The war on Gaza's children
Israel's sanctions are leaving a generation of Palestinian
children poorly educated and hungry.
By Saree Makdisi
09/23/07 "ICH" -- -- An entire generation of Palestinians in
Gaza is growing up stunted: physically and nutritionally stunted
because they are not getting enough to eat; emotionally stunted
because of the pressures of living in a virtual prison and
facing the constant threat of destruction and displacement;
intellectually and academically stunted because they cannot
concentrate -- or, even if they can, because they are trying to
study and learn in circumstances that no child should have to
Even before Israel this week declared Gaza "hostile territory"
-- apparently in preparation for cutting off the last remaining
supplies of fuel and electricity to 1.5 million men, women and
children -- the situation was dire.
As a result of Israel's blockade on most imports and exports and
other policies designed to punish the populace, about 70% of
Gaza's workforce is now unemployed or without pay, according to
the United Nations, and about 80% of its residents live in
grinding poverty. About 1.2 million of them are now dependent
for their day-to-day survival on food handouts from U.N. or
international agencies, without which, as the World Food
Program's Kirstie Campbell put it, "they are liable to starve."
An increasing number of Palestinian families in Gaza are unable
to offer their children more than one meager meal a day, often
little more than rice and boiled lentils. Fresh fruit and
vegetables are beyond the reach of many families. Meat and
chicken are impossibly expensive. Gaza faces the rich waters of
the Mediterranean, but fish is unavailable in its markets
because the Israeli navy has curtailed the movements of Gaza's
Los Angeles parents who have spent the last few weeks running
from one back-to-school sale to another could do worse than to
spare a few minutes to think about their counterparts in the
Gaza Strip. As a result of the siege, Gaza is not only short of
raw textiles and other key goods but also paper, ink and vital
school supplies. One-third of Gaza's children started the school
year missing necessary textbooks. John Ging, the Gaza director
of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, whose schools take care of
200,000 children in Gaza, has warned that children come to
school "hungry and unable to concentrate."
Israel says that its policies in Gaza are designed to put
pressure on the Palestinian population to in turn put pressure
on those who fire crude home-made rockets from Gaza into the
Israeli town of Sderot. Those rocket attacks are wrong. But it
is also wrong to punish an entire population for the actions of
a few -- actions that the schoolchildren of Gaza and their
beleagueredparents are in any case powerless to stop.
It is a violation of international law to collectively punish
more than a million people for something they did not do.
According to the Geneva Convention, to which it is a signatory,
Israel actually has the obligation to ensure the well-being of
the people on whom it has chosen to impose a military occupation
for more than four decades.
Instead, it has shrugged off the law. It has ignored the
repeated demands of the U.N. Security Council. It has dismissed
the International Court of Justice in the Hague. What John
Dugard, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on human rights in the
occupied territories, refers to as the "carefully managed"
strangulation of Gaza -- in full view of an uncaring world -- is
explicitly part of its strategy. "The idea," said Dov Weisglass,
an Israeli government advisor, "is to put the Palestinians on a
diet, but not make them die of hunger."
Saree Makdisi is a professor of English literature at UCLA
and the author of "Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday
Occupation," forthcoming from Norton.
This article was first published by the Los Angeles Times
on "comments" below to
read or post comments
Be succinct, constructive and
relevant to the story.
encourage engaging, diverse and
meaningful commentary. Do not
include personal information such
as names, addresses, phone
numbers and emails. Comments
falling outside our guidelines
those including personal
attacks and profanity are
See our complete
this link to notify us if you
have concerns about a comment.
Well promptly review and
remove any inappropriate
Send Page To a Friend
with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational
purposes. Information Clearing House has no
affiliation whatsoever with the originator of
this article nor is Information ClearingHouse
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)