28 Jun 2013

A Doctor Among Gaza's Children

By Andra Jackson

Half of the people who live in Gaza are under the age of 18. Andra Jackson spoke to Mona Qasim ElFarra, a doctor who tries to ease the everyday suffering of these young victims of war

The seven-year-old Palestinian girl was so traumatised after seeing a bomb demolish her grandfather’s home last November, that she retreated into silence. It was destroyed last November during a sustained Israeli military attack, called Pillar of Defense.

According to Palestinian doctor and project Director for the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), Dr Mona Qasim ElFarra, the girl saw the bombing. For three weeks after witnessing the explosion, the Palestinian child rebuffed all efforts to persuade her to talk, she said.

In another child trauma case, a six–year–old boy who lost his mother in the aerial attacks responded by becoming extremely restless and aggressively touching people. “He was deeply disturbed and in need of attention,” ElFarra said. Medical workers have found children as old as 16 developing symptoms of bombing related trauma, like bedwetting.

ElFarra is Vice-President of The Red Crescent Society for Gaza Strip, an organisation that provides emergency medical care. She was speaking during a visit to Australia where she has addressed public meetings and met with church group and politicians. She was able to give a first-hand account of the impact the on-going conflict with Israel and siege of Gaza has on the population — and of Gaza’s rule by the militant Hamas group.
ElFarra was brought to Australia by the Sydney based Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine, with the support of the Medical Association for Prevention of War.

Last November's attack was launched after militants in Gaza fired a rocket on an Israel military patrol that injured four soldiers. During the eight-day campaign, Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza with bombs and rocket attacks. Around 1500 sites were hit, including apartments. According to human rights NGO B’Tselem, 167 Palestinians were killed. Palestinian attacks killed four Israeli civilians and two soldiers.

ElFarra’s work deals with the aftermath — the neglected story of the emotional and psychological impact of living with death and destruction, especially on children and women. “It affects the psychological well-being of the population,’’ she said. “Many children suffer years of trauma living with the destruction of thousands of homes. It can show up as an inability to focus at school.’’

Other symptoms seen by health workers include “darkness phobias, anxiety, clinging to their mother, children afraid to go to the toilet at night, and stammering.” Their troubled state can also manifest itself in sleeping disorders or screaming fits. Many stop eating or drinking. According to Gaza’s Health Workers Collective Organization, 45 per cent of children under five in Gaza suffer some form of trauma or post traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

ElFarra has given up her own practice as a dermatologist to concentrate on a project initiated by MECA to reach the war-afflicted children through the healing power of play. ‘’We try and alleviate the trauma with dancing, drawing, clowning, singing.’’ The more severely traumatised children are referred to psychologists for counseling.

“Through play, we get them to tell their stories and act out the trauma. We ask them to sleep and dream and talk about their dream,” ElFarra said.

The program has been very effective. The seven-year-old girl who had stopped speaking found her voice again after three weeks. There is also a program to train women to work with the children and to know how to recognise symptoms of trauma and how to deal with them.

Unfortunately, ElFarra said, “We have the human resources but not adequate funds for the project”. The funds they do receive come from MECA’s partner organisation in America. It is an important investment in the future of a territory where half the population of 1.7 million are children.

The psychological impact of living in an enclave subjected at times to military bombardment is underscored by her own experience during last November’s Israeli operation. She was in her apartment when bombs, dropped by F16 planes, fell just 200 metres away.

"The whole building began to shake, windows were broken and children were crying. For me, I didn’t sleep for eight nights,” ElFarra said. Despite the danger, she continued to go to work each day at the nearby MECA Centre. “It was my duty.”

Seven months after Operation Pillar of Defense, a significant number of people in Gaza are still living in tents or in wrecked homes that are unsafe. This compounded existing damage from the 2008 Operation Cast Lead campaign. Sanitation is a serious problem; most of the sewerage system was destroyed in aerial attacks. Ninety-five percent of water in Gaza is unfit to drink. Twelve per cent of children die from diarrhea, according to a 2009 UN report. A regular electricity supply is essential for pumping water to homes, but is only available intermittently. Medical workers are hampered by a 50 per cent shortage in medical supplies.

Due to the Gaza blockade, There is now “a collapsed or deteriorating humanitarian situation”, with 60 per cent of the population suffering food shortages. Over half the children under three have anaemia, and just over a third of pregnant women. “Gaza in 2020 will not be a liveable place,” ElFarra says.

She keeps rolling out statistics. "Over the past 16 months, 51 Palestinian women have given birth in ambulances and cars and 29 newborn babies have died at Israeli checkpoints,’’ ElFarra said. (Israeli soldiers manning border checkpoints can stop vehicles for hours or even days.) “Patients [needing outside treatment] can find it very difficult to exit Gaza,” she adds.

Over the past 16 months, there has been a shortage of facilities in Gaza for treating cancer patients needing chemotherapy. Patients need to apply to the Israeli government for a special permit to leave Gaza for treatment in Israel, Egypt or France. It is very difficult to get a permit; 90 per cent of applications are refused, according to ElFarra. “Patients have died waiting for permits. Many times children are issued permits but the parents are refused.”

The residents of Gaza, particularly young women, are coming under pressure to wear the veil and cease wearing western clothing. Hamas also wants to segregate school children from the age of 10 into separate male and female classes. Under Hamas, domestic violence against women has increased, Dr ElFarra said.

She found it  “appalling” that Hamas forced the cancellation of a United Nations marathon due to be held in Gaza last March by banning female entrants. “Sport is one of the things that encourages peace. It is very important to encourage sports projects, especially for women.” She is trying to promote running in Gaza and hopes to see funds available for running tracks.

With Gaza's park and few playgrounds wrecked by bombing or ruined by neglect, she is also spearheading a campaign to raise funds for playgrounds. Gaza’s 220 schools are so packed that children attend school in three-to-four hour shifts. Playgrounds will give them a chance to still have a childhood and an escape from the grim life that otherwise awaits them.

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Posted Friday, June 28, 2013 - 21:54

I can help but to feel emphaty among those youth. They could have been a lot better that facing tragedic wars. - James Stuckey

Posted Friday, June 28, 2013 - 22:44

Bad luck for them not being born "chosen"
Good luck for them that Israel can't perfect an ethno-specific bio-weapon

Posted Saturday, June 29, 2013 - 15:33

The biggest casualty in any war is always women and children, and in Gaza particularly that is the case.

Civilian casualties in Israel are admittedly small by comparison but none the less even there it is women and children who pay the price.

What is worse is how are these children [on both sides] going to develop a better attitude to each other whith such atrocious childhood memories?

We have reached the point where both sides are guilty of proselyting their own youth into systemic, endemic hatred.

what is it going to take to get all sides, overt and covert to STOP THE WAR?

Posted Saturday, June 29, 2013 - 18:25

"what is it going to take"?
A negotiation surely needs both parties to at least state their wants.

Israel won't even define it's borders.

Posted Monday, July 1, 2013 - 22:06


You make a good arguement there, on borders.

Saudi Arabia said the 67 Borders are the issue, sadly it got lost in firstly I think translation, and then it got caught up in the crossfire.

The 67 Borders are the issue for the following reasons;

  • In 67 Israel was in a stupid shaped border and that plus the long running dispute from 48 brought on the 6 Day War.
  • Palestine is annexed in the West Bank in just as stupid a shape and Israel being in a position to develop land in an ündefined area plus the long running dispute since 67 is what  pressures Palestine, and Hamas makes the same decision that Israel did in 67.

That is the point that Saudi Arabia was making and I agree with them.

The reason my opinion is like it is I will try to explain [this is a volatile issue I admit].

  • It is noon in the Colosseum
  • The net is up
  • Team Israel has the ball
  • The crowd is cheering Israel is a good Israel and Palestine is a bad bad Palestine
  • The ball goes to Palestine.
  • The crowd chant Palestine is a good Palestine and Israel is a bad bad Israel.

That is what international opinion not just looks like but has in fact been since 1948 from both the Israeli and the Palestinian point of view, we really do look like heathen in the Colosseum to both Palestine and Israel. As a result just when you think its getting somewhere there is another incident, either way.

Down on the street in both nations there are three large groups who would like to drop the war altogether and get on with something more like life.,,,,,,,,,,,,they honestly couldn't give a diggers cut glass about the conspiracy theories of the industrial revolution,

  • The Trade Union movement of Palestine and Israel.
  • Various secular Artistic Collaborations.
  • Grass Roots all inclusive Spiritual Groups.

Nobody in mainstream media or for that matter any of the blogs or twitters has made much comment about that.

In my opinion they are the three groups who should get some purchase in the process towards peace.

The more we in the west merely ping pong or argue about issues like Zionism the more we dis-empower the people who really know what is going on and what they want to do about it and the more we empower the same bloody scenario.

Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 13:31

Excellent article. Democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel's horrendous treatment  of the people of Gaza moved the Catholic Church to describe it as the Gaza Concentration Camp.

Thus Cardinal Renato Martino was the head of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace and a former Holy See envoy to the United Nations (see: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5473588.ece )

Cardinal Renato Martino in remarks to the Italian website Il Sussidario (2009): “Defenceless populations are always the ones who pay. Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp…  [Gaza rockets were] “not confetti”…{Israel ] certainly has the right to defend itself…We need willingness from both parties because both are guilty. No one sees the interests of the other, only their own benefit. The consequences of this egoism is hatred for others, poverty and injustice. Those who pay are always the local people – just look at the conditions in Gaza.” [1].

Cardinal Renato Martino  responding to Israeli protests over his “Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp” remarks (2009): “They can say what they want. I say look at the conditions in which people live; conditions that run contrary to human dignity. What is happening in these days causes horror.” (see  Cardinal Renato Martino quoted by Richard Owen, “”Concentration camp” remark threatens Pope’s visit to Israel’, Times Online, 8 January 2009: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5473588.ece ).

In contrast, the Australian Lib-Labs have an appaling record of support for Apartheid Israel . Apart from the US Government, the Australian Labor Government is perhaps the strongest supporter of Apartheid Israel just as a succession of racist Australian Governments were supporters of Apartheid Israel-backed Apartheid South Africa . Of course racism and Apartheid are utterly abhorrent to decent Labor voters and to all decent humanity.

Pro-Zionist Gillard Labor has made most Australians complicit in the horrendous crimes of the racist Zionists – the invasion, occupation, devastation and ethnic cleaning of 90% of Palestine; the Palestinian Genocide involving 2.0 million Palestinian deaths since 1936 from violence (0.1 million) or from violently–imposed deprivation (1.9 million); Apartheid Israel's democracy-by-genocide whereby only 6.7% of 12 million Palestinians (the adults of 1.6 million Palestinian Israelis) are permitted to vote for the government  ruling all of Palestine,  6 million Palestinians are forbidden to even step foot in their own country, and over 4 million Occupied Palestinian are deprived of all human rights and highly abusively confined  to West Bank Bantustans or to what the Catholic Church has called the Gaza Concentration Camp. Traitorous Zionists have subverted and perverted both Labor and the Coalition, Australian Mainstream media, the Australian Government, the ABC and SBS (most obviously in th epro-Zionsit-led Coup against PM Kevin Rudd in 2010). Zionism is genocidal racism in awful theory and appalling practice and the racist Zionists and their Labor supporters should be sidelined from public life as have been like racists such as the Nazis, .neo-Nazis, Apartheiders and KKK (se Gideon Polya, "100 Reasons Why Australians Must Reject Gillard Labor " , Countercurrents, 24 June 201: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya240613.htm ).

Anti-racist Jewish British former Labor MP David Miliband recently visited Gaza and commented: "Save the Children, obviously, is most concerned about the 53% of the Gaza population under 18. The statistics say 10% of children are "stunted" – so undernourished before the age of two that they never grow to their full potential" (David Milibvand, "Gaza represents the ultimate failure of politics", UK Guardian, 11 October 2011: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/11/david-miliband-gaza-politics-save-the-children ).

Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 16:21

Readers of this thread - eminent anti-racist Jewish American law Professor Marjorie Cohn (president of the US National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law ) has observed that in Operation Cast Lead 1,500 Palestinians were killed and 5,000 Palestinians (half of them children)  were wounded in response to ZERO (0) Israeli deaths from Gaza home-made rockets in the previous year.

While Zionist/Israeli invader deaths at the hands of Palestinians total 3,700 since 1920  (Israeli Foreign  Ministry), Palestinian deaths from violence (0.1 million) or from racist Zionist-imposed deprivation (1.9 milion) total 2.0 million since 1936 and Palestinian refugees total 7 million (see "Palestinian Genocide":https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ ).

Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist perversion and subversion of Australian media and MPs  means that horrendous Zionist mendacity prevails and the Awful Truth about nuclear terrorist, genocidally racist, democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel is kept from Australians even when PM Rudd was removed by a pro-Zionist-led Coup, when 25,000 Australians were being bombed by the Israeli Luftwaffe in Lebanon in 2006 and when Australians are variously tortured, tasered, shot, robbed , kidnapped or have their passports forged by Israeli state terrorists, including traitorous Australian Israeli state terrorists like Zionist Australian traitor and spy Ben Zygier (whose nefarious activities are still kept secret by anti-democracy, anti-human rights, pro-Zionist Labor).

Decent humanity unhesitatingly follows the fundamental injunction "Thou shalt not kill children" but  it can be estimated that the racist  Zionists are responsible for the mostly passive  mass murder of about 1 milion Palestinian children since 1936 (by way of comparison the Nazis killed an estimated 1.5 milion Jewish children in the period 1941-1945). 

Decent anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish Australians simply cannot in conscience vote for pro-Zionist Lib-Labs (Liberal-Laborals) and will vote 1 Green and put Labor last (the pro-Zionist Coaition is just as bad but unlike pro-Zionist Labor has not actually betrayed decent Labor voters and values).



Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 21:32

Geoffff;I'm sure you won't mind, after your slur of "racist"
You are a quite pathetic and a typical Zionist/Israel apologist screaming "antisemitism" or " racist" while in the same breath you make racist generalisations "The "Palestinians" will have peace when they want peace."
With the only case you offer for an accusation of racism being 'that there are more important issues' for us to complain about.

Here is a typical scenario of the "peace" a Palestinian extended olive branch can expect from the zionazis.

Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 23:39

phoneyid, why harp back to some controversy over who broke a brittle cease fire 5 years ago when it was obviously precipitated, as geofff has said, by the constant barrage of rockets that had been raining down on Israel from Gaza for 8 years. Children living in the town of Sderot had been living under huge psychological stresses, having to run for bunkers when rockets were being fired at their community. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygb6VrW8WZw

And Andra Jackson, renown abuser of proper journalistic principles, who reported in The Age what she heard second hand from those who attended the Caryl Churchill play reading 'Seven Jewish Children' a few years ago outside the State Library in Latrobe Street. She was not there and yet she raved on in the newspaper the following day as to what had happened, passing on second hand information that had been shovelled to her from her Palestinian friends.

Does she have any idea of what life is like in Gaza? She is happy to paint a picture of misery to prop up her political agenda. Is she aware of the property boom in Gaza?
The presenter of a Channel Four documentary about Gaza has said that the local population would not recognize the portrayal of the area in much of the UK media as war-torn.

Seyi Rhodes,a British television presenter and investigative journalist of Nigerian descent, travelled to the Gaza Strip in February of this year to film an episode of Unreported World, which aired during April on Channel 4 in Britain.
You can watch the episode at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXwHyJbb6Sg

Rather than reporting on a region torn apart by conflict, the program focused on the property market and booming construction taking place in Gaza. Mr Rhodes said the experience confounded his expectations. "Before I started researching, I thought the region was destitute - people living literally hand-to-mouth on aid, with constant security threats. I took it for granted that people would be living in temporary accommodation provided by the UN."

In fact, he found "a growing wealth gap", with ordinary families struggling even to rent, but new flats being sold for up to $3 million to wealthy Palestinians with money from abroad or from jobs with the Hamas government.

"As a left-wing student, I was given one view of Gaza/Palestine," said Mr Rhodes. "But I realise now that many of those representations were entirely politically motivated.
"Even Gazans wouldn't recognise the image that is portrayed of them sometimes. The woman crying over her dead son, the man throwing stones at tanks."

He added that such stereotypes were "frankly offensive as most of these people live their lives with the same concerns as you and me… getting on the housing ladder, educating your children. People didn't even talk about Israel unless I brought it up."
Read this story at http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/106410/it%E2%80%99s-boom-not-bombs-gaza-channel-4-documentary

Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 02:22

Face it MazelMan,
The Zionist movement with it's sights on the biblical land started with a bunch of "Athiest"(??) Jews in the 1800's with the Zionist Congress , plotting until it was overtly declared in the Balfour Declaration to Mr Rothschild in 1917, then advancing it's cause together with Hitler in the Haavara Agreement of 1933, until the English in their "good grace" gave it to them in 1947.

All so a bunch of people that call themselves Jews can move from where they've been in Russia or wherever else for over 1000 yrs + at best (even by Jewish legend), booting out the indigenous, so "Jews" can apparently reclaim their roots.... and then you ask me "why harp back".

Those that call themselves Jews with a "right of return" must have fantastic pedigree to legitimate their "right", because none of the rest of us have any idea on who our great great great great great great great great great etc Grand Pappy was; or his wife.

Legend has it that Jews are great thinkers, but logic tells me, as should yours if you have any honesty in you at all, that you have no possible way of knowing your roots that far back with any certainty and as such your claim to "right of return" is spurious at best.
More realistically though, your claim to this "right" has merely been plucked out of a book of religious myths that also asserts that God loves you so much more than the Goy that he parted the oceans only for "your people".

So "Why Harp Back"??
Why Did Mark Regev decide he had the right to usurp another's land and move there from Australia to become the spokesman for Israel in that video?

Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 02:35

and I'm glad you brought up Media representations.
Have you seen the new Movie with Brad Pitt..
World War Z
Check out the shorts... The animalistic Zombie hoards scramble to get to the humans only separated by a large long concrete wall, resembling that "security fence" in Israel (as Zionists like to call it); and guess who's on the other side to protect the world.... you guessed it... Israeli soldiers.

I gotta give credit where it's due. Israel loving Hollywood really knows how to give it to those Arabs.
Have you seen the docco "Reel Bad Arabs"? Those guys are pros!

Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 02:49

Don't get me wrong; I will defend the right for you to believe whatever you want; history, religion, anything, but problems arise and have risen when one's religious convictions impedes upon another.
And when my country becomes involved, as it has, then I claim the moral, logical and "democratic" right and even obligation to speak without "faith" in legends or myths to back me up.

Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 11:22

Phoneyid, great how you fly off on a tangent giving vent to all your irrelevant anti-Israel prejudices, not addressing a solitary remark I made.  You and Gideon Polya make a good team.  Are you ready to pack your bags and go back to where your ancestors came from and leave Australia to the indigenous aborigines, the rightful owners of the land?

Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 12:50

Are you speaking for them too now;

I didn't know they were calling for that

Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 22:30

The aborigines are realistic people; the Palestinians are "bad losers" who can't bear the thought of having been defeated by JEWS.

Posted Thursday, July 4, 2013 - 01:46

No, the Aboriginals had their lands stolen by Australia's Great Great Great grandfathers, and we 1stly acknowledge that and 2ndly seek to raise them as group from the ills "our" forefathers brought upon them, by extending greater rights to land, education, health care, social welfare in an effort to join them as one.

Unlike you who admits no theft and certainly offers no recompense, you and your father went and still go today to kick them out, and block them from; food, water, education, health care and even the right to walk on their land because you believe that you have pedigree (which can not be proven) entitling you to a land that your forefathers off millenniums ago apparently owned for a couple hundred year period.
And unlike you Eastern European Jews (ie 90%+ of Jews today) is not how the Semites treated each other on that land over the last 2000 years.
As one of Greek stock, I too can claim a historical right to biblical lands except I don't have an apparent perpetual leasehold granted to me by a God.

Posted Thursday, July 4, 2013 - 01:54

Fortunately you aren't negotiating with me, only debating, the Palestinians are willing to let you have their land as taken in 1948, but it's evidently not biblical enough for you, still expanding to "Greater " Israel.

Palestine is currently the only nation on earth resembling a chunk of Swiss Cheese as the Zionist rats keep eating at it.

Just take the land they offer and spare us all.