SUICIDE IS FINAL, YET THE CRISIS CONTINUES

 Until recently suicide in Gaza had been rare, partly due to Palestinian resilience and strong clan networks, but mostly because killing oneself is forbidden in traditional Muslim societies. Since 2016, suicide rates have been rising, reflecting rising levels of despair and hopelessness in the population.

Writer Mohannad Youis, 22, took his life in Gaza last year sparking outcry from friends and peer over the struggles young people who grew up under siege have endured, and mental health. (Image: Arab48)

How the death of a talented young Palestinian writer brought to light a sharp rise in suicides.

 Sarah Helm

When Mohanned Younis, a 22-year-old student, returned to his home in a relatively prosperous part of Gaza City one night last August, he was in an agitated state. He had been depressed, his mother, Asma, recalled. But she was not too worried when he locked himself in his room.

A talented writer whose short stories, many posted on his Facebook page, had won a wide audience, Mohanned was about to graduate in pharmacy, expecting excellent grades.In his writing, he gave voice to the grief and despair of his generation. Only books gave him some escape. He often shut himself away to read and write, or to work out with his punch bag.

The next morning, Mohanned didn’t stir. When Asma, helped by her brother Assad, broke into his room, they found him dead. He had asphyxiated himself.

Such was Mohanned’s social media following that news of his death reverberated across Gaza and beyond with a flood of shock, sadness and admiration. “He was a fighter who only had his sad stories to fight with,” was one of many comments posted on Facebook. But the very public mourning for the death of a talented young writer meant that Mohanned’s suicide was not just one more tragedy in a territory where thousands of young lives are cut short. Now it was impossible to deny what many had been whispering: the misery of the siege and despair for the future, especially among the most talented young Gazans, was leading to a disturbing upsurge in suicides.

Horrifying events in the Gaza buffer zone over the past week have focused world attention on the suffering and desperation of Gaza’s Palestinians, as tens of thousands have risked their lives to protest against their imprisonment behind Gaza’s fences and walls. Since the start of the Great March of Return, a series of protests that began at the end of March, more than 100 people have been killed, mostly by Israeli snipers ranged behind the perimeter fence.

Often it has looked as if these protesters were literally throwing themselves in front of Israeli bullets. In the early days of the protests, I spoke to young people on the buffer zone who said they didn’t care if they died. “We are dying in Gaza anyway. We might as well die being shot,” said a teenager, standing at the border near the city of Khan Younis. He was with friends who felt the same, including one who had already been shot in the leg, and was in a wheelchair.

If the world’s cameras were to move a little deeper into Gaza, into the streets and behind the doors of people’s homes, they would see the desperation in almost every home. After 10 years of siege, the 2 million people of Gaza, living packed on a tiny strip, find themselves without work, their economy killed off, without the bare essentials for decent life – electricity or running water – and without any hope of freedom, or any sign that their situation will change. The siege is fracturing minds, pushing the most vulnerable to suicide in numbers never seen before.

Until recently, suicide has been rare here, partly due to Palestinian resilience, acquired over 70 years of conflict, and strong clan networks, but mostly because killing oneself is forbidden in traditional Muslim societies. Only when suicide is an act of jihad are the dead considered martyrs who go to heaven; others go to hell.

In nearly three decades of reporting from Gaza, I almost never heard stories of suicide before 2016. At the start of that year, nine years into the full-blown siege, a British orthopaedic surgeon volunteering in Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital told me that she and her colleagues were seeing a number of unexplained injuries – which they believed had been caused by falling, or jumping, from tall buildings.

By the end of 2016, suicides were happening so often that the phenomenon had started to become public knowledge. Figures quoted by local journalists suggested the number of suicides in 2016 was at least three times the number in 2015. But according to Gaza’s health professionals, while figures cited in the media do indicate a substantial rise, they vastly underestimate the true rate. Suicides are “disguised” as falls or other accidents, and misreporting and censorship are common because of the stigma against suicide.

However, since 2016, there have also been a spate of self-immolations across Gaza, in which men set themselves alight for all to see.

“We didn’t have these catastrophic events 10 years ago,” said Dr Youssef Awadallah, a psychiatrist in Rafah, a city on Gaza’s border with Egypt. Mental health professionals and relatives of the deceased blame the effects of the siege, which they say is far more damaging to the wellbeing – mental and physical – of the population than successive wars have been. Doctors in Gaza are warning that the prolonged siege of the territory has caused a mental health “epidemic” of which the growing number of suicides is only one part – citing increases in schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction and depression. For the first time, UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, has started screening all primary healthcare patients for possible suicidal tendencies following what they describe as the “unprecedented increase” in deaths.

Men and women of all age groups, from all social backgrounds, are vulnerable to suicidal impulses, say doctors in Gaza. On a single day in March, a girl of 15 and a boy of 16 both hanged themselves. Among the dead are men who despair because they can’t support their families; women and children who are victims of abuse, often in situations of severe poverty and overcrowding; and even pregnant women, who say they don’t want to bring children into a life in Gaza. In April, a woman who was seven months pregnant slit her wrists.

Among the most vulnerable of all are Gaza’s brightest students, some of whom have killed themselves just before or after graduating. In March, while interviewing a bankrupt businessman in his home, I saw a photograph of a smart, bespectacled young man, prominently displayed – in such a way that I assumed he had been a “martyr”, someone killed in the conflict. But his portrait displayed none of the iconography associated with the martyr posters that are visible all over Gaza. I had a translator with me, and he recognised the picture: the businessman’s son had been one of his cleverest friends at university. “He hanged himself,” said the businessman. “He saw no future in Gaza.”

Months before the astonishing scenes of carnage accompanying the Great March of Return, the story of Mohanned Younis had drawn particular attention. This was not only because his writing, with its imaginative depictions of Gaza’s half-life, was admired – but because after his death, some began to describe him as martyr. His mother told me: “He is more than a martyr.”

Friends said he had fought the enemy with his pen, and had died a victim of the siege. On his death Mohanned also won warm praise for his courage and his writing from many of his social media fans, and even, in a eulogy, from the Palestinian minister of culture, Dr Ihab Bseiso. Bseiso, a member of the secular Palestinian Authority that holds power in the West Bank, appeared to imply he considered Mohanned a martyr, saying he had “no need to apologise for his early departure”. His stories would never be forgotten, he added: “You will remain one of the giants of our time, Mohanned”.

But this discussion of Mohanned’s “martyrdom” has spread fear in Gaza, particularly among parents who worry that their own children might do the same if they thought they could avoid hell. One father of two graduates told me: “We see our children through school and university, and they have worked hard and are eager to enter the world and get jobs and be normal – then nothing. If suicide is to be considered a ‘noble’ death, more might choose that way. It is very dangerous.”

Read more at the SOURCE

IN PHOTOS ~~ THE FEARLESS WOMEN OF WALL STREET

Our group wanted to do something in solidarity with the Gaza Women’s March yesterday so decided to spend a few hours with the Fearless Girl statue – our Ahed – at Bowling Green because there are so many tourists there – maximum exposure.  We do this once or twice a month and there is always a very positive reaction.    

Some people respond to the little statue very affectionately with hugs, yesterday she got a kiss (from an adult).  It seems we actually manage to create the Ahed connection among some visitors.

Photos © by Bud Korotzer, Commentary by Chippy Dee

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MARTHA’S VINEYARD BANS THE BANNER

“Oh, sack of shit, Thy name is Dershbag.”

Image by Latuff

Wah!!! Dershowitz shunned on Martha’s Vineyard!

Today everyone is talking about Alan Dershowitz’s article in the Hill complaining that he has been socially banned on Martha’s Vineyard because of his advocacy for Donald Trump.

[S]ome of my old friends on Martha’s Vineyard.. are shunning me and trying to ban me from their social life on Martha’s Vineyard. One of them, an academic at a distinguished university, has told people that he would not attend any dinner or party to which I was invited…. Others have said they will discontinue contributions to organizations that sponsor my talks.

This is all familiar to me, since I lived through McCarthyism in the 1950s, when lawyers who represented alleged communists on civil libertarian grounds were shunned. Some of these lawyers and victims of McCarthyism lived on Martha’s Vineyard. I never thought I would see McCarthyism come to Martha’s Vineyard, but I have. I wonder if the professor who refuses to listen to anything I have to say also treats his students similarly. Would he listen to a student who actively supported Trump? What about one who simply supported his civil liberties?

These childish efforts to shun me because I refused to change my position on civil liberties that I have kept for half a century discourages vibrant debate and may dissuade other civil libertarians from applying their neutral principles to a president of whom they disapprove. But one good thing is that being shunned by some “old friends” on Martha’s Vineyard has taught me who my real friends are and who my fairweather friends were. From a personal point of view, I could not care less about being shunned by people whose views regarding dialogue I do not respect…

I will not change my views as a result of these attempts to ostracize me, but there are some who may remain silent for fear of being shunned. Silence is not my style….

Jeet Heer marvels that Dershowitz was not shunned before and mocks:

Socrates was forced to eat hemlock. Ovid, Dante, & Emma Goldman were sent into exile. Margaret Sanger was jailed. Rosa Luxemburg, Gandhi and Martin Luther King were killed. Spinoza was excommunicated. Alan Dershowitz can’t find anyone to dine with at Martha’s Vineyard.

Norman Finkelstein comments, via email:

“Oh, he wants ‘vibrant debate’: I suppose that’s why he threatened to bankrupt University of California press if they published my book [Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-semitism and Abuse of History, 2005], and called on Governor Schwarzenegger to kill the book.
“Oh, and I suppose it’s because of his opposition to McCarthyism that he sent a 60-page smear document to every faculty member and administrator at DePaul so as to deny me tenure [in 2007].
“Oh, sack of shit, Thy name is Dershbag.”

MUST WATCH DOCUMENTARY ON HOW I ESCAPED FROM THE WORLD’S LARGEST OPEN AIR PRISON

I recall my personal experience back in 2010 when I was stuck in Gaza unable to peruse my higher education in Spain due to continued closure on Gaza borders. Mind the Strip, is a documentary tracking my story as a student denied basic right to education and the struggle to reach my Spanish school after medical advocacy campaign.

I think of those who are still locked off in the open air prison, Gaza, unable to exercise the basic right to education.

“Mind the Strip” tells the story of Ayman Quader, a young Palestinian from the Gaza Strip. As a humanitarian worker, he decides to leave his country to study a master in Peace, Conflict and Development Studies in Spain. All his papers are ready: the student Visa, the acceptance letter from the University and even an scholarship.

Leaving the Gaza Strip, though, will be not easy. Stuck in a country under a horrible siege, Ayman will have to sort his way out.

BYE BYE AMERICA! … BONNE FÊTE CANADA!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA ! – BONNE FÊTE CANADA

Rambling down Memory Lane…….

July 1st has always been a special day for me. Fifty one years ago today I left the United States and applied for Landed Immigrant Status in Canada. My wife and I picked this date as it was a National Holiday and we figured there would be less security at the Toronto Airport…. and less questions. It was a special day in Canada, it was the 100th anniversary of Confederation.
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My suspicions proved correct…. there was only a handful of security personnel on duty and I was asked only two questions…
“How long do you plan on staying in Canada?”…. to which I responded “Forever!”
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The second question was “Are you a subversive?”…. to which I responded quite naively “What does that mean?”
“Do you consider yourself a threat to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second or any one of her heirs?” (pronounced ‘hairs’ when I verbalise this story)…. to which I responded “Definitely not!”
“Welcome to Canada! Here is your Landed Immigrant Status Card!” (Let it be known that in no way did I consider the Royal Family ‘Divine’ in any way, but I did not feel I was a threat to their existence.)

Little did that Immigration Officer know, but in the United States I WAS considered a subversive…. in fact, I carried with me a ten page document of allegations against me from Army ‘Intelligence’ which ended with the words “Your entrance into any branch of the Armed Forces at any time would be detrimental to the security of our nation.” How much more of a ‘subversive’ can one hope to be?
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It would be ‘safe’ to say that I owe my life to the FBI. The document I mentioned above was full of information provided by them. Their ‘planted’ informants knew the exact date and time that I joined the Communist Party of the United States. They knew every move I made during all my years of activity.
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On my 18th birthday I registered with the Draft Board. We had to do that by law in those days. A few years later I received my order to report for my physical examination. I will never forget the short, burly man in charge that day…. Sgt. Randazzo. His face and voice haunts me to this day. The day I had to report was like a mini High School Reunion. Almost every male in my graduation class was present that day. We were lined up and were asked if we were interested in volunteering for the Marines. As this was a sure way to be sent to Viet Nam, there wasn’t a single volunteer. Randazzo then proceeded to pick every third person in line to serve in the Marines. But…… immediately before that an announcement was made…. “Anyone that was ever arrested, please go to Room 101.” Off I went….. which meant that poor Michael, who was standing next to me, was picked to be a Marine…. it should have been me, but I was being interrogated instead. Needless to say, Michael does not speak to me to this day.
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If you move the ‘timer’ to 7:50 on the following video, you will get a pretty good idea what that interrogation was like….
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A few months later I received my 4F. At first I was given ten days to deny the allegations in the document I received…. non compliance earned me my 4F. The rest is history…..
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Moving on…. here we were in a new country, a country with totally different values and definitions than the one we had just left. But, I felt that we were still not ‘home free’…. our new government might discover our past and deport us, so we prepared for this by purchasing a framed photograph of Her Majesty and hanging it in the hallway of our new apartment. If the Royal Mounted Police ever came to ‘visit’ it would be the first thing they saw. We had two new statuses that we did not want to lose…. Landed Immigrant and NON Subversive!
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My political activities continued throughout my years in Canada, including running in elections for both the Federal Parliament and the Province of Ontario…. on the ticket of the Communist Party of Canada. This Party was/is legal, so my status of Non Subversive did not change.
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Fifty one years later there is once again hope that Canada will become the Free North Proud and Free that it once was. The Tories’ reign of terror has finally ended. Let us hope we never see a repeat of it. Never say never!
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA ! – BONNE FÊTE CANADA
Proud to be a Canadian ….. except for this …

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