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Newsletter 174 -November 10, 2023
From the BI/CRQ Hyper-Polarization Discussion
This is a second set of comments that we have received on our ongoing Israel/Hamas war series. Since we want to leave time and space for the discussion on hyper-polarization that we had been having before October 7, we are combining short versions of contributed comments here, and are posting the full comments as "Practitioner Reflections, one from Julia Chaitin, and another from Madeline Taylor. We were planning also to talk about Richard Rubenstein’s comments, which he published separately. But this is already long, and we don’t have space to talk about Rich’s comments here. So we will put them in another post, coming soon.
Julia started out by talking about attacks on civilian populations. Civilians, she said "should never be considered a legitimate target for a group/society to attack in an effort to attain their own human rights. Human rights are for all, and cannot be achieved by one side trampling the rights of the other...violence against innocents needs to be condemned, with no ifs, ands or buts.
Hamas, however, does not believe this, and has been attacking Israeli civilians for years. As heinous as its October 7 attack was, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority before, them has been shooting rockets into civilian areas of Israel ever since April 2001. Julia quotes extensively from the Hamas Charter which repeatedly denies any Jewish connection or rights to what they call "Palestine," which extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including all of Israel's 1948 and 1964 borders. It affirms, repeatedly, the right of the Palestinian people to fight back using armed resistance:
Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine...
Resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine will remain a legitimate right, a duty and an honour for all the sons and daughters of our people and our Umma [the whole community of Muslims tied together by religion]. Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws.
The Charter (and Julia's email) repeat this refrain many times, causing Julia to conclude that:
This is not the case of the Hamas army fighting the Israeli army, but rather of an organization that views terrorizing and engaging in extreme violence against Israeli citizens as a legitimate path to self-determination. It is apparent from their words, as quoted above, that Hamas is a terror organization that has engaged in war crimes. They must be eradicated and cannot be allowed to dictate our lives —Palestinians and Israelis — any longer.
Israel's Role in the Current Situation
Julia does acknowledge that Israel has contributed to the hatred and distrust between Israel and the Palestinians:
Israel has occupied the Palestinian people since 1967, in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. It has sealed off Gaza (our border with Gaza, from the sea and from the air, except for the part that Egypt shares with Gaza. Over the years, the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces have usurped Palestinian lands, seriously abused their human rights, turned a blind eye when Jewish-Israeli terrorists (extremist settlers) terrorize, maim and kill innocent Palestinian citizens. These actions must be stopped immediately and those who committed the crimes need to be held accountable for their crimes. Collective punishments of all kinds need to ended immediately.
So, What Can/Should Israel Do Now?
The problem that Israel faces, she explains, is that
Hamas is deeply embedded in the Gazan population. It built its huge mega-underground city ('the metro') in the Gaza Strip. This 'metro' runs under hospitals, schools, mosques, residences. It stores its weapons and fires them from within the civilian population. This population has been held hostage by the Hamas since the 2006 elections. Therefore, the possibility of ridding Gaza of Hamas (and Islamic Jihad) without harming civilians appears to be an impossibility.
She does give some suggestions about Israel's best way forward.
1. First, and foremost, she says, the hostages need to be released. She suggests accomplishing this with a prisoner swap, but suggests that the released Palestinians not be allowed to return to Gaza, but rather to another country that might be willing to take them—for instance Iran or Qatar.
2. After all the hostages are released, she says there could be a total ceasefire, allowing international aid to flow into Gaza, and allowing Gazan citizens who want to leave to be allowed to do so, ideally, to an Egyptian refugee camp, until the war is over.
3. But after a short period of time, she says the war between the IDF and Hamas/Islamic Jihad "can" continue, to enable Israeli security forces to "capture Hamas terrorists/leaders who planned and carried out the atrocities over time and are living in different countries (as it did with Eichmann in 1961)."
4. It is essential that people and countries of the world need to understand that for Israeli's, Palestinians are not the enemy. "The terrorist organizations are. This is a war between those who value life and those who disregard and mutilate life."
6. Once the war is over,
once Hamas no longer possesses the power to rule, to terrorize, it's mechanisms are destroyed and can no longer wreck havoc on this part of the world, and other parts of the world— Gaza needs to be rebuilt. Billions of dollars need to be donated by international entities to build/create the Gaza Strip so that it is sustainable, thriving, growing in every sense - politically, economically, health-wise (physically and psychologically), educationally, culturally, employment-wise. This must be a disarmed entity. In other words, it must be developed as a region that cherishes human life and makes life there really worth living. It needs to be a place where people want to be, have families, and build their lives. A place that offers a true future.
She ends by saying
This may sound like a pipe dream, totally unrealistic. But, this war is going to develop — and no one knows how. So, maybe, we should think of a desired way to end it with as few civilian casualties from here on out both here and there [Israel and Gaza]. And Israel must, must, must desist from its aggression and occupation in the West Bank. Enough is enough there.
We were somewhat surprised to read Julia's ending, as it was Israel's unilateral end of the occupation of Gaza that made the October 6 attack possible. But Julia has long been a peacebuilder, and has worked with both sides to find a solution to this conflict for many decades. So, to her credit, she hasn't let her anger over the horrific attacks of October 7 dull her peacebuilding sensibilities. May many, many more people on both sides of this conflict think the same way!
We published two earlier emails from Madeline on November 3, in from October 23, 2023 in Newsletter 171. She wrote again on November 4, and we have published her full email here. Below are some excerpts:
Why is Hamas's Promised Genocide Okay with So Many People?
Madeline started her letter by saying that "one perspective of yours echoed a sentiment of mine that I haven't heard expressed anywhere else: "Hamas has made it exceedingly clear that their goal is to wipe out Israel and Jews entirely. Why is this promised genocide okay with so many? No other genocide is." She came up with two interesting answers.
First, she said that Hamas's goal may be simply too awful to contemplate, so people don't. They assume it isn't true.
So, it's possible that the undisguised, vicious goal of annihilating Israel and all Jews has just been too terrifying to contemplate; it's so existentially threatening that it's been psychologically inadmissible to consciousness. It's been denied, suppressed, and kept out of awareness in the minds of most world leaders. Most people are not total sociopaths. Most people cannot imagine carrying out the murder of even one person, much less the gleeful torture and murder of thousands. It is literally beyond the capacity of our brain to imagine that people exist who have NO FEELINGS for the suffering of others. Our minds just cannot go there...it's a traumatizing thought so we ignore it or deny it.
Her second hypothesis is scapegoating Jews is simply an age-old behavior.
Another explanation may be that Jews have been scapegoated for so long, that it's easy to activate millions of people who are ready to scapegoat them yet again. If you're the big, tough guy who picks on Jews, you'll find yourself with tons of followers egging you on, seemingly loving you and in your corner. Through the ages, certain groups have picked on Jews because they were defenseless. But now that Israeli Jews are powerful militarily, the bully has a new identity as David against Goliath, and another veneer of virtue by which to attract a following and feel like a hero.
Madeline goes on to acknowledge, as did Julia, that "successive Israeli policies have added to Palestinian suffering and perhaps a powerless fury, making them susceptible to the promises that a group like Hamas has probably made to them. It is important to make a distinction, she says between the suffering people and the aggressive leaders.
I am making a clear distinction between the suffering Palestinian people and the Iranian leaders who live in luxury and support terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, etc. Those men are playing a game called, "Let's you and him fight." It seems to me as if they are hiring susceptible (and maybe contemptible) men to do the hideous work of carrying out a genocidal plan that has nothing to do with engaging Israelis in a genuine search for a peaceful solution to sharing the land. I don't know if there ever was a representative of the indigenous Palestinians who genuinely tried to work out a solution that both peoples could agree upon. It's also very likely that Israeli leaders like Netanyahu have cynically used groups like Hamas to increase Israeli fear and enmity, making a Palestinian state impossible.
How "World Therapy" Might Help this Situation
She goes on to discuss how she does therapy, suggesting that a similar strategy would possibly work here.
I have no idea when I begin, where our work is going to take them as individuals or as a couple. I don't assume that I'm going to "fix" their relationship...I don't have specific wishes or expectations of myself or of them. The only thing I know, the only thing my experience has taught me over 45 years, is that the most effective thing I can do is listen to each of them and sense where the pain is. I tune into the legitimacy of each person's feelings and needs, as seen from their own perspective; the same thing I imagine all peace-builders and good mediators do. I never ask them to care about the other, I provide the caring for each that the other CAN'T provide. If they could, they probably wouldn't be coming to therapy. ...
Gradually, if I'm sufficiently attuned, each of them begins to feel seen and heard and gradually, they may, or may not, become capable of hearing one another's pain and seeing one another as wounded individuals, rather than as mean and hateful enemies. Sometimes there are third parties trying to drive these two apart. That third person has a disrupting effect on the couple's relationship which we examine closely, not faulting anyone.The goal is more and more awareness of what is operating for each of them...what unmet needs, what conflicted feelings, what longings, what hidden hurt that they feel too vulnerable to reveal.
I wonder if there's some way that the general world can play the role of therapist, so to speak, learning about the feelings and needs of both sides and recognizing that Israeli citizens don't all agree with their government, and perhaps not all Palestinians agree with those who purport to represent them. I think it's vital that the destructive effect of Iran be further exposed. I think when anyone publicly speaks about the conflict, it would be helpful if they were able to acknowledge the suffering of both peoples, comment on the legitimate needs of both, and of the destructive effect of terrorist groups that perpetuate the misery and trauma for everyone.
That process has begun in the media that I watch, mostly publicly-funded outlets like FreeSpeech TV and the Pacifica radio network. MSNBC is doing a good job of this on many of its shows, in my opinion. I don't know where this will go, but I trust a process that centers on empathy with the people who are suffering and shining a light on those parties who are organized around perpetuating violence and even annihilation. As you folks mentioned awhile back, these groups and their puppet-masters must be exposed, de-legitimized, and discredited in the court of public opinion.
Attribution for the lead graphic: Gaza Map – Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:October_2023_Gaza%E2%88%92Israel_conflict_fixed_version.svg; By: Ecrusized; Permission: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International; Date Acquired: Nov 9, 2023
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