While the disengagement plan and the surrender to terror were being discussed yesterday in the Prime Minister's Office, the Khoury family of Beit Hanina was burying its son George, 20, an Israeli student who was murdered in Jerusalem by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Almost at the same time, the parents of Fatma Al-Jaled from Khan Yunis were burying their 8-year-old daughter, who was fatally wounded by "warning shots" fired by Israel Defense Forces soldiers. This is the essence of the routine of death that has taken hold in Israel and the territories: the leaders prattle, the fighters kill and the children die.
The land is slowly filling up with more and more victims - Jerusalem, Khan Yunis, Ashdod, Gaza, Netanya, Jenin, Hadera, Rafah, Tel Aviv. When a national conflict permeates every home and becomes a personal conflict, it's difficult to remove it from the domestic environment. When the leaders finally put an end to this cursed war, and the fighters lay down their weapons, we will discover that the land is filled with hatred, fear and violence.
Last August, a comprehensive study on the impact of the first 20 months of the intifada on the adult Israeli population was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Some 16 percent reported having been directly exposed to traumatic incidents. Prof. Avi Bleich, the president of the Israeli Psychiatric Association, told the Palestine-Israel Journal last November that the secondary circle of people exposed to violence and bereavement, especially the family members and friends of victims, comprises 30 percent of Israelis. According to his calculation, every second Israeli is exposed to trauma, and this does not take into account the impact of people's exposure via the media. It can be safely assumed that in the 20 months that have passed since the study was conducted, this vast number has grown further.
The exposure of the residents of the territories to violence and death is even greater. The number of unarmed people killed so far is nearing 2,000. Many more have been crippled physically and emotionally. A study conducted among 10- to 19-year-olds in the territories last year by Dr. Iyad Sarraj, the head of psychiatric services in Gaza, discovered that 94.6 percent had experienced a funeral, 83.2 percent had witnessed shooting incidents, and 61.6 percent had seen a relative being hurt.
Over 97 percent of those who participated in the study revealed post-traumatic stress disorders of varying severity. According to the World Bank, the closures and blockades in the first two years of the intifada propelled the number of people living below the poverty line in the territories from 20 to 60 percent.
The Red Crescent claims that in 70 percent of calls for help, they are unable to reach the home of the sick person. A survey conducted by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics in September 2003 found that over half of the population of the West Bank reported difficulties in trying to reach their place of work or their fields. Dr. Mohammed Haj-Yihye, from the School of Social Work at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has for the last three years been tracking the impact of the occupation on adolescents (14- to 18-year-olds) in the territories. The most pronounced finding of his work (conducted with the help of focus groups) is that the most dangerous post-trauma reactions relate more and more to the extended family.
The level of anger and fear is higher among the third generation in Haj-Yihye's study, since they detect suffering, humiliation and depression among the first and second generation members of their family. Dr. Haj-Yihye also found that adherence to religious and nationalistic symbols, like the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the right of return, has been passed on to this group from the older generation.
For the information of the chief of staff, the study finds that the consciousness of the young Palestinians has not been seared, as he hoped, with the futility of violent struggle. On the contrary, they reveal growing moral and religious commitment. These youngsters also display anger toward the Palestinian leadership, and the desire to protect their families and to enact revenge in the name of their parents. The girls in this group express mainly frustration and loss of hope.
These youngsters are tomorrow's "terror infrastructure." They are more dangerous than all the weapons-smuggling tunnels in Rafah and the bomb laboratories in Khan Yunis. They are the daily victory of terror and of the occupation.
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