Jillian Selman

On Gaza, Therapists Should Know Better

The image of Sigmund Freud, the "father of modern psychology", overlays NYT headline reporting Hamas's disturbing acts of sexual violence on October 7th. Image created by J. Selman.

Lesley University’s list-serve for alumni of its Expressive Therapy program generally focuses on posts about jobs, licensure, insurance, office space, or referrals.  But, from time to time, it has also hosted conversations on political issues.

When George Floyd died in police custody and Russia attacked Ukraine it didn’t take long for participants to weigh in on one side of the equation; and no one scolded them for having done so.  In contrast, when thousands of Hamas rapists, sadists, kidnappers, and murderers raided unsuspecting Israeli farming communities and a music festival on October 7, no one on the list-serve uttered a word.  That was, until over a month later.  On November 8, a Lesley graduate expressed her angst over “unbearable atrocities unfolding as millions of our beloved kin in Palestine face crushing forces of genocide.”  In response, a Jewish alumna, citing facts, objected to the misuse of the term “genocide” as applied to Israel’s self-defense against a terrorist bloodbath.  She asked for a retraction of the slur and an apology.  Almost immediately, she was attacked by others – including some Jews – for politicizing the list-serve, making it an “unsafe space” for open discussion.

The one who precipitated the exchange by leveling the “genocide” charge, never offered a counterargument, let alone a retraction.  Instead, she played the victim, asserting that by sharing her distress over Palestinian suffering, she wound up mistreated.  As for an apology, the best she could muster was: I “never intended to upset anyone and apologize if (emphasis ours) I have”.

We offer our thoughts:

“Hi, Expressive Therapists’ Group,

As practitioners in a field that ostensibly values empathy, safety, commitment to verifiable data, and accountability, you’ve fallen short of your self-professed standards.

Where was your empathy for 1,200 defenseless Jews slaughtered while sleeping in their beds, tending their gardens, dancing at a music festival?  Where was it for the 240 hostages ranging in age from 9 months (today turning 1 year) to 85 years?  Where was your empathy for your Jewish and Israeli colleagues who heard your month-long radio silence after the October 7 massacre loud and clear?  Where has it been while we Jews in America have subsequently been experiencing a 400% rise in anti-Semitic incidents, above and beyond the fact that such incidents had already accounted for more than all other religious hate crimes put together – including Islamophobia?  Why is it that your emotions are stirred only by Palestinians’ purported aspirations for statehood, but are numb to the longings of the Uyghurs, Tibetans, Kurds, and many others?  Could it be that, in truth, you’re less driven by love of the specific Palestinian narrative than antipathy to the Zionist dream?  How else do you explain empathy for only one case of self-determination while ignoring even more compelling others? How else do you justify your utter indifference when Syria turns its guns not only on its Sunni, Christian, and Kurd populations, but on its Palestinians, as well?

And where was your commitment to safety?  Those on the list-serve complaining about their sense of safety being breached did so unafraid and publicly, while many of the Jews shared their fears with each other privately, afraid to post on the list-serve.  Take a minute for that to sink in: therapists feel unsafe in a space they share with other therapists, their colleagues.

Where was your commitment to verifiable data when you apparently accepted the bogus claims (shortly thereafter disproven) of the Palestinian Health Authority that the Israelis were targeting hospitals – as if those hospitals weren’t harboring terrorists, housing weaponry, and serving as cover for attack tunnels? Did you know that the Palestinian Health Authority is run by Hamas?  When did we start trusting murderers and rapists to provide accurate information?  Can you find even one statistic where Hamas reports the number of its own operatives that have been killed, or do you just see “civilian women and children”? Curious isn’t it that they know the exact number of children, but not the number of “freedom fighters” that have perished.

Make no mistake- we are not denying the fact that there have been civilian casualties, which is an unfortunate reality of war. However, it is crucial to acknowledge when looking at these numbers that Hamas counts every casualty as a “civilian” and everyone under 18 as a child, even the many teenagers actively engaged in terrorist activity. They also blame Israel for the deaths of Gazan civilians caused by 2000 of their own misfired rockets.

The IDF does more than any other country to give fair warning that they are about to engage in a military operation.  Check out the interview of a Gazan who detailed how he received a plea from an IDF officer to escape and get all his neighbors out of the area safely.  Listen to recordings of Gazan citizens telling the IDF that Hamas blocked roads and shot anyone trying to evacuate northern Gaza and that Hamas has been stealing humanitarian aid.  Or of the IDF calling off airstrikes because they noticed movement of people and animals in the area.  Or of Arabs like Palestinians Mosab Hassan Yousef (also known as “The Son of Hamas”) and political analyst and human rights advocate Bassem Eid; Israeli-Bedouin Stanford MBA graduate Sophia Salm Shramko Khalifa; Israeli-Arabs journalist-activist Yoseph Haddad, news anchor Lucy Aharish, and influencer Mansor Ashkar; Egyptian award winning writer, researcher, and human rights activist Dalia Ziada[1], and Yemeni-Swedish journalist Luai Ahmed. These voices detail the horror that is Hamas and call for its elimination, stating that Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, shouldn’t be branded with terms like “apartheid” and “genocide”, and expose the underlying Antisemitism that’s currently fueling the protesting masses.  All you need to find such sources is a computer and devotion to verifiable data.

And where is your commitment to accountability?  Surely, you noticed that no attempt by the colleague who precipitated this exchange was made to substantiate the genocide canard and no retraction was offered.  Surely, you recognized the old “I apologize if I offended you” formula isn’t an apology.  But none of you objected.

Therapists should know better.”

[1] For a full-length interview with Dalia detailing her support of Israel in the fight against Hamas, and her perspective on Islamists infiltrating Western society see–7GUSvR_dE?si=sjgjsfkKv5XY6XNO&t=1

The above was coauthored by Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg. Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Sons of Israel in Woodmere, NY.  He and his wife, Rachel, immigrated to Israel in 2022.

About the Author
Jillian Selman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Art Therapist. She resides with her family in the United States.
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