Archive | January 28th, 2011

Hey agent Schaefer please get your hands off my identity

NOVANEWS

 

Some of you know that I left Gaza last Thursday, spent Friday and Saturday in Cairo, and left early Sunday morning. Consequently I missed the beginnings of this beautiful Egyptian revolt, and landed in the land of blizzards on Sunday afternoon. Little did I know what a treat I would find at Customs and Immigration. On my customs form, in the section for “Countries visited on this trip prior to U.S. arrival,” I put Egypt. I had also been in Gaza, but had been slightly befuddled as to how to list it.

Palestine is not yet a country. So I scribbled, “Occupied Palestinian territories,” attentive to the fact that the customs forms warn us that making untrue statements is illegal. The “Occupied” caught the eye of the guy at the desk blankly sifting through customs forms. He handed me off to one Agent Schaefer. I looked at the name-tag and was not happy. In Brooklyn, a Schaefer is probably a Jew, and these are not the days of the Bund. I knew I was in trouble.

Schaefer started asking me questions: How long were you in Gaza? Why didn’t you go through Tel-Aviv? Why were you in Cairo? For how long? Why do these buttons say boycott Israel? I never heard of anyone being stuck in Cairo for two months, let me call the Cairo Press Office. Normally when he harasses people freshly arrived from Palestine, he told me, they tell me that they go straight from Tel-Aviv into West Bank, no problem. I tried to explain that Gaza has been under siege for six years and that he could go find that out on Google, and that it is nearly impossible to pass through the Erez Crossing, but he waved me off. 

I am currently sick with some sort of respiratory illness which makes me cough a lot and started responding to Schaefer’s questions with as much politeness as I could muster after having been traveling for around 19 hours. Like did not elicit like, and Schaefer got very upset when I coughed one time too many in his general direction. Could you please stop coughing in my direction? What I thought was,Could you please stop interrogating me motherfucker, but what I said was, Sorry, alongside another cough. Schaefer almost screamed, You cough in my direction right after I tell you not to! Schaefer clearly enjoys his job. I could see his gun sitting in his holster (although I wondered what it was for; Minuteman fantasies?), and when he asked me why I was nervous, I said something about how I’d just spent time in countries where the police would as soon smack you as look at you. 

Not like here, he said.That remains to be seen, I thoughtrecalling stories I’d heard of people with Arabic flashcards treated as national security threats by customs officers. I was unshaven and slightly dark from the Middle Eastern sun, and have an ambiguously Semitic last name. I could see the glint in Schaefer’s eye, kind of like the expression on my dog’s face when she sees a squirrel loose in my backyard. Schaefer thought he had an Arab/Muslim on his hands and in due course would be sending me off to the bowels of the JFK interrogation chambers where another Homeland Security agent would spend a couple hours protecting America by examining the PDFs on agro-ecology littering my desktop.

Schaefer asked me what I was doing in Gaza. Writing on the situation there, I told him. What? He seemed befuddled that I hadn’t been there to write a story about Shalit’s imprisonment or the shisha ban, and asked for clarification. Journalismwriting on the human rights situation there, also studying Arabic. He was able to confirm these facts from letters in my bag as well as the flashcards I had stuffed into my backpack. Still, he was not happy with this answer, perhaps troubled at the suggestion that Palestinians are human beings. Why Gaza? 

I muttered something vague about my work being more valuable there, but knew instantly that it was the wrong answer (even if true). For Schaefer, his morality thoroughly pickled in tribalist brine, there’s no “helping” dusky makhlouba-eating Islamists. Do you have family there? I laughed a little, thinking that perhaps I could divert Schaefer’s train of thought with some tribalist camaraderie. No man, I’m Jewish. He looked concerned. You mean Israeli? No man I’m from Brooklyn, accentuating what I could of the accent my Irish babysitter imparted to me from the ages of one to seven.

This did not pacify Schaefer, although it probably prevented me being sent to the detention room. If Schaefer had not been Jewish this deployment of the Jew-card would probably have ushered me straightaway to the taxi rank, but served only to piss him off. He blinked sharply, perturbed that I’d been mixing with the Amalekites. Maybe unknowingly, though: Do you study the Jewish religion?he asked me. This was a little weird. Did he think that study of Judaism would have clarified something about Palestine or Israel me? I had already explained that I study sociology at Cornell, so I asked him,You mean right now? 

He was enraged. Yea right now, what do you think? I thought about trying to explain that no, Cornell is not a yeshiva, although sometimes it does seem like an Israeli colony with all of the “Israelis” with suspiciously American accents running around campus. Instead, I said, No, I went to Jewish day school for 12 years, neglecting to append, but it didn’t take. Schaefer did not want to quiz me on my knowledge of the Talmud or Kabbala, and moved on to more pertinent questions, maybe aware that he’d already exposed himself to a lawsuit from the ACLU. He saw my Alan Hart trilogy headlined Zionism, the Enemy of the Jews, and I saw a flash of bafflement move quickly across his face—he had not been confronted with this idea before. Small victory? Maybe not. Do your parents know what you do there? I think so, I answered, but this is my dad calling wondering why I’ve been delayed for 40 minutes, do you want to speak to him? Schaefer was not interested.

More questions followed. How long were you in Gaza? Where did you stay? What are these buttons? Who paid for your trip? One month, a flat, buttons from the Indian convoy, some me, some of Jewbonics’ readership. He also sifted through my business cards, concentrating quite hard when he saw a Raji or an Ahmed appear, unaware, much like the Israeli military, that not all Arab men are terrorists. He started entering information on his computer, putting me into the database of scoundrels who from now on would receive extensive and gracious welcome from the Department of Homeland Security when debarking from international flights.

As I started to walk away, he had one more question: So the only reason you didn’t pass through Israel is because you can’t get press credentials there? Yup, I answered. Anyway. Schaefer can do what he wants with his hard-gotten information. And I really hope he Googles himself now that I’m out of his grasp and have regained my rights. If he does, a message: Schaefer, get your bloody hands off my identity. You can’t have it.

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Biden defines democracy

NOVANEWS

 

Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region, Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel … I would not refer to him as a dictator….I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that — to be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there,” Biden said after stressing that he shouldn’t resign. “Violence isn’t appropriate and people have a right to protest,” he said. “And so — and we think that — I hope Mubarak, President Mubarak, will — is going to respond to some of the legitimate concerns that are being raised.”

White House policy moves between being reactive and being reactionary. Here’s Gibbs: “First and foremost — and I said this yesterday, but I want to reiterate it — that there’s an obligation by the government not to engage in violence.  There’s an obligation by those that are protesting not to engage in violence by burning government buildings.  So, first and foremost, this is a process that should be conducted peacefully, and that is one of our primary concerns…Egypt, we know — and President Mubarak has for several decades been a close and important partner with our country. 

And every time the President meets with President Mubarak — and I would point you to the speech in Cairo in 2009 where the President also specifically addresses this, as well as the readout that we put out on the September meeting that the President had with President Mubarak as part of the Middle East peace process — that we consistently have advocated for the universal rights of assembly, of free speech, of political reform.  All of those are important and we have at every turn encouraged President Mubarak to find a way to engender that political discourse in a positive way.  And we will continue to do that.” Byfunding the forces of repression. We can’t pretend  we don’t know what that money goes for, either.

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Silence is Complicity: The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by Nazi Gestapo’s

NOVANEWS

Dr. David Halpin: Silence is Complicity: The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force  

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22879

Introduction

 

 The deliberate injury of the limbs of 23 boys by high velocity weapons has been

logged  and  described  by  Defence  for Children International – Palestine Branch

(DCI-P)  since  March 2010. (1)   Some of the facts have been published in national

newspapers.  These barbarous acts contravene international and national law but

there are no judicial responses.  The caring professions see the physical and mental

pain  of  those who suffer and they should be in the vanguard in calling for this great

cruelty to cease forthwith.  Political leaders have failed to act. 

The  Geneva  Conventions  Act 1957,  which  is  of central importance in holding war

criminals to account in the jurisdiction of the UK, is being emasculated.

 

Context

Most  of  the 1.5  million  population  of  the  Gaza strip is impoverished.  Half are refugees

from Mandate Palestine or  their stock.  About 50% of the male population is without work. 

It has been isolated and occupied for decades.  A commercial port was being built in 2000

but that was bombed by Israel.  The isolation and the hobbling of its commerce was increa-

sed by a siege which was started in March 2006 in response to the election of a majority of

Hamas members to the legislature.  It was further tightened in June 2007 after the Hamas

government  pre-empted  a  coup  by  the  Fatah faction that was led in Gaza by Mohammad

Dahlan.

 

The misery was further deepened with ‘Operation Cast Lead’ that was unleashed 27/12/08. 

This was promised 29/02/08 (2).  “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach

a longer  range, [the Palestinians]  will  bring  upon  themselves a bigger shoah (holocaust)

because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.” Nazi Matan Vilnai  Deputy  Defence

Minister to Israeli Army Radio.  There was a massive bombardment which killed 220 adults

 and children in the first 15 minutes.  This was followed by a full scale invasion.  1400 humans

were killed and approximately 5000 injured physically.  The minds of very many more were

injured too.  4000 homes were totally destroyed, almost all the factories and 40 mosques. 

The  two  gleaming  science  blocks  of  the  Islamic  University  of  Gaza  were  flattened by very

powerful thermobaric bombs, the blasts being heard throughout the 360 square kilometres of

the Gaza ‘Strip’.  The siege has been even more draconian since.  Cement, ballast and steel rods

are  only  let  in  at  about 5%  of  the  rate needed for rebuilding, the pretext being that ‘bunkers’

could be constructed.  At the present rate it will take 78 years to rebuild Gaza. (3)  Chocolate,

writing paper and all manner of things have been blocked.  The 1000 tunnels at Rafah have

provided a way in for goods but in the face of bombing and roof falls.

 

The lack of any work and the extreme poverty of the large extended families has drawn the boys

and men to scavenge for broken concrete (‘gravel’) in the evacuated Eli Sinai ‘settlement’ and in

the industrial zone by the Erez border control post at the northern limit of the ‘Strip’. 

The factories of the industrial zone have been progressively demolished by Israeli shelling etc. 

They are seen to the west as one enters Gaza through Erez.  A donkey and cart, shovel, pick,

sieve,muscles and courage are the tools.  The rubble is used to make cement blocks and poured

concrete with the cement that is imported  largely through the tunnels.  Many dozens of men and

boys do this work for precious shekels in the shadow of manned watch towers and under ‘drones’

above.

 

The 23 boys who have been shot between 26/03/10 (Said H) and 23/12/10 (Hatem S) are listed in

the table below with skeletal facts.  These points are made:-

 

  • In 18 there were single shots and not automatic fire

  • The reported range in most cases confirms that the weapon was a sniper’s rifle in the

  • hands of a sniper

  • Almost always there were many dozens of other men and boys at work; these victims were

  • picked off

 

The history of the injury and sequel for each boy are linked to in (1).  It has been done

meticulously and the translation into English is perfect.  The pain, and often the terror,

felt by the boy as the bullet struck home are vividly recorded.  No bullets have been reco-

vered yet so the calibre/type is unknown. 

The shooting to wound and kill Palestinians is relentless.  DCI-P notes that according to a

UN study, between January 2009 and August 2010, at least 22 Palestinian civilians in Gaza

have been killed and 146 injured in the arbitrary live fire zone adjacent to the border with

Israel and  imposed at sea. At least 27 of these civilians were children.  It also notes that the

targeting of civilians is absolutely prohibited under international law, regardless of

circumstances.

 

These quotations from the available stories convey a little of the poverty, the suffering

and the courage:-

 

  •  Mohammad was taught by his neighbours to watch for birds flying away from the watch towers, as this was a sign to start running,
  • as it meant soldiers were climbing into

            the towers and the shooting would soon begin.  Mohammad M – 6

 

Silence is complicity

 

References

1.    http://www.dci-pal.org/english/doc/press/UA_4_10_Children_of_the_Gravel_UPDATE_29_DEC_%202010(b).pdf

2.    http://www.haaretz.com/news/barak-hamas-will-pay-for-its-escalation-in-the-south-1.240417

3.    http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_21083.pdf

 

 

I thank Gerard Horton and DCI-P for the availability and excellence of this information, and

for supporting publication in a medical forum.  I also thank Dr Khamis Elessi in Gaza for

information.

 

Conflict of interest:  I founded the Dove and Dolphin Charity 110119

<http://www.doveanddolphin.co.uk/>   with a voyage to Palestine 8 years ago and chair its

trustees.  It attends to the welfare of children in Gaza in the main.  No pecuniary benefit is

derived from this charity.

 

David S Halpin FRCS is an author, human rights activist and a former, orthopaedic and trauma

 surgeon at

the Torbay and Exeter Hospitals Devon UK

 

David Halpin can be contacted via  <david@infoaction.org.uk>  

His web site is <http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/> )

 

FOOTNOTE

 

This paper was submitted to the Lancet and the British Medical Journal 4 January 2011 under

the title ‘Ethical’.  The refusal from the latter is here:- 

 

BMJ/2011/850099

 

The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force

by David Sydney Halpin

 

Dear Mr. Halpin

 

Thank you for sending us your paper. We read it with interest but I regret to say that we have

decided not to publish it in the BMJ.

 

Clearly soldiers shooting at children is awful, but we didn’t think your article gave a clear

reason why we should be publishing it now. The information comes from the Defence for

Children International (palestine section) website, there isn’t much context, there’s no

description of the Israeli soldiers’ explanation for these events, and the article just sort

of ends.

 

We receive over 8000 submissions a year and accept less than 10%. We do therefore have to

make hard decisions on just how interesting an article will be to our general clinical readers,

how much it adds, and how much practical value it will be.

 

I am sorry to disappoint you on this occasion.

 

An editor at the British Medical Journal

 

 


 

 

 

The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force

 

 

Number

Name

Age

Date of injury

 

Distance

from

border

metres

Injury

Activity

Single shot heard?

Hospital

 Rx

Outcome

?Work again near Erez

or other

Date report made – Arabic to English

1   Said H

15 yrs

26/03/10

100

Deep and tranverse, lower L thigh

Searching for brother

   Y

3 days

‘Toe will not work’ Persisting pain

Nerve injury

Lost 2 months training as plumber and car sprayer

27/10/10

2  Hasan W

17 yrs

22/05/10

 

300

Below R knee. ‘Shattered’

2 months in plaster

Gravel

(G)

Y then

repeated

shooting

Home same day

(HSD)

Cannot walk. Pain on movement.

 

‘.. not be able to collect gravel though family needs money’

01/09/10

3  Awad W

17 yrs

 

07/06/10

350

Shot in R knee

G

Y

HSD

Numbness  Cannot walk as he used to.

Therapy from Doctors without Borders.  Cannot work.

06/09/10

4  Ibrahim K  16 yrs

16/06/10

400

Shot in R knee

G

Y after

shooting

2 days

Pain in R leg

Forbidden by father to return to same work

16/09/10

5  Abdullah

16 yrs

22/06/10

60

Shot in R ankle

G

Y

HSD

Painful.  ?Will be able to walk normally again

‘I will never collect gravel again.’ 

08/09/10

6  Mohammad

M   16 yrs

23/06/10

500

Shot in R flank

G

 

3 days

Very tired when he runs

Cannot work or play

30/09/10

7  Arafat S

16 yrs

10/07/10

50

Shot in R ankle

G

Y

HSD

Still some pain and a little limp

 

18/09/10

8  N’uman A

14 yrs

10/07/10

300

Shot R lower leg – not deep

G

Y

HSD

 

Forbidden by grandfather to return

20/09/10

9  Hameed O

13 yrs

14/07/10

50

L arm – not deep

G

Y

HSD

Occasional pain

No work.  Forbidden by father to return

26/09/10

10  Khaled I

16 yrs

31/07/10

 

600

L thigh.  ‘Cut artery and vein

G

Y

?Heavy machine gun

15 days

 

‘Considering what happened, not going to collect gravel again

27/09/10

11 Mohammad S

17 yrs

25/08/10

800

L thigh

G

 

HSD

Pain   ‘I have nightmares about being shot by Israeli soldiers’

‘I don’t think of going to the dangerous places anymore’

30/09/10

12  Mahmoud J

16 yrs

07/10/10

450

R thigh.  Bled profusely.  Exit wound diameter 5 cms.

G

Y

?From tank or jeep

 

 

‘I wanted to buy two pigeons and raise them on the rooftop of my house. I will never go back to that place.’

27/10/10

13  Ahmad H

17 yrs

13/10/10

600 –

700

R foot/sankle  ‘Big hole in my foot – 4 cms with small hole other side

G

     Y

 

 

 

16/10/10

14  Yahia Z

16 yrs

14/10/10

450

R lower leg

G

     Y

HSD

 

‘I will never go back to the industrial zone even if I starve to death.’

16/10/10

15  Shamekh D

15 yrs

27/11/10

150

L foot

G

     Y

Operated

BK cast

Awaited

 

02/12/10

16  Mokhles M

15 yrs

28/11/10

500

L lower leg

G

     Y

?Op

BK cast

 

‘I’ll wait for my wound to heal before I go back to collect gravel.’

02/12/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17  Belal L

16 yrs

 

04/12/10

600

L leg

G

     Y

plus a second shot into the L leg of his 22 yr old cousin

Fractured in two places.  External fixation above and below knee

 ‘I still feel pain in my leg,’ says Belal, ‘and I don’t know whether I will walk again or

not.’

 ‘I have come under fire several times from Israeli soldiers guarding the border. Once they shot and killed our horse.’’ Belal’s older brother Nedal (24) has been shot four times whilst collecting gravel,

‘three times in the left leg and once in the right leg,’ says Belal.

08/12/10

18  Suhaib M

16 yrs

10/12/10

250

Through and through,

just below L knee.  Exit wound 5 cms diameter

Wood

    Y

‘Bullet exploded in leg.’

Long cast.

 

 ‘I don’t know if I

will be able to walk again,’ says Suhaib, ‘but certainly I will never go back to collecting gravel.’

18/12/10

19  Rasmi G

15 yrs

10/12/10

200

R lower leg. Fractured tibia

 

G

    Y

External fixation

In Kamal Udwan hospital

‘I still feel great pain in my leg and don’t know whether I will walk again or not.’

15/12/10

20  Fadi H

17 yrs

13/12/10

500

Below L knee

Goatherd

4 shots

HSD

Moving about at 2 days

 

28/12/10

21  Rami

17 yrs

 

21/12/10

400

R lower leg

G

    Y

HSD

 

Will collect G again. ‘What can I do?’  Disabled

father.  Large family

28/12/10

22  Mahmoud S

17 yrs

23/12/10

400

R elbow

G

Gun-shots

HSD

 

‘For the record, I will never go back to collecting gravel for it’s a death profession.’

29/12/10

23  Hatem S

17 yrs

23/12/10

800

Head – back of.

Embedded ‘shrapnel’ from bullet

Collect

‘straws’

Gun-shots

HSD

Headache plus nausea

 

29/12/10

 

 Global Research Articles by David Halpin

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Zio-Nazi Holocaust in Gaza

NOVANEWS

Mohammed Omer: Operation Cast Lead Is Over, But the Nightmare Continues

Date

Abdullah (in red shirt) and his little brother (r) play “Arabs and Israelis” with their friends in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. (Photo M. Omer)


The Sept. 6, 2010 issue of the leading German newspaper Der Spiegel included the article “Studies Show Nurture at Least as Important as Nature” by Joerge Blech on the findings of a groundbreaking study on intelligence. Researchers found that prolonged poverty, stress and other environmental factors—including war and the deprivation of basic needs—directly affect a child’s intelligence and, therefore, his or her life prospects.
Previously it was believed that intelligence was 80 percent genetic. These latest findings, however, show that at least 50 percent of an individual’s intelligence is actually determined by environmental factors. More specifically: the more stress, the more arrested mental development. As one of the researchers, Richard Nisbett, a psychologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, noted: “During World War II, some children in Holland started school late because of the Nazi occupation—with momentous consequences. The average IQ for these children was seven points lower than for children who came of school age after the siege.”
The Nazi persecution and World War II in Europe, which lasted from 1933 to 1945, affected an entire generation of children. By contrast, Israel’s dispossession and occupation of Palestine has lasted some six decades—and counting. Generations of Palestinian children have been affected physically, psychologically and materially. Since Ariel Sharon instigated the al-Aqsa intifada in late 2000, Israeli repression has been most restrictive, and most steadily escalated, in Gaza. According to “Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion,” a 16-page BBC report released in March 2008: “In September 2007, an UNRWA survey in the Gaza Strip revealed that there was a nearly 80 percent failure rate in schools grades four to nine, with up to 90 percent failure rates in Mathematics. In January 2008, UNICEF reported that schools in Gaza had been cancelling classes that were high on energy consumption, such as IT, science labs and extra curricular activities.”
The report adds that “The number of people living in absolute poverty in Gaza has increased sharply. Today, 80 percent of families in Gaza currently rely on humanitarian aid, compared to 63 percent in 2006. This decline exposes unprecedented levels of poverty and the inability of a large majority of the population to afford basic food.”

War, poverty, stress caused by financial and personal insecurity due to living under occupation, the constant scarcity of basic necessities including food, sewer treatment, water and medical care, the threat of constant attack by military forces, forced imprisonment, lack of movement, lack of rights—these are the daily realities of children in Gaza, realities they, their parents and their grandparents have known their whole lives.
This is the recurring nightmare that is Gaza.

A Child’s Life

At first glance, 13-year-old Khalil seems like your average teenager. His young body is just beginning to mature, and he is curious, easily distracted and slightly mischievous. A closer inspection, however, reveals a vacant look in his eyes more associated with age. In fact, if one saw only his eyes, one would guess Khalil is close to 50, not 13. What’s missing is that sense of invincibility and heightened optimism common among youth his age elsewhere in the world. Where American and European children talk about the latest rap band, their school vacation or their latest crush, Khalil simply shrugs apathetically.
“Excuse me, but the war has wiped blank all my beautiful memories,” he says somewhat sarcastically. “The front half of my house was damaged, so that I am transferred to a life-situation that I never dreamed I would be experiencing. After years of living in a large house,” he explains, “I now live at Al Zahra city.”
Khalil’s home was destroyed in January 2009, during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” assault, plunging his middle-class family into homelessness in an instant. Unlike in a natural disaster, insurance funds and global assistance were not available. His situation was man-made—and Khalil is far from alone.
Still traumatized, he remembers a friend of his being blown to pieces when an Israeli missile struck his neighborhood.

Understandably, these are things he would rather forget—but can’t. Because of Israel’s siege, few resources are available to help him cope with his trauma and move on with his life.
The children’s stories are difficult to hear, of course. But as any parent knows, the pain of their children is felt two-fold by those responsible for care giving. Love, after all, can go only so far.

A Parent’s Frustration

Abu Abdullah of Rafah expresses the pain of most parents in Gaza: the inability to protect his children. His wife frets because she cannot comfort them. The younger children, aged 10, 7 and 4, wet their beds and she feels helpless to quell their fears. “It’s like a cancer you can’t control or stop,” Umm Abdullah says.
Nodding, Abu Abdullah sits on the stoop of his house watching his children play “Arabs and Israelis,” the occupied territory’s version of “Cowboys and Indians” or “Cops and Robbers.” In the role of a soldier, his oldest son, Abdullah, aims a plastic Chinese toy gun at his brother’s head. “I am going to kill you right now,” the teenager says.

The game is popular among children who’ve had few outlets to channel their emotions since Operation Cast Lead. Abu Abdullah would rather they play soccer, but this game reflects the reality of their lives and gives his children some sense of control.

Even when he’s awake Abu Abdullah’s 12-year-old son suffers from nightmares about Israeli F-16s bombing his neighborhood. In his dreams, all the children are running away from home or school. Some of his friends are injured, others dead, and ambulance sirens scream incessantly in his head. But it’s more than a dream: it’s what he actually witnessed, and it replays in his mind ad nauseam, rarely giving him peace.
Nor are Abdullah’s fears imaginary. When his mother sent him to buy lentils from the nearby grocery store less than three minutes away, the boy returned home with no lentils and his pants soaked in urine. Asked about the lentils, Abdullah began crying and told his mother in a voice quaking with fear that “the drones are bombing.”

Teachers who work with at risk students in inner-city neighborhoods around the world can attest to the effect poverty, violence, guns and fear have on the children forced by circumstance to live in these situations. Gaza is the inner city on steroids. Its children deal not only with gangs in the form of resistance, but they also must endure the assaults—usually in the middle of the night—of the world’s fourth most powerful military. The effects on the children are predictable: Fights and violent behavior, in schools and on the streets, have escalated in frequency and intensity, according to psychologists who visit Gaza’s schools.
Psychologist Zahia Al Qarra with the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) says that 79.9 percent of the children she sees feel they are in a big prison. Another 79.3 percent say that they cannot afford to buy what they need or want.

According to a recent GCMHP study, 20 percent of Gaza’s children suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], and another 13 percent are diagnosed with depression. In Gaza’s UNRWA-run schools, where literacy and academic standards are usually high, 9,000 primary students failed their school work and exams last academic year.

Another GCMHP psychiatrist confirms that cases of disease, behavioral problems and psychological traumas have multiplied among Gaza’s children, citing increases in autistic behavior, bedwetting, thumb-sucking, nail biting, anger, slow-motion flashbacks, reliving war scenes in familiar neighborhoods, fear of the dark, agoraphobia, panic at the sound of planes overhead, and disinterest in taking part in social and group activities—all symptoms of PTSD and depression.
“It’s not just the children” says Abu Diaa, a father of seven. “It’s also we adults who need psychological counseling.”

Like most parents in Gaza, Abu Diaa, whose only income is a disability pension from a 2003 injury, worries constantly about finding food and clothing for his children.
“It is two different types of traumas,” Abu Diaa explains, “living in fear of attacks and worrying about not having a job to protect one’s family.”

Psychiatrists and general practitioners in Gaza observe that parents often do not realize the extent to which their children are traumatized. Many are trying to deal with their own pain and stress and often neglect or delay their own treatment. Add to this the stigma about seeking psychological treatment for themselves or their children. Palestinian and Arab society does not embrace victimhood, and seeking help is often equated with admitting one is powerless and therefore a victim. GCMHP director Dr. Ahmed Abu Tawahinah notes that when a patient visits a doctor, he “never says I am depressed or I have PTSD.” Rather he’ll say something like, “I have a headache.”

A Society Under Stress

The physical and psychological effects of Gaza’s plight are pervasive. According to the GCMHP’s Al Qarra, divorces have increased, often due to poverty. When parents are unable to fully care for their children due to their own trauma, she adds, increasing numbers of children are forced to leave home or run away. They find themselves on the streets, digging through garbage containers for a few things to sell to make a bit of money or eat. Incidents of sexual abuse, previously unheard of in Gaza, also are being reported.

This past September, 20 months after Israel’s war on Gaza, Dr. Jamil Al Tahrawi, a university lecturer in social psychology, decided to analyze the art work of children in Gaza to try and assess the depth of their psychological trauma. He asked 455 children to draw whatever they wanted. More than 82.3 percent drew images directly related to Israeli attacks on Gaza. Some of these drawings show Palestinian resistance fighters, Israeli soldiers, tanks, bulldozers, ambulances, helicopters, F-16s, and pilotless Israeli drones.
The children mainly used light colors in their drawings, avoiding dark colors as if they were afraid of them. Dr. Al Tahrawi and other doctors in Gaza saw a clear indication in the drawings of trauma following war crimes similar to those mentioned in Judge Richard Goldstone’s report for the U.N. Human Rights Council. Indeed, Dr. Al Tawahiha confides, all 1.6 million residents of Gaza are traumatized to some extent—”including myself.”
As Israel continues its attacks on Gaza, the nightmare continues for Abdullah and all residents of Gaza.

Nearly two years after Operation Cast Lead, Abdullah still is afraid to sleep, afraid to play and afraid to walk to school in the daytime, even with his father by his side. One can only guess at the long-term physical, emotional and intellectual effects Israel’s continued occupation and siege will have on his life and millions of other Palestinians. One thing is certain, however: It is affecting everyone.

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