Pathology meets Peace
By Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj
Gaza-27 June 2004:
After the storm that hit Rafah had subsided, I went there trying to find my way through the rubble, to tend the wounds, and to meet the children's eyes.
Amidst the devastation, I found the daring Israeli journalist, Amira Hass. I asked her, "How do you interpret all this?" With sadness and anger in her eyes, she replied, "It is difficult for a journalist to make a diagnosis. What is needed is a psychiatrist."
Amira Hass knows what she is talking about. She means that Israel does not only suffer from insecurity, but also, from a pathology that allowed its government to use brutality, killing, and destruction to a terrifying degree. Israel suffers from the disorder of the untreated victim who suddenly possesses power and much power.
This pathology was expressed bravely by Israeli minister Lapid, who said that the scene of an elderly Palestinian woman amidst the rubble in Rafah reminded him of his grandmother in the Nazi detention camps.
This is exactly the tragedy of Israel - it was a dream of the Nazi victims to be free and secure. Instead, Israel became a disordered case threatening its own existence with destruction. And that what was alarmingly expressed by the former Knesset speaker Abraham Burg in his famous article in which he warned of the fate of Zionism. (The Daily telegraph 28 March 2004).
In tortured and destroyed Rafah, I was taken aback by a man angrily swearing at the minister of health, the governor, and security forces chiefs! In Rafah also, some attacked the Red Cross and the UNRWA chief who came to announce their indignation against the crimes and to affirm their solidarity with Rafah. I could not justify this 'rage' as a reaction to what happened.
I say that we have become dependent on others, yet, at the same time we hold a grudge against them. We need the Arabs and ask for their assistance, but again, we blame them or even accuse them of collaborating with the enemies! We beat their ministers, we curse their presidents, while everyone knows that we depend on them and on external aid almost completely. We do not refrain from asking for help, but, we go further, and accuse the helpers of spying and short givings.
We came back from Rafah, with my mind full of conflicting thoughts, and my heart torn apart by pain and anger. On our way to Gaza, we stopped at Abu-Howley crossing in the middle of Gaza Strip. Hundreds of cars were lined up on the street, the pavements, and the surrounding fields. Everyone was trying to jump over others to pass as if saying, "I'm first, forget the rest..." The scene was of extreme chaos, a road that permits one car at a time. But, tens of cars from all directions lurch forward frantically to take that space. The traffic stopped and we waited for hours. I thought the Israelis had closed the crossing as they usually do. We waited in surrender and rage for four hours until we were informed that the Israelis had not closed the crossing, but, the anarchy of Palestinian cars from both directions resulted in clogging the road. That was one of the symptoms of the Palestinian disorder. Everybody wants to pass before the other and could not care less about order or law, even though each person knows that in disrupting order he is increasing chaos and thwarting his own passage.
Similarly, the young men in Rafah, who expressed their grudges or resentment about everything, wish to exercise their own power. They believe that they hold the whole truth while the rest are worthless and can be accused of treason.
Like the Chaos at Abu Howley crossing, luck and corruption gives friends and loyal people all the passage to high positions in the Palestinian Authority. Some Director Generals do not even have primary education (I have names)! State land is given to individuals whether through connections or as a reward for their loyalty. Some gangsters have built houses on state land because they are "protected".
While the catastrophe in Rafah was unfolding, the newspapers flood us each day with news about appointing a new minister or promoting someone to be a deputy minister. We all know that all these things are done through intermediaries to settle accounts, or in pursuit of personal interests, not based upon competency, merit, or in the interests of serving the country. Sadly, it seems that such promotions give some body a false feeling of power.
Israel may be sick, afflicted in its core by racism and arrogance of power after a long history of anti Semitism, humiliation and persecution. We are sick as well. We suffer from social and psychological disorders and much of what we see around us is a manifestation of some.
The long history of foreign rule, the 'Nakba' (1948 uprooting), and particularly the brutal Israeli occupation are the main causes of our suffering. But, the original disorder is the tribal culture and the preference for family over the interests of the nation. The tribal heritage has led to corruption of Palestinian rule, where 'connections' and favoritism intervene in almost everything, starting from asking for a girl's hand to asking to become a minister.
The tribal mentality does not acknowledge the law. It respects power. It imposes domination by the power of numbers, fire and by corruption of leaders. As a result, the social peace becomes a hostage caught between our clans and factions; Factions which are contemporary examples of tribes, each claims the monopoly of the truth and all refuse, despite Sharon's campaign of destruction, to unify their vision and strategic thinking. People are scared, not only of Israel, but of Palestinian arms. We are witness to the breakdown of the entire system before the very eyes of the citizens who are terrified of what is further to come…
The Palestinian Authority has failed because it came as an expression of a chronic disorder. Any other authority will fail if they become part of the same and living off corruption. How to treat our disorders, who is to treat Israel's disorders, is a question for all!!