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Rationality, the Stockholm Syndrome and Managing Chaos

Before I get into the gist of this post some brief updates:

Firstly, I met with Daniel Levitt and we have plotted the outline of the continued evolution of this site – via improving the platform, enlisting more contributors and marketing more effectively. Our readers are potentially important in especially the last 2 of these 3 evolutionary steps. Please continue to comment and to disseminate. In this way you become part of this site not passive consumers.

Secondly, as a result of an interesting exchange of views with a number of ardent pro-Zionists but with different takes on Israeli realities and the way to respond, I submitted a rather rushed but hard-hitting reply to the Business Day editorial entitled “Time for Obama to call Netanyahu’s bluff”. I hope it is published and if it is I will post it on this site.

Thirdly, Sheila and I are off for a much-needed 5 day holiday with the family at the Wilderness. I can’t wait but hope to post once more before year-end

Until our return see below for some thoughts on our situation.

Rationality, the Stockholm Syndrome and Managing Chaos

One frequently hears the despairing cry “ why do they hate us”?… as though such a question has some sort of simple answer which would, for instance, explain the antisemitism of pre-WW2 Europe or the Muslim world today. Or indeed the blatant double standards applied to Israel by the good and respected democracies of the world like Britain, France, the Scandinavian models of social progressivism and even its supposed ally, the USA.

Surely, if we could only get people to see that the Palestinians and the Arab-Muslim world in general, with relatively few exceptions, wish to see the elimination of Israel they would understand that the UN gambit and Abbas’s inflammatory speech in support was not intended to promote peace negotiations but to abort them because they desire and believe in total victory.

Surely the Western world understands that Israel had to respond to hundreds of rockets aimed indiscriminately at urban centres? Surely they can understand that Israel took enormous (and successful) measures in Operation Pillar of Defence to minimise civilian casualties while Hamas took every step to maximise and exaggerate them?

Why, we ask ourselves, does a patent Palestinian bid to pursue its war against Israel by using an automatic majority in the General Assembly to obtain a fake and illegal recognition as an “Observer State” as a prelude to further legal and diplomatic manuvers against Israel (a supposed peace partner), attract weaselly abstentions from most of the European States? But when Israel responds with mildly punitive measures of its own, Europe and the USA react with righteous anger?

So we search for explanations that might mitigate or justify such unjust behaviour. Maybe we haven’t explained the situation well enough? We must enhance our public relations and put Israel’s side of the story better. Or Israel must be more “sensitive” to the perceptions and opinions of the world, even if they seem irrational and biased.  It must be careful not to provoke the world’s rejection and must do everything “they” demand of it without getting anything in return.

That’s the definition of the “Stockholm Syndrome”, in which our real or perceived powerlessness is translated into self-rejection and adoption of our persecutor’s perceptions and agendas as our own. The upshot will be that we land up as puppets or pawns of someone else’s will.

Yes, we can find ways of hiding that reality from ourselves. We can call it “realism” or “sensitivity” or have recourse to abstract, decontextualised notions of “justice”.  So we search endlessly for the mote in our own eye and ignore the beam in the eyes of those who demonise Israel and her supporters so that we no longer feel powerless.

Indeed, there have been occasions where Israel or Israelis have behaved arrogantly or insensitively or even brutally. There are racists in Israel and hyperpious Jews who have insulted and cursed, not only Arabs but secular Jews and members of other faiths or women who dress “immodestly” or behave too “provocatively”. There are narcissistic Israelis and corrupt and stupid Israelis. We share in the faults and frailties and even the evils of Mankind. There are also courageous, honest, clever and generous Israelis


That has always been true but it is beside the point. The point is that the world’s opprobrium has very little to do with us, but a great deal to do with history, chance, the political dynamics of the region and even globally, cultures in transition and conflict, competing ideologies  and a host of personal agendas. What does all this boil down to, assuming one can extract some coherence out of the situation?

  • A “war” against Israel conducted by a host of regional and global players with various motivations and agendas of their own.  These include regionally the various Palestinian and some Islamist groupings and their allies, which adds up to a long list with Iran as the potentially nuclear patron. In this the Palestinians are both pawns in the games of others as well players in their own rights.
  • The “war” is unique in that it is essentially undeclared, the participants are a mix of  both state and non-state entities, is highly asymmetric across a host of different dimensions and the commitment, agendas and motivations of the different participants vary considerably. Some are simply opportunists who will jump on and off the bandwagon as it suits them while others are ideological fanatics not easily deterred.
  • The regional actors are supported or opposed by host of global players, also state and non-state. The non-state participants are involved for personal ideological and psychological reasons and out of simple self-interest. The state level stakeholders have similar motivations to which may be added national strategic and economic interests.
  • An important arena of this “war” is public opinion. In the West, by dint of heavily subsidised and shrewd, ruthless propaganda, the simplified “approved” version amongst the dominant liberal media is: (1) that the Palestinians are victims; (2) Israel is a heavily militarised “semi-apartheid” state currently occupying Palestinian territory in thrall to a right-wing Likud government and a fanatical religious/settler movement; (3) and is aided and abetted by a neo-conservative, fundamentalist USA except for the potential intervention of Obama – the poster boy for the soft left.
  • This means that all news and analysis is automatically filtered through this prism and is selected to reinforce the “approved” version while excluding anything which may shake the foundations of that narrative.

For Israel to survive it must eschew both appeasement and unnecessary provocation. It must stick to the basics: realism, democracy, social cohesion and mutual responsibility, military and technological superiority and diplomatic and economic initiative. It must steer its course through this uncharted minefield willing to take risks (political and military) where there appears to be net advantage but avoid reckless, irreversible actions.

In all of this it needs the understanding and support – and occasionally and circumspectly,  advice – of the Diaspora. We all have enormous stakes in the outcome.

The West also has huge stakes, recognised by some at both leadership and grassroots level. So we in the Diaspora must not overreact and over-interpret and those in Israel must be sensitive to the realities of international perception amplified by all the tools of propaganda. But we cannot allow the calculating self-interest of Western countries determine what is “good for Israel”.

And finally we in the Diaspora must put aside apocalyptic scenarios used to scare us and get on with managing and adapting to circumstances using all the intelligence, information and discipline at our disposal

I believe we will succeed.

Mike Berger


2 responses to “Rationality, the Stockholm Syndrome and Managing Chaos

  1. Mike Berger December 8, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Lilyane we approach this from different traditions and rules of evidence and argument. I know many share your beliefs, including many Christians, and I’m sure it brings a dimension to your life that a more rationalist approach like my own doesn’t have. But we can meet on the common ground of respect for the rights and dignity of others, so long as they not infringe on one’s own, and support for societies which share a belief in mutual respect, tolerance and freedom of thought and expression – again within limits which do not infringe the rights of others. That means we will disagree on on some boundaries but space must be provided for such differences of opinion otherwise one becomes a totalitarian society.We also believe in Israel though for partly different reasons.
    Shalom and best wishes


    • Liliyane Avia Liora Mendel December 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      I totally agree with your response to me. If only the secular world, Islam [and some Christian congregations] would live by this! LM


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