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A Pax on Both Your Houses: Trauma Legacies

By Tom H. Hastings

Honest minds (and others) are differing on many global conflict questions right now: Russia and Ukraine, Hamas and Israel, Trump and democracy, and so forth.

Unless we conduct our analysis in a trauma-informed fashion, we cannot find just and sustainable solutions, nor can we manage to make much sense while acting at the surficial frothy level, where the bloody business is triggering everyone.

Why does it matter? Why should a farmer in rural Missouri care about or need to develop an opinion about Hamas and Israel?

Because his family’s hard-earned money is funding it. Because the violence is creating a new generation of terrorists. That new generation may not strike directly at their farm in Missouri but the last big terror attack on the US–which was indeed motivated by the terrorists’ feeling that US military aid was violating them–was 9.11.2001 and the sons and daughters of Missouri farmers (and so many other hardworking American families) were suddenly fighting, killing, dying, and suffering lifelong injuries in Afghanistan.

After that, because Bush the Younger and Dick Cheney lied to regular Americans about both weapons of mass destruction and a nonexistent alliance between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, even more misinformed American families lost sons and daughters in Iraq.

Here we are again.

Osama bin Laden famously “justified” his terror attacks on American civilians because Americans pay the taxes that kill Muslims and deny true sovereignty to them. In every recorded interview of bin Laden conducted by western journalists in the 1990s, he stressed the American military aid to Israel that he asserted was killing Palestinians–a claim of his that is hard to dismiss.

It has been obvious for decades that, with US weapons and $billions annually in military aid, Israel has no motivation to seriously negotiate with Palestinians because they simply crush them routinely militarily, slaughtering fighters and noncombatants alike.

We fail to grasp the deep offenses of our national foreign policies at our own risk and that of our scions.

And yes, we are there again. Many of the bombs dropped on Gazans by Israel are stamped “Made in America.” Yet another traumatized generation of Palestinians who survive will turn to the maladaptive terror tactics that prompt the historically traumatized Israelis retaliating with brute state terror.

Traumatized Israelis? I hear many leftists scoff at that. One even told me that “they cling to the memory of the Holocaust to justify what they do.”

Um…sorry. Israelis are well and truly a traumatized people. And, like so many people who have been oppressed, enslaved, ethnically cleansed, and genocided, they will never forgive, never forget, and hold the philosophy Never Again.

Jews were persecuted for at least 800 years in Europe, driven out of countries en masse, forbidden from guilds, government employ, and other forms of livelihood, and finally genocided. Then they at last got a tiny sovereign nation along the Mediterranean Sea and were instantly attacked by Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, and expeditionary forces from Iraq. They survived that too.

The bloody creation of the nation-state of Israel was at the expense of some 600 Palestinian villages, thousands of Palestinians killed, and hundreds of thousands became refugees, according to Israel’s own statistics. That is an origin story of deep trauma.

The Palestinian Fedayeen attacks initiated in 1950 and, in a real sense, never stopped. In the 1960s, the Palestinian fighters coined the saying “from the river to the sea,” but that was only part of it. Those of us old enough remember it was a vow to “push the Jews from the [Jordan] River into the [Mediterranean] sea.”

It was a call for complete genocide of Israeli Jews. It became a dog whistle partial phrase used over the decades to call for genocide without saying it as explicitly as the Fedayeen did, as well as Arab leaders like Syrian dictator Hafez al Assad. Denial of this is disingenuous and ahistorical. Efforts to spruce this up, however well intentioned, may as well be attempts to rehabilitate “Heil Hitler!”

Further trauma ceaselessly impacted both Israelis and Palestinians as coalitions of Arab states arrayed against the survival of Israel and Palestinians were regarded by Israel as combatants because, unlike the history of wars as humanity thinks of them, the Palestinians then and now were impossible to separate, combatant and noncombatant. Few Palestinian fighters or terrorists wore Palestinian military uniforms.

Well, say some, isn’t that a lot like the American Revolution? Weren’t a lot of founding fighting patriots essentially guerrilla warriors like Hamas?

No. American colonists who fought in their civilian clothes were not targeting civilians, which is the classic definition of a terrorist. Fighters targeting fighters is war–targeting civilians is terrorism, whether that is done by a small group of fighters or by the military of a government.

Hamas targets children at music concerts–and Israel, with sophisticated weapons supplied by the US, says they target combatants but they take no serious effort to avoid “collateral damage” (slaughtered children and other civilians) when even one suspected “militant” is in a building full of others, full of peaceful people just trying to live. Mainstream media refers to this conflict as a war but in truth it’s an ongoing battle between terror forces.

This trauma is so deep, so mutual, and so intractable that adding guns and bombs is like fighting a fire with a hose spraying gasoline.

The US weaponeers have enriched themselves from the corrupt and failed public policy of supplying endless weaponry to Israel. If our elected politicians cannot do better, others should be elected who will channel funds toward humanitarian purposes, K-12 conflict transformation education, win-win negotiation projects, and reparations for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

 

Dr. Tom H. HastingsPeaceVoice Senior Editor, is Coördinator of Conflict Resolution BA/BS degree programs and certificates at Portland State University.

We are located in the traditional homelands of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Watlala Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other indigenous nations who made their homes along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. By recognizing these communities, we honor their legacies, their lives, and their descendants, and we do so by working to gain justice for tribal members. A good starting place: https://www.ienearth.org .

Do you know whose land you are on? Find out here: https://native-land.ca/ 

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