The Reason Why Many of the Victims in Gaza are Children is Not What 'The Economist' Says it is
Date: 
December 05 2023
blog Series: 

In an article titled “Why are so many of the victims in Gaza Children?” published on Oct. 27, The Economist Data Team argues that the high death toll of children in Gaza is due to the high fertility rate — children make up nearly half of the population and since Oct. 7, more than 6,600 children have been reportedly killed by Israeli airstrikes (not accounting for those missing under the rubble). The article then compares the rate of child death in Gaza with that of the war in Ukraine, where fewer children have been killed: ”In a conflict between two much bigger powers, children account for fewer than 550 of roughly 9,800 civilian fatalities over a much longer period.”  The article seems to be echoing the sentiments of Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, who in 1957 blamed the killing of Palestinian children on the Palestinians themselves when she declared: “We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with [them] when they love their children more than they hate us...”

The Economist article is deeply problematic and concerning. If a comparison is to be made with the war in Ukraine, other essential differences need to be noted. Ukrainians have the luxury of free movement. Children and women were able to flee the war zone, either becoming internally displaced within their country or migrating to other countries in Europe. Gaza is an open-air prison; citizens can not flee anywhere. The Rafah crossing opened for the first time since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza on Nov.1. Not only is Gaza a prison, but it is also a prison without access to water, food, or power. Gaza is also one of the most densely populated regions in the world, with 36,296 people per square mile subjected to heavy shelling. Ukraine’s population density is much lower in comparison, with 164 people per square mile. 

The Economist article does not mention Israel’s actions in Gaza. On Nov. 2, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reported that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) dropped the equivalent of two nuclear bombs on the Gaza Strip. Within a week of its assault, Israel wiped 47 families from the civic registry — the number is much higher now. The Economist seems oblivious to the fact that the reason why so many children are dying in Gaza is because the IOF is killing them by dropping unfathomable amounts of bombs on them.

Instead of focusing on the actions of Israel and the IOF, The Economist Data Team blames the Palestinians for the death of so many children. They report that Gaza has a high fertility rate of 3.9. They then associate typical high fertility rates with poverty and low levels of female education — and while Gaza does have a high poverty rate, it also has a high literacy rate amongst women. Their argument is null, so they resort to shifting blame from Israel’s 16-year-old blockade and decades-long brutal occupation to blaming Hamas for the death of children. The economist claims that Hamas encourages a high rate of fertility. The article points to the words of Yasser Arafat, the former president of the Palestinian Authority, who once said his people were conducting “a war of cradles.” The Economist article then reads, “Hamas’s pro-natal rhetoric has been particularly vociferous.” In other words, Hamas that is causing so many children to die in Gaza.

If we want to learn why many of the victims in Gaza are children, perhaps we should refer to the genocidal intentions declared by Israeli officials and politicians in the multiple statements they've made. Or the words of Ariel Gallner, a member of the Israeli parliament, who said: “Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 1948.”

If we want to learn why many of the victims in Gaza are children, perhaps we can look to Israel’s dehumanization of the Palestinians. As soon as the IOF’s assault began, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called Palestinians “human animals” that should be put under siege, deprived of water, food, and power. Israel’s minister of diplomacy and Likud MP, Alit Distel Atbrayan, called for “Gaza to be erased from the face of the earth.”

If we want to learn why many of the victims in Gaza are children, perhaps we need to listen to how Israel describes the children of Gaza. In a tweet that was later deleted, Netanyahu described Israel’s conflict with Hamas as a struggle between “the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle.”

If we want to learn why many of the victims in Gaza and across Palestine are children, perhaps we can look to James Baldwin, who asserts: “The children are always ours, every single one of them, all over the globe; and I am beginning to suspect that whoever is incapable of recognizing this may be incapable of morality.” The killing of children has nothing to do with the high rate of fertility in Gaza; it has a lot to do with their Israeli killers and the moral bankruptcy of an apartheid regime.

About The Author: 

Mayssoun Sukarieh is a research Committee member at the Institute for Palestine Studies

From the same blog series: Genocide In Gaza

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