“That scorching sun, ” Ismail exclaims. “All it does is wait to hit my eyes and blind me whenever I wake up.” “Maybe you should try to move out of its way ghabiun,” said Aisha. Ismail was furious with his sister usually. She was charged as his caretaker of the family but Ismail felt as though he never needed it. Ismail washes the majority of the dishes anyways and even sweeps the entire floor including the outside so Aviv the landlord leaves his family alone. More so than his sister, Ismail absolutely despised Aviv. Ismail had been in a wheelchair for about three years now, losing his ability to walk around age 11 because of Aviv.
One day Aviv drove home in a bright maroon scooter with a single, powerful headlight under the influence of who knows what. Ismail happened to be playing football with a couple of former friends from the complex they resided in. The complex was surrounded by identical buildings, all to keep Ismail’s people separate from the all-powerful state of Israel. Across from the complex on the other side of the dusty, wasteland-Esque road was a market that Ismail could’ve swore spread from the water to the border. Ismail finished playing football and had decided to go purchase meat for his family’s dinner tonight as he was instructed by his father, Iyad. As Ismail approached the market it was too late. Aviv had already been focused on commotion outside of his complex, forgetting to look for those crossing the street and come into contact with Ismail’s tailbone. Local authorities had rushed Ismail to a local clinic where they informed him of his paralysis. Aviv paid no consequences due to his Israeli citizenship and if the Israeli government got word of one of their people in jail the consequences would be dire for Ismail and his family. Ismail did not mind his challenge however for he believed that God must have done this for a reason.
“Just go to school already, you’re not my caretaker anymore,” said Ismail. “But Mom and Dad said-” said Aisha. “I know what they said but just let me do this on my own for once,” said softly to his sister. “I am not just a kid anymore, I really am just like everyone else now.” Aisha smiled at her brother admiring his will for he had always possessed more willpower than his entire family since his childhood. “Okay, but you have to promise me you will take the road around the protest mom and dad are going to today,” Aisha said carefully. Ismail was already out the apartment door. The apartment hallway was caked in filth and cigarette ash-covered each line that ran through the steel-colored concrete floor. Ismail recoiled to the smell of the complex every time he exited. He despised it. He wanted nothing but the best for his family and every day Ismail daydreamed of his success in the future. Ismail loved to daydream. As he made it out of the complex he began to add to his daydream portfolio. This time Ismail dreamt of him and his father visiting the aquariums he reads about in books from the local market stand about a block or two from the complex. As his wheelchair hit the dirt the dream began. The curtains in Ismail’s mind open to images of his father standing with him in front of a giant glass exhibit filled to the brim with every type of garish-colored fish he could think of. To the left he saw a school of clownfish, hugging to an amber-colored rock with algae surrounding the circumference of the rock. To the right, he saw three dolphins, one infant dolphin being cared for by the other two almost as if they had just picked the infant from school that day much like a human.
“What are you doing boy?” the strange voice said in the dream. Ismail snaps out of his fantasy back to the wasteland street he had been on. “What?” Ismail said. Ismail looked right to see a tall, broad sand-covered man that had glasses almost too big to fit his face. The man had just finished his cigarette and had flicked the butt in front of Ismail’s chair. “That way is the protest. You know it’s not safe for you to continue this way,” the strange man exclaimed. As the strange man stepped into the scorching sunlight Ismail noticed that he was wearing a button-up with a Star of David necklace draped over his collar bone. The man was older yet he seemed sophisticated in a way that Ismail wasn’t used to. In that instant, Ismail had begun an epiphany. He had always wanted change for his family and now seemed as though a perfect opportunity to contribute to that. Ismail had decided to venture to the protest as he could already feel the shaking in the ground from several hundred voices. “I know sir, I was going to cut to the right ahead towards my school.” The man glanced at Ismail from head to toe, almost studying his entire figure as if Ismail was something he had never seen before. “Just don’t go to that protest boy,” the strange man said as he disappeared back into the shadows of Gaza. Ismail nodded and continued on his path towards the protest, simultaneously turning around to check for the old intellectual he had encountered minutes ago.
As Ismail conquered the last hill in his sight he began to see the protest in view. In his mind Ismail thought the protest would be several hundred people, waving signs of freedom, chants that would rattle the buildings around, but he was wrong entirely. The City of Gaza houses over 500,000 people and if Ismail had to guess at least 10,000 of them had shown up. The crowd almost moved as one organism, shifting against the Israeli Defense Force at once with a synchronized chant. As Ismail descended the hill his only thoughts were with his mother and father. They had told him the protest was only going to be a small one, nothing like what Ismail was witnessing. Ismail kept advancing with strife, nearly reaching the crowd as they sang songs of independence. Suddenly, Ismail heard about 6 or 7 loud popping sounds and instinctively put his head down. The popping was loud and carried sound waves throughout the barren streets, bouncing off each building as the sound reached them. Ismail needed a bird’s eye view to figure out what these sounds were. As Ismail was descending the street he proceeded to look left and right to find a view of the protest. To his left was only apartment complexes much like the one he lived in, except as these buildings approached the border they began to look sorrowful as Ismail glanced at each building. As Ismail glanced to the left he saw what seemed to be a department store of sorts that had been recently boarded up to either curb any conflict or they had just closed for good. Yet at the base of the building was a fence circling it with a cliff extending from the left side of the building overlooking the protest. Ismail followed the fence until he found a hold that fit him perfectly.
More popping noises.
Ismail couldn’t believe what he was witnessing as he approached the cliff. As he glanced over the army of protestors, he saw a massive force of Israeli soldiers with shields holding the crowd back. Behind and above the soldiers were about 10 or 15 other soldiers with Assault Rifles. Ismail knew what was going on. The soldiers had fired on the crowd as Ismail could see a small opening in the front of the crowd with an older man holding a young woman’s head up as she laid on the ground. The woman was lifeless with several other injured individuals in the gap of the crowd. They had all taken gunshot wounds mainly from the waist down leaving the individuals with no way to move back out of the crowd. Ismail was horrified by the actions of Israel. He knew that there was a conflict between Palestine and Israel but never to this degree. A hate started to brew in Ismail’s body and the only thing he could do at that moment was cry. It was not a cry for help but a cry of frustration. How hard was it to not shoot someone? How hard is it to just let our country keep its independence? Ismail let out a scream of frustration as he was still looking out to the gap in the crowd.
“I watch this every day. I do nothing but think and watch. I watch a sickly amount of oppression every day from this cliff and I cannot help but feel anger.” It was the older man again. This time he was wearing a tank top that was originally white but covered in a dusty film that only made the man look older as a result. “Do you understand why I told you not to come now? It wasn’t because I wanted to keep you completely safe. I just felt as though the last thing you needed was more anger in your life. More anger to spread to others as my people have done to yours,” the old man said softly among the noise. Ismail understood his reasoning. “You could’ve just told me what was happening!” Ismail said, yelling to beat the noise of the crowd.
“What is your name, boy?” the old man said. “Ismail, sir.” Ismail quietly mumbled. “Nice to meet you, Ismail. My name is Shiloh. I live across the street here in the complex.” the old man said. A silence had fallen between the two individuals. The only thing Ismail could do at that moment was just watch the crowd being pushed back, beaten, and experience the effects of tear gas tossed from behind the shield barricade.
“Come with me Ismail for I want to show you something that may interest you. This is no place for a boy and your parents would never forgive me if I let you stay out here.” Ismail was a stubborn individual but even he knew this was not a place for him. Ismail glanced at the crowd one last time before entering Shiloh’s complex. An ambulance had flown down the road as the two entered Shiloh’s room.
Shiloh’s room was completely organized from top to bottom. Every surface, counter, and floor in the house was spotless almost as if Shiloh had not been here in weeks. “I have been traveling so nobody has been in this room for a while.” As Shiloh went to take a seat he began to move his arm sideways and popped his arm clean off. Ismail noticed the plastic/composite frame more so in the poorly lit room than out in the sun. Shiloh had a prosthetic arm for his left arm.
“This is what I wanted to show you. This happened to me about 4 years ago when the protests first began. A bombing took place during the protest I was at. We are all the same. Even if you and I live in such a way it does not define us. My job is going around the world and convincing people to think like this.” Ismail was in awe at this point. Ismail’s first impression of the old man was that he was just some old mildew-covered old man. However, looks are always deceiving and Ismail understood that now.
Word Count: 1938
Prior to writing this story about the Israel and Palestine conflict, I did heavy research in order to recreate the world that Ismail lives in. However, it is important to note the way I feel about this conflict as I have been following the news about Israel and Palestine since I was about fifteen years old. Nothing saddens my conscience more than hearing about innocent people being bombed, killed, and maimed in order to maintain “control”. I could never understand the trauma these individuals went through. However, I feel as though my voice may have an impact in fighting this conflict if expressed correctly.
Puar’s piece, Right to Maim, was my main inspiration for writing this story as well as several podcasts I have listened to. Ismail’s role in the story was to give an extrinsic view of the conflict further showing how Puar’s concept of debility, capacity, and disability all intertwine. Ismail’s form of mental debility (even debility in the form of Palestinian strife) through his anger throughout the story and the lack of mention of Ismail’s wheelchair was to show how capacity is furthermore an issue in countries that lack the capacity to support these individuals. My reasoning for providing the outside view of the conflict from Ismail’s point of view was to provide a metaphorical view of looking from the outside of a conflict. As one may look from the outside of this conflict and see the biopolitical population control that Israel has implemented. With the inclusion of the scene where Ismail notices the gunshot wounds are only from the waist down as Israel feels that since there is no death there will be no consequence. My goal was to connect the flaws of this conflict and the ableist reasoning for why such issues occur. The Israeli government shows the use of this by maiming Palestinian citizens as their reasoning is rooted deep in capitalistic power and control of disabled or debilitated individuals. The Palestinian population itself is debilitated in their protests for freedom as the able-bodied monopoly continues to keep these people under control.
As Puar defines maiming as, “Maiming is a source of value extraction from populations that would otherwise be disposable.” Shiloh’s role in this story directly reflects this process of able-bodied governments maiming those who they feel as disposable as he went through this experience of maiming. Able-bodied governments like these will excuse such actions by, as Puar describes, calling these injuries, “expected impairments.”
Metaphors throughout this text include the lack of life described in many of the buildings and the poor living conditions that these people live in. This directly attributes to the capitalistic, able-bodied control that Israel holds over the Palestinian population by forcing such individuals into these poverty-driven situations.
I would like to reiterate that through works of literature such as this story and theoretical pieces that activists such as Puar provide will further the knowledge, solution, and advancement of disabled body rights that will provide a hopeful future ahead for not only the disabled community but those who reside in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Word Count: 515
Farzan, Antonia Noori, et al. “How Conflict, Blockades and History Have Shaped the Geography of Gaza.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 14 May 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/05/14/gaza-strip-history-geography/.
“Gaza Border Protests: 190 Killed and 28,000 Injured in a Year of Bloodshed.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2019/mar/29/a-year-of-bloodshed-at-gaza-border-protests.
“Gaza’s ‘Great March of Return,” Six Months On.” Amnesty International, 15 June 2021, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/10/gaza-great-march-of-return/.
Puar, Jasbir K. The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability. , 2017. Print.