The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, August 16, 2002  

More and More Starving Palestinians

Believe it nor not, particularly those readers who continually cast the most malevolent of aspersions upon The Rittenhouse Review, especially when the subject at hand is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we present the information below without blaming any particular party for the serious problem addressed.

Instead, we blame virtually everyone involved. Moreover, we hope, but doubt, that everyone involved will be ashamed by the tragic issue we bring to your attention.

“Malnutrition and poverty are rising in Palestinian areas, affecting hundreds of children as overall access to health and medical facilities diminishes in the West Bank and Gaza. A seven-week Israeli clampdown in Palestinian areas -- combined with a spike in Palestinian suicide bombings and economic mismanagement -- is driving up unemployment and causing shortages of high-protein foods and infant formula,” that according to a piece by Sudarsan Raghavan in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

Who’s to blame? Everyone, at least by our reading of Raghavan’s account (“Malnutrition Rising Among Palestinians”).

“Most Palestinians view the crackdown [that began in June] as a collective punishment that will breed more hatred and violence. Yet some believe corruption within Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority is contributing to the crisis. And others . . . are starting to blame Palestinian militants who provoke Israeli crackdowns, expressing a view rarely heard publicly here,” write Raghavan.

“I blame them, I blame them, I blame them,” says Shihada Ashish, a resident of Gaza. “The whole world will be better off without them.”

Raghavan quotes Emad Sha’at, the Palestinian Authority’s director of international aid coordination, as saying, “Palestinians are partially to blame for the change of tactics that started the intifadah, that it was changed to a military intifadah. We maybe should have continued with a peaceful intifadah.”

The situation is, by all accounts, dire. “Last week, two surveys funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Atlanta-based CARE International found 22.5 percent of Palestinian children were malnourished -- on the same level as those in such poverty-ridden nations as Nigeria and Chad. Acute malnutrition is three times higher -- just above 13 percent -- in Gaza than in the West Bank.”

Israeli cooperation in meeting the needs of the local population is scattershot. According to the Inquirer, “Yitzhak Sever, head of the Israeli Health Ministry's International Affairs Department, told reporters last week that Israel had offered to help improve the diet of Palestinian children. ‘We were rejected,’ he said. ‘The Palestinians didn't want any cooperation.’”

Yet the Israeli government has done everything in its power to prevent overseas aid from reaching the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. No surprise, the Israelis blame the entire situation on the Palestinians, the Sharon regime’s constant creation of obstacles preventing access to Palestinian population centers apparently are regarded as inconsequential factors in the persistently increasing Palestinian rates of poverty, unemployment, hunger, starvation, and death.

Finally, the apparent lack of assistance from wealthy Arab states -- at least according to what we know from the Western media -- is heinously deplorable.

In the larger scheme of things, worldwide, the Palestinians truly have been made the lowest of the low.

Why so few Americans care is a question for the ages.

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