Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 24th, 2014

People in Gaza: In such a Psychological mess

No need to look at the physical devastation to feel the aftermath on the mental well-being of the Palestinians from all the successive preemptive wars of Israel on Gaza

KHUZAA, GAZA — Mosallam El Najaar, the retired customs official who is walking me through this small village in southern Gaza,  said “It feel like the Day of Judgment.”

It looks like it, too. Houses are as squashed and scattered as paper cups.

A water tower is torn up close to the ground like a stalk of corn. Mosques, schools and factories are blasted, useless shells. Olive trees that were almost ready to yield their fruit are reduced to kindling.

It goes on, block after block here in Khuzaa, as well as in Beit-Hanoun in the north, Shejaia to the east of Gaza City, and Rafah in the south.

Altogether 20,000 homes are destroyed and uninhabitable, 39,000 people are still living in UN shelters, and perhaps 100,000 more are homeless, crowded in with relatives. Building materials promised by the UN and international donors are stalled or unavailable.

But the catastrophe here is not just physical. Upheaval has wrecked lives, severed families and upended routines.

“The psychological damage is even greater,” says El Najaar, who is leading some local reconstruction efforts. “And it will take much longer and be far harder to repair.” It’s a tragically common refrain here — from political leaders, homeless women, university officials and my own team of trauma counselors from the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

I’ve worked for 20 years with psychological trauma – during and after the war in Kosovo, after the earthquake in Haiti, with U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Israeli towns like Sderot that have been continually shelled by Hamas for years before, as well as during, this summer’s war.

And since 2002, I’ve worked here, in long-beleaguered, isolated Gaza, leading workshops, training local clinicians and leaders and setting up a program of self-care and group support to deal with the population-wide psychological trauma.

In those decades, I’ve never seen psychological devastation this intense.

 

Almost all the hands I shake, seven weeks after the fighting has stopped, are cold with a “fight or flight” response that won’t quit even though the situation no longer demands it. When I ask children and adults in the half-dozen Mind Body Skills Groups that our Gaza team leads whether they have trouble sleeping, all hands go up.

Just about everyone has regular nightmares of bombs falling, tanks roaring toward them, body parts lying in the street, children buried under rubble, screaming for help that never comes.

In a resiliency-building workshop I lead, ambulance drivers from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society share the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder that afflict them: the sudden rages, flashbacks of the dead and dying, the long withdrawn silences.

These guys — as courageous, tough, and funny as the New York City firefighters they resemble — now say they cannot think straight or remember the simplest things. Their wives say they thrash their arms and legs and scream in their sleep.

Gaza’s long-enforced isolation and powerlessness continue to compound and reinforce every symptom. So, too, does an experience of Israeli aggression that everyone I speak with feels to be unprecedented.

For Gazans there was, during this war, no safe place and no way out. People who were told by Israeli soldiers to leave homes that were about to be bombed said they rushed for safety to the next street, where they found more soldiers blocking their way, telling them to go back.

When they returned to their own houses, bombs greeted them. “Something inside us broke,” says a man in Shejaiah whose two sons – the sole survivors of 26 family members – cling to him. “We didn’t think the Israelis would do this.”

In the school in Rafah where 3,500 homeless Gazans sleep like logs lined up on thin blankets spread over concrete floors, uncertainty about the future is crushing. Mothers fear the next round of Israeli bombs will kill children on their long way to still-standing schools. Parents are sure they’ll never be able to rebuild their homes or pay for their kids 10f8 ’ university education.

I have seen this level of distress, unaddressed, lead to fixed destructive biological, psychological and social patterns: agitated children and adults focus and function poorly; impatience explodes in domestic abuse; and free-floating fear and anger push desperate people toward individual and collective violence.

Our Gaza team tries to restore some small measure of control, and even hope. Kids doing slow “soft belly” breathing discover it’s possible to loosen knotted shoulders and quiet fearful thoughts.

They sleep better, and their nightmares are less overwhelming. Adults who express their fear, anger and frustration in our groups feel, at least for a while, that their thirst for revenge is slaked.

And those who help others, as well as themselves — in or out of our program – can still summon considerable energy. Exhausted school principals and teachers, as well as neighbors, find comfort and inspiration in helping other people’s kids. They, like El Najaar, the ambulance drivers, and my own team, move resolutely forward.

“We want to rebuild. Of course, we must rebuild,” concludes a principal sitting in one of our mind-body groups. “We need help to do it, help from Israel and the world. But it is not enough.” The Quran, he assures me, “tells us before we change the outside, we have to change the inside – the mind and the heart.”

November 3

James S. Gordon, a psychiatrist, is the founder and director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and author of “Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression

Monsanto’s mega-plant blocked.  Any Progress on Climate Change?

These are No small time victories for worthy issues.

There’s a lot that’s depressing in the world today, but scroll down and see what our future could look like if we just stick together.

 World issues on climate change, Monsanto, our oceans, the internet, democracy, free speech,  basic human rights, preemptive wars… have to be tackled vigourously.

After the March — Real Progress on Climate Change!! From Europe, the US, and China!

Progress on climate change
One of our 2,600 climate marches!

We desperately needed Europe to kick off a global round of ambitious climate commitments at a recent summit in Brussels, so I felt deflated when I was told by insiders there was “no way” the EU would stand up to big oil and coal to cut carbon emissions by “at least” 40% by 2030. But we didn’t back down, and they did it!

Here’s how we got from “no way” to a big win:

  • Drove the largest climate mobilisation in history with 675,000 people in the streets in 162 countries!
  • Got the UN Secretary General, 18 cabinet ministers, and countless politicians to join the march.
  • Delivered a 2.2 million strong petition calling for 100% clean energy to world leaders including French President Hollande.
  • Held advocacy meetings with the climate and energy ministers of France, Germany, Brazil and the UK.
  • Lobbied Poland, a key blocker on climate action, with an ad campaign that got news coverage throughout Poland and phone calls from Polish Avaazers.
  • Commissioned opinion polls in Germany, France, Poland and the UK right before the decision.
The climate march was a game changer
30,000 marchers in Melbourne!

The climate march was a game changer, cited by president after president in their UN summit speeches. While hundreds of organisations contributed to the march and the win in Europe, our role was crucial. The BBC said: “The marches brought more people on to the streets than ever before, partly thanks to the organizational power of the e-campaign group Avaaz.” And Germany’s Environment minister said: “I would like to thank the millions of people who have joined Avaaz…Without public support it will be impossible to stop climate change.”

US President Obama also responded to the climate march, saying: “Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them.”

Following the momentum building win in Europe, Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week – Obama promised reasonable-sized cuts in emissions, and China promised cuts as well, for the first time ever!

The momentum we desperately needed has begun…

After big oil and coal, what’s the next worst soulless corporate lobby? Yep, Monsanto. And that’s the next big victory that our community has helped win.

Monsanto’s mega-plant blocked!

Monsanto's mega-plant killed!
Protesting Monsanto’s seed factory.

When Monsanto tried to extend its grip over the global food chain with a massive new seed factory in Argentina, Avaaz members stood side by side with a local movement and stopped Latin America’s largest GM seed plant from being built this year.

Monsanto is a $60 billion mega-corporation that plays dirty. Here’s how we helped stop them:

  • Launched a 1 million strong petition and flooded the inboxes of decision makers with thousands of messages.
  • Worked with top lawyers on a briefing that showed Monsanto’s Environmental Assessment was illegal, making a splash in the media.
  • Released a poll showing that 2/3rds of town residents opposed the plant.
  • Supported local residents to build their power and a winning strategy.

Local grassroots leader Celina Molina said: “After more than a million Avaaz members stood with the people of Malvinas Argentinas, we won an important battle in the fight against Monsanto! From gaining access to documents previously denied to us by the authorities to running a game changing opinion poll, Avaaz was important for preventing the largest transgenic seed plant from being built in our backyard.”

Plus Big Wins on Saving our Oceans, the Internet, and Democracy

Big Wins on Saving our Oceans
Open Vote in Brazil
‘Nothing to hide!’ protest, Brasilia.

Thanks to several thousand Avaazers who donate monthly to sustain our small team, we can work on several issues at once. Here are some other big wins in recent weeks:

The Largest Marine Sanctuary in the World Created! – To support this critical reserve, over 1 million of us called on the US government, we commissioned an opinion poll in Hawaii, and more. And in the end, President Obama stood up to the big fishing lobbies and protected an area of the Pacific almost the size of South Africa!

Internet Neutrality Protected in Europe and the US!1.1 million of us lobbied the EU parliament to protect the free and open internet with strong rules on net neutrality.

And against all the efforts of the big telecoms companies, we helped get the win! In the US, Obama just followed suit and took a strong position to protect net neutrality that “stunned” the telecoms companies.

Brazilian Congress Ends Secret Voting! – After several months of steady campaigning with call-ins, activist stunts, media attention and more, Avaazers in Brazil (now 7 million strong!) pressed the Congress to almost completely end the shady practice of “secret voting.” It’s a huge victory for one of the world’s largest democracies.

Can you Spot The Difference? Modern Israel versus Nazi Germany

The genocidal public discourse against Palestinians and non-Jews in Israel is reaching fever pitch.

If we’ve learned anything from the horrors of the 20th century it is that fascism doesn’t stop: We must stop it.

We need to call time on Israeli fascism.

posted this November 21, 2014

Independent Israeli journalist David Sheen brought this image to my attention, with this tweet:

004 rush

You may find this image shocking, eerily reminiscent of the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, African Americans through the era of the Jim Crow segregation laws, or the UK hotel signs of the 1950’s reading ‘No Blacks, no dogs, no Irish’.

I do not make these comparisons for kicks, hype or wanton disregard for these past horrors.  It is because of those disgraceful periods in our history that we must not stand by while it happens again.

Here are just some samples of the sort of sentiments now acceptable to air in public in Israel today.

 

These are public figures, many on the public payroll, calling for the expulsion, harassment, torture and murder of civilians purely because of the ethnic group to which they belong.

And if you feel uncomfortable by the similarity between these pronouncement and those of Hitler, Goebbels and co, then just look what happened when 327 Jewish holocaust survivors and their descendents published an open letter calling on Israel to end it’s genocide against the Palestinians this Summer.

A012

These people, who survived the worst of the Nazi regime, say clearly:

“Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

So how did Israelis react to this letter?  Here are just a sample of the responses from Jewish Israelis on Facebook:

123

Translation:

Katy Morali: Holocaust survivors who think like this are invited to go die in the gas chambers.

Shmulik Halphon: He’s invited to go back to Auschwitz.

Meir Dahan: No wonder Hitler murdered 6 million Jews because of people like you you’re not even Jews you’re disgusting people a disgrace to humanity and so are your offspring you are trash.

Asher Solomon: It’s a shame Hitler didn’t finish the job.

This level of dehumanization and demonization of ‘Arabs’ does not remain confined to incitement and hate-speech, but spills over into street-level violence.

In recent days, Israelis publicly lynched a Palestinian-Israeli bus driver, just hours after Jewish-Israeli hate mob JSIL changed their profile picture to this:

002 keith

The body of Palestinian-Israeli bus driver Yusuf Hasan al-Ramouni, 32, from al-Tur in East Jerusalem was found hanging from a steel bar in the middle of his bus.

Palestinians claim six Israelis attacked al-Ramouni while he worked on his vehicle, while Israeli authorities argue suicide.

These same authorities claimed the murder of Palestinian-Israeli teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir was an ‘honor killing’ committed by family member over his sexuality.  Mohammed was kidnapped from outside his parents home, beaten, had gasoline poured down his throat and was burnt alive from the inside out in July.  It was later found that Jewish-Israeli settlers had committed the act.

But western media outlets continue to air Israeli propaganda as if the state were a credible source.  One example would be when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer aired Israel’s Liar-in-Chief Michael Oren claiming the 2 teens killed on Nakba day, Nadim Nuwara and Mahmoud Salameh, was a staged event and they might not even be dead. Never mind that local CCTV clearly shows the murders were real.

Whenever a Palestinian is murdered by Israelis, the Hasbara machine of Israeli PR kicks in to confuse and mislead.

Conversely, any act of violence against Israelis by Palestinians is amplified, and escalated to Al-Qaeda, War on Terror levels of significance.

Just this week, myself and other journalists close to the Israel-Palestine issue called to task CNN’s Washington Chief Jake Tapper for retweeting this image:

123

The whole situation brings to mind that famous quote from Malcolm X:

If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

While Palestinians, either side of Israel’s Apartheid Wall continue to face daily threats to their homes, livelihoods, and lives – they are treated by Israeli and Western media as the aggressors.

It is almost beyond belief that such a clearly asymmetrical scenario can be recast into a ‘conflict’ – it is not a conflict.  It is an illegal military occupation of one people over another, it is a racial Apartheid, it is a slowly unfolding genocide.  It must end.

The harsh truth is this: those people turning their heads and disowning the rights of Palestinians today, would have done exactly the same to Europe’s Jews during the holocaust.

They would have believed the propaganda, they would have absorbed and espoused the same bigotry, they would have tacitly or overtly gifted their complicity.  “Never again” means never again for anyone, or it means nothing.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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