Tomorrow marks three years since the most publicized atrocity of the 2014 Gaza assault: an Israeli missile strike that killed four boys while they were playing soccer on the beach in view of the hotel frequented by international media. The boys were from the same extended family, the Bakr family, and their deaths were even reported with horror by liberal Zionist outlets.
Of course no one in the Israeli military was ever charged with a crime or even violation of orders following the rubber-stamp investigation; the killings were deemed a mistake due to alleged use of a “compound” near the beach by Hamas militants. A United Nations commission characterized the action as a likely war crime, but the U.N. was prevented by Israel from conducting an investigation in Gaza.
The case is addressed in this documentary about the conflict, posted last month by the Irish Catholic NGO Trocaire. The documentary is narrated by John McColgan, Riverdance founder, and he spends a lot of time in Gaza discussing childhood trauma.
Sister Bridget Tighe has been in Gaza for two years. (Transcript here).
As I get to know the people, that’s when I hear the other things, the hopelessness, the fear for the future, their children, six years old, have lived through three wars so they’re traumatised, they’re clinging, they’re crying, they’re bedwetting. There’s a lot of violence, domestic violence, because the people are traumatised. So the longer I stay, the more I see, and I actually feel it in myself, the hopelessness that is pervasive in Gaza.
We then meet a child psychologist who works with Tighe: Ola Dweek. Her comments are even more harrowing. She says young survivors of the beach attack “lost their minds in a way” and she was not able to help them. Listen to her:
During the war I would go to Shifa hospital and deal with cases there. I also worked with the Bakr children. These are the children who were playing on the beach when gunboats opened fire. Three of them were killed and three survived. The surviving children became very aggressive. They changed completely, lost their minds in a way. I worked with them for a period but then I could not continue. I began to feel the war through the people I worked with.
During the war I did not suffer the way others suffered. One girl comes from southern Gaza from an area where everyone was displaced. The girl lost her brother. He had been her best friend. She witnessed his death up close. He was riding a bicycle when he was killed. She has been hugely impacted by this loss. She writes letters to her brother and brings the letters for me to read. She has nightmares about him every night. It is heartwrenching for me because I have been working with her for a year and she still talks about him.
Let us remember that more than 500 children were killed in that massacre of three years ago, and for nearly two months of hostilities American Jewish organizations supported the onslaught and worked to stifle criticism in our country. At that time I was on NPR’s “On the Media” as a guest of Brooke Gladstone, but that was a one-off; the Anti-Defamation League condemned my appearance; anti-Zionists are simply not welcome in American media. (Yesterday I was quoted in David Brooks’s column in the Times about a Donald Trump interview I once did, as a New York Times Magazine staffer; the article referred to me as a Times representative, but of course did not mention what I’ve done for the last 11 years, covered U.S. foreign policy at this website.)
The trauma of the children of Gaza should not be a question of Zionism or anti-Zionism, in the eyes of journalists. It is a simple matter of human rights, of nearly 2 million people in an open-air prison that when I visited reminded me of pictures of the Warsaw Ghetto. Were this happening to Jews, we can just imagine the outrage. But again: The United States has signed off on this nightmare, with the insistence of the American Jewish establishment. I can only pray that young Americans are absent the bigotry that enables these heartbreaking cases to pile up.