Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Arabs - or at least some of them - may still be human

With the term PTSD becoming a popular term these days, it is hard to have 1-2 weeks go by without some program or a news clip on NPR talking about PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The context is always that of the difficulties facing our soldiers coming from Iraq and Afghanistan. The adaptation to civilian life, once the adrenalin flow is over, is not easy. Many of them face all the difficulties resulting from what used to be called 'shell shock' during first and second world wars. Many will suffer from increased tendency for violence, depression, suicidal tendencies, spousal abuse problems, addiction, and even homicidal tendencies.
The cost of psychiatric care for many years to come is staggering, and the life time lost until the PTSD resolves, if it ever does, is not replaceable. Another place to find a lot of talk about PTSD is Israeli newspapers when they discuss the psychological support to their citizens after a terror attack or a Kassam rocket on Sderot in Israel, or even PTSD in the Israeli soldiers after serving in the occupied territories.

I remember one article discussing the stress IDF soldiers suffer from while patrolling the land they occupy and the people they oppress. A soldier was reported talking about how stressful it is when one feels that he could be attacked by the locals at any time. I guess the 'occupied' people are not civilized enough to know that they should welcome the occupiers, not threaten them!

Without belittling the seriousness of those situations, I always had some bitter smile on my face when I listened to something like that: what about those on the receiving end? How about Arabs? Do they have PTSD, or are even vulnerable to getting it? Or is it that the well-cared-for soldiers on the offense are the only ones that could be human enough to be traumatized by combat stress?

Iraqi and Palestinian adults and children are on the receiving end of the horror. Low flying supersonic jets and night raids are routine over many Palestinian areas. American gunships roaming over Iraqi villages are no rare events. Thousands of civilian Palestinians have been killed in Israeli raids. The tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis that are killed but are not even worthy of counting by our military and are reported as non-countable collateral damage.

For the 'survivors' in those areas: how does life feel? Do they suffer from PTSD? But forget about the sophisticated psychiatric jargon: how do they feel?
That is a question that one rarely ever hears on our media, even on intellectual outlets like NPR or PBS. I guess it is not our problem to worry about them, although being the cynic I usually am, I suspect the 'benign negligence' of the issue is not that benign.

Anyway, I came across this video on the Guardian web site today. It shows some of the local effort in Gaza to confront the issue. A Palestinian psychotherapist has committed her time and effort for the last 8 years to help traumatized Gaza children. She runs one of only 2 clinics of that kind that handle 800,000 children in Gaza. The video also shows how the children approached the parents of a child colleague of them that was killed during an Israeli Rocket strike.

Rarely ever you see the sadness of a Palestinian mother or father mourning a child lost at the hands of the 'Israeli Defense Forces'. More often than not we hear the stupid, racist and ugly comments of the propaganda machine and its 'Arab culture' expert telling us that Arab mothers teach their children to be suicide bombers, and celebrate when their children kill themselves.

A remarkable thing about the psychotherapist is that her own son was also killed in an Israeli rocket attack in Gaza 8 months before the video was recorded.
The 5-minute video is worth your time. Hope you would watch it.

Read the article accompanying the video on the Guardian web site.
The video page can be found here: 'There is no normal childhood'.
The Guardian page has a series of several videos covering aspects of the life of Palestinians in Gaza under unspeakable circumstances.

These are some of the titles:

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