Harold Behr

Urging restraint on Israel in the face of unrestrained barbarism

It is ironic that Israel, a country over which a pall of dread has settled, should have to suffer being lectured to by well-intentioned sympathisers on the importance of exercising restraint in its military responses to Hamas. A horrific scenario is being replayed here. The murderous attacks by Hamas, carried out indiscriminately and without a trace of compassion for the victims, are being balanced against the ethically driven manoeuvres by the IDF to recover hostages and destroy once and for all an enemy which has set its sights on the utter destruction of Israel and the deaths of all Jews who live there.

What is Israel expected to do? Hamas exults in the success of its barbaric rampage, which it sees as a step on the road to Jewish genocide. Israel urges Gaza citizens to get out of potential battle zones; Hamas orders them to stay put and blocks the routes by which they might escape from danger. Hamas thrives on the destruction of human life in the name of their fanatical ideology.

Under such extreme provocation, the IDF is governed by an ethical code which runs deep in the Jewish psyche and will not be shaken. Those who watch from the sidelines range from horrified Israel sympathisers to jubilant antisemites who seize the opportunity to beat their pro-Palestinian drum. The collective mind of the latter fails to distinguish between the need to challenge the societal iniquities within Israel and the urgent need to condemn unequivocally the savagery of a terrorist group committed to genocide.

A brutal event of this magnitude inevitably sets off shock waves which become a global turning point. Looking back through the pages of history, I want to recall another critical moment in September 1938, when, if the political leaders of the day had acted differently, they might have averted the catastrophe of a world war. Neville Chamberlain’s visit to Munich to ‘negotiate’ with Adolf Hitler ostensibly had nothing to do with the plight of the Jews, although their horrific treatment within Germany and Hitler’s genocidal intentions were no secret. Chamberlain’s purpose was simply to determine the fate of Czechoslovakia, a “far off country”,in his fateful words, “about which we know nothing”.

Chamberlain, naive beyond belief, was so eager to accept Hitler’s assurance that the occupation of Czechoslovakia would be his last territorial demand, that, together with his feeble French counterpart, Daladier, he reneged on their joint treaty obligations to stand by the Czechs and happily signed that country over to the Nazis. Behind the scenes, Hitler was already pushing ahead with his plans for a full scale military invasion.

The inability of Chamberlain and his fellow appeasers to see through Hitler’s bluff and their over-eagerness to placate him took the wind out of the sails of Hitler’s top generals, who had been poised to arrest him the moment he gave the order to invade. The German people, contrary to Hitler’s hopes, were fearful of another war and lacked the fervid enthusiasm of their leader.

Hitler had triumphed with his bloodless coup. The people’s confidence in his leadership was restored and the moment was lost. Chamberlain, smiling and waving the treaty document with Hitler’s signature on it, returned home to a jubilant reception. The cartoonist David Low captured the situation well: a massive hole has been blasted in the wall serving as a defensive fortification for the West. Across the gap, a sheet of paper has been inserted. The note on it reads, “I will be good, (signed) Adolf Hitler.”

Nazis, Hamas – two groups whose raison d’etre is fanatical Jew-hatred. We will now see whether the world has moved on since the Holocaust, but to urge restraint on a people reeling with shock and facing existential annihilation is a bit rich, given the long and tragic record of some of the states and agencies now preaching moderation to the victims of such a heinous attack.

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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