Thursday, March 15, 2012

When is an Israeli-Gazan Ceasefire like one of my Diets?

I had a deep insight this morning: The Israeli-Gazan cease fire is like most of my diets. I diet between my meals and snacks. Here we have a ceasefire in between the rockets and air force attacks. 

Here is the English translation of the letter that I sent to PM Netanyahu and the Israeli Ministers

The Policy of War and Revenge is Killing Us

We, mental health professionals and social scientists, Israeli citizens (many of whom live in the south), are turning to you to end the present round of violence with Gaza. We turn to you to free yourselves from the old perspectives, that have paralyzed Israeli governments for years, to our regret. We call upon you to adopt a new policy, that is not based in war and military strength, in killing and the causing of physical and psychological harm.

We call upon you to adopt a new policy that can bring a real change to our reality, a policy that cares about the health of the Israeli people, in general, and the residents of the south, specifically.

The change needs to be in dialogue - yes with 'the enemy' - in negotiations. Endless rounds of assassinations and rocket attacks will not bring about an essential change. Each round of violence only causes more and more damage - psychological and physical - that can harm generations of people from the area, on both sides of the border. Each round of violence only deepens the hate between the sides and brings about feelings of helplessness, despair and the inability to even imagine a different reality of co-existence.

For over 50 years there has been a wealth of research on the destructive long term psycho-social effects of war and cycles of violence on people. This research teaches us about processes of escalation of conflicts. Escalations, like the kind of escalation we have here in the south, develop in known ways: a small conflict becomes a large conflict, a conflict around one issues develops into a conflict around many issues, a conflict that was around interests becomes a conflict around deeper  ideologies and values, a conflict that was between two sides spreads to many other parties.

The escalations spin out of control over time if we do not take steps to stop them. An intractable conflict, like our conflict with our Palestinian neighbors, does not only harm the people directly involved, but also the next generations. In our case, we already have three generations of victims. This situation becomes more dangerous because it harms the ability of the sides to see the other as "people," and not as "monsters," and also leads us to act in ways that are not based in careful thought and reflection, but rather we act from "hot" emotions, fear, anger, and hate. When our actions are determined by these negative emotions, and not by clear thinking, the outcomes are especially destructive.

In the end, years of escalation lead us to the creation of a collective memory that sees our history as comprised only of tragedies and persecution. Years of war influence the construction of collective identity - as victims, as weak, and not as people and a society that are capable of acting from real psychological resilience.

Your violent and agressive policy is killing us. We do not want to continue to serve as a classic example in academic literature that focus on the development of destructive conflicts. We call upon you, our leaders, to be true leaders and to get us out of this quagmire. Use the wealth of knowledge that has been generated by mental health professionals and social scientists who study the sociological, cultural, political, and economic impacts of such policies.


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