This week, in an operation chillingly named Truthful Dawn, the Israeli regime once again rained bombs on the besieged Gaza Strip. The three-day bombardment killed at least 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, and injured hundreds of others.
As if 15 years of crippling siege was not enough, year after year the coastal strip has been subjected to horrific “operations” in which thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been injured and essential infrastructure has been completely destroyed.
Back in 2012, the UN had predicted Gaza would be unliveable by 2020. By so many measures, the prediction has proved right. And yet, more than two million Palestinians continue to live there. Most of them do not live there by choice – recent polls estimate that some 40 percent of those residing in Gaza would leave if they could.
It is not surprising that so many cannot see a future for themselves in Gaza.
Life has not been easy for Palestinians in Gaza for many years, but with every “war”, every “operation” and every attack by the Israeli leaders, the conditions are becoming even more difficult.
Gaza’s Ministry of Health now predicts, for example, that the health services – which have long been suffering because of the blockade – will soon come to an almost complete stop due to the power outages and depletion of fuel for the generators. Indeed in addition to this latest bombardment, the Israeli regime has kept all the crossings into Gaza closed, preventing the entry of fuel and other essential goods.
Never-ending state of trauma
While the bombs stopped falling on Gaza on Sunday evening following an Egypt-brokered “truce” between Israel and the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, the repercussions of this latest assault will continue long after its end, like all the other Israeli “operations” before it.
People in Gaza are constantly trying to recover from previous bombardments while fearing the next one. And they have no way of recovering from the many injuries – both physical and mental – they have sustained.
Indeed various international NGOs and UN agencies are trying to document the never-ending mental health crisis in Gaza. Yet many of the methodologies and theories they use are totally inadequate. As Dr Samah Jabr, chair of the Mental Health Unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, recently underlined, this is because these organisations and agencies are trying to understand and address this crisis using Western concepts that cannot be applied to the reality on the ground in Gaza. The notion of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, is inapplicable to the experiences of Palestinians, because the trauma they experience from the settler-colonial reality is “repetitive, ongoing and continuous”.
And this state of constant stress and trauma transcends generations in Gaza and the wider Palestine.