Gaza: Nightmare times that won’t go away anytime soon

Israeli soldiers

Dreams that no sane nation wants

by Eric Jackson

For years, starting when I was 12, I had frequent trauma nightmares. They eventually went away.

Today, during the REM-stage slumber before fully awakening, trauma crossed my mind again, but in a different context, to different people.

War propaganda is usually designed to create deep emotional impressions, and so it has with respect to that of both sides in the Gaza War.

One particular argument that has gone back and forth on that front is with respect to women who serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, or whom Hamas suspects of such. Early on, the Netanyahu government accused Hamas of reneging on a promise to release women held hostage, but Hamas responded that the women it retained were Israeli soldiers.

This orphan kid from Mecca, where local society of that ancient time had little regard for widows and orphans, Muhammad, the son of Abdullah and Amiina, managed to grow up to be an international merchant. In his working life he moved goods on the backs of domesticated animals among markets of the Middle East. It’s said that he spoke only Arabic, which would be a strange thing among today’s Middle Eastern merchants.

The legends – or divinely revealed truth if you confess to that faith – had The Angel Gabriel appearing to Muhammad and telling him to “Arise and warn.” He went on to become first an outcast thought mad and driven out of Mecca, then king of Medina, then conquering warrior king to took much more than Mecca and founded a religion, al-Islam – the surrender to God’s will – that swept across much of the world.

With the spread of Islam came the incorporation of tribes and nations in which the status of women was very low, and some of their practices and attitudes, after the life of the prophet, became notorious to others as examples of inherent Muslim sexism.

But Muhammad taught respect for widows and orphans that he didn’t see much of when he was growing up. As a warrior king approaching Jerusalem, from whence it is alleged that he sprang to heaven on a white horse from what is now the Dome of the Rock (al-Aqsa) Mosque, he forbade his troops to attack women, children or elderly people, and told his soldiers not to mutilate the bodies of slain enemy warriors.

The more enlightened and historically informed strains of modern Islam take into account who fought and who did not fight in those times, and have it from that order that it’s a violation of Islam’s Sharia law, it’s a war crime as far as they are concerned, to attack noncombatant civilians. My late friend, the imam and former Black Panther political prisoner Ahmad A. Rahman, argued this point in response to the al-Qaeda attacks on the United States that took place on September 11, 2001. He was not isolated in this regard within the Muslim world.

And about the rights of women, and widows in particular? Consider suttee, one of the practices once common among many Hindus, in which widows were expected to immolate themselves on the funeral pyres of their departed husbands. The coming of Islam to the Indian subcontinent was surely seen as a liberating force for many women there.

Anyway, back to the Gaza War. Are the allegations that Hamas fighters raped captive Israeli women true? The Israeli propaganda machine spins plenty of lies, but there are enough allegations that these stories are not to be routinely dismissed. And from the Hamas side, if they are true, have fighters from that organization been disciplined by their own commanders and comrades-in-arms for that? In the smoke and fog of war, these questions I can’t definitively answer. By whatever definition, we would be talking about serious war crimes, as common as they are in the modern world and have been down through history.

And back to the trauma stories. Israel drafts women as soldiers, generally deploying them in combat support roles but sometimes sending them into combat.

Here we get a Houthi take on a Haaretz story, to be taken with however many boulders of salt. But you look at the devastation of Gaza, and at photos and videos of Israeli soldiers fighting, or working combat support roles, in it, and despite the biases of Houthi media a ring of truth comes through. Witnessing such carnage is an awful trauma and those who appear unaffected are perhaps the sickest of all the troops.

If you are an Israeli military commander with a conscience, or if you are a Hamas military commander with a conscience, you’d have to be noticing the suffering of many of those troops serving under you – and not just those with guilty consciences for awful things that they have done.

Yemen’s Houthis illustrate the story with a photo of mostly female Israeli soldiers, but the numbers would surely show more male IDF troops affected.

Stop the war for the sake of the women? For the sake of the children? For the sake of the affected senior citizens? Well, yeah, those are the antiwar talking points and they are sound ones. But maybe for the sake of the fighters themselves, on both sides, of whatever gender. When will the wisest commanders decide that this bloodbath has gone on for too long? When will the Israelis and Palestinians decide to cut the psychological losses of their respective nations?


Contact us by email at

To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

These links are interactive — click on the boxes