Thursday, February 02, 2006

In times of Israeli closure, breastfeed!

Ok, I bet you never expected me to mention breastfeeding and Israeli closures in the same sentence. Well, I just did. Now, for the readers who didn't just drop like flies, I'll continue.

Israel has closed the al-Muntar/Karni commercial crossing, Gaza's commercial lifeline to the world, for coming on a month now, as fruits, vegetables and flowers destined for export to European markets, spoil, and medicines (including vaccinations and kidney dialysis wash), dairy products, sugar, rice and infant formula dwindle on Gaza's supermarket shelves.

I visited strawberry farms today (and made out like a bandit with a crate full of fresh berries to the farmer's insistence. "feed your colleagues" he said. little did he know there are no colleagues. Just me and Yousuf), exporters, and trade unions, all of course up who are up in arms about the month-long closure that comes despite Israeli promises in a post-disengagment American brokered deal late last year to keep the crossing open, especially during the Palestinian harvest.

Not to digress, but I also learned there is rather suspious sounding organization called "the Strawberry Society" in the northern Gaza farming village of Beit Lahiya. which I would learn is none other than..a society of, well, strawberry farmers. how dissappointing. but it just sounds so covert doesn't it. "I belong to the strawberry society." I wish I could say that.

I then spoke to a friend who works at a human rights organization that subsequently released a press release on the matter. He asked how Yousuf was making out without milk in Gaza. It never crossed my mind, I told him, because Yousuf (don't gag, I know he's nearly two) still breastfeeds, being the ardent breastfeeding advocate I am. I am a human milking station. The benefits of nursing are never as clear to me as when we face Israeli closures which cut us off quite literally from the world, and also from, among other things, infant formula.

So there you have it, yet another catchy slogan for the La Leche League: In times of closures, breastfeed!

For more on the ongoing closure, which has has caused more than half a million dollars in damage so far and left 170 tons of fruits and vegetables to rot, see my article for Aljazeera here.


Blogger Preston L. Bannister said...

So ... between excess strawberries and breast feeding, embargo is good for kids' health?

12:52 AM  
Blogger norabf said...

it's ok, Laila,

i nursed my little strawberry girl until she was almost 2 and a half.

i remember the day clearly -- it was a Superbowl Sunday, and somehow the mixture of breastmilk, chili, non-alcoholic beer and cigar smoke suddenly turned her off completely.

:-) nora

3:07 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Azucena said...

As Salaamualikum:

SubhannAllah.Don't think that the Palestinians are forgotten. In the Emirates we are praying for you. Is there anything else that I could do? I don't know what. Really, if you past this test the rewards is emense.

Let me know what I can do.
Was Salaam

9:02 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Exactly, Preston. Its so good, in fact, that I am drafting a letter of thanks to the Israeli Occupation Army to thank them for all their hard work this past month and for ensuring the crossing was closed at precisely peak harvest.

3:05 PM  
Blogger lisoosh said...

Ahem, I'm still breastfeeding my son and he is nearly two as well. So now in addition to the other benefits - antibodies, health, cheaper, bonding with the mother we can now add overcoming embargoes. You should contact La Leche it would make for great advertising copy.

Maybe the Strawberry Society could make you an honorary member.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you transfer goods through Egypt? That border is open, isn't it?

8:51 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Sorry all-something is wrong with the commens sections, it will not allow me to moderate them for some reason so for the time being bear with me, or I may take off moderation.

p.s. for anonymous: the israeli-PA agreemetn of fall 2005 did not allow for transfer of GOODS (only people with palestinian identity cards) through the egyptian crossing.

11:25 PM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

I nursed my children a long time as well (an average of 3 years each--don't raise your eyebrows!) and often thought that in time of crisis at least they'd have sustenance--but I am so sad that for you this is not simply a fantasy, but reality of life.
Your article is very good.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Since the moderated comment function is temporarily disabled I'm going to rely on the good graces of my readers in the meantime. Also will be posting comments of yesterday that didn't make it up due to the technical error

9:33 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Osama Saeed has left a new comment on your post "2/03/2006 12:02:00 AM":

Jazakallahu khairan for posting this. I've flagged this up on my site.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Ibrahamav has left a new comment on your post "Sucks to be you...":

Every misery Israel is causing? Palestinian terrorists plan mission to enter Israel and kill its citizens. In turn, Israel closes the border.

This is not Israel's fault. Look elsewhere to blame your troubles.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Sucks to be you...":

Mashallah this is a fantastic blog!

Keep up the fantastic reward, may Allah reward you :)

Sitting in London enjoying reading your blog :)

9:34 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Sucks to be you...":

Mashallah this is a fantastic blog!

Keep up the fantastic reward, may Allah reward you :)

Sitting in London enjoying reading your blog :)

9:35 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "In times of Israeli closure, breastfeed!":

I do not know,if I am not enough smart to understand or if it´s really crazy.
So,you in Palestinian are fighting for so long to be a free country,isn´t it? But you still dependant on Israel to buy your goods,as to provide you goods as well,is that right?
So do you really think that are you ready to be a independant country?
And why does Israel have to buy your stuff why don´t you not sell to the other arab countries trough Egypt for example?
Maybe you could explain it better to us.
Everything it´s always israeli´s fault,because you have no factorys in Gaza,and as far as I know hospitals,doctors and stuff like that it´s also a difficulty.
So,the meanig of all that it´s to be a free country but still dependant to Israel in such a way?
Or cooexisting?
I really do not see much help coming from your "brothers",as well.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "In times of Israeli closure, breastfeed!":

I am sorry but breadtfeeding at two years old is very very wrong.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

now my turn:

Anonymous: You just opened open the gateway. By what authority are you telling all of us who breastfeed our toddlers at two years that we are wrong? Please explain and share, this outta be good. Unless you are a pediatrician, or can back up why it is "wrong" with some other evidence, or have tried it yourself before you judge, then I would think twice about making such a statement. Believe it or not, breastfeeding is even encouraged in the Quran, and the verse specifically says "wean them within/by two years", so there is nothing wrong with it from a religious persepctive. Neither do I think there is socially or by any other standard, as I am sure many prolonged breastfeeding mothers will tell you.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

I'd like to offer a comment on breastfeeding but not without first stating my authority and qualifications; absolutely none. I'm a 55 year old civil engineer from New Jersey and I always mind my manners. I don't mean to interject sexuality into the issue. However, as a man who is fond of breasts, I wonder if and how this may affect your son? Is he now destined to be a leg man?

4:39 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I forgot to mention; as I write this, it is Superbowl Sunday and coincidentally, I'm smoking a cigar. You and Yousef are invited to watch the game at my place.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have just seen this piece in the jerusalem post

which states

"We offered the Palestinians to use Kerem Shalom on January 20, way before the Palestinian elections," defense officials said.
"The offer was rejected by the Palestinians and as a result unnecessary damage was inflicted on the Palestinian economy and people."

is this true, or are someone make this up... would just like to know

ps excellent blog

6:20 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Dear John,
as I noted to SHlofn, who made the same comment in the above post (the picture of the farmer), if you bothered to follow the link I provided to my aljazeera article, in which I discuss this in length, you would see this issue is addressed. This is like saying it is the rape victim's fault for dressly inappropriately. Israel is first and moremost responsible for the closure and for the damage inflicted on the economy and the people, period. Its actions were in direct contravention of an agreement its government signed on a few months ago. Offering them an unsuitable alternative (even though the PA was in talks about kerem shalom, they said the Israelis were never ready to actually implement the idea, besides the fact that it is not even properly equipped, or ready to be a commercial crossing, plus it would involve a circuitous truck route that involves many extra hours) isn't the issue here.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Israel is responsible for your economy. Israel is responsible for the lack of electricity in Gaza, which by the way is not occupied anymore. Israel is...........and so on and is always Israel. Millons were given to your leaders, who kept you hungry, angry, no water, no roads. Palestinias, the most educated group in the Arab world have been used as pawns by their leaders. Where is the money?: In Suha Araft's or in M.Dahlan private accounts, etc. Where are the hospitals, the houses to replace the ones destroyed by the Israelis? Are they in M. Abbas or Qurei's private.accounts. WAKE UP AND MAKE PEACE WITH ISRAEL........

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Laila

my apologies, I look at so many sources to try and get a balanced perspective on things. I did follow the link to your article but didn't read right to the bottom where you covered the points that I raised, which is very slack of me and i'm very sorry. I feel frustrated that this issue hasn't had the coverage and investigation it deserved from both the arab and israeli press. For example if the crossing was closed beacuse israel believed there where tunnels being dug underneath it why did it take 3 week to check this, did they find any, where are the quotes from international companies or defence experts saying well if you wanted to check for tunnels the process would be this, you would use this equipment and it should take about this long. My belief is that the length of closure was an act of punishment, but without facts to back this up it is hard to prove. I just wish more journalists like yourself, would cover this rather than the fuss over these cartoons in denmark...

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous

1. the current israeli administration has for some time not been interested in peace, it wants disengagment. these are two very different things.
2. gaza may not be occuppied by israeli settelers anymore but the fact remains it is still under military occuppation. the fact that it only has ONE commercial crossing which can be closed to the outside world by israel without the consent of it people is testiment to that.
3. I'm sure there were many corrupt individuals within the fatah PA, and they should be investigated and brought to justice. But what ever their crimes may have been it does not legitimise punitive action on the part of israel toward palestinian civilians.

ps why are you "Anonymous"... what exactly are you afraid of.....?

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Johnie,
Even I´m not the anonymous above,I´m goig to answer your question: Because not everybody is educated as Laila,that´s why,I always write as anonymous as well.And I do not want to have my e-mail box full of garbage,and I think you understand that very well.
I do agree very well what anonymous above just wrote.
Whatever happens it´s always Israel´s fault.
People lives miserable,and that´s once more Israel´s fault,where is the money?!?
People are sick and tired of this:
But,maybe they "deserved" it...
Why do they close the borders?
Just the way I close my door to protect myself and my familiy,does anybody tells me that it´s wrong?
By the way,just keep breastfeeding,it´s healthy.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous....

My interest isn't in whay they closed the crossing, I understand why you might need to close a crossing to check for tunnels being dug underneath it, my question is why at such an important time of the year for gaza's farmers did it take 3 weeks to check for these, I mean if there is a simple factual explanation please tell me.

With regard to the stabbing in Petah Tikva today, no of course that woman did not deserve to die any more than any of the other 683* israeli civilians who have died in the last 5 years. But the simple fact is all the west bank and gaza are effectively under israeli military control. The people who live there do not enjoy basic human freedoms that many take for granted, loss of freedom and dignity makes people feel impotent and angry and in some cases violent, that is just a simple fact of human nature.

oh yes and just to note the number of palestinian civilians killed in this same period is 1,815*


12:06 AM  
Blogger DisplayName said...

Laila, as a mother who nursed for 30 months, i want to say: keep going, only we know our time to stop breastfeeding.

But for the others... and about this repetitive collective punishment (what a shame!), I could not stop thinking since I first read this post and ur articles last week.
Is there anything I/we can do?

5:52 AM  
Blogger bint alshamsa said...

Marhaba ya Leila!

My daughter nursed until she was eighteen months old. In my family all women breastfeed. It is a tradition because we believe it keeps the children healthy. My daughter's pediatrician commended me for doing so. I didn't stop until she wasn't interested in continuing any more. In many countries, breastfeeding continues all the way through four years old.

I live in Louisiana (U.S.A.) where the big hurricanes hit last year. Many infants who were stuck in New Orleans with their mother's died of dehydration because there weren't breastfed and the water became too contaminated to use for mixing the baby formula. Allah has given us such wonderful bodies that were designed to handle all sorts of situations and truly breastfeeding is still the best even in this "modern" world.

My daughter has always been as strong as an ox and I think it is because of her being breastfed. She is always the tallest in her classroom and we have had to buy school uniforms twice already this year. I guess all of that calcium in the milk really went to good use.

I sympathize with your situation. May Allah continue to watch over you and Yusef through everything.

wa salaam

4:00 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Thanks for all the encouragement re breastfeeding! Sometimes it is the only source of comfort yousuf and I have, especially when the shelling gets intense.

And the parallels with New Orleans fasinate...I also heard that they are preventing some refugee from returning to their homes ther?

2:18 PM  
Blogger Preston L. Bannister said...

" I am sorry but breadtfeeding at two years old is very very wrong. "

Well, I guess everyone in entitled to their opinion ... and spelling.

Kids generally stop breastfeeding on their own - which suggests a natural process. Within reasonable bounds it is probably better to let nature take it's course. If memory serves, my kids all lost interest between 2-3 years of age.

The odd part of all this - back in the 1970's my mother was a La Leche League advisor and natural childbirth instructor. This meant we got a lot of phone calls from women with questions. After a few years of this, I could answer most of the questions.

The other odd part - I sometimes had to keep an eye on the balky 16mm projector used for showing films to the childbirth classes. Watching childbirth films is not something a teenage boy really wants to do.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re Breastfeeding: It is great for mother and baby. I would add one thing though; Always clean the baby's teeth afterwards and NEVER feed and then let the baby go right to sleep once they have teeth. The baby's teeth will decay and cause all kinds of trouble even though they are the baby teeth they are still very important for the development of the baby's jaw and adult teeth. If the baby won't sleep without suckling, take the baby off the breast and substitute a bottle of sterilized water.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Hi, and thanks for the comment!
Don't worry Yousuf is a toothbrushing fanatic. He does nurse before he sleeps but I make sure he brushes his pearly chompers afterwards-I suffer from too much (genetically endowed) teeth trouble to let his oral hygeine slide, and have seen too many children's teeth neglected and literally rotting out of their mouths to know better that to see his suffer the same fate!

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you should have thought this through before electing a government sworn to Israel's destruction. How could it possibly negotiate a reopening when it doesn't recognize Israel? Israel has the right to close it's borders the same as Egypt or Jordan. When Gaza and the WB becomes Palestine, there's going to be a wall and it's not going to be fun. Israel to Palestine will be what America is to Mexico. That's just the reality of having a developed country adjacent to a third world country. Whose fault? The PA. We all know the Palestinians are not particularly adept at self governance and as such they will always be reliant on Israel which will ensure resentment, such as that evidenced in this post, for the foreseeable future.

8:29 PM  
Blogger thecutter said...

as far as lengthy breastfeeding goes, it is often culturally induced. In Italy, where I live, it is the norm to breastfeed four to six months, then to stop. My girl lost interest at eleven months, but I would have gladly gone on another four or five. In Eskimo culture, they breastfeed until they are five or six years old! (I read that somewhere, now will have to look it up!)

It is always a good thing, if mother and child are happy with it, and the society at large does not in any way stigmatise it.

very nice blog you have! I should check in more regularly!

3:34 PM  
Blogger thecutter said...

Ethnographic studies of hunter/gatherer and other pre- industrial societies show that while the duration of lactation varies considerably between cultures and between individual children within a culture, the average duration is between three and five years of age. Here are some examples from Wickes' 1953 survey of various tribes: Australian aborigines, two to three years; Greenlanders, three to four years; Hawaiians, five years; Inuit, around seven years.

3:39 PM  

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