The Bruce Masters Column

A British author’s perspective on Israel, Palestine, PTSD and peace

A British author’s perspective on Israel, Palestine, PTSD and peace

Few realise that PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) affects the lives of an increasing number of both Israelis and Palestinians—as what was once referred to as ‘shell shock’ does not discriminate, everyone can suffer from its long-lasting ill effects.

Conducting a simple search online for ‘Israel PTSD’ brings up the following results—it is hard reading indeed, especially for those who have met and tried to give comfort to those plagued by this vicious malady.

‘Israel PTSD’
Prevention is better than cure

When we (in the West) think of ‘shell shock’, we think of 18-year-old boys, ‘Tommies’ cracking under the impossibly huge strain of non-stop artillery bombardment, relentless gunfire, privation, fatigue—and the sight of their friends dying all about them.

The fact that there were many who were not (after both world wars) laid low by PTSD tells me that men were made of sterner stuff back then; I imagine these days, with the increasing trend towards ‘coffee culture’, skinny jeans and ‘snowflake-ism’, it would be the majority who would come out the other end as both victims of war and of PTSD.

It is my sincere hope that there isn’t another war anywhere, so I do not rail against skinny jeans, but if war is to stop everywhere, it means the conflict in Israel (which I view as a war of sorts) needs to stop also, due to it destroying the minds of the new generation of Israelis and Palestinians…

My research into this subject led me to the ground-breaking work of Professors Talma Hendler and Nathan Intrator of Tel Aviv University, who are jointly working to combat PTSD.

Israeli and Palestinian children suffer PTSD due to extremism

Their work is very hopeful (whilst being technologically advanced) centring around ‘functional magnetic resonance imaging’ being used to ‘track’ PTSD deep inside the brain—this could end up helping thousands if not millions across the world.

PTSD doesn’t care what your race or religion is

This new approach sounds innovative and positive in the fight to cure PTSD; however, I have a better solution and one that is far simpler—create peace… If the world creates peace there will be no need for Hendler and Intrator to devote their life to fixing a problem that in a civilised and modern world just shouldn’t exist…

The hard-core voices who take a ‘principled’ and unwavering stand against the state of Israel, who refuse to engage in constructive dialogue (in the interests of creating real peace), are by now shouting, ‘The Palestinians have it worse!’—not true.

In the Palestinian territories (or Palestine, if you prefer) the citizenry under groups such as Hamas live in a constant state of radicalisation and conflict, in stark contrast to their counterparts but a few miles away, who do not crave war but peace.

A bomb/rocket shelter in Israel

The four-plus million Palestinians are on what could be termed as a continual ‘war footing’. If you view the photos immediately below, you will understand what I mean by using this term and my claim that the innocent Palestinian people have, in fact, been radicalised—a path that will only lead to the destruction of their mental health and ultimately Palestine itself, as there can be no victory against Israel and her allies.

Inspiring to some, heartbreaking to others
They have no future, unless there is peace

I love the underdog, always have, cheering for ‘Rocky’ over his bigger, more powerful opponent every time; but this is not Hollywood, this is the real world, and beyond the avoidable deaths (on both sides) the ugly reality of PTSD rears its head whenever Israelis see a rocket flying towards their city or when Palestinians see an IDF tank…

The ‘extreme left’ like the underdog too

I always speak out against extremes of any kind, including the extreme right and left, violence, war and oppression—this is not a political piece by the way, but a human one.

The anti-Israel lobby, as those who criticise that nation so often and vigorously could be coined, have found their underdog of choice in the Palestinians, and who could blame them?

The media (Fake News as President Trump would say) rarely discuss the negative impact of the Palestinian/Israel conflict in relation to the Jewish people, the knock-on effect being a radicalisation of the hearts and minds of Americans, Brits, Fins, Australians and just about everyone else who has access to ‘news’ channels or the internet—which is the majority of the planet.

If such (I am sure well-meaning) politically-minded activists had visited the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma in Jerusalem, they would have seen the young children, the youngest of children, whose lives were scarred by PTSD, caused by the constant threat of being stabbed, shot, and bombed—tens of thousands of Israeli children, who are wholly innocent, are being terrorised to the point of traumatic mental injury…

Do Palestinian children suffer also? Yes, of course, for they have fragile and developing minds also, which need to be cared for, safeguarded and nourished, not filled with hate, anger, sectarianism and violence.

It is in the interests of the young (on both sides) that a lasting peace should be reached swiftly, the timetable should not be a five–ten-year affair but rather a five–ten-month affair—and then, finally, Israel could spend all her time providing treatment to the victims of the war as she would no longer have to contend with the majority of the world criticising and attacking her every move.

Someone is to blame for war, there are always a few individuals who cause conflict, but it is not the children or, for that matter, the vast majority of Palestinians or Israelis at fault.

The majority crave a peaceful life, full of laughs, love, happiness, socialising, the occasional holiday and every once in a while, perhaps even a new car.

But these things, unfortunately, are truly unattainable when rockets may fall upon you from the sky at any moment, or when an Israeli fighter jet attacks your neighbour’s house, where the rockets are being fired from…

Both sides are victims

Living with PTSD

In a word, this disorder is debilitating. It is so bad, in fact, that (to the great shame of multiple nations, not all that many years ago) many civilians who bore witness to returning soldiers suffering the most extreme side effects of PTSD ignorantly thought them ‘weak’, ‘mental’, ‘cowards’ or ‘not real men’—no one can know the horror of war and conflict until it is upon them, and that is what is upon ALL Israelis and Palestinians. The only ones unaffected are those pulling the strings, those who put weapons into the hands of children…

Mental trauma doesn’t discriminate, yet what is clear due to the available evidence is that medical centres and clinics in Israel always see a spike of new cases of PTSD during rocket/bomb/knife/gun attacks on Israel and her citizens, is anyone surprised?

It is logical to assume that due to the Jewish state being a wealthy, capitalist and modern democracy, her people embody a culture of tolerance, equality and even liberalism.

In Israel, you can find a myriad of subcultures and ways of life, with the newest western trends, music and influences filtering into the developing minds of the young—and this is why, I assert, the cause behind Israel’s children being adversely affected (in relation to PTSD) is their exposure to ‘nice’ culture, as seen on the TV or YouTube, the polar opposite of the children in the photo below, who, although brainwashed and traumatised to a degree, are (thankfully for the sake of their mental health) somewhat ‘hardened’ by their upbringings; extremism staves off PTSD, hate quells everything.

Stop fighting, start talking, believe in peace

Am I calling for Jewish teens to become extreme as a way to defend against PTSD? No.

Israel is on the right path, I applaud her. I’m not Jewish by the way, or a religious zealot of any stripe, I am just a man who hates the idea of these two proud peoples tearing one another apart long after I am dead—Palestinian/Israeli peace and friendship is the most beautiful idea, it makes me smile just to say it: Palestinian/Israeli peace and friendship.

This is the point where I am called a ‘Nazi’ by many people who seem to prefer the conflict goes on forever, eternally, as a reason to moan, instead of actually embracing a positive message and blueprint for peace.

Nazi? No. That’s why Israel exists, because of the Jewish people’s past, and it was a damn hard past.

The determined voices who speak out against Israel may already have leaflets, posters, documents, photos and a plethora of other materials that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that ISRAEL is at fault, always, in every instance—this assertion is both right and wrong.

The situation is the Middle East is beyond complicated and most commentators have never set foot there. Their arguments and lines of attack are fuelled (they believe) by righteous passion (however misplaced) in defence of the underdog—we should admire them, not ridicule them, for so many have their hearts in the right place, but love of the underdog is often blinding, the cause of ‘liberation’ truly compelling.

Both sides are victims

Moving forward.

I say, as in every other instance in history when peace has been made (often after millions are killed in the process), there needs to be a forward-only looking approach. All the recriminations are counterproductive you understand, it will not lead anywhere, you score political points for but a day only, shame and embarrass a proud people for but a day only—the staunch attackers of Israel do all they can to hurt her, yet that nation is robust, she will take all the slings and arrows, you waste your effort and admirable enthusiasm.

It is only in looking forward that peace will be attained, and it WILL be attained, one way or another.

It is ironic that so many attack the Israeli government’s handling of the conflict, the tactics employed to counter threats/violence against Israel and the unfortunate (and numerous) civilian casualties that occur as a result of said tactics and operations. It is ironic due to (in my view) Israel being measured in its approach towards the Palestinians.

What happened to the Native American Indian when ‘settlers’ arrived?

What happened to Jews and other minorities in Europe in the 1940s?

What has just happened to the 140,000 Christians in Iraq/Syria as a result of the caliphate that rose and fell there?

Yes, Israel has been measured and has held back for the longest time from all-out war, occupation and conquest. Please ask yourself why this is. There is only one answer, as it would be far easier to destroy rather than contain the threat—the answer is that Israelis love their neighbours, the answer is that Israel wants peace.

Believe me, if my nation was under constant threat, being attacked in every way imaginable and, in addition, the world media and an assortment of political activists scolded my people whenever we fought back against the aggressor, I would be damn angry, angry and frustrated.

I crave world peace; it is what the Creator desires, what all children deserve. I crave peace, but I will fight relentlessly to attain it, even if that means (as in World War Two) invading a sovereign aggressor nation and laying waste to them until they embrace peace and lay down their arms.

Take heart, however, Israel, as you are not alone in drawing criticism.

The entitlement created by a move towards a ‘Social Media World’ that should be an enabler of peace has brought about the opposite, with every man and his dog now broadcasting why they feel it is ‘Israel’s fault’ or what the IDF should do differently in regards to military operations/strategies for instance…

I discovered the illogical and self-serving nature of many such social media users just a day ago, when I made a case against defending/excusing child abuse—sexual abuse against children to be precise.

As I say, Israel, take heart as, unbelievably, I was called (by one Twitter user) ‘Worse than a rapist’ for re-litigating historic crimes/abuses against children, due to the user thinking my motivations anything other than altruistic and loving.

Many others attacked me also for my principled stance, but that is the world we live in, one that is in sore need of real (not fake) news, morality, equality, the peaceful exchange of ideas without name calling and peace. This world needs peace—and perhaps it can start in the Middle East, as bizarre as that may sound to many readers.

Let’s be bold; let’s strike a blow for peace. All are affected by war, no one wins, Israel is slightly better off in some ways but far worse off (as in the PTSD its children and soldiers are experiencing) in others.

Is forgiveness possible?

Of course, look to Germany, who only a few decades ago made enemies of the majority of the world, whose people were hated, demonised and ALL labelled as evil, murderous and hate-filled.

Today, the citizens of Germany and France, the U.K., Russia, Poland, America as well as all other nations that became swept up in the chaos of WW2 are firm friends—at peace with each other.

This is after millions were slain, including unfathomable civilian loss of life also, far beyond what has taken place in the Middle East, far beyond the worse vision of hell imaginable; yet we are now friends, for to hate forever dooms our children. All loving parents are driven towards peace, driven by love and hope.

If Britain can forgive Germany and if America can forgive Britain and if every other nation who has been the victim of another can forgive, make peace and move on, move forward into a brighter and more peaceful era, I know that Israel and Palestine can forgive each other for the wrongdoings of their fathers and of their former leaders.

The more Israel OR Palestine is criticised the further both countries are pushed away from an eventual and eternal peace—the only other way to secure peace would be following a cataclysmic war, which would ignite the region and latterly the world. So allow Israel to breathe for a month or two, let the passions calm and tempers cool off on both sides.

If war it must be, to secure lasting peace (all-out war, as in WW2), I would understand, but let this be the very last option. Our worst enemies, those we disagree with the most, those who wish us harm as we wish them harm also, are just people, like you and me, not monsters, not evil, they are just people trying to survive in this crazy world.

Love and unity

Empathise with your enemy, put yourselves in their situation and then tell me if you would act any differently. If you say that you would, you are being disingenuous. Humans are all alike; Israelis and Palestinians are motivated by instinct, the instinct to be free, happy and prosperous. These things are coming soon! But only if a few brave men and women (in that part of the world) in government/power have the courage and will to make it happen…

Forget religion, politics, history, tribalism. If you love your children, make it happen, make peace happen and Make Israel and Palestine Great Again!

—I refuse to give up hope; my faith is ever in humanity.

The only enemy is war.

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