Jan 062015
 

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By Tahani Sahra Hamdan

Health as a basic human right is a subject of political debate in the United States, even more so for Palestinians currently living under Israeli occupation. As a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and Global Health student at the University of Texas, I recently traveled to the West Bank of Palestine to conduct a pilot study of women living with physical disabilities. Some of the results that I discovered were not only disheartening as a woman myself living with physical disabilities, but also as an attack upon humanity.

As a first-generation Palestinian-American, I have always wondered what life would be like to live in Palestine with my same disabilities. I would always ask myself the question, “If I were a woman living in Palestine with Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis, would I be able to receive the same care that I receive living in the U.S., or does my U.S. passport make my life worth more?”

Ask, and I shall receive. I travelled to Palestine in the midst of Israeli Operation Defensive Edge in Gaza, in which over 2137 Palestinians have been killed and several thousands more injured.

Sure, I was in the West Bank, I did not feel what was felt in the Gaza Strip, but assuredly what began as a pilot study on women with disabilities, turned out to be a nightmare. Between spending nearly every night suffocating from tear-gas shot from the Israeli Defense Forces, simply getting out of the house was difficult for me during my few short weeks there. Upon interviewing the Palestinian women living with physical disabilities, it was not difficult to understand that this is their lives each and every single day.

On days when I was able to leave the house without a tremendous fear for my life, I interviewed Palestinian women living with disabilities to get an understanding of their narrative of life under occupation.

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Disabled Palestinian women explained the difficulty of receiving any type of specialized medical care. Not only the geographic barriers, but also the nine meters high Separation Wall (known by Israel as Security Barrier but known to Palestinians as Apartheid Wall) prevents nearly all travel by West Bank residents to and from Jerusalem and all areas under Israeli control.

Jerusalem is where they have to go for the best medical care, or what we in the United States would consider basic medical care. For people with disabilities, it is the only place where you can see a disability-related specialist. The women I talked to had very severe forms of arthritis and had received nothing more than pain medications. No physical therapy. No mobility-assisted devices. Few, if any, prescriptions at all. They said that they only took medication when they were in major pain, which was during winter. Prior to the Separation Wall, which began construction in 2002, sick and disabled residents of the West Bank were able to freely travel to Jerusalem and beyond to obtain specialized care.

​Geographic barriers posed another great limitation. With hills, rocks, sand, and unpaved road, traveling for people with disabilities was very limited, leaving them no choice but to spend their time at home. The houses are very close together, most homes built on top of each other. Climbing down steep hills and alleyways is often required. The houses I visited almost always had steps at the entrance and inside. Homes resembled that of high-rise apartment buildings without elevators or wheelchair ramps. When they do go out, the disabled walk or, for longer distances, take a bus or taxi that comes to designated stops in their town.

The Palestinian society in general, including women with disabilities, is highly educated. The women I interviewed had completed their Bachelor’s degree but were working in jobs that accommodated their disabilities, such as secretarial positions. Other women dropped out of school at a young age because of physical limitations.

One of the most interesting aspects of the interviews was that disabled women said they were happy with their lives as they were. These women were not married, did not have any children, they enjoyed living at home with their parents, and they helped with house chores. When asked, “If you could change anything in your life, what would you change?” They replied, “Nothing should be changed.”

As a Public Health student, I began to question whether imposing my American values of a happy life should be like upon women that were already happy with their lives. Who am I to judge and change a woman’s perspective of “happiness?”

With the aim of improving the comfort of women living with disabilities in a developing country under decades of political unrest, I hope to one day return to Palestine with culturally-sensitive recommendations that will improve the lives of disabled Palestinian women without imposing my American values.

Sep 162014
 

 

10384210_10203472584028982_5523299284003079339_nWhile we may spend our days fighting individual or group struggles, in a global system, our causes and campaign are very much interconnected. Join Existence is Resistance and The Campaign To Bring Mumia Home for a night of music and discussion, as we link the lives of everyday people, from Palestine to Puerto Rico to Ferguson, political prisoners to U.S. imperialism, from police brutality to war.

Location: Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center

Address: 3940 Broadway, New York, NY 10032

Time: 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM

 

Speakers Include:

Bassem Tamimi (Head of Popular Resistance in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh)

Ramona Africa (MOVE Organization)

Nancy Mansour (Existence Is Resistance)

Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report)

Hamde Abu Rahma (Palestinian Photo Journalist/Activist Photography by hamde abu rahma)

Yasser Quos (Director of the African Community Society of Jerusalem

Nerdeen Mohsen (President of Students for Justice in Palestine at College of Staten Island)

Michael Madormo (Teacher at Friend’s School in Ramallah)

Carlio Rovira (former Young Lord, Puerto Rican Independence Movement)

Gabi Lazaro (Existence Is Resistance)

Johanna Fernandez (The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home)

with a special guest cal from Mumia Abu Jamal

With performances by

Tahani Salah (Poet)
Remi Kanazi(Poet)
Bomba Yo (Puerto Rican Folklore)
Mazzi
M-1
Rebel Diaz

Stay tuned for updates!

Click Here For Facebook Event Page

 Posted by at 10:07 am
Aug 242014
 

As many of you know, I have been spending the past month or so in and out of the hospitals in Jerusalem and Nablus where many wounded Palestinians are being brought for medical care during the brutal Israeli attack on Gaza. In between these visits I have been attending various demonstrations which always end with the Israeli Occupying Forces shooting live ammunition at everyone. In one demo which I wrote about in an earlier post over 281 people were shot including many of my friends which meant more hospitals….in the most recent demo 72 people were shot including two journalists. I can not explain the feeling of hopelessness I feel witnessing all of this. Then of course,, I feel bad complaining because I have the luxury of leaving any time.

A couple of days ago I came back to my home in Haifa to be with my family and of course to try and put together all these thoughts and feelings so that I can write about it with a clear mind. I am not a professional writer and for some reason I just can not collect myself in the way that I want, in order for me to be able to fully relay everything I am seeing.

I still have not and cannot process it all. For the past two days I have sat down with all my notes and all these pictures and tried to put it together but every single time I try it means I have to remember what personally happened to each of the people I visited as well as their pain….whether they showed it to me through smiles, laughs or tears, I saw it and it is past painful. It’s so painful, you become somewhat numb. Most of them don’t cry when they tell me about what they saw or about their loved ones being blown to pieces in front of them so I follow suit and swallow the hurt and anger and tears away. Now that I am alone, I don’t have their strength so I just switch off.

There are many people I want to tell you about and we still need donations to get the wounded and their families whatever they need while they are stuck in the hospitals with only the clothes on their back they left with….so here are a few of the most recent people I have been visiting frequently.

14 year old Mohammed Amin Siyam from Rafah stole my heart. While I was checking in on other kids I had been visiting for a few weeks, I noticed Mohammed was new in their room. He was in extreme pain and every time he would scream or attempt to cry I would look up and he would see me and stop. As if he didn’t want to cry in front of me. I walked over and told him its ok to cry if he is in pain. His grandfather who was the only guardian with him looked up at me, smiled and teared up. I had to leave for a minute so I could go slap myself in the bathroom to fight back my tears and returned to hear his story.

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Mohammed was wounded when the house next door to his home was rocketed by an Israeli F16. The first rocket hit and the windows in his home shattered. The second, third and fourth rockets hit  and Mohammed lost his leg. The doctors saved his right arm but the nerves are all damaged which means he cannot move that arm from the shoulder down.

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Mohammeds grandfather told me there has never been any presence of resistance fighters in their area. Mohammed asked me for a Dishdasha and to make sure it was long so it would cover his missing leg. The next day I went with a friend Alaa from Ramallah, picked out the best dishdasha and brought it for him from the kind donations everyone has been making.

10 month old Ahmad AbedJawad Abutala is from Rafah. His mother was breastfeeding him when 5 rockets within minutes of each other hit their home. His mother who is still in Gaza lost her legs and her arms and chest were burnt so his grandmother accompanied him to Jerusalem.

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Ahmad lost his right eye, has shrapnel in his head, broken leg and arm and shrapnel in his other leg.

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Youseff Astal, 16 years old. He told me how his father had been murdered by Israel a couple of days before his injuries. Youseffs father had been targeted by an F16 whilst he was in the back yard of his brothers home. Youseff found him. A few days later Youseff was filling water from a barrel when Israel rocketed him too. He said the only thing that saved him was the barrel. He sustained injuries to his arms and face as well as shrapnel in his stomach. Youseff also lost a kidney which was torn to shreds by the shrapnel.

 

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Youseff asked me for a cell phone which we brought him also from the donations people have been making.

There are so many more stories and pictures I want to share with you and I will. Inshallah in the coming days.

In one week I will return to the hospitals and spend another three weeks with the wounded. We truly hope that people will continue to donate as new injuries are being brought in daily. No matter how small or large your donation, it all makes a difference. Please donate directly via paypal to Questions@Existenceisresistance.org or email us if you want to send a check at the same email address.

Thank you for all the support everyone has been sending. It’s not over until its over.

Aug 062014
 

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Palestinian hip hop artist and activist Raffoul drops his new video dedicated to Gaza with a powerful intro by Professor Dahlia Wasfi.

Watch below:

Jul 302014
 

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By Nancy Mansour

When you helplessly watch your people (who are less than an hour away from you) being slaughtered by a vicious occupier, theres a sense of absolute desperation. You are so angered you demonstrate and again, that same occupier comes out and shoots hundreds as if we were roaches to them…not humans. Watching masses shot in the Kalandia protest including many friends, was gruesome enough. I can’t imagine I could handle what Gazans are seeing.

A couple of days ago we got word that there are wounded Palestinians being brought from Gaza to Arabic hospitals in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We immediately mobilized and decided to raise money in order to take gifts for the children and their families.

Yesterday we visited Makassed Hospital and St Josephs French Hospital, both in East Jerusalem. Upon arrival to St Josephs, a seven year old Palestinian boy, Zaher Ahmed Najjar, brought from Gaza for treatment was pronounced dead due to his serious injuries.

Here are some of the Palestinians we met yesterday:

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Sohaib AbuShalat, 2 yrs old was found under the rubble of his home. His father was killed. His mother and siblings are all wounded and are currently in hospitals in Gaza. His aunt traveled with him to Jerusalem and he remains in a coma.

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Khaled, AbuMaraheel 6 yrs old was injured by rocket shrapnel which cracked his skull. Khaled has not spoken a word since the incident and seems to be in total shock.

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Saja AbuMansour, 14 yrs old was injured by shrapnel which entered through her eye and head. She is also currently on life support. Her uncle accompanied her to Jerusalem.

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Mosleh AlRowaj, 21 yrs old who’s wife is 6 months pregnant was standing in his home when shrapnel from a rocket entered through his cheek and out of his neck.

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Rahmi, 33 was hit by shrapnel from rockets in her spine and is now paralyzed from the waist down. Rahmi is yet to be informed that her 5 yr old daughter and her mother both died in that attack.

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Ahmed, 13 lost his mother and was brought to Jerusalem by his uncle. The shrapnel cut through his stomach.

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Mohammad Shamali, 20 was getting ready to sit down for Iftar when F16s fired two rockets into his home. He suffered severe leg injuries.

We didn’t get to see everyone yet. It is difficult and painful.There are many more being brought in on a daily basis. I wanted to grab all the babies and bring them home with me. To think these are a handful of the 7000 plus that are wounded was devastating and emotional.

The only thing that weighs heavy on my heart is the fact that these children will all be sent right back into Gaza as soon as they are better….to fight, yet again, to stay alive.

These families need your help. Please consider donating via our paypal (questions@existenceisresistance.org ) or if you are interested in sponsoring a child who has lost everything on a long term basis please email us at that same address. Thank you.