Politically speaking, our leadership believes very strongly that the demographic route is the way to settle the score with the Israelis
Palestinian health and education officials, working with foreign donors and international organizations, quietly support family planning through a steady expansion of clinics and community outreach services. Women are taught about the different methods of contraception that are acceptable under Islam -- anything except permanent means, like sterilization or tubal ligation.
''Politically speaking, our leadership believes very strongly that the demographic route is the way to settle the score with the Israelis,'' said Dr. Hassan Abu Libdeh, director of the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics.
''In their speeches, they are in favor of more children,'' he said. ''But practically speaking, they are trying to promote the opposite. The Health Ministry and the Education Ministry are doing a lot.'' Few women bother to bring home condoms from the clinics, because men in Gaza refuse to use them.Health and education officials are careful not to advocate population control. They refer delicately to the ''spacing'' of children, underscoring that they are not talking about placing limits on family size, which would violate Islamic teaching.
Women in Gaza average seven children. In the West Bank, where fertility rates are lower, they still average a very high 5.6 children per woman.
But Gaza is a statistical oddity. Whereas its fertility rates are similar to those of desperately poor countries like Somalia, nutrition and health care are much better. This is largely because most Gazans receive prenatal and primary care for their children from the many nongovernmental organizations based there, especially in the United Nations-run refugee camps like Jabalya.
Dr. Abu Libneh, the chief statistician for the Palestinian Authority:
''I don't mind if Gazans continue producing babies, but they will have to move somewhere else,They simply will not fit into their current geography -- forgetting about feeding and employing them, too."
"Unlike the West that practices family planning, we encourage having children for political reasons." (Dr. Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, co-founder of Hamas)