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The Prince: Institutionalized Oppression

Perhaps Israeli governments gleaned its wisdom from Niccolo Machiavelli’s treatise, The Prince, rather than the Geneva Conventions. Consider the model strategy outlined below as a paradigm of the Machiavellian philosophy applied to the Palestinian struggle: 

 “The fall of the classic theory and practice of imperialism compels us modern imperialists, who keenly interested in maintaining control of our remaining settlements, to develop an advanced strategy that will protect our interests.

Consolidating our power over indigenous populations may be difficult, but if done the right way, the Israeli way, that is, our settlements can be successfully sustained while our subjects are effectively subdued. An important factor in institutionalizing oppression involves the utilization of the legal system. Israel has successfully passed laws, such as the Law of Return, which allows Jews, to immigrate to Israel based on their race, while Palestinians are denied the right to live in their homeland and on their own property because they don’t fit into this category. Moreover, the Absentee Law of 1950 allows the state to confiscate the property of dispossessed Palestinians and claim it as state property.

These laws have proven quite successful, since they make race the determining factor in attaining rights in Israel, with Jews as first-class citizens and Arabs second class. They alos rid Israel of some five million refugees, scattered everywhere.

Another important element of institutionalized oppression is military occupation. Israel has occupied Palestine and other Arab lands for decades. This way, though condemned by futile United Nations resolutions, Israel has successfully achieved the upper hand over its subjects. The modern imperialist must understand that a strong army remains essential in controlling the settlements and their people. Thanks to sheer strength of Israel’s invincible army, Palestinian rebellions have been suppressed through massive applications of force. It doesn’t matter whether force is used against armed or unarmed individuals, children, women or the elderly. What matters most is conveying a message that subjects have no chance of gaining the rights for which they fight, and if they want to live, they must surrender to whatever the state demands. Today’s imperialists must use the mass media, for it is unquestionably the most effective tool in winning today’s wars. It is important that the message conveyed through the media highlights the losses of the colonialist, not the colonized. The media must portray us as civilized and our enemies as savage; it must show us as righteous and our enemies as wicked; it must show us as peaceful and our enemies as terrorists. If the media is tightly controlled, we can fashion our own reality. We can cause the world to blame our enemy when we kill their children, and we can make our soldiers heroes while their fighters are branded as criminals. Israel has indeed mastered the art of media control, to the point that we can even blame Palestinian parents for sending their children to be killed to grab media attention. Interestingly enough, many believe us.

Killing your enemies, torturing prisoners, occupying land, and confiscating properties are very important, but not enough. You must humble your enemies while you carry out your policies. The tactic of humiliation is indeed a winning stratagem, for though its employment, you can destroy the spirit of your enemy. Yes you can kill a man, but slaying him as his family watches and then stealing his dead body is more effective. You can beat a defiant young man who refuses to plead for mercy, but if you strip him naked first, you will certainly break his defiant spirit and make him wish for death.

Yes you can torture a prisoner by beating him, but imagine how successful it will be if you threaten to rap, or if you do in fact rape, his wife or sister. We’ve done it, and it was often quite successful. If your subjects submit, reward them with partial freedom and allow them to get low-paying jobs. But if they defy you, clamp down and have no mercy. Otherwise they will rebel too often. If you push them until they ride up against you, don’t back down. Fight back. Close down their schools, uproot their trees, burn downs their farms, block their streets, isolate their cities, demolish their homes, throw them in jail, keep them under curfew for weeks, deny them clean water, electricity , and basic supplies. If the increase their defiance by using firearms, then feel free to do all that can be done. In Israel, for example, we are using our best high-tech weapons against them: F15s, F16s, Apache helicopters, missiles- and more. Destroy their symbols and deny them an identity. In Israel we have destroyed numerous mosques and have attacked and desecrated many churches. Imagine what that make them feel? Even God cannot protect them now. If you issue them with identification cards, designate their nationality as “undefined.” Burn their flags, ban their books, forbid them from learning their own history; call their intellectuals “militants” and their religious leaders “fanatics.” Make them always feel trapped with nowhere to escape. Besiege their land, their air and water. Make them feel like a wild animal trapped in a net. Terrorize them. Give them ultimatums. Force them to accept their fate, which of course you ordain. Try to make them turn against each other whenever possible. Some of them might be weak, easy to manipulate. Use these to spy on the others. If such traitors become known, they’ll be jailed or even executed. That’s good, because then, like we do in Israel, you can tell the world that your enemies violate human rights. Both ways, you win.

 Build trenches around their fertile land like we did throughout the West Bank. We said it was a security measure. The world believed us, and the people lost thousands of hectares of fertile land that is now useless. Eradicate their forests and woodlands. Dump your toxic waste on their land and destroy their environment. In short, imprison their men, rape their land, murder their youth, and push them to the brink of desperation, to the point of suicide. You will then have succeeded in the complete dehumanization and defeat of your enemy, while through the media you will have convinced the world that you are actually the victim.”

Source: Ramzy Baroud- The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle

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Holistic Care: Platitude… Pompous, Pious, or Prescient?

I spent the day at the European Gaza Hospital for my clinical practice of Paediatrics. During the fifty-minute bus ride from Jabalia to the hospital in the south of the Gaza Strip, colleagues were gossiping and the view from my window became dull and uninteresting once the bus got past the Old City and the famous market of Gaza. I reached for the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Specialties and started reading the chapter on Paediatrics. … There I sank in my seat and surrendered to the fine text of the introductory remarks at the beginning of the chapter…

Holistic Care: Platitude.. Pompous, Pious, or Prescient?

Manufacturing organs is the point of embryology…growth and development is the essence of childhood… and protection from a cynical world is the raison d’être of the family, that cardinal unit which prevents children cascading down the loveless spiral of truancy, illiteracy, street crime, violence, drug and solvent abuse, prostitution, and adolescent pregnancy. The abandoning of thousands and thousands of street children worldwide illustrates in a terrible way how paediatrics can never be done in a clinical vacuum and that solutions to paediatric problems entail social issues and politics as much as medicine. This cascade of urban poverty contrasts with the sane and ordered world of our paediatric clinics. But always remember there is another world or two out there. Beyond the window, the child is on tiptoes, peering out, and before he flits through it and is lost forever, weigh him, measure him, feed him, clothe him, immunize him – and above all educate him (him or her, of course). Look after the body, and the soul will look after itself provided the family is intact. You will see the immense pressure illness puts on families: don’t just observe. Help in any way you can: flexible clinics, home instead of hospital treatment, education going hand-in-hand with ward events, hospital-at-home, home-at-hospital facilities, and home-based nursing visits to help with complex cancer or HIV regimens.

We cannot hope to enable children to realize their full potential – for potential is only ever lost. The egg has more potential than the embryo (its sex, for example is yet to be determined). The child has more potential than the medical student who is forever closing off lines of enquiry to concentrate on one thing. So if potential can only be lost we must aim for potential to be lost in the least harmful way.
The essence of paediatrics is aligning embryology, growth-and-development, family interactions, and preventive and therapeutic measures to achieve a person who is capable of making choices. Happy or free? Creative or reasonable? Self-destructive and isolated, or participatory and social? We cannot hand down the answers – we just peddle our wares down this one-way street. Ask children what childhood is for, and they will tell you “Preparation. Learning. A time to become yourself…” This is why Paediatrics must be holistic – otherwise it will not contribute to these aims. It is against this background of enabling children to become themselves that paediatricians practice their art and their science.
We note with great interest that most patients between the ages of 15 and 20 who have acute leukaemia treated by paediatricians are cured – up to 63%, whereas <50% of this group survive if treated in adult units. This chapter aims to explain how this difference might arise – and to encourage the reader to extend the skills learned in paediatrics to all medical practice.

1st Day at Gaza’s Morgue

Today I was the first to arrive at the Department of Forensic Medicine of the famous Al-Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza City for the first day of my forensic medicine rotation. Names and titles can be deceiving indeed. I asked one of the ER nurses to show me the way to the place and he kindly did. The Department is a single floor of four offices and the morgue. In Gaza, we are not Hindu and we do not burn the bodies of the dead; we bury them. Nevertheless, for some reason the morgue is located adjacent to the incinerator used by the hospital for the disposal of medical waste! Wild guess: the architect was Hindu!

Two 15-year-old autopsy tables, refrigerators with a maximum capacity of 17 bodies and two cupboards; one for the jars of tissue samples taken from dead people with unidentified cause of death and the other for autopsy instruments. That is it. I do not want to cause you a headache by mentioning the lacking, necessary tools. However, you should know that Gaza does not have any forensics laboratory, never mention any of the technologies you see Abby of NCIS using in her lab!

We had some time to explore the place and I was checking the jars of tissue samples when I came across a jar that shocked me! It was labelled (Vittorio Arrigoni / Italian)! I got overwhelmed by the idea that the tissue samples I was carrying belonged to Vik! The nurse explained that they keep the samples just in case further investigation in the death of Vittorio required a report from the pathologist.

Minutes later, two bodies were brought in for autopsy and examination. Two men in their thirties got killed as a result of a gas leak in a Rafah tunnel raising the total number of victims killed in Rafah tunnels since 2011 to 17 dead and to 197 since 2006.  For the first two minutes, I did not move my sight away from the face of the first victim. He rushed to the rescue of a colleague who lost consciousness after inhaling the leaked gas in the tunnel but then the gas exploded and he died of extensive burns that affected 90% of his body surface area. These men risk their lives working in the tunnels to provide for their families.. As my father commented on this 2 hours ago: Life is hard and people do what they gotta do!

The theme of the day was death. I spent the day studying signs of death, examining bodies, and practicing the writing of death reports. I can not help but thinking about life and death, friends and strangers, hardships and sacrifices.. We live in a world that is doing great injustice to the weak and poor. Let’s work together on changing that..

 

Time Zones of Division!

I had my IELTS exam earlier today and unlike other exam days I wasn’t stressed out or shaking of caffeine overdose! Instead, I was surprisingly calm while going through revision notes and finalizing some preparations. On my way to the exam, however, that changed and the creepy feeling of something not being right dominated as the taxi crossed the first traffic light. Then I had the scariest thought ever! My adrenaline level surged and pupils dilated for the uncertainty of whether the British Council (holding the exam) follows the Gaza time or the Ramallah time!!

According to the map of Palestine and to some distance calculator Google found me, Gaza City and Al-Khalil (Hebron) of the West Bank are about 70 km. Eliminating the occupation, checkpoints and crossings this is a less-than-one hour drive which cannot possibly explain living in different time zones! While it is 10:57 in Gaza, clocks in Ramallah indicate time is 11:57!

Clocks were pushed back an hour at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on August 1st in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority cabinet decided to revert to summer time (+3 hours GMT) at the end of Ramadan. But the Hamas government’s civil services bureau in Gaza to continue to work on winter time (+2 hours GMT) after Eid Al-Fitr.

The Gaza office of the British Council is responsible for all arrangements of the IELTS exam so you may think that it is logical to expect them to follow the Gaza time. True. But many international organizations working in the Strip decided to follow Ramallah’s time since they usually disagree with the regulations issued by Hamas while strictly following PA’s. I can’t explain it further!

Therefore it is understandable I had that episode of sympathetic stimulation! My seemingly irrational reaction was provoked by a rational, high index of suspicion!

The fact that Palestinians are made to live in different time zones for the very first time in history is another manifestation of the shameful division between Fatah and Hamas; the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. I am trying to articulate the way I feel about this tragedy but my vocabulary is failing me.

They who call themselves leaders should really go bury their heads in the sand!

Damn you!

Illusory Confidence

Impulsive optimism has proved itself to be a truly global phenomenon. Could be intergalactic. The truth is that people everywhere are apt to display unrealistic optimism about the future, a pervasive and ubiquitous bias afflicting practically all, save the clinically depressed. Students overestimate future exam grades, newlyweds expect their marriages to last a lifetime, smokers underestimate their risk of cancer, etc. Interestingly, psychologists have discovered that illusory confidence like this is not the maladaptive habit that it would appear to be at first glance. To the contrary, it’s a necessary precondition for (or at least conducive to) mental health, as well as lifelong success (Taylor & Brown, 1994). A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…is truly applicable here. Those sterile scientists might label your idealism a bias, but you yourself might simply call it hope.

And most of us are indeed hopeful about our prospects for ever-increasing happiness. All it takes is a little hard work and positive thinking, right?

Well, not quite my precious flower child. You see, it’s not nearly that simple. Indeed, there’s plenty of evidence to back up Thirteen’s (and House’s) fatalistic point of view, that our happiness appears to be, to a large extent, out of our hands. That evidence comes mainly in the form of studies showing that happiness is pre-determined at birth by each person’s own distinctive, irreversible genetic make-up.

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Who is Dedposh?

Shahid‘s answer:

Dedposh is merely an image based tag, a form of visual communication designed to grab peoples attention and provoke positive change. I wish to paint in extreme areas to highlight the humanitarian plight of the people of gaza. Through photography and video, we intend to raise awareness of the humanity and culture that exists within gaza and is under threat. Graffiti is very much a resistance subculture and we wish to paint at site specific locations designed to challenge, enthuse and inspire people towards a peaceful, beautiful way of co-existing. In the long term we are working tirelessly to set up a direct connection with a support network to help assist and launch new and emerging artists from Palestine, and to allow viable artistic trade to flourish.

Also we are offering courses in “fast moving camera situations” to allow higher quality evidence gathering and documentation of events as they happen, and “visual communication” to allow artists to hone their skills and make it easier to reproduce on our end. We are trying to equip the students with the tools to allow them to express their story to the outside world, to raise awareness and funds in the process to encourage a self sustaining arts scene in gaza. Art is a powerful intellectual tool that can be used for many purposes and we believe that there is solid potential to work with. We are looking for people with an interest in the arts or film making who are enthusiastic and whose talent may have been overlooked. We want to give these people recognition and to try and get their work known and showcased abroad. We will also be interviewing anyone involved with the arts scene in Gaza for a documentary and of course anyone else who has a story to tell that will help the Palestinian cause. This is a Humanitarian mission, and is the result of one community wanting to help another.

Dedposh in Gaza

The video following the graffiti work of my friend Shahid in Gaza and back in the UK. 

Our Greatest Fear

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~Nelson Mandela

Film Review: Rachel (2009)

Guest post by: S. P.

I arrived outside the Barbican Centre on Sunday with two of my friends. The Barbican was hosting the Palestine Film Festival and because we had become acquainted in Palestine last summer this seemed like an excellent opportunity for a meet-up. In fact, the choice of film was particularly resonant. The film was Rachel, a documentary about the Palestinians’ ‘American shaheeda’ Rachel Corrie who we all knew had been killed in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer. The documentary was filmed by French-Israeli documentary filmmaker Simone Bitton, who gave a Q&A session after the screening.  The film’s playing at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival caused an outcry amongst those sadly brainwashed into thinking this murdered activist who was struggling for justice was defending “terrorists” instead.

Rachel had been active with the International Solidarity Movement, the same group we had volunteered with last summer. As I expected, there were many more familiar faces in the queue outside the cinema, the film had naturally become a point of congregation for ISM old hands. Even beyond those I personally recognised, there were friends-of-friends who had come with their own clear first-hand memories of solidarity in Palestine. One friend gave us all a tissue, expecting we might find ourselves sobbing in the film.

The film begins with activists and Palestinians talking about the situation in Rafah at the time. Israel had built a 13 metre high wall surrounding the Gaza strip, enabling it to exert total control over the lives of the 1.5 million Palestinians living inside. Rafah is a town of 70,000 alighting the border with Egypt; four-fifths of the population are UN-registered refugees from the Nakba. At the time the wall was built, it was abutted by dense Palestinian housing. This contradicted the Israeli army’s desire to create a several-hundred metre wide corridor along the Palestinian side of the border, the “Philadelphi route”. To achieve their aim, the Israeli army used Caterpillar D-9 armoured bulldozers, protected by tanks, to crush Palestinian homes. By the time they withdrew in 2005, there was only mud where there had been homes and grass before.

The International Solidarity Movement had been started in 2001 by Palestinian and non-Palestinian activists. It is based around the principles of solidarity and nonviolent direct action, and of being Palestinian-led. When invited by Palestinians, internationals could be a useful asset. Under Israeli apartheid law, internationals have far higher legal status than the Palestinian non-people, a horrible fact that can be exploited. For example, at demonstrations the Israeli army is ordered not to fire live ammunition if there are internationals present, so in theory an international presence should improve the safety of all the participants (although the army often ignores its own directives). All actions are Palestinian-led since those who have lived under occupation all their lives have a far better understanding of whether, for example, removing a road block would improve the situation or would pointlessly cause Israeli reprisals.

In Rafah, 2003, some ISM activists were staying with Palestinian families in the houses most exposed to the Israeli army, those separated from the wall by nothing but an expanse of mud, next in line to be demolished. In the film, an Israeli soldier talked about how these demolitions were achieved. There was no “notice to quit” served; instead, an Israeli tank accompanying a bulldozer would fire a shell at the house to see if anyone was in. When they deemed there had been sufficient time for anyone to come out of the house and run away, obviously without any of their belongings, the armoured bulldozer would destroy the house, only a couple of minutes after its occupants learned that day would be different from any other day under brutal occupation. In theory the activists might provide a deterrant to the army who knew that, sadly, a death of an international would be an international PR disaster compared to the commonplace death of a Palestinian. Moreover, and perhaps more realistically, the activists were there as an act of solidarity, to stand alongside Palestinians and show that the entire world hadn’t forgotten about them; that it wasn’t time to despair.

I had read the accounts of Rachel’s death many times online so I was somewhat desensitized to the emotional power of its retelling, but I was still angered, furious to learn about the campaign of every-day terrorism the Israeli army waged against the Palestinians of Rafah. Two ISM activists interviewed in the film were British men active in Rafah at the same time as Rachel Corrie and they talked about the difficulty of sleeping while different types of automatic fire seemed to be going off all around the homes of their Palestinian hosts. In case there are any doubts about their integrity, the filmmakers interviewed an Israeli tank gunner who talked about the policies along the Philadelphi Route. I found that segment of the film the most difficult to watch.

Unlike all the other interviewees, the kippah-wearing Israeli veteran was filmed from behind, in shadow and silhouetted by a window. Obviously, he was too ashamed to show his face. He talked about the orders he had been given to shoot at the houses every hour to keep the Palestinians “scared”. This brought to mind the incessant Israeli shrieking about rockets from Gaza, oversized fireworks which are overwhelmingly likely to land in the desert. How can this be called “terrorism” with a straight face by a country which orders its soldiers to shoot at houses with the explicit aim of keeping people “scared”? Unlike an unguided rocket, if a tank fires at a house from a hundred metres it will not miss. The activists talk about seeing bullet holes indicating a bullet’s trajectory directly over a kitchen sink, at head height – all in the name of “security” for Israelis. Read more…

Introducing Breast Cancer in Gaza

One day as I became immersed in the chaos of patients coming in and out of the crowded clinic room where the two intern doctors and another ten medical students were competing to impress the consultant surgeon, I found myself propelled into an overwhelming sense of perspective. With an initially glazed focus I casually sift through the faces of the three middle-aged women who were successively introduced into the room and I soon got pinched by the realisation that the vast majority of women with a diagnosis of breast cancer walk out of the room with an A5-size paper and a date for their mastectomy surgeries.

Studies show that breast cancer among Arab women is more violent, with a younger age of onset and higher mortality rates than among women of European origin. In Gaza, where breast cancer is the most common among women accounting for 30 to 40% of all cancer cases, news that the 5-year survival is 40% at best compared to over 70% in European countries raise questions about the reasons behind this tremendous variation which seems under-explained by the supremacy of health care in the developed Europe. Moreover, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures, up to 60% of the women in Gaza who have been diagnosed with breast cancer were diagnosed after the cancer had already spread in their bodies. In Israel, with its European-like figures, only 5 to 7 percent of the women with breast cancer are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other organs.

Treatment options for breast cancer include surgery, drugs (hormonal therapy and chemotherapy), radiation and immunotherapy. Mastectomy is the medical term for the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely and it provides the single largest benefit, with surgery alone being capable of producing a cure in many cases. To increase the likelihood of long-term survival, several chemotherapy regimens are commonly given in addition to surgery. Radiation may be added to kill any cancer cells in the breast that were missed by the surgery, which usually extends survival somewhat. In Gaza however, surgery is often the only option in use with virtual absence of other options including breast-conserving surgical techniques.

According to a research paper by Schragi Schwartz, a Summer school participant with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, the disparity of survival rates is caused by numerous factors: Firstly, there is the lack of facilities in the Gaza Strip; lack of screening programs, impaired accessibility to existing screening units, and lack of trained oncologists. Secondly, limited treatment options. No radiotherapy in Gaza; no advanced hormone tests; no bone density scans. Thirdly, difficulties in accessing facilities in Israel and abroad. Palestinian Authority reluctance to refer patients abroad due to economic reasons; Israel is reluctant to accept Palestinian patients due to “security” reasons.

Adding to the aforementioned:

–      Screening is a globally-recognized tool enabling early detection of cancer and thus improving the chance of early intervention and longer survival. The lack of screening programs in Gaza poses a significant negative effect on survival rates.

–      For years, the siege on the Gaza Strip has prevented doctors from leaving for specialized training and further study.

–      With over 50% of Palestinians in Gaza living beneath the poverty line and unemployment rates close to 30%, many are unable to pay for adequate treatment.

–      Medications are not arriving in the Gaza Strip with regularity and most patients are not managing to get medical treatments even if they could afford it.

–      Radiological screening and some diagnostic tools are not allowed into Gaza because of Israel’s opposition which stems from the use of radioactive materials in the treatment.

In short, the health system in Gaza is unable to cope adequately with the diagnosis and treatment of the number one cancer in Gazan women.

During my ten-week surgery rotation, I have seen elderly women who had unmistakable malignant masses yet for ignorance and lack of belief in health system they waited for months before seeking medical care. Other women expressed fear of the negative stigma which can affect a woman’s standing in the community and her daughters’ chances of marriage. More than once, I was overcome with the intense feeling of desolation that radiates so strongly from these women as they wrestle with the beast the destiny has thrown at them.

The emotional impact of cancer diagnosis, symptoms, and subsequent uncertainty and body-image problems inherent in cancer treatment can be devastating and may lead to increased anxiety, shame, and occasional ideas of suicide. Breast cancer survivors will not only have to deal with the physical and emotional trauma of the surgery, they additionally have to suffer the difficulties of a life of scarcity under a crippling siege.

Hanan, a breast cancer patient in her thirties, asked for a treatment that can preserve her breast. The consultant replied:”We are sorry. There are no other options. Nothing more we can do, not in Gaza!”. Silence prevailed for few seconds as Hanan nodded her head, put the paper with the date of her mastectomy operation in her colourful burst and walked out of the clinic room.