Friday, April 14, 2006

Palestinian Shame and Israeli Guilt

In this post I discussed the differences between shame cultures and guilt cultures. Here is a psychological analysis of the situation between Israel and Palestine that was presented by Dr. David Gutmann as part of a symposium at FrontPageMagazine.Com on "The Fall of Palestine". I quoted Gutmann in the post linked to above and think that his comments are exactly right. [The panel also included a Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Kenneth Levin; and David Keyes, who assisted a former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and specialized on terrorism at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.] (hat tip: SC&A)
In voting for Hamas, did the Palestinians opt for war and death, or for war and victory?

I contend that they always opt for victory, but because their grandiosity leads to overconfidence and under-preparation, they end up with defeat.

In '47 an d '48 the Palestinian leadership chose war instead of the state that the UN offered them in a partitioned Palestine. It was the wrong choice: it led to defeat and to the loss of the lands designated for their state. Nevertheless, their motives in going to war were murderous, not self-destructive: they had every reason to believe that they would win a war of extermination against a relative handful of under-armed Jews - the same "Children of Death" who had gone unresistingly to the gas chambers.

And the Palestinians came pretty close to realizing this Holocaustic vision: a large proportion of Israel's precious younger generation had to die in order to stop them.

Again, the Palestinians had good reason to be optimistic in the second round of their war against the Jews, when Arafat led them into the Al Aqsa Intifada. Then, Israeli society was split between rather ineffectual Hawks and Peace-At-Any-Price-Niks, and Israel's borders were terribly porous to suicide bombers who struck almost every day.

Meanwhile, the Jewish state was condemned - also on a daily basis - by the UN, the Brits and the Europeans. Worst of all, the IDF had recently and for the first time run away from an enemy force: it had bugged out of Southern Lebanon with Hezbollah right behind it, leaving weapons, intact military installations and unprotected Christian allies in its wake.

Given this background, the Barak/Clinton offer of East Jerusalem and almost all of the West Bank was not welcomed by Arafat as a token of Israeli generosity, but as evidence of terminal Israeli weakness: "The Jews are beaten, they are suing for peace. If Hezbollah could chase them out of Lebanon, then Allah willing my Fatah boys can chase them from all of Palestine."

It took the election of Sharon, Operation Defensive Shield, the PLO's crushing defeat at Jenin, and Arafat's house arrest in Ramallah to temporarily correct this grandiose, essentially paranoid delusion. But only for a short while: Islamic dreams of slaughtering a cowardly, effeminate enemy can be temporarily refuted by reality, but they die hard.

They flourish again when, in Arab eyes, the enemy reveals some shameful weakness.

Churchill once said, "The Hun is either at your feet or at your throat." Similarly with the Arabs; and I suggest that their oscillations between quiescence and ferocity are driven by the Shame/Honor dynamic that is central to Arab psyche and Arab society. Shame and loss of honor, while toxic to the Arab, cannot be metabolized within the Arab self. Instead, the stigma must be ejected, spat out from the self, and downloaded onto lesser beings: women, defeated enemy, infidels and especially Jews. Once the weakness that originated in the Arab is discovered in the Other, then - symbolically or literally - he must be killed.

The shamed enemy has come to represent some hated part of the Arab's persona, and Killing him is a substitute for suicide, for the killing of the self. This is the psychodrama that Zionist Jews and Arabs have been playing out in Palestine for almost a hundred years.

Most recently, having crushed the Second Intifada, Sharon trades Gaza, which is a liability, for the strategic West Bank settlements around Jerusalem that he intends to keep. These would be guarded behind the Security Wall - the barrier that will, in the absence of a negotiating partner, unilaterally define Israel's final boundaries. Sharon has drawn back the better to advance; but - particularly now that Sharon is comatose - Hamas spins Sharon's calculated disengagement into a great victory for their own gunmen: "the Jews are running away from us. This is only the beginning: we will make them drown in the sea."

In it's turn, the Palestinian street sees in Hamas, the "liberators" of Gaza, the agents of final victory over Israel, and votes them into power. As in 1947 and 2001, the Palestinians smell blood in the water, indulge their triumphalist fantasies, and again choose the fever-dream of total victory over peace and statehood. They are by now so seriously addicted to Judeo-cidal Dreams that, like true junkies, they will pay almost anything - statehood, peace, the future of their children, life under Sharia law - in order to feed their habit. And in this hectic scenario, Hamas is the more reliable pusher. Again, the fantasied goals are murderous, destructive towards others; it is the Palestinian willingness to pay an exorbitant price for them that is self-destructive.

Not all Palestinians share this genocidal syndrome. Some no doubt voted against Fatah's corruption, while others elected for Hamas' Welfare State (Hitler's wartime charity, Winter Hilfe, comes to mind). But for Hamas' True Believers, why is the addiction to blood-drenched fantasy so powerful? Why this overwhelming desire to see the Jews blown to pieces, terrified, and running? Again, we must refer to the dynamics of shame: I saw the Palestinians abandon their villages in 1947 without a fight, even before we of the Israeli Hagana had enough guns or men to make them run. Their resulting shame was compounded by their Arab "brothers" in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and egypt, who contemptuously shoved the dishonoured Palestinians into squalid camps. There, refugee kids grew up hearing taunts like these: "You Palestinian whores who sold your land to the Jews, and then ran away!

To repeat, Shame/Honor societies cannot manage shame except by inflicting it back on the enemy who shamed them. Until that happens, the timeless sense of humiliation festers in the soul, and breeds Psychosis: Arab leaders still bristle at the word "Crusade," and demand the return of Seville and Andaluz (Andalusia), since 1490 the "occupied territories" of Spain.

So of course the Palestinians will always sabotage - as they did in 1947, 2000 and now in 2006 – a negotiated peace with Israel. For the Palestinians, the only acceptable negotiating partners are Jews who mirror the Palestinians of '47 and '48 : defeated Jews, SHAMED Jews whose terrified mobs run like lemmings to the sea. Good faith negotiations with a still powerful, still undefeated Israel means living forever with the shame of NAQBA , and giving up the wet-dream of a total, redemptive victory.

Thus far, the Palestinian addiction to such orgiastic visions has proven too strong to be broken. In some ways Israeli and American-Jewish peaceniks are even more pathological than the Palestinians: it is the former who exhibit motivated rather than incidental self-destructiveness.

If the Palestinians constitute a typical Shame/Honor culture, then by contrast, Jews - especially Peaceniks - constitute a Guilt culture. The Arabs worry about what has been done to them by way of insults and humiliations; the Jews worry about has been done to others by them, or in their name. History is a tale of blood, and statehood shoved the Jews back into history, into the middle of the battle, where the choices were to fight or die. The Israelis proved to be successful warriors, but many Jews - Israelis as well as Americans - have sickened of the killing, and are fashioning a separate peace. They have reached the point where they plead the enemy's cause against their own people, and ultimately against their own children. Currently, they are starting to spin HAMAS as the wardens of a benign welfare state – Mother Teresa with a suicide belt.

The Palestinians won't be Shame-free until they have defeated the Jews; the Peacenik Jews won't be guilt-free until they have helped them do it.

Read the entire symposium. It is interesting that excessive shame appears to stimulate in the Palestinian homicidal/genocidal rage; while in the peacenik Jews, excessive guilt leads to suicidal behavior. Homicide and suicide are often thought of in psychiatric terms as flip sides of the same coin--aggression turned either outward or inward.

I'm sure you don't need a psychiatrist to tell you that either extreme is seriously unhealthy.

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