Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Understanding the Israeli psyche

Israelis, compared to Diaspora Jews, are bold, confident, outspoken.
They have a passion and patriotism for their country that exceeds most other peoples. This derives from taking pride in a collective history that has led them from sufferance and persecution to forging a nation founded on the principle of "Never Again" and "Masada Shall Not Fall Again!"
You have in these expressions the determination and emergence of the New Jew that refuses to leave their fate to the whims of leaders and the mob looking for a scapegoat to cover their own inadequacies and failures.
For the first time in 2000 years of Jewish history, Jews gathered in their Promised Land to affirmatively create a miracle despite the collective aggression of the Arab world.
Yet these confident Jews were prepared to compromise for the cause of peace.
What was given in generous gestures to Israel's enemies were not reciprocated in kind.
Example. After Israeli soldiers countered yet another aggressive Arab war of annihilation by recapturing the Old City of Jerusalem including Judaism's most sacred sites, General Mota Gur announced, "The Temple Mount is in our hands!"
The hearts of Diaspora Jews swelled with pride.
Then Israel's Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, in an extraordinary act of reconciliation, gave the order to remove the Israeli flag from above the Western Wall and allowed the Jordanian wakf to remain as the custodian of the holy site.
What was remarkable about this Jewish act of forgiveness and generosity was that, during the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem's Old City between 1948 and 1967, every Jew was driven out of the Old City and the Jordanians destroyed all the synagogues and yeshivas. No Jew was allowed to enter the Old City to worship at their holy shrines.
Yet here was triumphant Israel giving control of Judaism's heart to the Muslims.
What greater peace offering can a nation give to its enemy?
Yet, how was this received?
Not by peace or reciprocal recognition, but by a propaganda campaign to obliterate the heart of Jewish heritage from the world's consciousness by malevolent actors pledged to remove the Jewish State by physical or diplomatic warfare from the map of nations.
Example. After withdrawing all its forces and the forceful removal of its civilian population from the Gaza Strip by a right-wing government, this peace gesture was met by decades of Palestinian terror included repeated and heavy rocket attacks on Israel's southern towns and communities.
Example. After setting back aggressive enemy forces attacking Israel's northern towns and sensitive infrastructure, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.
Result. The Islamic terror regime of Hezbollah controls Lebanese politics and now has a reported 160,000 sophisticated and deadly rockets aimed at the Jewish State which they will launch at a time of their choosing.
The result of all of this on the Israeli psyche is that, despite the pride in Israel's extraordinary achievements, there remains in the heart of Israelis a steely determination not to relax their guard.
This makes for an ambivalence between making peace and holding firm to what they control. The cause of this duality is having zero faith in the goodwill of their adversaries, adversaries that have done nothing to make suspicious Israelis confident that further concession will be met with any genuine act of reciprocity and only result in them becoming even more vulnerable to untrustworthy enemy threats.
This then is the psyche of the average Israeli as he and she get ready to vote in the April national elections.
Israelis do not wallow in victimhood, but understanding the Israeli psyche must cause a sympathy for the Israeli condition in a threatening neighborhood.

Barry Shaw is the International Public Diplomacy Associate at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is the author of several books including 'Fighting Hamas, BDS, and Anti-Semitism.'


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