Reckless Israel endangering roots of our civilization

Reckless Israel endangering roots of our civilization

A Palestinian woman carries belongings near her destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday.

Israel is spreading seeds of hatred both on a regional and global scale, experts observe. The seeds of hatred have already been plowed as the number of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic attacks in Europe multiplied by a factor no less than four only two weeks after Israeli operation Cast Lead began.

But experts think that the long-term consequences of the operation will influence not only Israelis and Palestinians but also the whole of human civilization.

The immediate consequence of the carnage in Gaza was nonviolent but aggressive demonstrations throughout Europe organized by Muslims, left-wing activists and concerned others, reflecting the soaring anger and disapproval of Israel’s policies in Gaza. As international public pressure failed to be reflected in the policies of political leaders and international political bodies, such as the United Nations and the European Union, the despair felt among disturbed people turned into a more violent reaction toward Israel, even in the remotest countries of the world.

Last Monday a small but symbolically loaded incident occurred in Toulouse, France, where a gang rammed a car into a gate outside a synagogue and set it on fire. France, which already has a record of anti-Israeli and even anti-Semitic attacks, received the alarm signal early, and President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement condemning the attack and asking the French people to unite behind his drive for peace instead of letting international tension mutate into inter-community violence. The Belgian police also reported last week a significant increase in the size and the anger of street protests against Israel’s operation in Gaza. A street gang reportedly attempted to set fire to the door of a synagogue in Brussels last week. The Community Security Trust, a British anti-Semitism monitoring group, reported last week that violence against Jews and their property quadrupled after Israel launched its Gaza operation. Incidents of violence against Jews or Jewish sites have also been reported in Sweden and Denmark. Commenting on a French radio program, the Palestinian envoy to the EU, Leila Shahid, said although these awful incidents are unacceptable, they are a result of images from Gaza.

Psychologist and a former military officer Professor Nevzat Tarhan thinks the worst is yet to come. He warns of post-traumatic psychological disorders that can cause violence both within Israel and toward Israelis or Jews in general. His model is post-Vietnam Syndrome. According to the findings of psychologists, post-Vietnam syndrome hit the victims of the war, the winners of the war and the families of both. “This syndrome was seen in 42 percent of the families of both the victims and the winners of the war. It resulted in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other stress-related diseases,” he told Sunday’s Zaman. If Tarhan is right, the seeds of hatred Israel is spreading will emerge as psychological diseases among Israelis as well. Tarhan is even more worried about media coverage of the Gaza carnage. He thinks that due to modern telecommunications technology, people who are not a part of the conflict are also developing a victim mentality in remote parts of the world. “We are speaking about Mean World Syndrome today,” he told Sunday’s Zaman.

Political psychologist and former deputy Mehmet Bekaroğlu can be labeled a concerned left-wing intellectual when it comes to the Palestinian tragedy. Bekaroğlu thinks the imagery being aired on world televisions will have a deep and permanent effect on the psychologies of future generations, particularly with respect to how they perceive the Israeli and Jewish identity. “You don’t need to be a psychologist to see this; I assume that the Israelis have well-educated psychologists to analyze the impact of their activities on world public opinion,” he told Sunday’s Zaman. Bekaroğlu thinks Israel is intentionally trying to create an impact on the psychologies of future generations. “They are trying to create a psychology of despair, a psychology of slavery. They want people to think that they can do nothing against Israel, that they are helpless vis-à-vis Israel. They realized that they cannot have the world accept their existence and ambitions with love, so they are having the world accept them through hatred and fear,” he claimed.

Speaking about the Israeli mentality, Tarhan told Sunday’s Zaman that since the Israeli war strategy is based on ethno-religious sources, soldiers are developing a psychology of “trivialization of the other.” “In time they stop seeing the others as human beings. They are killing children but not as children — they regard them as mere threats. Since they dehumanize the other, they do not regard their feelings as noteworthy,” Tarhan explained. “This creates what we call ethnic narcissism.”

Can “trivialization of the other” explain Israel’s negligence toward the soaring anger and hatred in the world’s streets? If it can, a second idea that Tarhan proposes can explain it even further. Tarhan speaks of “blood feud perceptions.” This concept refers to redefinition of the enemy other through terms of fear only. “They kill children because they see the children as something that can grow and harm themselves,” he explains.

Bekaroğlu believes Israel’s atrocities in Gaza and their presentation in world media will have an even wider impact on civilization’s perception of human beings in general. “Our current civilization has adopted concepts like democracy, human rights and freedom as its foundations. These were already eroded, but even the final bits of trust in these concepts were annihilated in Gaza. What we are seeing is a complete civilizational shift,” he said. Bekaroğlu thinks that while the current civilization has used the terminology of democracy and human rights, it is actually a civilization of power and might where the powerful are the righteous. What Bekaroğlu refers to as a “shift” is a search for a civilization of humanness, rights, lawfulness and justice. He is not optimistic, however, about a concrete change in a short time.

A further side effect of the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people living in the besieged and isolated Gaza Strip turned out to be the legitimization of Hamas. Thousands in Western capitals demonstrated in support not only of the Palestinian people, but also of their democratically elected Hamas government. It is most probable that this increased amount of sympathy toward Hamas will also lead soon-to-be-sworn-in US President-elect Barack Obama to be more ready and less hesitant to speak to Hamas directly.

11 January 2009, Sunday