[News] When illness is a 'death sentence': The victimization of Gaza women

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 29 11:08:41 EDT 2018

  When illness is a 'death sentence': The victimization of Gaza women

Aug. 29, 2018 - http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=780846
By: Ramzy Baroud

Hanan al-Khoudari resorted to Facebook in a cry for help when Israeli 
authorities rejected her request to accompany her three-year-old son, 
Louay, to his chemotherapy treatment in East Jerusalem.

The boy is suffering from an "aggressive soft tissue sarcoma." Israeli 
authorities then justified their decision based on a vague claim that 
one of Hannan's relatives is a "Hamas operative."

The rights group, Gisha reported 
<http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=780844> that the state remains 
unwilling to define precisely what it means to be a 'Hamas operative.' 
Even if an explanation is offered, denying gravely ill Palestinians from 
receiving life-saving treatment remains an immoral and illegal act."

The state is sentencing the petitioners to death or a lifetime of 
suffering," said Muna Haddad, an advocate with Gisha. By "petitioners", 
she was referring to seven Gaza women who were denied access to urgent 
medical treatment by Israel, which required them to leave the besieged 
Gaza Strip.

The suffering of Gaza women rarely makes headlines. When Palestinian 
women are not invisible in Western media coverage, they are seen as 
hapless victims of circumstances beyond their control.

The fact that a woman from Gaza is "sentenced to death" simply because a 
male relative is shunned by Israel is quite typical behavior from a 
country that oddly presents itself internationally as an oasis for 
equality and women rights.

It feeds into the false notion that Palestinian women are trapped in a 
"conflict" in which they play no part. Such misrepresentations undermine 
the political and humanitarian urgency of the plight of Palestinian 
women and the Palestinian people, as a whole.

In truth, Palestinian women are hardly bystanders in the collective 
victimization. They deserve to be made visible and understood within the 
larger context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The seven women who petitioned the Israeli court, and the story of Hanan 
al-Khoudari, are but a small representation of thousands of women who 
are suffering in Gaza without legal advocates or media coverage.

I spoke to several of these women - whose suffering is only matched by 
their incredible resilience - who deserve more than mere recognition, 
but an urgent remedy as well.

Shaima Tayseer Ibrahim, 19, from the town of Rafah in southern Gaza, can 
hardly speak. Her brain tumor has affected her mobility and her ability 
to express herself. Yet, she is determined to pursue her degree in Basic 
Education at Al-Quds Open University in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

The pain that this 19-year-old is enduring is extraordinary even by the 
standards of poor, isolated Gaza. She is the oldest of five children in 
a family that fell into poverty following the Israeli siege. Her father 
is retired and the family has been struggling but, nevertheless, Shaima 
has been determined to get an education.

She was engaged to be married after her graduation from university. Hope 
still has a way of making it into the hearts of the Palestinians of Gaza 
and Shaima was hoping for a brighter future for herself and her family.

But March 12 changed all of that.

On that day, Shaima was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. Just 
before her first surgery at Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem on April 
4, her fiance broke off the engagement.

The surgery left Shaima with partial paralysis. She speaks and moves 
with great difficulty. But there was more bad news; further tests in a 
Gaza hospital showed that the tumor was not fully removed and it must be 
quickly extracted before it spreads any further.

To make matters worse, on August 12, the Ministry of Health in Gaza 
announced that it would no longer be able to treat cancer patients in 
the Israel-besieged enclave.

Shaima is now fighting for her life as she awaits Israeli permission to 
cross the Beit Hanoun checkpoint (called the Erez Crossing by Israel) to 
the West Bank, through Israel, for an urgent surgery.

Many Gazans have perished that way, waiting for pieces of paper, a 
permission, that never materialized. Shaima, however, remains hopeful, 
while her whole family constantly prays that their eldest daughter 
prevails in her fight against cancer and resumes her pursuit of a 
university degree.

On the other side of Gaza, Dwlat Fawzi Younis, 33 from Beit Hanoun is 
living a similar experience. Dwlat, however also looks after a family of 
11, including her nephews and her gravely ill father.

She had to become the main breadwinner of her family when her father, 
55, suffered kidney failure and was unable to work.

She would look after the entire family with the money she earned as a 
hairdresser. Her brothers and sisters are all unemployed. She used to 
help them, too, whenever she could.

Dwlat is a strong person; she has always been that way. Perhaps it was 
her experience on November 3, 2006, that strengthened her resolve. An 
Israeli soldier shot her while she was protesting with a group of women 
against the Israeli attack and destruction of the historic Umm Al-Nasr 
mosque in Beit Hanoun. Two women were killed that day. Dwlat was hit by 
a bullet in her pelvis, but she survived.

After months of treatment, she recovered and resumed her daily struggle. 
She also never missed a chance to raise her voice in solidarity with her 
people at protests.

On May 14, 2018, when the United States officially transferred its 
embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, 60 Palestinian protesters were 
killed and nearly 3,000 were wounded at the Gaza-Israel fence. Dwlat was 
shot in her right thigh, the bullet penetrating the bone and cutting 
through the artery.

Her health has deteriorated quickly since then, and she is now unable to 
work. But Israel still has not approved her application to be 
transferred to Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem to receive treatment.

Yet, Dwlat insists she will continue to be an active and empowered 
member of the Gaza community, even if it means joining the protests 
along the Gaza fence on crutches.

In truth, these women embody the remarkable spirit and courage of every 
Palestinian woman living under Israeli Occupation and siege in the West 
Bank and Gaza.

They endure and persist, despite the massive price they pay, and 
continue the struggle of generations of courageous Palestinian women who 
came before them.

The views expressed in this article are the authors' and do not 
necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
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