Sunday, March 15, 2009

Willful ignorance, like eternal victimhood, is a bliss - Part 1

Gaza war of 2009 is not a very well-kept secret.

The number of victims may be disputed, but very few will deny that a large majority of the 1500 Palestinian killed by Israel were innocent children, women and men. Most of the world have seen the Israeli military exercising a campaign of vengeance against Gaza people.

What may be a sliver of hope - if you are still capable of seeing anything positive in that blood bath - was that all over the world, anti-Israel sentiments were flaring. The world (East and West) is gradually coming to see Israel as the aggressor and oppressor in the puddle known as the Israeli-Palestinian (I-P) conflict.

Even in the traditionally 'cold-blooded' Northern Europeans, anti-Israel feelings are growing rapidly. From Amsterdam where an visiting Israeli officer was shoe-pelted (after which the paranoid officer said ''Today shoes, tomorrow guns'') to Sweden where the Israeli ambassador was also shoe-pelted, and where Davis Cup matches in Malmo - Sweden's third largest city - could not be held with fans in the stadium as the city was boiling with demonstrations against Israel, calling for boycotting Israel and protesting the presence of the Israeli tennis team.

One Israeli tennis player expressed his shock after demonstrators tried to disrupt Sweden-Israel tennis match. According to Haartz, he said "Sweden protest was first time I felt anti-Israel hate".

But to express shock at the civilized world reaction to massacres of innocent Palestinians by one's own country is truly confusing. Is it naïveté, childish innocence, or ignorance? Or does it represent a more profound pathology that pervades the Israeli collective memory and perception?

It is hard to feel confused as to why the European street is unhappy with Israel. The European protesters over the last several months were not very subtle. They explicitly say why they are unhappy with Israel. In Sweden, they did not mince words:
' 7,000 people gathered at a square in downtown Malmo to hear speeches condemning Israel's offensive in Gaza and urging support for Palestinians. Sweden's Left Party leader Lars Ohly told the crowd that the European Union and the rest of the world "should boycott the racist regime in Israel." Chanting anti-Israel slogans, the protesters then marched toward the Baltic Hall arena, where some of them tried to break through the police barrier.' [Full article here]
Still, some old and wise Jewish community leaders insist that the real reason is not that simple.
The leader of the European Jewish Congress said Wednesday the main blame for growing antisemitism across the continent was the economic crisis, not the Gaza war.
European Jewish] Congress President Moshe Kantor said that what he believes anti-Semitism levels unseen since World War II had nothing to do with Middle East issues.
And as usual, the Defamation League, aka Anti-Defamation League (ADL), foams around the mouth accusing the Malmo City council of using the tennis matches "as a device to express anti-Israel bias."

The political ignorance of a tennis-centered athlete is understandable. But the ' leader of the European Jewish Congress' ? This wise leader and the eternally-angry Foxman of the ADL are never tired of the same slogan: It has nothing to do with what Israel does. They hate us because they will always hate us for one reason or the other.

This sounds like circular logic to me, but for a lot of other people, it is the undisputed truth. And in some sick sense, it is a handy justification for having absolutely no critical appraisal of what Israel does. If, in that kind of traditional wisdom, the conclusion is known [they will always hate us], then what is the point wasting energy trying to find another reason [for example, Israel is doing something that is really so bad that people get angry at Israel]?

True antisemitism is the hate of Jews for no reason other than their being Jewish. If Israel occupies land, oppresses people and kills innocent Palestinians, I think some civilized humans have the right to be angry, or even mad, at Israel and its supporters for what Israel is are doing.

Are there true anti-Semites? Certainly. But nine times out of ten, that charge is hurled at someone who dares to criticize Israel (unless they are Jewish, then they get charged with being self-hating Jews).

But, let us go back to the perception gap between what Israel does, and what its supporters see.

Israeli as well as pro-Israel media in January and February of 2009 were studded with articles trying to understand the unusual 'public relation failure' of Israel in recent months. Some articles reached the conclusion that 'no matter how you sweeten it, Israel was the villain in that fight, and thus the world reacted appropriately'. Others blame the propaganda failure on the usual and eternal suspect: antisemitism.

Gideon Levi wrote recently a very interesting article about the Tennis Match events in Sweden, titled "Has anyone in Israel asked why the Swedes hate us?". It is a must-read, and it discusses the reason for pervasive and unreal sense of innocence some Israelis have, and the real anger the world outside Israel feels.

A more pointed article by Akiva Eldar has an even more provoking title: "Is an Israeli Jewish sense of victimization perpetuating the conflict with Palestinians?". It reviews an academic research done in Israel on that sensitive topic: perpetual victimhood. the principal researcher is Daniel Bar-Tal, one of the world's leading political psychologists - probably soon to be pronounce a self-hating Jew.

The article concludes with specific statistics about the 1948 partitioning and the lack of awareness of objective facts about that era by a large portion of Israeli society.
[For sake of brevity, reviewing these 2 articles was moved to Part 2 of this posting - see below]

The articles by Gideon Levi and Akiva Eldar are excellent assets for anyone that has interest in the psychology of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This psychological aspect of the conflict is, in my opinion, the single most important obstacle to the resolution of the problem. From it stems ALL the evils chronically afflicting that sad part of the world.

A quote I heard once in a conversation about Israeli Palestinian issues is an illustrative example of the short link between victimhood and criminality. A defender of the Israeli position thought that the following statement that he attributed to an Israeli politician summarized the wisdom of his stance:

"I hate Palestinians because they make us kill their children".

Wow. In ten words he expressed hate, admitted murder, dumped all the blame on the ones whose children he murdered and came out with clean conscience feeling like a victim.



I presented a brief review of these 2 articles here:
Willful ignorance, like eternal victimhood, is a bliss - Part 2
Links to original articles:


  1. So you don't attribute any "evil" to the problem of the two narratives? Or do you attribute the "evil" of the two narratives to the Jewish Israeli sense of "victimhood."

    Just for explanation purposes, I'll briefly describe the conflict of the two narratives. The Arab narrative is that the Arabs welcomed the Jews into their homes, and the Jews kicked them out. And the Jewish narrative is that the Jews needed to return home and were willing to live with their neighbors, even share a state with Arabs, but the Arabs tried to kick them out at best, kill them at worst.

    If you would go a step further, you might as well say that Zionism is attributed to the Jewish Israeli sense of victimhood. Well, Zionism was the Jewish answer to their victimhood, not an answer to the "sense" of it. Can anyone prove otherwise? Jews study their history like no other people. That is history is not only long and difficult, if you go far enough, it becomes revered, the Bible. I'm not saying that most Jews read the Bible literally, they just see it as important.

    I disagree with you that the little quote at the end explains the Israeli sense of victimhood. It explains the conflict of the two narratives. The Israelis don't understand why the Arabs are willing to risk their lives so much trying to knock Israel out, so as long as the Arabs are willing to be so suicidal to harm the Israelis, the Israelis might as well sock it to them, regretfully of course.

    I do agree with you that the Israeli establishment/gov't can't sense how the world would react to its actions. The protest outside the stadium in Sweden, isn't perceived as a Swedish protest. The people in the protest, especially those most violent in the protest (where the cameras were pointing), were Arab. So the protest doesn't really say much about Europeans, it says what Europe is becoming - a Muslim world. No offense, but most Westerners don't see it as a good thing.

  2. By the way, I think you misremembered that quote at the end. Here is what I think you heard:

    "We can forgive Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs, when Arabs love their children more than they hate us."

    I think Golda Meir said it.

  3. Michael: I did not 'misremember'. I am familiar with what Golda Meir said.
    It was the Jewish man who misquoted Golda Meir. I quoted that man correctly, and without attributing it to Golda Meir, even though some people - incorrectly - attributed it to her before.

    Reread the last few paragraphs of the post again.

  4. Okay, my bad. But that statement doesn't express hate nor admits murder. It admits reluctance to go to war because you know kids are going to die because the enemy hides where the kids live.

    That's not ignorance, it is a fact of war.

  5. One more thing, the world criticizes Israel, and pretty much only Israel. In the one rare moment that an international body criticizes a Muslim leader such as Al-Bashir, the Arab world claims that they are victim to new imperialism.

    Who's the eternal victim now?

  6. I disagree with you. the statement , no matter who said it, is trying to explain 9or justify) the hate and murder. Implicit in that is the acceptance that there is hate and there is murder/killing.
    And, not to go on a tangent her, urban warfare and guerilla warfare do not mean you do not love your kids, or that you are hiding where your kids live.
    BTW, Golda Meir died in 1978, long before - and therefore not meant as a commentary on - Intifadas, Hamas, suicide bombing, etc. So, let us not confuse things any further.

  7. Michael: in response to your posting about "who is the eternal victim now?"
    - Are we still talking about my posting? what does Omar Bashir issue has to do with my posting? You comment is non-topical.
    - If you want to know what I think about Omar bashir and the claims of victimhood on the other side, I refer you to my earlier posting

    Many Jewish writers discuss the issue of siege mentality and 'sense' of victimhood. I did not invent it, and they formulate their thought with generated detail, and are usually more critical of that aspect of Israeli/Jewish tradition than I will ever be.
    They may not be your favorite Jewish writers, but that does not mean their opinion is not worth presenting.

  8. - You are misunderstanding that statement. Hating someone just because they are that someone, is wrong. Hating someone because of an act, such as fire rockets from civilian areas to your civilian areas, that requires you to hit back into a civilian area - which will lead to dead civilians, that's justifiable.

    - Hamas did hide where their kids live. One of their most senior officials and his family was warned of a missle strike by the IDF, they didn't move and the Hamas official, his wives, and kids died.

    - I know you don't defend Bashir and don't feel like a victim, that's why I respect you as a blogger even though I disagree with you on the issue of this post.

    - So what if Golda Meir died in 1978? Terror attacks and the conflict started long before '78.

    - I know you are not the first to argue this. But you went as far as claiming that Israel's sense of "eternal victimhood ... stems ALL the evils chronically afflicting that sad part of the world." How far back do you attribute the source to the conflict to Israel's psychy?

    The PLO was created in the 60's. The Jews were kicked out of Hebron in 1929. What perpetuates the conflict is the two narratives. How about telling me what is false in the Israeli narrative and I'll tell you what is false in the Arab narrative?

  9. A small note on one of the greatest Islamic civilizations: ANDALUSIA

    The Muslims of the Iberian Peninsula, who ruled Spain between 711 and 1492 C.E., are commonly known as the Moors. They called their land Andalus which in the early period of their history also included Portugal and southern France and in the last period only the Kingdom of Granada. The word Andalusia is derived from the Arabic word Al-Andalus which has several meanings. One of them is ‘to become green after a long summer or drought,’ and the history of the Iberian Peninsula over the ages attests to this phase when Muslims ruled Spain.
    When Muslims first arrived in Spain in 711 C.E., they constituted mainly Arabs and Berbers of North Africa. Within two decades a majority of the inhabitants of Andalus, especially most of the Unitarian Christians and the oppressed class, accepted Islam freely in recognition of the peace, security and the freedom of religion and expression under the Muslim rule. (Gothic Princess Sara). By 770 C.E. people of all races from North Africa and Arabia migrated to Andalusia (Spain and Portugal). They intermarried with various nationalities including the native Spanish-Muslim population, with the result that Spain became a fairly homogeneous country within a few generations. During the reign of Abdur-Rahman, the 'Falcon of Andalus' (755-788), they began the work of building an Islamic civilization similar to the one already flourishing in Damascus, Baghdad and its many regional centers. Within a century of their activity, they had developed a civilization far in advance of any in Europe. Their great contribution is commonly known as the Moorish Civilization.