Julie Ancis
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The mental health groups pouring salt in the wound of Jewish trauma

Organizations like the APA and ACA have a duty to call out Hamas atrocities and to stop victim-blaming
The destruction and death caused by Hamas Militants in Kibbutz Be'eri, near the Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 11, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
The destruction and death caused by Hamas Militants in Kibbutz Be'eri, near the Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 11, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Mental health professionals are expected to avoid inflicting harm and to adhere to ethical principles, including respecting the rights and dignity of all people. Yet the statements made by major mental health organizations in response to the brutal Oct. 7 Hamas assault on Israeli civilians are contrary to the ethical principles and codes of conduct of our own profession.

Instead of stating unequivocally that Hamas is a terrorist organization, offering support for the victims, and providing resources to survivors and those grieving the murder and kidnapping of friends and family, these organizations have engaged in false moral equivalencies between Israel and Hamas, seemingly justifying Hamas’s barbarism and gaslighting Jews in the process.

Rather than condemning Hamas, the American Counseling Association “condemns the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict – including the violent attack on Israel that took place on October 7, 2023 – and the violence, displacement, deprivation and loss of life that pre-dated and has ensued since October 7.” This is not just a socio-political skirmish, but a heinous attack by Hamas on civilians and non-combatants.

The ACA statement goes so far as to appeal to “leaders on both sides of this war to take immediate steps to end the violence and work toward sustainable peace and collective healing.” Which leaders are being referred to here? Can one reasonably expect Israeli leaders to appeal to a terrorist organization whose stated goal is to destroy the state of Israel?

The American Psychological Association’s statement, entitled “Warning of Psychological Impacts of Violence in Middle East,” does condemn Hamas. Yet the statement later calls for understanding “the root cause” of such “problems,” as though the attack was justified. All code for “Israel is to blame.”

One must wonder why it is so hard for major mental health organizations to simply call out terror and terrorist organizations without engaging in gaslighting and victim-blaming of Jews.

By now, many have seen the images and videos of Jewish civilians tortured, raped, held hostage in their homes, kidnapped, burned, beheaded, and paraded in the streets of Gaza where Palestinians cheered. This horror represents the largest mass murder of Jews in one day since the Holocaust; over 1200 in a single day. In an October 10, 2023 press conference, President Biden declared, “The brutality of Hamas – this bloodthirstiness – brings to mind the worst – the worst rampages of ISIS. This is terrorism. But sadly, for the Jewish people, it’s not new.”

One would think that images of entire families of civilians murdered in their homes and kidnapped women, children, and elderly people would engender some sympathy and support from organizations committed to psychological wellness. Instead, the major mental health organizations have become hotbeds of misinformation bereft of moral conviction or a commitment to science. Their statements induce a secondary trauma for Jewish people, pouring salt into the psychological wounds created by thousands of years of antisemitism and genocide.

What happens to our world when the helpers become the perpetrators of trauma, ostensibly sensitive to the pain and suffering of some but not others, namely Jews? The minds and hearts of future leaders, faculty, administrators, therapists and psychologists are at stake.

About the Author
Julie Ancis is a Distinguished Professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Founder and President of Psychologists Against Antisemitism.