Psychologists For Social Responsibility Launch Campaign Against Israel – SPME Responds

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Psychologists For Social Responsibility Launch Campaign Against
Israel For Engaging in Psychological Warfare Against Palestinians-Protest to White House:
SPME Responds

Read the statement of PsySR online at:

November 16, 2005

Below is a statement approved by the PsySR Steering Committee that will be hand-delivered to the White House 11.17.05, and to the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate on bothsides of the aisle. We invite you to discuss this issue with your congressionalrepresentatives. Please feel free to distribute this public statement,which will be published tomorrow as a press release. We encourage you to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can easily get contact information for both your local newspaper and Congress by using the links on our Media Access Center at Many thanks to all of those who contributed to the crafting of this statement, and who submitted comments and suggestions through our various listserves and action committees. Sincerely, Anne Anderson, Coordinator


Psychologists for Social Responsibility Condemns the Israeli Army’s Use of Psychological Warfare Against the Gaza Population

November 15, 2005

To President George W. Bush and the United States Congress: In recent days, the Israeli Army has practiced a particularly pernicious form of psychological warfare against the civilian population of Gaza. Several times during the day and night, low-flying F-16 jet planes fly across the sky at breakneck speeds until they cross the sound barrier resulting in a deafening and terrifying explosion known as a “sonic boom.” The force of these blasts is so intense that it often causes physical damage on the ground, cracking walls and shattering windows. Predictably, the psychological effects of these sonic booms on the civilian population of Gaza have been devastating. Gazans have been left in a state of fear and panic. Children are restless, crying, frightened, and many are wetting their beds. Some children are afraid to leave home and refuse to go to school. Many are dazed, pale, insomniac, and have a poor appetite. Some pregnant women reported colics and some were admitted to hospital with precipitated labor. Many people complain of ear pressure. All are stunned.

Psychologists for Social Responsibility is deeply troubled by this latest military campaign by the Israeli army against the population of Gaza. The Israeli army’s use of psychological warfare as collective punishment will serve to further escalate the already high rate of stress and trauma-related psychological disorders among Gaza civilian population. We also note that these actions by the Israeli army are in clear violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Convention, which states:

“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited…Reprisals

against protected persons and their property are prohibited.” We recognize that the use of sonic booms is justified by Israel as a response to the firing of Qassam rockets, originating in Gaza and directed at Israeli population centers. Qassam rockets too are frightening to civilians of all ages. Indeed, they have killed Israeli civilians and we condemn their use. But one cruel method does not justify another. Nor is there any reason to expect that the sonic booms will prevent the firing of Qassams. Israel’s use of sonic booms against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, a population already ravaged by 38 years of brutal military occupation, will serve only to escalate the conflict even further and make it that much more difficult for the parties to negotiate its peaceful resolution.

The conflict can be resolved only with an end to the occupation and the establishment of an independent, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem. Given the large amount of military aid provided annually by

the United States to Israel, the U.S. has a moral responsibility to intervene and demand that Israel cease these illegal and inhumane actions immediately. We call on our government to act now.


SPME Statement

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Respond to Statement by Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has issued a statement condemning Israel’s use of sonic boom flyovers as “psychological warfare against the Gaza population.” They are concerned that these flyovers will “further escalate the already high rate of stress and trauma-related psychological disorders among Gaza civilian population.” To their credit, they also recognize that “the use of sonic booms is justified by Israel as a response to the firing of Qassam rockets, originating in Gaza and directed at Israeli population centers.” Their statement concludes with a claim that peace in the Middle East will only emerge with “the establishment of an independent, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem.”

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) disputes the foundation of this statement, which has been presented to the US Congress. It condemns Israeli policy, while ignoring far greater issues that threaten the mental health of those in this region. It diminishes the full context for the sonic boom flyovers. It relies upon biased sources to support the claim of psychological injury. Most importantly, the statement exploits professional medical credentials to justify a political position.

The context for the flyovers is straightforward. They are a response to Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli population centers. As Israeli officials point out, when the Qassam attacks stop, the flyovers will stop. Moreover, Qassam rockets and sonic booms differ in an important way: the sonic booms do not kill anyone; the Qassams do. This important difference is not mentioned in the PsySR statement. Surely, years of suicide bombings in Israeli restaurants, busses and street corners, attacks on schools, murder of motorists and passengers, and now random rocket attacks on Israeli population centers do far more to damage the mental health of civilians than the mere noise of jet planes crossing the sound barrier thousands of feet above the ground.

Their claim of medical morbidity is unsubstantiated. The PsySR statement offers no evidence for any negative medical or psychological effect, short-or long-term. The source for the alleged negative mental health effects of the flyovers turns out to be a single Palestinian psychiatrist, hardly an unbiased or neutral source. This same source, often cited in media reports, has also defended suicide bombing.(

Most critically, the PsySR statement uses medical credentials to promote a political position, specifically, their outline of a solution to this longstanding conflict. Psychologists have no special expertise as to what a negotiated solution to the Middle East conflict should look like.

We are forced also to question the selective outrage of PsySR. Sonic booms in Gaza are far from the worst form of mental health abuse in the world today. They are hardly the most important issue PsySR could bring to the attention of the US Congress.

SPME notes that people active in Psychologists for Social Responsibility have promoted an overtly anti-Israel agenda in other venues as well. A symposium at the APA this past summer sponsored by the group presented a panel that lacked balance and was considered decidedly pro-Palestinian. First hand reports brought to our attention indicate that those in the audience who supported Israeli positions on these issues were shouted down by the panelists when they attempted to give some balance to the discussion.

We note as well that some members of PsySR are unhappy with the politicization of the organization. They have expressed their unhappiness publicly that the group has wandered from its original intent, damaging their role as a voice for the effect of nuclear weapons on mental health.. We support such efforts to keep politics out of medical research and public health advocacy. Medical and academic credibility is more needed than ever, but is lost when it is hijacked for political goals. As scholars we can ill afford that.

We call on Psychologists for Social Responsibility to withdraw this obviously biased statement. We call on the Congress and Government of the United States to continue to work for an end to acts and threats of violence, terrorism and intolerance, with acceptance of the right of all states in the Middle East, including Israel, to live in peace and harmony with their neighbors free from fear of random attacks on their populations.

Please disseminate this information widely to combat bias in mental health research and practice.

Steven Albert, PhD, MSPH Chair, Task Force on Medical/Public Health Affairs Member, Board of Directors Scholars for Peace in the Middle East [email protected]

Edward S. Beck, Ed.D., CCMHC, NCC, LPC, Alvernia College and Susquehanna Institute, President

Board of Directors

Jonathan Adelman, Ph.D., University of Denver
Steven Albert, Ph.D., MPH, University of Pittsburgh
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., City U. of New York J
ohn R. Cohn, MD, Thomas Jefferson College of Medicine
Donna Robinson Divine, Ph.D., Smith College
Stanley Dubinsky, Ph.D., U. of South Carolina
Rev. India E. Garnett, M.Div. Treasurer, Harrisburg PA Chapter, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Peter Haas, Ph.D. Case Western Reserve U.
Judith Jacobson, Dr. P.H., Vice President, Columbia U.
Efraim Karsh, Kings College U. of London
Richard Landes,Ph.D. Boston U.
Ruth Lichtenberg-Contreras, Ph.D., Secretary, U. of Vienna and Natural History Museum of Vienna Allan Lipton, MD, Penn State College of Medicine, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Robert S. Mirin, Esq., Harrisburg, PA
G.S. Don Morris, Ph.D.,California Polytechnic U./Wingate Institute IL
Nidra Poller, Novelist, Paris, France
Philip Carl Salzman,Ph.D. McGill U.
Gerald Steinberg, Ph.D., Bar Ilan U.
Laurie Zoloth, Ph.D., Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern U.

SPME Medical and Public Health Task Force

Edward S. Beck, Alvernia College and Susquehanna Institute
Steven Albert, University of Pittsburgh
Paul Appelbaum, University of Massachusetts Medical Center
John R. Cohn, Thomas Jefferson University College of Medicine
Georges Gachnochi, France
Judith Jacobson, Columbia University
Irwin Mansdorf, Jerusalem Project for Democracy in the Middle East
Gerald Steinberg, Bar-Ilan University
Laurie Zoloth, Northwestern University

Additional Signatures

Hilda B. Minkoff, EdD Licensed Professional Counselor, Philadelphia PA

Gustav J. Beck, M.D., Gwynedd, PA

Warren Throckmorton, PhD Associate Professor of Psychology Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy Grove City College

Lewis Z. Schlosser, Ph.D. PPFT -316 JH Seton Hall University 400 South Orange Avenue South Orange, NJ 07079 (973)-275-2503

Psychologists For Social Responsibility Launch Campaign Against Israel – SPME Responds

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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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