Saturday, June 30, 2007
I’ve stopped trying to remember which procedures I saw in the OR on any given day. Today I observed an orthopedic surgeon for most of the day, he was a complete asshole. Not to me, but to literally everyone else. If his assistant didn't do something or didn't do something fast enough this guy would fly off the handle, waving the bone drill wildly around, etc. The one time he couldn't reduce someone's fractures with pins from the outside and had to open his finger he took the drill and slammed it down on the sterile instruments table, knocking several pieces of equipment to the floor.
It's not that I don't try to remember which procedures I saw because they're not interesting, it’s just that by the time I get back up to the residents’ changing room I can’t be bothered to write them down. It's so hot here now. I wake up practically naked and uncovered because it's too hot to cover yourself with anything. The downside is a set of fresh new mosquito bites. I've had a fan on me all night, but still I'm already sweating. By the time I get outside the sun has been in the sky for several hours; walking down the hill I sweat a little more. I then cram myself into a service filled with other hot sweaty people (air conditioning is an unheard of luxury here, the only place I've found it is in the operating theaters at Ahli, and they're usually off). The hospital itself is hot, but not punishing. I leave the hospital and get into another packed service. I get to the city center between 2:30 and 3:00 pm; it's hot like you expect hell to be. I walk about 100 yards and get in another service, heading for Fawwar. I get out of the service, thinking "today is different, I'll be fine, no worries." Then I start to climb the hill to Musa's house. By some cruel twist of fate, despite the many houses on this hill there is no way to walk up it in the shade, so for ten minutes I slog up this stupid incline, one step at a time, with the sun trying to kill me the whole way. I come to the same tree every day, so grateful it hasn't somehow disappeared since that morning, and wait in its shade for a minute. Then I go the rest of the way. I feel like dying when I finally get to Musa's door: I'm not out of breath so much as ready to collapse from exhaustion. When I walk into the house the sweat pours faster than it did outside. I go back to my bedroom, disrobe and spend the next ten minutes staring at the small spare fan Musa gave me. I then put my clothes back on, walk out of the room, say "har ekteer" ("it's very hot") to the first person I see, and plop down on a couch. The couch and the house are hot. Eventually the sun goes down, but the house stays hot (it's designed this way so that it stays at least a little bit warmer in the winter than the outside). I take a shower (every other day...) but the humidity only makes me sweat more. I go to bed practically naked, still sweating. There's just no respite from the heat here, which I think is what makes it so harsh.
Dr. Harb, one of the physicians in the ER (the one who told me the joke about the penis not having a bony support) gave me a ride home today. On the way we happened to see the guy who works in the cashier's office at Ahli, and so we picked him up. As soon as the guy got in the car he started talking about Hamas and Fatah, what he was saying I have no idea. Dr. Harb stopped so the guy could buy some bread; after he got out Harb looked at me and said, “He likes to talk. You know, if you watch the news, you listen to the radio, you think the world is *he gestures, trying to think of a word* on fire. Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, everywhere. But when you walk in the street, you go home, you go to work, you see that life continue.”
The guy got back in the car and we headed for Fawwar; immediately he started talking about Gaza again. We dropped him off before I got out. A few minutes after he left the car Dr. Harb told me he wants to go to work in Dubai for three or four years. “You'll make more money there,” I said, since he has repeatedly asked me how much money he would need to spend two weeks in the US as a tourist.
“Maybe,” he said, and shrugged. “But I want to go somewhere that the life isn't so difficult. I feel that the situation here gives me, yani, apnea,” meaning it stops him from breathing.
Fri, Jun 29, 2007 at 11:14 AM
Fri, Jun 29, 2007 at 4:43 PM
I wasn't "unopposed", I was unacknowledged. When large men with guns ignore you, but you know they usually stop you, you become frightened. You second guess yourself, you walk away not knowing if you have a rifle pointed at your back. Every time the soldiers say something you spin around, wondering if they're calling you back. Yes, that is random brutalization of an entire population and, on that day, of me. If you don't understand why maybe you should go walk around some place where you're not sure if the men with guns are planning on shooting you or not, it's quite an experience.
I'll put it another way: there's a sniper tower in front of Musa's house. When I walk outside to talk to my girlfriend (I don't get cell phone service inside the house) I have no idea if the men in the tower are pointing their weapons at me. Maybe they're discussing whether or not they should kill me to "teach the Palestinians a lesson". Maybe they're bored. Maybe they're high, who knows? So I guess I'm "unopposed" by the men in the sniper tower, since they're not physically stopping me from speaking on the phone. The same way the DC sniper didn't actually stop anyone from doing anything except the actual people whom he shot dead. But he still inflicted a reign of "random brutality" and terror on the entire population of Washington and Baltimore, and I think that's a bit too obvious to discuss any further.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Thankfully Norman Finkelstein's tenure case is still going on; I figured it was a done deal when the president of the university said there was no appeals process. The DePaul faculty (and the civilized world generally) seems pretty upset about the denial of tenure, and apparently some faculty are considering a vote of no confidence in the president’s leadership. I’m sure if they had just denied Finkelstein tenure they would have gotten away with it, but they got greedy and denied tenure for another highly qualified assistant professor, Dr. Larudee, just because she supported Finkelstein’s tenure bid. Both decisions were shameful in the extreme. Finkelstein’s record, even if “controversial” (and it's not even that), is certainly solid enough for tenure at any university, and since Larudee was in line to become the chair of her department it seems obvious that she was only denied tenure to prove who owns the university.
When we got home from Fawwar I watched al-Jazeera International (al-Jazeera’s English language channel) for a while. They have inter-show advertisements for the channel like CNN does. One of them ended with a reporter saying “tensions are rising here after an elderly man was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier.” They were talking about Yehia al-Jabari, and showed a picture of the blood-soaked steps where he was executed.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Today I observed another general surgeon, Dr. Muhammad Jabrani. He was annoyed that I don’t know anything about pathology.
When I walked into the OR in the morning one of the anesthesiologists looked at me and asked, “Feroze, inti Hamas ow Fatah?” (“Are you Hamas or Fatah?”) I answered “Anna Fatas” (“I’m Fatas”, a nonexistent combination of Fatah and Hamas). He thought this was hysterical. I should say I heard someone else make the same joke to a friend on the road, I can’t think up such witty responses to anything, certainly not in Arabic.
I didn’t notice it yesterday, but today half the surgical staff was smoking in the clean corridor: in the little kitchen where they make tea, in the surgeon’s office, in the nurse’s office, in the anesthesiologist’s office, everywhere.
Dr. Hashlamoon came to remove an infected pilonidal sinus from someone whom he obviously knew quite well. The guy was the classic “khalili”, or “man from Hebron”: big fat head, big fat body, no neck and a stupefied expression permanently imprinted on his face. (If you’re wondering what a pilonidal sinus is, look it up. Warning: they’re not pretty.)
I got a service from Ahli and the driver said he was going directly to Fawwar, so I just paid him for the whole way (instead of switching services in the city center like I usually do). Unfortunately on the way to Fawwar we saw an insane car accident, I really should have taken a picture of it but it felt inappropriate. A black Chevy Impala had driven into a flatbed transportation truck, putting the corner of the flatbed right into the junction of the windscreen and the hood. The car had been crushed as though a giant gorilla had repeatedly slammed his hand down on the engine, both airbags were deployed, all of the windows and the windscreen were broken, etc. The service driver knew the people who owned the car so he gave me my money back and dropped me off at the Fawwar service, then went to Ahli.
Today was my first day in OR. I observed a general surgeon named Dr. Hashlamoon, whose name I’m sure I’m misspelling. He performed eight operations between 8 am and 2 pm, it was remarkably fast. He did two hernia excisions (one with repair and one without); a simple mastectomy for breast cancer on a male whom, a few years earlier, had the contralateral breast removed, also for breast cancer (for you non-medical people: that’s rare); a tracheostomy; two cholecystectomies (removal of the gallbladder); lanced a neck abscess, and one more operation that I can’t remember.
I told Musa I know where Fatah gets its ammunition (answer: from the US and Israel), and in Gaza I know where Hamas gets its ammunition (from tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border), but where does Hamas get its ammunition from in the West Bank?
Musa chuckled to himself and then answered: “Hamas gets its ammunition from Israelis. From the people who, *struggles to think of a word*, they, *struggles some more*, the ones who sell guns and things.”
“From Israeli arms dealers?” I asked, a bit surprised. If I had thought about it for two seconds I wouldn't have been.
“Yes,” Musa replied. “Not legal of course, but, uh, yes, they will sell bullets and bombs and things to Hamas. Sometimes stolen from the army,” meaning from the Israel Defense Forces.
I started laughing, and so did Musa. Not because it's funny, of course, but at the sheer absurdity of the situation. Note again that security is obviously not the guiding concern with regards to the West Bank: Israel could easily regulate its own arms dealers, had it any motivation to do so.
Left: imagine that hitting your foot at the speed of sound.
I mentioned the al-Jabari couple, the two old people whom the Israelis shot in the head in their home a few weeks ago. During the same “raid”, if that’s the right word for breaking into someone’s house and executing them, the Israelis also shot one of the al-Jabari's sons in the foot, his name is Kamil. He’s had surgery to remove the bullet and repair some of the damage. Today we changed his dressings.
I forget if it’s his left or right foot, I think it was his left. He’s a big guy, I’d imagine nearly six-feet tall when standing, with large overall features: big feet, big hands, a big head, etc. (what the locals call a "khalili"). He's one year younger than me. His dressing consists of multiple layers of gauze in two crep bandages, and all of this in a backslab P.O.P. cast. His leg is elevated, by which I mean it rests on the footboard of his bed.
He had obviously had his bandages changed before, because when we came he first asked us if he really needed them changed again. Iyad said yes, and so the patient told us to wait for a moment. He took a few deep breaths, closed his eyes and said a few words (I assume he was praying), took his pillow and bit down on it, and then said to go ahead. I didn’t understand why he expected this to be painful.
We took the backslab and crep bandages off to find the gauze soaked through and through with blood and dilute pus (or maybe ECF and plasma, I’m not sure how to tell the difference between them). He has a huge pair of sutures running on both the anterior and posterior aspects of his foot, with a drain inserted (why I’m not sure, I don’t actually know much about the pathology of penetrating trauma, if it even makes sense to talk about such a thing).
We cleaned the wound with saline and then povidone-iodine scrub, which didn’t cause him any pain. Then Iyad looked at Kamil and said something that must have meant “ready?” He nodded, and then Iyad and the other doctor started compressing his leg at the knee and drawing their hands all the way down to his foot. It was all Kamil could do to stay on his bed; it was obvious that he wanted to scream at the top of his lungs. The more they compressed the more fluid trickled out of his drain. Eventually they stopped. We replaced the dressings with new ones, and left.
In case you're wondering how he got shot in the foot: after the Israelis shot both of his parents in the head on their front steps, he and his brother Radi walked out of the house to find their parents on the ground in a pool of blood, surrounded by Israeli soldiers, and another one of their brothers beaten bloody. They tried to move their parents bodies, which the Israelis tried to stop them from doing; apparently old people can still be terrorists after they're dead. Radi pushed one of the soldiers away, and so the soldiers decided to shoot Kamil in the foot. Radi, 36 years old, then knelt down next to his dead father started crying. The soldiers decided to beat him for this crime, badly enough that he went to the hospital after the soldiers finally left two hours later. For a full account you can read a report on that night by al-Haq (the International Commission of Jurists, West Bank) at http://www.alhaq.org/etemplate.php?id=319.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Today was my first day in the surgical ward. I spent most of my time with an intern named Iyad, he speaks Arabic, Hebrew, English and Russian, all fluently. The first thing I did was clean the biggest bed sores I’ve ever seen on an old man, they were horrible. The head of his left femur was completely exposed. Aside from that we cleaned surgical wounds and sutures. The kid who came into the ER with scalp eversion had undergone one operation and was waiting to get a skin graft. Cleaning a child's skull while he's awake and staring at you is a strange experience.
When I got home Musa and I ate dinner alone. I asked him what effect the occupation has had on his family directly. He told me that several of his family members have been shot, and that his youngest brother is in administrative detention right now ("administrative detention" means he was kidnapped by Israel, and the Israelis have said they won't charge him with any crime or release him. The sentence is usually for six months, and is renewable indefinitely). He's an unemployed painter who manages to sneak into Israel once every three months to find work.
Note again the passivity of the population. The remarkable thing about these people isn't that so many of them are terrorists, but that so few are.
Dr. Ahmed told me he is looking for observerships in the US. He said he was looking at Mount Sinai hospital, I forget where. He asked if the hospital is run by “the Jewish” (by which he means is it a "Jewish hospital" the same way St. Joseph's is a "Catholic hospital"). I said I think it was founded by American Jews but that it’s not a religious institution. “Yes, I think it is by the Jewish," Dr. Ahmed replied. "This is very good. I would like to go there, to make good impressions, to show we have no problem with the Jewish or the Christian. Or with any religion. Some Jewish in America do more for Palestinians than the Palestinians." I'm constantly amazed at the lack of anti-Semitism here; I'm sure it can be found, but I haven't found it yet.
Dr. Ala, another one of the young doctors working in the ER, brought his father in today, I think just to show him the hospital. Dr. Ala is a slightly effeminate and incredibly knowledgeable physician who strikes me as a replica of Sai in every way, but much taller. His dad, on the other hand, is about my height; his build and mannerisms are those of a farmer, his voice is deep the way you’d expect God’s to be. Dr. Ala has fair skin, wears western clothing and trendy-looking glasses (Payal and Mondo: he has a zip-up exactly like that one you wanted me to buy) and has a sloppy haircut and a goatee; his dad's skin is a deep brown that reminds me of stained wood, he looks like he shaved five minutes ago, and he wears an Arab headdress, slacks and a brown suit jacket that looks forty years old and probably is. You can tell from the way he carries himself that he, like his son, is remarkably intelligent. The generational differences and similarities are striking; I wish I had taken a picture of them together.
A funny bit of cultural exposure occurred in the ER today. Dr. Ahmed and I were talking when a female nurses from a different department walked by. She passed ten people before getting to us but said hi only to Dr. Ahmed. He said hi back, then watched her walk away before coming back to the conversation. It’s funny how flirting works in a society where flirting isn’t really acceptable.
A two year old boy came in after he’d caught his right ring finger in a door. Virtually all of the soft tissue had been torn off the distal segment of the finger, it was just the dry bone left exposed, without any visible bleeding. He’d been given an analgesic in the ambulance, so now he was just staring at the finger curiously, it was a bit macabre. They took him for surgery to amputate the finger at the DIP joint, there was nothing to be done to save it.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 5:22 PM
"I think we were talking about Hamas and its previous offers to recognize Israel in return for an end to the occupation when Musa came back in. I told Aaron that despite common knowledge Hamas has been far more forthcoming in agreeing to recognize Israel than Israel has ever been in agreeing to recognize the Palestinians’ rights in the occupied territories. He said frankly and honestly that his understanding of the diplomatic history is the exact opposite and asked me to send him evidence of what I was saying"
Regarding Hamas 'recognition' of Israel, I respond by citing Hamas Minister Haniyah's statements during a recent interview with the Saudi daily paper Aljazeera (2 April ):
"As far as we're concerned, the issue of recognition of Israel has been settled once and for all. It has been settled in our political literature, in our Islamic thought and in our Jihadist culture, on which we base our moves. Recognition of Israel is out of the question. We have been advocating the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of the refugees. In exchange for all that, we will declare a truce, but no recognition of Israel."
"The concept of a Palestinian state is clear in our view: 'Palestine' within its borders and its legitimate historical heritage. However, we don't have a problem with a unity government in this phase. We are in agreement with our brother Palestinians and Arabs about establishing a Palestinian state within the '67 borders with Jerusalem as the capital. We are telling everyone that we have an objective for this phase, as well as a national goal."
And from Damascus Hamas, in a January 2007 interview with The Guardian, Mr Meshal said: "As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land. This is a reality but I won't deal with it in terms of recognising or admitting it." Changing the Hamas charter (which calls explicitly for the complete destruction of Israel) was also a matter for the future, he said. "The distant future will have its own circumstances, and positions could be determined then," he said
Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by 'recogntion'.
Pinpoint customers who are looking for what you sell.
Sun, Jun 24, 2007 at 1:58 PM
First, my apologies for the delay in responding, I was visiting a friend in Nazareth-Illit this weekend.
Second, since I assume you don't read or speak Arabic, I'll assume you got that first quote from one of the thoroughly discredited groups that purports to translate the Arabic-language media for an American audience. For a good deal of enlightening information on the way these groups operate you should read the work of Dr. Nathan Brown, available at his personal website http://geocities.com/nathanbrown1/. The relevant papers are "Short summary of research on Palestinian textbooks", "The International Controversy Concerning Palestinian Textbooks", and "Democracy, History, and the Contest over the Palestinian Curriculum." A few years ago I corresponded with Dr. Brown extensively regarding these matters, he's very approachable if you have any questions about his work.
Finally, on the issue you raised: I didn't write that Hamas has agreed to recognize Israel, I wrote (as you accurately quoted me): "Hamas has been far more forthcoming in agreeing to recognize Israel than Israel has ever been in agreeing to recognize the Palestinians' rights in the occupied territories." The Hamas statements you provided in no way contradict the statement I made.
Israel steadfastly refuses to recognize that the Palestinians are the rightful sovereigns in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Never once in Israel's history has any Israeli government ever made any statement recognizing any Palestinian sovereignty or rights of any kind in the OT. Beyond that, Israel is not only denying Palestinian rights in the Occupied Territories in words, but is actively working to undermine them in reality by pouring billions of dollars into Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank, a gigantic multi-billion dollar wall running through the West Bank to integrate the settlements into Israel, a gigantic multi-billion dollar military presence in the West Bank, etc. That Israel is also actively and deliberately destroying Palestinian society by making life unlivable in the OT is another way of actively - not just verbally - denying Palestinian rights (or the "right to exist" of the Palestinians, to use the current and thoroughly idiotic terminology).
By contrast, Hamas has made ambiguous and halting offers of a long-term "hudna"; nobody alleges that they've come out singing the Israeli national anthem and wearing kippas. But these ambiguous offers and proposals are "far more forthcoming" than anything anyone can attribute to Israel on the issue of mutual recognition of rights, exactly as I stated. Furthermore, Hamas isn't actually doing anything to destroy the State of Israel or the Jewish people: there are no Hamas tanks outside Tel Aviv or Palestinian religious fanatics driving Israeli shepherds out of their homes near Haifa. One might argue that Hamas isn't doing any such thing because they have no capacity to do so, but that's conjecture. I can't blame you for being unaware of these Hamas proposals since they were barely (and sometimes not) reported on in the US and then dumped down the memory hole, but that doesn't mean they didn't happen.
Also note that even the statements you quoted (assuming the first one is an accurate translation, which is a poor assumption) as counterevidence to my assertion are far more forthcoming than anything Israel has ever proposed. They effectively amount to (repeated) Hamas offers to establish a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. That necessarily means not establishing a Palestinian state in Israel. Granted, the proposals (as you quoted them) do not offer Israel diplomatic recognition, perhaps because the idea of a "people" recognizing a state is meaningless in terms of international relations (as opposed to propaganda exercises meant to paint certain people as "moderates" and others as "extremists"). Still, exactly as I wrote, these proposals are far more forthcoming than any parallel Israeli statements.
And finally, it's no secret that the leaders of the Zionist movement planned to conquer Palestine in stages. David Ben-Gurion was especially adamant that the Yishuv should accept a state in Palestine, no matter how small, because once a state was established it could be expanded through violent means or trickery or legitimate means such as political discourse and accommodation. Quite obviously this conception of how Israel should act is still the operative one in the Israeli government. So again, no matter what one thinks of these Hamas proposals (whether or not they are serious, nobody has any way of knowing), they are more forthcoming than any Israeli proposals that have been made. I don't see how this point could be contested or what evidence you have provided to the end of contesting it.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Abu Nidal went on to tell me a story about when he was younger. He and some young people were discussing politics, and one of their older uncles walked by, stopped them, and decided to tell them a story about a rich man with a cow and a poor man with a horse. I won’t put quotes around the story because I can’t remember it verbatim, but I’ve got the essentials:
In a village somewhere there was a very wealthy man who owned a cow, and a very poor man who owned a prize-winning horse. Every time there was a horse race, no matter where people came from, this man’s horse always won (I guess jockeying didn't pay much back then). So the wealthy man decided he wanted a horse like this. He went to the poor man and said he would pay any price for the horse. The poor man said no, his horse was not an issue of money to him, and he had no interest in parting with it.
A few years went by and the rich man’s cow had a calf at about the same time the poor man’s horse had a foal. The rich man saw his chance to finally have an amazing horse like the poor man's. The rich man went to the guards who watch his house and said, “take this baby cow and replace it with the poor man’s horse; leave the cow there.” So they did, and brought the poor man’s foal back to the rich man’s house.
The poor man woke up the next day and went to check on the foal. When he noticed that the baby horse had been replaced by the rich man’s cow, he took the cow to the rich man’s house, knocked on the door and said “I’m sorry, your baby cow and my baby horse must have decided to switch places.” The rich man said he didn’t understand what the poor man was talking about. “What do you mean?" he said. "Your horse gave birth to this baby cow a few days ago, just at the same time my cow gave birth to the foal."
“But cows don’t give birth to horses, and horses don’t give birth to cows!” the poor man protested. “Please, the horse belongs to me, and I want it back.” Still, the rich man refused. So the poor man went to the oldest man in the village, who was always counted on to be fair and to settle disputes between people.
The old man agreed to hear the case, and so called the rich man and the poor man before him. The rich man came with fifty of his guards, all well dressed and well spoken. The poor man came dressed in a farmer’s clothes and with his son. One after the other the guards went to testify that yes, indeed, the cow had given birth to the baby horse. Only the farmer’s son testified that the horse had given birth to the foal.
The old man sent everyone away and thought about the case for a little while. When he called the two men back in, he announced that he had decided in favor of the rich man.
“What!" the poor man exclaimed. "How can that be? You've always been so wise and fair to everyone, so how can you believe that a cow would give birth to a horse?”
The old man looked at the poor man with sad eyes, and explained things to him. “Do you see how many men that man brought to my home? Can you imagine the power he has? Can you show me so much power as well?”
“No sir, but what does how much power I can show you have to do with whether or not a cow can give birth to a horse?”
“If you could show me this kind of power," said the old man, "if you were equals, then I would agree with you that a cow cannot give birth to a horse. But if you do not have the same power as this man, then I disagree with you. A cow can indeed give birth to a horse.”
Abu Nidal continued: “There is a difference between the power of justice and the justice of power, really. This is why I can't deal with politics now, there is no justice in this world, really.
“Look at Iraq. I was against Saddam in Iraq, any abuse of power I am against. So when Colin Powell said he had the evidence against Iraq [meaning Colin Powell's speech at the UN regarding Iraq's WMD programs] I wanted to see it, really. I watched, and I thought we would see amazing things. But anybody could photograph these pictures [meaning take pictures] and say it's a, yani, mobile weapons laboratory. Really! But the world accepted it and the whole world invaded Iraq, just like this.
“And just two weeks ago I saw a documentary [on al-Jazeera] about a company that a man went to work for in Iraq. This man died, his wife said he wasn't given enough protection. He went because he needed money. So I don't excuse this man's actions, just like I don't excuse the man who goes to Tel Aviv to take a bomb [a suicide bomber]. But why to blame these people? We should blame the situation. Who planned the situation? Even the man who went to Iraq and to Tel Aviv wants peace.
“It’s like if a man comes in here [the ER] in cardiopulmonary arrest [meaning he’s not breathing and his heart isn’t beating]. And everybody starts to work on him, to do CPR, all of these things, and then someone runs in and says ‘hey, that man has a bump on his neck!’ Who would listen? But with peace [meaning when discussing what Israel and the US do in the world], it is different.”
Another incredibly old lady came in today, with her colorful traditional dress and sun-worn leather farmer's skin she struck me as being nothing more than Native American (she wasn’t, of course). She was having serious chest pains and just kept putting her hand in the air for someone to take. Nobody would (it’s dangerous for the doctors, the family could become upset because of the cultural norms, but she really wanted someone to take her hand...), so I took it and just let her hold it while the doctor was talking to her family. She kept looking at me and telling me that she had chest pains, how old she was, where she was from, etc. I kept telling her I don’t speak Arabic, she kept acknowledging this fact, and then kept telling me about her life anyway. It was endearing.
A 17-year-old man came in after he attempted suicide by overdosing on an anti-depressant. We did a gastric lavage and he was fine; he was admitted for observation.
When I got home Musa told me he had gone to a nearby wooded area where some teenagers were hunting for small birds with pellet guns in the afternoon. The Israelis shot one of them dead and put another one in the hospital. Musa went to speak to those who weren’t shot about what happened. They took him to the place and described what happened, and Musa filmed it. We watched the video Musa had shot. The kids' blood was still splattered all over the ground where they were shot.
Musa picked up some of the kids' pellets that were left from the night before and brought them home. Somehow he also got some of the bullets the soldiers use in their assault rifles. He passed both to me, emphasizing how different they are, as if I wouldn’t have noticed that one is from a toy and the other from an deadly weapon.
Musa passed the pellets and bullets to me, and I passed them to Afaf; we weren’t looking for anything, but when someone says “here are some bullets” it’s hard to tell them there’s no reason to look at them.
Eventually the samples got around to Suhail, Musa’s 11-year-old son. He looked at the pellets only for an instant but then looked at the bullets curiously. He held them between his fingers and turned them around for a minute, examining them. I got the impression that he was trying to understand what they actually do to a human's body, but he obviously couldn’t. It seemed like he was trying to reconcile what he’s seen, especially on TV, about guns and bullets with the idea that these things kill real people, like those whose friends he had just seen and whom he knew his father had met that morning. Eventually he put them down and walked out of the room.
Left: One of those two faces. The soldier (to be precise, border policeman) with the bullhorn is the one who shoved me.
Musa, Aaron and I went into Hebron to put Aaron on a service back to Jerusalem. We had a fantastic breakfast of humus and foul (why can’t someone open a foul stand on campus?), Aaron took the service, then Musa and I went to meet Afaf at PARC. The place was full of women going to the demonstration at Umm Salamona (see below); there were no men in the building except those who work at PARC (three), Musa and me. The atmosphere was jovial and light; I guess some people are used to confronting armed colonists.
We left for the demonstration on large busses. When we got there the first thing we saw was the Israelis arresting someone about 200 yards from the protest site. I took a picture of the arrest practically by accident. All of the pictures I took are available at http://jhu.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2037329&l=710a2&amp;amp;amp;id=5404578, http://jhu.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2037331&l=d4168&id=5404578 and http://jhu.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2037337&l=14942&id=5404578; a short video (it's just the soldiers pushing people for five minutes) is also available at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3096861987860760843.
I wrote the article below about my time here and the demonstration, but nobody seems interested in publishing it. I've copied and pasted it here since it's too hot to write anything else, even though this apparently sucks. My apologies in advance if it's really not worth reading.
The view from Palestine
I’ve been volunteering in the emergency room and surgical ward at al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, the southern West Bank’s largest city, since May 18. In the first two weeks I was here the Israeli Army shot at least three people in the head who were brought to Ahli afterwards: Jehad Takatqa, a fifteen-year-old boy who may never move or feel the left side of his body again; Fatima al-Jabari, a sixty-year-old woman whom I doubt will survive the trauma in any recognizable form; and Fatima’s husband Yehia, a seventy-year-old man who died instantly when a bullet blew his brain out the back of his head and crushed and shattered his cranium. Jehad was watching a stone-throwing demonstration and was the unlucky child the Israelis decided to shoot to stop the demonstration; the Jabarai couple was shot in their home from close range while the army was apparently looking for someone related to them.
Adjusted for population, this is the equivalent of 123 people shot in the head by a foreign army in New York City.
Meanwhile, this past Friday I had the privilege of witnessing and participating in one of the great nonviolent struggles of our time: the struggle of the Palestinian people – along with a great many Israelis and internationals – to halt and reverse construction of the terrifying wall Israel is building in the West Bank. The protest was organized by the Stop The Wall campaign (http://www.stopthewall.org/) in a farming village named Umm Salamona, located a few miles from Bethlehem.
We arrived at Umm Salamona just after noon on Friday, June 8; the Israeli Army was already there. Before us lay an expanse of cultivated farmland with a horrible scar run through it: the path for the wall, carved into the land by American-made Caterpillar bulldozers. When built, the wall will divide the village from its farmlands, making survival here impossible.
I was immediately struck by the preparations the IDF and border police had made to stop these people from nonviolently demanding their rights: two large military vehicles used for arrests were present along with a dozen army and border police jeeps. People between the ages of ten and seventy armed only with cameras faced one of the most powerful armies in the world, made up of young men in full body armor and helmets, with loaded automatic rifles, battle-grade radios, nightsticks, and riot shields.
The protest began with everyone gathering at the blocked gate. A seventy-year-old woman who lives on the land walked – slowly, smiling and with assistance – to the soldiers and asked them to let her through. They refused. She asked them to go away and to leave her alone; after all, she had done them no wrong. They refused. A border policeman on a bullhorn announced that everyone should “go home”.
One of the soldiers gave an order and they all rushed us, trying to push us away from the gate. We stood our ground without fighting. After several minutes of shoving the army tried to grab someone randomly in order to arrest him. The Palestinians realized what was happening and tried to pull him back into the crowd. Eventually our side won the tug-of-war; the man’s shirt was torn off, but he was pulled to the back of the crowd, and so at least he didn’t spend the night in an Israeli prison.
A Reuters cameraman was standing next to me; one of the soldiers threw him to the ground for no reason that I could discern, nearly cracking his head open. The cameraman jumped back up and started screaming at the soldier. Another soldier got between them and told the first soldier not to act that way. After all, the media can get them in trouble, and only a lunatic attacks people who aren’t defenseless.
Now at the front of the crowd, I was face-to-face with a soldier with dark skin and vaguely African features. “Where are you from?” I asked. He tilted his head back and forth and smiled: he knew what I meant, and that to answer “Israel” would be ridiculous.
“I know you’re from Israel, but where is your family from?”
“Yemen”, he replied.
“Do you think your parents came to Israel so you could steal land from a poor farmer and his family?” I asked. He looked at me without answering. “Do you really want to be here, doing this?” Again, no answer.
The soldiers rushed the crowd again and then again, and then shut the gates we intended to march through. Frustrated, the man who owns the land chained and padlocked the gate shut. A soldier responded by putting a plastic tie around the gate, the kind they use to bind peoples’ hands. “If you put that,” the farmer yelled at the soldier, “I will cut it! I – WILL – CUT – IT!” They put it on anyway; we tried to cut it, and failed.
Three Jewish Israeli activists, one woman and two men, had been standing on the soldiers’ side of the fence since before we arrived. The soldiers spontaneously decided to assault and arrest them; the woman’s headscarf was knocked off and both men were thrown to the ground, bound and then put into one of the large military vehicles. I thought to myself that I could only think of two places where Jews have forced Jews into trucks: Nazi Germany and Israel.
The organizers decided we should move to the next gate, perhaps 25 yards down the fence. We did, but unfortunately the soldiers beat us there. So we moved down the fence to the next gate, forcing the army to spread out. This time we beat them to it. They had tied this one shut as well, but two young Palestinians managed to rip the plastic tie off. We hesitated, knowing we could be arrested and worse if we went onto the road. Eventually the woman whose family I’m staying with in Hebron [Afaf] led us out. About fifteen of us got through the gate before the army blocked it: not enough to block the road effectively without fighting, we decided.
After struggling for hours in the heat of the Middle East, people decided it was time to leave. This too was blocked by the soldiers. For twenty minutes those of us who had made it outside the fence negotiated with the soldiers for the release of our friends. The border policeman with the bullhorn shoved me from behind, again for no reason, and walked casually onwards.
Eventually our friends were let go; we got on our buses and went back to Hebron. A few miles from the site of Jesus’ birth we had failed to convince the soldiers of a Jewish state to allow a farmer to peacefully protest the theft of his land. June 8 would go down in the history books had its events not been repeated every week all over the West Bank for the past 40 years.
The view from Texas
My medical school paid for this trip, since I’m volunteering at a hospital six days per week. Our Dean of Student Life, an absolutely wonderful man, told me he suggested to the school’s legal team a “release of liability” form for those students who accept scholarships from the school to travel abroad. The school’s lawyers at first said such a form wasn’t necessary. “Really?” asked the dean. “We have people traveling to Columbia.” No problem, said the lawyers.
“We have people traveling to Zimbabwe.” No problem, they said.
“We have one student traveling to the West Bank.” They “went pale”, and decided a release of liability was a good idea.
Later I learned exactly why the lawyers felt this way. It wasn’t because they were worried the Israeli army would shoot me in the head or beat and imprison me for no reason. No, they were “worried that [I] might take a picture with some terrorists.”
This nonviolent struggle will never succeed until enough Americans see the heartlessness of these lawyers’ fears. Yes, there are terrorists in the West Bank. But there is also a colonial superpower, a brutal occupation, a system of apartheid unlike anything anywhere else in the world. The terrorists and this superpower are simply incomparable in terms of destructive power and their history of violence.
For those concerned with Palestinian rights and the survival of the State of Israel, one thing should be clear: Palestinians and even Israelis cannot stop Israel from completing its program of dismemberment and destruction of the West Bank and mass starvation in Gaza, whether they struggle violently or nonviolently. There is only one group of people who can “stop the wall”, and that’s us, Americans. Israel cannot maintain the level of control it has over the West Bank without the massive American aid it receives. We alone have the power to end the destruction of Palestine and to save Israel from itself, and with exactly no cost to ourselves.
The State of Israel shows two faces to the world. To the West, Israel shows the paradoxically helpless and powerful Jew fighting valiantly to stave off the next Holocaust. But to the East, and especially to the Palestinians, Israel shows the brute soldier and the fanatical settler, who together stop an old woman from walking where she pleases, beat and arrest unarmed protesters, shoot children and old people, and yell “go home!” to a farmer whose home they are destroying.
Like the American Civil Rights Movement, the nonviolent struggle for Palestinian rights and human dignity will be won or lost in the minds of privileged Americans. I hope we wake up, before it’s too late.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Left: It's not a walled-off jail, it's an anti-suicide bomber fence. Check your facts, graffiti artist.
Sorry for not posting, our Internet access has been spotty the last few days.
Someone named Joel who lives in New York took issue with one of my postings (why anybody would bother to analyze what I've written here is beyond me, but...). This resulted in the following exchange of letters, which I'll update if updates arise. I've removed his email address. Why he cc'd Norman Finkelstein and several other people (none of whom I know or have ever heard of) I have no idea.
(This is a copied and pasted Gmail conversation, so read it from top to bottom.)
Subject: Checkpoint Syndrome, Check your facts Feroze.
Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 7:08 AM
Cc: norman finkelstein
I am a forty-nine year old New York Jew and Zionist. I have been reading your blog, http://sixweeksinhebron.blogspot.com/, with mixed emotions, which is to say, I admire your dedication and sacrifice, but strongly disagree with you politically.
Lets critically examine your handling of Checkpoint Syndrome, the pamphlet (not a book) about IDF soldiers ill treatment of Palestinians.
"Palestinians were made to sing Israeli songs “like a choir”;"
Not nice, but you don't mention that the Arabs in this incident were young men, some of whom thought it was funny and laughed themselves.
" ...fellow soldiers shooting children with weapons that blew their legs off"
You didn't mention that the soldier involved in this incident had generally been kind to the Arabs during his checkpoint duty and that this soldier had been ordered to shoot the Arab child by his Battalion Commander. More important, you fail to mention that this shooting had been thoroughly investigated by IDF.
."..about making Palestinian children clean the checkpoint for the soldiers".
A one time incident for which the children were rewarded with chocolates.
"throwing Palestinians’ IDs and permits into the air so they have to scrounge around on the ground to collect them and forcing elderly Palestinians to give them their prayer beads."
This is disgusting and unprofessional behavior no matter who is doing it.
"beating, humiliating and photographing a Palestinian dwarf".
The mistreatment of the dwarf was not done by the author or his friends at the checkpoint, but by other soldiers.The author said that he and his friends never abused the dwarf, but rather, felt sorry for him. The mistreatment of the dwarf is apparently, second hand information.
"breaking a young man’s hand and slashing his tires because he refused to give a soldier his cigarettes".
Brutal and sadistic, but you fail to mention that the guilty soldier was tried by a military court for this crime and jailed.
"of savagely beating a helpless, unarmed mentally retarded 16-year-old, kidnapping him and then letting younger soldiers abuse him at their base for fun"
Brutal and sadistic.
"of beating a father in front of his family until he cried"
The father tried to cross the checkpoint without documents and freaked out. This probably doesn't warrant a beating, but you fail to mention that the IDF soldiers would selcectively beat people out of sight. Which is to say that the soldiers were fearful of being witnessed and reported. Which is to say that there was a grievance process for these Arab victims and that, sometimes, military justice was meted out against soldiers.
You never mention this.
"about beating a wanted Palestinian until his face was covered in blood and then photographing him"
The Palestinian in this incident was a wanted terrorist and had resisted arrest.
"of beating and urinating on a Palestinian because he cursed at one of the soldiers; of forcing a Palestinian to get on all fours and bark like a dog after beating him;
Brutal and sadistic
"All of this was from 1996-1999, the “quiet years” of the Oslo Accords".
Quiet because you say so?
10 Jan 1996
13 injured by bomb in Tel Aviv bus station; a second bomb exploded 10 minutes later
16 Jan 1996
2 soldiers killed in shooting attack on car between Hebron and Jerusalem
30 Jan 1996
1 soldier killed in stabbing attack near Jenin
25 Feb 1996
26 killed (including 9 soldiers and 3 Americans), 80 injured (including 3 Americans) by two suicide bombings on buses in Jerusalem; first bombing killed 23 (including 3 Americans) and injured at least 50; second bombing 30 minutes later killed 3, injured at least 25
25 Feb 1996
1 soldier killed, 34 injured by suicide bomber near Ashkelon
26 Feb 1996
1 killed by car driven into bus stop in Jerusalem
3 Mar 1996 (0627)
19 killed (including 3 soldiers, 1 Ethopian, and 7 Romanians), 7 injured by suicide bombing (one terrorist killed) on bus in Jerusalem; one of the Romanians died on 9 Mar of wounds
4 Mar 1996
14 killed (including 1 soldier), 163 injured (including 2 Americans) by suicide bombing at Dizengoff Center in Tel-Aviv
9 Apr 1996
30 injured by rockets fired from Lebanon
14 May 1996
1 killed (an American), 3 injured in shooting attack at bus stop near Beit-El, West Bank
9 Jun 1996
2 killed in drive-by shooting attack in Zekharya, West Bank
16 Jun 1996
1 policeman killed in shooting attack in Bidiya
26 Jun 1996
3 soldiers killed in ambush north of Jericho
26 Jun 1996
3 killed (including one who died a few days later) in drive-by shooting attack near Beit Shemesh
11 Dec 1996
2 killed (including 1 child) in shooting attack on car near Surda
1 Jan 1997
6 Palestinians injured in shooting by Israeli soldier at market in Hebron
9 Jan 1997
13 injured (including 2 police officers) by two pipe bombs exploding ten minutes apart in Tel Aviv
21 Mar 1997
3 killed (including 1 infant), 48 injured by suicide bombing at cafe in Tel Aviv
10 Apr 1997
1 soldier killed after having been kidnapped near Moshav Zanoah
25 Apr 1997
2 killed in stabbing attack in Wadi Kelt
22 Jul 1997
1 killed, 12 injured (including 10 British and 2 Canadians) by man who drove a car into a group of teenagers, then attacked with bladed weapon
30 Jul 1997
16 killed (including 1 American), 178 injured (including 2 Americans) by two suicide bombings in Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem; three of those killed died subsequently of wounds (on 11 Aug, 29 Aug, 3 Oct)
4 Sep 1997
5 killed (including 1 American teenager), 181 injured by three suicide bombings in Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall in Jerusalem
19 Nov 1997
1 Hungarian killed, 1 Israeli injured in shooting attack in Jerusalem
31 Dec 1997
shooting attack near Alei Zahav injures one who died 6 Jan 1998
31 Jan 1998
1 student injured in stabbing in Jerusalem
11 Feb 1998
1 killed in stabbing attack in Jerusalem
14 Mar 1998
1 injured by bomb at bus stop in Afula
1 Palestinian injured by stabbing in Jerusalem
1 Palestinian injured by stabbing in Jerusalem
1 Palestinian injured by stabbing in Jerusalem
19 Apr 1998
1 killed near Maon
29 Apr 1998
1 Palestinian injured by stabbing in Jerusalem
6 May 1998
1 teenager killed in stabbing attack in Jerusalem
6 May 1998
1 killed in car bombing in Zerifin
13 May 1998
1 killed by stabbing in Jerusalem
31 Jul 1998
1 injured by bomb thrown at truck in North Jerusalem
5 Aug 1998
2 soldiers killed in ambush at Yizhar
20 Aug 1998
1 killed in stabbing attack in Hebron
27 Aug 1998
21 injured by bombing outside the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv
9 Oct 1998
1 soldier killed in stabbing attack at Moshav Tomer
14 Oct 1998
1 killed in shooting attack near Moshav Ora
26 Oct 1998
1 killed in shooting attack in Hebron
29 Oct 1998
1 soldier killed by car bomb driven into jeep escorting a school bus in Gaza
Moody friends. Drama queens. Your life? Nope! - their life, your story.Play Sims Stories at Yahoo! Games.
Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 1:38 PM
I'm glad at least one person is reading my blog!
I don't want to argue about whether Checkpoint Syndrome is a pamphlet or a book, but I think in your responses to Furer you missed the point (also note that I provided the URL and asked people to read Checkpoint Syndrome for themselves). An armed soldier who, for example, tells children to clean a military installation is violating numerous laws of war and basic morality, whether or not he rewards them with "chocolates" afterwards is irrelevant (if I remember correctly he gave them one piece of chocolate and then delighted in watching them fight over it). A rapist can "reward" his victim with a piece of chocolate or however he pleases, that doesn't change the fact of rape or the asymmetry of power involved in the despicable act.
That the shooting of a child was ordered is 100% irrelevant. If I join the US army and my commander tells me to execute one of your children for no reason, I am obligated by the international laws of war and the US army's own rules of armed conduct (not to mention normal human decency) to tell my commander I will not carry out such an order. Furthermore, I am quite shocked that a Jew, as you said you are, would imply that an army's investigation of an incident in which a soldier shot a child is somehow sufficient judicial process. Jews have a long legacy of falling victim to foreign armies which then proceeded to "investigate" themselves in secret; the Kishnev massacre is the first example that comes to mind.
What was the result of this army self-investigation? Was anybody punished? I think for sure the answer is no, which is in and of itself proof that the investigation was a sham. Under what circumstances is it acceptable to shoot young children? Also, the fact that this soldier was "generally kind" to Arabs is not only irrelevant but actually disturbing.
You are correct that the mistreatment of the dwarf wasn't by Furer (I don't think I implied it was, but if I did please accept my apologies; the point is irrelevant in any case), but it is also not just hearsay since Furer says photographs were taken.
The soldier who broke a Palestinians' hand for refusing to give him his cigarettes was jailed for one month if I remember correctly. By contrast, the Palestinian whom I'm living with was imprisoned for six months during the first Intifada on "administrative detention" for doing exactly nothing. You can guess who was treated better in an Israeli prison, the soldier or the Palestinian English teacher. Note further that, again recalling Jewish history, I'm amazed that you imply that this punishment somehow alters the fundamentals of the situation. Many people were punished for their roles in the Kishnev massacre, none to any serious degree. But much more importantly, there was no attempt by the authorities to investigate who had instigated and guided the massacre, and quite properly so, since it was they themselves, and no serious person expects leaders to purge themselves after committing crimes of state. Similarly, the Israeli Army doesn't investigate anything in any serious sense: it is well known that soldiers feel they can do anything they want at the checkpoints or, really, anywhere; recall the brutal murder of Iman al-Hams in Gaza and the subsequent promotion of the man who machinegunned her tiny body after she had already been wounded. And the soldiers are correct: if for assault and battery, destruction of property and theft a soldier is put in jail for 30 days, and for brutal premeditated murder of a wounded little girl a soldier is promoted, what's the message to soldiers? Are they going to be deterred from mistreating Palestinians or encouraged to push the limits of their own capacity for violence, as Furer says the checkpoints do?
Regarding Israeli beating of Palestinians "out of sight" because they're worried that they'll be exposed: yes, that's true. That's also why child molesters don't molest children in Times Square, and why why concentration camps were located away from European population centers. I don't see the relevance, and again, I'm shocked that a Jew would make such statements.
Finally, regarding the list you copied from (I assume) the TAU institute, I forget it's exact name: I didn't go through and count but the majority of incidents I noticed on that list took place in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and a good number involved Palestinians killing Israeli soldiers. I don't like it when anybody dies - not Americans, not Israelis, not Iraqis, not Palestinians, etc. - but to argue that Palestinians don't have the right to resist Israel's colonization of the West Bank by killing soldiers is silly; if we accept that Palestinians can't kill Israeli soldiers then we have to declare the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising an act of terrorism, and I'm not willing to do that. Many people - the military leaders of the South African anti-Apartheid movement, for example - would argue that targeting the colonists themselves is also legitimate. So the fact that Palestinians were being violent towards Israeli Jews is not evidence that there was some sort of massive terrorist campaign going on.
(You might also try to compile a list of every act of Israeli violence towards Palestinians during the same time period; we both know it will be thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of entries long and will vastly exceed anything even the most imaginative minds will attribute to the Palestinians.)
Nevertheless, you are correct that "quiet" is a relative term. Perhaps you consider 1996-1999 an especially violent time in Arab-Israeli relations, and you'd be right in terms of land confiscation for settlement construction (an extremely violent process), numbers of arrests, the killing of about eighty Palestinians during the so-called Tunnel Intifada, etc. But in terms of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians in Israel, you'd be absolutely wrong, and I think that's obvious.
I hope you are well, take care.
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Oops, I forgot to say...
Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 1:44 PM
And on the photographing and brutal beating of a "wanted" Palestinian after he was restrained: there is no more justification for this than for police beating a "wanted man" in Los Angeles after they've restrained him and then photographing themselves with his bloodied head.
Or, to use a different example, every Israeli soldier in the West Bank and around Gaza is a legitimate target of Palestinian violence under international law. That does not mean that Palestinians can savagely beat Corporal Gilad Shalit and photograph themselves with him, despite the fact that he is a soldier in an army that was (correction: is) actively attacking Gaza at the time he was captured.
And on a further note: the fact that the Israeli army declares someone "wanted" doesn't mean much, as we can see from the long list of people Israel has assassinated since the founding of the state. Again, a Jew ought to have a better grasp of what it's like to be at the wrong end of a truncheon.
On 6/20/07, joel272us
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Saturday, June 16, 2007
Left: Aaron. He looks much younger with his beret...
Israeli soldiers shot a 70-something-year-old man in the head this morning between midnight and 1 am; his name was Yehia al-Jabari. He was brought to al-Ahli. His ER report says (they’re written in English) “patient arrived dead, no breathing, heart beat or pulses” with a “big laceration with cratering of the head” at the occipital bone. He arrived “post head gunshot by ISRAELI SOLDIER” (their capitals). Dr. Harb was the physician in the ER at the time, he told me saw Yehia when he came in and that his cranium was crushed when the bullet shattered his maxillary bone, traveled through his brain and exited through his occipital bone.
Yehia’s wife, a woman of about 60 named Fatima al-Jabari, was also shot in the head; by some miracle she survived and is in the ICU right now. The head shot was to the frontal bone; the bullet lodged in her brain and had to be extracted in surgery.
I went to see Fatima in the ICU. Her file says she was brought to the ER “with spontaneous breathing”, was taken immediately for surgery after a brain CT showed “multiple metallic foreign bodies” (the shattered bullet) and pieces of her shattered skull lodged deep in her brain. She also has shrapnel wounds to her face, chest, abdomen and limbs; from what the shrapnel came I can’t tell (a grenade, broken glass, maybe something else).
The bullet entered through her temporal bone and lodged in her brain, causing severe intracranial hemorrhage. A craniotomy was done to remove those “foreign bodies” along with fragments of her shattered temporal bone, to evacuate the intracranial hematoma and to insert a drain in the frontal horn of her left lateral ventricle. Her post-op CT scan shows at least two bullet fragments the neurosurgeon couldn’t get to, but no further hemorrhage. Nobody in the ICU said they thought she’d survive, and that if she did she’d be severely crippled for the rest of her life.
After leaving al-Ahli I went to meet Afaf at PARC where she works. Musa was showing an American playwright named Aaron Davidman around Hebron, I think they got in touch through B’tselem. We had planned yesterday to go to a restaurant; I didn’t know why at the time (eating out is quite expensive), but it must have been because Aaron was coming. Aaron turned out to be a very interesting person to speak with.
Aaron was in Israel and Palestine doing “research” for a play he’s writing about the different narratives of the Arab-Israeli conflict and how those narratives have been used/abused by leaders, people, etc. (sorry if I’m getting the details wrong, Aaron; l’art, ce n’est pas ma forte…). Aaron is 39 years old but doesn’t look it; he’s married and has a little girl named Zoe. His picture is above. He’s a very serious and intelligent person, and open minded in a way very few people are. I was genuinely impressed by him in a way I haven’t been by anyone in a long time.
Since Aaron was here to learn about different peoples’ perspectives dinner turned into a discussion on political and historical perspective. He said he had just been in Nazareth where he met a Palestinian Israeli who has opened a small Holocaust museum, with the goal of teaching Palestinians about what the Nazis did to the Jews. Aaron said this person has the idea that “Palestinians need to understand that for Jews the Holocaust is 90% of what goes on up here”, pointing to his head. This Palestinian, Aaron told us, thinks this will help Palestinians “understand” Israelis. He got the idea for this museum from a story, true or not is irrelevant, that on Holocaust Remembrance Day some Israeli soldiers came to demolish a man’s house in the West Bank. Then the country observed its two minutes of silence for the victims of the Nazi genocide, and so the soldiers, who were just about to start bulldozing the man’s house, stopped and stood silent. And then “this man realized how to stop the Israeli army!” Aaron said. “He told them he knows and understands what they went through in the Holocaust.” And the soldiers left.
(Note that I sincerely doubt this story is true; if someone can prove me wrong I’d be quite happy.)
Aaron then asked Musa and Afaf what they thought about this idea that Palestinians need to understand the Holocaust.
Musa said he knows that many Palestinians reject the historical fact of the Holocaust. Certainly this is true; I don’t know exact numbers, but I’d certainly expect them to be high. “This is a mistake on the part of the Palestinians, I think,” he said. “Many people don’t want to accept that this could have happened, because, uh…” Musa stuttered, looking for words.
“Because it’s hard to think that the person oppressing you right now could have been himself oppressed in the past”, I said. Musa agreed. The point is fairly obvious, of course; Soviet Jewry probably had no interest in hearing stories, true as they were, about how Russia was physically destroyed by Germany twice in the first part of the 20th century, and Timorese probably have no interest in hearing about Indonesian hardships under imperial Chinese and Dutch rule. It’s hard to see someone as a human being whose mother could have been murdered when he has his boot on your neck.
I also told Aaron I don’t think the Holocaust has the slightest thing to do with Israeli policy, except to be used as a scare tactic to whip the population into a war frenzy at this or that moment and to get them to accept the general militarization of their society, with the consequent loss of social welfare they used to enjoy.
Aaron responded to Musa and me by asking, “But don’t you think that, with a crime of this magnitude, it was so huge, nothing like it had ever been done in history…” (I cringed; I hate it when people say things like that. Who decides if it’s worse to die in the cargo hold of a slave ship or by being shot in the head in your home or in a gas chamber?) “…maybe you don’t agree, but certainly Jews think so. So don’t you think it’s important for Palestinians to understand that?”
Musa translated for Afaf, who also took objection to the characterization of the Holocaust as somehow being “worse” than other injustices (note: not that it was “better”, she and I rejected the ranking of suffering in its totality). Musa translated what she said: “But the situation is different here than in the Holocaust. What they [the Nazis] did to the Jews was done over a short period of time, but what has happened to the Palestinians has occurred over more than sixty years.” Aaron said he’d never thought of that, it was an interesting way to think of it.
Musa then added his own personal story. “When I grew up in Fawwar [the refugee camp across the street] it was eighteen of us in one small room: my mother, my father, and all of my brothers and sisters. You couldn’t believe it. I was always a very good student in school, but really, I don’t ever remember reading for more than five minutes. We used to do our homework with little lamps, of gas. [“Kerosene lamps?” Asked Aaron.] Yes, kerosene lamps. Until I was eighteen [when he moved out of the camp to start university], I never slept alone, not once even. And really, you should meet the people who grew up in the camps and still live there.”
Musa was gesturing wildly at this point; it must be incredibly frustrating to try to explain such things in a foreign language. He knocked a cup of water over on accident, interrupting the conversation and giving it an even more uncomfortable and pitiful tone than it had before.
“But really,” he continued, “you should see these people. They don’t laugh, they don’t cry, they don’t smile. They don’t enjoy anything, you can see in their eyes they are dead, inside. So I think it’s difficult to say one thing is worse than the other.
“And also, the difference is that the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust.” When Musa said this I was genuinely worried Aaron was going to disagree; it has recently become a mantra in “pro”-Israel circles that the Palestinians’ British-appointed leader fled to Germany during WW II (which he did) and then convinced Hitler to exterminate the Jews (which he quite obviously did not). But fortunately Aaron is a more serious person than that.
“But,” Musa continued, “Israel has never accepted responsibility for the Nakba.” (“Nakba” is an Arabic word for “catastrophe” or “disaster”, it’s how Arabs refer to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by the Israeli Army when Israel was founded in Palestine in 1948.) Aaron agreed with that as well; again, a serious person, for once.
Aaron took notes on the conversation while we had it; my recall is from memory so if our accounts differ his is almost certainly the correct one.
Musa and Afaf invited Aaron to stay at their place. He was hesitant at first because he had to be back in Jerusalem the next morning, but Musa convinced him. It was his first (and I suspect only) night in the West Bank.
When we came home Musa, Aaron and I sat outside while Aaron rolled us cigarettes of some really mild tobacco he’d brought from Berkley. Musa and Afaf decided to take a nap for a while. Aaron and I talked about Palestinian and Israeli treatment of women and homosexuals, and the role religion plays in both societies. We were sitting and staring at the sniper tower and I told Aaron the story of Islam, the little boy who was murdered by the Israelis, and how clearly it affected Musa even today.
We went inside and Aaron got out an add-on to his iPod that allows him to record conversations, I think it was called an iTalk, or something like that. We talked about what goes on in this place, what the underlying motivators are for the occupation, for American support of Israel, for Jewish American support of Israel, what the occupation is doing to Israeli society, what it’s doing to Palestinian society, the influence of the “pro”-Israel lobby in the US, and I’m sure many more topics I can’t recall. He also asked me about how I came to be interested in the conflict. I always think that’s a funny question, I don’t understand why anybody cares.
I think we were talking about Hamas and its previous offers to recognize Israel in return for an end to the occupation when Musa came back in. I told Aaron that despite common knowledge Hamas has been far more forthcoming in agreeing to recognize Israel than Israel has ever been in agreeing to recognize the Palestinians’ rights in the occupied territories. He said frankly and honestly that his understanding of the diplomatic history is the exact opposite and asked me to send him evidence of what I was saying. I was delighted to hear someone say something like that: I’m so used people just insisting that they’re right despite the evidence, even when they admit they’re not familiar with the evidence.
I think Musa came in at this point, and Aaron asked him what he thought of the peace process.
“Oslo destroyed everything,” said Musa. “Before Oslo, the Intifada was very successful. But Fatah, the PLO, Arafat, they wanted the power. And so Israel found them, and they brought them here, and they gave them the power. And they brought the corruption; there is so much corruption now.” I told Aaron that the purpose of the Oslo Accords was to use the PLO to stop the First Intifada (an almost 100% nonviolent uprising that Israel was unable to destroy by force), which had become a disaster for Israel. Israel and the US brought the PLO in from Tunis and negotiated the Oslo Accords with them, convenient since these negotiators had never lived in the West Bank or Gaza and so had no concept of the problems caused by the occupation, the settlements, etc.
What they ended up with was, unsurprisingly, a document that allowed Israel to continue its occupation and colonization of the occupied territories while the PLO, in exchange for promises of international aid and vague promises of a state, agreed to work with Israel and the CIA to destroy any opposition to the Oslo Accords (which means, essentially, any opposition to the occupation).
I can’t remember if I asked or if Aaron asked Musa if he thought Hamas was less corrupt than Fatah, but one of us asked. He said it’s not a matter of less corruption or more corruption, but of corruption of a different kind.
Again, it is entirely to Aaron’s credit that he listened to all of this seriously and openly, even taking notes at some points and asking probing and intelligent questions while always remaining cognizant of the fact that he’s talking to both a victim and an active agent of his own destiny. I think by the end of the night I'd given that poor guy a list of six or seven books to read, and he wrote every single one down for reference later. I don’t know if it would be appropriate to say that he’s within the mainstream of Jewish American opinion and open mindedness on these issues, but if he is, then this conflict might improve sooner than I allow myself to hope it will.
<-- No, not this wall.
When I came in a young kid had already been brought in. Abu Nidal said I should go observe his CT scan; I went and he had blood in his fourth ventricle. They called the neurosurgeon and the patient was taken for surgery.
Two horrible digital injuries came in today, both in young men working as stonecutters. The first one the doctor called “eversion of the patient’s thumb nail” but it looked more to me like the patient’s thumb had been cut in half by a knife oriented parallel to his palm and then the posterior part of the wound had been cut off from his body completely. The accident was with some sort of drilling machine. His distal phalanx was completely exposed where his nail should have been; it was an odd sight. All we could do was suture the wound closed so that the bone wasn’t exposed anymore.
The other accident was a man whose finger was all but amputated at the distal interphalangeal joint when a stone fell on it. The only tissue still intact was the bone itself, everything else had been severed. The doctor asked me if I wanted to suture it and I almost said yes, but then lost my nerve. It was obviously going to be very complicated suturing, it didn’t seem like good first-try material. Suturing it also didn’t make any sense to me, it seemed to me that the blood supply to the finger was cut and so it was lost anyway, but the doctor insisted the patient would be fine.
Rusmaya, the nurse who reminds me of Cyra, and I were watching something on al-Jazeera in the office when they showed a picture of Acre, it’s a city in Israel just north of Haifa. The old city of Acre has a very old and beautiful wall around it, built under Ottoman rule if I remember correctly. Rusmaya asked me if I had seen the wall; I said yes. “You see it?” she asked (I’m not editing her English on purpose). “We make the wall, and the Jewish take it! Our beautiful wall, they take. The Jewish take many things. Everything they want, they take.” Yet more proof of Arab anti-Semitism.
A kid came in today, probably about fourteen. A car had run his left leg over, ripping the skin and fascia off his rectus femoris muscle and exposing about half of it. He was absolutely hysterical, and then the nursing students who are volunteering in the hospital decided to irrigate the wound by putting saline on gauze and dabbing his exposed muscle. Just then the surgical team walked in to see what they’d be operating on and started screaming at the nursing students. What exactly they said I don’t know but I’m sure it was along the lines of “don’t you think there’s a reason he’s flying off the table?”
Later on, right before I left the ER, a guy came in who’d been shot in both legs, maybe three inches above the ankle. The wounds were from a very low caliber gun, small and not bleeding much. It wasn’t from the Israelis, it was another “quarrel case”. I’m sure he’d been given an analgesic of some kind before he got to us, but he was totally calm, talking on his cell phone. Imagine the conversation: “Hey, I won’t be able to make it to that meeting ‘cause I just got shot. Yeah. Yeah I’m in the ER right now; I think they’re gonna do surgery or something, I dunno I wasn’t paying attention.”
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Left: The checkpoint mentioned below; this picture was taken in the evening on the way back from the opening of the wedding hall in Fawwar.
On the way to work today the Israelis had set the checkpoint up at the base of the hill. Usually they set this checkpoint up in the afternoon and evening. Zero cars passed through in the five minutes I waited for a service into Hebron.
I was so pissed when I got to the hospital today. Our histology course was taught by a great and enthusiastic professor, but instead of using a textbook he made us use his “syllabus” as the official text for the class. The syllabus was a collection of utter nonsense, often just “[a word] = [another word]” and only had references to an atlas which was out of print. It was awful. I assumed nobody would write their own class “text” were a peer-reviewed, professionally edited, color textbook available; thus, I assumed no such textbook existed. When I walked into the hospital administrator’s office today I saw Human Histology, 3rd edition, by Alan Stevens and James Lowe, published by Elsevier Mosby. I want the $100 I was forced to pay for that worthless syllabus back.
I tried in put a canula into an old obese man with a possible MI. Like that blood draw, I got it then lost it. When I watched the nurse put hers in I realized what I did wrong: once you’re in, remove the needle so you don’t puncture the floor of the vein. It makes so much sense now…
I saw Jehad again, this time in the surgical ward; he's awake (he’s the 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head a day or two after I got here). He has a right-side brain injury causing total paralysis and anesthesia to everything but deep pain sensation on the left side of his body. I guess prom won’t be as fun for him as it was for me.
On the way home I met Faris and Ali and Ali's dentist cousin again. They suggested I speak to someone named Nabil Said if I want to volunteer at al-Alia Hospital (Hebron’s government hospital). I’ll do that ASAP.
Left: Abu Nidal (left) and Fawzi in the nurses' changing room.
The government hospital, al-Alia, reopened, so the ER is slow now. Fawzi and Abu Nidal discussed a whole range of issues today while there was nothing to do: the occupation, homosexuality, sex, women, etc. Abu Nidal represents what you might call an enlightened point of view, while Fawzi is more of a reactionary. Abu Nidal kept insisting to Fawzi that the situation here isn’t impossible, that there are some good things about being Palestinian (“at least we don’t have homeless here, look at how many homeless there are in Israel and even in America!” Abu Nidal is the eternal optimist: to him a nation made up almost entirely of homeless refugees, including him, is a society without a homelessness problem.), etc. Fawzi insisted that the situation is rotten and terrible and ran through every reason why: everything is too expensive to afford, the hospital doesn’t pay him enough, he has ten children to take care of, his wife is demanding, etc.
The conversation was in typical Semitic style: lots of fake shouting, but only immediately after the conversation ends do you realize the shouting was fake. Afterwards Abu Nidal and I were sitting alone on the couch in the ER office, their equivalent of the trauma pit. He was thinking to himself, and then quietly and without looking at me said “The main problem here is that there is no freedom. It's like living in a prison, really. Every day I go home, I wait maybe one hour for the soldier to let me pass, and I go home. That’s it. There are no facilities for anything else. In Texas you can play a game, you can go to swim, you can go to the bar even, you can do anything. But here we can’t. Really yani, there is no freedom.”
A sweet six-month-old girl came in after her older brother accidentally dropped her. Her mom was worried her arm might be broken, but she was fine.
Today we saw three of what the doctors here call “quarrel cases”, fights. The first was a mother who said she had been thrown to the floor by her son. Abu Nidal made a good point after we saw her: “Don’t be judgmental. I made that mistake, many years ago. A woman came in because her shoulder was hurting, she said a man had thrown her to the floor.
“Then, some hours later, a man came with a knife wound, just here [he pointed to his flank]. He said he was put in a room by a woman with some men who were going to kill him, and he only got out by throwing the woman at the floor so he could open the door. And when the woman saw him she started screaming and throwing things at him, we had to restrain her, really! So don’t be judgmental.”
The next quarrel case was a young woman married to a much older man who’d beaten her up. Not like how husbands sometimes beat their wives nearly to death in the US, but he had obviously hit her several times. He also forcibly cut her hair. The doctors took x-rays as evidence for the police. The third case was a man, maybe in his late forties or early fifties with bronchial asthma after having been sprayed in the face with some sort of aerosol. Both were physically fine, just a little shaken up. I think the woman stayed in the hospital until the police could come. Whether or not they’ll actually do anything, I have no idea.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Left: Garbage thrown by settlers onto fencing over Hebron's old city market. This used to be the center of Hebron's consumer economy, now it's virtually a ghost town.
The only interesting case that came into the ER today was an old woman, probably in her late fifties or early sixties, who’d been kicked in the face by a donkey. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the relentless bad luck: you’re born in Palestine, you become a refugee in 1948, the Israelis come back to haunt you in 1967, you survive the First and Second Intifadas, you live your whole life as a peasant farmer, and then your damn donkey kicks you in the face so hard he breaks your maxillary bone and slices a three-inch-wide laceration into your cheek. There’s little respite for the Palestinians, and none for their poor. Ours is a life truly blessed.
More on the water I drink and bathe in at Musa’s house. Like I said before, it comes into the village on trucks at outlandish prices. But where does it come from? How does it get into those trucks in the first place?
“The situation is ridiculous,” says Musa. “It comes from Kiryat Arba. It’s illegal, even by the Israelis [i.e., under Israeli law], but they hire Palestinian lorries and they split the profit.” That’s Kiryat Arba, the settlement of perhaps the most hardcore Jewish religious fanatics in the West Bank, built right inside Hebron. These are the people who write “Arabs to the gas chambers” in graffiti in Hebron’s beautiful old city during Jewish holidays, when the Army shuts the whole city down so that these lunatics can go on their rampages unimpeded; the people who erected a shrine to Baruch Goldstein (who murdered 29 praying Palestinians at the Ibrihim Mosque on February 25, 1994, if I remember the date correctly; that year’s Purim festival). These people have such a dearth of shame that they will sell Arabs water they’ve stolen from them at 10-100 times the price they pay each other for it. They will allow Arab truck drivers into their settlement to pick up the profitable contraband for delivery but shoot Palestinian farmers who try to tend their olive groves and beat Palestinian children for the crime of walking to school (along with the international Christian Peacemakers Team members who accompany them). I don’t know how to describe such people without using Nazi analogies, so I won’t.
Note, again, that there is obviously no shortage of water here since the settlers are willing to sell it off. The issue for Israel is control of water in order to deny it to the Palestinians, not access for the settlers.
Musa also told me about a nearby collection of villages whose names I will now misspell: Yata, Diaya and Samour. Musa told me B’tselem wrote a report about their water situation, which is quite enlightening. About two-thirds of the houses in these villages have been cut from the water network, and so are in the same situation as Musa’s village; about one-third of the houses remain connected to the water network.
Those houses connected to the network get normally-priced water from the tap. How much do they get? On average, one day of running water every three months. One day out of ninety. Apartheid can’t get much clearer without putting up signs designating separate Jewish and Arab water fountains.
Why do these villages get such little water? Because the pipes to the village run through Kiryat Arba, and the settlers can turn the spigot off whenever they chose. Note the cruelty: they’re not denying children candy or roller coaster rides or even freedom itself, but the single thing they need most to remain alive.
I also asked Musa about something I saw when I was here two years ago. In Hebron’s old city there’s a beautiful open-air market with apartments above it. Settlers have occupied the apartments. When you walk through the market the first thing you notice is that someone seems to have ripped a wire fence out of the ground, laid it across the market so that it forms an artificial roof, and then someone dumped garbage on top of the fence. The picture above should explain things (it’s from last time I was here, I haven’t been to the old city this time).
When I saw this I assumed that settlers used to throw garbage on Palestinians shopping in the market, and since the army wouldn’t do anything about it the Palestinians got some fencing and put up this pathetic barrier. The truth is rather more interesting: the army itself put the fencing up to stop the settlers from throwing rocks at people shopping in the market. (In case you’re really going to ask, yes, there is a difference between children throwing stones at tanks, and armed colonists throwing stones and rocks at the unarmed natives while they’re buying bread.) When the fence went up, the settlers, clever people that they are, decided the fence would be a perfect sieve to throw sopping wet filth on top of. They were right.
Note the incredible racism of the situation. The army could treat the settlers like they treat the Palestinians and just shoot their children randomly until they stop throwing stones at the Palestinians; this is of course unthinkable, and would be a terrible crime. The army could very easily evict the settlers from the apartments, which they occupy illegally even under Israeli law. The army could arrest those people who threw rocks, which again, is illegal under Israeli law. The army could have cemented or barred the windows of the apartments, which they have the authority to do under the military regulations in force in the West Bank.
But instead the army chose to do the one thing I can think of that would stop the embarrassment to Israel of Palestinians being rushed to the hospital with gaping wounds in their head and then telling the TIPH people “I was in the market and a settler threw a stone at me from the apartment my family used to live in”, while still allowing the settlers to disrupt the market just as fully as they used to. Now the settlers can just throw rotten food and shit at the Palestinians, and that doesn’t land anyone near the lazy eyes of the media. (TIPH is the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, which monitors human rights violations in the city but then only makes secret reports to the observers’ respective countries; quite useless.)
When I got home Suhail was watching an Arab satellite TV channel that dubs old American cartoons in Arabic. The Jetsons was on. Something about the inane adventures of a buffoon in a nonexistent fantasy world seems appropriate to this place. The commercials are particularly ridiculous: they’re all aimed at getting people in the oil sheikdoms to buy cars or cruises or some other stupid thing. Meanwhile Palestinians can’t repair their roads or afford basic medical care.