One Out of Every Nine


One out of every nine women gets breast cancer. There are doctors who say that statistic has worsened lately and now stands at one out of every eight. The disease is particularly violent in younger women and the primary growth in the breast spreads rapidly to the liver, the lungs, the bones and the brain. Is there anything worse than being a young woman with cancer whose chances are slim? It turns out that there is – being a young Palestinian woman with cancer whose chances are slim.

For 10 days now, F., a 28-year-old resident of Gaza, has been trying to get to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer for urgent chemotherapy in the oncology department. The story of what has happened to her during these 10 awful days sounds unbelievable, even to someone who has already heard horrible stories. The reality has succeeded in superseding even what the sickest imagination could invent.

F. has been undergoing treatment at Sheba’s oncology department for many months: she has had surgery twice, radiation and chemotherapy. In Gaza, there is not a single oncology department and F. is not allowed to go to Egypt for treatment; she is one of the tens of thousands of Palestinians to whom Israel has refused to issue identity cards because they were not in the territories at the very beginning of the occupation. Without papers and without treatment in Gaza, F. is totally dependent on Israel’s good graces.

About two months ago, she was hospitalized at Sheba for several weeks and she had the chemotherapeutic drug Taxol injected into her veins, which reduced her suffering considerably. The attitude toward her at the hospital was admirable. F. was liked by everyone around her.

Israel prevented members of her family from being at her side for most of the time she was hospitalized, and she was left all by herself after the operations and during the period of radiation treatments. A handful of Israeli women, among them one of the activists of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, tried to relieve her loneliness and her suffering.

Each of her entrances into Israel was accompanied by hassles and humiliations. One time they demanded of her father a deposit of NIS 30,000 so that he could accompany her.

F. was supposed to have returned to Sheba for treatment on September 14. There was a closure and her application was refused. They promised her a permit for September 19. In the meantime, her condition deteriorated, her pain increased and her breathing became labored. She contacted the physicians’ association and begged to be allowed to return to the hospital.

At Sheba they said she should come as soon as possible. On September 14, Physicians for Human Rights applied to the humanitarian hotline of the Liaison and Coordination Administration with a request that she receive an entry permit. The permit arrived only on the following day at 6 in the evening, restricted to that same day and without an accompanying person. It was evening and F. was no longer able to travel by herself. The following day the validity of the permit had already expired.

At the association they decided to wait until Sunday, for which the permit had already been promised. On Sunday, the permit did not arrive until evening. In turns out that it was necessary to submit a renewed application. On Monday there was a delay on the Palestinian side, which was late in resubmitting her medical documents. Her changes of going out on Monday were scotched, as well.

Last Tuesday, at 3:30 in the afternoon, the telephone call came with the news that a permit had been given for the patient and her mother. F. set out for the roadblock with her mother. For hours she sat debilitated on the ground and waited. Finally she was called to go through the metal detector. The soldiers shouted to her from a distance that she had "something in her chest" and ordered her to strip in front of them. She stood there wearing only an undergarment, her mother burst out crying at the sight of her sick, humiliated daughter and the soldiers scolded her to shut up. Finally an officer came, reprimanded the soldiers and ordered F. to get dressed immediately.

F. has had a mastectomy. At 8 P.M. the Liaison and Coordination Administration informed Physicians for Human Rights that there was "a security problem" with F. The soldiers suspected her of carrying explosives in her chest. For some reason they had not arrested her, but had sent her home. Apparently it was the prosthetic breast that had set off the metal detector.

From that moment a danse macabre began, the end of which is not in sight. MK Yossi Sarid (Yahad), one of the few Knesset members who has taken an interest and tried to help, contacted the defense minister’s bureau that same evening. At the bureau they asked for documents concerning F.’s prosthesis. The minister’s adviser phoned Dr. Danny Rosen, who knows F. well, and asked about the kind of material on her body. At the bureau they also asked for a guarantee in F.’s handwriting that she would come to the roadblock without the prosthesis. This guarantee was given. Day followed day, and yet another phone call and yet another request for a form, and F. is still stuck in Gaza, her suffering increasing and her chances running out.

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman says that, "in light of a number of attempts by terrorists to enter Israel in the guise of needing medical treatment, the IDF must be extra cautious with regard to anyone who does not pass the security check, even if he has the appropriate medical documents in his possession. The claim concerning inappropriate conduct by the soldiers at the crossing point has been investigated and found to be without any basis. However, the consideration of the request by the senior command levels is still underway."

No danger of a suicide terrorist can justify such behavior. It is possible to protect ourselves against female terrorists without losing our humanity. F.’s story is not exceptional, even if part of it is particularly shocking; there are hundreds of Palestinian patients in a similar condition and every injustice always has a security excuse. There is terror, everyone is only carrying out orders and they are going by the book. But a book that prevents medical treatment to dying patients, hassles them and humiliates them, is a wicked book, and a society in which only the metal detector speaks is a sick society.

GIDEON LEVY writes for Ha’aretz, where this essay originally appeared.

October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?