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.
Strategic goals define Israel’s response to Hamas, not headlines
Over the past week, pundits in Israel have lost no time in labeling Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu as the big losers in the latest round of rocket terror by the Hamas terror organization occupying the Gaza Strip adjacent to the Southern border of Israel. Their scoreboard of winners and losers being spewed out minute by minute had only one goal; to create an atmosphere that will weaken Netanyahu politically and topple his right-wing government.
This past week Hamas fired nearly 500 rockets and assorted projectiles into Israel over a period of just under 24 hours. Around 60 Israeli’s were treated, most suffering from anxiety and trauma, several wounded critically, and one civilian was killed. Several homes were damaged, some will need to be rebuilt. For the sake of comparison, during the same week a fire in California decimated 100,000 acres of prime residential communities, over 60 residents in the area died a horrible death, thousands of homes burned to the ground, and 600 residents are still missing and unaccounted for as firefighters go through the burned out hulls of some of California’s most prestigious real estate communities.
Many in Israel have resonated a sense of frustration in response to the Israeli government’s decision to walk away from a war with Hamas and accept a ceasefire negotiated by the Egyptian government. They do not understand why Israel did not respond with a far greater force and teach Hamas and the Islamic Jihad a lesson that would keep them quiet for an extended period. The government of Israel sufficed with a few hundred pinpoint air attacks and then opted for a ceasefire.
Trying to understand the strategic thinking behind the government’s decision demands firstly that we accept some basic assumptions; Israel is the strongest nation in the Middle East and her military capabilities are militarily superior by far to any nation or non-state organizations surrounding her. Second, many of Israel’s home grown offensive military technologies are unknown to her enemies and have been developed clandestinely to respond primarily to the rocket and missile threats of Hezbollah, Iran, and other non-state threats in the region. Third, the political and military leaderships of Israel are neither irresponsible nor cowards, they operate within defined strategic objectives.
Hamas is a terrorist organization that has political control over the Gaza Strip. Hamas wants to achieve relevance after twelve years of governing Gaza with nothing to show for it other than undrinkable tap water and 40% unemployment. They are funded and controlled to a certain extent by outside sources primarily the Republic of Iran who use Hamas as a proxy agent against Israel. The use of rockets and missiles against Israel has been largely ineffective against Israel yet allows the Iranians to understand Israel’s defensive capabilities and ability to respond to this threat. During the past week as almost 500 rockets rained down on Southern Israel, the Iranians learned that Israel’s anti-missile defense system were portrayed as deficient in responding to this massive barrage. Iran uses Hezbollah, the terror organization in Lebanon in a similar manner, however the major difference being that Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal is reported to number around 150,000 missiles and rockets, ten times the rockets held by Hamas.. The Iranians have developed their missile attack doctrine based on lessons learned from the repetitive attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israel, including this past week.
Despite the sheer quantity of rockets and missiles aimed at the State of Israel, the current anti-missile defense system employed by Israel provided a sufficient protective umbrella to protect and destroy most of the rockets that could have reached populated areas, yet for the Israeli public in the South, it wasn’t enough. This was the perception that was amplified repeatedly by the media and social media so as to erode Netanyahu’s and the Likuds’ support in the South. The narrative adopted by the media, and the opposition political parties’ only enflamed the residents of the South and enshrined the perception that Hamas won and Israel lost. It also empowered the Iranians to make all the wrong assumptions and operational conclusions about Israel’s true capabilities. A significant psychological warfare success for Israel.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the Hamas conflict in the South is a strategic side show and should not be confused with the major strategic threats challenging Israel. The guiding principle behind Israel’s “meek” response this past week was to keep her potential military cards unexposed. A known veteran military columnist this past week wrote an article about Israel’s new generation of anti-missile technology, largely unknown to the public, and is based on laser technology and operationally able to provide the necessary umbrella to deal with tens of thousands of missiles threatening Israel. Netanyahu’s real concern is the Iranian threat and especially Iran’s role in Syria and Lebanon. Exposing this capability in a strategically insignificant conflict with Hamas would have been a strategic blunder. Netanyahu is astute enough to avoid this trap even at a political cost and erosion of support among the Israeli public that ensued.
Today’s wars are not only fought on the battlefield but also and it times primarily in the virtual world of social media. Terror organizations have a commanding advantage since all their actions are choreographed towards eliciting media outlets and social media to convey their perspective in a sympathetic perspective. The false narrative projected makes the strong weak and the weak strong, the aggressor as a victim and the victim as the aggressor, blurring the distinctions between right and wrong, good and bad. Yet when push comes to shove, reality kicks in and Israel does not have the luxury of making strategic mistakes.
Given the Iranian focused regional strategy, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government must never be side-tracked from this existential threat. Rather than giving Israel’s democratically elected government the benefit of the doubt, Israel’s political opposition have no hesitancy in sacrificing Israel’s strategic capabilities while using this tactic to gain electoral support. At the same time, Israel’s government must continue providing the residents of the South maximum protection and the necessary financial incentives to soften the effects of the ongoing reality that they have to endure for the near future.
Tomorrow Israel may not have the option of walking away as occurred this past week, when that time is upon us, Israel must be ready to decimate her enemies and prevent serious damage to the State of Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu understands this and managed to retain Israel’s potential strategic capabilities unknown to our enemies.
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.