The biggest problem with victimhood is this: Resenting something keeps the event or events alive. The resentful victim turns them over again and again in his or her mind, frequently victimizing others.
A man tells me how much he resents his mother for all the bad things she did to him when he was growing up. He wears it like a hair shirt, talks about it in great detail, and is angry with me when I suggest that, just perhaps, he might consider letting it go. What would he do without it? He doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know. Remembering these wrongs gives his life meaning. When I suggest he give his resentment up, he becomes enraged and slams out of my office. His mother has been dead for thirty years.
A young man speeds his rented van through a crowded intersection in Tokyo, killing and injuring a number of people. Then he leaps out and begins slashing with a knife. When questioned, he says he is angry with his family. Resentment has poisoned his life and left a trail of suffering and tragedy in his wake. Arrested and tried for murder, he is sentenced to death.
A company manager walks into a meeting of his employees, sits down and slams his fist on the table. “No one acknowledged me when I came in!” he says, glaring. “I demand that you people respect me!” They don’t. His behavior is disrespectful of everyone in the room. He learned to treat people this way from his abusive parents, whom he despised.
Resentment is a poison that eventually kills its host. Before it does, it inflicts untold misery on everyone who gets too near. Resentment’s host makes other people victims, perpetuating the pattern until it kills its host after inflicting damage on everyone nearby.
When the idea of a modern nation of Israel was conceived late in the 19th Century, it was to be a nation in which the Jewish people would live free from the pogroms and prejudices from which they had suffered for so many years. This New Israel would be in Palestine, visioned as a land without people, for a people without a land. It would be a haven for the Jewish people, a Paradise on earth. There was one problem: Palestine was not a land without people, it was a land rich in people and history. What was to be done about this? The solution was a simple one: cleanse the land of as many of its indigenous inhabitants as possible, and keep those that remain in misery while Israel occupies every centimeter of the land.
Instead of creating a new model, Israel’s leaders recreated the one they were the most familiar with. Instead of creating a nation in which there would be equal rights for all citizens, Palestinian citizens were given second class citizenship. In other words, Israel’s leaders recreated the system in which they had suffered and lived for millennia, with one exception. In the New Israel, it is the Palestinians who will suffer, over and over and over again.
It is impossible to create a paradise this way. What is created is a mirror of the past, a deeply dysfunctional New Israel that is not likely to have a happy ending. To have one it must change from a closed system in which Jews are welcomed and honored but every one else is a despised outcast. This is the reality that has been documented over and over and over again.
Does Israel have a future? Looking at the kinds of things that happen on the ground these days, it doesn’t look good at all.
Home demolitions: During a raid on a refugee camp in Rafah in May 2004, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights John Dugard noted that homes were destroyed in a purposeless manner, and bulldozers savagely dug up roads, including electricity, sewerage and water lines. It was a brutal display of power. A total of 298 homes were destroyed in Rafah in a single month (Source: The Electronic Intifada, 22 March, 2005). This kind of thing began in 1947, and continues in 2014.
Requests to install sewage system. In a Palestinian village, permission is denied, while a nearby Jewish community has one built (Source: Hatim Kanaaneh, A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel, Pluto Press, June 20, 2008). This happens throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories without regard for need. It is obvious how the Palestinians are regarded by their Jewish neighbors.
Demolishing Palestinian villages, and planting trees and parks to hide the evidence that they ever existed. This began in 1947-48, and continues today, in the Occupied Territories and the Negev, where Bedouin homes and villages are routinely demolished, and building permits denied. Some people believe that the Bedouins will be better off with homes supplied by Israel’s government. Given the history of mistreatment of the Palestinian people, this is very doubtful. Besides, it is not what (or where) the Bedouins want to live.
Denying that there is a people called Palestinians. Former Prime Minister Golda Meir famously stated that the Palestinian people don’t exist. A bit odd, when her country was, and is, full of them.
Desecrating Muslim and Christian churches and holy sites, making a death threat to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nazareth and his followers. Recent weeks have also seen clergy attacked, churches and monasteries defaced with offensive graffiti, and cemeteries desecrated. This is cited as vengeance for the wrongs the Catholic Church committed against the Jews over two thousand years. This echoes the desecration of synagogues in Hitler’s Third Reich. This begins to look like the beginnings of a religious war, which again mimics the behavior of the pogroms the Jewish people have suffered.
Israel’s program of Holocaust education rejects universal lessons, preferring to nurture a sense of Jews as history’s eternal victims. If ever there was a self-fulfilling prophesy, this is about the best example I have ever seen. Why is that? People tend to make real what they believe, what they identify with. Identify with victimhood, and you begin by playing the role of resentful victim. Israel is an expert at it. “Many Israelis believe they should be constantly on guard – and armed – against a world of anti-Semitic gentiles,” writes Jonathan Cook in a recent article in The Palestine Chronicle. The government’s latest effort to pass legislation affirming Israel as the ‘nation-state of the Jewish people,’ is designed to stymie any hope of a multi-cultural future. “This says volumes about the status of every non-Jew living in Israel, to say nothing about the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza.”
Checkpoints, Jews only roads, apartheid walls, and other miseries. Try to mesh these with a picture of an ideal, peaceful, democratic nation, and it does not work. What we have is a nightmare vision of persecution, inhuman treatment of others, military behavior that reminds most people of what went on in Hitler’s Germany, and a government that does what it wants regardless of what other people say.
More and more, the Jewish State’s behavior mimics the behavior of other abusive systems, including Hitler’s demonic regime, the one Israel claims to hate beyond all others. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right wing followers appear to be playing an End Game against all all of us who are not Jewish. The end of this is likely be neither pleasant nor peaceful. It is a Jim Jones kind of madness that, unless it changes, is likely to have a tragic end. People who see themselves as perpetual victims, perpetuate their victimhood and, ultimately, guarantee their martyrdom. is this sick? It is tragically so.
Were I Jewish, I would not only be appalled, I would be irate. And then I would be called a “self-hating Jew.” This is not something I want to see happen. But it is likely to if Mr. Netanyahu and his friends continue pursuing their malignant ends.
“Enemies are as limitless as space,” writes psychiatrist Lewis Mehl-Madrona in his book “Coyote Healing.” “They cannot possibly all be overcome. Instead overcome the hatred in your heart and there will be no enemies. By being negative to other people we are sowing the seeds that will harvest us further suffering.”
Isn’t it time for a change? I hope so.