Israeli Psychology


Israeli psychology is a subject that is scarcely for me to comment upon, but it is something which radical or liberal Israelis will bring up. Of course nothing can excuse what is being done to the Palestinians. But it is important also to bring some understanding to the situation.

What is commented upon once and again is the level of fear in Israel. They are living on a powder-keg (of their own making one might say). Given the background of the holocaust, Israelis feel they can trust no one: ‘Where were you when we needed you?’. It is remarked that there has never really been any closure or healing of the holocaust issue; families don’t talk. All the evidence shows a very high level of stress in the society; indicated by such statistics as the rate of domestic violence, road rage is up, and the sperm count of Israeli men is down (50% of Israeli men are reputed to be on viagra). People’s fear is shown by such groundless comments (given Israeli military might) as: ‘If they [the Palestinians] want us out of the West Bank today, it’s Tel Aviv tomorrow’. An ex-army officer (see Army, ‘Breaking the Silence’) commented that it’s as though they are ‘David’ in ‘David and Goliath’; feeling you’re close to annihilation in the background. Whereas the evidence is that, if the Palestinians were allowed to have a viable state on the 22% of Palestinian land which was left to them after 1948, even Hamas would be pragmatic enough to go for a two-state solution.

One must remember that most Israelis have absolutely no contact with Palestinians. They think the OPT is full of terrorists and murderers and are happy to let the military do what they will. Meanwhile some radical Israelis and others fear for what they call the increasing ‘brutalization’ of Israelis, as they turn their backs on what they and their armed forces are doing to the Palestinians and neighbouring peoples. There is also mounting evidence of extreme racism and attacks directed against not only Palestinians but also migrant workers in Israel.

West Jerusalem district with former, now closed, mosque

Tel Aviv

Specialist Literature:

  1. -Kim Chernin, ‘The Long Path out of Denial: Zionism, Heartache, and a New Vision of Israel and Palestine’.

  2. -Robert Fisk, ‘Israel feels under siege. Like a victim. An underdog.

  3. -Anshel Pfeffer, ‘In its hour of need, Israel was let down by Diaspora’.

  4. - Uri Hadar, Burning Memories: sacrifice and the historical unconscious.

  5. -Gideon Levy, ‘Israel is proud to present: the aggressor-victim’, Ha’aretz, 31 Oct. 2010.

  6. -Henry Siegman, ‘Israelis and Obama’, jfjfp website.

  7. -Guarnieri, ‘Israel: The Ugly TruthAl Jazeera, 22.01.2011 on attacks on migrant workers.

See Further on this Site:

  1. -Whither Now?

  2. -The Palestine Papers

  3. -Iran/Israel/USA

  4. -Israeli Politics

Commentators on this Situation

Robert Fisk (British journalist): ‘Israel feels under siege. Like a victim.’ The Independent, 2 Feb. 2010.

Gideon Levy (radical Israeli journalist). Calling Israel the ‘aggressor-victim’, he remarks ‘There has never been an occupier who presented himself like ... a victim.’ Ha’aretz, 31 Oct. 2010

Henry Siegman (former National Director of the American Jewish Congress). Comments that what he calls the ‘pathological’ Israeli reaction to any serious attempts to make peace stems from the inability of Jewish people to adjust to having a state of their own after ‘2,000 years of powerlessness and victimhood’. (New York Times, 2 Nov. 2009)

Naomi Zion (a peace campaigner who lives near Sderot). Remarks that she finds it ‘almost impossible to ask critical questions about Israel’s actions’, adding: ‘We lost the ability to see the other side; people just don’t care. ... We lost our empathy skills - and when you lose that you lose your humanity.’ (Quoted by Rachel, Shabi, The Observer 27 Dec. 2009).