Group Psychoanalysis for Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs — Part 2
In Part 1 of this series, I critiqued the conclusion of a recently published paper by psychotherapist Paul Solomon. He discusses how group psychoanalysis can help us understand the itchy persistence of the conflict between Israeli Jews and those Arabs-who-now-like-to-call-themselves-Palestinians. . . . And how to resolve it! Let us now go to the beginning of the paper and look at it in more detail. (Abstract available here.)
It is refreshing that Solomon states his bias from the outset. He is a Jew from England who now lives in New Zealand; he lived on a kibbutz in Israel and even served in the Nahal Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces. He wants to see human rights respected for both the Jews and the Arabs — both sides.
My bias is that when I see “both sides,” I have come to see justifications for promoting moral equivalency where none exists. In private communications with Solomon, it became clear to me that he sincerely wants the best for Israel. He is not an anti-Zionist pro-Palestinian, he is truly a human rights proponent, misguided or under-informed, in my opinion, but sincere.
At the outset, Solomon tells the reader that one reviewer recommended publication of his article as a starting discussion point and the other reviewer recommended it not be published. The former argued that Solomon should have included
. . . international political influences on the conflict and . . . why Hamas adopted an essentialist anti-Israel posture.
The latter reviewer found his paper “reasonably balanced and nonpartisan”, but “psychologically naive and pretentious”.
I agree with neither of these reviewers. Here is why:
- Including international political influences on the conflict would take the paper well beyond its intended scope. In any case, in order to do that topic justice, a book chapter would be required and not a section in a journal paper on a separate topic. And, given what I have seen here, I do not think Solomon is up to the task. And why should he be? He is not a political scientist or historian.
- Explaining why Hamas “adopted” an essentialist anti-Israel “posture” is a silly way of putting something simple into highfalutin language. Hamas did not adopt any posture — it is certainly not a posture, but a basic value that was always part of their identity — antisemitism. Anti-everyone, in fact, who claim sovereignty over land Muslims declare is their own and who do not accept the proper order of things — dhimmi status, that is.
- The paper attempts to be balanced and nonpartisan, but therein lies part of the problem and my critique will explain why.
- I agree that the author is naive, like others I have so far read who attempt to psychoanalyze us and the Palestinian Arabs. Some of them are highly pretentious. I did not find Solomon to be so.
It is unfortunate that the journal used as reviewers individuals who appear to me to have a shallow understanding of the conflict. I say this based solely on the comments Solomon chose to copy to his final published paper.
Background To the Conflict, According to Solomon
The author quotes Israeli novelist Amos Oz, as if being a novelist gives one particular historical expertise:
. . . Amos Oz, in his essay “How to Cure a Fanatic” (2012) noted that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not a struggle between good and evil, but rather a “clash between one very powerful, deep and convincing claim and another very different but no less convincing, no less powerful, no less humane claim” (pp. 4–5).
And this is the view of those who do not really understand the basic differences between the indigenous status of the Jews in Israel and the long-term resident status of a large portion of the Arabs-who-now-call-themselves-Palestinians. I suggest reading Ryan Bellerose for a primer on the differences between the two populations.
Identifying the Arabs as long-term residents, rather than thinking they are an indigenous population in balanced competition with Jewish claims to the land, does not mean they have no rights. They do. It just means that they do not get to keep on lying about their origins.
Psychoanalyzing the Jews
If there was any section in his paper that could enrage me, it would have been the one entitled, “Israeli Blindness to Palestinian Suffering.” Solomon refers to British psychotherapist Martin Kemp, who claims that we Israelis are in denial of our responsibility for “the ongoing persecution of human being like themselves” (page 2). Our denial is supposedly a defense against what would be crippling guilt. But if Solomon had done some research into Martin Kemp, he would have discovered that Kemp is strongly anti-Zionist, has been instrumental in promoting BDS against Israel, and compared Israel to Nazi Germany in print at least once:
But there were strong echoes between the period of Nazi rule from 1933 to 1938, and what we witnessed [in the Palestinian Authority]. (Kemp & Pinto, 2009. To resist is to exist. Therapy Today, 20, 10-15. Page 14)
Knowing this, I wonder if Solomon still would have cited Kemp as a source of anything balanced and worthy.
Solomon refers to Hanni Biran’s writing. I suppose that her being an Israeli gives her analysis respectability for some. Solomon writes:
She [Biran] believes that both societies suffer a deep‐rooted thinking disturbance.
So dismissive — of both them and us. (A thinking disturbance she likely believes she has avoided.)
And Solomon suggests:
Jews registered a threat of complete annihilation in the Nazi Holocaust in the 1940s and, in the present, from fear of rockets fired at civilian centres, attack tunnels from Gaza, suicide bombers, and stabbing and shooting attacks. In a psychic atmosphere of ancestral and present fear, there are enormous obstacles to dialogue.
Yup! I want to see you dialogue with the person behind the wheel of a car speeding toward you with a demonic smile on his face as happened to a friend of mine not so long ago. Hamas, and even Fatah are that speeding car.
Perhaps this fear‐laden atmosphere goes some way to explaining why Israelis continue to elect politicians who favour continued military domination of Palestinians rather than the negotiations and the painful concessions that dialogue might require.
Actually, seeing how the Arabs behaved after Israel vacated the Gaza strip is what pushed many Israelis from the left and center of the political map over to the center-right. And please remember, Solomon, that the one who made peace with Egypt was the Likud’s Menachem Begin and not someone from Labour or Meretz.
In fact, Eyad El-Sarraj, the late Palestinian psychiatrist so many pro-“peace” psychoanalysts like to quote, seemed to understand the imbalance more than the psychoanalytic writers who cite him. In her 2003 paper, Biran quoted El-Sarraj (page 502):
Liberation of the Palestinians from the Israeli occupation of their land, from the humiliation and suffering, will happen when Israelis are liberated from their fear and insecurity.
And, given the moral equivalencies so often touted by pro-Palestinians and/or pro-peace activists, I at first thought he was going to say that Israelis are responsible for liberating themselves from their fear and insecurity — you know, to just stop seeing ourselves as poor victims, as the psychoanalysts claim we do. But no! El-Sarraj placed the responsibility for liberating us from our fear and insecurity on his own people:
Palestinian bullets only strengthen Israelis’ sense of victimization and paranoia.
While painting us mentally imbalanced by using the words “victimization and paranoia”, he misleads readers. Because it is not paranoia if you really are targeted and attacked — sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. At the same time, it seems El-Sarraj is voicing what is common knowledge here (on the part of both Jews and Arabs): If the Arabs put down their weapons, there will be no more war; if the Israelis put down their weapons, there will be no more Israel.
And What About Psychoanalyzing the Arab Palestinians?
In another section of his paper, Solomon does talk about Palestinian irredentism and refusal to accept the existence of the Jewish state. He repeatedly refers to Hamas and Fatah determination to rid the land of Jews. Solomon refers to Edward Said’s writings in which he made it clear that no Muslim can countenance non-Muslim control of land that was once ruled by Muslims. Moreover, he is aware that Arafat signed the Oslo Accords with less than pure motives when he quotes Arafat:
This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our Prophet Muhammad and Quraish, and you remember the Caliph Omar had refused this agreement and considered it “Sulha Dania” [a despicable truce]. But Muhammad had accepted it and we are accepting now this [Oslo] peace accord. (Palestinian Media Watch, n.d.)
In other words, a temporary measure to gain a bit of time before trying once more to wipe Israel out. In other words, the Palestinian Arabs are engaged in a Holy War against the Jews and not quibbling over square meters of land on this or that side of the Green Line.
But Solomon still feels the need to balance things out by returning to Israel’s
intransigence and reluctance to compromise of successive Israeli Prime Ministers, and, it is sometimes claimed, their lack of social skills [really??]—for a full account of the failed Palestinian–Israeli peace process 1993 to 2011, see Cohen‐Almagor (2012).
I looked up Cohen-Almagor’s paper and found that he does the same thing. He is fully cognizant of Hamas’ murderous intentions:
Hamas is openly and unabashedly committed to Israel’s destruction and there is little hope for peace so long as religio-violent Hamas plays a crucial role in Palestinian society and politics.
yet he still thinks:
This, however, should not prevent Israel from working to lay the groundwork for the resumption of the peace process and its successful culmination in a peace treaty. In the short term it should endeavour to rebuild trust with the PA through such measures as settlement construction freeze, improvement of economic conditions in the West Bank, and reduction of checkpoints so as to ease the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
I wonder if any of the psychotherapists suggesting psychodynamic solutions to the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict have worked in the field of domestic violence. The first order of the day in such cases is to get the courts to issue restraining orders. And then the onus is certainly NOT on the threatened party to rebuild trust by make conciliatory acts of appeasement.
Remember, in the early years after 1967, there was no wall; people moved freely in the entire area of land between the river and the sea. Palestinian Arabs worked in Israel and were able to support their families with respect and dignity. The wall and checkpoints went up after terrorists showed some of them had no problem stabbing their employers in the back (literally), blowing people up at dinner and going into the home of a kibbutz family and murdering everyone in their beds, including babies.
Any attempt to say that Israel is not prepared for difficult compromises is disingenuous. In fact, instead of annexing the land (as we legally had the right to do) after the Arabs failed in their 1967 war effort to delete Israel from the map, we held onto the land as a bargaining chip — to be given up in exchange for a real offer of peace (big mistake). And the proof of that is in our giving up of Sinai for real peace with the Egyptians (while I miss Dahab, I am not sorry about this — there is a big difference between the Sinai and Judea & Samaria).
It is only recently that many Israelis are finally beginning to understand that the Arabs-who-now-call-themselves-Palestinians do not want peace with us. Many of them want us dead and their leaders are certainly quite happy with the status quo. That is realism and not victim psychology.
Any attempt to say Israelis are blind to Palestinian Arab suffering is disingenuous. Israel set up conjoint industrial zones that hired Palestinian Arabs alongside Israeli Jews with the same salaries and benefits. The ones who plunged the Arab workers back into poverty were those BDSers who say they care about Palestinian human rights but did not like Israel actually doing something to provide them with those rights. They got those firms shut down and the workers laid off. Remember Soda Stream? Way to go!
As soon as Israel had responsibility for Judea & Samaria and Gaza, universities that had never before existed there arose and flourish to this day. Electric infrastructure was laid down and, even though they do not pay for their electricity, we Israelis do not demonstrate in the streets to demand that our electric bills no longer subsidize them. And many Palestinian Arabs are treated on Israeli tax-payer money for medical issues that cannot be handled in their own hospitals. Israeli volunteers meet patients at checkpoints and take them to and from Israelis hospitals. Should I go on. . . .?
History and Psychoanalysis
If psychotherapists were as sloppy at intake with their patient history taking as evidenced in the papers I have read so far, it would not matter how talented they are at clinical work. The very first part of devising strategies for intervention is to truly understand the problem.And those writing on the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict just do not get it.
So far, the psychotherapists writing on this topic show the naive confidence I had had when just out of grad school. I used to play a game with myself — at the end of the first session, I would predict how therapy would end. Being wrong a few times knocked some humility into me. I would love to see the overly confident clinicians take a stab at marital therapy between the Palestinian Arabs and Israelis (we are not ALL Jews). And then I would love to see their faces as they slink from the treatment room. After Bill Clinton‘s failure,
Just before Clinton left office, Arafat thanked him for all his efforts and told the president he was a great man. “‘Mr Chairman,’ I replied, ‘I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me one.'”
psychotherapists should already have some idea what is in store for any who tread into that morass.
* * * * *