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The war on Gaza's children Israel's sanctions are leaving a generation of Palestinian children poorly educated and hungry. By Saree Makdisi September 22, free requip 2007 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, free requip even if they can, free requip 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, free requip 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, free requip about 70% of Gaza's workforce is now unemployed or without pay, free requip according to the United Nations, free requip and about 80% of its residents live in grinding poverty. Free requip About 1.2 million of them are now dependent for their day-to-day survival on food handouts from U.N. Free requip or international agencies, free requip without which, free requip as the World Food Program's Kirstie Campbell put it, free requip "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, free requip often little more than rice and boiled lentils. Free requip Fresh fruit and vegetables are beyond the reach of many families. Free requip Meat and chicken are impossibly expensive. Free requip Gaza faces the rich waters of the Mediterranean, free requip 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. Free requip As a result of the siege, free requip Gaza is not only short of raw textiles and other key goods but also paper, free requip ink and vital school supplies. Free requip One-third of Gaza's children started the school year missing necessary textbooks. Free requip John Ging, free requip the Gaza director of the U.N. Free requip Relief and Works Agency, free requip whose schools take care of 200, free requip000 children in Gaza, free requip 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. Free requip Those rocket attacks are wrong. Free requip 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. Free requip According to the Geneva Convention, free requip to which it is a signatory, free requip 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, free requip it has shrugged off the law. Free requip It has ignored the repeated demands of the U.N. Free requip Security Council. Free requip It has dismissed the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Free requip What John Dugard, free requip the U.N.'s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied territories, free requip refers to as the "carefully managed" strangulation of Gaza -- in full view of an uncaring world -- is explicitly part of its strategy. Free requip "The idea, free requip" said Dov Weisglass, free requip an Israeli government advisor, free requip "is to put the Palestinians on a diet, free requip 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, free requip" forthcoming from Norton. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-makdisi22sep22, free requip0, free requip1839917.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions