During these times of turmoil and shattering images of violence, the most important thing is for us to keep clarity of mind, knowledge, purpose, and strength of heart. We must remember that media reports can be untrue or amplify destructive narratives as truth, in order to avoid threats or denied access to reporting.
Clarity and knowledge are essential when the powerful media is manipulated for advocacy and propaganda; when worldwide chants and demonstrations clamor for people’s death, fueled by slanted media coverage; and when the media prominently report extremist voices, giving power to their distorted messages. We must have higher standards for ourselves and for the media in order to support the lives of innocents everywhere.
Sacredness of Life vs. Cult of Death in Conflict and War
Most people cherish the sacredness of life, and love and protect their children. However, some groups, due to a deep trauma vortex that enflames their ideologies and radicalizes them, mercilessly use their own innocent civilians as human shields, perpetuating their culture of death ideologies in the name of God. They are very open and proud of it. They view as normal the inculcation of hatred into their children, recruiting them as suicide-bombers, or as military assets by launches attacks from behind them; or enlisting them as child soldiers.
Most ethical nations feel impacted by the deaths they cause in war and mourn enemy civilian losses. For example, in the current conflict, most Israelis are devastated with the deaths of the Gazan children. However, for the culture of death proponents, this is not true. Even their populations, indoctrinated by the destructive ideologies of their leaders, celebrate enemy civilian deaths, and are convinced they are sacrificing their own children for the love of their God.
Armed conflict between groups with different values raises issues not addressed and integrated into the collective consciousness. While the horror of bombed hospitals arouses dismay and revulsion in the sacredness of life-group, it is a sign of victory for the cult of death-group. This is an encounter between life vs. death philosophies. We must resolve this dilemma globally, not just between Hamas and Israel. We must develop strategies for the early detection of death cult, denounce their tactics immediately, and prosecute them for launching attacks from hospitals, schools and ambulances; for using their children, pregnant women, and animals as suicide-bombers; for kidnapping schoolchildren; killing or raping civilians, all for psychological effect, in the name of faith.
Manipulating People’s Emotions
At the forefront, ethical armies have placed their concern for civilian collateral damage, accepting to lose the advantage of surprise, putting their soldiers at risk and warning the enemy where they will bomb in order to prevent civilian deaths. But civilian deaths are inevitable when the other party purposefully plans for (even coerces) civilian deaths. When it globally displays wrenching images in order to manipulate people’s emotions, and when the media is not allowed to report other aspects of the conflict, it is essential to resist the emotional pull of those images and not reward the cult of death philosophy. This kind of behavior— using one’s civilians as human shields and military assets— continues ONLY because the media and the public succumb to the manipulative narrative of children’s deaths, and focuses on the numbers instead of the culture of death that creates those numbers.
If slanted media coverage continues to be taken into consideration by the public and politicians, these children will never be delivered from their captor leaders, from the ideology that believes their death to be an honor for each mother and father and a deeply religious gesture.
Those of us who care about the already sacrificed children, and those who will be sacrificed in the future, must raise our voices to ask the international community not to allow these groups to:
• Teach hatred to their children as part of the educational curriculum; or brainwash children (and parents) to make them suicide bombers; train 5-year-olds how to handle arms;
• Hide weapons in and launch attacks from their schools and homes, bringing about their destruction;
• Teach children that dying while killing others is honorable, is religious and God’s will.
Freedom vs. Ideology
Without clarity of our values, we are supporting those who use and sacrifice their children and civilians for destructive causes. We must maintain clarity about democratic values, compassion, and the sanctity of life, all critical issues to prevent any influence from a culture of death. We cannot be pulled in by the sensationalist images without analyzing the situation in terms of the children’s ultimate safety.
People with death-cult ideologies exploit numbers and proportionality, risking more of their own civilians’ lives to demonize their enemy. They rely on the issues we have with our own cultures to confuse us about the danger they represent. Allowing ourselves this kind of confusion only gives relevance and prominence to the groups who otherwise lose their power among their oppressed people.
The clarity we need is that people with death-cult ideologies are not fighting for their people’s freedom, but for destroying others who are different from them. Groups such as Hamas or Islamic State have very open charters for all to see. There is no reason not to recognize the destructiveness of their clearly stated goals.
Territorial Disputes vs. Religious Conflict
Another way death cult leaders perpetuate their hold is to encourage the narrative of an Israeli neo-colonial situation where one does not exist. This type of mistaken narrative allows ideological groups to continue to sacrifice their populations, especially their children. Israel is not a colonizer and does not have another territory to which it can retreat. Israel is not going anywhere. The sooner people of peace help Palestinians and Arabs understand this, the faster they will help them find a way to co-exist with the Israelis, and for the Islamists to find a way to live with the rest of us. As long as the mistaken narrative of Israel as a usurper is given credence, both sides will continue to be sacrificed.
Clarity must also be sought and credence given to the fact that:
• There are 1.5 million Israeli-Arabs in Israel, who are full citizens, have political representation, and whose majority does not want to be part of a Palestinian state.
• The PA, on the other hand, does not want even one Jew in the Palestinian territories, and Christian-Arabs are disappearing from most of the Middle East, except in Israel.
• Palestinian and Arab media sources constantly use Nazi terminology to demonize Israelis and Jews.
Underdog vs. Top-Dog, Inverting David to Goliath
While people’s sympathies normally trend to the apparent underdog and not to a powerful military, it is important to remember: 1) the ability to defend your threatened people does not automatically make you wrong; 2) fewer military resources do not make you an underdog or a victim if you harbor destructive goals. If Israel puts down its arms, it disappears and its people are annihilated. If the Palestinians put down their arms, they get a sovereign state and a robust economy. If they accept the State of Israel, they may be able to show the world how to overcome anti-Semitism.
New Teaching about War
Our clarity of mind fundamentals allows us to:
• Confront war with ethics and justice; develop defensive weapons; avoid provocative, humiliating language;
• Alleviate war brutality with humanitarian ceasefires–even when the enemy breaks them- and supply the enemy with humanitarian needs;
• Warn the population of planned military actions to enable evacuation;
• Avoid carpet bombing to avoid civilian loss of life.
The Shedding of Blood and Peace
Understandably, shedding blood is abhorrent to people with sacredness of life values. However, we must be able to distinguish between right and wrong, between engaging in aggression for the sake of destruction and the use of force in the name of self-defense. Failure to achieve this clarity encourages and allows the shedding of blood to continue. Now it is time to apply our morality to real, challenging situations and not to abstract ideals.
People hate out of ignorance, insecurity and lack of opportunity. Even people who do evil should not be hated, but understood, stopped in their actions by force if necessary; and helped if and when possible.
Gina Ross, MFCT, is Founder/President of the International Trauma-Healing Institute in the US (ITI-US) and its Israeli branch (ITI-Israel). Born in Aleppo, Syria, Gina lived in eight different countries on four continents. A specialist in individual and collective trauma, she authored a series of eight books “Beyond the Trauma Vortex into the Healing Vortex,” targeting 10 social sectors implicated in amplifying or healing trauma. She also created a “Protocol for Conflict Resolution and Successful Communication.” Gina focuses her analytical and advocacy work on the collective trauma behind politics, specifically the Israeli-Jewish/Palestinian–Arab conflict.
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