Saturday, April 15, 2006

On breastfeeding and weaning under occupation

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume my audience is mature enough to stomach a breastfeeding post, so if I haven't already lost you, here goes:

Its official (ok, semi-official): Save for a minor post-nursery, pre-and-post nap relapse, after 2 years, one month, 6 days, I have officially weaned Yousuf (hey don't look at me funny, Alaskan Eskimos breastfeed for 5 years!).

For those who don't know, I am an ardent, some would say zealous, breastfeeding advocate. Simpy put, it is one of the most amazing abilities God granted women, everything from the way it is produced, to the way the content changes based on your your child's nutritional needs (c'mon-can Nestle do THAT?): It is the perfect infant food.

I always planned to breastfeed Yousuf until he was around 2 years old, the age recommended in the Quran (though that is not to say one cannot breastfeed for longer than this), and because we both enjoyed it and benefited from it (hey, when you shed 500 calories a day producing breast milk, who needs a gym?).

Unfortunately, that turned out to be easier said than done. Everytime I would get up and say to myself-"this is the day to reclaim my..." I would grow weak in the face of his pathetic blubbering and heart-wrenching cries..."looolooooo!!" (my nickname)... (see short VIDEO of Yousuf in withdrawal here...)

It was as if I was depriving him from the one certainty in his life, the one constant. And now I was telling him that it is no longer available for his use and abuse, whenever and however frequently he wanted. During the difficult times we live in, it was a step I was always afraid to take. It was his comfort zone, and I was taking it away.

My little babe is all grown up

For Yousuf and I, the past two years have been an interesting journey, to put it mildly, wrought with the obvious hurdles of living under occupation, and nursing him has helped us both get through it. It was our moment together-our special time that, though time-consuming and difficult at time, we both equally enjoyed, that no one could interfere with-no matter the time or circumstance (save for an hour when I was interrogated by the Shin Bet in Rafah, and a then two-month-old Yousuf was howling in the other room with a female soldier because they forbid me from taking him in the interrogation with me).

It was something no one else could provide him, something that I will always relish (though I have to admit at times in the early days, I began to feel biologically equivalent in life purpose to a cow...).

Further, my ability to breastfeed him-to be a portable milk machine-has gotten us through some rough times, especially during travel. I think back to those terrible times and shiver, only to comforted by the fact that it was the nursing that sometimes got Yousuf past the hours-long waits in the painful heat of August or bone-numbing cold of winter at checkpoints or at Rafah Crossing, waiting for the Israeli "uber-wardens" to let us through, bellowing out orders to the thousands of desperate travelers including ourselves.

And knowing that our chances of making it through on any given day were contingent upon the mood of the soldier manning the checkpoint. When a young, heat-exhausted Yousuf was on his final crying breath, hysterical, hungry, and confused, I would nurse him quietly in the taxi as we waited and waited and waited, and *bam*, like magic he would calm down and sleep. And that meant, so could I.

So now, here we are. Its hard enough weaning my litte babe and dealing with his mommy-milk withdrawal, but to try doing so under the continuous barrage of Israeli artillery shells..well. After a brief lull (and I use lull cautionously here..meaning a few hours), the shelling resumed last night full throttle following a rocket that landed in an Ashkelon sports stadium (kind of ironic, given the Israeli attack on Gaza's stadium a few weeks ago).

The explosions were more frequent and powerful than before. At one point, I counted 10 shells falling per minute, some from different locations at once, whose whose shock waves we could literally feel penetrating the house, rattling its windows and leaving the walls trembling.

Needless to say, we got minimal sleep (from that and the constant ringing of my Orange cellphone from who turned out to be an Israeli caller looking for a "Tsedek" and then "Isabel"...and me futiely explaining to him in broken Hebrew that it was the wrong number-while leaving out the detail that he had actually called a Palestinian in Gaza).

Usually if Yousuf wakes up, I can nurse him back to sleep, but now we no longer have that to fall back on. He is taking it all like a champ, especially after I "explained" to him that breastfeeding..."azza" as he calls it, is for babies-and that he was now a big boy. After a few initial "Yeah right!" episodes, he seemed to understand. Sometimes he looks at me if he is tempted to lift my shirt, and says- "lal baby?" (for baby?), looking for confirmation.

My friend recommended pumping my milk and donating it to a local hospital. I explained something I assumed most people knew (ok I was wrong)-that actually in Islam, any children who breast-feed or drink from the same breastmilk under the age of two "five times" become "milk siblings", meaning they cannot intermarry etc.

This is not to say that it doesn't happen or is discouraged (in pre-Islamic Arabia, babies were sent off to be nursed by a wet-maid because it was thought that nursing from more than one mother gives the child greater strength and immunity, and the Prophet himself had a milk brother), but it has to happen with the permission of both families, and also means you have to keep track of who you've breastfed. So anonymous breast-milk donation is not an option*

Here's to another milestone in raising Yousuf, and hoping we go on to bigger and better things and find new sources of comfort for both us...

Update: Since the time of this post, I've discovered that actually Milk Bank donation is permissible, "as long as there is an apparent necessity to do so". A fatwa was made to this end in Europe:

But really the question is whether I want to continue pumping and donating (because its even more exhausting thatn breastfeeding) and the answer is a resounding "no!" (besides your milk supply decreases over time-no where near the amount it was two years ago).


Blogger Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

I'm not sure what the basis of this ancient taboo is, but surely there is no medical reason why two unrelated people who drank the same breastmilk shouldn't have children with each other. Anyway, what would the chances be of Yousef marrying someone who happened to have had your milk? I can't believe it is congruent with the spirit of Islam to let a baby starve because of a tradition that has been proven unnecessary by modern science.

These are the type of things that make most rational people (myself included) stay away from organized religions.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Zak said...

I skipped the rest after the first paragraph..wars I can stomach breastfeeding posts I can't lol

But from what I gather from Elizabeths post there was a mention of milk brothers/sisters..reminded me of a family story I remember..while in many cases it's a way of cementing ties between one relations case they breast fed a nephew as a means of ensuring her daughter never married into the paternal side (there was only one male on that side) ..I always thought that was a spiteful act.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Well Elizabeth, I don't know of the precise medical reason...but for one thing breastmilk has mild has genetic material in it, it also has antibiotics, proteins, and other "biologically active" material...and in fact research has shown that as one way of "diversifying" the gene pool, the Alaskan eskimos-who breastfeed for up to 5-7 years, "swap" their kids and nurse each others kids between tribes, and so, if you have nursed from same mother, it is likely that you have some genetic pool in common, of course not as much as if you were biologically related). In Islam, marriage between milk-brethren (only after 5 "well-estbalished" feeds) is forbidden because of a saying by the prophet to this effect. And actually in the case you mention: "I can't believe it is congruent with the spirit of Islam to let a baby starve because of a tradition that has been proven unnecessary by modern science", assuming there was a situation in which providing anonymous breastmilk to an unknown recipient was a life or death matter to the recipient, it would be permissible because there is also a ruling in Islam that you cannot let a "greater harm" result from actions you take in the name of your religion, and that in "emergency situations" its ok to go against some rulings. If followed correctly, Islam is actually quite flexible when it comes to intrepretations, adaptability and flexiblity.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I highly appreciate you breast-feeding your gorgeous junior till the age of two (he's such a sweetie-pie)! Fact is though I don't quite know how you succeeded going on with it till that age! I still get the shivers when I think back to this one crucial day when the eldest of my sons, nine months and a few days old back then, almost succeeded to make me faint: he was proud "owner" of two VERY sharp incisors which he decided to test on my ... you know what! I remember one sudden scream coming from my mouth (which gave him most likely the shock of his young life!), it felt as if someone suddenly turned off all the lights - and when I caught my breath and up with myself again, I first risked a glance to check if it was all still in one piece - and was at the same minute absolutely sure, it had been the LAST time I would offer him this source of food and comfort! I have to admit though, I enjoyed every single minute of breast-feeding of all my children! It created an unseen bond which proves over and over to be one of the most precious things a mother can give a child!

9:11 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Well I have to say it hasn't been easy-thought it did get easier with time, because towards the end its more or a comfort rather than nutritional thing (as opposed to the early days where his feedings were 1 1/2 housr apart!! and where he was literally sucking the life and energy out of me!). But I did have a similar "bite on for dear life" episode-once on a road trip in Lebanon to visit my husband's family, without a car seat, and daddy trying to make an unhappy Yousuf sit in his lap-well, basically when I tried to "Calm" him down by nursing him...guess who (or what) he took it out on!! I was only able to release him after I learned the trick from Yassine's mother-hold his nose shut for a few seconds! I was in SO much pain for 3 days after that but thank God he NEVER did it again (I think my reaction scared him too much!)

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leila, you really made me laugh ... I should have known this trick back then!! I never forgot the kind of excruciating pain though ... and when I told my son (who's now towering me by a head or more ... I'm no smurf either I might add) a while ago what he had done, he couldn't stop laughing anymore!! I wonder what would happen, would THEY have to give birth, nurse and raise children ... I can't get rid of the feeling, mankind would either have died out a long time ago already or at least have diminished drastically ...

9:51 PM  
Blogger Sophia said...


With all my respect for these beliefs, they have nothing to do with the science of genetics. Genes cannot simply be passed on in milk, no way. What passes from a mother to a natural or an adopted child are emotions and behaviors triggering some hormonal reactions and forming the base for an epigenetic (contrary to genetic) inheritance.
What may constitute a rational base for such a belief is that people raised together and nourished by the same mother may come to resemble each other in many aspects, none of them related to genes, and to be bound by a brotherly and family love which is not suitable to be undone by sexual desire.

11:20 PM  
Blogger lisoosh said...

The milk brother belief is quite interesting.
Still nursing my 2 year old (though getting bored with it). You probably would have had trouble pumping for any length of time - at this age is all controlled by demand rather than hormones so once they stop nursing you dry up pretty quick - that is what happened when I stopped with my daughter (due to her constant biting) but wanted to continue pumping.

2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its so bittersweet to end the nursing realtionship.
I hope it goes easily for you.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

As I said Sophia, I have no clue and am no doctor (and come to think of it that explanation wouldn't make sense anyway because many people marry cousins who also share genetic material). I am sure there is some kind of explanation, maybe the one you mentioned or maybe another, who knows...but makes for interesting conversation no doubt.

3:26 PM  
Blogger jac said...


It is scientifically proven that intermarriage between genetically same blood results in deformities in quite number of babies born to them.

Though as far as I know it is not forbidden in Islam, It is forbidden in Christianity.
Correct me if I am wrong.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Katkoot said...

Oh I feel for you, it is a hard bond to break.. but it won't be entirely broken.. just re-written :)

Yes, there is no genetic material passed from one to the other, but I would agree it probably has more social implications and could have a certain ammount of psychological implications.. in some cases the bride and groom may not care but in other cases it could feel more like incest, and so you would just want to avoid this. It's not illegal here (USA) for adopted brothers and sisters to marry, but most don't because they just feel like it is "wrong." i imagine this would be a similar case.

Cousin marriage does not actually dramatically increase your risk of birth defects. in order to HAVE birth defects you must ALREADY POSSESS the genes in order to make them. This doesn't just "spontaneously" happen. Between strangers who have no relation, and first cousins, there is an average increase of around 2-5% of the possibility of birth defects, assuming that the aforementioned defects are already present in the genes they share (you are not actually that related to your first cousins). The real increased risk is with blood siblings who share a father and a mother, and with parents second.. then it just gets weaker and weaker.

This works in the opposite way as well. You can have a magnification of the good genes if you practice intermarriage.. things can be passed on or have a greater chance of being passed on.. good looks, smarts, etc. My husband's family happens to be a decent example of this, having practiced first cousin marriage for centuries, they are all fine and all sickenly smart and pretty :)

First cousin marriage is not reccomended but not forbidden in Islam. It is cultural (like in my Dh's family where I am the first stranger in over 100 years...).

Cousin marriage of any kind is NOT forbidden in Christianity.

Cousin marriage is a cultural practice. Just because we don't favor it.. it isn't actually illegal in most places (even here in the US, most if not all states have no laws against it). We just have made up cultural taboo against it and attribute this taboo to "fact" like birth defects.. when it really is baseless in reality.

Science annot prove anything, merely support or not support. Science supports the hypothesis that cousin marriage does not dramatically increase risk but does have a slight increase :)

Having said that.. I would never marry a cousin since A) I am already married and B) we are raised to think of cousins as siblings here :) and C) i only have one male cousin anyway, and I am not attracted to him :)

5:43 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Hi Jac
Yes, you are correct. It is neither encouraged nor forbidden, but it is DISCOURAGED... there is a hadith attributed to the prophet in which he suggests that Muslims should marry outside their family to avoid such genetic problems.

Everyone has gotten my curios bone itching now-I'm going to see if I can find any scientific reason for the breastmilk thing-i.e. what makes it so special vis-a-vis the mother-child relationship that it would be forbidden to marry a milk brother...will see what I come up with!
meantime check out the new video I have added of Yousuf in "milk withdrawal"

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leila, I just wanted to view the video but that is what I found once I clicked :

"The GeoCities web site you were trying to view has temporarily exceeded its data transfer limit. Please try again later.
Are you the site owner? Avoid service interruptions in the future by increasing your data transfer limit! Find out how.
Learn more about data transfer."

Anything you need to do?

6:40 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

yeah apparently there is a data transfer limit per hour for free geocities account...argh! I think there is some other sight I can use for short personal videos...i uess you can check back later on it or something!

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just being nosy ... as journalist - what paper do you write for? You have a beautiful style - I like it a lot!
Only if you won't mind telling ... if yes - just ignore the question!

7:06 PM  
Blogger Katkoot said...

Laila-- you can use for personal videos.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

No problem Karin-it would be quite something if I was trying to hide what paper I work for, hee..."my secret identiy"

I write principally for Aljazeera's english website, but also for the Guardian Unlimited. Hopefully in the coming months I want to try maybe and convert the blog as well as my experiences during the past three years into a short book of some sort..we'll see

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds like a fantastic idea! Good luck to you!!

7:43 PM  
Blogger Katkoot said...

Hi Dracul,

Catholicism is Christian and does forbid cousin marriage but that is not based on scrpiture but is based on tradition.

So Christianity, sola scriptura, does not bar cousin marriage. Therefore you cannot make the statement that Christianity bars it, but rather must make the statement like you did with the caveat-- that some denominations have a tradition which bars it.

Some of those white states do allow for cousin marriage with a caveat. And I believe they will accept a marriage preformed in another state. It's not like polygamy, which is barred regardless of where it took place.

gives a list of caveats and conditions.

9:49 PM  
Blogger bent abdelwahab said...

I know a friend who breastfed her daughter for 6 years! Just because she was a very strong advocate for breastfeeding. She actually belonged to some sort of group who breast fed for a long time!

12:05 AM  
Blogger Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

Object relations theory! One of my pet subjects. But I don't want to get into that arcane area. More pressingly: Breast-feeding past toddler age is child sexual abuse.

1:24 AM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Congratulations. When I weaned my first born (and he was nearly 3 years old) I wept for several days (I went away for a weekend--my first separation from him, leaving him in the capable care of his father). He was fine with it, and it was a new step forward.
It was very useful for me to be breastfeeding my babies when we had to travel because of political or other matters.
I think often of you and your precious Yousuf as I read current news of Gaza, and pray that all will be well with you.
Once you stop nursing the breastmilk should subside. My boy and I were down to one evening nursing, but it did take a few days of discomfort.
Your information about milk-siblings is fascinating.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

My wife has breastfead all of our six children. The normal period is about 2 years. She feels very strongly about it. It has been reported in a Danish study that children who have been breastfead enjoy a higher IQ. The study showed the infants breastfed for six months resulted in 11 IQ points. I don't believe there is any proof of benefits from longer periods but it obviously can' hurt.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Marcy Newman said...

This post is just beautiful, Laila. Very moving. But I can't help but think about your weaning Yousuf from your milk at the same time that dairy products in general are scarce in Ghaza due to the Israeli program of ethnic cleansing that is currently underway.


12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was very moving and insightful on breastfeeding. As a mother of 3 children over the age of 20, my advice is to enjoy every aspect of their childhood, its over before you know it.

Good point!

You are truly disturbed! Sexual abuse?? are we talking teens? or children? No, We are discussing breastfeeding a child!!!

Marcy, Good point!

6:19 PM  
Blogger Moses said...

Breastfeeding posts are among those that sets AMFG apart from other blogs. Real life, dealing with taxis and Abu Holi and Erez crossing while trying to raise a child.

A friend of mine called Gazans (well, specifically Rafahans) "the strongest people in the world".
Want to talk about nonviolent resistance to occupation? Breastfeeding mothers!

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lovely post. Indeed, weaning is bittersweet. I read your blog often, you are doing something so important here, opening a window to a world we rarely get to see. May Allah bless you with all you need to continue.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am answering her on your blog, although the answer is unaporpriete to this specific post, feel free to delete it or even tell me to rewrite it elsewhere. I’m answering here “in your face” as you requested. I don’t know how to quote from your original comment but I’m sure you’ll understand what belongs as a reply to what part of your comment.

I don’t feel your blog gives me insight into your personal life in gaza. That’s my personal feeling, and I am reading… I feel it gives a lot of insight into lists of palesetnians hurt/killed/suffering which I could get on any human rights site, and it gives some insight onto you raising your child (which I find interesting, but in a totally different realm) I don’t feel there is much about your day to day life, aside from tie-ins of Yousuf reacting to the occupation. Not real in depth things about life in Gaza, not something new which I feel “insight” Sorry, that’s how I feel…

I wish we could play the reality TV show “trading places” because you could come serve in the checkpoints as an Israeli soldier, with commands from above, not enough sleep time, no life, and a feeling that the whole world sucks… carrying out orders as best you can… Something I find anti-israel blogs constantly do is take “things that suck” and hint or outright say it’s policy or purposeful harassment (I’ll dig up quotes of yours if you like) again I’ll repeat this, after over 3 years in the army and a few more as a reserve solider, I have never been part or even heard of soldiers making up “security reasons” or of harassment being official policy (Yes, harassment does occur but it’s a specific problem with a specific solider, just like you have your specific problems with people running around with guns and the PA not being able to handle them)

As to your p.s p.p.s.etc.

I’m glad you are using phrases coined from Haaretz and not making them up yourself.. how is that any better or make any different? I can use 1000 different phrases coined by others… it’s still not acceptable.

About Umkahlil’s blog, notice I never mentioned it, and I never even read it… that wasn’t my comment. I can assure you I WILL read it now… but I never called it “hate filled” or anything else. I know it was an honest mistake on your part so we’ll forget you mentioned it.

Nothing about an articulate Palestinian women scares me, quite the opposite I’m drawn to lucy’s blog and commented on it because I find her intelligent and articulate. I’m draw to yours less because I find I could more or less get the same from ISM or Betzelem.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Tomer in brief cuz its late the comment, at least the latter half, in reference was meant to Anonymous not you... I am just one person talking about and sharing my life in Gaza, as a Palestinian, journalist, and mom. This is my life, I say it like it is. Sorry if it ain't "insightful" enough for you...

As for the army, well, that is the problem, very little IS official policy...rules of enagement are left intentionally vague for this reason...soldiers can get away with a lot and you know it.

Besides, don't you have the option of refusing service on moral grounds? Like Yonaton the pilot, now part of "combatants for peace"..of Yiftah Spector?


12:28 AM  
Blogger Moses said...

I was just going to say how surprised I was Tomer didn't hear of soldiers making up "security reasons" or deliberately making Palestinians wait for hours in the hot sun or cold rain.

Written policy or not, it is the norm, not the exception. I have seen it myself. Other international observers as well as righteous Israelis have. Why do you suppose Machsom Watch has so much work to do?

Don't look here for enlightenment.
Next time you're at a checkpoint imagine that's your sister or your grandmother you're harrassing.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife breastfed our girls. It was the best thing for them.
Their immunity systems kept them from the worst flues and diseases.
You did it right.
Over here in the west we have products that remove 99.9% of germs and these things remove everything that will give them 0% chance to fight any diseases.
Remove germs and you remove immunity.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laila, you write your blog for your own reasons, and it being more or less insightful to me is nothing to apologize about. I never said it was not well written… as I explained before, I just don’t see much “new” on it in opinion or in content for ME I’m sure it’s extremely insightful for some.

As for official policy and rules of engagement, things have changed since the 2nd Intifada so I don’t want to comment on specifics (My last reserve duty was in April 2002 during “Protective Wall” or whatever it’s called in English) I can tell you that when I was a solider, we never though “we could get away” with anything and quite the opposite, we were often frustrated with the not being able to protect ourselves properly. Again, things have changed, but I can tell you I’m sure most soldiers don’t try to “get away” with anything…

About refusal for moral grounds.

A) If I refuse for moral grounds, Right wingers are legitimized for refusal not to help with the Gaza Pull-Out (Which is exactly what happened) The military is a machine, and while the single solider must always think before pulling the trigger, he is to do his job until then… why? Because the IDFs MAIN PURPOSE is to be a reservist force in case of full scale war (With our Neighbor up north mostly) if I refuse today, who knows who will refuse tomorrow and why… Israel is a democracy (At least it is for those serving in the army) which means, if I have a political problem, I should solve in OUTSIDE my military duties.

b) Imagine that soldiers are split into 3 groups

Group A are the bad guys, people who might be inherently evil, sadists, enjoy harassment, hate Arabs.

Group B are the normal guys, who wake up, do their job, and really don’t care about anything, the ones who aren’t bad, but maybe their indifference can be as bad as purposeful harassment.

Group C are the “good guys” the ones who left money in houses they have occupied during Protective Shield. The ones who want a free Palestine and who believe the occupation is wrong, either on a moral level or a practical one.

Now imagine Group C, who are the smallest of the three groups all refuse service… who are the soldiers you will interact with? Who will be at the checkpoints? Who will be at the patrols? Who will their officers be?

“If I don’t go to hell, working the checkpoints for 3 weeks a year… I don’t want to imagine who will do it instead” (First Sgt. R, Armor Division)

p.s. Abu Shaar, I’m not looking her for enlightenment, I’ve been to the far east for that J

I’ve never “harassed” anyone, so I don’t need to imagine my grandmother or sister anywhere… but try to think about Group C and what they think during their service… … and how you by default tell them they are “harassing” people. People who have taken money out of their own pocket but aren’t acknowledged as even existing.

(Yes, again, i know human rights violations happen, i will not argue if they are the norm or not... since I have no way of knowing, I do know that a 19 y/o Israeli boy by default is more interested in going home to his girlfriend than playing with your lives)

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A dracul

In “Protective Wall” I was referring to the Israeli military actions in April 2002 called “Chomat Magen” in Hebrew, being the first time since the Lebanon war reserve soldiers we called to service as a “state of emergency” while being a HUGE issue in Israel, maybe this was all seen as just another Israeli invasion to everyone else… I don’t know.

During this “re-invasion” of much of the west bank, many Palestinian homes were occupied by IDF reservists for various time spans. (We both are familiar with tactical occupation of homes) all my friends and people in my social circle who were part of such actions, left money for the families, out of their own pocket… I’m sure you’ve never heard of the action, which was quite common during that operation, and I doubt it’s been mentioned on any Palestinian blogs.

British Soldiers are mercenaries, plain and simple… Israel runs conscript army built of the people. The philosophy behind running two such different armies, and the reasons for military actions in both countries are very different. Iraq poses or posed no immediate threat on England, while at this moment in time the PA or groups from within the PA and also part of the PA governmental structure DO pose a threat to Israeli citizens in Israel.

I think statistically you will find an extremely high number of educated soldiers in the IDF reserves, and also many of high socio-economic standing, because it is an army of the people. “Free Thinkers” who understand that without order there is chaos. And frankly, breaking the law and ignoring the government is the kind of internal chaos I think is causing much of the trouble for Palestinians…

I’m not trying to be the lesser of evils, I believe in Israel’s right to exist as a state. I am a citizen in a country where military service in mandatory, just like paying taxes or going to school. So I follow the law. I have freedom of speech and can vote to change the laws I disagree with.

If I break the law because of one issue with the government I dislike, why not break other laws for other reasons?

Stop paying taxes because I think busses should run on the Sabbath? Rob a bank because I think Marijuana smoking should be legalized?

Once one takes the law into his own hands... where does it stop?

Sadly, armed resistance and terrorism have been fruitful for the Palestinian cause and I am not naïve to think that the PA would exist without them. But now that the PA does exist, and the Israeli government does want peace, I think the time for breaking the law, and here I mean local and internal law. Once law is upheld inside the PA there will be no reason for the checkpoints, the occupations, etc.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a dracul,

I’m sorry you think the IDF are no more soldiers than you are, after being a solider, daily for 3 years and 2 months, I see things differently. Though I’d love to be dragged into a semantic argument on what a solider is. I’ll pass, thanks.

I like the fact you think I’m an educated man, it’s a nice assumption on your part (Or flattery). But I’m a high-school drop out.

I do know democracy doesn’t drop from the skies… I also know that democracy seems not to be embraced by most of the Muslim world and wonder if it is the best system for Palestine. Frankly, I’d rather have a peaceful dictatorship for a neighbor than a pseudo democracy awash with lawlessness and violence. Jordan is a comfy neighbor, hell, even Syria is a comfy enemy to have compared to Palestine.

Are Palestinian security forces soldiers? Police? Security forces? A militia?

Jews giving out of their pocket for homes they occupied as soldiers not homes demolished.

I wont go back to help them build homes, because I’d be lynched… (and because frankly, it’s not a big enough part of my life… while both of us discuss this over the internet, my daily life is barely touched by this issue so long as I keep the news media turned off)

And I don’t believe in the spirit of kibbutz, they are lazy socialists in my eyes.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Moses said...

I owe you an apology, tomer. I didn't mean to say you yourself routinely harassed people at checkpoints. However, many of your brethren left not money, but racist grafitti, as well as piss and shit, in the homes they occupied.

It was called "Defensive Shield" in English in 2002. I was in the West Bank.
I saw the cars in the parking lot of a hospital blown up and crushed by the occupation forces. I asked one of the staff why the cars were being blown up and he said "Because they can". Because of curfew the hospital was not allowed to admit any patients even though it was the only trauma center for many kilometers.

A group of internationals broke curfew to deliver prescriptions nearby, walking with big boxes of medicine their arms. A woman's voice from an apartment brought me close to tears: "You are so lucky you can move!"

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abu Shaar,

First thank you for the apology. I respect it very much, it means that you are someone I can have a conversation with as a human being who understands I am one too.

As for the piss and graffiti…

You might remember, I believe there are 3 groups. The assumption everyone belongs to the "bad group" and they are driven by state policy is what disturbs me so much. People are people, some leave money, some leave piss and graffiti. In neither case did the IDF as an organization tell them to do either.

(note: I was part of operation Defensive Shield (in the field but non-combatant, not that it makes a difference) in the South of Mt. Hebron area, what I say I know first hand).

8:15 PM  
Blogger Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...


If you took off your uniform, you wouldn't be lynched in Palestine. Jews, and even a few Israelis, go there all the time--some to rebuild homes. Why do Israelis believe all their government's propaganda?

As for nice soldiers leaving money for Palestinian homeowners--the Israeli government is supposed to be providing this. It's not supposed to be charity from a few soldiers. In Iraq, the U.S. Army rents homes from Iraqi families if they are going to use them for operations (not that I necessarily support that venture). There doesn't seem to be an understanding among Israelis that being an occupying power, under international law, means you're supposed to be responsible for the occupied country's welfare.

Sorry, but I don't buy your "where does it stop" argument. Obviously, choosing to disobey a country's law because you believe it to be immoral is a very serious decision. Lumping together serving in an illegal occupation army with not driving on the Sabbath doesn't make sense.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, it's not about my countries propaganda… I truly believe that an extremist will eventually attack me if word gets out that I am Israeli. Maybe not in the first second of the first day, but in time, if I try to move around freely.

(I won’t quote articles about Israelis being killed after moving around freely in the PA)

Why to I believe this? Not because all Palestinians are bad, or because even a small number are… because I do not trust the law enforcement systems inside the PA.

As for nice soldiers leaving money for Palestinian homeowners--the Israeli government is supposed to be providing this.

So it would be acceptable for you if the IDF occupied houses for security purposes and than paid? I seriously doubt it.

There doesn't seem to be an understanding among Israelis that being an occupying power, under international law, means you're supposed to be responsible for the occupied country's welfare.

Let’s talk about Gaza? Who is occupying Gaza at the moment? Is there a Palestinian Government; are there Palestinian utility companies? Security Forces? Israel is rocketed and mortared, does that mean the PA is going to reimburse anyone for damages? How do you define an occupying power? Is Israel still occupying Lebanon?

I think the understanding in Israel is “We don’t want to occupy anyone anymore, we are sick of it, but so long as we are attacked, we will keep our best interests in mind. So long as the PA can not control terrorist organizations, corruption within the system, money reaching the wrong hands for the wrong reasons… etc”

If I walk down the street, and someone attacks me with deadly force, I will defend myself with deadly force… the fact he has a rock and I have a tank is something he should have thought of before he attacked me…

Human rights are all good and nice but they come with Human responsibility.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I don't buy your "where does it stop" argument. Obviously, choosing to disobey a country's law because you believe it to be immoral is a very serious decision. Lumping together serving in an illegal occupation army with not driving on the Sabbath doesn't make sense.

It doesn’t make sense to you, but who’s the one who decides… that’s why we can’t take the law in to our own hands.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Moses said...

Who is occupying Gaza?

Can Gazans move freely?
Can they use their airport?
Ports? Land crossings?

That noise Laila posts about:
is it thunder? Ice from passing planes?

Israel has made Gaza the world's largest concentration camp.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

Tomer, I trust my own moral judgment. It looks like you prefer to just follow orders. But surely you know where that leads (where it has led).

No, I still wouldn't approve of Israeli soldiers occupying Palestinian homes even if the IDF paid. That's because the occupation itself is not serving any constructive purpose. You're so afraid of the Palestinians, yet your country is creating their hatred of you.

As for your fear about being attacked, all I can say is, life involves risks. It sounds like you are the type of person who doesn't take risks, who follows orders, doesn't make waves, and prizes safety. People like you are probably the majority in this world, which is why the world looks the way it does. You're who you are, but frankly, it sounds like you are the type of person I don't respect.

12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“It looks like you prefer to just follow orders”
“You’re so afraid of Palestinians”
“It sounds like you are the type of person who doesn't take risks, who follows orders, doesn't make waves, and prizes safety.”
“You're who you are, but frankly, it sounds like you are the type of person I don't respect. “

You have done a wonderful job of attacking me, without really attacking haven’t you?

What’s the point here?

Trying to anger me into proving who I am? What kind of person I am? Trying to define me or describe me as a “dumb part of the machine”?

Frankly it sounds, that when you have a hard time making your point… you prefer personal shots.

I’m sorry but I won’t be playing your game.

1:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abu Shaar,

Q: Can Gazans move freely?
A: There is no Israeli occupying force inside Gaza. Restriction of movement outside Gaza is not “occupation”

Q: Can they use their airport?
A: Hopefully once the PA controls the security situation within Gaza, Inshallah, the airport will be reopened

Q: Ports?
A: Hopefully once PA naval forces prove they can crack down on smuggling operations, the ports will be reopened under PA control.

Q: Land crossings?
A: Inform me on the status of the Rafah crossing. I’m not really updated.

Q: That noise Laila posts about?
A: Might be an echo from outgoing Qasam rockets for all I know…

Israel has made Gaza the world's largest concentration camp.

What is it the light Nazi references around here? Uber Warderns, Concentration Camps? Do you think you are striking some kind of emotional chord?

1:53 AM  
Blogger Moses said...

Distinctions without differences.

If Gazans don't have sovereignty over their borders, airspace or coastline how is that withdrawal?

Collective punishment upon an entire population for the deeds of a few, what word would you prefer,
world's largest prison?

7:53 PM  
Blogger Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

Ok; we won't call it "occupation." Let's call it siege, or blockade. Actually, those terms, which may be more accurate, also denote something much worse.

Tomer, in regards to my so-called "personal shots," I'm just reflecting the information you gave us. And let me add to that list of "personal shots": You also seem to be someone who has difficulty with self-reflection and hearing criticism.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, a siege is much worse than “occupation” I agree, so lets work together to stop the siege on Gaza!

Also, I’d like to thank you for pointing out that I have difficulty with self-reflection and criticism!

I’ve decided to think about the things you said (About me being spineless and a coward and such, sorry if I’m not quoting exactly but I think that was the general idea) and try to change and improve myself as a human being!

Please feel free to keep on giving me negative feedback on everything I do, as I find it teaches me a lot about myself as a person, helps me gain insight to my actions and learn how to correct my personality to fit your ideals more.



Abu Shaar,regarding
"Distinctions without differences."

The whole Mediantifada seems to be based on distinctions without diffrences, fighting for the acceptance of terms and not the acceptance of people.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

I'm late into this and admittedly haven't read everything written nor have the time just now (i'll try to catch up) but I would like to point out to all of you that actually, legally speaking Tomer, Gaza is still recognized as Occupied Territory-you do not need to have troops inside the territory you occupy in order to be an occupier by standards of intl law. The most telling proof is that Israel itself has not claimed legally in the UN or elsewhere that it no longer occupied Gaza. more on this later.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Some food for thought:

something I wrote for aljazeera at the time (including interviews with my-all-time-favoriate (sarcasm) Dershowitz:

and here some panelists from both sides:

and some other articles arguing that occupation had not ended (dor gold has written the opposite point of view):

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the clarification. I'd like to read up on the issue, the law and definitions.

If you could point me in the direction i'd be grateful.

(I did mean occupation for practical purposes, and I do think the fact Israel DID pull out of Gaza should be recognized, for the sake of these conversations I mean)

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see you have.


10:11 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

yes, I was just about to say..=)

And Laila is fine (or Um Yousuf). I don't know why they are attached, I did it by accident when i first made an account and now blogger won't let me change it

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Actually I try to address you as Laila when I remember, but often i cut and paste so as not to get anything wrong.

I apologize in advance if i get it wrong in the future.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding this "milk sibling" business, are you seriously telling me that people believe such nonsense?

It is impossible to become genetically affected by something that you eat, or ingest. All foods have genetic materials; you might as well say that you become a cow by eating steak.

And I do not understand this, esp. in light of the fact that the Muslim world shows the highest degree of consanguinous marriage of any place on earth. It may not be very risky for two cousins to marry in the first generation, but in a small gene pool over a period of generations there is so much overlapping that risks increase. British Pakistanis are 13 times more likely to have children with genetic disorders than the general population due to the persistence of cousin marriage.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

What "nonsense"? That you can't marry milk siblings or that genetic material is transferred (which I never claimed was the reason for the former, it was just a hypothesis that was thrown out there that has to do with prolonged feeding amongst Eskimos, and then we realized it doesn't apply in this case).

If you read the whole comments feed above, you'll see we discussed other possiblities.

One reason might be that breastfeeding is considered a very unique thing in Islam, not unlike childbirth, that bestows upon the child, if done enough times, partial status of being her child, though breastfeeding (I say partial because he does not get the other rights such as inheritance, etc. nor is he obligated to fulfill duties towards her as his mother).


10:21 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

ok so apparently you can use milk banks and donate milk there in islam:

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "nonsense" would be the belief that you can create a genetic bond by ingesting milk from the same mother.

"and so, if you have nursed from same mother, it is likely that you have some genetic pool in common, "

Look, everything you eat has genetic material. But so what? If you share an apple with someone, your genes haven't changed as a result. If two hunters eat meat from the same animal there is no relationship between the hunters.

This is completely and utterly unscientific and it strikes me as a folk belief, which became incorporated into a religion, and became "law." All religions are full of this but in the modern world do we have to abide by folk nonsense?

The folk belief expresses a valid concern about the effects of marrying people who are close genetically.

In reality Muslims do exactly that: Muslim countries show the highest rates of cousin-marriage of any places on earth. Why abide by a folk belief but then marry a cousin?

Here is what happens when there is too much cousin marriage:

6:21 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Catherine, I'm not sure why you are so defensive and aggressive about this. LIke I said, this was merely a hadith by the prophet (re: breastfeeding), which can be disregarded in exceptional times, folk or not I dn't now and am not an excpert on this hadith's particular origin though I can investigate it. Its possible that the prophet got a revelation about the specifics of this particular issue, and maybe not. And even if non-exceptional times, I don't see it to be so controversial if someone REALLY badly wanted to breastfeed another baby five times and then have that baby marry her own child for some reason. Its not like this is a common phenomenon, or very criticial one at that. And again, I never claimed there was some scientific origin to the claim.

And isn't faith, at its essence, "completely and utterly" unscientific??

Cousin marriage is another matter entirely-which was very common in pre-islamic arabia and of course continues today, though not exclusively in "muslim" societies (i would characterize it based on the ethnicity). Interestingly, the prophet is quoted as saying in one hadith as encouraging muslims to mary OUTSIDE of their families, and even of their tribes, implying it was better for them. Sort of his attempt to gradually sever this tradition. He, of course, led the way, breaking the link with his own tribe and family, effectively demonstrating that tribal and family loyalties were insignificant compared to the bonds of Islam.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um Yousuf:

I apologize if I sound defensive & aggressive. I admit that I am the diplomatically challenged type.

I was just struck by the juxtaposition of this hadith and what I have read about the tragic effects of cousin marriage -- which is indeed much more common in Islamic societies than non-Islamic (although it is correct to say it is not in itself a Muslim custom). And I was can you have both in the same overarching religious system??

Yes, faith at its essence is unscientific, it not important to try to sift what is simply custom, and which does not truly affect the sincerity and quality of faith, from what is truly liberating about ones' faith, and jettison the former, while concentrating on the latter? Does that make sense?

Also, I think even if religious is "unscientific" it should not be "anti-science." Thus a devout Muslim can be totally in favor of genetic testing, especially in the case of the Bedouin, who are too inbred.

Again, I apologize for offending you. It was not my intention.

2:23 AM  
Blogger Bridget said...

Lovely post - I'm glad to find someone who is as in love with breastfeeding as I am, even though it does make you feel like a cow sometimes (all the time?). My little one is only 8 months old, but I hope to continue nursing her for some time yet.

I have nothing political or controversial to add. Sorry.



7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Can men benefit from breast feeding; because i read somewhere above that it increases the I.Q level.

6:46 AM  
Blogger ST said...

Posts like this are so important. I can’t imagine many people getting grossed out by such an inevitable process of nature (although many guys get freaked out). But to see a glimpse into a woman and child’s everyday life is so moving. This is what we do not see or hear in the news, you breastfeeding your son in a taxi after a long while at the border. Instead of a death toll of victims or perpetrators we are all at the same human level again. This is important. Thank you for sharing. Also, what is the climate around breastfeeding in Gaza? In the US it is accepted but still off-putting for some people. How is it looked at by the culture in Palestine? Do you notice a difference between how people react when you are in North Carolina as opposed to Gaza?


7:35 AM  

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