Thursday, July 02, 2009

In Sderot, Trauma Is The Unreported Casualty of War

David Bedein MSW, a community organization mental health practitioner who directs The Center for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem, Israel, also advises the Sderot Information Center for The Western Negev in Sderot, Israel.

In Trauma: the unreported casualty of war, Bedein writes about the casualties in Sderot that are not captured in the soundbites of the media:

In January, during the Israeli military incursion into Gaza which followed continuous shelling of Sderot and the Western Negev from Gaza, a BBC correspondent stood on a lookout point where she could see both Sderot and Gaza, and reported that more than 1,000 people had been killed in Gaza, while 13 people had been killed in Sderot and the Western Negev. 'The numbers speak for themselves,' she said.

If this were a sporting event tabulating the number of fatalities on each side, the BBC reporter would have a point. However, while newscasts from southern Israel do report the torrent of missiles from Gaza, these soundbites are often followed by a laconic news announcement of 'No damage and injuries', suggesting that there is no news story of any human interest for the public to be concerned about.

Nothing to be concerned about? In a story that has repeated itself hundreds of times, a shaken Sderot woman who had witnessed a missile explode in her yard and miss her home and family by a few metres, stared with disbelief at a reporter who congratulated her that she had suffered 'No damage and injuries'. Looking at the reporter, with her whole body quivering uncontrollably, she said to her that 'It's easier to photograph blood than to photograph the soul'.

Indeed, in a world of fast-moving images on the screen and even on the net, it is nearly impossible to portray this woman's psychological situation. The sight of blood is easier to report than an entire population living in fear and helplessness, with no ordinary life. Shrapnel injures the body; the body receives treatments and heals. The mental issue is more complicated to relate.

Indeed, the attacks from Gaza on southern Israel are not necessarily waged to inflict fatalities. These attacks, described in military jargon as 'low intensity conflict', destabilise the other side, and instill fear into the daily lives of the people. So when a siren goes off to warn of an incoming missile, an entire population knows that it has 15 seconds to scamper for shelter. Israel's southern region has endured more than 12,000 mortar, Kassam and Grad missile attacks over a period of eight years. That means that on 12,000 occasions, an entire population has run for cover.

Read the whole thing.

In a rare exception, the BBC has an article about the Uneasy recovery for Sderot and south Israel, with accounts of various Israeli families in Sderot and Ashdod who are continuing to deal with trauma--and with the deaths of loved ones.

Check it out.

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