In face of rabid Israeli support for the indiscriminate slaughter of thousands within a mere few weeks, the first question to cross any rational-thinking mind is “How?”.
How is it that a people who were persecuted in Europe for centuries are now inflicting the same measure of horror upon others?
How do you effectively brainwash so many human beings to become incapable of guilt nor humanity?
How is it possible to breed unthinking, uncritical, and unquestioning people whom seek to justify every single act their government pursues?
Worse yet, how do you enslave an entire population into regurgitating completely illogical and constantly conflicting “explanations”?
Israelis have seen the senseless massacre of 2,100 entrapped human beings during the past month (including 89 families completely wiped out), the abduction of more than 18,000 Palestinian children since 2008, and quite literally witness demolition of Arab homes across the West Bank and East Jerusalem on a daily basis. Yet “Operation Protective Edge” remains under popular support by the Israeli public. How?
As a humanitarian first and foremost, I believe in the inherent qualities we all possess as human beings: compassion, kindness, and empathy. Therefore, I can only see Israel’s public reaction (exceptions do of course exist) as a deeply festered psychological disease which either limits or isolates these qualities.
Taking into consideration the outrage which followed the recent death of a four year old Israeli child (caused by a car explosion after Hamas mortar fire), there is evidence of the aforementioned qualities. Thousands of Israelis showered their condolences and presented their grief.
While interviewing these same commentators of grief, I questioned their feelings for the 500+ children killed in Gaza, including a 6 month old baby boy and more than 2,000 wounded. I also asked their opinions on more than 270,000 children in Gaza currently suffering from all sorts of diseases of the body and mind including malnutrition, amputation, and trauma. Their immediate reaction was “Hamas did this”.
I narrowed my question down to the children which were deliberately shot with sniper rifles of IDF soldiers, tank fire at a ten meter range, starvation due to the Israeli blockade, Kenan and Saji El Hallaq (3 and 5 year old brothers), and the four young boys killed by an airstrike on the beach a month ago. The reaction was again “Hamas…”.
I urged these Israelis to at least sympathize with the children’s deaths and stop deflecting in favor of other connotations. The idea was that they could simply wish these children would rest in peace; any innocent dead child, Arab or Israeli, deserves the condolences and well wishes of the entire planet. The response, again, was “Hamas…”.
It seems that the value of life between an Arab child and an Israeli child is so far apart in these peoples’ minds that there is no reconciliation possible. By now I realized that that they were so desensitized towards the killing of Arabs that they would ignore a brutal murder by trying to find an excuse instead to somehow justify Israel’s involvement in it.
Two explanations come to mind.
1) Israel enforces conscription. This makes military service compulsory for all, with the exception of some minority groups. Hence, almost anyone over the age of 18 must spend two years (women) or three years (men) in the IDF. As of the year 2000, more than 3 million women and men are listed as active for military service.
This means that if you are over 21 and could serve, you either have or are imprisoned for refusing to. Considering the average age in Israel is 30, nearly every single person in Israel has been part of the IDF.
Given the barrage of military operations against Palestinians over the past 66 years, nearly every single person in Israel has also had some sort of military role during one or more operations. Thus, logic would suggest that every single person in Israel is somehow connected to the IDF- through family, friend, or neighbor.
Being a former, an active, or related to a member of such a large and overwhelming organization which practically covers the entire population would realize a stark separation of values to a person’s daily life.
A psychological condition by the name of dis-inhibition comes into effect.
Dis-inhibition releases normal behavioral restraints such as self-monitoring, self-awareness, and other long-term norms as well as qualities. Ignoring such norms allows human beings to act on their immediately relevant emotions (be it patriotism, hatred, malice, or revenge) and motivations (territory, security, or vindication) regardless of considerations such as humanity, empathy, or compassion- considerations that usually result as a form of self-awareness.
This condition occurs mainly due to the consistent subconscious reassurance and confidence that you are acting in a group of collectively shared emotions and motivations, therefore there is no risk of reprisal. Self-monitoring becomes unnecessary.
Dis-inhibition on such a large scale makes it easier for the Israeli public to justify the crimes of Israel as there is a constant feeling of support and loyalty accompanied when such vindication is assumed. The necessity to justify every action the IDF commit is simple mob mentality, where actions higher up the hierarchy easily influence those lower down.
Effectively, when such a control mechanism has been intact for more than sixty years, across three or four generations, every single person in Israel is somehow part of the IDF. Dis-inhibition becomes a national phenomenon, and self-awareness becomes subsidiary. The population is no longer monitoring their own actions, so it is impossible for them to monitor their government’s. Combine this with relentless propaganda, and you have a population being told how to think, and how to act.
2) Cognitive dissonance. By pure definition, this psychological condition relates to the reluctance in accepting new information when it contradicts information one presumes they already know.
Most of Israel’s public are completely unaware of their ancestry which escaped European persecution to live in peace with Arabs pre-1917, nor are they aware of the existence of Palestine under international law.
There are many instances of uncontroversial fact which is either consciously or imminently neglected by these people. However, when evidence of such fact is communicated to them, it is simply rejected.
No logical reason is given for this rejection, nor does it seem that one is perceptibly necessary from their vantage point. Fact becomes as relevant as fiction to those suffering cognitive dissonance if it does not fit the narrative they have already been ingrained with.
This works particularly well when “fear” is the “information”. Instilling the belief that every Arab (Hamas have been used as a scapegoat in this case) is out to kill Israelis, destroy their families, and wipe out their homeland for example.
Every supporter of Zionism holds this brainwashed notion as a firm belief and any evidence to the contrary is deflected without thought. This subconscious and undercurrent fear becomes relative to every action committed in their daily life.
Arabs become the epitome of evil, even though no aggression whatsoever need be personally experienced by the person holding this irrational “fear”; as a result, preemptive (verbal or physical) attacks are believed necessary under the pretext of security.
Extreme conditions of cognitive dissonance ultimately lead to distress due to the constant inconsistencies bred. This results in depression, other trauma, and could explain why an IDF soldier is five times more likely to die from suicide than on the battlefield.
In all honesty, I cannot help but feel sympathy for such people whom live day in and day out under the delusion of collective values, manipulated ignorance combined with an unwillingness to learn, and a deep bitterness birthing from baseless fears. There is nothing more to do than inform them of their conditions and hope for a swift recovery.