Harold Behr

The Antisemitism of Hamas: A Dangerous Virus

Hamas’s fanatical antisemitic violence is spreading like an infectious organism, as shown by the rise in antisemitic incidents in the wake of their murderous rampage. Neither academic prowess nor the voice of reason confer immunity on such a disease. There is a worldwide surge in antisemitism on university campuses and we are hearing a rising chorus of voices from all walks of life pinning responsibility for the massacre of Jews on the Jews themselves and calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.

How can this epidemic be contained? The immediate task is to identify and isolate the carriers of the organism. This is an exceptionally difficult task, since the members of Hamas merge with the surrounding populace with no regard for the inevitable loss life, even of people whose cause they claim to promote.

The infection spreads and Palestinians, young and old, succumb. Their grief and rage cries out for answers, which Hamas is ready to supply. In Hamas’s book there is only one party to blame for the destruction: Israel. And so the infection jumps from Gaza to other Palestinian communities and from them to extremists beyond Israel’s borders, fueled purely by hatred and interested only in peddling their antisemitic wares to all who are prepared to listen.

The task of identifying the Hamas carriers of antisemitism is a military one. We have to trust the specialised skills of the IDF, its intelligence and its code of ethics. A cautionary note, however: a blunderbuss attack on the virus, such as the bombing of buildings and the imposition of life-threading restrictions on the population as a whole, is clumsy at best, and cruelly punitive at worst. It simply accelerates the spread of the virus. In a laboratory, dangerous organisms are handled with a care based on hard-won knowledge of how infectious diseases are spread. The same principles should apply to the battleground of Gaza.

Meanwhile, those of us watching in anguish from the sidelines can only deploy whatever skills we have to repair the inhuman legacy of the Hamas attack. One way of doing this is to speak out calmly for truth and justice. The precursors of murderous fanaticism lie in emotionally violent, blinkered verbal attacks by one group on another.

If the voice of moderation can be sounded in the face of extreme provocation, we might just be able to quell the present epidemic. Antisemitism is a hardy organism and it shows no sign of disappearing from the face of the earth. Moreover, it invariably evolves into new mutations. Nevertheless, I hope that we can at least develop a vaccine based on strength, tempered by compassion, which will protect us from its lethal effects.

About the Author
I was born in South Africa in 1940 and emigrated to the U.K. in 1970 after qualifying in medicine. I held a post as Consultant Psychiatrist in London until my retirement in 2013. I am the author of two books: one on group analytic psychotherapy, one on the psychology of the French Revolution. I have written many articles on group psychology published in peer-reviewed journals. From 1979 to 1985 I was editor of the journal ‘Group Analysis’; I have contributed short pieces to psychology newsletters over the years.
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