Group Psychoanalysis for Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs — Part 3
In his recently published article, psychotherapist Paul Solomon showed that the irredentist Palestinian Arabs are engaging in a Holy War to oust the Jews from Israel and how the Jews are paranoid for thinking that the Arabs want them gone and intransigent for not making conciliatory moves for peace. Then he moves on to discuss how group psychoanalysis can help us understand how to resolve the conflict. This is Part 3 of a 3-part series critiquing just this one article.
Part 1 of my critique discussed Solomon’s conclusion and call for action. Part 2 dealt with the brief history he provided, upon which he bases the psychoanalytic applications to this “case.” Part 3 goes over his theoretical discussion.
Psychoanalysis and The Israeli-Palestinian Arab Conflict
Here are three theoretical points Solomon brings to bear:
- In addition to political, economic and military factors, one must also consider the traumatic events that make up a significant part of the people’s self-identity. The emotional impact of trauma must be considered when examining current situations and conflicts. (according to Vamik Volkan)
I agree that collective memory and the emotional impact of trauma are elements that need to be understood. However, they need to be understood within the context of history as it really happened and not history-fantasy as it is being rewritten.
- We Israeli Jews converted our victimization in the Holocaust, our major collective traumatic experience, into perpetration of brutal acts against the Palestinian Arabs. About to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham was told to replace his son with a lamb; similarly, the Israeli Jews replaced our own victim-selves with the Palestinian Arabs, sacrificing them in order not to feel victim any more. (according to Uri Hadar)
It is true that many victims grow up to be victimizers. It is also true that many do not. Therefore, a straight line cannot be drawn between trauma victim and perpetrator of brutal acts. I would like to know what brutal acts Solomon is thinking of. Those that I can list number fewer than the fingers of one hand. Furthermore, they have been overwhelmingly condemned by Israeli Jews all across the political spectrum. They cannot, therefore, be said to characterize the nation as a whole. Unless he is referring to the stories provided by Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights, Haaretz, and other left-wing organizations (some say anti-Zionist) that he mentions. Without comparing their reports with those coming from right-wing organizations, such as Im Tirzu and Shurat HaDin, for example, then there can be no claim of balance.
Solomon argues that the Palestinian Arabs may have a similar victim displacement — the Quran also tells the story of the sacrifice but does not name the son (I did not know that). Muslims (today) believe it was talking about Ishmael, even though the Tanach names Isaac (and they have a whole holiday devoted to that; Jews do not).
- There is what is called a “third space,” a mental space within which two sides to a conflict can see each other as subjects and not reduce the other side to being an object (of their disdain, fear, etc.). Yet it seems that the Israeli Jews are seen as less able to move into this third space than the Palestinian Arabs, supposedly because of our greater military power and the occupation. (according to Sheehi and Sheehi)
Solomon suggests that when conflicting parties are unable to move into the “third space,” violence may be the only means by which they feel they can express their own subjectivites and break out of the object-mode into which the enemy places them. This seems consistent with the idea that victim becomes victimizer. This in fact takes away agency from the parties to the conflict and seems to imply that they (mainly the side with lesser power) can only act out their traumas.
Now Solomon goes back to familiar rhetoric: He writes that relations between Israeli Jews and “Palestinians” (does he include Arabs who are Israeli citizens?):
are presently predicated firstly on the Palestinian Naqba of 1948.
Why? I want to know why. Because the Arabs say so? Because nobody talks about the equal, if not larger, Jewish population that was forced out of homes they had lived in for centuries in the Arab world? Perhaps the relations between Israeli Jews and “Palestinians” are predicated firstly on the unwillingness of the Muslims to accept Jews as equals, as sovereigns, on land which Muslims once colonized. Solomon is not far from understanding that when he quoted Arafat’s statement in Arabic about signing Oslo as a temporary measure before trying again in the future to totally defeat Israel. So why does the so-called Naqba become the cornerstone of Israeli-Arab relations?
Within Israel the nationalistic and belligerent government of Benjamin Netanyahu seems more concerned with expanding Jewish settlement in Gaza and the West Bank than with working for peace.
I guess, for Solomon, being nationalistic and belligerent are almost synonymous. Whatever!
But to claim that Netanyahu is expanding Jewish settlement in Gaza when we left Gaza judenrein in 2005! And he seems not to know that Netanyahu’s government has built far less than any other prime minister, and the few building starts that he did authorize are based on permits that were given about a decade ago.
In the next sentence, Solomon writes:
Sheehi (2004) notes that in the Islamic world Christian and Jewish Arab intellectuals in the past contributed to cultural life and the introduction of humanistic values: it is to be hoped that one day such harmony will return.
I do not think that the Jews from Arab countries would agree to being called Jewish Arabs, but, rather, Arabic-speaking Jews. And there seems to be a trend in Israel now for Christians to refer to themselves as Arabic-speaking Christians. In any case, I do not understand why Solomon would aspire to the “harmony” of the kind “enjoyed” by Christians and Jews in the Arab world of yore, a harmony that lasted as long as the non-Muslim accepted dhimmi status. However, paying the required jizya (protection money) did not always protect the dhimmi from pogroms, in fact.
Dialogue for Co-Existence
Solomon praises those Jews and Arabs who are
somehow able to transcend the matrix or conditioning of their own group and achieve what psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin (2004) called “recognition” of the otherness of the other.
I would like to suggest that recognizing the otherness of the other includes recognizing that they are adults responsible for their own decisions.
Their actions inform us about their intentions and contribute to the decisions that we make. It seems that Solomon is saying that the Palestinian Arabs are stabbing us in the back and running us down with cars because of what Breaking the Silence (BtS) says that soldiers do. And, he goes on:
Sadly, many in Israel brand these soldiers as traitors, disregarding Hillel’s injunction . . . “what is hateful to you, do not do unto others.”
For some reason, Solomon feels he has the knowledge and authority to decide that BtS stories are true and that those branding the storytellers as traitors are wrong. Paul: I think you would hate to be judged so summarily as you are doing to the many Israelis who reject BtS, so please refrain from doing it to us. Make sure you know what you are talking about first.
Solomon brings in material from the Bereaved Families Forum to support his contention that co-existence and mutual respect is possible. I contend that mutual respect is not what is happening in these groups because participating Jews are supposed to bow their heads in shame over having won the wars that sought to exterminate us.
I do know Palestinian Arabs who risk their lives to share with the world what is really happening inside the Palestinian Authority. People such as Bassem Eid, Khaled Abu Tomeh, and Mosab Hassan Yousef, to name just three. These men are heroes, in my opinion. And here is one statement you made with which I wholeheartedly agree:
It would be interesting to research the factors that predispose individuals to make this emotional and intellectual leap.
I am waiting for leftist academics and journalists to make that same emotional and intellectual leap. Not necessarily to agree with me, but at least to tell the truth — history as it really happened. Once the history is correctly understood, we can discuss the psychoanalysis.