Calling for Revenge -- How Our Grief Is Used to Incite Violence and Murder

On Wednesday July 2, I published an op-ed in Haaretz about the political uses of grief to further nationalistic and economic agendas in the United States and Israel.

On Thursday July 3 the article came to life in Israel as charges of a 'revenge killing' of a Palestinian teenager came to light and as some Israelis gathered in mob fashion calling for revenge of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped, murdered and buried a day before.

As calls for revenge sweep both the Israeli and Palestinian communities, it is clear that people are acting out of grief and not thinking with their heads.

My take on the political uses of grief is below -- to read the full article, go to the Haaretz site.

Politicizing grief: Manipulation when we're most vulnerable

The bereaved parents of the kidnapped boys challenged a longstanding tradition both in Israel and the U.S. when they tried to push back against nationalizing grief for political purposes.

By Leeat Granek | Jul. 2, 2014 | 3:34 PM

Less than an hour after the news broke that the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found in a field outside Hebron, the real battle for the hearts and minds of Israeli society began. It was -- and still is -- being fought on TV talk shows and the social media, pitting right against left, hardline security advocates against peace activists, each side hoping that the public's genuine and heartfelt grief would work on their behalf.

Focusing anger and grief has always proven to be an effective way to motivate political action. In a paper published this week in the Review of General Psychology journal, I argue that grief, the painful emotion that results when someone we love dies, is actively used and manipulated by governments and political advocacy groups to further national military and economic agendas. Grief can also be used to further solidarity: for social justice and to bring people together.

Psychologists, including myself, often focus on grief as a private emotion, but in fact, it is a deeply political one. The maxim not to make any rash decisions while you are mourning is not just a saying. Historically, decisions made when nations are in turmoil turn out to be problematic. Mental health professionals - and in situations like the one Israel has just experienced, the public - need to pay closer attention to how our grief is being used to achieve political goals that we may not agree with.

Read the rest of the article on Haaretz.