Op-Ed: Diagnosis of a Mental Disorder
A mental disorder has crippled Israel. This disorder is rooted in fear, but this fear has yet to be adequately diagnosed.
The idea that fear permeates the Jewish psyche is not new. It is the well-known consequence of two thousand years of statelessness and dispersion, persecution and humiliation, pogroms and holocaust. It is the inevitable result of the world’s perennial and deadly hatred of Jews and Judaism.
There is nothing paranoid about this fear. It reflects a somber assessment of a typically hostile world. But this fear has been magnified and rendered pathological by a related fear engendered by the triumph of democracy over Zionism in the mentality of Israel’s ruling elites.
That democracy has replaced Zionism as the only justification for the State of Israel has profound but hitherto unexplored psychological consequences.
Since 1975, when the UN declared Zionism a form of racism, what alone has endowed Israel’s ruling elites with legitimacy and respectability is their democratic credentials. Despite Israel’s miniature size and precarious existence in the Middle East, its ruling elites have been conditioned to pursue policies toward Arabs—but not Jews—which makes Israel appear more permissive and egalitarian than democratic America, a continental superpower.
The policy of self-restraint vis-à-vis Arab terrorism is the most revealing case in point.
Fear of losing their democratic respectability is the a basic reason Israeli governments have refrained from crushing the PLO-Palestinian Authority, whose genocidal intentions are manifest to all but fools. But crushing this enemy would make Israel appear as a fascist state, a prospect that terrifies Israel’s ruling elites and aggravates their fear of anti-Semitism.
Compounding this dilemma is the Jewish reputation for kindness and mercy. The benevolence of Jews on the one hand, and their having so often been the victims of oppression on the other, tend to inhibit Israel’s government from using overwhelming force even against such cruel enemies as the Arab Palestinians—but not against Jews themselves, as witness Gush Katif and Amona.
However, when Jews habitually make no distinction between those who are and those who are not worthy of benevolence, they cross the boundary that separates sanity from insanity. What has induced Israel’s ruling elites to cross this boundary is misplaced Democracy!
Tolerance of violent behavior and leniency in the punishment of such behavior are characteristics of democracy—a mixed blessing. But these characteristics attain pathological levels in Israel because of the Arab issue.
The first three years of the intifada that broke out in December 1987 witnessed 122,218 incidents of rock-throwing, road blocks, and rioting in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza; some 2,495 firebomb attacks; 157 sniper attacks using live ammunition; 58 grenade attacks; 1004 reported cases of arson; close to 4,000 Jews injured and 57 killed.
The first three years of the intifada that broke out in December 1987 witnessed 122,218 incidents of Arab rock-throwing, road blocks, and rioting; some 2,495 firebomb attacks; 157 sniper attacks using live ammunition; 58 grenade attacks; 1004 reported cases of arson.
The government meekly tolerated this horrific Arab violence. So did the courts, which imposed a fine of only 2,500 shekels (then $1,200) on Arabs who threw rocks at moving vehicles—an act defined by Israeli and American law as attempted murder!
Matters grew far worse under the four-and-a-half-year rule of Ariel Sharon, during which more than 1,000 Jews were murdered and some 6,000 were maimed or wounded. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court quashed the indictment of Arab Knesset Member Talib a-Sana, who, in an interview on Abu-Dabai TV, not only praised a suicide bombing attack on Israel, but also called for more of the same!
This insane policy of political tolerance and judicial leniency must be understood as the consequence of democracy having become the only thing that endows Israel’s political and judicial elites with legitimacy and respectability. To safeguard their democratic reputation, they must be more democratic than their American counterparts, which compels them to minimize retaliation against terrorist attacks—even to ignore many of them—and thus make Jewish lives expendable. And this is not all.
Having absorbed the “ethos” of democracy into their psyche, Israel’s ruling elites have imbibed the moral and cultural relativism that dominates the democratic mind. Hence they can no longer believe in the absolute justice of Israel’s cause.
This relativism inhibits Israeli prime ministers from crushing Israel’s enemies. To do so would signify Jewish national pride—something Jewish democrats can ill-afford. Jews must be meek. Better to be victims than victors—to prove the Jew’s moral superiority!
And so the government must always make unilateral concessions, to the extent of turning over Jewish land to terrorists. Of course the Supreme Court sanctifies such madness and self-immolation by ruling that this land is “occupied territory,” that it does not even belongs to the Jews!
Heaven forbid that the Jews should stand tall and maintain their God-given right to Eretz Israel! No—this would smack of racism! This would undermine the democratic respectability of Israeli politicians and judges, of academics and journalists, and even of several rabbis. Democracy is their life raft.
This democracy, steeped in moral egalitarianism, has emasculated Israel.
Enter Binyamin Netanyahu and his endorsement of Palestinian state, a state in Judea and Samaria, a state that would that would transform 300,000 Jews, if not into sheep, then into revolutionary warriors and saviors of Israel.
(For more by the writer, whose expertise is “how to make Israel more democratic by means of Jewish principles, and how to make Israel more Jewish by means of democratic principles", see Israel-America Renaissance Institute www.I-ari.org).