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Rachel Ginsberg

How were tens of thousands of soldiers brought to the point where they robotically marched en masse into the communities of Gush Katif and, without flinching, managed to single-mindedly evacuate close to 10,000 people from the homes they built over three decades? A group of psychologists has been wondering the same thing: What, exactly, were the evacuating forces told that enabled them to succeed in the army’s most painful and controversial mission?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Five years to the week since the Jewish communities in Gush Katif were turned to rubble, one nagging question still persists: How was the IDF transformed into an army of expulsion, with 40,000 soldiers and 20,000 police able to carry out with clockwork precision the most morally controversial and painful mission it ever faced, without flinching?

Was the IDF brainwashed into carrying out the Disengagement in the summer of 2005? Two years ago, a complaint was filed with both the Ethics Committee of the Israel Board of Psychologists and the Health Ministry against a team of psychologists for “using their psychological and hypnotic skills” to facilitate the efficiency of the army in carrying out the mission.

The complaint was filed by clinical psychologist Dr. Amira Dor, following the release of a 200-plus page study entitled “The Mental Preparation for the Disengagement and its Aftermath in the IDF.” The study, prepared by a grassroots team of psychologists and educators including Dr. Dor, uncovered thousands of pages of “mental preparations” and political briefings, and details the systematic manner in which the army was transformed from a protective fighting force against an outside enemy into a force that could dismantle part of its own country. The team also interviewed soldiers who took part in the preparations and the Disengagement, and studied documentary and preparation films prepared for the soldiers.

Dr. Dor’s letter to the Ethics Board and the Health Ministry stated that two  psychologists, Dr. Haim Omer of Tel Aviv University and Nachi Alon of the School of Buddhist Psychology in Tel Aviv, “trained the officers and psychologists of the army and police, and taught them various techniques of emotional manipulation, instilling ideas, and massive influence upon the soldiers’ behavior, opinions and emotions. The purpose of the training was to nullify the soldiers’ instinctive opposition to the expulsion, and to bring them to the point of obedience to any command that would be given.

“The behavior of these two psychologists stands in clear opposition to the principles of the psychologists’ ethical code,” Dr. Dor wrote.

“The Board of Psychologists said the issue was political and not under their purview, and the Health Ministry has been sitting on the complaint for the last two years. Just recently, the Ministry told us we need to bring more proof that the psychologists were indeed involved in the expulsion,” Dr. Dor told Mishpacha.

Odd, she said, because what best helped the investigative team understand the manipulation method was actually a report prepared by Drs. Omer and Alon, the two psychologists themselves. They wrote “The Disengagement Mission, A Look from Within” which appeared in the journal Military Psychology, in December 2006. The report contains a professional-technical explanation of the mental and political manipulation, techniques that were applied, and various commands and exercises that insured the nonviolent success of the controversial operation.

This report answers the main question posed in Dr. Dor’s study. As she put it: “The main mystery that concerned us in writing the study was: how were tens of thousands of IDF soldiers brought to a state where they would march in tandem, look at their surroundings with the frozen stare of robots, and expel family after family from their homes and their secure lives?

“The perplexity increased after the Second Lebanon War: just ten months after the most efficient operation in IDF history, the army failed miserably in Lebanon in the real thing — a war against an external enemy. The Disengagement was a precision operation carried out by an army that had been transformed into a ‘guardian of peace’ during eighteen months of mental preparation. How could it be that this army wasn’t able to vanquish 3,000 entrenched terrorists? Was it bad luck? Clearly not. The mental preparation that allowed the expulsion to run like clockwork is the same mechanism that destroyed the IDF’s fighting capability.”


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