Tani Burton
Head Shrink and Gym Rat

Driven mad by what our eyes behold

IDF artillery forces fire into the Gaza Strip on July 16 as part of Operation Protective Edge. Source: Israel Defense Forces

To emote into the public space seems presumptuous, particularly when there are people who have suffered more than I have. And yet, in light of the feeling of not knowing what I can do to influence things—outside of prayer—over the situation that surrounds me and my Jewish brothers and sisters, I feel that I have no other choice.

A short time ago, I stood in a sea of people under the tarp at Mount Herzl cemetery, with cold winds and heavy rain falling upon us. Eulogy followed eulogy, extolling the praises of this diamond of a person, each speaker presenting the facet he or she was fortunate to behold. His rosh yeshiva spoke of his refined character traits and love of Torah and Eretz Yisrael. His military comrades mentioned his heroism, bravery and dedication. His parents exhibited great strength and composure; his siblings, feeling less pressure to do so, allowed their tears to flow freely. I experienced a sense of disorientation at the notion that I was at a funeral for a friend’s son who had fallen in battle, because, although that is an all-too-familiar experience for native Israelis, my friend and I are immigrants from other countries, and nevertheless, the reality of living next to genocidal terror organizations had now come closer.

I looked down at one point and saw that I was standing in front of the grave of the remarkable Aner Elyakim Shapiro. I noted the date of his death, October 7th, 2023. Aner was a dual British-Israeli citizen, a 22-year-old off-duty staff sergeant, who managed to throw back seven grenades tossed by Hamas terrorists into the safe room he was in before he was killed. A glance to the side revealed that many if not most of the people buried in that row of graves had also been killed on that day, or within the past month.

As a mental health practitioner, I firmly believe that it is better to physically volunteer one’s time than to follow constantly-updated news or to fall into the rabbit hole of social media, with its unending parade of horrors, hate, and futility, leaving the viewer (or tweeter) mentally unbalanced and physically sick. Though volunteering might bring a person into real contact with difficult circumstances, it is better to give time to a neighborhood patrol, or to provide any and all forms of support and help to the people in this country who have been bereaved. Or who are waiting on the most awful tenterhooks to find out if they will ever see their loved ones again. Or who are struggling to process the worst trauma imaginable. It’s better, because of what our eyes have to behold and our minds have to withstand when we passively sit back and watch.

On October 7th, we were exposed to rockets, murders, beheadings, mass rape, burnings, and kidnappings—and a seemingly endless amount of innocent blood spilled by people who have been raised to believe that there is no higher goal than to destroy us.

We watched the armed forces begin the process of eliminating the exterminationist Hamas terror organization. At the time, there was a sense of total dedication to this goal. But, like in all other conflicts, Israel was granted its perfunctory short period of time to vent its outrage, and was then summarily condemned on every media outlet, in the chambers of the UN, on every university campus and in the streets of every major city.

We listened to the deafeningly loud fringe minority (not minority enough, in my opinion) of neo-Marxist twits as they justified the terrorists’ gruesome brutality under the aegis of “decolonization”, the catharsis of the oppressed, to the delight of antisemites and anti-Zionists around the globe.

We heard not one word from women’s rights groups about the furious rape and cruel abduction of Israeli women and girls.

We saw the hostage posters, which, but a short time ago, would have evoked sympathy and outrage from decent people, ripped off of every lamppost.

We were informed of missiles flying in from Iran’s proxies in Lebanon and Yemen. Were they parties to this conflict? Yes, because each one of these juntas was a calling card from the Iranian regime, which has ironically been appeased and enriched by Israel’s greatest ally under the Biden administration.

The world seemed to have completely lost its moral compass.

In the beginning, there was incredible resolve for the just military effort to destroy Hamas. There would be no negotiations, no fuel, no water and no electricity in the Gaza Strip. This was war. All hostages would have to be returned unconditionally—and their return would not deter the IDF from its mission.

Then came the demanded “humanitarian pauses”, the restoration of communications and fuel, which would only benefit Hamas. The IDF, driven in part by its tragic humanitarianism, established safe corridors for evacuees, and delivered incubators for babies in Al-Shifa hospital, which doubled as a medical facility and a shield for terror tunnels. All of these laudable, humane gestures, which were probably contradictory to the prosecution of the war, failed to prevent the din of international condemnation from growing ever louder. Journalist and author Douglas Murray has been in Israel for weeks to chronicle what has happened here, and with a few brilliantly-articulated sentences, surpassed decades of Israeli hasbara. He summed up the world’s response as, “Israel is the only country in the world never allowed to win a war”.

Accordingly, the news came that the IDF would cease its military activity for four days, and in exchange, the deplorable Hamas leadership would allow up to 13 Israeli hostages to trickle out of their dank tunnels per day—but only women (mostly elderly) and children. They never agreed to release adult males, even if they were the fathers or husbands of those released.

To reward these noble creatures for their largesse, Israel would also release “Palestinian women and children” in a staggering 3:1 ratio to the hostages. Note that all of these “women and children” were terrorists who had the misfortune to be arrested before they could complete their acts of murder. Note as well that these terrorists were not necessarily leaving prison to return to Gaza, but back onto the streets of Israeli territory proper. A brain-shattering equivalence was thus drawn between innocent civilians held captive by terrorists and terrorists who were imprisoned for the attempted murder of innocent civilians.

Furthermore, in this deal, there would be no UAV surveillance by the IDF for six hours per day, giving Hamas cover to move their leaders and smuggle the hostages to new locations.

And all of this was brokered by the Qatari government, which has both funded Hamas and hosted their leaders in luxury hotels for years. The arsonists had returned as the firefighters.

To be sure, there is massive pressure from everywhere, including the Biden administration, to extend what is now being called a “truce”. The Israeli war cabinet signaled its agreement in principle. One version of this would have been conditioned upon the release of 10 hostages per day, hand-picked by Hamas or special-requested by other governments. Israeli leaders and spokespersons said that this would be possible for up to ten days. Of course, that would still leave more than a hundred hostages under the ground in Gaza, and, for all we know, the so-called “humanitarian pause” may continue indefinitely, leaving Hamas in power. I only have my own subjective experience, but I sense that other people, like I am, are beyond their capacity to tolerate this indignity and soul-destroying cognitive dissonance—especially when other people are making decisions for us, and we are not in positions of power.

Douglas Murray opined that the IDF must resume the war, because the population of Israel will stand for no less. Of course, this is the only thing that makes any logical sense, when viewed from the outside. However, it has happened many times that Israeli governments have reacted to attacks like these with an initial round of saber-rattling and chest-beating, and even invested in short periods of retaliation. But these are arrested before their objectives are achieved, and are nearly always swiftly followed with agreements that amount to no more than the self-destructive appeasement of inhumane, bloodthirsty terrorists. Will it be the same this time? Agreements of this type are just a postponement of conflict and further atrocities that are sure to occur, because Israel’s enemies, be they Islamists or Arab nationalists, are sworn to the destruction of Israel.

People in Israel typically fall on a spectrum that runs from hawkishness to cautious optimism to delusional utopianism, which makes for a robust national debate about how to proceed. But not proceeding with conviction until there is no Hamas is a road that will lead, not only to disillusionment and despair, but more shedding of innocent blood. Israel must commit itself to actual victory, and Israel’s allies must allow this country to win this war. Then my friend’s son, and the sons of so many others, will not have made the ultimate sacrifice in vain.

About the Author
Tani Burton is a seasoned psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and existential analyst with a remarkable two-decade track record of guiding individuals, couples, and families towards discovering meaning in their lives and embracing positive change. Beyond the counseling room, Tani is a dedicated fitness trainer, weaving together the realms of mental and physical well-being. With a passion for holistic health, he empowers clients to take control of their journey, fostering a transformative path toward mental clarity and physical vitality, and offering a distinctive approach to unlocking a healthier, more fulfilling life.
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