12 November 2009

Between two Worlds

Born to a Palestinian father and a Slovak mother, the word land has different meanings for me. I was born in former Czechoslovakia, and at the age of eight, immigrated with my parents to my father’s homeland in Haifa, Israel. My connection to Czechoslovakia was lost, as it never had time to set deep roots. For years after coming to Haifa, I couldn’t connect to the new place. There was a world of difference between the East European town I grew up in and this Middle Eastern world with its amalgamation of sensual textures, colors and tastes, intermingling with a vibrant mix of cultures and an edgy political atmosphere.

As a Palestinian, I’m a second-class citizen of Israel. The state is by definition the state of the Jewish people, which on the most superficial level means I can’t relate to any of the state symbols. I am continuously marginalized – politically, socially, culturally, economically. In my homeland, I have to cope with racism on a daily basis: people who don’t want Palestinians in “their” Jewish state, and a government that wants to delete the Arabic names of cities from signs. All this leaves me with a desolate feeling that there will never be a place I can call home. There's a feeling they want to delete me and my history.

My identity will always be intrinsically connected to land. Being an immigrant, I long for a place to call home. Being a Palestinian, I have no such home at the moment.

3 November 2009

HIV positive women in Cambodia prohibited to have children

In September, I traveled to the Philippines to deliver a lecture at the Women, Peace and Security: Visions for a New World conference.
Following the conference, a delegation of participants traveled to the conflict-affected area of Mindanao, located in the South of the Philippines.
We held a number of solidarity forums throughout the area, but one impression has stayed in my mind ever since.

In a forum attended by university students, one of the students asked us what we think of the situation of women in Cambodia, where the government has prohibited HIV positive women from having children. Control of population through controlling women’s reproductive rights was one of the main themes of the conference. I answered her by saying that nobody has the right to decide for a woman to have or not to have children, and that I believe women should have the choice to decide for themselves. This is yet another means of controlling our bodies, and it perpetuates the situation where women are perceived as irresponsible and not able to make decisions on their own. My answer was not received positively, but then one of the women from Kenya said that in her country, there is a program that trains HIV positive women who wish to have children on how not to transfer the virus to their babies once they are born. I think that her response made the students think about the issue, and I hope it will be an opening for their questioning authorities and not accepting governmental decisions without criticism.