The War on Gaza’s Children

Israel's Sanctions are Denying a Generation of Palestinian Children Proper Education and Nutrition

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 endure.

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 fishermen.

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, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA, writes often about the Middle East. Read other articles by Saree, or visit Saree's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. gerald spezio said on September 24th, 2007 at 6:42am #

    And who is the brains and spin master behind all the skirting of the LAW?

    Why it’s Dov Weisglass, an Israeli lawyer and Zionist champion of the LAW.

    Dov knows HIS LAW and his humanitarianism.

    Dov Weisglass was born in October 1946, in Tel Aviv. He grew up and was educated in 1950s Ramat Gan, in a family that moved quickly from poverty to affluence. At age 19, draft age, he was already studying law. At age 24, he was working in the Moritz-Margolis law firm. Thirteen years later he (along with his partner, Ami Almagor) bought the practice from its founders and made it one of the country’s leading law firms. In 1980 he represented Yitzhak Rabin against the French magazine L’Express. In 1983 he represented Sharon against the Kahan Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the Sabra-Chatila massacre. In 1985-86 he represented Sharon in his suit against Time magazine (Sharon sued the magazine over a report implicating him in the massacre). At first he specialized in representing security personnel who testified before commissions of inquiry (Yossi Ginossar, Shaul Mofaz, Hezi Callo, Alik Ron). He then also specialized in representing ministerial directors-general accused of corruption (Shimon Sheves, Moshe Leon, Avigdor Lieberman). Also among his clients: Ehud Yatom, Rafi Eitan and Avigdor Kahalani. And the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad espionage agency. Not to mention the kibbutz movement.

    If only the Palestinians could hire Dov’s LAW firm. Having Dov and his attorneys in their corner would give the Palestinians some real legal clout. The LAW and the Clout of the LAW.
    The bleeding Palestinians have been injured, maimed, starved, and murdered. They need legal representation and spin. too.
    Just try to cut the legal mustard without a lawyer, hey.

    If Dov is full up with other clients, maybe the Palestinians could get Alan Dershowitz from Harvard LAW. Does Scooter Liebowitz still have his LAW license?

  2. jaime said on September 24th, 2007 at 7:32am #

    Gaza’s Starving Children.

    Well maybe one day The Hamas or whoever’s running Gaza will decide that feeding their own children is more important than trying to kill someone else’s.

    This is the Charter of the Islamic Resistance (Hamas) which will reveal its face, unveil its identity, state its position, clarify its purpose, discuss its hopes, call for support to its cause and reinforcement, and for joining its ranks. For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails.

    …the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).

  3. gerald spezio said on September 24th, 2007 at 10:03am #

    When high profile Israeli attorney Weisglass finishes with designing diets and dieting regimens for the Palestinians, we could hire him and his LAW firm to be an adviser to the U.S. government about the obesity epidemic in Supernation.

    Weisglass’s ingenious scheme of tough eating is working like
    gangbusters in the Gaza concentration camps.
    “Elect Hamas, eh? Take that, you untermenschen.”

    Weisglass could retain the brilliant Israeli communication genius, Marshall Rosenburg. Rosenburg is world famous for his new-age program of “non-violent communication.”
    Rosenburg could properly frame and deliver the dietary messages designed by Weisglass.

    I am sure that Dov Weisglass’s tough love, tough eating, and tough Law aren’t cheap.
    It would cost us and it would be tough. But, it would be worth it.

  4. Daniel said on September 24th, 2007 at 5:31pm #

    The Law has nothing to do with it. Israel, backed by America, IS THE LAW!

    The only way the Palestinians will get the justice they deserve is to fight for it using the lessons of Vietnam where the world’s greatest military power was defeated by soldier peasants who had right on their side.

    After forty years, you’d think the Palestinians would realize this!

  5. gerald spezio said on September 24th, 2007 at 5:51pm #

    Yes Daniel.
    The Palestinians are fighting as best they can.
    They are also starving and dying in their Israeli pens.
    Palestinian teen-age Davids are running low on rocks and stones.
    Some of them are so weak they can’t hit the side of an 65 ton Abrams tank.

  6. mookie said on September 24th, 2007 at 8:09pm #

    that’s right, jaime blame the victims. i’m sure you do the same thing when it comes to Darfur and Tibet, right?

  7. jaime said on September 24th, 2007 at 11:25pm #

    Darfur and Tibet are not comparable scenarios.

    The Israelis withdrew from Gaza to the 1967 border. The Gazans were gifted millions of $$$ worth of fully profitable greenhouse operations .

    Instead of building a productive society, and because of poisonous and tragic radical ideology they have chosen to attack Israel.

    Has Tibet ever attacked China? No.

  8. Daniel said on September 25th, 2007 at 1:01am #

    Gerald, the Palestinians have shown themselves capable of fighting back and not with stones either. Northern Ireland showed what can be done by a well-trained guerrilla army.

    If the Palestinians could stop fighting each other and give up on the idea that America will save them then they might get somewhere!