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The APA Statement on the Hamas terrorist massacre in Israel and AJP’s Response

The APA Statement on the Hamas terrorist massacre in Israel:

APA warns of psychological impacts of violence in Middle East 

The psychology community stands in solidarity with all who are working to protect and safeguard human life during this conflict 

Washington – The American Psychological Association has condemned in no uncertain terms the recent violent attack by Hamas on Israel.

We also are deeply disturbed by the crisis of human suffering and loss of life and liberty for civilians who are caught in this escalating conflict.

We recognize that the situation is complicated, but there can be no justification for acts of indiscriminate violence. There can be no justification for holding people hostage. There can be no justification for cutting off access to basic necessities, such as electricity, food and medicine.

APA is gravely concerned for the physical safety and mental health of the millions of Israelis and Palestinians affected by this growing surge in violence. APA deplores the human cost of aggression, including violations of human rights, adverse humanitarian consequences, deep psychological distress, and the loss of dignity and freedom. All individuals deserve to live free of fear and violence so that their mental health and well-being can flourish.

We also condemn the rise of anti-Jewish and anti-Arab rhetoric as a result of this most recent conflict.

There is much research outlining the immediate and long-term psychological impacts of violence and trauma on the people who are targets, especially civilians.

Psychological science tells us that fear, anxiety and traumatic stress have long-term effects on health and well-being. These impacts are also being felt by people around the world who have families and friends in the region, as well as those concerned about the effects of war everywhere.

The psychology community stands in solidarity with all who are working to protect and safeguard human life during this conflict. Psychologists are experts in the science of human behavior. Problems cannot be solved without understanding their root cause. Prevention of violent conflict is imperative for a world in which mental health and well-being are the norm, and to achieve peaceful, sustainable societies. We call for peace, dialogue and conflict resolution as a pathway to ending the conflict, which is necessary for us to begin the work to prevent the suffering that will continue to result from ongoing violence.

The AJP Response to APA’s trepid statement:

We, in the Association of Jewish Psychologists, and many of our psychologist colleagues throughout our nation and the world, are deeply disappointed and terribly saddened that our professional association could not more forcefully and unequivocally condemn the horrific acts of barbarism against the Jewish people of the State of Israel.  

Even as we write, increasingly horrifying details are emerging about the civilian massacres in Israel, the viciousness of which is unparalleled in recent history, but for the Holocaust.

First, by using the past tense, “condemned,” you back away from a statement of bold assertion.  Even more significantly, you have reduced the multiple, coordinated, horrific attacks to a single episode of violence against the State.  This was a series of barbaric attacks on more than a thousand children, women, and men, including elderly grandparents, people who were disabled, and infants.  Infants were beheaded.  Children were taunted, torn from their parents, and then maimed, mutilated, and murdered.  Yet, you reduce this devastating barbarism to “a violent attack” on a faceless State.

You also do not expound on what Hamas is.  Hamas is a terrorist organization, dedicated to the obliteration of Israel, as evidenced by its 1988 Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS).  Bruce Hoffman, in his article, “Understanding Hamas’s Genocidal Ideology,” in The Atlantic (October 10, 2023), categorizes the document’s 36 articles within four main themes:

  1. “The complete destruction of Israel as an essential condition for the liberation of Palestine …
  2. The need for both unrestrained and unceasing holy war (jihad) to attain the destruction of Israel.
  3. The deliberate disdain for, and dismissal of any negotiated resolution or political settlement of Jewish and Muslim claims to the Holy Land and
  4. The reinforcement of historical antisemitic tropes and calumnies married to sinister conspiracy theories.”

Bruce Hoffman goes on to say that if world leaders had read “Mein Kampf” in the 1920’s, these leaders may have prevented the murders of 2/3 of European Jewry.  

At minimum, the APA could call out Hamas as a terrorist group that trains its children to hate Jews, a terrorist group intent on genocide.

APA writes: “We also are deeply disturbed by the crisis of human suffering and loss of life and liberty for civilians who are caught in this escalating conflict.” The Jewish people who were tortured, maimed, murdered; or tortured, maimed, and kidnapped, where further torture and probable death likely have been visited on them, were not “caught” in an “escalating conflict.” Barbaric, savage men specifically sought out Jewish people, sleeping in their beds or enjoying a music festival, or eating a meal, to ravage them.  We do not understand how APA, an association of psychologists, could not appreciate the unimaginably horrific trauma that was experienced by the hundreds of Jewish victims in this terrorist rampage.

APA writes: “There can be no justification for cutting off access to basic necessities, such as electricity, food and medicine.”  It seems terribly naïve for APA to write that “there is no justification” for defensive measures to be taken against a regime that has clearly told the world, again and again, that Israel and the Jewish people have no right to exist.

Does APA not understand that because Israel’s borders had been breached and Jewish people have been viciously attacked, that Israel is now in a declared war with Hamas?  Does APA not understand that nearly 200 hostages, many severely wounded, many of whom are elderly, many of whom are young children, were taken from Israel? When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, was there no justification for our going to war with the Axis alliance?  Was there no justification for our attacking Japanese, German, and Italian warships and cities?  Does one genocide justify another genocide?  Absolutely not!  But, Israel has the right to protect itself against annihilation, the stated intent of the Hamas terrorists, and Israel has the right to try to negotiate for the return of its people.

APA writes: “We also condemn the rise of anti-Jewish and anti-Arab rhetoric as a result of this most recent conflict.”  The ADL has cited, since the barbaric murders of more than a thousand civilian Jews, a 488% rise in antisemitic online extremism threats and calls for violence against Jews and a 300% increase in antisemitic incidents. Since and because of the series of horrific terrorist attacks against Israeli Jews last weekend, people waved Palestinian flags over the Israeli Embassy in London, calling for genocide.  In Times Square, there were people celebrating a “victory for decolonisation” because Israel was so brutally attacked.  People chanted “gas the Jews” at the Sydney Opera House.   A “one settler, one bullet” Palestinian flag was hung over Grayson bridge in Johannesburg. Gerald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior in France, announced that police had recorded 1,000 antisemitic incidents in the 48 hours following the Hamas atrocities on October 7th.    Antisemitic incidents were also recorded in Porto, Portugal; in Glasgow, Scotland;  Madrid, Spain; Geneva, Switzerland; Berlin, Germany; Bogota, Colombia.  American Jewish parents are afraid to send their children to religious schools since last weekend.  American Jewish children and many American Jewish adults (including many of us) will no longer wear identifying Jewish clothing in public. Jewish students, at Stanford University, were openly chastised and forced to stand in a corner by a teaching assistant for being Israeli and/or Jews.  Jewish students, today, in the United States are afraid to take their meals with students they don’t know, fearing taunting, insults, physical assaults, and worse.  There was an international “Jihad Day” in major cities throughout our country (and the world) on Friday, October 13th, called by former Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal, sparking antisemitic confrontations with Jews and forcing an increased police presence and vigilance. In the United States, all synagogues and Jewish religious schools and University Hillels have had to upgrade their security measures, since the ferocious terrorist attacks last weekend. Jews all over the world have spent time in Israel and all of us have relatives and friends in Israel, some of whom have now been murdered, taken as hostages, or who have been called up to serve in the Israeli army to fight a terrible, bloody war. AMENA-Psy has shared Instagram posts that celebrate the Hamas terror in Israel.

Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim attacks and rhetoric have spiked in this last week, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  A recent notable murderous hate crime occurred in Plainfield, just outside of Chicago, today, October 15th.  A 6-year old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death and his mother was critically injured with stab wounds.  Their landlord was charged, saying in the rampage:  “You Muslims must die.”  We are certain that Muslims and Arabs, the world over, are also suffering from taunts, confrontations because they are Muslim.  We know that Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians, are terribly suffering and grieving because their family members and loved ones are being killed and injured, right now, in Gaza.  

No hate crime is justified or to be celebrated.  As our colleague, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, has said, “Hatred is the cause of much of medical disease.”  The Association of Jewish Psychologists condemns all hate and all hate crimes.

We hope and pray that the killings of citizens in Israel and Gaza stop quickly and that a path to coexistence can be created. We hope and pray that the families of those suffering in Israel and Gaza can begin to breathe a little easier.  We hope and pray that the stranglehold of Hamas on Gazans will end soon.  We hope and pray that the Palestinian people will no longer be forced to function as human shields and martyrs for Hamas.   We hope and pray that Hamas and all such terrorist organizations can be eliminated from our world. We hope and pray that when negotiations for peace are made, once again, in the Middle East, that all negotiating parties indeed commit themselves to consistent, long term efforts to maintain and keep that peace.

When we were asked to review the APA’s first draft of the public Statement about the attacks on Israel, one of the comments that we made was that a connection needs to be made between the Jewish experience of the Holocaust and the millennia of genocidal purges of Jewish societies and these terrorist attacks.  It is critical that you understand that our actual and vicarious experience is most similar to that of the experience of the Holocaust because of the naked brutality of the attacks, the ongoing nature of the attacks, and a great deal of visible, global support for these attacks.   We would have liked to have seen some recognition, by APA, of this replication of our intergenerational trauma.

In the APA letter, there are some general comments about psychological research on trauma and that we are experts in human behavior.  Other professional organizations (the AACAP, for example) has given specific advice and counsel to the readers of its statement.  We certainly could have done much more to address the specific needs of individuals, especially families and children, suffering from first-degree as well as secondary trauma, attributed to the terrorist attacks.

APA writes: “Psychologists are experts in the science of human behavior.  Problems cannot be solved without understanding their root cause.”  “Root cause” is a phrase that is being used by political groups to assert that the savagery in Israel was an “inevitable result” of Israel’s “violence” toward the Palestinians since Hamas took the reins of power in Gaza in 2006.  Is APA aligning itself with those political groups who do not decry the murderous, terrorist attack against the Jews, beginning on October 7th because, somehow, this violence was “justified?”

APA writes: “The psychology community stands in solidarity with all who are working to protect and safeguard human life during this conflict.”  Why did you not have the courage to say that “the Psychology community stands in solidarity with Israel and Jewish people throughout the world who are the victims of this terror?”  Did you not stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people when Ukraine was brutally invaded by Russia?  Did you not stand in solidarity with Asian communities when 6 Chinese women were attacked in Atlanta in 2021?  Do you not stand in solidarity with African American communities when black men and women are horrifically gunned down by police?  Why can’t APA “stand in solidarity” with the Jewish people who have had yet another atrocity committed against them?

President Biden, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the European Union, New York Representative Dan Goldman, New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Association of Social Workers, the NYU Law School, current President of the University of Florida, former Senator Ben Sasse, and the President of Princeton University, to name just a few professional organizations and political and academic leaders, have all delivered impassioned statements of outrage at the horrific acts of terrorism that occurred last weekend and continue to occur.

Why is APA, as the largest professional organization of psychologists, not able to stand up and deliver an impassioned statement of such outrage? Why can’t APA call for an end to all hatred, including a hatred of the Jews?

We, in the Association of Jewish Psychologists, have heard profound anger from psychologists around the country and around the world.  We, who have dedicated ourselves to our “One APA” because we share the broad social justice vision of our leaders and our growing culture of bold EDI initiatives. We are stunned by your muted response to the wanton murders of more than a thousand innocent, Jewish people in Israel, and by your lack of passion for and lack of commitment to the flourishing of Jewish families and communities.


Beth N. Rom-Rymer, President

Steven J. Stein, Vice President

Ilene Serlin, Secretary

Lenore Walker, Treasurer

Ester Cole, Director

Sarah Landau Friedman, Director

Tara E. Liberman, Director

Lu Steinberg, Director

Susan Warshaw, Director

Elena Eisman, Committee Chair

Alan Hack, Committee Co-Chair

Mark Kiselica, Committee Chair

Mayra Zoe Ortiz, Committee Co-Chair

Joanne Broder Sumerson, Committee Chair


October 16, 2023

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