Empathy Is Dead in Israel: Effects of a Forever War
Empathy Is Dead in Israel: Effects of a Forever War
By David Harris-Gershon / tikkun.org

Much has been written about the silencing of anti-war dissent in Israel by a populace almost universally supportive of military action in Gaza. Such support – inspired by feelings of vulnerability amidst rocket fire and informed by the country’s rightward shift – has made speaking out against the violence not just uncomfortable, but dangerous. Not a single anti-war demonstration in the past month has concluded without participants being attacked and beaten by nationalistic counter-protesters.

And yet, while the silencing of anti-war dissent has been a troubling manifestation of Israelis’ support for war, even more troubling has been the societal numbness, the societal disregard for Palestinian suffering which has been manifested in unsettling, and sometimes shocking, ways.

It’s not bombastic to say that empathy is dead in Israel right now from a societal standpoint, a metaphorical casualty of the current violence. Evidence of this isn’t just being seen in statistical polls, but in a seemingly endless stream of incidents. Consider the following three, representative of a real phenomenon few in Israel deny:

These scenes are just three representing countless such episodes happening online and in everyday life. Of course, they’re not scenes taking place within a vacuum. A conflict is ongoing. Israelis have had to run to bomb shelters with each rocket attack. People are being traumatized by the constant threat of war.

 

However, within this context, many leaders are doing their part to incite the populace and ensure that the unspeakable suffering of Palestinians, not to mention their humanity, remain invisible. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been responsible for this, repeating the refrain that Palestinians in Gaza don’t care about life, and reminding everyone that the thousands of dead are not so much victims as desired public relations weapons in Hamas’ fight against Israel.

Netanyahu’s words have been tame when compared to those of the Knesset’s Deputy Speaker, who proposed placing Palestinians in tent encampments in Gaza before shipping them off to other countries. This call was preceded by a prominent chief rabbi who (falsely) declared that genocide with regard to Gaza was permitted by Jewish law to protect Israel.

Some might argue that all of this should be placed within the context of the growing issue of racism in Israel, which 95 percent of Israelis in March agreed is a national problem. However, such racism in many ways is just one more symptom, along with the disappearing empathy for the ‘other,’ of a decades-old conflict which is tearing at the soul of a country I love.

Decades of occupation and conflict have led to this societal moment in which, after killing nearly 2,000 Palestinians and obliterating parts of Gaza, Israeli society is unwilling to acknowledge what it has done to the other side. As though admitting such would be tantamount to losing in a zero-sum game where only one side can be right, can be just.

Such an environment prompted Gregg Carlstrom to write an article entitled “The Death of Sympathy,” which he opens with the following panoramic paragraph:

Pro-war demonstrators stand behind a police barricade in Tel Aviv, chanting, “Gaza is a graveyard.” An elderly woman pushes a cart of groceries down the street in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and asks a reporter, “Jewish or Arab? Because I won’t talk to Arabs.” A man in Sderot, a town that lies less than a mile from Gaza, looks up as an Israeli plane, en route to the Hamas-ruled territory, drops a blizzard of leaflets over the town. “I hope that’s not all we’re dropping,” he says.

Yes, there are lone voices calling for the recognition of both Palestinian and Israeli suffering. Voices calling for Israelis to acknowledge what it has done to the other side. What it is doing to itself. Unfortunately, such lone voices are being silenced, and sometimes physically attacked.

Just as I mourn for the dead in Israel and Palestine, for the young soldiers killed and innocent civilians lost, I mourn for a society that seems to be slipping into numbness, and what that numbness portends.

-§-

What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

4.0 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 16,072 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 12,903 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 11,876 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence-And Devastate the Left
Arun Gupta · 11,244 views today · The Left should take the Trump threat very seriously.
Forest Man
16 min · 7,680 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 7,258 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 6,951 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 6,308 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 5,001 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal
Joe Martino · 4,480 views today · When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can appear pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 3,787 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 3,747 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Do You Have Time to Love?
Thich Nhat Hanh · 3,178 views today · The greatest gift you can offer loved ones is your true presence.
Capitalism Is Just a Story - Rise Up and Create a New One
6 min · 3,163 views today · How many of us have a sneaking suspicion that something pretty fundamental is going wrong in the world? We keep hearing about the potentially devastating consequences of...
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 2,418 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Caitlin Moran's Posthumous Advice for Her Daughter
Caitlin Moran · 2,300 views today · My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to...
Better, Not More
5 min · 2,192 views today · As we assess the current state of our world and consider together the elements that are essential to a ‘just transition’, and ultimately, a just economy, we are called to...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 2,157 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 2,088 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
The Revolution Is Love! Our Movement is for the 100%
4 min · 1,526 views today · "Love is the felt experience of connection to another being. An economist says 'more for you is less for me.' But the lover knows that more of you is more for me too. If you...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Empathy Is Dead in Israel: Effects of a Forever War