The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psychoeducation programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Ron is a former strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.
American Jewry’s worst nightmare
Eleven Jews were murdered in the Tree of Life congregation shooting Saturday when Robert Bowers entered the Pittsburgh synagogue and began to seek out and kill any Jew crossing his path. For hundreds if not thousands of Pittsburgh’s Jewish residents, this will be a life changing event with personal and collective ramifications for the years to come.
For many their own personal trauma will become evident almost immediately, what was, will no longer be. Family, work, and personal relations will all be affected and for the worse. Re-occurring intrusive memories will accompany daily routines, nightmares, depression, anxieties, will be an integral part of their daily lives. They will seek professional attention, for many, they will need medications to get on with their lives. For others, what will seem to be a successful adjustment to this life changing event; their reactions will be late in emerging as if out of the blue. They will not be aware of what triggered their late reactions, maybe weeks later, maybe months later, maybe during the major holidays when they enter the Sanctuary of their Synagogue, or even in response to a seemingly unrelated event. This is the trauma and extended bereavement that awaits them with certainty.
The Jews of Squirrel Hill and the surrounding Jewish communities are innocent victims of a heinous unprovoked anti-Semitic attack, they did absolutely nothing that can be construed as a provocation that lead to this killing spree. The same cannot be said for many of our American Jewish brethren who did not lose a second in placing the blame unequivocally on President Trump, and essentially all those that don’t toe the line of the progressive leftist agenda of American Jewry.
Jewish-American writer David Simon slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter, claiming Netanyahu aided US President Donald Trump to be elected and that, in turn, enabled the rise of American fascism. In response to a tweet by Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett, who flew to Pittsburgh in support of the Jewish community, Simon wrote that the minister should "Go Home." "Netanyahu's interventions in US politics aided in the election of Donald Trump," wrote Simon, who argued that the US President provides "raw and relentless validation of white nationalism and fascism." Simon further wrote that "the American Jewish community is now bleeding at the hands of the Israeli Prime Minister."
This is the knee jerk response by Progressive Jews. Blame Israel. Blame Jews. Blame Trump!
This is the knee jerk response by Progressive Jews. Blame Israel. Blame Jews. Blame Trump. These responses are exclusively part and parcel of Jews belonging to the progressive left. Chandra Prescod-Weinstein, a researcher at the University of Washington, used the attack in Pittsburgh to make it about “white” Jews. “I hope white Jews who are feeling especially unsafe today realize that Black people feel vulnerable like this all the time,” Prescod-Weinstein said. “We are born into it. Allow your grief to teach you empathy and move you to pursue justice and an end to the violence that is whiteness.” To single out “white Jews” and lecture those with grief to have empathy is highly similar to the empathy afforded to Palestinian Arab terrorists who murder innocent Israeli Jews.
For the latter part of the last two decades, the progressive and vocal leftist leadership of American Jewry, in their world of “enlightened” opinion, has shed no tears for the thousands and tens of thousands of Israeli Jews who have been murdered or wounded by the savagery of Palestinian Arab terror because in some way the Israelis were asking for it. Whether Netanyahu, or the Likud, or the so-called “occupation”; as far as they are concerned, the Jews got what they deserve. These progressive American Jews have excused Palestinian Arab terrorism against Israeli civilians for years again and again with no remorse or regret, thinking that there will never be a spill-over effect against Jews in other countries. They take it for granted that Israeli Jewish behavior or cruelty is the source of the primal rage against Jews in the Muslim world. Of course, the Jews are responsible in some way or another according to this mindset.
This inexcusable need on the part of progressive leftist American Jews to ignore blatant and ever increasing anti-Semitism on the part of Palestinian Arabs and Muslims in general has directly contributed to the leap of anti-Semitic beliefs over the Atlantic from the Middle East to the American continent. According to the FBI anti-Semitic incidents accounted for half of religious hate crimes in the United States during 2014-2015 before President Trump was even elected and 11 % of all hate crimes in 2016. Why the silence in response to these terrifying statistics, could it be because Muslims are involved in perpetuating these hate crimes, could it be due to this occurring during Obama’s watch. Only recently, a stage shared by the rabid anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, ex-President Bill Clinton, and other Afro-American notables without a word be said to condemn anti-Semitism. Instead we heard only silence on the part of the progressive leftist Jewish leadership.
Linda Sarsour has worked closely with left-wing Jewish groups including Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, despite widespread characterizations of her beliefs as anti-Semitic coupled with antipathy for Jews in general. The Anti-Defamation League, along with the president of the Zionist Organization of America, has criticized her stance on Israel claiming that Sarsour’s support of BDS "encourages and spreads anti-Semitism". This has not prevented the American Jewish progressive leadership from embracing her and joining hands giving their support to Sarsour publicly as well as financially.
The anti-Semitic thread tying together the likes of Farrakhan, Sarsour, and Bowers has to do with their effort to dehumanize Jews whether in Israel or in the United States. Bowers referred to a “kike infestation,” and it turns out Farrakhan has claimed he’s not just an “anti-Semite” but “anti-termite.” Same terminology. Same message.
So rather than blaming President Trump or Prime Minister Netanyahu, progressive Jews must begin to understand that in the age of social media in which murderers like Robert Bowers, spend much of their leisure time in social media being inundated with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish content that has its origins with the very associates and members of the progressive Jewish left. They need to attack not only those on the other side of the political aisle but also those anti-Semites on their side of the political aisle who perpetuate and expand social media content that makes its way to anti-Semites everywhere. You only need one to take these messages one step further and walk into a Synagogue on Shabbat.
Trauma and Dr. Ford’s Testimony
What differentiates Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from all other mental disorders? The difference is in its origin or what’s known as the trigger. Mental disorders in general are dateless, they may erupt because of genetics or a dysfunctional upbringing, or response to substance abuse but little is known about when it actually began. With PTSD, there must be an event, a specific event that can be identified as related to the ensuing psychological and emotional state of an individual afterwards. With the emergence of PTSD, the accompanying symptoms are easily identifiable and are related to the event or trigger.
During the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings we heard under a sworn oath, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford offering testimony that was portrayed by the majority of media outlets repeatedly and obsessively as unequivocal, compelling and heartbreaking. Dr. Ford spoke about an alleged event that in her own words was a traumatic event of life changing proportions. Yet in examining the content of what Dr. Ford expressed as indicative of the Trauma that she endured, mental health professionals would have difficulty in connecting Trauma to what Dr. Ford spoke about during her testimony.
Before the onset of the trigger and the ensuing Trauma, victims do not suffer from amnesia and are aware of their surroundings and so forth. They may very well have lapses of memory and memory retrieval after an alleged event, but not what occurred before. Even in the case of Dr. Ford, and up until the alleged event, Dr. Ford should not have had any difficulty in providing details, however Dr. Ford claimed that due to the alleged event she could not remember or recall basic details prior to what she says was the most traumatic event in her life. Not where the “assault” took place — she’s not sure whose house it was, or even what street it was on, or how she got there, who brought her to the house. She’s not even sure of the year, let alone the day and month. This is very untypical of PTSD and raises important questions about what really happened and if the “story” that is being conveyed is real or imaginary. During my professional years as a mental health officer in a military and war time setting, these types of “before the event” memory lapses where always a “red flag” and indicative of malingering (the fabricating of symptoms of mental or physical disorders for a variety of reasons).
Dr. Ford concedes she told no one what happened to her at the time, not even her best friend or mother. Even her own immediate family; mother, father and two siblings, have not provided any supporting information or indication that the alleged event caused at the time any observable change or behavior that would attest to Dr. Ford experiencing a traumatic event of life changing proportions. It seems as if Dr. Ford went on with her teenage life without any measurable reactions by those closest to her. Again in my professional experience, family members are the first and almost immediately aware that a family member is suffering from Trauma, it is almost a given and unavoidable. Dr. Ford’s ability to move on during those years as if nothing happened not only do not make sense, but raises questions of credibility. Clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals who have treated PTSD are aware of the relevance of family members being aware of an abrupt change in behavior and their involvement in reporting this change to relevant helping professionals, the absence of her own immediate family members reporting any type of change in Dr. Fords behavior at the time is counter indicative of Trauma as claimed by Dr. Ford.
Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape. These situations can include open spaces, public transit (such as planes), shopping centres. Being in these situations may result in a panic attack. The symptoms occur nearly every time the situation is encountered and last for more than six months. Those affected will go to great lengths to avoid these situations. Dr. Ford claimed during her testimony that she suffered from Claustrophobia and stated that her fear of flying and avoidance of flying was related to the alleged event 36 years prior. During the cross examination, Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell was able to contradict Dr. Fords claim when it became evident that Dr. Ford has flown throughout her life to short and long distances and had even flown to the East coast just prior to her appearance in the Senate hearing. Clearly Dr. Ford does not suffer from an anxiety disorder related to flying and the assertion that the alleged event contributed to this anxiety makes the assertion even that more absurd.
During her testimony, Dr. Ford claimed that she suffered from long-term mental health effects after being sexually assaulted, including anxiety, claustrophobia, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. How is latent and repressed trauma released and reactivated after so many years, what triggers it in the present. Again, to compare, military PTSD can be reactivated for example by a former soldier participating in a family barbeque or with friends at a backyard barbeque, and the smell of searing meat on the grill will reawaken memories of traumatic and difficult events in the battlefield of the stench of human flesh. Yet, during her testimony, Dr. Ford a seasoned academic in the field of psychology would have easily shared with the audience examples of how trauma has affected her life and yet her bizarre testimony often veered off into psychological jargon about brain chemistry, memory storage, and how trauma effects the brain. When asked by committee members of her most vivid memory from the attack that allegedly occurred nearly 40 years ago, Ford responded, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two [men], and their having fun at my expense,” referring to the part of the brain mainly associated with memory. When discussing her trauma, Ford replied, “The etiology of anxiety and PTSD is multifactorial. Dr. Ford responded as if she was speaking of someone else or about the science of trauma and not about her own personal experience, maybe because she does not have a personal experience that she can convey, or share the small idiosyncratic memories that always come out when trauma patients share their difficult experience; in Dr. Fords testimony we heard of the hippocampus and laughter of two men who both deny being present at the alleged event.
During the testimony of Dr. Ford there were countless examples of the lack of coherent Trauma related examples that would give an indication of PTSD as a result of a traumatic and life changing event. Instead we were party to a performance by Dr. Ford who spoke with a Betty Boop voice that fluctuated back and forth leaving us wondering how much was real and how much was imaginary or even how much was made up along the way.
This Time Kushner is Right
Ending Palestinian refugee status is good for Israel, good for the Palestinians and good for the refugees.
Recent reports quoting Palestinian officials indicate that US peace envoys seek to eliminate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. UNRWA is a UN refugee agency exclusively responsible for Palestinian “refugees” worldwide. A few months after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in order to “take it off the negotiation table,” it seems that US peace envoys led by Jared Kushner are moving toward taking another core issue off the negotiation table: Palestinian refugees.
This time US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law is right: ending Palestinian refugee status will take a seemingly insurmountable issue off the negotiation table, allow for better treatment of the Palestinian refugees and promote the creation and stability of a future Palestinian state.
There are two refugee agencies in the United Nations. The first, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), established in 1950, is responsible for all the refugees in the world, which are estimated at 70 million. The second, UNRWA, established in 1949, is dedicated exclusively to supporting Palestinian refugees, which are estimated at seven million. UNRWA provides, among other things, “education, health care, relief and social services” to residents of Palestinian refugee camps spread across the Middle East. An additional responsibility of UNRWA is to keep track of the number of Palestinian refugees as well as their whereabouts.
The case of the Palestinian refugees is the only case in modern history where the status of refugee is automatically inherited, regardless of whether the Palestinians are still living in refugee camps or were granted national citizenship by another country.
Therefore, while the number of post-WWII refugees plummeted from 60 million to less than five million by 2018, the number of Palestinian refugees grew tenfold, from 700,000 in the 1950s to more than seven million in 2018.
While the great majority of the non-Palestinian refugees from the post-WWII period died from natural causes, were granted citizenship or both, Palestinian refugees transferred the refugee status to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who as of now, are poised to pass it on as well.
With no foreseeable ending to the automatically inherited refugee status, the number of Palestinian refugees will continue to rise, and is expected to exceed 10 million by 2030. As the issue of Palestinian refugees constitutes a main reason that past negotiations failed, forcing it off the negotiation table could possibly contribute to the success of future negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. More importantly, it will benefit all parties involved.
Israel, for security reasons, cannot allow the “return” of seven million Palestinian refugees into the Palestinian Territories, nor into a future Palestinian state. Under no circumstances will Israel welcome a hostile and at times belligerent people into strategic areas that determine the overall security of the country and its society. In addition, in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Israel had to absorb approximately 700,000 Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from Arab countries. These refugees were granted citizenship immediately upon their arrival and today they are an integral part of the Israeli society.
The Jewish refugees and their descendants, as well as large parts of Israeli society, are not likely to support any Israeli government, much less an international organization, which recognizes the suffering of the Palestinian refugees while ignoring theirs.
Surprisingly enough, the Palestinian leadership would secretly prefer for Kushner’s efforts to succeed, but they cannot express this, as they will lose the little legitimacy they still have. The emotional connection between the Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians living in refugee camps across the Middle East has long been dissolved.
The precarious response of the Palestinian leadership when Syrian President Bashar Assad besieged, starved and butchered the residents of the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk reveals how little the Palestinian leadership cares for other Palestinians in the Middle East. Practically speaking, the Palestinian leadership knows that a newborn state with a population of four million people cannot possibly absorb seven million others from all across the Middle East. Forcing the topic off the negotiation table will finally allow the Palestinian negotiating team to abandon that demand and focus on more practical matters.
Palestinian refugees have long been neglected, abused and discriminated against by Arab countries. Other than Jordan, no other country in the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, has granted citizenship to the Palestinian refugees in their territories. In Lebanon, Palestinians are still denied access to major social and occupational institutions and are prohibited from working as doctors, lawyers or engineers. In Syria, Palestinians are attacked by both Shi’ite and Sunni militias, with no one to protect them. In Egypt, Palestinians suffer from travel restrictions and they are denied basic government services.
The source of the discrimination against Palestinians living in Arab countries is the misconception that they are living there only temporarily and will soon move to Israel or Palestine. Ending the refugee status will force the host countries to recognize that these residents living in their territories are not going anywhere and should be treated as if they were equal citizens.
The biggest misconception about a negotiable solution for the issue of the Palestinian refugees is that the solution would involve either compensation or a return of the refugees to Israel or a future Palestine. In fact, the real options are either to agree upon compensation or keep futilely negotiating a Palestinian state for another 50 years. Under no circumstances will Israel allow the flow of millions of Palestinian refugees to a future Palestine, much less to Israel, and under no circumstances will the Palestinian negotiating teams waive the right of the refugees to return (even though they secretly despise the idea).
Since the Israelis and Palestinians have already agreed on the other two core issues that come up in every negotiation – security arrangements and borders – ending Palestinian refugee status will dramatically increase the likelihood of successful negotiations in the future. As all parties will benefit from ending Palestinian refugee status, it seems that this time, the son-in-law got it right, and Kushner’s initiative should be taken seriously.
The writer is a PhD candidate at the War Studies Department of King’s College London and the program manager of the Argov Fellows program in leadership and diplomacy at IDC Herzliya.
Natalie Portman epitomizes what’s wrong with Jewish liberals
Now that the dust has settled and pundits have had their say on the issue of being within your rights to be critical of the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, now is the time to understand why being seen to be endorsing the State of Israel governed by Netanyahu has become impossible for Jewish liberals.
Actress Natalie Portman explained her decision to snub the prestigious Genesis prize in Jerusalem, also known as the “Jewish Nobel,” saying that she did not want her attendance to be seen as an endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She chose to boycott a ceremony which “honors individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel.”
Boycotting Israel, questioning the legality of governmental decisions and treating Israel’s democratically elected leader as a pariah, encouraging others by your actions to withdraw their support of Israel, are all strikingly similar in content and in language used by the BDS and anti- Israel movements in America that promote the de-legitimization of the State of Israel, irrespective of Portman’s claims that she doesn’t support the BDS movement.
For too many liberal Jews, Israel in their minds, has become an “oppressor” of rights. They have repeatedly attempted to brand Israel as an intolerant society. Liberal Jews will also be the first to disingenuously claim that they are on Israel’s side.
What seems to escape liberal Jews like Portman is the very composition of democratic life here in Israel. Their understanding is based on recriminations and false accusations suggesting that they can save Israel from itself, if only Israel would adopt their liberal values. The fact that Jews and Arabs all enjoy equal civil and legal rights and are subject to judicial review should they feel that their democratic rights are being impinged always seems to escape their minds. The fact that Israel’s Supreme Court of Appeals has adopted “judicial activism” in its orientation and is at the forefront of protecting the rights of all sectors of the population in Israel also doesn’t seem to hold water for Liberal Jews.
However by dividing Israel into good cop, bad cop, and making out the Israeli Prime Minister and his ruling coalition an amalgamation of Dirty Harry and The Chosen so as to make Israel palatable to liberal Jews is avoiding the real issue at hand. The problem lies - and here I quote the Jewish liberal Peter Beinart - liberal American Jews “are not especially connected to Israel because they are not especially connected to being Jewish".
Supporting an Israel that elects a conservative/right-wing/religious government is messy, complicated, and raises too many questions concerning Jewish identity and Jewish affiliation for liberal Jews, especially if they want to fit in with today's Democratic Party..
We can't love the need to disapprove and denounce more than we love Israel itself.
Yet, when one considers the worldwide movement in recent years to de-legitimize the State of Israel; their aim is not to engage or interact but to undermine and demonize. Their opposition to Israel is not open to reason or good will. In short, their hatred is unconditional. With his being the current geo-strategic reality challenging Israel, than why is it that liberal Jews become so uneasy by expressing unconditional love and support towards Israel?
Had Natalie Portman accepted the Genesis Prize here in Israel, no one would have assumed that she was representing or endorsing Netanyahu or any other Israeli politician. For Liberal Jews many of our debates about Israel have become coarse and divisive, their enthusiasm and eagerness to express tough, critical love towards Israel even when unwarranted and hypocritical has become the accepted norm in how they relate to Israel.
But we can't love the need to disapprove and denounce more than we love Israel itself. For Israel’s supporters, unconditional love and support should be the sentiment that ought to trump all others; the emotion that fuels and gives meaning to our actions. I can challenge my child and rebuke him, but I can never forget to show him unconditional love and support. In their liberal zeal to express tough, critical love of Israel, liberal Jews have forgotten about pure love and unconditional support.
In recent weeks, Noa, a world renowned singer and similiar to Natalie Portman in that she too was born in Israel, Jewish, and known for her ultra-liberal political viewpoints visited Israel to meet with local Israelis who represent the very core of what liberal Jews detest about Israel, and this was her reaction;
This was the most intriguing part for us, the reason we had come to begin with. Finally we could get into the thick of things, listen to the personal story of every participant, learn about their way of life and points of view, including things which are at the core of our differences… and most importantly, discuss our visions for the future of the country we all love so deeply”
I admit, it was challenging. Here were these sweet, generous, warm hearted people…with a huge, seemingly impassable abyss between us. We came out feeling it would take many more hours of conversation and exchange of ideas to scratch the tip of the formidable iceberg of misunderstanding, misinformation and disagreement, to try and melt it some how and find common ground…but we saw great importance in the meeting, as the conversation, even when at times painful and difficult, was honest, respectful and deep”
The only thing we could truly agree upon was our love for Israel and concern for its future.”
As Natalie Portman and her cadre of liberal Jewish supporters fathom the implications of her boycotting Israel and her democratically elected political leadership, I would suggest that she re-think all that has transpired in the past week and ask herself if she wants to be associated with those that defame and slander the State of Israel, as just another “useful idiot” empowering the enemies of Israel or accept the idea that Israel’s complex reality cannot be expressed by one viewpoint nor one dimension. As a complex reality Israel both inspires and infuriates, is filled with joy and sorrow, yet allows us to celebrate unprecedented achievements yet at the same time overcome the challenges awaiting us.