29 June 2012

Identity in Crisis

“Crisis of Identity” – we Palestinian citizens of Israel supposedly suffer from this disease. I’ve heard this term hurled at me in accusing anger, in psychological diagnosis, in pity, in sarcasm. It’s always been a statement – nobody ever bothered even to ask my opinion or if I feel I suffer from this disease. We Palestinian citizens of Israel suffer from an extremely severe and incurable “Crisis of Identity.” We are split between “loyalty” to the state of Israel and belonging to our people.

Well, dear accusers:

I’ve got some news for you. I DO NOT – repeat: I DO NOT – suffer from any crisis of identity. I know who I am, and I surely know where my loyalties are. My loyalties are first and foremost to my values and to justice.

And if you think you will read here any “justifications” – you can stop reading right now. I don’t need to justify myself or my values to anybody.

Some facts:

I am a Palestinian. I live in my own homeland, which happens to be under the official name of Israel in the present. I carry an Israeli citizenship and an Israeli passport. I am institutionally discriminated against as part of a national minority. I stand up for my rights. I fight for my rights. I have no inferiority complex. I have no identity crisis.

Some thoughts on identity:

My own identity is made up of a plethora of aspects. To constrict me to my national identity is not only not right, but it is untrue. I am made of a multitude of identities, which are liquid, flowing and flexible. And never fixed. They are all temporary. How boring it must be to get stuck in one identity your whole life!

(c) khulud kh, June 2012

24 June 2012

Women with Disabilities - more thoughts

What is disability? Let me start with this question. Is it only something physical and visible to the eye? And do you have to have some kind of an official document confirming your disability? Can you be disabled without being diagnosed as such by a medical body? What about the non-visible disabilities? How much do they count? And where do we draw the line between what is perceived to be a “normal” state and a “disabled” state of being?

I am starting off tabula rasa. Except for the one process-oriented group of women with and without disabilities, and the fact that my own mother has been disabled for the past three and a half years, I haven’t dipped into this area. Before reading any articles, I want to explore this on my own first. To get down my thoughts and form them into some coherent sentences. I’m well aware of the fact that I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, but still – there is something about the raw and intuitive writing before rushing to drink up already confirmed knowledge or reading about what feminists in other parts of the world are doing on this issue.

So here we go: intuitively, and from my experience with my mom and the group, women with disabilities are treated differently. Their disability serves as a marker of their “otherness,” situating them outside of the “normal us.” The disability is also a clear mark of inferiority – intellectual, emotional, and physical.

In the public sphere, we become intolerable to any inconveniences caused by the disability of a woman (or a man for that matter). We prefer to exclude her from any kind of action/activity if her inclusion means we have to compromise or adapt to her needs. Their disability slows us down, diverts us from our real purpose; in short, it gets in our way in a most annoying and inconvenient way. Why can’t they just stay home and remain invisible?!

Why, indeed? Because they are us and we are them. They are not inferior to us and we are not superior to them – in any way! They are us and the we (them and us) have equal rights. To be, to live, to act in the public sphere. And if that means we have to adapt ourselves, our architecture, our fast pace, our language, our mode of existence – then that’s the way it will be. Just as we adapt and change to make room in the public sphere to other “others,” so it should be with women with disabilities – be they confirmed by an official body or not.

But what am I talking about? Our society is a very long way from recognizing the legitimacy of any “others” in the public sphere. Any “other” who inconveniences us is shunned to the margins.

In some more traditional communities, women with disabilities are shoved away, hidden in a dark corner of the house. Some, who are young and have a “light” disability, become the servants of the family.

Enough writing for one day. It is not an easy subject to write about. More later. Still don’t know what form this is taking. For now, I am posting as I write – unedited.

(c) khulud kh, June 2012

22 June 2012

Women with disabilities – thoughts

Emilia, my mother in an improvisation workshop. May 2012. photo by khulud kh (c)

I recently participated in a group of women with and without disabilities. It’s funny that I have a disabled mother – three and a half years passed since her CVA, yet until I participated in this group, I never made any connections.

The feminist movement I am familiar with has not made any major steps to include women with disabilities in its activities or even in its discourse. Only recently we initiated some discourse in Isha L’Isha about it, and held the first group of women with and without disabilities.

It’s strange, since in feminism, we advocate for the full and equal rights of marginalized and invisible groups. Women with disabilities have never taken any space in my life. Not until my mother suffered her CVA. But even then, it was something very personal. I had to deal with a completely new reality all of a sudden, in addition to reversal of roles in the family. I guess I was so busy in daily coping with this that I didn’t have time to connect it to something broader.

But now I’m glad I’m beginning to make the connections. The group process is now over, but the themes brought up, and the women who until then were invisible even to me – are taking up space in my thinking process.

It’s clear to me that this is only the beginning. Recently I’ve taken interest in photography, and since it coincided with the disabilities issue, it’s naturally pulling me in that direction. I volunteered to help in the PhotoVoice part of the research that Isha L’Isha is planning with group participants, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m also thinking of doing some small project with my mom with PhotoVoice. So far, disabilities have not appeared in my writing, but I know they will. It’s a process – I can’t rush it and can’t force myself to it. There’s no need. There is a time for it to happen naturally. And I know it will. In what form – fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. It will come out in its own form.

And finally, I hope that the action initiated by Isha L’Isha will bear fruit and that through our awareness-raising activities, more feminist and other social change organizations will start working on issues of women with disabilities.

(c) khulud kh, June 2012

15 June 2012

My Topographies of un-deletion

(The beginning of a new writing piece, exploring the connections between topographies, belonging, and fears):

“It’s the TOPOGRAPHY” my brain screamed down my stomach, the word punching me hard right downhill, more precisely on the right-winding curb between Golomb and Arlozorov, on my monthly way to the local Haifa story writers’ group meeting.

This urgent need for belonging to a physical place – all these years – it’s all been nothing more than an artificial illusion.

In the middle of it – I dream of Andalucía.

In the beginning of it – the feelings of the extinction danger – the deletion.

But in the end – it all collapsed downhill, on that hot-morning Huzairan on that curb where Golomb stops being and Arlozorov appears, peaking at me from the right.

It all collapsed into Haifa’s topography.

(more to come soon)

(c) khulud kh, June 2012