Gaza: The Forgotten Story. By Aditya Ganapathiraju

There are two updates for this article.

P1 Via: The Palestine Chronicle.

Why are people on Gaza so unhappy? Well, if you had to live in a prison, wouldn’t you be unhappy?— Former CIA officer Robert Baer[1]

It’s the most terrifying place I’ve ever been in… it’s a horrifyingly sad place because of the desperation and misery of the way people live. I was unprepared for camps that are much worse than anything I saw in South Africa.– Professor Edward Said 1993[2]

They may be living but they’re not alive. – Journalist Philip Rizk[3]

The situation on the ground in Gaza has continued to deteriorate since January. One of the most densely populated areas in the world, this small coastal strip is home to a million and a half Palestinians, many of them refugees for over 60 years. It is now the worst condition it’s been in since 1967 when the Israeli army took military control of the land.[4]

As numerous scholars and observers have concluded, the Israeli plan for Gaza seems to be to turn it into a depoliticized humanitarian catastrophe,[5] turning the Palestinians trapped in there “beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims.”[6]

The Israeli assault against Gaza last winter brought this enclave to the forefront of the news cycle, only to disappear from the headlines in the weeks and months that followed.  The attention of much of the world’s dominant media moved on to other issues soon after a unilateral Israeli pullout—planned precisely timed so as not to cause an  unsightly distraction from the inauguration of the new American president.

The lack of prominent coverage was not because there was a lack of newsworthy events in Gaza.  No, “breaking news is Gaza’s middle name,” says freelance journalist Philip Rizk.  “But because this breaking news always holds the same kind of information, no one cares to report on it.”[7]

“An Eye for an Eyelash”[8]

Violence in the occupied territories has always been bloody but many longtime observers were shocked by the brutality of winter assault,[9] which killed more Palestinians in the first three weeks than during the entire first Intifada, or uprising against the occupation (1987-1993), prompting the UN to label it “one of the most violent episodes in the recent history of the occupied Palestinian territory.”[10]

The January offensive left 1,417 people dead, 1,181 of which were non-combatants (313 children and 116 women).  Another 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the attacks, including 1,606 children and 828 women, many left devastated with life-altering conditions.[11]

The attack, carefully-planned six months in advance,[12] destroyed 60 police stations early on, obliterated 20 ambulances and 30 mosques, in addition to leaving several hospitals bombed.  Some 280 schools and kindergartens were damaged, 18 of which were destroyed completely (including 8 kindergartens).[13]

Another 6600 dunams of agricultural land, which Palestinian farmers depend on for their livelihood, were razed (1 dunam=1,000 square meters).  In all, some 21,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.  An estimated $1.9 billion worth of damage was inflicted, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit report.[14]

“What we’re witnessing today is an assault, a massacre,” and “not a war whatsoever,” said Zahir Janmohamed of Amnesty International on the 15 of January, reminding an audience that this was not a conflict between two equivalent military powers but rather another bloody chapter a long history of “Israel’s colonial operations” in the occupied territories.[15]  His views were confirmed by facts on the ground, as one scholar recently observed.[16]

The systemic and widespread destruction of both lives and infrastructure was not an unintended consequence of the offensive but rather a deliberate strategy derived from the destruction inflicted during the 2006 Lebanon conflict.[17]

The attack followed the “Dahiya Strategy,” referring to the Beirut area that was destroyed during the attack on Lebanon in 2006.  It concluded civilians must pay for their leader’s actions.[18]

Of course if one were to conclude that Israeli civilians should pay for their leader’s actions or American civilians be held responsible for George Bush’s actions, the (muted) international response might be different.

The strategy was formalized two months before the attacks by Tel Aviv University’s Institute of National Security Studies and urged the use of “disproportionate force” ( by definition a war crime) to inflict crushing damage on “economic interests” and “centers of civilian power,” leaving the targeted society devastated and “floundering” in a long reconstruction process.[19] (for more on the political dynamics involved and actions of Hamas and Israel before and during the attacks, see these papers[20]).

“Behind the dry statistics lie shocking individual stories,” a group of Israeli human rights groups wrote. “Whole families were killed; parents saw their children shot before their very eyes; relatives watched their loved ones bleed to death; and entire neighborhoods were obliterated.”[21]

The stories of those who experienced the attacks, who lost loved ones, and who continue to suffer, offer another perspective often absent here in the U.S.  Some of these stories, which described the toll of war beyond numerical abstractions, trickled out in the British press, where journalists are less ideologically constrained to follow the party line, even despite the Israeli military ban on foreign journalists.[22]

Anwar Balousha, a 40-year-old man living in Jabalyia refugee camp in northern Gaza told British reporters of his personal loss.  It was around midnight when an Israeli bomb struck their refugee camp’s mosque with a blast so powerful it collapsed several neighboring buildings, including the Balousha’s home.  Of his seven daughters sleeping in a single room, five were killed—buried under bricks and rubble as they slept.

“We are civilians,” Anwar said.  “I don’t belong to any faction, I don’t support Fatah or Hamas, I’m just a Palestinian. They are punishing us all, civilians and militants. What is the guilt of the civilian?”[23]

While human rights groups and other observers painstakingly extracted similar stories, the lesser-known narrative of a siege decimating Gaza’s society remained largely untold, confined to the dissident press and humanitarian groups.[24]

Most stories usually report on the violence and bloodshed between two forces, which are often implied to be equivalent both morally and physically. The day-to-day struggles of 1.4 million Palestinians enduring and resisting a 42-year old occupation do not fit neatly into the standard narrative of events describing the Palestinian-Israeli issue.  It becomes easy for many to see ordinary Palestinians as nameless and faceless creatures, characters in a story taking place in a faraway land.

Israeli violence towards Gaza did not begin on the 27th of December.

As Amnety’s Janmohamed observed, the assault included the blockade and other attacks and incursions into Gaza, all of which started well before that Saturday morning in December.[25]  The roots of the humanitarian disaster imposed by the Israeli need to be examined,  he said, alluding to what one OXFAM official described as “a serious crime against humanity,”[26] a situation where 1.5 million people “are being punished for something they haven’t done.”[27]

[This is the first part of a series on Gaza, Part II describes life under siege]

1. “‘U.S. and Iran Share an Equal Monopoly on Violence,’” Inter Press Service,  January 23, 2009 http://www.ipsnews.net/print.asp?idnews=45526
2. Edwards Said and David Barsamian ,The Pen and the Sword, Common Courage Press, 1994, page 99
3. “’Gaza wears a face of misery,’  Adam Makary, Al Jazeera”  April 4, 2009 http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/04/20094313332943145.html
4. “UN: Gaza in worst condition since 1967” Ynet, http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3773955,00.html
5. “Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis” Ben White, Guardian, January 20, 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/20/gaza-israelandthepalestinians
6. “If Gaza falls . . .”Sara Roy, the London Review of Books, January 1, 2009 http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01/roy_01_.html
7. “’Gaza wears a face of misery,’  Adam Makary, Al Jazeera”  April 4, 2009 http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/04/20094313332943145.html
8. “How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe” Avi Shlaim, Guardian, January 7, 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/07/gaza-israel-palestine
9. Avi Shlaim, Guardian:
“On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.”
“Leading Israeli Scholar Avi Shlaim: Israel Committing “State Terror” in Gaza Attack, Preventing Peace,” Democracy Now!, January 14, 2009 http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/14/leading_israeli_scholar_avi_shlaim_israel
10. UN OCHA Report “Locked In:The humanitarian impact of two years of blockade on the Gaza Strip” footnote 36 http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.nsf/47D4E277B48D9D3685256DDC00612265/0DFF75BB11E6929285257612004B4859 11. Palestinian Center for Human Rights Press Release March 12, 2009 http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/PressR/English/2008/36-2009.html
12. “Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about” Haaretz, Barak Ravid http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050426.html “IAF strike followed months of planning” Barak Ravid http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050448.html
13. UN OCHA Report “Locked In”
14. Palestinian Center for Human Rights Press Release http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/PressR/English/2008/press.html
15. “The Gaza Offensive and the Laws of War with Zahir Janmohamed,” The Palestine Center January 23, 2009 http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/ht/display/ContentDetails/i/4022/pid/897
16. “UN Inquiry Finds Israel “Punished and Terrorized” Palestinian Civilians, Committed Acts of War During Gaza Assault, Democracy Now!  September 16, 2009 http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/16/un_inquiry_finds_israel_punished_and
17. “Israel’s Bombing Campaign Will “Send Gaza Back Decades” Jonathan Cook, January 22, 2009 http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/121163
18. “The Dahiya strategy: Israel finally realizes that Arabs should be accountable for their leaders’ acts,” Ynet,  Ynetnews.com, 6 Oct 2008 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3605863,00.html
19. “Disproportionate Force: Israel’s Concept of Response in Light of the Second Lebanon War” Institute of National Security Studies, Insight No. 74, inss.org.il, 2 October 2008 http://www.inss.org.il/publications.php?cat=21&page=6
20. “Behind the Headlines of the Gaza Attacks” Aditya Ganapathiraju ZNet http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/20161
“Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Offensive”: Behind the bloodbath in Gaza” Norman Finkelstein January 19, 2009 http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/finkelstein-on-gaza-war-massacre/
21. The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
http://www.btselem.org/English/Press_Releases/20090909.asp
22. “ Robert Fisk: Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask” Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-why-do-they-hate-the-west-so-much-we-will-ask-1230046.html
“Robert Fisk: When journalists refuse to tell the truth about Israel” Independent
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-when-journalists-refuse-to-tell-the-truth-about-israel-681622.html
“Robert Fisk: Keeping out the cameras and reporters simply doesn’t work” Independent
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-keeping-out-the-cameras-and-reporters-simply-doesnt-work-1225800.html
“Foreign reporters dub Israel ‘military dictatorship’” Ynet http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3653154,00.html
23. “’I didn’t see any of my girls, just a pile of bricks’” Guardian, December 30, 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/30/israel-and-the-palestinians-middle-east
24. “Israel declares Gaza “enemy entity” (19 September 2007)” Electronic Intifada http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/685.shtml
25. “The Gaza Offensive and the Laws of War with Zahir Janmohamed,” The Palestine Center January 23, 2009 http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/ht/display/ContentDetails/i/4022/pid/897
26. “Gaza: A humanitarian implosion: A report from eight UK human rights organizations says situation in Gaza worst since 1967” The Real News March 6, 2008
http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=110127. “New Report Finds Gaza Humanitarian Situation is Worst in 40 years” Voice of America News March 6, 2008 .“New Report Finds Gaza Humanitarian Situation is Worst in 40 years” Voice of America News March 6, 2008http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2008-03/2008-03-06-voa24.cfm?CFID=306830593&CFTOKEN=65036790&jsessionid=de30c06e056dbbc788ab7d61273855695769

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Update1

The Gaza Chronicles: Part 2 – What a Siege Looks Like

31 October 2009

Via: Palestine Monitor.

“Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution,” Sara Roy wrote in July. It has led to “mass suffering, created largely by Israel,” and aided by the active participation of the United States, European Union, and Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. [1]

The Israeli policy of isolating Gaza from the West Bank has been a gradual process that started in the early 1990s. It tightened soon after Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006, and turned even more devastating after Hamas’s 2007 takeover, degrading the society to the point where 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.5 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic survival. [2]

This “perverse” situation is unique in international affairs in that humanitarian groups are sustaining the Israeli occupation by providing care for a civilian population and territory whose humanitarian needs and economy are being deliberately decimated for political reasons, with full backing of the Israeli High Court, Roy explained. [3]

The UN recently reported that 1.1 million people, or 75% of the population there are food insecure. Some 70-80% of Gazans live on less than a dollar a day and the unemployment rate is around 60%. [4]

The UN says about 10,000 Gaza residents have no access to a water network – while about 60% — about 1 million people – don’t have access to water daily and receive water only intermittently.[5] The water consumption of Gazans is less than a third of what Israelis who live a short distance away use.[6] Ultimately, the crippling Israeli siege has degraded the water situation in Gaza to the point that the entire system “could collapse at any minute,” which “could take centuries to reverse,” according to International Committee of the Red Cross and UN officials. [7]

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Deterioration of Sanitation and Water Utilities:twenty million gallons of raw and untreated sewage has to be dumped into the Mediterranean every day, according to local officials.
Photo: Electronic Intifada

In a similarly precarious situation, the sewage system is also being prevented from being repaired by the blockage of spare parts. As a result, twenty million gallons of raw and untreated sewage has to be dumped into the Mediterranean every day, according to local officials.[8] Forty-six percent of all children suffer from acute anemia there, former UN official and international Law Prof. Richard Falk said.[9] He adds that thousands of hearing aids are needed for widespread deafness due to sonic booms from Israeli jets. The restrictions on travel access alone has killed an estimated 260 Palestinians since the blockade escalated in 2007.[10]

The scale and intensity of his type of deprivation is impossible to convey through numbers, but try to imagine if three quarters of the people in your city could not find enough food and water to feed themselves or their children, where the overwhelming majority of them were unemployed, where nearly everyone lived on less than a dollar a day, and this is crucial, that all of this was the planned result of political decisions of a foreign government that has held you under military occupation for over four decades.

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School supplies too, are blocked from entering
Photo: Palestine Monitor

Even today, the most basic commodities for life still continue to be barred by the Israeli government. Materials like wood for doors or cement for rebuilding in the aftermath of the destruction left by the last attack remained barred.

No electrical appliances, like refrigerators or washing machines, and no parts for cars are allowed. Also restricted are “fabrics, threads, needles, candles, matches, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses, musical instruments, books, tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, chocolate, sesame seeds, nuts, milk products in large packages, most baking products, light bulbs, crayons, clothing and shoes.” [11]

School supplies too, are blocked from entering. More than 100 trucks full of stationary are still awaiting clearance to enter Gaza. All of the 387 government-run and 33 private schools, which serve more than 250,000 students, lack essential supplies. Draconian restrictions on glass, wood, and other building materials, has kept the hundreds of schools damaged during the assault remaining in terrible condition. [12]

When an occupying army blocks, tea, blankets, crayons, and school stationary from entering the “largest prison on Earth,” severely restricts essentials like fuel and medicine, makes travel in and out all but impossible, and exercises complete control over its borders, airspace, and seas, the pretense of “security” seems dubious at best, and suggests that turning Gazans into beggars and Gaza into a “depoliticized humanitarian catastrophe” is precisely the plan.[13]

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the most basic commodities for life still continue to be barred by the Israeli government.
Photo: Palestine Monitor

Perhaps former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s advisor Dov Weisglass was describing Israeli policy accurately when he said of the Gaza blockade, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” One might ask if he includes the newborn infants, impoverished elderly, and deathly ill among those to be “put on a diet.” [14]

“What possible benefit can be derived from an increasingly impoverished, unhealthy, densely crowded and furious Gaza alongside Israel?,” Sara Roy asked. [15]

Six months have passed since international donors pledged almost $5 billion in aid to the devastated territory, yet “not one penny” has actually reached inside the borders of Gaza, according to the UN, mainly due to the tight blockade. [16]

This “macabre” situation is not the result of an earthquake or flood but rather the predictable consequence of well-planned decisions by Israeli officials, backed by their judicial body, along with complicit Western powers such as the US and EU. Israeli Professor Avi Shlaim observed that the major powers were “imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.” [17]

The January 2008 testimony of Gaza Community Mental Health Program Director Eyad Al Sarraj offered a glimpse into what the stranglehold of Gaza looked like from the ground: [The] Israeli military establishment decided to stop power supply and fuel to Gaza… food and humanitarian aid are not allowed in. My step son is on ventilator for asthma every night. What will happen to him when our generator is not running anymore? What will happen to hospitals, vaccines and blood banks? What will happen to patients on dialysis machines, and to babies in incubators? [18]

This was all before the brutal attacks this winter. The scale of destruction left behind has been covered by numerous writers, human rights groups, and most recently by the comprehensive Goldstone report. What has received little attention though, is the epidemic of mental anguish resulting from decades of oppression.

[The story of mental health in Gaza is covered in Part III]

1.“If Gaza falls . . .” Sara Roy, the London Review of Books, January 1, 2009 http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01/roy_01…

2.“Destroying Gaza,” Sara Roy, The Electronic Intifada, July 9, 2009 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/ar…

3.”Sara Roy – Beyond Occupation” Australian Broadcasting Corp. October 14, 2008, Chapter 8 Making Palestinians Aid-Dependent http://fora.tv/2008/10/14/Sara_Roy_… “Israeli Supreme Court Fiddles While Gaza Starves” http://www.richardsilverstein.com/t…

4.“Israel’s Gaza blockade crippling reconstruction,” Guardian, September 18, 2009 [-.http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/18/israel-gaza-blockade-reconstruction%5D Palestinian Center for Human Rights Weekly Report September 10-16 ->http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/W_report/English/2008/17-09-2009.htm%5D

5.“Analysis: Looming water crisis in Gaza” IRIN News, September 15, 2009 http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx… “Leaked UN report echoes Goldstone and says Israeli blockade is leading to the ‘de-development’ of Gaza” Mondoweiss, September 18, 2009 http://mondoweiss.net/2009/09/leake…

6.“Gaza sewage ’a threat to Israel’” BBC, September 3, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_e…

7.“MIDEAST: Gaza’s Water Supply Near Collapse” IPS, September 16, 2009 http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idn… “Who Needs Clean Water?” Pulse, September 24, 2009 http://pulsemedia.org/2009/09/24/wh…

8.“Narratives Under Siege (17): Swimming in Sewage” Palestinian Center for Human Rights http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/campa…

9.“Israel’s ‘Crime Against Humanity,’ Chris Hedges, Truthdig, December 15, 2008 http://www.truthdig.com/report/prin…

10.“Israel tightens the noose on advocacy organizations” Electronic Intifada, September 23, 2009 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/ar…

11.“Destroying Gaza,” Sara Roy, The Electronic Intifada, July 9, 2009 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/ar…

12.“OPT: Gaza schoolchildren lack basic equipment” IRIN News September 9, 2009 [-.http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=86072%5D

13.“ Gaza Prison: Freedom of Movement to and from the Gaza Strip on the Eve of the Disengagement Plan” http://www.btselem.org/English/Publ… “The Gaza Strip-One Big Prison” B’tselem http://www.btselem.org/Download/200… “How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe” Avi Shlaim, Guardian, January 7, 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/200…

14.“What aid cutoff to Hamas would mean” Christian Science Monitor, February 26, 2007 http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0227/…

15.“Destroying Gaza,” Sara Roy, The Electronic Intifada 16.“Not one penny has reached Gaza” The National, August 31, 2009 http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs…

17.“How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe” Avi Shlaim, Guardian

18.“Israel declares Gaza “enemy entity” (19 September 2007)” Electronic Intifada http://electron…

Update2

The Gaza Chronicles: Part 3 – Shattered Minds And The Children of Gaza

5 November 2009

It’s the most terrifying place I’ve ever been in… it’s a horrifyingly sad place because of the desperation and misery of the way people live. I was unprepared for camps that are much worse than anything I saw in South Africa.– Professor Edward Said 1993 [1]

They may be living but they’re not alive. – Journalist Philip Rizk [2]

Gaza is a place that needs a million psychologists.— Ayed, a psychotherapist from Northern Gaza [3]

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More than 95% children in Gaza experienced artillery shelling in their area or sonic booms of low flying jets.

Over 40 years of Israeli military occupation have had a devastating effect on Gaza; airstrikes, artillery shelling, ground invasions, jet flybys and their sonic booms have all led to an epidemic of suffering among Gaza’s most vulnerable inhabitants.[4]

Soon after the recent winter Israeli assault, a group of scholars at the University of Washington discussed different aspects of the situation in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian Territories. Dr. Evan Kanter, UW school of medicine professor and the current president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, delivered a somber talk describing the mental health situation among Gaza’s population.[5]

Dr. Kanter cited studies that revealed 62 % of Gaza’s inhabitants reported having a family member injured or killed, 67% saw injured or dead strangers and 83% had witnessed shootings. In a study of high school aged children from southern refugee camps in Rafah and Kahn Younis, 69% of the children showed symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), 40% showed signs of moderate or severe depression, and a whopping 95% exhibited severe anxiety. Seventy percent showed limited or no ability to cope with their trauma. All of this was before the last Israeli invasion.

Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, head of the Gaza Community Mental Program, and whom Dr. Kanter described as a “medical hero” working under seemingly impossible conditions, has produced “some of the best research in the world on the impact of war on civilian populations.” In a 2002 interview he said that 54% of children in Gaza had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress, along with 30% of adults.[6] The hardest hit were young ones who had their homes bulldozed or who lost loved ones like their mothers, he said. Again, these figures were obtained well before conditions dramatically deteriorated.

Gaza is a land of youth. About 45% of the population is 14 years old or younger and about 60% are 19 years and younger, political economist Dr. Sara Roy said. [7] With such a young population facing constant violence, the long-term effects are incalculable.

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Particularly horrifying about the situation in Gaza is that there is no “post”trauma for most in Gaza.

Recent studies by international researchers and the Gaza Community Mental Health program revealed more worrying figures.[8] Of a representative sample of children in Gaza, more than 95% experienced artillery shelling in their area or sonic booms of low flying jets. Ninety-four percent recalled seeing mutilated corpses on TV while some 93% witnessed the effects of aerial bombardments on the ground. More than 70% of children in Gaza said they lacked water, food and electricity during the most recent attacks, and a similar percentage said they had to flee to safety during the recent attacks.

Additionally, 98.7% of the traumatized children reported that they did not feel safe in their homes. More than 95% of the children felt that they were unable to protect themselves or their family members causing a feeling of utter powerlessness only compounded by a sense of loss over the lives they could have had, safe and boring lives that many take for granted.

A whole generation is being lost to the horrors of large-scale military violence and a brutal occupation. In front of many distraught members in the audience, Kanter described another study that showed that witnessing severe military violence results in more aggression and antisocial behavior among children, along with the “enjoyment of aggression.” There are similar studies among Israeli children who witness terrorist attacks.

Post Traumatic Stress disorder, Dr. Kanter said, is an “engine that perpetuates violent conflict.” It leads to three characteristic symptoms. The first involves reexperiencing the traumatic events in the form of the nightmares, debilitating flashbacks, and terrifying memories that haunt people for years afterwards. Other people may develop avoidance symptoms in which they become isolated and emotionally numb, deadened to the world around them. The third symptom involves hyper arousal, which may lead to excessive anger, insomnia, self-destructive behavior, and a hypervigilant state of mind. Other maladies like poor social functioning, depression, suicidal thoughts, a lack of trust, family violence are all associated with PTS.

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More than 70% of children in gaza said they lacked water, food, and electricity during the most recent attacks, and a similar percentage said they had to flee to safety during the recent attacks.

The most recent study however, revealed that in the aftermath of the most recent assault on Gaza an unbelievable 91.4% of children in Gaza displayed symptoms of moderate to very severe PTS. Only about 1% of the children showed no signs of PTS.

Try to imagine an area with this many people—the city you live in for example—where 9 out of 10 children exhibited symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. What would daily life be like? What would the future hold for your city’s youth?

Particularly horrifying about the situation is that there is no “post” trauma for most in Gaza. Whereas soldiers who endure traumatic experiences in a war zone can return home to relative calm and seek treatment, the people in Gaza continue to held in what one Israeli rights group labeled the “largest prison on Earth”[10]—a methodically “de-developed” island of misery isolated from the rest of the world. The fate of the 1.5 million “unpeople” trapped there is of no concern to the occupying army or its international backers.[11]

This will be the enduring legacy of the Israeli occupation. One of the most distressing prospects for peace are studies of similar war-torn populations like Kosovo and Afghanistan that showed that military violence often leads to widespread feelings of hatred and the simmering urge for revenge. One can easily predict the future consequences of a large number of young people exposed to this level of trauma.

As Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj warned soon after the offensive, Palestinian children in the first intifadah 20 years ago threw stones at Israeli tanks trying to wrest freedom from Israeli military occupation. Some of those children grew up to become suicide bombers in the second intifadah 10 years later. It does not take much to imagine the serious changes that will befall today’s children.[12]

Women in the war zone are have a unique perspective to share, yet their story is an all too familiar narrative: violence that leads to anger, vengeance, and the destruction of the bonds that tie a society together.

Tihani Abed Rabbu, a mother who lost her teenage son, brother, and close friend, spoke of her fears: What worries me is the safety of my family, my sons and my husband. My husband is going through a difficult time, a crazy time. He wants to affiliate with Hamas, he wants to get revenge after what they [Israel, I think] have done to us. How do you expect us to be peaceful after they have killed my son and turned my family into angry people – as they refer to us, “terrorists.” I cannot calm my family down.[13]

Chris Hedges, former New York Times Middle East Bureau Chief, reminds us that, A father or a mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. A boy whose ill grandmother dies while detained at an Israel checkpoint does not forget. All who endure humiliation, abuse and the murder of family members do not forget. This rage becomes a virus within those who, eventually, stumble out into the daylight.[14]

Despite some positive steps towards regaining some sense of normalcy, mostly from small non-governmental groups and international activists, the crushing siege continues and basic conditions of life continue to deteriorate. For many, hope is fading. Despair is spreading. “The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us,” Harvard specialist Sara Roy warned. Many share Roy’s fears that “What looms is no less than the loss of entire generation of Palestinians,” which she fears may have occurred already.[15]

In the face of this onslaught however, lies a stubborn resistance. This resistance takes many forms—the one most often seen in the US is that of the few who see armed conflict as the only path to liberation. “While some Palestinians return Israeli violence with further violence,” journalist Philip Rizk said, “the vast majority does not.” Many bear invisible scars but they nevertheless go on with their daily lives: put their children through school, study and try to do well in exams, seek to serve their home and community, laugh and play, and ultimately try to retain their sense of dignity while living under foreign occupation. As Rizk observed, “the Arabic word for such everyday acts of non-violent protest is sumoud, which means steadfastness, perseverance.” [16]

This essay is a part III of a longer series on Gaza.

1.Edwards Said and David Barsamian ,The Pen and the Sword, Common Courage Press, 1994, page 99

2.“’Gaza wears a face of misery,’ Adam Makary, Al Jazeera” April 4, 2009 http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/…

3.“Young Freud in Gaza” Al Jazeera, June 18, 2009 http://english.aljazeera.net/progra… 4.“Israel’s ‘Crime Against Humanity,’ Chris Hedges, Truthdig, December 15, 2008 http://www.truthdig.com/report/prin…

5.“Gaza: What Next? A Teach-In on the Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza” UW Global Health, February 5, 2009 http://depts.washington.edu/deptgh/…

6.“Clips from Dying to Live, a documentary film by Amineh Ayyad about health and human rights in Palestine. Shot in 2002. http://palestinejournal.blogspot.co…

7.’Sara Roy – Beyond Occupation” Australian Broadcasting Corp. October 14, 2008, Part 17, 1:03:00 http://fora.tv/2008/10/14/Sara_Roy_… 8.Gaza Community Mental Health Program http://www.gcmhp.net/ Additional figures from recent studies reveal the following conclusions (from a June 3 press release): •66.6% of the children appeared to have some symptoms of anxiety and psychological fears. 42.0% of the children expect events similar to those they passed through. •36.4% of the children feel disturbance and tension when experiencing events reminding them of the tragic war. •98.5% of children did not feel secure during the war due to their sense of powerlessness to protect themselves and the inability of others to protect them. •61.5% of the parents indicated the emergence of unusual behaviors among their children (such as continuous crying, and restlessness). •40.6% of parents indicated that their children have problems with their peers. •82.1% of the children expressed their conviction that Gaza is an unsafe place. •73.5% of the children had fears of being targeted and killed. •76.6% of children had fears of occurrence of what happened to them during the war.

9.GCHMP, Thabet, et al., “Trauma, grief, and PTSD in Palestinian children victims of War on Gaza”

10.“ Gaza Prison: Freedom of Movement to and from the Gaza Strip on the Eve of the Disengagement Plan” http://www.btselem.org/English/Publ… “The Gaza Strip-One Big Prison” B’tselem http://www.btselem.org/Download/200…

11’Good News,’ Iraq and Beyond,” Noam Chomsky, ZNet, February 16, 2008 http://www.chomsky.info/articl…

12.“A 14-year-old in Gaza has one question: Why?” Eyad El-Sarraj, January 11, 2009, Boston Globe http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/e… “Cast Lead: As many as 352 children killed” Defense for Children International, Sept 3, 2009 http://www.dci-pal.org/english/disp…

13.“Women in the war zone: Gaza” Helena Cobban July 7, 2009 http://justworldnews.org/archives/0…

“Gaza conflict: Views on Hamas” BBC, July 7, 2009 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_e…

14.“Israel’s ‘Crime Against Humanity,’ Chris Hedges, Truthdig, December 15, 2008 http://www.truthdig.com/report/prin…

15.“Destroying Gaza,” Sara Roy, The Electronic Intifada, 9 July 2009 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/ar…

16.“’Gaza wears a face of misery,’ Adam Makary, Al Jazeera” April 4, 2009 http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/…

Aditya Ganapathiraju is a human rights activist living in Kenmore, Washington in the United States. He is a psychology and philosophy student at the University of Washington.

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One thought on “Gaza: The Forgotten Story. By Aditya Ganapathiraju

  1. These three articles by the journalist Mr. Aditya Ganapathiraju represent the finest examples of good journalism: powerful articles that provoke, and move the hearts and minds, and force the readers to stop and think and ponder and wonder, and feel astonished that the world has not yet succeeded in plodding Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza. After reading these three articles, a fair-minded reader can not help but wonder why the new Nobel Peace Laureate in the White House has not done much to relieve the suffering of the children of Gaza, and why he hasn’t asked Netanyahu to allow the basic materials needed for survival. Has the world become blind to the plight of the Palestinians? Has the White House become deaf to the wails of the Children of Gaza? Is there any person with a beating heart who will remain unmoved after reading these three articles? These three articles are: The Gaza Chronicles: Part 1 – The Forgotten Story; The Gaza Chronicles: Part 2 – What a Siege Looks Like; and The Gaza Chronicles: Part 3 – Shattered Mind And The Children Of Gaza.

    I hope these three articles, together as a group, would be nominated for a prestigious international journalism award. I hope the editors and publishers of major magazines would nominate them for the awards. These articles deserve international recognition.

    I have been wondering since the arrival of fall here in New Jersey, and the nights have been getting colder by each passing day, how the destitute and ill-equipped people of Gaza will survive the bitter cold winter of Gaza. I shiver even in my sheltered home, and I wonder how will the Gazans survive in drafty, leaking tents that provide so little shelter? None of the houses bombed by Israel in Gaza has been rebuilt because of Israel’s embargo of building materials. I have not heard President Obama talk about Israel’s embargo of even basic materials necessary for survival, and I now wonder whether he will intervene and ask Netanyahu to lift the embargo. From what I have observed, it seems to me that President Obama’s ears are quite open to Netanyahu’s arrogant words, but they are shut to the cries of the Palestinians’ suffering children.

    Thank you very much, Mr. Aditya Ganapathiraju, for writing these articles. I can not describe in words how much moved I was when I read these articles. As I read these articles I thought of the great Indian writer Arundhati Roy. She is also well known for her powerful prose.

    Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

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