The Intersection of Food, War, and Politics

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TL/DR –

An Israeli strike on an aid convoy in the Gaza Strip killed seven workers from the World Central Kitchen relief group, leading President Biden to issue harsh criticism of Israel and the Israeli military to admit fault. The incident has highlighted the influence of José Andrés, the celebrity chef who founded World Central Kitchen and who used his platform to apply political pressure to Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In response to the incident, Biden held a tense call with Netanyahu and threatened to place conditions on future support for Israel, while Israel pledged to allow more aid deliveries in Gaza, reduce civilian casualties, and broker a temporary cease-fire.


Israeli Strike on Aid Convoy Sparks International Debate

An Israeli attack on an aid convoy in the Gaza Strip that killed seven workers from World Central Kitchen, a prominent relief organization, sparked international controversy this week. The incident led to President Biden’s most severe public criticism of Israel so far and a rare admission of fault from the Israeli military, officials reported.

It also underscored the political power of food aid, which often takes a backseat in global politics. José Andrés, a famous chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, applied political pressure on both Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In discussions with Biden and during a Reuters interview, Andrés accused the Israel Defense Forces of systematically attacking the convoy.

Following a tense call with Netanyahu, Biden threatened to impose conditions on future support for Israel. Israel subsequently pledged to allow more aid deliveries in Gaza and take steps to reduce civilian casualties. Israel also proposed a temporary ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza.

I spoke with New York Times reporter Kim Severson, who has extensively covered Andrés, about the chef’s political activism and the impact of the convoy attack.

“Andrés fought with Donald Trump and his administration on numerous occasions, including when he backed out of a restaurant he had planned to open in a Trump-owned hotel after Trump used anti-immigrant rhetoric as a presidential candidate. He tangled with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over hurricane relief efforts he was part of, especially after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017,” Severson reported.

She also noted that Andrés’s activism has prompted other chefs to get involved in politics, such as the James Beard Foundation’s boot camps, designed to train chefs on how to effect political change in their communities.

“Biden realizes that Andrés is not someone who’s going to be quiet about this — and actually knows a lot about how this is going,” she told me.

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