Two hundred thousand Palestinian children began school in the Gaza Strip this month without a full complement of textbooks. Why? Because Israel, which maintains a stranglehold over this small strip of land along the Mediterranean even after withdrawing its settlers from there in 2005, considers paper, ink and binding materials not to be “fundamental humanitarian needs.”
Israel, attempting to throttle the democratically elected Hamas government, generally permits only food, medicine and fuel to enter Gaza, and allows virtually no Palestinian exports to leave. Lately, it held up delivery of materials needed for printing textbooks. As a result, Gaza students began the year facing a 30 percent shortage of texts.
No full-page advertisements in major American newspapers have publicized Israel’s violations of Palestinian children’s right to an education. No editors, syndicated columnists or presidents of major universities in this country have denounced this callous measure. Our politicians have demanded no remedial action. Instead, they continue, verbally and materially, to support Israel in its near-total blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians, kids and all.
Israel’s trampling of Palestinian students’ right to education – the key to a lifetime of opportunity – has rarely evoked official protest from American leaders. The Israeli army has closed Palestinian universities for years at a time. Israeli military authorities have barred Palestinian occupational therapy students from traveling from Gaza to the West Bank to obtain vital clinical training.