Even before Hamas won in the January 2006 general elections, Israel had been further tightening the screws to the Palestinians in Gaza. The summer 2005 Israeli settler pullout was a relief: Gaza had been a costly albatross around Israel’s neck, but no longer. Some people erroneously believed that the “occupation of Gaza was over,” but Israel’s domination and control continued-by land, air, and sea. Ariel Sharon’s government was intent on increasing the pressure by limiting what could come in and go out from the territory. A grave humanitarian crisis was building.
Though the Israeli leadership proceeded with their typical seriousness to force the Palestinians to face reality, the leaders of the Jewish state were not without a sense of humor. Dov Weisglass brought laughter from Sharon and the cabinet ministers when he said in the fall 2005, “We won’t starve the Palestinians; we’ll just put them on a little diet.”
Some results of the diet are becoming clearer. In early 2009, the prestigious British journal The Lancet issued a report on the health condition of people in the Palestinian territories. The authors of the report noted that “stunting during childhood is an indicator of chronic malnutrition and is associated with increased disease burden and death.” In 1996, stunted growth was found in 7.2 percent of the children in Gaza, whereas by 2006 the percent had grown to 10.2 percent.
One psychiatrist noted, “We see children who are 12 years old yet have the bodies of 8 year olds.” Beyond the obvious physical impairments, the children are harmed cognitively as well.
Eric Hazan, Notes on the Occupation: Palestinian Lives (2007)
Sarah Boseley, “Gaza conflicts stunt children’s growth,” The Age, March 6, 2009