Monday, January 12, 2009

Olmert - change your psychologist!

Mr Ehud Olmert
Prime Minister
Tel Aviv

Dear Mr Olmert,

I write to inform you that your psychological expert advisers have given you bad advice.

Newsnight has just done a piece on Gaza, reporting the opinion of community leaders and psephologists that Israel's action is radicalising Muslim opinion and boosting the risk of terrorism.

I have not seen any Israeli Government report on the psychological analysis of the effects of Cast Lead, but it is save to assume that you simply hope to crush the spirits of the Palestinian people to the point that they reject Hamas.

It is easy to crush human bodies: to break the human spirit takes more persistence, but it can be done, to some individuals. They withdraw, become inactive, self-neglecting, preoccupied with a re-run in their heads of videos of carnage. To that extent, you can crush a spirit.

What your strategists, so politically sophisticated but so psychologically naive, have left out of the picture is the effect on others, maybe more removed from the Ground Zero events: the young men (and women) who have heard friends, cousins, siblings, parents or children being blown to shreds, or groaning in death agonies; or young men who have heard of such things, young Londoners perhaps who have relatives in Gaza whose phones have done dead.

Mr Olmert, the spirit of these young men is not crushed by your attacks. It is inflamed. Your bombs and shells, bursting in filthy black flowers over Gaza, at the same time also plant a filthy black flower of hatred in people everywhere: not just in Palestinian hearts, but also Arab, also Muslims and also in people all over God's earth The echoes of hatred roll on and on, becoming weaker over time, but only too ready to explode out again. There is a reflexivity in the human psyche that your advisers have overlooked. The one that is killed will always kill again.

For God's sake, Ehud, stop! Enough. This is enough violence. It is not proportionate.

You've made your point. The Qassam attacks are intolerable. They must stop. But so also must the blockade, and the Wall, and the ethnic cleansing.

We know full well that the situation in the Middle East is complex to the point of seeming to be insoluble; but within this complexity, there is one very simple truth, which, if held in the mind, can lead us all at last to beside the still waters:

Violence is the problem, not the solution.

The antidote to hatred is not violence but wisdom - the ability to see from the mountain top, not the cave.

I suggest you call your psychological advisers out of their cave, and replace them with some advisers who are versed in social systems.

Thank you for reading this far.

Dr Richard Lawson MB BS MRCPsych

You can send letters to him online.

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