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The Transfer of Abuse
I’m sure all of you know enough about parenting to know that it is often documented that parents abused as kids become abusers as adults. It is relatively common in psychology to see similar mirroring patterns in behaviour. There are a myriad of reasons for this, some obvious and some not so obvious. But the transfer of abuse is common enough that we take for granted that it is something often to be expected.
I believe the events taking place in Israel and Palestine may be an example of this sort of transfer amongst nations, and in particular amongst an abused group of people. There is no doubt that Jews have gotten more than their fair share of abuse throughout their 3,000-year history. Most recently the horrors they had to endure in Nazi Germany during the reign of Hitler and the Third Reich. World consideration over these events, and others from before, paved the way for the sectionalization by the UN of the area then known as Palestine in 1948. The region was partitioned into an “Arab State” and a “Jewish State.” The Palestinians and adjacent Arab nations did not accept the resolution and war broke out which rumbled on for several years.
Regardless of whether this was a “fair” decision (for the Palestinians in particular) history was made, and the Jews of the world, largely European, finally had a place to call home. They believed, and still do, that this place in the sun was promised to them by God and as such, nothing could, or should, stand in its way.
The history of Palestine, and the Jews who were indigenous to the area, and the Palestinians who were also indigenous to the area, is long and complex. I do not want to focus on that detail in this article, but rather would like to pick it up at the point where Israel declared itself a sovereign state and was then, in 1948, largely populated by what was left of Europe’s (mostly Eastern European) Jewry after World War II.
The Jews have been persecuted since the beginning of their history, not just by Muslims, but by nearly everyone else. Most recently, of course, it was the Germans, and in particular, the National Socialists. They certainly made their mark, and no Jew alive, nor most who will be born in the future, will forget it.
Today, anything that smacks of antisemitism, the Jews are quick to respond. As well they should. For decades after the German war, Mossad (the Israel secret police) rounded up Nazi criminals to prosecute. When they ran out of them, they focused on any sort of atrocities befalling Jews and Judaism. Read the George Jonas book Vengeance for a little taste of that. Jews in Israel have become ultra-militaristic, ultra-sensitive in their intelligence gathering, and ultra-capable of nipping the bud of any aggression made toward them, particularly by the Islamic world that surrounds them and touches all of their borders.
I believe part of the reason for this focus is understandable and in plain sight, but part of it too is that this “carved out of misery” country and its people are not about to have what happened to them in Europe in the mid 20th Century happen again. No longer will they sit back and hope for the best, they will strike, and strike hard, if ever given any reason to even suspect aggression towards them. Enough is enough. Golda Meir, Israeli prime minister from 1969 to 1974, is reported to have said something similar to this, “with what we Jews have had to endure, we should be allowed to do just about anything.” And that they have.
But isn’t this a never-ending cycle? Unquestionably many Palestinians hate Jews. They hate Jews probably as much, if not more, than Hitler and his henchmen did. Why? Well, some of that hate is understandable, considering what the Palestinians have had to endure losing their homes and land and lives due to Jewish Zionism. It would take a book, or many, to adequately present the history leading up to this current situation. Suffice it to say, there are reasons for both “sides” to hate one another. But what exactly is hate? How is this hate conveyed? How does each of these factions execute their hate on the other? Is one more evil than the other? Is it presented within a framework of human decency? No, I don’t think so. Just as the hatred seen in 1930/40’s (and before) Germany was beyond human decency. There is no justifiable reason behind the pure ugliness of it. And it is common knowledge that most atrocities committed in the name of Islam have always carried a certain brutality to them that is not typically seen in any sort of retaliation.
Many have said that the state of Israel is now close to responding to Palestine and the Palestinians as Hitler and his government did to the Jews. Speaking of the Gaza strip specifically, the people there are in an open-air prison, essentially occupied by the Israeli state for quite some time. Although since 2005 no Israeli military roam the streets, they certainly declare their locus of control over the region. Gaza has been under continuous embargo since the Six Day War of 1967. Israel controls their water, electricity, and nearly everything that goes into the region. Why is it that the people of Israel are so focused on oppression of Gaza and its inhabitants? Primarily because they consider them a threat to life and limb. But is there more to it than that? What does Palestine and its people represent to them?
Needless to say, neither side has been very polite to the other. The hatred many of the Palestinians have exhibited to the citizens of Israel is deep and pathological. The declarations the Arabs have purportedly made, such as “we will drive the Jews into the sea” (there is controversy as to whether any Arab ever said such a thing) and other colorful pronouncements, certainly give adequate reason for a people, the Israelis, to be unhappy about their neighbors (not only Palestine). Words are not, of course, the only problem. Many innocent civilians have lost their lives in brutal violence on both sides of the divide. But who really has the upper hand? Clearly Israel does. It is a modern state, with a modern military, a modern economic system, and with powerful international friends. Palestine is impoverished, has high unemployment, and cannot even function as a nation—as well as half of their population being children. They do, however, have powerful friends as well. But it is hard to say if the Arab nations that surround Palestine really care much for the Palestinians, but rather use the atrocities committed against them as the ultimate excuse to wreak havoc on Israel. Iran, which is not an Arab country, also has issues with Israel, needless to say.
Hamas, the faction responsible for the recent attack on Israel, has a dubious history. Labeled as a terrorist group by most Western nations, they have been a political concern, elected by the people (or so one is told) to govern Palestine (Gaza as well as the West Bank). They are considered no more than a terrorist group by most outside of Gaza (and by some inside as well) due to their violent uprisings and constant brutal aggression toward Israel. But isn’t Gaza an occupied territory, and as an occupied territory, do they not have the right, or indeed responsibility, to break away from their occupiers?
The US, of course, has historically backed Israel and abhors terrorism of any sort (or so they say), which is how they define the recent actions of Hamas. Biden’s treatment of Netanyahu on his recent visit to Israel made me think of a parent chastising their son for burning up ants in the backyard with a magnifying glass, “You just have to stop being so cruel to these poor pitiful creatures, little Johnny, even if they sting you when you dig up their ant hill.” Biden also said to Bibi, “You are not alone.” You can be sure if that kid wants the offending ant hill pulverized, dad will be out there with his flame thrower to help.
Back to the central theme of this essay. Just as a parent who was abused as a child becomes the abuser, can this happen with nations, or ethnic/religious groups of people? It seems that Israel, as the state representation of the Jewish faith, is compensating for the horrors of the Nazi regime. An oppressed people, the Palestinians, have been designated the oppressed-now-aggressor. They play the reverse role of the Nazis, who are to be punished, by the now powerful aggressor-once-oppressed Jews. No matter how powerful the Jews have become, they are still the victims and still playing out a vengeful game with this transfer of abuse.
If this is true, it is still only part of the story. It is the unconscious part, the part that makes hate act out in horribly indecent ways. The actors in this game include the Palestinians who were just ordinary people until history cast them in this dark unconscious play. Then they stepped up to act out the part with hate and aggression of their own making, demonstrated toward a power bent on removing them from what they believe is rightfully their home.
The other part of the story is clear enough. A system of governments, policies, international desires, money, power, and all the other junk that has jockeyed the world around for centuries. This part is all objectively present, but what really is driving this game is the psychological part—the psychology of a horribly damaged Jewish collective psyche, trying to right a tragedy that can never be made right, no matter how hard they try.