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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Israeli Terror and How It Relates to Fear In America

"The effects of terrorism are not limited to its actual victims.  They can be wide-ranging and far-reaching.  They include the direct and indirect economic costs of terrorist attacks, the psychological effects
of terrorism upon the population, and the social and political
impact of terrorist attacks." 

(Dov Waxman. "Living with terror, not Living in Terror: The Impact of Chronic Terrorism on Israeli Society." Perspectives On Terrorism, Vol 5, No 5-6. 2011.)

Dov Waxman is an associate professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He specializes in International Relations, Middle East politics, Israeli politics, and Israeli-Palestinian relations.  Click here to read the entire article:

What lessons can the United States learn from Israel concerning combating terrorism? Dov Waxman has examined the effects of Palestinian terrorism during the time known as the second Intifada (2000-2005), the second Palestinian uprising against Israel. He suggests some of the same coping strategies employed by Israel may help America combat the growing wave of terrorism and the widespread fear of terrorist attacks.

Waxman says ...

"Israelis were seriously affected by Palestinian terrorist attacks during the second Intifada, this did not result in major, lasting changes in Israeli behavior.  Despite being profoundly affected by terrorism, Israeli society was not demoralized by it, and in this respect Palestinian terrorism failed to achieve its aim.  This is because the Israeli public grew accustomed to chronic terrorism and possessed a high level of social resilience."

Terrorism is very old. It is a type of political violence that dates back thousands of years. Dealing and coping with terrorism is important as efforts to eliminate it completely will likely fail. Yet, Waxman says in so far as the effects of terrorism can be minimized, the overall effectiveness of terrorism can be reduced.  Thus, Waxamn believes studying the severity and longevity of the effects of terrorism is crucial to assessing its effectiveness.

(Walter Laqueur, A History of Terrorism. 2001.)

Terrorist attacks mostly focus on the impact of terrorist attacks on public opinion, elections, government policy, and peace processes. The public suffers under constant threats to life, liberty, and happiness.

Palestinian terrorism took a huge toll on Israeli lives during the second Intifada -- from September 2000 until May 2004, 1030 people had been killed, and 5788 injured in more than 13,000 terrorist attacks, which means that approximately 0.1 percent of Israel’s population was injured or killed. The same percentage in the United States would equate to a staggering 295,000 people being injured or killed. It is evident that the ability of Israeli society to cope with this terrorism is quite remarkable.

(Avraham Bleich et al, “Mental health and resiliency following 44 months of terrorism: a survey of an Israeli national representative sample,” BMC Med 4. 2006.)

How Israelis Cope?

No one is suggesting accepting huge death tolls inflicted by terrorists like ISIS. Yet, the United States cannot accept a climate of fear that threatens to paralyze life in a democracy.

* Acclimatization to Chronic Terrorism. Waxman claims acclimatization to chronic terrorism is important in the struggle. Israeli society basically became accustomed to terrorism and adapted accordingly. The threat of chronic terrorism simply became part of normal life in Israel during the second Intifada.

(Alan Kirschenbaum, “Adapting Behaviors of Israeli Civilians to Palestinian Terror” in Nehemia Friedland et al. “The Concept of Social Resilience.” Samuel Neaman Institute for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology. Working Paper. December 2005.)

* Less Exposure to Media Coverage. Second, Israeli media attention to terrorist attacks declined during chronic terror -- repeated terrorist attacks received less television coverage and less television viewing during the second Intifada. Thus, since exposure to media coverage of terrorist attacks has been shown to generate symptoms of anxiety and distress, as the media pays less attention to terrorism, this helps the society to become less affected by it.

(Michelle Slone. “Responses to Media Coverage of Terrorism.”
Journal of Conflict Resolution, 44. 2000.)

* Social Resilience. Finally, and most importantly, social resilience in Israel got stronger.  Resilience is a characteristic of both individuals and societies.  Like individual resilience, social resilience involves the “ability to withstand adversity and cope effectively with change.” Thus, with regards to terrorism, social resilience prevents terrorism from seriously disrupting the normal functioning of a society.  It means that a targeted population is able to cope with the threat of terrorism and not be intimidated or demoralized by it.

(Nehemia Friedland. “The Elusive Concept of Social Resilience” in Friedland et al. 2005.)

What contributes to social resilience in Israel?

* A Cohesive Society. Israeli-Jewish society is still very cohesive, notwithstanding its serious political, cultural, and social divisions. 

(Meir Elran. “Israel’s National Resilience: The Influence of the Second Intifada
on Israeli Society.” Tel Aviv University Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
Working Paper No. 81. January 2006.)

* Social Trust. Social trust is another factor behind social resilience. In Israel’s case, the high level of trust that Israeli Jews have in the country’s army and security services boosts their social resilience. During the second Intifada, the Israeli-Jewish public had confidence in the Israeli military and believed that quick and effective actions were being taken against Palestinian militant groups that were carrying out terrorist attacks (at least during the tenure of the Sharon government).  In this respect, Israel’s counter-terror actions helped prevent Israeli society from becoming demoralized.

(Gabriel Ben-Dor et al. “The Social Aspect of National Security: The Impact of Terror on Israeli Society.” Unpublished paper. 2007.)

* Patriotism. Israelis Jews are very patriotic -- this is most apparent in their high level of willingness to perform military service—which also contributes to their social resilience.

(“Patriotism survey: 88% proud to be Israeli.” Ynet. January 29, 2009.)

(Gabriel Ben-Dor et al. “The Social Aspect of National Security: The Impact of Terror on Israeli Society.” Unpublished paper. 2007.)

What We Know -- Terrorism In America

Terrorism tests a society’s unity and resolve.  Waxman reminds us that Israeli society essentially passed that test in the second Intifada due to its social resilience. Terrorism does spread mass fear and anxiety, but it does not have to destroy a society’s morale and willpower. America has to understand that now.

But ...

(a) Cohesiveness

Is America a cohesive society?

James Gimpel, a political scientist at the University of Maryland who co-wrote Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the “Real” America, said there is less cohesion today than in the past. Political divisions, he said, once were simply stand-ins for people’s socioeconomic status. Now, he said, partisanship has come to represent all sorts of other differences between Americans.

Michael Lind, co-director of the Economic Growth Program and the Next Social Contract Initiative at the New America Foundation, took issue with the claim that Americans are more divided today.

Randall Kennedy, author and American Law professor at Harvard University, identified poverty as America’s deepest fault line. Poor people in America, he said, don’t have the chance to participate fully in society because their circumstances hold them down.

("Keeping the United States United." Washington Conference. Center for Social Cohesion.)

(b) Trust

Is America a trusting population?

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

In fact, some studies suggest it’s too late for most Americans alive today to become more trusting. That research says the basis for a person’s lifetime trust levels is set by his or her mid-twenties and unlikely to change, other than in some unifying crucible such as a world war.

Associated Press writer Connie Cass says, "The best hope for creating a more trusting nation may be figuring out how to inspire today’s youth, perhaps united by their high-tech gadgets, to trust the way previous generations did in simpler times." Hackers and viruses and hateful posts eat away at trust. And sitting home watching YouTube means less time out meeting others.

"A lot of it depends on whether we can find ways to get people using technology to connect and be more civically involved," states Thomas Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar.

(Connie Cass. "In God we trust, maybe, but not each other." November 30, 2013.)

(c) Patriotism

Is America a patriotic country?

Lynn Vavreck of The New York Times reports patriotism is on the decline. But, she writes that the decline seems to have more to do with reactions to the symbols of American democracy than its values. Vavreck says, "Older Americans remain remarkably high in their devotion to symbols like the flag, while young citizens are cooler toward Old Glory but express higher support for classic American ideals like equality and opportunity."

These patterns suggest the shifts are generational and not driven by stages in the life cycle. Past generations have declined only marginally in their nationalism over time – they start out high and mainly remain so. But today’s youngest generation begins adulthood with much lower levels of fondness for the symbols of America, and if the past is a guide, there is no reason to expect increases as they age.

The American National Election Study, the nation’s longest-running data collection (since 1948) on political attitudes and behavior is funded by the National Science Foundation, and they conduct interviews in person every four years in the homes of nearly 2,000 randomly selected Americans.

Here are some telling results of the interviews:

(a) 81 percent of the Silent Generation (those who are 69 to 86 years old in 2014) say they "love America" while only 58 percent of millennials (18 to 33 years old) feel the same. Born between 1928 and 1945, the Silent Generation fought both the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Thirty-one percent of them report that they personally served on active duty in the United States Armed Forces. Only 4 percent of millennials have done so.

(b) Seventy-eight percent of the older generation consider their American identity to be "extremely important." That drops to 70 percent for baby boomers (50 to 68 years), 60 percent of Generation X’ers (34 to 49 years), and only 45 percent of young adults define themselves this way.

(c) And while 94 percent of the Silent Generation say that "seeing the U.S. flag flying makes them feel extremely or very good," only 67 percent of millennials muster the same affection.

(Lynn Vavreck. "Younger Americans Are Less Patriotic. At Least, in Some Ways."
The New York Times. July 04, 2014.)

According to Vavreck, in general, millennials have more appetite for egalitarian principles than older people. Still, they may look less patriotic than the rest of America at first glance, but coming of age in the era of globalization and being a more racially diverse generation may simply mean that traditional symbols of American democracy hold less meaning for them. She says, "Milliennials may be less devoted to the symbols of America, but they are no less devoted to democratic ideals."

What? Me Worry?

All of this has caused the Pew Research Center to conclude that millennials -- the young people who largely represent the future of the United States -- are “detached from institutions … linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry -- and optimistic about the future.” They are, the report concludes, “different from older adults back when they were the age millennials are now.”

Damn right, I definitely believe they are different from older adults. Maybe they just need large doses of encouragement from the older population to build their own positive aspects of cohesiveness, trust, and patriotism.

In fact, maybe the millennials -- one large segment of American society -- are already becoming more acclimatized to chronic terrorism and showing their own brand of social resiliency – an attitude that any fear should be allayed by retreating into a shell of narrow-mindedness With all of the doom and gloom in the news stories about terrorism, perhaps this acceptance is occurring out of a false sense of necessity.

In fact, in the new America, more and more citizens seem to display fear and distrust not only of terrorists but also of anyone or anything remotely “different” from a narrowly defined political “norm.”

It is not enough for people to say they are devoted to democratic ideals. It is the responsibility of each American to accept the fact that the country's strength lies in its great diversity. Beyond this acceptance, they must dedicate themselves to the patriotic concept of working together to defeat evils that threaten to destroy the collective trust of a great democracy. Unfounded mistrust and stereotypical thinking are strong tools of terrorists that flourish when division is held above cohesion.

Just above our terror, the stars painted this story
in perfect silver calligraphy. And our souls, too often
abused by ignorance, covered our eyes with mercy.”

--Aberjhani, I Made My Boy Out of Poetry

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