Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, paid an
official visit to Palestine in July 2003.
This the first time a UN Rapporteur was allowed to investigate the situation in the occupied territories.
Jean Ziegler submitted his report in early August tothe High Commission for Human Rights, as well as to the
two parties concerned, and is due to present it to the General Assembly in New York in the autumn. Tel Aviv
understands all too well the threat posed by this report and is doing all it can to undermine Ziegler's findings: it has already complained to the UN that the High Commission made the report public before Israel had the chance to officially acknowledge it. The report states that the hunger and malnutrition present since the beginning of the occupation are directly linked to Israel's punitive and apartheid-style policy, and are in no way induced by natural
causes. The report shows with extreme precision how Israel has attempted to cow Palestinians in the
territories it occupies through combined military might and a deliberate "starvation policy".
"About 60-percent of Palestinians are now living in acute poverty ... and are now completely dependent on
food aid; less than one in two households has access to one meal a day." You cannot fail to understand the
despair of a parent who has no means to feed his family. In his 25-page report, Jean Ziegler doesn't mince
words. He shows great courage, firmness and directness qualities all too rarely present at the Unitedperception as onlookers; whereas the media report the targeted assassinations and suicide bombings with stunning regularity, not a word is said of this unseen tragedy".
Appalled by such a humanitarian catastrophe - "worse than I imagined" -Ziegler hasn't felt inclined to pull
his punches. The wall under construction, he writes,
Nations. His assertions, as precise as they are striking, should make waves and land Israel in the
dock, if the media only give the report the importance it deserves. All is there: violations of the right to
food and of human rights, the wall of apartheid,confiscation of land and water resources, humiliations,
deportations ...According to Ziegler, the escalating food crisis in the occupied territories is definitely meant by Israel. As a result "over 22-percent of children under five are now suffering from malnutrition ... about 15-percent
suffer from acute anemia, which for many will have permanent negative effects on their physical and mental
development." These statistics are all the more disturbing as they apply to a fertile land that was always self-sufficient before the Israeli occupation..
Ziegler has compiled evidence that Israel has resorted to the silent weapon of hunger and slow death while
simultaneously launching attacks. Continuous destruction of Palestinian homes and the closing-off of
entire parts of the territories, preventing people from reaching their work places and farmers from getting to
their fields, have brought the economy to its knees. These measures alone are "directly responsible for the
slow agony of the martyred people of Palestine".The members of the mission led by Jean Ziegler returned
in a state of shock and were astounded by "the huge difference between reality on the ground and our
"constitutes yet another violation of the right to food by Israel, which, de facto, confiscates thousands of
hectares of fertile land at a time". "This up to eight-metre-high wall is Sharon's latest idea when pushed by
the international community to accept the creation of a Palestinian state.""It is unacceptable that military measures meant toprotect the Israeli population are imposed in such away that they endanger the food security of the whole
Palestinian population," Ziegler adds. "There can be nojustification for harsh internal closures that prevent
people from having access to food and water; otherwisethe imposition of such military measures amount to what
has been called a 'policy of starvation' ... Thewidespread imposition of curfews, roadblocks and travel
permits is the source of the humanitarian crisis."Furthermore, "the totally disproportionate security
measures ... bantustanisation of Palestine,unprecedented destruction of trees, irrigation systems
"There is a permanent, grave violation of the right
to food by the occupying forces. There is a
catastrophic humanitarian situation, and really it is
absurd," he said at the time.
"Markets don 't function, peasants don't go to the
field, and they are humiliated in a very, very
Israel had earlier complained because Ziegler had
presented his findings to the media before he had
given them to the Israeli government.
"Mr. Ziegler abused the credentials he possesses ...
in order to embark on a media campaign to blast the
state of Israel," Levy said. He added that he believes
U.N. authorities should "consider Mr. Ziegler unfit
for future assignments."
Ziegler told The Associated Press that he had been
involved with the Alternative Information Center for
at least 15 years, as are many other academics -
Israeli, Palestinian and international.
"The aim of the information center is an aim of which
I totally approve - to maintain dialogue."
He said U.N. independent experts have the right to
belong to organizations that are based in democratic
countries and pointed out that some are appointed
directly because of their involvement with
organizations such as Amnesty International.
"This in no way hinders my objectivity or
and infrastructure, deprive many Palestinians of theirright to food", thus making their very survivalimpossible.
As I write these words, the debate is raging about JeanZiegler's report. The Israelis do not accept its
content, judging it to be politically biased and areaccusing Jean Ziegler of a "political attack that will
lead nowhere". They have announced they will be lodgingprotests with the UN.For his part, Jean Ziegler is unflappable. "My mandateis precise: the respect of the right to both solid andliquid food. That is my only concern. I saw ahorrifying humanitarian disaster which worsens becauseof the occupation. I have carried my mandate to the
letter; I have reported drastic deterioration of thedietary situation of the Palestinian population and the
reasons for its being. I have merely pointed out theobligations an occupying force has to the population
under its control. Therefore I have only done my job".
All those who have fought hard over the years inside
Palestine and from outside Palestine for the truth to
come out can take their hats off to Jean Ziegler. He
will undoubtedly be Israel's next target and will know
the fear and intimidation of all those who dare speak
out against its criminal policies.
Jean Ziegler knew what he was letting himself in for.
He could have chosen a less intimidating region; many
other countries await his arrival. But after Brazil and
Bangladesh, he has chosen to go to occupied Palestine
and to give a hint of justice to the Palestinian people
that Israel wants to starve to death.
He is ready to pay the price for his courage.
Israel Demands Withdrawal of Food Report
GENEVA (AP) - Israel on Thursday demanded the
withdrawal of a United Nations report on the food
situation in the Palestinian territories, claiming the
author is politically biased.
Yaakov Levy, Israel's ambassador in Geneva, wrote to
the chairwoman of the U.N. Human Rights Commission
demanding that Jean Ziegler's report be "deemed unfit
for presentation" to the commission when it meets in the spring.The move follows an interview with Ziegler on French television channel LCI, in which he said he was a member of the board of directors of the Tel Aviv-based Alternative Information Center, which describes itself as "a Palestinian-Israeli organization which disseminates information, research and political analysis ... while promoting cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis based on the values of social justice, solidarity and community involvement." Levy wrote in his letter that "Ziegler showed his true colors. He openly admitted for the first time to membership in a politically biased non-governmental organization."Ziegler, a Swiss sociology professor and former lawmaker, is the U.N.'s independent expert on the right to food. He visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in July and later said the Palestinians had been "reduced to begging" by Israeli security measures.independence," he said.Unusually, the Israeli government had welcomed
Ziegler's visit and allowed him to go where he wanted and ask questions of Israeli officials. In the past,
the government has refused to cooperate with visits by U.N. human rights experts, insisting that their mandates are biased .Its cooperation with Ziegler may have stemmed from his earlier high-profile criticism of Swiss banks for
their handling of Nazi assets during World War II.