Av: Netta Kohn Dor-Shav
Originally published in Nativ, ACPR , and ACPR’s Policy Paper No. 24, 1998
Netta Kohn Dor-Shav is a Clinical Psychologist who has spent most of her career in teaching and research, first at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and following her aliya in 1969 at the Department of Psychology at Bar Ilan University. NKD has been a member of BPA, APFPME, APA, IPA, and chairperson of the Research Group for the Study of the Psycho-Social Sequelae of the Holocaust (Israel). Her writings over the years, published in professional journals and proceedings focused on research findings as to long range psychological effects of Concentration Camp internment, followed by studies of the transgenerational carry-over to the children and then the grandchildren of the victims. More recently, NKD has turned her attention, and pen, to aspects of the psycho-social pathology of Israeli society, regarding which she has published a number of articles in Nativ.
The enthusiastic acceptance of the Oslo accords by the Israeli Left in 1993 presented an insoluble enigma for the many who saw these accords as a monumental error, and the ensuing «peace process» as putting Israel on a path leading to disaster and dissolution.
This paper, then, addresses itself to an analysis of the factors underlying the acceptance of what is called the «peace process» in Israel, despite the fact that a great number of foremost experts insist that rational analysis would have shown clearly that such a flawed agreement could not lead to anything but disaster and dissolution for the Jewish State. How was it that the left was prepared to place trust in an arch-terrorist, the murderer of children in Maalot, the murderer of the helpless Leon Klinghoffer – confined to a wheelchair on the ill-fated Achille Lauro – the orchestrator of numerous bloody acts of terror? The acceptance of «Oslo» and that particular process involves, ipso facto, self-abnegation, conceding, giving up/giving in, disavowing the basis for the return to Zion; implicit is an acknowledgment that Zionism was an error – and our cause unjust. We suggest that this reflects serious pathological processes in large sectors of the Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish public. How has this people come to succumb to the enemy’s rhetoric and to be ready to settle for living, eventually (if at all) in what would be no more than a number of ghettoes in what should be their inalienable and indivisible homeland?
An attempt at understanding will lead to the realization that we are dealing with far from healthy dynamics, that this people, our people, are flawed by a number of destructive elements.
The most obvious, the most surface, is the excessive and inappropriate use of the defense mechanism of Denial which, leads to avoidance of recognizing the actual inherent dangers, and causes a virtual cognitive distortion of reality. Although at one time Jewish society was characterized more by what is described as an «obsessive – compulsive» style, (e.g., Yekkim [folkloristic nickname for Jews originating in Germany] and Yemenites) it would seem now to have developed into a society in which hysterical tendencies are rampant. Hysterical characters excessively use repression and denial, avoid reality – have slogans like «Yihye Tov» (all will be well), are blind to reality factors and make unbased assertions that things will «work out». By the refusal to face reality Arafat’s rantings are explained away as necessary for internal consumption, his preparations for warfare and insurrection are ignored. It is the mechanism whereby Israel, not Arafat and the Arabs, comes to be at fault, is not fulfilling the «accord», not abiding by its agreements. Denial, however, is basically, a negation of reality, and does not, by itself explain the motivations and characteristics that bring about such drastic forms of avoidance.
Basic Lack of Security
Taking perspective, it is probable that the eagerness to rush towards a chimera of «peace», the readiness to accept peace at any price, is due to, at least in part, a pervasive and deep rooted lack of security, that makes opting for any semblance of security – even in the guise of a false peace (or a false messiah) – seem attractive. The Jewish people as a whole, and individual Jews in most of the world, have grown up not only lacking physical security in the reality sense, but also lacking the feeling of security that comes from being an integral, integrated, part of society. Mothers who are under threat, who are fleeing danger, who are lacking basic needs themselves, cannot easily provide basic security; mothers whose own feelings of security are fragile or non-existent, cannot communicate them – and thus children grow up lacking the feeling of security that is so necessary for healthy personality development.
The Jewish people, it is fair to say, is a people ridden with anxiety – an anxiety that is causally connected to the feeling of insecurity discussed above, anxiety regarding safety, even survival. Anxiety, furthermore, is associated with uncertainty, uncertainty about the future, about outcomes – and is exacerbated thereby. Thus, because Jews are so particularly vulnerable to anxiety, they experience uncertainty and ambiguity as particularly difficult states to bear, and so are often propelled towards a resolution – any resolution – that puts an end to the uncertainty and thus serves to relieve the anxiety in some way. Insecurity, however, is not entirely an intrapersonal problem, for it often becomes manifest as a lack of self-confidence – a lack of confidence that is sufficiently obvious to be detrimental in interactions with others in the social, economic, and international arenas.
Lack of Confidence
Israel is seemingly unable to demand the recognition and acceptance that its contributions warrant; unable to utilize its power and creativity in its own service. Israel has given much to the world, but gets little in return, contributes much to mankind, but is, in return, only barely tolerated – and sometimes not even that. It has failed to develop self-confidence. It is fair to argue that the confidence and assertiveness that normally come with strength and talent, are aborted by the unwillingness to use these except in a moment of ultimate danger and imminent disaster.
Insecurity and lack of confidence characteristically lead, at the national level no less than at the personal, to Dependency. Thus Israel seems to have developed a tendency to lean, to be dependent, to allow interference, to seek patronage. It has, unfortunately, become accustomed to patronage of one kind or another – the patronage of the Baron, of the Western countries, of the Jews of the Diaspora, and certainly not in the least, of the U.S.A, all of which has Ied, too, to an undesirable tendency towards passivity.
It is passivity that has been responsible for making the disasters that befell the Jewish people, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, even greater, a passivity which makes them loath to act, though disaster is imminent. Sadly, the Jewish people, as a people as well as individuals, have come to expect the worst, – disaster has become normative and expected. There are also the helplessness and passivity that ensue when, after numerous experiences of frustration and failure, the individual has come, not to try, not to attempt, not to act – as there is, for him, as he has come to feel, no chance of success.
The Ever-Wandering Jew
There are many who remain, still, essentially «homeless», floating, lacking roots, even lacking in the ability for attachment and rootedness; many for whom being an Israeli is merely adventitious, – some would much have preferred to have landed in the U.S., Canada, or even Australia. Their devotion and commitment to this homeland is not unconditional, their identity as Jews, tenuous, and even their identity as Israelis, not the proud, unquestioned commitment and identification that «Shivat Zion» (the return to Zion) was meant to foster. The Jewish people wandered, tore up roots frequently, became, time after time, a barely tolerated – if that – guest in yet another host country. This mitigated against taking root, against committing, against identifying and may contribute towards the seeking of toleration and acceptance from the surrounding Arab world, rather than asserting their «droit detre». The lack of roots, of home, of belonging – the lack of identity, pride, territoriality – these have made many Jews, even when home at last, feel and behave as if still in Galut (Jewish exile) – as if eternally in exile.
The Good-Child Complex
The «good child» is generally the one who, not having had enough of it, seeks love – behaves obediently so as to achieve love and acceptance, as well as to preclude punishment. He may have been brought up where love was conditional, conditional upon compliance and obedience. Thus every action must be weighed in view of it’s possible consequences, especially calculated to avoid the probability of negative response – the goal being to achieve approval and avert disapproval. We can see it, and often shockingly, for example, when Israeli journalists and media people ask foreign diplomats what they will do if Israel does «X», how they would react if Israel were to refuse «Y» – i.e., virtually inviting sanctions, threats, and negative responses.
First, from a global point of view, it is fair to say that the Jewish people have, to a great extent developed what can be called a «guilt culture», one in which control of behavior is brought about by instigation of guilt, rather than by shaming or physical means. The strong guilt feelings still lead to the need for self-punishment, self castigation, and even self-destruction; it is perhaps in this vein that acceptance of the process begun in Oslo can be begun to be understood. Guilt may be a product of an internal moral code, the product of the oft-caricatured mother saying «look what you are doing to your father» (for example), as also the result of an heightened sin awareness, of the sense that through the Holocaust punishment was being enacted; this has been invidiously exacerbated by the fact that Germany has been allowed to become rehabilitated, to have lost some of its blame-worthiness, thus some of the blame has been allowed to become attributed, even if only in part, to the Jews themselves.
Inhibition of Aggression
Guilt, furthermore, as was indicated, is intimately connected with an additional and serious manifestation, i.e., the Pathological Inhibition of the Use of Aggression (or force, or power), a reluctance to act aggressively even in one’s own self-defense; this is an inhibition that comes, in a large measure from guilt feelings and is exacerbated by them. The role of victim has come to be known and familiar, even comfortable – and that of aggressor foreign and unacceptable. In a situation where the use of aggression has been delegitimized, especially where aggression against the source of the frustration, the instigator of anger, (the Arab enemy), has been precluded, it comes to be turned against what remains, by default, as the only «legitimate» target, one’s own self, one’s own people, one’s own nation.
Anger, however, does not go away, and so it is displaced against an acceptable scapegoat, or turned against the self – and so the pent up angers, and aggression, fueled by continued frustration, not allowed to be turned against the source of that frustration, and inhibited in legitimate expression, come to be turned against one’s own people, ones own interests, oneself.
Identification with the Aggressor
Identification with the Aggressor is the most pernicious of the dynamic processes that have served to disarm the Jewish/Israeli people vis-a-vis it’s enemies. In seeking security by means of this defense mechanism, of identifying with the enemy, by incorporating the calumnies and accusations leveled at one, one loses one’s own fulcrum of identification, and ends up identifying with the aims and objectives of the enemy/aggressor, at the expense of one’s own being and identity. Anger and aggression toward the enemy are quelled, denied, and repressed. The enemy is now an esteemed friend, his goals legitimized, the fulfillment of his aspirations has become one’s own cherished goal.
Such identification with the aggressor, however, must be recognized as also involving projection, as being a function of a combination of the two. It is this process which can help us understand the tolerance of Israelis for the rabid nationalism and racism of the Arabs, for the latter’s flagrant and unjust demandingness, and for the terrorist violence perpetrated by Arabs against them. Jewish, Israeli nationalism and patriotism are perceived as bad, as racist, they are therefore rejected, and projected. Arab nationalism and chauvinism are acceptable and accepted – and then enjoyed vicariously. Arab «rights» are considered «just», and the demand for them enjoyed vicariously, while one’s still Zionist and patriotic brethren are deemed «extremist» and vilified. Aggression by the Arabs is tolerated and explained away as response to the «occupation», to Israeli/Jewish «oppression», oppression by those who now become designated as the «enemy» and against whom their aggression is ultimately leveled, i.e., the still-Zionist «settler» – hated and vilified because he dares be himself, dares to continue to maintain his own rights, dares fight for his own country, his own existence. The «settler» becomes targeted as the ultimate «enemy». It is fair to say that the plague of Jewish self- hatred is more dangerous for the survival of the Jewish people than any outside threat.
This is true not only because self-hating Jews constitute a fifth column within the ranks of their people, a fifth column which rejects the identity of the Jew, his culture, his tradition, his patrimony, and introduces those of, and extols, that of the outsider (both benign and anti-Semite), of the enemy – thus working against Jewish interest, but also because this self-hatred fuels a vicious cycle that can lead to disaster and dissolution of the Jewish people and the Jewish State. Furthermore, self-hating Jews, by casting other Jews in negative and pejorative roles, perpetuate the excuse for hatred towards the Jew in general, and supply some of the fuel and the stereotypes for it. By projecting these negative aspects on other Jews, the self-hating Jews can never really achieve their goal of acceptance, because, in the final analysis, the anti-Semitic «other» will believe, when all is said and done, that he – the self-hating Jew (the «white Jew») – is no better, really, than that Jew whom he has now in turn stigmatized. It is not only from the world’s anti-Semites that the Israeli leftist has learned to reject the various subgroups of his brethren, but also from the viscous anti Israeli Jewish-Americans across the sea, who have come to use Israel and Israeli Jews as the out-group upon which to project all of their own self-hatred.
Israel, we see, is in the midst of a potentially deadly spiral, with many American, English and other Diaspora Jews projecting all that is foisted upon them by the world’s anti-Semites onto it, using it as a scapegoat, and thus fueling further the Israelis’ own self hatred – a self hatred that can, in fact, lead to ultimate (self) destruction. Academics and intellectuals are prone to wanting to be ‘acceptable’ «citizens of the world». There is considerable evidence that the left employs some of the most sophisticated methods developed by social psychologists, and has advisors who direct and guide it.
Thereby some on the right, too, have been affected by the incessant denigration by the left, by the incessant calumny, by the incessant delegitimization, stereotyping and scapegoating, such that, at some point they came to wish to dissociate themselves from the «extremists»: they too, want to be appear to be lovers of peace, reasonable and rational; then, they, in turn, point pejoratively to those they now deem extremists. Extremists, then, we see, are called those who have not given up being loyal Jews, who are Zionists still, who love their land and their heritage, who abide by their religion, who are «Jews» first and whatever else second and third. Not wanting to be like the goyim, one has no problem remaining a Jew, a Zionist, a loyal, proud member of Jewish/Israeli society; it is the weak, the marginal, those lacking in identity and confidence, who are vulnerable.
Recognition of this trend to disavowal of Jewish history leads us to make explicit what has been implicit, i.e., the current relatively pervasive and deep reluctance for taking responsibility for Jewish existence, for Jewish roles and burdens. The Jew as victim, as persecuted, discriminated against, without rights or legal recourse still fits what many see as a balanced, «fitting» state of affairs. The Jew as victorious, as victor and authority, asserting dominion over his land and jurisdiction over its inhabitants, seemingly flouts some subtle rule, upsets the balance in some undefined system.
We may try to summarize, then, that with the proliferation of Authoritarian personality structure among Jews, associated with excessive repression and the tendency to deny – not only have we developed a large group of people who cannot – and will not – see reality, but rather, live with their own projected illusions. This same group, however, succumbs to and identifies with the prejudices and views of the «other» and projects these onto subgroups of its own people; it then has a good rationalization for scapegoating these, and vents its otherwise inhibited aggression against them.
The long-standing tendency of Jews the world over – and especially in the US – to champion him whom they see as the underdog, has been here perverted to the advantage of the Arabs. Forgetting, or perhaps never really knowing history, these Jews have forgotten the long and painful travail of their own people, – long a true universal underdog – and, seeing the Jewish Israeli, the Sabra, as strong, free and victorious, began to identify, as was their wont, with the «underdog» as they had been doing and to champion the «displaced Arab».
This factor, coupled with, and serving as rationalization for the projection of self-hatred, has turned many Jews the world over not only away from, but often also against, their own Israeli brothers.
It is time to reverse the process.