Great news. Farah Abu Halima, a three-year-old who was badly injured by an Israeli white phosphorus attack that destroyed most of her family last January, has reportedly left Gaza and is in Egypt now with her grandmother. She has a visa to the U.S. and is to fly out on Saturday, headed for hospital treatment in San Diego. In the photo above, you can see the burns on her chin and throat. The burns across her abdomen and legs are far worse and have already affected her growth. Her hand is also damaged.
Steve Sosebee of Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) and Felice Gelman of Wespac have been working tirelessly stateside to help this little girl, whom Gelman and I met in Beit Lahiya, Gaza. Kudos to them, and to PCRF, whose reps in Gaza and the West Bank apparently managed to get the Palestinian Authority to act on this desperate case. And Gelman tells me that at Wespac’s urging, Nita Lowey, the powerful Westchester congresswoman, apparently put in a word to the U.S. State Department– even as Lowey worked to bury the Goldstone report (as an impediment to the peace process!).
Sosebee tells me that Farah will be accompanied by three other children from Gaza who need treatment. One with shrapnel wounds to the face, another with a gunshot wound to the leg, and a third child with a birth defect. “Farah got out of Gaza on Sunday with her grandmother, they are both suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.”
It may take months or a year for the plastic surgery that Farah needs so that she can develop normally. She will live with her grandmother with a host family. Sosebee fears the psychological wounds even more than the physical ones. This little girl and her grandmother have lost their whole family in a scorching horrifying blast. What can our country do to heal that relentless damage? Here is PCRF’s site, if you want to get them some money.
Gelman also speaks of the political work that is more important than the humanitarian work. What does it mean that she has to go to our State Department to try and get pencils into the Gaza Strip? What does it mean that these people need international permission to do anything? As Taghreed El-Khodary of the New York Times told us last May, this is not a humanitarian crisis, it is a political crisis. And one in which our country has recklessly taken sides in.