Please Calm Down
The Importance of Staying Centered in a Global Crisis
Israel/Palestine is one subject that is almost impossible to address conscientiously and coherently. That is especially true at a time such as this, when our feeds and news outlets are flooded with images of atrocities, amplified at a scale that is only possible in a digital era. We also have friends and colleagues and loved ones of loved ones in Israel, and we have in the past closely followed civil society in Palestine, especially in Gaza, so it is an especially difficult time in which to feel or express anything but horror and grief.
So this essay is not one of my usual synthesized essays. Instead, reflecting the prismatic horrors of the moment, it is fractured. I don’t think anything that claims synthesis right now, or a unitary point of view, is honest or even sensitive.
First fragment: the images of Jewish civilians held or bound in contexts of unmitigated sadism, against a background of formerly peaceful civilian streets, felt to me, as it did to many Jews no doubt, like images from 1939-1940 Europe, but colorized.
I wrote on Twitter that these images and the attacks across on Israel’s southern border, would force a sea change among American Jews. We have had a good, safe, thriving 80 years or so, in the United States. So we’ve had the privilege of not being forced to vote at the level of survival.
I was struck that President Trump, whom I have been taught to hate, was welcomed incredibly warmly by religious Jews at a speaking event which I attended; these were Jews who remembered Europe, remembered the pogroms, remembered the time when “in every generation they rise up to destroy us”. As I wrote in the linked essay, I’d been impressed to reflect on the fact that President Trump had moved the Israeli Capitol to Jerusalem, brought about the Abraham Accords - which did in fact create a fragile peace, which peace was good for Palestinians as well as for Israelis - - and that he had been an unshakable and very strong ally for Israel. As no doubt for many Jews watching the current scenes of horrors across Israel’s southern border, and instability rolling out in a terrifying counterattack over Gaza, that record of what that Republican President had achieved — compared with the pathetic and dangerous abandonment of the Jewish State and I’d say, of Palestine’s real interests too — on the watch of a Democratic President — for me, required re-evaluation.
Most US Jews are Democrats, and are liberals, for important historical reasons that I will explain another time. But they have had such strong allies for Israel in US Presidents, for all of the decades past, I think many of us forgot the fragility of Jewish survival. I think that these scenes of violence in the Jewish state will cause a wave of buyers’ remorse among liberal American Jews, who will rethink what it means for the world, including for the Jewish state, for America to be seen globally as weak; as an untrustworthy and unreliable ally; what it means for Jews and for the Jewish state for America to be led by a senile (sorry, but it must finally be said) puppet of China.
I’ve explained in many recent interviews, speaking as a former political consultant and former White House wife, what is so weird and degrading to Jews — and to Americans, and Israelis — about America’s current reaction to the attack on Israel. Under ordinary circumstances, upon hearing of an attack of that kind, the US President would immediately give a resounding speech, emphasizing in the strongest possible terms America’s support for Israel, and would also use language to de-escalate the tensions. We got a statement of “support” on Tuesday the 10th. The President said “when Congress returns” he would ask for other help: “"When Congress returns, I'm going to ask them to take urgent action to fund the national security requirements of our critical partners," he said.”
Under ordinary circumstances, the White House would not be blithering about for several days, merely phoning Netanyahu over “the holiday weekend,” and then issuing weak, equivocal statements about “any country’s” right to defend itself in general.
Under ordinary circumstances, the Secretary of State would be meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister in Israel the next day. If Israel itself was not safe — the two would meet somewhere — like, now.
It is almost five days after the attack and at last we are treated to a scene of Tony Blinken finally ambling onto a plane. His website explains that he intends to travel to Israel (and then at once to Jordan, sensitively enough) to “condemn terrorism” and “reiterate his condolences.” “The Secretary will reiterate his condolences for the victims of the terrorist attacks against Israel and condemn those attacks in the strongest terms. The Secretary will also reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with the government and people of Israel.”
Every officially stated purpose of his visit is merely ceremonial and symbolic.
Hamas must be super scared!
If you have felt that something was weird, it is because this is all weird. This all reveals a dramatically redrawn world order well along in the making.
In the diplomatic world, these symbols and gestures are not trivial; they are all slaps in the face.
They don’t just show Israel that their staunch longtime ally America is maybe shaky or in someone else’s — another superpower’s — pocket. They send the entire world that dangerous, destabilizing message.
China, for its part, is a (racist) superpower that is trying hard to redesign the world order so that the Saudis, Iran (and thus Palestine) and others are all aligned with the CCP in a bloc against the US and Israel. This would be a redesigned world order that can literally wipe Israel off the face of the earth.
Second fragment: no messaging about conflict has no intentionality. In other words, we no longer live in a time of neutral documentation of war or of guerrilla atrocities, if we ever did. There is no Hemingway or Orwell as war correspondents these days, reflecting reality on the ground as accurately as possible with no aim higher than fine reportage.
In other words — and I always get in trouble for pointing this out but it is always true — every image you see in your media stream is both very likely to be real and horrific and to be taken extremely seriously, and also simultaneously it is likely to have been released by whoever took it or has custody of it, in order to get a certain response from the world community at large. That is not a conspiracy theory. That is how government messaging works, and the people who call me a conspiracy theorist for pointing this out, have never worked alongside a White House message shop.
Israel should of course be messaging the world about the atrocities committed at its very heart; that is Israel’s job as a nation right now. But Palestine also has a message team, one that is also sophisticated and well-funded and whose job is also to generate a narrative to spur global public sympathy. Palestine also believes that telling the story of what has also been in the past and no doubt in the future — real damage to its people — is its job.
This does not mean that all of these horrors are not real or are not unbearably serious. What it does mean is that you need, as a consumer of stories and images that all represent themselves as “news”, right now especially, to try to strengthen the activity of your prefrontal cortex. Images of savagery, especially against the innocent — especially against women and children and the elderly — hijack our brain’s processing. They activate (perhaps differently in men and in women) the amygdala, the reptilian, older part of the brain, which is concerned with flight or fight. As a result, when you see images or hear stories of terrorized or raped or abused Israeli innocents, many of you will feel momentarily better — the tension of compassion and helplessness will be eased vicariously — at the thought of “liquidating Gaza.” The same will be the case for supporters of Palestine when the innocent women and children victims of the “hammering” — as CNN puts it — of Gaza, surface, as they surely will soon.
I warn that that a tribalist response to these images is a temporary amygdala rush only, and there is an argument to be made that this impulse, when materialized, does little to actually help or mourn or honor the current Israeli injured and dead or the future Palestinian injured and dead.
In “liquidating Gaza,” which many have called for online — which, my friends, is not a video game — there will be more atrocities generated, many more civilian deaths, and thus also many more scenes and realities and generational memories of abused or broken or dead women and children and elderly, these ones wearing slightly different clothing with somewhat different architecture behind them, or with rubble all around them.
And that new wave of images of different people now also damaged or dead, setting off new generational trauma, just as a new generational trauma has been set off in already-traumatized Israel, will in turn be sent out into the world, and then the secondary and tertiary conflicts will be ignited, and their aggression, in turn, fed.
Then the world divides into tribes, vicariously. Then the marches in Canada and Australia and worldwide, celebrating Palestinian aggression (or “victory”, depending on which side you are on) will trigger, understandably, fear and anxiety in Jews and their allies in Canada and Australia and worldwide, and then support for Israel’s more hardline policies will harden further, for a generation to come.
And then there will be more support for the “liquidation of Gaza” or “the hammering of Gaza”, and comparable policies, and more victims on both sides, and so on.
The distinguished lawyer Jenin Younes, who is a great American who has been instrumental in the free speech lawsuits against the Biden administration, posted this on Twitter: “My dad is a Palestinian from the W. Bank. My mom's father was Jewish, & fled to the US from Nazi Germany in 1936. Killing civilians is always wrong & I condemn Hamas’s attack upon innocents in no uncertain terms. By the same token, calls to virtually liquidate Gaza are abhorrent.”
She is right, and history really is this complicated.
In the rush of blood and the elevated heartbeat we feel upon seeing atrocities, we forget that killing or torturing or raping civilians is already illegal under international law, for everyone everywhere.
By joining in calls to “liquidate Gaza” — or, for that matter, to “kill the Jews” and “f— the Jews” or “gas the Jews,” as Palestinian protestors in cities worldwide are reportedly shouting — the following will happen:
Students standing vigil for the Israeli dead on college campuses will be harassed by Palestinian supporters and then observers and commentators on social media will choose sides, and provide memes and clips to back up their views of the “other” as brutal and expendable.
As that happens, the spiral of violence and the “othering” that allows citizens to be taken hostage or raped or shot to death - or “liquidated’ with white phosphorus — will simply escalate, in a context that is more dangerous than it has ever been in my lifetime, because Iran now has a direct hand on the trigger, and buckets of American money; and because the American President is a senile puppet of a foreign superpower that wants a new alliance of Saudis, China, Iran, and other countries, who will create devastating threats to Israel and to America and the West as they do unite.
So for the sake of the world and of women and children and the elderly who never deserve what happened to them or what is about to happen — please take a breath. Calm the f—- down. For the sake of Israeli and of Palestinian civilians, calm down. It’s easy to sound macho on social media, or observing college campuses far away. Your sons and daughters are not in the cross hairs. Theirs are. Don’t make things worse.
Rather, pray for peace.
Rather, pray for peace.
Remember that so many stupid attacks and stupid wars and stupid foreign policy actions that resulted in thousands or hundreds of thousands of deaths of civilians and of soldiers, including of US soldiers, whose deaths and injuries were subsequently entirely forgotten, started with the world’s white-hot, immediate-response-needed reaction to a wave of truly shocking scenes of terror and violence.
In the heightened bloodlust after 9/11, for instance, which was a genuine tragedy, we were so inflamed that we invaded the wrong damn country.
Third fragment: I told Brian, my husband, that I felt that the attack across Israel’s southern border was also a trial run for an attack across our own Southern border. He said, only half-joking, “I wish you had not said that, because everything you say comes true.” He also acknowledged that mine was a reasonable fear.
JJ Carrell, DailyClout’s newest commentator, who has spent a career as a border agent, wrote a chilling essay and appeared in a video for us about “SIAs” crossing our border — about “Special Interest Aliens.” Carrell said more than 80 have entered our country in Fiscal Year 2023 — in contrast, previously, he has only encountered five in his entire career. Other news sites are covering this fact now too.
These 80 plus SIAs are somewhere in America, waved through.
SIA’s are illegal immigrants who are terrorists, or who are aligned with terrorists. Carrell explained that under normal conditions, when an “SIA” is apprehended, everything stops. Law enforcement is notified up to the level of the FBI. The SIA is taken into custody or deported and everyone knows where he is.
So nothing really prevents an orchestrated uprising of what might be embedded terrorists in our midst, from taking place. Indeed, JJ Carrell expects it.
Whether or not this happens, the emotional chaos caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — protests that may turn violent — and so on if we react histrionically and choose sides in an aggressive, “othering” posture, are in turn a perfect pretext for US cities to declare emergencies.
And you know what happens then.
So for our own sakes in the US, as well as for those of the Israelis and of Palestinians - please calm the f— down.
Stay grounded, and listen to everyone, think critically, and be centered.
Do not react impulsively; do not ever cheer the “othering” of women and children and civilians in general, on any “side”.
And again, if you want to really help the injured and honor the dead —
Pray the heck for peace.