From Gaza, with Love

Monday, August 06, 2007

my lecture in Berekly covered by JenniferTaylor

As I entered the building, the faded sounds of an Arabic accent defending his race for an unsympathetic American media and audience brushed my ear. "Not all Muslim's are terrorists," the voice firmly stated. My sense of fairness chided listening to this man defend himself. Of course, after the reporter got what he wanted, he did not bother to listen to or report on the keynote speaker Palestinian physician and human rights activist, Dr. Mona El Farra, or her message of peace, solidarity, and social justice.

Fortunately for me, I did.

Dignified and powerful, Dr. Mona entered the room. The musty smelling church was filled with faces, wanting to hear her message – just like me. Except for the shades of darkness added to their eyes, skin, and hair, it was difficult to find differentiating characteristics from the Westerners in the room. None of this mattered, because we were unified in our desire to hear her warm message of love and solidarity, and to relate back to the Palestinian people they were neither alone nor forgotten.

Touring the world with her message, Dr. Mona's journey will move through European countries, ending in Egypt, where she will wait to return to her 365 square kilometer prison. How long she must wait is uncertain. In the previous year the boarder from Gaza into Egypt has been open a mere 65 times.

Gaza, a land stripped of faith, hopeless that the US will persuade Israel to honor its commitments in the "peace process," lurks below a cloud of darkness. A place where Dr. Mona claims, "The occupation deprives all who are exposed. The Occupied lose their dignity, and the Occupier loses their humanity." Since the redeployment of Israeli forces in 2005 close to 5,000 homes in Gaza have been destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, unemployment has reached record highs, and over 70% of the entire population lives under the international poverty line.

Children are growing up with what Dr. Mona calls, "disfigured psychology," with over 45% exhibiting signs of severe PTSD and no resources to help cope, the strain of daily life, is taking its toll. With limited access to food, 42% of Palestinian children are now malnourished. And as travel to school is barred daily by roadblocks and curfews, the level of education has slipped and illiteracy rates have risen.

"The burden is heavy." She says of living in an occupied land. She expressed deep concern for the people who have lost all hope. Common to the Arab culture, security, sustenance, and guidance, is the responsibility of the father and husband. When he looses hope, is arrested or worse yet, killed, the impacts on the family are haunting. As in most war and violence it is the woman and children who suffer most. Last year alone 59 pregnant women gave birth waiting at blockades on their way to the hospital. Out of the 59 births, 31 of those babies perished. As Dr. Mona points out, "The numbers of women who have lost babies does not matter, for even one woman to lose her baby in this manner is a crime against humanity."

Her concerns do not end here, as a physician; she struggles to perform her basic daily tasks. She is faced with power interruptions during surgery, inadequate medical supplies, and the spoilage of medications needing refrigeration. As vaccinations run out and Palestinians have less access to health care, she is deeply troubled by the potential reemergence of previously eradicated infectious diseases.

Yet, in spite of these hardships, Dr. Mona will vigilantly attempt to cross the border from Egypt into Gaza. And I wondered why…

Dr. Mona lives with the threat of death everyday, yet remains diplomatic. She is witness to the destruction of her friends, family, and community, yet continues to speak of hope through nonviolent action.

As she speaks, a photo appears of a Palestinian man with his arm wrapped round his wife atop a heap of rubble that used to be their home. He tells Dr. Mona as she takes the photo, "This is all I have now; I have my wife and she is enough."

While I listen and stare at the photo behind her, I begin to comprehend her desire to return. There on the man's face and in her voice is humanity. There is no nationalism, no religious claim to land, just a simple desire for peace. She advocates a one-state solution and the right of return, where the laws of the land protect justice, equality, and the rights of all residents.

The humanity in her voice – no military force will ever be able to extinguish.


  • Dear Dr. El-Farra,

    My deepest sympathy and condolences for the loss of your mother.

    When you are able to blog again, and if you are able to do so without personal risk, I would love to hear your ideas for bringing peace to Israel/Palestine and am intrigued by your notion of a one-state solution and how can that could be achieved given the current level of conflict.

    Best wishes,

    By Blogger LogicalDave, at 8/07/2007 9:03 AM  

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