Abstract

Different pieces of a puzzle are put together to unpack the implications of biopolitical forms in relation to disability in Palestine. Tracing the political connections between Israel and the United States of America (the U.S.), both countries give themselves the right to maim the Palestinians in different forms. Israel maims the indigenous Palestinians in more direct ways, while the U.S. is the guard and supporter of Israel in the process of maiming the Palestinians. Yet, successful, disabled Palestinians have emerged from under the rubble in different fields and in academia and higher education in particular. In this paper, Critical Disability Studies (CDS) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) are used as theoretical frameworks to examine disability in Palestinian higher education in light of political implications. The paper also reveals a dearth of research on disability in Palestinian higher education


Disability in Palestine is a complex phenomenon. What makes disability a complex matter in Palestine is the constant increase in the number of Palestinians who are maimed by Israel on a daily basis. For instance, in mid-December 2017, upon Trump's announcement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza and the West Bank, but the 29-year-old Ibrahim Abu Thurya was the hero of these demonstrations. Ibrahim had lost his two legs during the 2008-2009 Israeli Cast Led attack on Gaza, and the Israelis killed him on December 15, 2017 while he was protesting Trump's announcement. On March 30th, 2018, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza demonstrated during Land Day at the "Israeli" Gazan borders, and again Israel killed 16 unarmed Palestinians, injured more than 1,500 that day, and over a hundred lost their legs due to lack of medical support in one day. As OCHA (2018b) states, "between 30 March and 31 July 2018, 164 Palestinians were killed and over 17,000 injured by Israeli forces near the fence, in the context of the 'Great March of Return' protests, hostilities and other incidents" (p. 1).

In late 2008, the first author (Yasmin) was traumatized to see a disabled neighbor who used a wheelchair, trying to escape as the Israeli army bombed his house with phosphorous bombs, during an attack (called Caste Led Operation) that lasted for a few weeks on Gaza and resulted in hundreds of Palestinians that Israel murdered and thousands of disabled Palestinians. Upon communications with friends in Gaza, Yasmin learned that doctors were shocked by the injuries because they noticed that Israel used a new type of ammunition that melts skin and bones. Israeli practices of maiming indigenous Palestinians demonstrate systematic oppression, which deems the Palestinian body valueless as it is always the target within an ongoing Israeli ethnic cleansing, genocide, and apartheid, processes noted by Pappé (2014). The Israeli practices against the indigenous Palestinians include demolishing houses and schools, periodical bombing of buildings and homes in Gaza, increasing barriers through checkpoints within the West Bank and separating Gaza from the West Bank, which all debilitate the Palestinians, as well as create enormous geographical exiles. The Israeli strategy was to "ghettoize Gaza and somehow hope that the people there—1.8 million as of today—would be dropped into eternal oblivion" (Pappé, 2014, para. 3).

In that regard, it is not possible to write about disability in Palestine without delving into the political factors involved, including but not limited to the Israeli colonization and the political involvement of the United States of America (the U.S.) in Palestine as well, all of which have implications about disability in Palestine. Such macro factors, one of which is the political relationship between the U.S. and Israel, are not only crucial to identify the relationships between different countries, but also can add missing pieces to explain the phenomenon of physical disabilities in Palestine.

Let us elaborate on world system relationships in the case of Palestine. In his world systems analysis of the development of the capitalist world economy, Wallerstein (2004) argues that there are three categories that represent the world's countries within the global economy: the core, the periphery, and the semi-periphery. Countries in the core are strong militarily. These countries are powerful, they often pay lower prices for raw goods and exploit cheap labor, reinforcing the unequal status between those in the core and countries in the periphery. For example, the United States falls in the core system, as a country that is economically powerful and is focused on higher skill and capital-intensive production (Wallerstein, 2004).

On the other hand, countries in the periphery lack a strong central government and may be controlled by other states. Countries in the periphery, who export raw materials to the countries in the core, are dependent for capital, and have underdeveloped industry. Countries in the periphery also have low-skill, labor-intensive production—labor is cheap—and they are commonly referred to as third-world countries. Palestine, for instance, falls in the periphery as a country that is still under Israeli colonization. Because Israel has direct control over Palestinian resources, unemployment in Gaza is 42%, and in the West Bank is 17% (Weir, 2018). The World Bank (2018) also indicated that there is a rapid collapse in humanitarian conditions, including access to medical treatment, electricity, and clean water; 97% of drinking water in Gaza is unfit for consumption by international standards (Kubovich, 2018). In Gaza's schools, there is an average of one toilet stall per 75 children and one sink per 80 children (Kubovich, 2018).

Furthermore, 54 percent of the labor force in Gaza is unemployed, including 70 percent of youth (The World Bank, 2018). The economic situation in Gaza is catastrophic due to the continuous siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2006 (Weir, 2018; OCHA, 2018a). Since 2014, the Israeli military has conducted consecutive aerial spraying of herbicides, impacting farmland on the Gaza side of the fence. A spraying operation in January 2018 affected some 550 acres of agricultural lands belonging to 212 farmers, with an estimated loss of 1.3 million USD (OCHA, 2018b). Extreme poverty affecting Gaza and the West Bank places Palestine as a country in the periphery. Between the two extremes lie the semi-peripheries, representing either core regions in decline or peripheries attempting to improve their relative position in the world economic system. They often serve as buffers between the core and the peripheries. Semi-peripheries exhibit tensions between the central government and a strong local, landed class (Wallerstein, 2004). Israel can be categorized in the semi-periphery in that sense.

These categories are crucial to understanding not only changes in the global system, but also the relationship among the countries in these categories and production of poverty, debilitation, and social injustices, though it should be noted that for Wallerstein, the focus must be on the system, and the relations between components in the system, not specific countries. The core dominates and exploits the periphery for labor and raw materials (Wallerstein, 2004). The countries in the periphery depend on those in the core for capital. Those in the semi-periphery share characteristics of both the core and the periphery. Wallerstein's theory shows how modernization created inequalities on many levels—economic, political and social—as well as how it contributes to augmenting inequalities. For instance, Wallerstein (2004) argues, under the current global capitalist system, some countries benefit while others are exploited. In this respect, the foregoing theory of world systems applies to the relationship between Palestine and the U.S. through political and economic inequalities in what is now called Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian struggle can be described as a process controlled and manipulated politically by the countries in the core and by their political relationships with semi-peripheral Israel. The U.S. as a core country, with the largest capitalist system and one of the most powerful global economies, has always supported Israel and its practices against the indigenous Palestinians, and "because of the dishonest brokering of the U.S. and Europe's impotence in International affairs, Israel continues to enjoy immunity in this process" (Chomsky & Pappé, 2015, p. 38). According to the United Nations and Security Council (2016), Israel takes advantage of its political relationship with the core, specifically the U.S., and continues its illegal actions against the Palestinians. The relationship between Israel and the United States has caused social injustice, inequalities, and exploitation of Palestinian resources, while providing privileges for Israelis. This opens up a new form of colonialism in which the peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians keep the Palestinians dependent on Israel (Chomsky & Pappé, 2015). All of the apparent and hidden forms of Israeli control partially result from United States' unprecedented, unquestionable, and unlimited political support for Israel, strengthening Israeli control over the Palestinians, and disabling all aspects of their lives. In fact, U.S. military aid to Israel is calculated at approximately $10 million per day, while the U.S. provides $0 to Palestine (Weir, 2018).

Collins (2008) argues that Israel colonizes Gaza using its technology-driven military to maintain control over Gaza, using drones and the siege imposed since 2006; Gaza is referred to as an open-air prison (Puar, 2017). Israel has also promoted building an "Apartheid wall;" the wall is now built on 50% of the land of the West Bank (Bennis, 2009; Horowitz, Ratner, & Weiss, 2011). Justification of the forms of control Israel imposes on the Palestinians within the Israeli discourse include, but are not limited to, "self-defense" and "protecting themselves" from the Palestinians, all of which are conveyed to the West as a propaganda. Jaffee (2016) explains,

Palestinians, rendered subhuman to western audiences via racist Zionist propaganda, are only revisibilized through tropes of disabled people as vulnerable objects of pity. These portrayals function both to uphold conceptions of Palestinian resistors as subhuman and, moreover, to reify notions of disabled people as deficient, passive, and devoid of agency. (p. 125)

In that regard, Puar (2017) highlights the practice of a biopolitics of debilitation, in which "maiming is a sanctioned tactic of the settler colonial rule, justified in protectionist terms" (p. xix). Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé both agree that Israel is a settler-colonial society (Chomsky & Pappé, 2015). As Carter (2006) and Bennis (2009) point out, the Oslo agreement, which was signed between the Israelis and the Palestinians under American mediation, gave very little power to the Palestinian Authority, thus establishing a new form of control by giving the Israelis more freedom to establish complete jurisdiction over Gaza and the West Bank. The Oslo agreement gave the Israeli army much freedom to exercise hegemony within the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Carter, 2006), which places the peripheral Palestine under the mercy of both semi-peripheral Israel and the core U.S.

On the other hand, it is equally imperative to discuss disability in Palestine in association with the U.S., because the Western ideology of superiority over the East has created a system of knowledge full of stereotypes and misrepresentations about the Middle East (Said, 1979). The West looks at the East in a way that distorts the actual realities of the East and Eastern culture to make the people of the Arab region look threatening and urges that the only way to deal with them is through violence (Said, 1979). All of this is manifested through inaccurate descriptions in art and other fields to show the East, Arabs in particular, as barbaric, terrorists, and ignorant, creating an idealized Other (Said, 1979). The foreign policy of the U.S. plays an important role in asserting class differences between Israelis and Palestinians, keeping Palestine as a nation on the periphery. Said (1979) argues that Western Christian-Judaic ideologies, considering Islam, the "Orient," and Arab countries as the enemy, are a result of the West's production of knowledge. When a bombing is reported in the media, most reporters speculate that Middle Eastern, Arabs, and/or Muslims are behind the terrorist action. Such information is not objective; it is political and highly motivated by the U.S. relationship with Israel, and that information is used to legitimate and retain the systemic relation between the two states. In fact, the relationship between the East and the West has always been based on power.

Similar to Said's approach, Grech (2009) argues that models and inferences about disability often stem from a Westernized perspective about the situation of people with disabilities in developing countries. The socio-economic, historical, and political context in developing countries, which influence the situation of people with disabilities, are ignored. In fact, the Western world, the U.S. in particular, contributes to the disablement of Palestinian people by supporting colonial projects of the Israeli state. Then, the U.S. sends "developing countries" funding for disability projects. Such Western intervention in developing countries to help people with disabilities are thought to be "an effective quick fix in 'underdeveloped' contexts" (Grech, 2009, p. 774). Yet cultural values differ from one place to another, and as Barnes and Mercer (2010) point out, what works in one country might not be a good fit for another. This turbulent relationship between Palestine and the U.S. influences the perception of disability, the history of disability, and the laws regarding disability in Palestine, as well as practices towards accommodating students with disabilities in higher education.

Nasir-Tucktuck, Baker, and Love (2017) discussed briefly the history of education in Palestine and provided suggestions on areas that need improvement, such as the need for better diagnosis of disabilities, and evidence-based practices in services offered to students with disabilities, but never delved in depth into how such political circumstances and different regimes and powers over Palestine contributed to creating more barriers. Puar (2015; 2017), on the other hand, focused on the biopolitics of disability in Palestine. Biopolitics theory is an important framework in understanding the Israeli colonizer's maiming practices that debilitate humans and infrastructure.

From here, research needs to be extended to examine political factors affecting the lives of disabled Palestinians in higher education. Because there is little focus on disability in higher education in Palestine, little has been done to explore what needs to be improved for students with disabilities in higher education, especially those who witness many successful examples of disabled Palestinians living under the Israeli colonialism, studying and working in higher education. For instance, there are many professors working at the Palestinian universities, such as Dr. Azem Assaf, who is a blind professor of Linguistics in Birzeit University. He earned his Ph.D. from Stanford in the USA and has another five Masters in English Language and TESOL (Alhaya, 2015). Another professor is Dr. Mahmoud El-Atshan, who is also a blind professor of Arabic at Birzeit University (Birzeit, 2018).

In Palestine, there is little data on disabled students in higher education (Palestinian Women Research and Documentation Center-UNESCO and Birzeit University, 2011). Palestinian higher education, as represented in Palestinian universities, seems to contribute to changing negative views on disability. For example, in the West Bank, Birzeit University (2015) argued that disabled students need support, not pity. Birzeit University's Disabled Students Committee planned to conduct more workshops for faculty and students to engage disabled students in the university community. Said, a student at Birzeit University with a physical disability, noted that his success at the university was a function of cooperation with university administrative offices, as well as cooperation with the faculty (Birzeit University, 2015).

Disability and Palestine: A Short History

Much disability in Palestine is a result of poor pre-and postnatal care, poor nutrition, and lack of adequate medical services (Gumpel & Awartani, 2003). These are caused by the Israeli blockade and occupation, preventing Palestinians from accessing appropriate health care (Jaffee, 2016; United Nations Development Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People & Fayyad, 2014). The crimes committed by the Israeli occupation increase the number of disabled people, resulting in Palestine having the highest percentage of disabled people of any country in the world (Abu Fedala, 2009; Amro, 2001). According to Jaffee (2016), Israel intentionally paralyzes Palestinians through Israeli military policy, by targeted shooting of the heads and legs of protestors and deliberately harming unarmed Palestinians. Around 11.8% of persons with disabilities in Palestine have hemipelvisectomy, 35.5% have lameness, 19.7% forequarter amputation, and 21.6% have visual and hearing impairments (Abu Fedala, 2009). The total number of persons with disabilities in Palestine is between 114,000 to 300,000, depending on which definition of disability is used (World Health Organization, 2013).

Besides daily Israeli attacks on Palestinians, there have been several extensive military operations against the Palestinians, which contributed to the numbers of Palestinians with mobility, visual, and hearing disabilities. For instance, during the first Intifada "Uprising" in 1987, 80,000 people were injured, 5,000 of whom had permanent disabilities (Amro, 2001). In late 2008 and early 2009, around 1,400 Palestinians were killed during an extensive attack on Gaza by the Israeli army using phosphorous bombs, resulting in thousands with physical disabilities who suffered internal burns from phosphorous bombs and "focused lethality munition;" thousands were injured, and many have permanent disabilities (Horowitz, Ratner, & Weiss, 2011, p. 144).

Biopolitics and disability are intertwined in Palestine. Using Foucault's biopolitics theory, which highlights the vulnerability and bodily health under regimes of power, Puar (2015) asked how does biopolitics look in our current time? Much as Foucault's theory of biopolitics highlights the vulnerability and bodily health under regimes of power (Puar, 2015), Palestinians are maimed by the Israeli settler colonial power, and disability in Palestine is an issue of maiming rather than natural illnesses; Puar (2015) argues,

What is clear in contemporary biopolitics is that economic life can grow without the flourishing of much of human life, which means precisely that the eliminated and cordoning off of illness is no longer a hindrance to, but rather is implicated in, 'make live' (p. 7).

Palestine has been under different matrixes of powers causing destruction of not only infrastructure, but also ongoing trauma and myriad types of disabilities. Some of the events the first author experienced as a Palestinian include watching Israeli army soldiers breaking the bones of Palestinian protestors in the late 80s, a policy the Israeli army called "breaking bones," to deter the Palestinians from protesting during the first Palestinian Intifada (Uprising).

Disability Laws and Higher Education in Palestine

In light of the political situation in Palestine, the most important Palestinian disability law, On the Right of the Disabled Act (RDA), enacted in 1999 under the leadership of then President Yasser Arafat, stipulates that persons with disabilities must be provided with equal opportunity for enrollment in schools and universities, and that they should be provided with all necessary pedagogic means and facilities (Arafat, 1999; The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, n.d.). RDA was followed by the establishment of a department for disabled people under the responsibility and supervision of the Ministry of Social Affairs (Amro, 2001). Although RDA guarantees rights and entitlements for disabled people, in education in particular, people with disabilities have never had basic rights of living. This is because the Palestinian Authority has continuously experienced political turbulence, aid cut from the U.S., internal division, and continuous massive attacks from the Israeli army on Gaza that make it almost impossible to implement RDA (Diakonia, 2015; World Health Organization, 2013). Consequently, the Palestinian Authority cannot offer more than 20% of necessary services to disabled people; local and international organizations are forced to provide 80% of such services (Amro, 2001).

As a result, the number of disabled people who are able to go to school is low; only 59.2% of those with physical impairments in the West Bank and 49.3% of those with physical impairments in Gaza attend school (Abu Fedala, 2009). The inability of the Palestinian Authority to provide services and tools for disabled people creates a burden on universities to provide these assistive tools. Moreover, few universities in Gaza and the West Bank have special education programs, resulting in insufficient personnel in the field of special education. Most special education teachers hold degrees in general education in Palestine (Gumpel & Awartani, 2003). The Palestinian educational system faces enormous challenges to be independent, as the Palestinian struggle to free themselves from the Israeli military occupation is continuous and ongoing (Gumpel & Awartani, 2003).

A myriad of factors affect people with disabilities and their access to education; political factors are especially salient, and people with physical disabilities in Palestine, either in Gaza or the West Bank, face a tragic political reality. Like those without disabilities, Palestinians with disabilities face the same Israeli checkpoints when crossing from one city to another to attend college; yet disabled Palestinians experience these crossings in more challenging ways (Abu Fedala, 2009). Israeli soldiers do not care about the medical sensitivity and conditions of those people waiting at the checkpoints and keep them waiting for hours. Many disabled students do not leave their homes at all, especially those with mobility impairments, because of the additional hardships these checkpoints create for them (Abu Fedala, 2009; Jaradat, 2010; Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights-ICHR, 2001). A clear example of such struggle is the difficulty of mobility in the Dabaweya area in Hebron, an area that is under Israeli control. It is especially dangerous for those with mobility impairments to cross checkpoints in Dabaweya (Abu Fedala, 2009; Jaradat, 2010; ICHR, 2001). In these cases, the Ministry of Education in Palestine provides an opportunity for K-12 students who face difficulty crossing the Israeli checkpoints, through agreements with families of students with disabilities, to teach them at home, in which the students' parents teach, follow up, give exams, and report to the ministry (Jaradat, 2010).

Other obstacles faced by disabled people in Palestine include but are not limited to the lack of financial support for public services and rehabilitation programs; the continual increase in the number of people with physical impairments due to perpetual Israeli attacks; the continuous Israeli bombing attacks on rehabilitation centers and institutions; and the Israeli invasion, destruction, and confiscation of equipment and tools inside them (Abu Fedala, 2009; Snounu, 2015). The percentage of disabled students in colleges in the Gaza Strip, according to the ICHR (2001), is a mere 0.4%, due to military occupation, lack of restrooms designed for disabled people, lack of elevators, lack of assistive technology and assistive tools, and high tuition. Furthermore, there are 30,000 deaf people in Gaza and the West Bank, but only 10% of them benefit from education because of the expense of educating them in K-12 schools (ICHR, 2001). For instance, the cost of K-12 education for blind children ranges from $2,000 to $2,500 for every child per year, which makes it more difficult for the Palestinian government to provide that for all children (ICHR, 2001), because Israel controls all Palestinian resources.

The Palestinian Authority, despite the unstable political situation, remains focused on improving living conditions for disabled people in Palestine, especially because they are twice as vulnerable as those without disabilities. In 2004, RDA was revised by the Palestinian Legislative Council (Qure'a, 2004). RDA now stipulates that the Ministry of Education and Higher Education must provide an environment that is appropriate for the needs of persons with disabilities in schools, colleges, and universities. This can be done through modifications and accommodations including elevators, technological equipment, accessible restrooms, and fields and sports rooms appropriate for the mobility of people with disabilities (Qure'a, 2004). Nevertheless, implementing RDA and its executive procedures of 2004 remains difficult in higher education, not only because of political and financial matters, but also because of cultural and social attitudes that do not pay attention to the capacities individuals with disabilities have. Like others, Birzeit University (2011) states that the legal framework is insufficient, and the attitudes of Palestinian society are focused on sympathy, ignoring the fact that disabled people have specific, positive capacities, and can be more involved. Birzeit University, in the West Bank, started accelerating efforts to support students with disabilities to combat cultural attitudes that accept current conditions and to ensure inclusion for these students. For instance, Birzeit University's Committee for Students with Disabilities was founded in 2008 as a student organization advocating for an inclusive environment for students with disabilities. This organization provides tools and assistive technology, and works to rehabilitate university buildings (Birzeit University, 2015).

Theoretical Framework Analysis

Different factors in Palestine shape disability and the culture of disability. Palestine, for instance, mostly deals with issues of physical disabilities because of Israeli practices of violence, and also because of the lack of diagnostic tools, which makes it difficult to identify those with learning disabilities (Gumpel & Awartani, 2003). Disability legislation in Palestine has implementation gaps in higher education. These laws neglect political and social factors; power relations and stigma-related ideologies are often unquestioned. As a result, discourses and practices of exclusion against disabled people are generated and normalized. In this respect, it is crucial for future research to examine how the cultural beliefs and perceptions of faculty might influence the inclusion/exclusion and accommodation of students with disabilities in Palestine. This paper suggests Critical Disability Studies (CDA) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) frameworks be used to examine how systems of belief, and political and social factors, may negatively impact the implementation of accommodation and lead to the exclusion of disabled students in higher education institutions. These frameworks can also illuminate beliefs that positively affect inclusion and contribute to the success of disabled students. Faculty perceptions of students with disabilities may lead to practices that do not support diversity, democracy, and sustainability. Faculty need to learn to create inclusive environments and accommodate college disabled students in Palestine.

Disability Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis

Disability Studies is an activist field (Siebers, 2008) in which addressing social injustices is imperative. In order to achieve social justice and inclusion, disabled bodyminds, integrating mental disability and physical disability, should be embraced as integral parts of cultural diversity, and negative perceptions and unjust practices against people with disabilities should be fought. As Siebers (2008) puts it, "the most urgent issue for disability studies is the political struggle of disabled people, and the struggle requires a realistic conception of the disabled body" (p. 68). According to Jaffee (2016), CDS scholars (Connell, 2011; Connor, 2008; Erevelles, 2011; Siebers, 2008) highlight intersections of disability, labeling, race, gender, and class. They also underline poverty and colonialism issues for disabled people in global contexts, and the impact of neoliberalism and capitalism, which is relevant in the case of Palestine. Critical disability theory does not usually focus on curing disability (examining it through a medical model approach); rather, it examines social meanings and stigma in connection to systems of oppression and exclusion (Siebers, 2008). Thus, CDS involves examining "prejudices against physical and mental disability" (Siebers, 2008, p. 46).

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) was developed by scholars Norman Fairclough, Ruth Wodak, and Teun Van Dijk in the 1980s. CDA intersects with CDS in its focus on analyzing prejudices; as CDS focuses on ableism, a form of domination and abuse, CDA parallels CDS in terms of its focus on analyzing how language exhibits structures of power, discrimination, and dominance between different groups in society (Blommaert & Bulcaen, 2000). In this regard, both CDS and CDA examine discourses that are related to the cultural crisis of how we think and hierarchal ways of thinking. Our ways of speaking are socially constructed through social institutions, such as school and family. According to Fairclough (1995), schools play a pivotal role in maintaining ideological discursive formation, which takes place alongside economic and political powers. The more there is control over discourse, the more control over discursive practices is maintained (Fairclough, 1995). Fairclough (1995) discusses that higher education institutions receive funds and grants from governments, and therefore they maintain the elements of marketization and the capitalist agenda. As a result, social relations have changed because of economic transformations, and governments have partnered with business enterprises' primary agenda towards competitive global economy (Fairclough, 2003). There is a need to also examine factors that generate discourses in societies as there is always a source of discourse (Fairclough, 2003).

Price (2011) discusses discourse and a rhetoric of mental disabilities in academia. She points out the importance of looking at disability, mental disability in particular, from a rhetorical perspective. Rhetoricity is "the ability to be received as a valid human subject" (Price, 2011, p. 26), so people perceive those with mental disabilities as rhetorically disabled, thus mad or crazy, and categorize them as deviant from normal. She insists that academic discourses in college settings create and are produced by able-minded ideology, which ignores any understanding of students and professors with mental disabilities, as well as creates practices of exclusion and discrimination. Price (2011) argues that CDA is an appropriate fit with disability studies because it examines ideology, rhetoric, and power relationships, and ways in which people are excluded, oppressed and stigmatized. Siebers (2008) highlights the importance of bringing the ideology of ability; he focuses especially on how little awareness people notice about its patterns, contradictions, and influence. This is essential because of existing theories, such as the enlightenment theory of rational autonomy which is defined as the inability to reason due to biological inferiority. Therefore, "a minority identity" (Siebers, 2008, p. 13) is created in a systematic way by the dominant culture.

Disability in Light of CDS and CDA in Palestine

Arabic culture generally still stigmatizes disability (Crabtree & Williams, 2011). Surprisingly, under continuous challenges in an area experiencing substantial conflict, "in the Palestinian context disability has become a promising arena for educational inclusion" (Crabtree & Williams, 2011, p. 151). Still, under Israeli occupation, investment in inclusive practices by Palestinian educators is problematic. Complicating this, issues of segregation and ableism are not readily apparent in Palestinian higher education, which may be a result of obstacles produced by the Israeli occupation, and which trigger most of the issues faced by disabled students in general, and in higher education in particular.

Palestinian culture is based on collectivism (Harry, 1992). Palestinians maintain strong family ties, and families who have members with disabilities try to protect them and are concerned about sending them to school/college knowing that they might face challenges and risks related to the practices of the Israeli army, financial barriers, and cultural attitudes (Snounu, 2015). For many disabled people in Palestine, public transportation and attitudes of drivers are an obstacle to integration (Burton, Sayrafi, & Abu Srour, 2013). Obstacles do not only come from society but also from their families' protection, because families have reservations about allowing them out of the house (Burton et al., 2013).

Indeed, there are ironic and contradictory cultural perceptions of physical disability in Palestine, where in some contexts, disability is to be pitied (Snounu, 2015). People with disabilities are often seen as being in need of sympathy and protection. In other contexts, Palestinians with amputated bodies are considered heroes if the Israeli army caused that impairment (Connell, 2011). The Palestinian Women Research and Documentation Center-UNESCO and Birzeit University (2011) conducted a study on societal attitudes towards persons with disabilities. They concluded that there was insufficient data about institutions working with persons with disabilities. Despite compassionate and sympathetic attitudes towards disabled people, they found violence and stigma expressed towards them in elementary and secondary schools by peers (Palestinian Women Research and Documentation Center-UNESCO & Birzeit University, 2011). Questions of disability in educational institutions in Palestine can be understood through analyzing the circumstances, impacts, social views, community, and individual attitudes, all of which greatly influence cultural and political values.

According to Gumpel and Awartani (2003), families in Palestine reject special education services that separate the child from their family, as it is perceived a negative outcome. Palestinian families refuse to allow their children with disabilities to leave the home, a part of the normal Palestinian socialization process, in a place where traditions often oppose change (Burton et al., 2013). This is especially true for change that is understood as expressing a Western agenda, of which the Palestinians are very critical because of the political turmoil they experience in relation to the support the U.S. provides to Israel. In that regard, Nasir-Tucktuck et al. (2017) refer to a project in Palestine in which 226 adults with disabilities received training that allowed them to discuss international and national disability laws in connection with their lives. Later in the project, 45 people with disabilities went to local communities and visited 1000 service providers. They found hostility and obstruction on the part of family members, who tried to prevent them from participating by tearing a ramp apart; one person with a hearing disability was not welcomed at a bank. The project team intervened, and after sending a number of letters to various communities, eventually disabled people were welcomed (Nasir-Tucktuck, Baker, & Love, 2017). It is crucial to explain that such a change in the people's attitudes occurs as they were assured that their disabled children would not be used so other people could raise money, rather it is a genuine effort that aims at enhancing their disabled children's living conditions. Attitudes towards people with disabilities in Palestinian culture still rely on hierarchal ways of thinking, perceiving those with physical disabilities as not capable. Families feel the need to protect disabled children, and some even prevent them from leaving the house, denying them basic life choices, and limiting social participation, independence and decision making. As Shapiro (1993) points out, "disabled people have been a hidden, misunderstood minority, often routinely deprived of the basic life choices that even the most disadvantaged among us take for granted" (p. 11).

However, attitudes towards people with disabilities are different in higher education. In the West Bank, according to Birzeit University (2015), Isra', one of the identified 33 students with disabilities attending the university, reported that despite her fear and hesitation, her peers made her feel at home. She now aspires to be an influential person in the community. Said, a student with a physical disability at Birzeit University, who achieved a score of 99% on his matriculation exam in high school, was only able to enroll at the university a year after he finished high school, because he lived in Hebron and needed to cross checkpoints every day. Birzeit University provided him with a wheel chair and he now lives with relatives next to Birzeit University. Said confirmed that his success at the university is a result of the cooperation of university administrators and professors (Birzeit University, 2015). As for university professors in Palestine, it seems from the few studies done there that professors in Palestine are sympathetic towards disabled students and cooperate with and extend help to disabled students. The Palestinian Women Research and Documentation Center-UNESCO and Birzeit University (2011) found inadequate data regarding students with disabilities in college settings. It is imperative to explore ways in which Palestinian universities and professors deal with disabled students and their needs in connection to professors' cultural perceptions and social norms, as well as in light of political circumstances, especially regarding RDA, which does not mandate supports and accommodations for students with disabilities in higher education.

Conclusion

Israel, a colonial settler power, has been inflicting a continuous debilitation of the Palestinian body and infrastructure. Drawing on Foucault's biopolitics theory, Puar (2015) highlights the significance of examining the colonial forms Israel practices to give itself the right to maim the Palestinians; she states, "one mapping we must continually be alert to is what forms of the sovereign right to take life or let live are machinating" (p. 7). In such sovereignty, Israelis not only have the right to kill but the right to maim as well (Puar, 2015). There are hundreds of thousands of physical disabilities among the Palestinians, and the number is increasing with the peaceful weekly demonstrations in Gaza, where Israeli snipers cause more disabilities, especially in the spine, legs or other parts of the body. Such practices aim at subduing and eliminating the indigenous Palestinian population, as Puar argues, "the understanding of maiming as a specific aim of biopolitics puts pressure on the framing of settler colonialism as a project of elimination of the indigenous through either genocide or assimilation" (p. 11).

There is plenty of research on the political realities in Palestine, but not directly connected with disability. Moreover, studies of students with disabilities in Palestinian higher education are very rare. The few studies available demonstrate that professors in Palestine show cooperation and sympathy towards students with disabilities. Culturally, in general, Palestinian culture tends to be protective of individuals with disabilities in the midst of harmful Israeli practices and widespread Western political agenda, ensuring that disabled Palestinians are increasingly vulnerable. With that, we still witness many disabled successful Palestinians who resist to join higher education, graduate, and many are working in higher education. This paper suggested CDS and CDA frameworks to be used to examine how systems of belief, and political and social factors, may positively or negatively impact the implementation of accommodation and lead to including or excluding disabled students in higher education institutions.

Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Micheal Sayler, Dean of the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University who provided a small grant to help with research and also Laura Kovick for her editing services.

References

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Copyright (c) 2019 Yasmin Snounu, Phil Smith, Joe Bishop

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Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

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ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)