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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Opinion | We must recognize manufactured famines

Irelands+Prime+Minister+Leo+Varadkar%2C+right%2C+presents+President+Joe+Biden+with+a+bowl+of+shamrocks+during+a+St.+Patricks+Day+reception+in+the+East+Room+of+the+White+House%2C+Sunday%2C+March+17%2C+2024.
AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough
Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, right, presents President Joe Biden with a bowl of shamrocks during a St. Patrick’s Day reception in the East Room of the White House, Sunday, March 17, 2024.

As of two weeks ago, 20 people, most of them children, have already starved to death in Gaza. The IPC’s Famine Review Committee has urged attention to the “imminent” crisis Israel is inflicting. By now, it is impossible to ignore that the state is enabled to do this by the United State’s funding. While this reality unfolds in Gaza, and Palestinians are forced to consider if they would rather lose their loved ones to airstrikes or mass shootings or watch them slowly starve to death, the U.S. has ceased funding to the main UN relief branch. 

Like many others, I watched as Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar seemingly scolded Biden about Palestine on his St. Patrick’s day visit to the White House last week. Varadkar, from the center-right party Fine Gael, resigned shortly after his speech at the White House, in a move which many — mostly those unfamiliar with the current state of Irish politics — suspect may have been due to backlash surrounding his remarks in solidarity with Palestinians. 

I doubt that this is true, given the party that Varadkar works for, and his apparent lack of a backbone during this term as Taoiseach — he also served in that position from 2017-20 — regarding Palestine. He is not being punished for the faint spotlight he cast on Palestinian suffering. I have seen many Americans post clips from his speeches on social media in the last few months, celebrating his apparent “courage” along with that of other, actually outspoken and valiant politicians, like Clare Daly. I understand that, compared to the hideous silence of other politicians, Varadkar’s lukewarm solidarity with Palestinians appears powerful. In reality, his track record puts Ireland’s courage and history of similar suffering to shame.

Varadkar did not hesitate to condemn Hamas, understandably, but shared no such explicit condemnation of the Israeli or U.S. governments in the months after Oct. 7, despite massive protests in solidarity with Palestinians across Ireland. He continued to entertain Biden’s ridiculous notions of his Irish identity as a political tool, even going so far as to call him a “son of Ireland.”

As I am not a member of the Irish diaspora, it is not my place to determine whether anyone’s connection to the country should be severed by their lifetime of clumsily exploiting Irish tragedies to bolster their political reputation. There is something remarkably ghoulish about Biden’s construction and reiteration of his Irish identity — how he often mentions his ancestors’ suffering at the hands of the British, how he’s apparently frequently fond of quoting Yeats’ poetry on republicanism. One can only imagine how all those who lost their lives in the republican movement would feel, listening to a warmonger bastardize their sacrifice to bolster his public image, likely to bomb and starve with more leeway. One can only imagine the cognitive dissonance necessary to reference the Irish famine to score political capital from voters urging him to stop his cabinet from financing one of the worst violations of human rights in the last century.

The Irish famine’s relevance here lies not only in the profound insult of how it is referenced but also in that it was not a naturally occurring famine. The “potato blight” narrative that so many American — and many English — students were taught is a fallacy. The British control over the land and their decision to “give” large tracts of land to Protestant settlers, allowing their army captains and state-backed colonists to determine what to do with Irish lands, is what killed approximately one million Irish men, women and children. 

On St. Patrick’s day, people — particularly Americans — are fond of eating green food, even artificially coloring it in order to do so. One wonders if they know that the origins of the day are a perhaps accidentally similar visual to the thousands of Irish bodies discovered, dead among everyone they’d hoped to share a future with, mouths stained green from eating grass. One wonders how it is that large-scale brutality of this sort eventually becomes repackaged and sanitized, taught in schools as an accident — a consequence of nature’s brutality and not that of an empire.

Reports are circulating that Palestinians are eating grass now. They are trying to survive on animal feed. And their conditions are being reported as “extreme hunger” and “threat of starvation” as if starvation was something that happened naturally, as if it was within the realm of human instinct to allow your own children to starve. Palestinians are not going hungry on their own. Israel is starving them — blockading aid and massacring desperate Palestinians willing to risk their lives for bags of flour. American media then reports these deaths, over 100 of them, as “aid-related” rather than as what they are — a mass shooting of civilians trying to feed their families. 

This is an engineered, deliberate famine. Biden’s government has done nothing to impede it, choosing instead to permit the blockade of aid, to continue to fund and deny massacres and to bastardize and exploit Irish history in a pathetic attempt to garner some affection from a public who sees him for what he is. At best, he is a bumbling, incapable fool well past the point where he can come up with a coherent thought. The more likely option is that he’s like a fanatical racist with no ambition save for the growth of the imperial core he has devoted his life to, regardless of what devastation it causes for the rest of the world. 

Food and water are human rights. Anyone who denies that, anyone who does not do anything in their power to secure those rights, is someone incapable of understanding the sanctity of life. Their ancestry is irrelevant because the way they have chosen to live has rotted an essential part of them to the point where they cannot recognize the suffering of anyone, even their ancestors, as anything but political fodder.

 

Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger writes about politics and international and domestic social movements. Write to her at [email protected]

 

About the Contributor
Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger, Senior Staff Columnist
Sofia Uriagereka is a senior majoring in Anthropology. She writes primarily about politics, both domestic and international.