both sides” argument; there is no argument for self-defense; this is a one-sided genocide of starvation and murder. As many before me have said, if you have ever wondered what you would have done during other genocides throughout history, look now at what you’re doing for Gaza.  



[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/longform/2023/10/9/israel-hamas-war-in-maps-and-charts-live-tracker  

[2] https://www.census.gov/popclock/  

[3] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/gaza-hospitals-collapsing-rcna132439 

[4] https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/16/middleeast/gaza-famine-starvation-un-israel-war-intl-hnk/index.html  

[5] https://www.cnn.com/2024/03/06/middleeast/israel-gaza-starvation-siege-mothers-babies-intl/index.html?iid=cnn_buildContentRecirc_end_recirc  

[6] https://apnews.com/article/israel-hamas-war-news-02-29-2024-f9b5a62a80d8b83eac4946d3c85af58b  

[7] https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/war-gaza-guilt-rage-diaspora-palestinian  

[8] https://taskandpurpose.com/news/us-airdrop-gaza-mre/  

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/07/gaza-floating-port-aid-palestinians-impact  

[10] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/biden-increases-criticism-israel-gaza-still-provides-military-aid-rcna141775  

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor