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False Diagnosis By: Phyllis Chesler
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 18, 2005


Yesterday, November 17, the self-declared “social justice” group Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) hand-delivered an anti-Israel statement to the White House, the leadership of the House of Representatives, and the Senate.

In it, they "condemn the Israeli Army's use of psychological warfare against the Gaza population." PsySR declares that Israeli F-16 jet plane-generated "sonic booms" are a "particularly pernicious form of psychological warfare.” Moreover, PsySR claims that these sonic booms are causing Palestinian children to cry, wet their beds, refuse to go to school and have poor appetites. They even induce premature labor in pregnant women, according to the PsySR.

Not until much later in their declaration does PsySR mention the reason for Israel's adoption of this non-lethal "sonic boom" warfare -- namely, the 300-600 Quassam rockets launched from Gaza which have killed, maimed, and terrified Israeli civilians, including children, and the continued Palestinian use of civilians as both shields and targets. Nor do they focus on the pandemic child abuse which is routine among Palestinians as possibly contributing to poor mental health or to "fear" and "restlessness" among Palestinian children. Ignored, too, is the craven greed and terrorist agenda of the Palestinian leadership, which pockets money meant for Palestinian health care. Furthermore, one seeks in vain evidence of the studies that PsySR ostensibly conducted to measure mental health or illness on both sides of this tragic conflict. No mention is made of the effects that anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist propaganda and ceaseless indoctrination into homicidal martyrdom might have on Palestinian civilians, including children.

Significantly, when PsySR finally gets around to noting the Quassam rockets fired regularly into Israel, they do not call for an end to the prolonged and terrible Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians. But they do call for an end to Israel’s use of non-lethal "sonic booms."

 

Both HonestReporting and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) have challenged the PsySR statement as "flawed." HonestReporting notes that both the BBC and the Guardian have quoted Palestinian psychiatrist, Dr. Eyad Sarraj, who, "in a sweeping statement lacking credible scientific or medical evidence” claims that "the sonic booms are having serious effects on children in Gaza, including anxiety, panic, fear, poor concentration and low academic success...as well as an increase in miscarriages." HonestReporting sees such statements as "highjacking Palestinian health for political ends." HonestReporting reminds us of the previous blood-libels unleashed against the Jews, including that "Israel deployed radioactive uranium against Palestinian protestors," "disseminated bubble gum that sterilized Palestinian girls," and "sent AIDS-infected prostitutes to infect Palestinian men."

 

The SPME rebuttal to the PsySR statement, drafted by Dr. Steve Albert, reads as follows: "The PsySR statement injects a political position into a so-called humanitarian effort. Since when are psychologists experts on what a negotiated solution to this conflict should look like? The outrage is selective. Are sonic booms in Gaza the worst form of mental health abuse in the world today?"

 

I think not. Just next door, in the Sudan, ethnic Arab Muslims are perpetrating genocide and what I call gender cleansing against mainly black African Muslims; Iraqi and al-Qaeda terrorists have just blown themselves up in Amman Jordan. Surely that can’t be good for Jordanian mental health.

 

The President of SPME, Dr. Ed Beck, writes: "It appears as if PsySR is making sweeping generalizations based on propaganda and not research...Such public statements may violate ethical canons of psychological practice as they border on making reckless claims with questionable methodology and data. SPME would welcome a PsySR condemnation of suicide bombings against innocent civilians...which result in lives lost on both side. That data is very quantifiable and is deserving of condemnation."

 

The eminent psychologist, Dr. Lenore Walker, informs me that prominent members of PSySR co-coordinated a panel at the American Psychological Association convention this past summer which "caused quite a commotion. Everyone on the panel was pro-Palestinian and those in the audience who supported Israeli positions on these issues were shouted down by the panelists when they attempted to give some balance to the discussion." Walker describes the PsySR statement as biased since it "labels the sonic booms (if they did indeed occur as stated) as psychological warfare but not the rockets fired into innocent Israeli civilians."

 

The Vice President of SPME, Dr. Judith Jacobson, suggests that this latest PSySR statement shows "the same blatant anti-Israel bias that has been repeatedly observed in the divestment campaigns promulgated in churches, colleges, and universities in the past couple of years." It is "preposterous to mention "38 years of brutal occupation without mentioning the number of decades that Israel has lived with even more brutal terrorism and threats to its survival." 

 

According to PsySR, the "brutal (Israeli) military occupation" justifies or explains suicide killing. In their statement of October 30, 2002, they "recognize that the great disparity of power between people can breed violence. Poverty and deprivation of human rights lead to hopelessness and social alienation." Today, they call upon the American President and government to exert its "moral responsibility" in the matter since America supplies Israel with a "large among of military aid." 

 

Their view is a politically and multi-culturally correct analysis of reality. But it is dead wrong. Evil and criminality exist and cannot be entirely attributed to class differences. Al Zarqawi and bin Laden, like the late Yasir Arafat, are wealthy serial killers, not poor, downtrodden victims.

 

Dr. Irwin Mansdorf of the Jerusalem Project for Democracy in the Middle East has noted that various medical journals, including the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, have published anti-Israeli data that is anecdotal, not scholarly. In a letter to the Canadian J of Psychiatry, he states: "Mixing politics with science is a risky proposition, especially without evidence to support the conclusions reached."

 

Certainly that sounds like the PsySR’s modus operandi. If its anti-Israel statement is any clue, PsySR is very far from the pro-peace group it purports to be. It is instead a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli group that uses its expertise in mental health to assail Israel’s right to self-defense. President Bush as well as leaders in Congress would be well advised to ignore its latest brief.

 

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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (2005). She has just published a new edition of Woman's Inhumanity to Woman (2009). She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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