Bearing Witness

How Israel’s Occupation Affects Palestinian Children

This is an article written by Juan Cole. Mr. Cole is professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan.


Over one in five Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza (22.5 percent) now suffers from chronic or acute malnutrition. About one in five is anemic. This mass of hungry humanity amounts to a population the size of Minneapolis, about 380,000 kids.

Malnutrition in children makes them more likely to contract life-threatening diseases. It permanently reduces intelligence and vastly increases the rate of attention deficit disorder. Women who were malnourished in their youths have increased rates of premature birth and high blood pressure in pregnancy.

The occupying power in the territories, Israel, enjoys a per capita income of some $17,000 per year, higher than Spain. In contrast, half of Palestinian families must now borrow money just to buy food.

That Palestinian children are not going so far as actually to die from their hunger in great numbers has helped conceal the depth of the crisis. Israel has ruled the West Bank and Gaza since it conquered them in 1967, and cannot disclaim responsibility for a population still under its military rule. A Palestinian Authority constantly under attack and immobilized cannot be expected to do hunger relief.

A wealthy and militarily powerful Israel is responsible under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to see that persons living under its occupation are not harmed. Letting 380,000 children go chronically or acutely hungry is a serious violation of international law.

Since the United States still gives Israel billions of dollars every year and has acquiesced in the current West Bank reoccupation and curfew, it also bears a responsibility for this tragedy. The Palestine issue has dropped out of news coverage, and even when it is noticed the focus is on strutting adult male politicians and military men. Will anyone speak for the children?


November 9, 2008 - Posted by | Media | , , ,

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