Saturday, May 18, 2013

Alice Rothchild on the trauma Israel creates at home

In a Boston Globe op-ed Tuesday, Alice Rothchild, a doctor and a companion on the Dorothy Cotton Institute delegation to Palestine last October, applies the wonderful standard of the Israeli trauma team which came to Boston about the Marathon murders there to the State of Israel's conduct toward Bedouins and Palestinians.


This is a core or uncontroversial moral standard. It is a good thing that they do here but the standard is universal; it applies most at home where it is...forgotten. There are no Bedouins or Palestians who are traumatized because the state of Israel "couldn't be," "couldn't be" doing such things.

The team does not apply this standard at home because there are false empirical claims, racist and factual ones, coupled with fear, which organize the evil (the imposition of trauma) and the surprising neglect by the expert trauma team. These racist claims and fear override, in these telling cases, the core moral standards. (My book Democratic Individuality explains, in depth, this account of complex moral and political differences - that they are not driven by clashing, underlying moral standards - which is widely but foolishly denied in current moral relativisms...).


The same core moral standards which motivate each of us, those who identify with the Jews and many others in Europe who suffered under the Nazis and other forms of European domination apply just as strongly - this is easy for me to see as a Jew - to the illegal apartheid that the state of Israel enacts in the Occupied Territories.


The Bedouins who are travelers are not even accounted or provided for in the exclusively "Jewish" state. There is no active campaign of hysteria toward the Bedouins, as there is toward the Palestinians. They do not fight back (the Palestinians, as Amira Hass has recently emphasized, are of course justified in fighting back, as were the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto).

The Bedouins are just denied and oppressed by the state of Israel.


Alice was, as a teenager, a Zionist. Her discovery of what Israel has done and does daily toward Palestinians has led to a fierce commitment to tell the truth.

That the Boston Globe now prints something true about the Israeli trauma team coming to the United States is an important shift.


Americans, too, who have conducted a holocaust toward indigenous people and through slavery, segregation and mass imprisonment, toward blacks, are quick to point at - sometimes call for military action against - others.


That such false intuitions and policies are destructive for most of us is revealed, for instance, in the American aggression in Iraq - "it was as if after Pearl Harbor, FDR had attacked Mexico" as Richard Clarke, the fierce security expert starting under Reagan and disregarded by W., memorably put it in Against All Enemies. Ordinary Americans pay the costs in lives, mutilations and ptsd for all the murdering of innocent Iraqis, in the disgrace of torture and in debt for generations - the depression, the paralysis of Keynsian programs to put people back to work, the arrogant profiteering of the .0001%, aggravated climate change - Sandy, the droughts and fires (one near my house and) throughout the West - through the buying of politicians by the oil companies, and the like. That most of us have the slightest interest in American militarism - the leaders of the war complex do but I mean any of the rest of us - is unclear in any normal discussion (one not for the powerful i.e. in the corporate media, and adapted - fewer speak the truth from below except in cases like Occupy or individuals who stand up - to making them feel self-important...


Most Israeli Jews are harmed by militarism and the Reaganomics of Mr. Netanyahu (Romney's buddy). The demonstrations about housing in the summer of 2011 reveal this as does the fear which drives the expansion into the occupied territories. The huge number of well-designed - from the point of view of killing civilians - Israeli missiles and helicopters (fired by the Israeli government, made, i.e. Apaches, tear gas canisters from Consolidated Systems Inc. by the American war complex...) which strike into Gaza and the West Bank - are responded to by a few missiles from Gaza. Ordinary Israelis live in fear, see no long run future, and need peace and individual security.


Each of us must look into ourselves about the traumas we see, the traumas we have forgotten but move anew, to this moment, acts of oppression...


For links among Founding Amnesias, see here, here and here.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The Boston Globe
The Podium
The politicization of trauma care
By Alice Rothchild

On the face of it, Israel has made a good and generous offer: a country well-versed in advanced trauma care offers a team of experts to Boston and its neighbors at a time of great hardship, supporting the needs of innocent victims of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. Last week six Israeli trauma experts from the Israel Trauma Coalition for Response and Preparedness visited Boston to help develop recovery strategies with their local counterparts.

Funded by Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies to the tune of roughly $75,000, this is part of an effort to “provide people with a Jewish response to helping victims and their families recover from this traumatic event,” said Gail Weinberg of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas on its website. Interestingly, Israeli trauma teams have been active all over the world, from post-earthquake Haiti to post-Katrina New Orleans, from Mumbai, India to Toulouse, France. Coalition director Talia Levanon explains in The Times of Israel, “You are meeting different people in different parts of the world, but they all have the same fears and issues and responses. The world has become a small place and we derive a lot of strength when we work together. We speak the same emotional language all over the world.”

So why does this make me uneasy? While I have no doubt that the experience and broad community focus of the Israeli team has been helpful, Boston is a major medical center with world-class hospitals and trauma teams and strong community resources.

An Israeli team in Boston provides Israel with a feel good moment and well-publicized appreciation, from the Massachusetts governor on down.

But there is a powerful disconnect here. I just received a note from Rabbis for Human Rights about 40,000 Bedouin Israeli citizens who are being removed from their homes and sources of income to artificial townships. I am troubled by the steady stream of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli jails, trapped for months without trials in endless administrative detention.

Then there is the news from the West Bank town of Budrus, where years of nonviolent protests led to a change in the path of the Israeli-built separation wall. Last week, after the release of a graphic novel by Just Vision documenting that struggle, the Israeli army arrived, shooting tear gas and starting a fire in the village’s olive groves. And the 1.7 million inhabitants of Gaza, over half of whom are children, live on the edge of hunger, deprivation, and uncertainty due to the ongoing siege and frequent Israeli incursions.

There is also the issue of asylum seekers. In February, Israeli authorities deported over 1,000 Sudanese refugees to North Sudan despite the fact that, “[Sudan] has vowed to punish any of its citizens who ever set foot in Israel.” Ironically, many of the Sudanese who fled to Israel left from Darfur where there is an ongoing struggle by Jewish US activists against the genocidal policies of the Sudanese government.

But to return to the Boston victims, I have no doubt that the Israeli trauma team was filled with good intentions as well as expertise, but this feels like an opportunistic political moment where good deeds are actually part of a larger intent to manipulate image making.

What about the victims that are not an ocean away? Do they not “all have the same fears and issues and responses?” Do they not “speak the same emotional language all over the world?” I can only ask, are they not deserving of the care, expertise, and attention of Israeli trauma teams? Why come all the way to Boston?

Alice Rothchild is a Boston-based physician, author, and filmmaker who is active in the US Jewish peace movement

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