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Op-Ed: "Waltzing with Trauma"

The Jewish American ultra liberal left can only identify with the downtrodden and that includes Jews. Stalwart Israelis don't fit in.
Published: Friday, February 12, 2010 10:06 AM


The “trauma narrative” of Israel has become lately increasingly uncomfortable for the American-Jewish “ultra liberal left,” which has adopted a stand that makes it politically incorrect to justify Israel’s right to defend itself from the incessant rocket and missile attacks on Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Be’er- Sheva and the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.

As far as this segment of the American-Jewish left is concerned, Israel and Israeli Jews in particular have become an ethnic group unworthy of ever being right or justified in how they react to Palestinian terror. Israelis simply do not fit in to this group’s understanding of how Jews should be portrayed.

The American-Jewish “ultra liberal left” likes its Jews portrayed as Holocaust victims or as soul-searching soldiers in movies such as “Beaufort” or “Waltzing with Bashir,” but never ever as determined and tenacious citizens and soldiers of a potent military power that does what is necessary to maintain its deterrence against Arab rejection of
The problem with strong, courageous, forceful, and resilient Israelis is that they are not identifiable as Jews at all.
Israel as the home of the Jewish Nation.

By publicizing the implementation of hundreds of programs under the all-encompassing umbrella of “trauma-prevention,” the American-Jewish ultra left has made every effort to portray Israelis as severely traumatized. Perhaps, in the context of the American-Jewish  left, the problem with strong, courageous, forceful, and resilient Israelis is that they are not identifiable as Jews at all.

Actually, the “trauma narrative” as reflected by this American-Jewish liberal set began as a truly noble effort to provide trauma services to localities in southern and northern Israel in response to the unprovoked missile and rocket attacks that resulted in damage to the Israeli infrastructure estimated to have exceeded $1 billion. Beyond the extensive physical damage, millions of residents in these exposed communities lost their sense of well-being and safety, even in their own homes. Millions of Israelis were exposed to widespread destruction of homes, deaths, and injuries. They lived through war sirens, ambulances evacuations of the wounded and murdered, and firefighters battling the effects of incoming missiles and rockets. They survived the sounds and smells of missile landings and retaliatory artillery fire.

The American-Jewish liberal response? a slew of trauma-resiliency programs for Israelis living in the war-zone areas, making trauma big business in the Jewish state. There are now dozens of non-profit organizations with multi-million dollar annual budgets that provide huge salaries for CEOs, big bucks for local municipalities lacking budgets, and big orders for local vendors selling services needed to implement these programs.

If it weren’t so sad and untrue, portraying Jewish Israelis as victims suffering from trauma could be viewed as a win-win situation. Not only are such Jews palatable and defendable for the American-Jewish “ultra liberal left,” but, more importantly, they are a strategic source of continuous funding for Federation-supported NGOs operating in Israel, all in the name of “trauma prevention.”

In reality, however, the supporters of such “trauma prevention” programs are diminishing the very people they purport to be helping. By depicting the residents of Sederot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Be’er Sheva, and the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip as “trauma victims,” the “trauma-prevention” supporters are not recognizing these Jews’ heroic resiliency.

Supporters of Israel should be paying tribute to them for being unwilling heroes for eight years and more, all the while evincing the spiritual strength and firm stand that brings inspiration to the whole nation.  Instead, the Jews who have been under fire are portrayed as victims of trauma, because that is how the American-Jewish  liberal left like their Jews—weak, defenseless, and cowardly. However, they seem rather resilient. Today, despite the endless international funding for the trauma-exposed population living within 50 kilometers of the Gaza Strip, one million Israelis still live under the daily threat of rocket and missile attacks.

The Federations’ “Trauma Task Forces” have gone even one-step further: as blatant anti-Semitism and hate-filled propaganda against Israel permeates campuses and cities across the globe, and targeting innocent Israelis by Palestinian and/or Iranian proxy terrorists has been justified, the American-Jewish “ultra left” has responded by publicizing the trauma and suffering of the Israeli population. That is how they hope to elicit sympathy and support for Israel.

This use of the Israelis’ “trauma-suffering” has only encouraged our enemies and those who support our enemies to believe in our “weakness,” in our lack of resiliency and steadfastness. No wonder our enemies believe in the eventual demise of the State of Israel. The leftist Jews’ advice to Israel is: Be a victim, even better, a civilian victim; be a target of genocide; none of this Goliath stuff. That is how they like their Jews.

Left unchecked, this left-wing tactic will backfire on Israel, for  as Israel deals with the complex challenges that it faces today and tomorrow, its ability to be pre-emptive and tenacious in response to existential threats would become unfeasible and undefendable.

Today more than ever, the “trauma narrative” must change its perception of trauma management so that it complements recent efforts in Israel to present the Jewish state and its population as they truly are: strong and determined.

Israel cannot and should not compete with the Palestinian leadership who have cynically adopted a strategy of inculcating permanent victimhood to gain support throughout the world. By branding the Palestinians as victims, their leaders do nothing to prompt them to abandon their ideology of hate or to accept Israel. In fact, perpetuating the Palestinians-as-victims mindset seems to be more important to the Palestinian leaders than moving forward to establish a Palestinian state, which would require them to adopt the principles of peace and coexistence

The Palestinians seek their own freedom and political independence by extolling the virtues of violence and death and by refusing to recognize any shred of justice to Israel’s claims of sovereignty as the National Jewish Homeland. They complain that they are paying the price of Germany turning the Jews into victims of genocide.
Terror,.. rocket and missile attacks, will not ... weaken our belief, our resiliency, and our conviction of the viability of the State of Israel.

Similarly, presenting Israelis as victims of current trauma will not elicit sufficient sympathy or create a more positive perception of the Jewish state in the minds of our neighbors or enemies throughout the globe.

We in Israel look forward to the day when the Palestinians will live peacefully, and independently, alongside Israel. This must occur from a position of Israel’s national strength.

Psycho-trauma education and trauma-prevention based programs for populations at risk, as propagated by the American “ultra liberal left” hinder Israel’s political and strategic decisions that create a perception on the part of Arab leaders that Israel is strong, that the Israeli public is stronger than ever, and that terror, whether it be in the form of a suicide bomber or rocket and missile attacks, will not, under any circumstances, weaken our belief, our resiliency, and our conviction of the viability of the State of Israel.