May 20, 2021
Following the lead of Sins Invalid and the Autistic People of Color Collective, the Abolition and Disability Justice Collective condemns Israel’s most recent massacres of Palestinians and its ongoing occupation and settler colonization of Palestine. Disability justice cannot exist under settler colonialism, military occupation, imprisonment, and apartheid. We write this in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, dignity, and self-determination.
Israeli settler colonization is a disability justice issue that underscores the urgency of abolition and its internationalist dimensions. Israel routinely maims and traumatizes Palestinians, using money, weapons, and policing tactics from the U.S. and Canada, among other settler colonial states. Israel has systematically targeted and killed disabled and non-disabled Palestinians, and Israel’s ongoing violence is uniquely disabling1 for children and Palestinians of all ages. Disability is spatially concentrated in the refugee camps and in Gaza because of the violence of the occupation, and there is a “layering” of disablement, especially in Gaza, as the numbers of disabled people increase with every act of warfare on an already overburdened infrastructure.2
The settler colonial states of the U.S. and Canada have pledged to continue supporting Israel’s settler colonial project. At the same time, the U.S. and Canada are systematically disinvesting in communities across the U.S. and Canada, specifically impacting disabled, deaf and neurodivergent negatively racialized communities. U.S. and Canadian police also often brutally repress protests in solidarity with Palestinians and other marginalized, occupied, oppressed, and displaced communities. Those who oppose the occupation of Palestine and support their right to resist apartheid are often met with Zionist attacks.
Israeli weapons, military/police tactics, and technologies cycle between Israel, the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. and Canada routinely send police, immigration enforcement, and other law enforcement to trainings in Israel, facilitated by groups like the Anti-Defamation League. This exchange of racist and colonial law enforcement tactics, weapons, and training is called the “deadly exchange” by those who oppose it. In the U.S. and Canada, police use the same weapons and tactics against Black people, Indigenous people, and other negatively racialized people. Police target deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent negatively racialized people with these technologies, maiming, killing or incarcerating them.
As in the United States, Israeli police have brutalized and killed countless disabled people with impunity. Police also cause injuries and trauma with these technologies, resulting in the disablement of negatively racialized people. Within the 1948 lines we have seen an intensification of racialized police violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel. This has ranged from attacking demonstrators with stun grenades and tear gas, to preventing civilians injured by police from accessing medical care, to violently breaking into homes to arrest people. Overall, more than 1000 Palestinian citizens of Israel were arrested, over half of whom are minors, while only 150 Israeli Jews were arrested and none were charged. Furthermore, the police escorted and protected fascist Israeli settler militias while they were rampaging through the streets, targeting Palestinian lives and property. Therefore our calls for police abolition are imperative in this context as well.
Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods also keep Palestinians from accessing food, clean water, and healthcare. These constraints also prevent disabled Palestinians from gaining access to aids like wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids, medications, and more. Additionally, Israeli control deprives Palestinians basic economic, educational, and social opportunities. Destruction of roads and buildings makes it impossible for many disabled people to get around, even when they are allowed to move. Due to chronic power outages in occupied Palestine, people often lack light to communicate using sign language, cannot use equipment powered by electricity to move or breathe, and cannot dependably keep life-sustained medications at required temperatures. Israel–much like the U.S. and Canada–has also hoarded COVID-19 vaccines. While being celebrated as a “beacon” for its vaccination efforts, Israel has denied the same access to Palestinians in areas it occupies, which means high rates of infections and premature death for Palestinians, especially those with chronic illnesses.
Other Israeli tactics also affect disabled Palestinians especially harshly. Palestinians with disabilities are less likely to be able to escape the buildings that Israel bombs in time to save their lives. The intergenerational trauma of displacement, occupation, and targeted violence exacerbates hostilities and leaves lasting grief and pain. Palestinians with disabilities are less likely to be able to stand in long lines to get through checkpoints to access a hospital, school, or loved ones. Just this week, Israel has bombed the only COVID clinic in Gaza, has destroyed infrastructure around the primary hospital in Gaza, and has killed three leading doctors and their families in Gaza, including the leader of Gaza’s COVID-19 response, Gaza’s only neurosurgeon, and a psychologist. In short, Israel is destroying access to basic care in Gaza.
We bear witness to the latest wave of atrocities as they continue to unfold, and we say no more. Disability justice requires solidarity with Palestine.
- We demand an end to the occupation of Palestine and to Israeli apartheid.
- We demand the return of stolen land and homes in Sheikh Jarrah and beyond.
- We demand an end to the attacks on Masjid al Aqsa and Gaza.
- We demand an end to the attacks on hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and healthcare providers and the provision of accessible healthcare for all Palestinians.
- We demand abolition of the open-air prison in Gaza, in which 2 million Palestinians are confined in unlivable conditions.
- Our call for police and prison abolition includes an immediate end to the exchange of weapons, military and police funds, and tactics between the U.S., Canada, and Israel.
- We call for decolonization and Palestine liberation, anti-imperialism and anti-militarism to be a central part of disability organizing agendas.
- We call for further analysis, research, and resources to be devoted to madness/disability in Palestine and in relation to Palestinians (in Palestine, Israel or abroad), especially peer support and non-coercive medical and mental health care.
- We call for all people to join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.
Abolition and apartheid cannot co-exist. There is no disability justice under military occupation. Palestine must be free.
- While discussing the traumatic and disabling effects of ongoing Israeli occupation, some have adopted formalized, diagnostic, and pathologizing language commonly used in the U.S. and other Western cultures. However, Palestinians have made it clear that this language does not accurately describe their experiences and psychiatric labels are rooted in Western notions of trauma. Therefore, we do not use these labels.
- As noted in the report “Disability Under Siege,” the bombing in Gaza in 2014 led to the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians, injured 11,000 Palestinians, and permanently disabled 1,100 Palestinians. The “Disability Under Siege” report also found that in the span of just a year and a half (March 2018-September 2019), there were over 6,500 limb injuries, with at least 1,200 becoming amputees who need limb reconstruction.