Failing marks

Report describes young Gaza evacuees as "still shaken, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."

katif girls 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
katif girls 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nearly a year after Gush Katif's evacuation, most evacuees are yet to be successfully resettled beyond temporary accommodations and employment. These are the hard objective facts. The subjective picture is significantly bleaker, as shown last week to the Knesset Finance Committee's subcommittee charged with evacuee affairs. No MK - regardless of political affiliation -- remained unaffected, despite the fact that the report submitted to the committee was compiled by the Legal Forum for Eretz Yisrael - a volunteer association of lawyers who handle the evacuees' litigation pro bono. The report describes dislocated youngsters as "still shaken, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder." A separate Haifa University study showed PTSD among 27.6% of evacuees interviewed and a 42.5% of medium-to-acute incidents of depression -a rate significantly higher than in the general population. The legal forum also reported that some 30% of schoolchildren cannot adjust to new schools and schools are unable to deal with their distress. Not only are scholastic achievements sharply down but anxiety attacks are prevalent, outbursts of anger, violence, decrease in parental authority and distrust of any authority. Among teens things are far gloomier, ranging from suicidal inclinations to 12 actual suicide attempts. Alcohol and drug-use have appeared in a hitherto comparatively "clean" population. Nine cases of psychiatric hospitalization are cited, as are eating disorders, truancy, and vagrancy. Among the parents, 50 couples have already filed for divorce and other families became destabilized if not dysfunctional. Health problems abound, along with an abnormal reliance on medications. At least 51% of adults -- 1360 individuals -- are unemployed. In the Nitzan trailer park alone 300 are jobless. Most aren't eligible for unemployment benefits and subsist on compensation advances, earmarked for new housing. Thus their life's accomplishments are frittered on daily subsistence. 500 families have become welfare cases dependent on charity and food handouts. Only 38 0f 220 farmers could resume even partial agricultural work, and those who had lost their markets. Most compensation claims are still snarled in red tape. Initial property-value assessments were arbitrarily nearly halved post-factum from - NIS 1,500 per square meter to NIS 800. Evacuees are sent on interminable run-arounds for documentation (like ten-year-old electric bills and school records) to prove their residence claims. Often old bills were never kept or else are still locked in inaccessible containers where household belongings are stored. Nevertheless this is information readily available to officialdom from computerized data. Disengagement is already a done deed. Further punishing those whose private world fell apart is senseless and counterproductive; especially if the government actually plans to evacuate ten-fold the numbers removed in August 2005. Witnessing what these displaced settlers experience won't encourage anyone to cooperate, including the less-ideological settlers. Those who cooperated last year are patently no better off than those who didn't. Former residents of the Samaritan settlement of Homesh told the Knesset subcommittee that despite their cooperation and carefully blueprinted, fully-approved plans to relocate as a group to Kibbutz Yad-Hanna, no promise had been kept. They're housed in narrow trailers, quite different from what was ceremoniously agreed upon. Aminadav Drori, a policeman formerly of Kadim, cooperated yet now says he'd "rather return to Kadim and live in a tent, than suffer current indignities." This hardly meshes with Olmert's rosy depiction of the situation in his address to the Knesset on June 27, when he asserted that "those who refused to cooperate are those suffering most now." He also claimed "some difficulties derive from the government's desire to offer specific solutions to satisfy different needs." This flies hard in the face of the State Comptroller's caustic March 3 report, which gave the Disengagement Authority failing marks in "anticipating difficulties, preparing for eminently foreseeable eventualities and listening to evacuees." The controller notes that the delays "did not stem from lack of laws and regulations but from foot-dragging when circumstances decreed swift and energetic action." As the Sinai evacuation of 1982 - imperfect though it was -- demonstrated, things can be done much better.