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International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal.

Studies (2012) Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/aps.1319

When Unconscious Wishes Become Laws: Policing Memory and Identity in Israel and Palestine1
SHUKI J. COHEN ABSTRACT This paper proposes a psychoanalytically-informed model for the policing of memory and identity in Israel and Palestine. Borrowing from both empirically- and clinically-validated insights into psychopathology, it purports to account for the increasingly frequent attempts of the Israeli government to suppress alternatives to the extant Zionist narrative using legislative and administrative means. The model explains why, counter-intuitively, these attempts to impose an idealized Zionist narrative have markedly increased in the past several years, at a time when Israels military power, geographical expansion and economic prosperity are arguably at an all-time high. Supported by examples from both world history and Israeli documents, the proposed model suggests a dynamic link between trauma, annihilation anxiety, hyper-vigilance and defensive behavior on a nation-wide level, which runs as a leitmotiv in both Israeli government actions and in sentiments expressed by a considerable portion of Israeli society, from the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948. The model further uses psychodynamic insights to account for the cognitive-emotional rigidity underpinning the discrepancy in the perceptions of reality between Israels narrative and its sundry worldwide alternatives. The model posits that this growing discrepancy between worldwide public opinion and Israeli internal reasoning may underlie the growing disapproval and isolation of Israel in both diplomatic circles and world media. Finally, following psychodynamically-oriented therapeutic practices, the explanatory power of the model is harnessed to suggest potentially effective remedial attitudes and interventions, whose mutative powers may be of use to psychodynamically-trained mental health professionals who may be involved in future reconciliation efforts between Israel and Palestine. Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Key words: Israeli-Palestinian conict, group processes, trauma, psychopathology, freedom of speech Memory is the battleeld of identity: Whose part is bigger in realizing societys ideals? Whose side is historical justice on? Who is the oppressed
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Cohen

and who is the oppressor? Who is the righteous one and who is the sinner? In this struggle, forgetfulness has an equally important role as that of memory: One remembers the expedient and forgets the rest. Historiography cant disentangle itself from the struggle for memory. At its best, it reects memorys contradictions, and balances the various narratives. At its worst, it becomes a weapon in the battle for identity, which is, among others, also a political battle. (Dr Anita Shapira [Head of the Institute for Zionism Research and the 2008 Israel Prize laureate] [Shapira, 1997, p. 16, translated by the author]) On March 22, 2011, the Israeli Knesset ratied the 40th amendment to its Budget Foundations Law (in Hebrew: ). This new amendment denies public funding to any institution deemed anti-Israeli by its sponsoring activities that might take a critical stance vis--vis Israels self-image as both a democratic and a Jewish state, complete with the worlds most moral army.2 Although the amendment does not mention any particular group of people, it was nonetheless popularly referred to as the Nakba Law, in recognition of its unique ramications for Palestinian organizations who might wish to commemorate the Palestinian catastrophe associated with the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948. It should be noted that the Knesset has passed the Nakba bill in its original form in the rst reading, but then responded to public pressure and ordered it to be redrafted. At the end of a two-year debate, however, the wish to police emotional displays by Palestinians that might be uncomfortable to Israelis has been generalized to include any activity that raises questions about the democratic and Jewish nature of Israel and which, by doing so, may contribute to negative feelings towards the state of Israel. In its new formulation, however, the law only pertains to publically-funded organizations and not individuals, and the punishment for breaching them is a ne rather than imprisonment. Coincidentally, on that same day, the Knesset also passed the Admissions Committees Bill, which makes it close to impossible for any Palestinian to purchase a piece of land or to become members of a new community in the Negev or the Galilee.3 Both legislation bills were controversial and evinced a deep conict within Israeli society. The Knesset had a split vote of 37 to 25 in favor of the Nakba Bill, while numerous human rights organizations worldwide joined their colleagues in Israel and Palestine to protest it. This controversy within Israeli society notwithstanding, the political climate in which these bills were drafted appears symptomatic of a pervasive surge of nationalistic, militant and xenophobic actions characteristic of the Israeli government and presumably a considerable portion of its constituents in recent years. These bills followed on the heels of a December 2010 quasi-religious edict, signed by over 50 high ranking (and government-funded) rabbis, forbidding Israeli Jews from selling or leasing apartments or land to Arabs. Polls estimated the support for this letter among Israeli Jews as ranging between 55 and 74 percent. The letter was shortly followed by another one, signed by 30 Rabbis wives, urging Israeli women not to date Arab
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

When unconscious wishes become laws

gentiles. Generalized xenophobia also seemed to have motivated the August 2010 Israeli governments campaign for the deportation of all children who were born in Israel to however legal foreign workers. After vehement protests, only children under ve years old were sentenced to deportation, while 800 children who are over ve years old were offered a temporary visa, renewable annually. This arrangement makes them vulnerable to legislative and administrative harassment on a year-by-year basis for most of their childhood and young adulthood.4 The rationale behind the concerted legislative and administrative efforts to discriminate against non-Jews in Israel is particularly puzzling at a time when Israels military power, geographical expansion and economic prosperity are arguably at an all-time high.5 In contrast, however, tolerance toward Israels actions, including its agrant breach of international laws, resolutions and treaties seems to be waning, as is the moral and nancial support of its strongest ally so far the American Jews.6 Recent empirical research on the dual explicit and implicit components of information processing has largely supported the psychoanalytic framework for the independent examination of the avowed and enacted aspects of motivation and behavior (see recent reviews in: Arminjon, 2011; Cheniaux, Zusman, de Freitas, de Carvalho, & Landeira-Fernandez, 2011; Cohen, 2011a; Fosshage, 2011; Norman, 2010; Olds, 2012; Schultheiss & Brunstein, 2010; Talvitie, 2009). This unied framework might be useful in understanding Israels defensive actions in the service of preserving its self-image as a liberal democracy of an exceptionally enlightened and moral character, while at the same time evincing chronic hypervigilance, aggression and ideology-bound reality perception. For this presentation, I will specically invoke psychopathological case formulations on both the individual, group and ethnic levels to explore two complementary questions: (1) What could be the nature of anxiety against which Israel defends itself by forceful abridgment of human liberties to an extent that exceeds the already-high level of harassment and subjugation of non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular? What could be the mechanisms that maintain Israels righteous self-image despite: (a) Consistently defaulting on laws, resolutions and treaties of global organizations to which it belongs and is beholden to? And despite: (b) Facing an ever-increasing disapproval, disappointment and isolation in both diplomatic circles and public opinion worldwide?

(2)

These questions are neither novel nor limited to Israel or Zionism. The belief that aggressive measures against dissent and the abridgment of unalienable
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Cohen

human liberties, including potentially adversarial sentiments, conscience or expressions would indeed result in the eradication of these uncomfortable notions has often been expressed throughout the history of mankind. Indeed, both individuals and nations often seem to exhibit an emotionalbehavioral pattern consisting of hypervigilance, suspicion and defensive aggression in response to a perceived existential threat, and Israels group dynamics is hardly unique in regressing to this mode of functioning (e.g. Bion, 1961; Freud, 1921; Knauss, 2006; Lewis, 1990; Robins & Post, 1997; Volkan, 2002, 2010a). However, exactly because of its ubiquity, it behooves scholars to point out the dangers for the well-being of a nation resorting to this mode of functioning. One well-documented example of this dynamic concerns the various instances in which the United States instigated the abridgment of freedom of speech. Numerous historical and legal analyses have indicated that the realistic threat to the United States was invariably much smaller than the clear and present danger it was perceived as at the time. Furthermore, most US governments that utilized such anti-democratic measures have ultimately lost the trust of their voters. The boomerang effect of laws such as the 1798 Sedition Act, the 1918 Espionage Act or the 1950 Subversive Activities Control Act, along with fear-based policies such as the red scare and McCarthyism, and their consistent failure to increase national cohesion are well documented (e.g. Curtis, 2000; Donohue, 2005; Witt, 1988). Similar backlashes, on an even longer time-scale, can be demonstrated in Great Britains legal-political system, to mention another well-documented example (e.g. Parker, 2007). Conversely, the paradoxically benecial effect of promoting organizational growth by encouraging the expression of dissent can be traced back to the Jewish Talmudic practices ironically suppressed by current legislation in the Jewish state. Though not a psychologist, the classic words of US Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr summarize this counter-intuitive psychological insight, and advocate, in effect, for imposing realistic limits to the defense-bound allure of hypervigilant, defensive or pre-emptive aggression:
I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country. (Abrams versus United States dissenting opinion, 1919)

In the current political situation in the middle-east, Israels oft-quoted conviction, of facing imminent clear and present danger to its survival, is not shared by most security analysts worldwide. Thus, if we consider the consensus among international security analysts as our best proxy to the reality testing afforded by a well-functioning observing ego, Israels attempts to police memory and other unalienable liberties using legislation such as the Nakba Law might well suggest a strong rejection of this consensual reality.7 Ironically, but perhaps not surprisingly, history is replete with attempts to outlaw Jewish
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

When unconscious wishes become laws

commemorative practices. Authoritarian rulers also often cited security concerns over the potentially seditious nature of Jewish rituals, while in fact their suppression was designed to minimize the narcissistic injuries that any competing belief system or narrative might have inicted on the imperial self-image. For example, following the Jewish revolts in the second century AD, Emperor Hadrian prohibited congregation of Jews for any purpose, especially for reading the bible and mourning the destruction of the temple.8 Attributing seditious motivation behind Jewish commemorative rituals did not change despite greater human liberties brought about by the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. For example, in the fourth century AD, the Roman emperor Theodosius forbad the Jews to celebrate Purim, claiming that it revels in Jesus crucixion. This reasoning might have carried a long-lasting persuasive appeal, since this law has been enforced on-and-off over a period of several hundred years (e.g. Rabello, 1987). Another facet of the impetus to impose a wished sense of reality in lieu of containing uncomfortable reality is the attempt to block or forbid mourning. Dating back to Freuds mourning and melancholia, and now accepted as a staple of personality functioning, mourning is deemed a necessary component in reality perception and its acceptance. Since reality is oftentimes at odds with our wishes, mourning is an inevitable step in both accepting reality and in conferring resilience to the ego for further accepting and accommodating imperfections, frustrations and compromises (e.g. Fisher & Exline, 2010; Gilbert, 2007; Hayes, Villatte, Levin, & Hildebrandt, 2011; Kernberg, 2010; King & Hicks, 2007; Kogan, 2007). Conversely, the authoritarian prohibition of mourning is consistent with a dysfunctional view of the world, when the wishes for a conict-free zone overwhelm the perceptions of reality (Kernberg, 1975; Volkan, 2010a). Ever more puzzling is the fact that mourning was always a staple of Jewish identity, and has arguably sustained the Jewish people throughout thousands of years of exile and oppression. As the psalm goes: By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion. More poignantly yet, when it comes to the primordial formative ethos of the Jewish nation-building, namely their exodus out of Egypt, pre-Zionist Judaism makes the point of recognizing its concomitant Egyptian suffering. For this reason explicitly, Jews are not to pray the celebratory Hallel prayer on the seventh day of the Passover, and during the Passover dinner (Seder), which commemorates the exodus from Egypt, it is customary to diminish the amount of wine in the glasses by a drop for every plague that the Jewish God brought upon the Egyptians. The question of how a nation whose identity is rife with mourning can forbid it for others, as is implied by the Nakba Law, is still far from having a denitive answer, and accounts of the processes involved range from intra-psychic to interpersonal and to group level dynamics. Psychoanalytic Ego psychology, however, provides one of the most comprehensive and useful formulations of the processes and dynamics that might develop following severe trauma and
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Cohen

annihilation anxiety (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswick, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950; Alderdice, 2009; Erikson, 1956; Kohut, 1972; McWilliams, 2010; Mitchell, 1998; Volkan, 1997; Volkan & Fowler, 2009). This theory is also one of the most practiced in both individual and group psychotherapeutic settings worldwide. According to this theory, the wish to eradicate dissent or mourning is a result of a relational pattern that is lacking in empathy. Such egregious empathic failures whether in understanding ourselves or others are often exacerbated by severe early trauma. Early trauma may trap the individual in a vicious cycle in which hypervigilance against imminent annihilation commands defensive attempts to regain control and self-worth by aggrandization and a sense of uniqueness. Unfortunately, evidence for both attempts to annihilate Jews or Israelis, and for Jewish and Israeli sentiments of exceptionalism and dispensationalism are amply documented, and thus will not be discussed here any further. Instead, the ego-psychological model will be used to shed light on the authoritarian nature of the legislative attempts to prevent the mourning for the more painful aspects associated with the foundation of the state of Israel. According to this model, the active denial of any painful aspects of the foundation of Israel be it the suffering of the Zionists or of the Palestinians, had to be minimized and deected as a defensive measure. In this constellation of defenses, acknowledgment of both Zionist and Palestinian pain would be perceived as damaging to the wished conict-free state of affairs and must therefore be suppressed and censored. Examples of such censorship have only slowly started to surface in what is known today as the new historiography or revisionist history of Israel an independent examination of the myths and realities associated with the foundation of Israel. Such research has uncovered, for example, that as early as the rst year following the foundation of Israel, about 60 percent of the citizens opined against making public the names and numbers of Zionist casualties in the war of independence, despite the fact that one out of every 100 citizens has fallen in that war (Segev, 1986, p. xv). Also in the service of idealized self-image, letters of immigrants to their relatives abroad, expressing disillusionment with the idealized image of Israel, were censored (Segev, 1986, p. 339). Similarly, Israels parliament has devised various secretive immigration policies that would only allow young, indoctrinable and war-ready youth into the country, while touting itself as and believing itself to be a haven for all Jews (Segev, 1986). Furthermore, in what is considered by many historians a tragic aw, the early Israeli government, arguably motivated by strong wishes to undo thousands of years of Palestinian history and to re-establish the vast biblical kingdom of Solomon, could not bring itself to commit to concrete borders, hoping that war and diplomacy would achieve more than anything it could demarcate or agree upon at the time. This unwillingness to mourn the realistic limitations to its grandiosity had arguably cost Israel a long series of wars and a legacy of mistrust and animosity among its neighboring countries. In a rare but consistent exception to the laws governing obsolescence of state secrets in Israel, to this very day long past the statute of limitations on the
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

When unconscious wishes become laws

1948 military actions in Palestine many of the les concerning the matter are still classied (e.g. Pappe, 2006; Segev, 1986). However, traces of the attempts to deny the uncomfortable reality associated with its foundation, while imposing instead an ideologically-bound narrative remain in the minutes of the Israeli cabinet meeting. Poring over the records of the Knesset meetings of the rst and second years after the foundation of Israel, historians like Tom Segev (Segev, 1986) and Benny Morris (Morris, 2001) found the following statement, uttered by Aharon Cizling, then the minister of Agriculture in Israel, referring to war crimes of the Israeli military against civilian Palestinian population:
Ive received a letter on the subject. I must say that I have known what things have been like for some time and I have raised the issue several times already here. However after reading this letter I couldnt sleep last night. I felt the things that were going on were hurting my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here. I could not imagine where we came from and to where are we going . . . I often disagree when the term Nazi was applied to the British. I wouldnt like to use the term, even though the British committed Nazi crimes. But now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken.

But perhaps even more relevant to our discussion concerning the policing of memory and reality is his next sentence:
Obviously we have to conceal these actions from the public, and I agree that we should not even reveal that were investigating them. But they must be investigated.

By now the amount of evidence attesting to Israels conicted attitude towards the Nakba is staggering: on the one hand there seems to be a wish for purity of arms, decency, humanitarianism and self-reection in the service of realistic survival and long-term co-habitation, yet on the other hand there is ample evidence for tacit or complicit support for military atrocities such as looting, raping and coldblooded killing, compounded with tremendous benet from these actions (e.g. Pappe, 2006). These atrocities are further fraught with the concomitant need to suppress them motivated and rationalized by severe annihilation anxiety that was cemented into a rigidly-held militant Zionist ideology. As numerous legal scholars have pointed out, further erosion of human rights that dates back to the rst years of Israels foundation (and has been rigidly upheld to this very day) occurred when legislation itself was subjugated to the administrative ideology through what is known as the 1945 Emergency Defense Regulations (in Hebrew ). These regulations, whose very name is evocative of anxiety, defense and enactment (by that order), were used by the British to oppress the Jewish population throughout the 1940s and have subsequently again, ironically been adopted by the Israeli government in 1948 almost unchanged (except for the part that limits Jewish immigration). The minutes of the rst Israeli cabinet meetings contain unadorned criticism of the anti-democratic nature of these regulations criticism that today, in yet another ironic turn, may be punishable under the Nakba Law. Dr Bernard
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Cohen

Joseph, later known in his Hebrew name Dov Yosef, the Minister of Justice, called them terrorism under ofcial seal; Menachem Begin, then leader of the opposition Herut party referred to them as these Nazi laws, and Yaakov Shimshon Shapira, future Attorney General and Minister of Justice stated:
The regime created by the Emergency Regulations is without precedent in civilized country. Even Nazi Germany had no such laws . . . . Only one kind of system resembles these conditions that of a country under occupation. (Segev, 1986, p. 50)

A conference of Jewish lawyers held as early as 1946 already indicated that the use of the Emergency Defense Regulation by an Israeli government would have deprived the Palestinian citizen of the basic rights of man . . . subverted law and justice, constituted a grave danger to personal freedom and imposed arbitrary rule free of all legal supervision (cited in Segev, 1986, p. 50). Thus, evidence for the re-narration of history to conform to a more idealized self-image, and attempts to police the commemoration of its painful facets seem to be present from the very inception of the state of Israel, and perhaps even constituted an essential part of the driving force behind its almost miraculous creation out of a Zionist fantasy envisioned less than a century beforehand. However, such impositions on history and memory often result in a maladaptive mismatch between historical reality and its perceptions or defenses thereof. Consequently, such mismatches should be judged for their anachronistic, maladaptive and growth-stunting effects in addition to their understandable inception. The converse is also true. Judging Israel too harshly for its attempts to defend against historical reality and control its perception both internally and internationally might bring scholars to the brink of the opposite mistake, namely the vilication of Israel and the concomitant inability to empathize and understand it. Similar dynamics occur in the counter-transferential responses of psychotherapists to trauma victims, as originally observed by Heinz Kohut and later supported empirically (e.g. Baker & Baker, 1987; Betan, Heim, Conklin, & Westen, 2005; Kealy & Ogrodniczuk, 2011; Kohut, 1971; Krell, Suedfeld, & Soriano, 2004; Ornstein & Kay, 1990; Rossberg, Karterud, Pedersen, & Friis, 2008). Such empathic failures are therefore iatrogenic to the understanding of the need to control historical truth and inconvenient alternative narratives. As such, understanding Israels concerns and actions should commence with the acknowledgment and thorough appreciation of the realistic fear of annihilation that characterized its earlier years, a fear that was fueled by severe traumatic events, such as the decimation of the Jews in Europe in World War II following a long history of anti-Semitism, pogroms and blood-libels further complicated by the great Arab Revolt of the late 1920s and 1930s, and aggravated by calls for the annihilation of the Zionist Jews put forth by Arab leaders. This annihilation anxiety was further exacerbated by the precarious uncertainty of global political recognition, by being at the mercy of changing political climates within Great Britain (who had the mandate over
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

When unconscious wishes become laws

Palestine at the time) and the world in general in the form of the United States and the United Nation. However, when defenses become rigid and unyielding, they may inadvertently sustain the very sense of danger that originally necessitated them, and lead to a state of unnecessary and harmful hypervigilance-induced stress. Furthermore, the unyielding bellicosity that such constant sense of danger often commands further fuels the anxiety-driven cycle of aggression and counter-aggression (Kohut, 1972; McWilliams, 2010; Thomaes & Bushman, 2010; Volkan & Fowler, 2009). Thus, psychoanalytic ego psychology is unique in its ability to account for the paradoxical increase in the activation of the holocaust trauma, as instigated by the Israeli government, and the creation of what is now dubbed the holocaust industry (Finkelstein, 2003) at a time when Israels standing in both military and political grounds seems to merit less emphasis on the trauma and more on post-traumatic growth (e.g. Cohen, 2009). Consistent with this observation, several historians have noted that while in the 1940s there seems to have been a code of silence within Israeli society regarding the holocaust and the narratives of its survivors, the 1950s have witnessed a moderate increase in the awareness of the holocaust and initial attempts to harness its meaning to aid the Zionist narrative. By the 1960s, every ofcial diplomat visiting Israel was taken on a tour to the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial, with that part of their visit being de rigeur in the Israeli media coverage of their visit. Furthermore, this perplexing steady increase in the activation of holocaust anxiety is unlikely to be motivated by political bias, as it has been documented by historians hailing from a wide range of Zionist leanings, from Anita Shapira to Tom Segev and to Norman Finkelstein (Finkelstein, 2003).9 Arguably due to the bidirectional nature of the associations within cognitive schemata, even in the absence of realistic danger, a pre-emptive defensive aggression is likely to activate the mindset of danger and hypervigilance associated with it as studies of the triggers for anxiety and aggression in post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder have shown in empirical research. From the psychodynamic perspective, however, we also cannot rule out the possibility that it is this very premium that modern Zionism has placed on the Jewish holocaust as the formative ethos and as a pillar of Israeli identity that perhaps compels modern Israel to attempt to block this same process of trauma-based identity formation for the Palestinians using legislative means. Perhaps this dynamics accounts for the association, often found in speeches of Israeli leaders, between Palestinian mourning and acts of civil disobedience and terrorism. Such projective mechanism has been implicated in studies of the trans-generational transmission of trauma. Notable examples of empirical ndings that are consistent with this formulation include the transmission of insecure attachment style to babies by insecurely-attached mothers, the above-average prevalence of abuse practices and generalized aggression in post-traumatic stress and abuse victims, and the higher cognitive rigidity and authoritarianism among children of authoritarian parents. Within the psychoanalytic study of ethnic conicts, the
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Cohen

defensive pre-emption of mourning as an attempt to block identity formation by a group whose very cohesion hinges on such mourning is consistent with the chosen trauma theory of Vamik Volkan (e.g. Volkan, 2004, 2007, 2010b) and with the psychoanalytic model for the escalation of the IsraeliPalestinian conict put forth by the late Palestinian psychoanalyst George Awad (2003; see also Brenner, 2002). Furtheremore, capitalizing on the Jewish holocaust as a fear tactic in the service of Zionist aggression might have contributed to the most tragic consequence in the form of a gradual defensive minimization and denial of the holocaust by the Arab world. Although this observation has not yet been tested empirically, there seems to be a relationship between the gradual use of the holocaust as a formative ethos for Zionist identity (described earlier), and the defensive reaction that calls for its minimization and eventual denial in the Arab world. It should be noted that the tragedy inherent in this predictable-yet-tragic empathic failure was pointed out by both Israeli researchers (e.g. Litvak & Webman, 2009) and Arab intellectuals (e.g. Massad, 2000; Saghiah & Bahir, 2004; Said, 2000). Succinctly put, the argument is:
Some [Palestinians and Arabs], falling into the Zionist ideological trap, reasoned that if accepting the Jewish holocaust meant accepting Israels right to be a colonial-settler racist state, then the holocaust must be denied or at least questioned. (Massad, 2000, p. 53)

The induction of existential fear and aggression through the repeated activation of holocaust trauma may also underlie the paradox by which the heightened communal sense of anxiety leads to, on the one hand, a heightened vulnerability to threatening cues, while on the other hand also giving rise to the need to appear stronger than the group might actually be. This dynamics might explain recent polls that consistently demonstrate a puzzling incongruence between external and internal indicators of quality of life in Israel. For example, there is a consensus among security experts in the world concerning Israels absolute military capacity in the entire middle-east. Additionally, a global Gallup poll conducted in 2007 the average score of overall life satisfaction indicators in Israel was among the highest in the world (6.84 out of 10; compared to the highest, Denmark with 8). However, the same poll also showed that 20 percent of Israeli Jews would immigrate permanently to other countries if only given the chance. Furthermore, considerably higher percentage of willingness to permanently immigrate out of Israel was found among Israeli Jewish young adults, with 2008 polls estimating the prevalence of this wish for leaving the country by almost 50 percent.10 Potentially relevant to our efforts to understand the cost of policing reality for defensive purposes is a body of studies that demonstrated similar split occurring on the individual level, among aggressive bullies in the school system. School bullies present has having above average self-esteem based on questionnaires, but evince a rather fragile and easily threatened self-esteem when tested using implicit measure, which rely on reaction time
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

When unconscious wishes become laws

and are therefore closely related to unconscious processes and are less inuenced by conscious self-knowledge (e.g. Baumeister, Bushman, & Campbell, 2000; Baumeister, Smart, & Boden, 1996; Gregg & Sedikides, 2010; Gregg, Sedikides, & Gebauer, 2011; Thomaes & Bushman, 2010). The counter-reaction to Israels sense of defensive aggression has recently met with an ever growing distaste and rebuke within public opinion even in regions that are not directly involved or invested in the IsraeliPalestinian conict. Thus, Israels attempts to suppress the dark chapters in its past for fear that these chapters might undermine its legitimacy seem to only have served to perpetuate the very logic that considers the atrocities perpetrated by the Israeli military in 1948 and beyond as grounds for the de-legitimization of its existence. Although still not a wide-spread notion, many Palestinians no longer hold the same wishes for the annihilation of the Jewish state. In the words of Edward Said:
Israelis and Palestinians are now so intertwined through history, geography, and political actuality that it seems to me absolute folly to try and plan the future of one without that of the other. (Said, 2000, p. 191, original emphasis)

Further support for this scrutinizing counter-reaction with which defensive aggression is met was rst exemplied in Michel Foucaults meticulous documentation of the politico-sociological process by which the very policing and pathologization of homosexuality by the Victorian empire served paradoxically to further raise awareness to the ubiquity and ultimately the normalcy of homosexual sentiments (Foucault, 1980). Since the original publication of this analysis, in his book The History of Sexuality, dozens of similar Foucauldian analyses have conrmed the boomerang effect of the attempts to legislate unalienable human sentiments and emotions. Figure 1 represents a time-delimited Google search of the word Nakba. One can readily notice the tremendous boost conferred to the interest in the subject following the multiple attempts of Israel to legislate its suppression, starting in the years 20082009. The psychoanalytic model put forth seems consistent with Israels ideology and actions from 1948 to this day. Thus, the resurgence in modern-day Israel of militant Zionism in general and of anti-democratic legislation such as the Nakba Law in particular may therefore be viewed as mere rekindling of a set of unconscious sentiments that loomed large over the Israeli psyche all along, with various levels of salience. In fact, the party that initiated the Nakba Bill proclaims to follow the footsteps of Zeev Jabotinsky, the chief ideologue of the Irgun terrorist organization, and the founder of the militant Revisionist movement in Zionism. To explore the current incarnation of the intentions and wishes behind the Nakba Law, it might be illuminating to examine the inception of the original bill proposal; In 2009 Alex Miller, a Knesset member from the Israel Beytenu party proposed that public mourning of the
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Cohen

Figure 1: Media attention to the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948 (Nakba), as assessed by the number of web-pages that mentioned the subject in recent years. Increased interest in an issue following its attempted suppression has long been implicated in the clinical literature as a counter-transferential response that affects the interpersonal relationships of individuals who utilize defense mechanisms such as repression, projection, disassociation and denial. More recently, this phenomenon has also been demonstrated on a group-level in historiographies of marginalized groups.

Palestinian catastrophe will be punishable by up to three years in prison. Here is his reasoning, taken from the ofcial site of his party:
Those who hate Israel will still be free to rally against the state, but they must do it somewhere else. Whoever wants to support the enemy and mourn the creation of the state of Israel is invited to do so with our neighbors in Gaza. Those who mourn Israels creation should not do so while beneting from the states existence. As if it wasnt enough that during the operation in Gaza we had to deal with calls of support for Hamas, over the past several years were also witness to annual violent events and riots in the framework of Nakba day protests.

Signicant from the psychoanalytic viewpoint is the fact that this rather emotional appeal, wherein cognitive reasoning is imsily provided as an afterthought, eventually gained the necessary legal and rational justication to become a law. Such an accomplishment is arguably a testament both to the potency of this arguments resonance with the Israeli public opinion as to the potency of the mechanisms dedicated to camouage its irrational and prejudicial nature. There is also a signicant shift in the bills rationale and purported goal: From a proposal that reads like the ranting of a feudal who demands that his vassals pay him respect in public and is fearful of potential disorderly conduct, the nal version of the law reads like a scal measure against the misallocation
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

Copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

When unconscious wishes become laws

of resources to organizations with whom the government has a conict of interest. Despite this veil, Israeli newspapers kept highlighting the seditious nature of the Nakba Day demonstrations and their threat to public safety even after the law has been reformulated as an amendment to the Budget Foundation Law, devoid of explicit security considerations. From a psychoanalytic perspective, it is the initial, emotional proclamation that is more likely to hold the key to understanding the drive behind the initiative, rather than its rationalized version, which is now displaced onto monetary or budgetary conict. In what follows, I will treat the member of the Israeli Knesset Alex Millers original proclamation as fodder for psychoanalytic reection. The fact that it is rife with emotional primary process and low on cognitive complexity and rational argumentation makes it, at least prima fascia, a suitable raw material for analytic exploration. One of the most prominent themes in Alex Millers passage is its home imagery. The rst two sentences are already replete with them. This home imagery is not idiosyncratic or random. It is the central theme in the political platform of the party he belongs to. In fact, the very name Israel beitenu means in Hebrew Israel is our home. Following clinical observations made by Freud and Jung, a large body of modern empirical data supports the notion that the linguistic prevalence of a certain theme is an indicator of its relative signicance or centrality (e.g. Cohen, 2011c; Pennebaker, Mehl, & Niederhoffer, 2003). However, a pre-occupation with a certain concept may also serve a defensive function, as the famous Shakespeare utterance the lady doth protest too much, methinks. Such reactive overrepresentation of concepts was also substantiated in cognitive neuroscience studies that showed that an over activation of a concept can occur by activating the various associations to juxtaposing or opposing concepts. In fact, opposite concepts are among the most consistent and robust associative triggers, as studies using both conceptual priming and free associations have shown. Examination of the context in which the Nakba Law was created further cements the possibility that the home imagery is a defensive measure to conceal internal rift within the Israeli society that found its easy reconciliation in militancy against the Palestinians as common enemy, and represent an unconscious wish for absolute homogeneity within the state of Israel a wish that may be constantly activated by numerous indicators for its near-impossibility. Not surprisingly at least not from the psychoanalytic point of view Israel Beitenu, the political party that originally proposed the Nakba Law (and provided 15 out of the 37 votes that eventually ratied it) is comprised mostly of politicians from the former Soviet Union, and sees itself as a community party, whose chief explicit goal is to cater to the interests of the post-1988 immigrants who came to Israel from the former Soviet Union. Before its creation, this communitys vote was split among three political parties. The fact that the driving force behind the Nakba Law on its home imagery is a party comprised mainly of politicians who were not born in Israel, caters to an immigrant community but nonetheless named
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

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Cohen

itself Israel is our home merits further inquiry into the possible defensive role of this home imagery in their Anti-Palestinian sentiments. A closer look at the Russian speaking community of post-1988 immigrants to Israel further indicates a potential conicted relationship with the home concept. This community is largely perceived in Israel as a challenge to the Jewish nature of the state of Israel. Their social and cultural segregation, borne by a sense of superiority, also contributes to the tension between this segment of the population and the lions share of Israels citizenry. An increase in organized crime associated with their arrival further deepens the Israeli prejudice against them as opportunistic aliens. For example, while the rhetoric around the foundation of Israel capitalized on building a home for the Jewish people, most of the 1.1 million Russian-speaking community of Israel dene themselves as secular. Furthermore, conservative estimates claim that about a quarter of them are not Jewish by the Halakhah Law that governs Israels internal affairs, and rabbinical sources estimate that 70 percent of them are not Jewish. Many of these individuals were allowed to make aliyah to Israel based on a 1970 grandfather clause that amended the 1950 Law of Return, allowing any Jew immigrating to Israel to become by default an Israeli citizen. In fact, an absolute majority of them clamors for changing the Kosher Laws in Israel to allow for pork to be sold in the open, and many of them have appealed to their municipalities for permission to build churches in the neighborhoods they inhabit. Additionally, numerous polls and sociological indices further underscore the overall wish of this community to avoid integration with the larger Israeli society unlike any previous immigration wave Israel has known. For example, while in 1989 there was only one Russian language newspaper available in Israel; by the mid-1990s Russian-language print media peaked at 130 periodicals, including ve daily newspapers and dozens of weeklies and magazines. A 1996 Gallup poll showed that 80 percent of the new immigrants from Russia received cable television, primarily to view Russian-language television programs. The conict between the Russian-speaking immigrant community and the extant Israeli society within their shared home seems bidirectional. In early April 1997, the Knesset approved a conversion bill that gives Orthodox rabbis sole authority to conduct conversions to Judaism in Israel, thus precluding many immigrants from ever converting to Judaism. The secular Jewish community in Israel also views them as opportunists who came to Israel for personal gain and not for love of the country or Zionism. The Israeli sentiment has some circumstantial foundation. Polls have consistently shown that most immigrants to Israel would have preferred to immigrate to the United States or Europe, but could not do so because of the strict post-perestroika immigration measures that most countries have instituted to prevent it. Further, a controversial 1978 Knesset Law that forbids extradition of an Israel citizen for any crime committed abroad before their naturalization (a law purported to protect Israelis from antiSemitism in foreign courts), effectively made Israel a safe haven for Russian organized crime rings.
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

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When unconscious wishes become laws

Group psychodynamic models predict that such divisiveness within the Israeli home may give rise to a defensive need to police the sentiments and behavior of dissidents (or those who hate us, as Alex Miller describes them). This resort to splitting defense might explain the need to forcefully criminalize dissent in the service of creating a sharp boundary between the Israel-loving and Israel-hating people. In clinical work, such defensive splitting is common when the threat of internal conicts can be mitigated by the construal of an other onto which the conict can then be projected and aggression can then be mobilized. This externalization of conict is thought to alleviate the annihilation anxiety from within by engaging with a life threatening aggressor from without. In addition, splitting fantasies of expelling the all bad part of the group is often concomitant with a grandiose wish for self-sufciency a wish that stands in sharp contrast to the absolute dependency of Israels economy on foreign money and foreign manpower. Viewed through this lens, it is hardly surprising that Palestinians are not directly mentioned, neither in M.K. Millers interview nor in the letter of the law for those who hate us ostensibly include anybody who might be perceived as critical towards Israels sentiments and actions. Under this absolutist and grandiose splitting fantasy, one may trace the defensive logic behind the non-trivial synonymy in M.K. Millers speech, between those who hate us, those who support the enemy, those who mourn the creation of the state of Israel, those who support Hamas and those who engage in violent riots. Indeed, under the Nakba Law, funding would be equally likely pulled from both Israeli and Palestinian organizations that would acknowledge the cataclysmic ramications that the founding of Israel had brought upon the Palestinians, including the creation almost overnight of approximately 750,000 refugees who were scattered among the neighboring countries, mostly in refugee camps. In conclusion, several truisms must be acknowledged, lest their omission lead to a misconstrual or deection of the argument at hand. Firstly, despite the mostly speculative nature of the psychodynamic model put forth, and the obvious risks associated with any attempt to cavalierly generalize principles of individual psychopathology to ethnic conicts, the proposed model might nonetheless have unique insights regarding the Israeli psyche vis--vis the Israeli Palestinian conict, and as such may facilitate mutual understanding, awareness and ultimately healing. Like historical theories, psychoanalytic models lack positivistic veracity in the strict sense of the word, but this malleability is also their strength in accommodating human vulnerabilities. Still, the model put forth may (and should) be judged for its potential explanatory, predictive and ultimately mutative powers to bring about an improvement albeit subjective in the lives of the people involved. Secondly, although the need to police memory and identity was exemplied herein using data mostly from the IsraeliPalestinian conict, a large body of historiographical, legal and sociological-anthropological analyses point to the ubiquity of such tendencies to police memory and identity among nearly every
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

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Cohen

hegemonic power throughout history, in its striving for internal and external legitimacy. Here, too, one of the main advantages of the psychoanalytic framework in understanding and potentially healing ethnic conicts is the unwavering respect given in psychoanalysis (from its very inception) to trauma and to post-traumatic defenses, and in its staunch persistence towards increasing the capacity for perceiving and accepting reality while working with the multiplicity of narrative truths held by the contentious parties. This framework is implicit in the restorative justice approach that emerged as a best practice for healing regions and communities mired in intractable political conicts, and is exemplied in the demonstrable efcacy of truth and reconciliation committees around the world. The Nakba Law seems to contradict most of the insights gleaned so far in psychological theory and practice regarding peace and reconciliation. It may be legal according to Israeli law, but it is largely incompatible with extant psychological models of mental health and post-traumatic growth. NOTES 1 This article is based on a paper presented at the American Psychoanalytic Association Annual Meeting in New York City on January 11, 2012. The author wishes to thank Dr Afaf Mahfouz for her support, and for the Psychoanalytic Workgroup for Peace in Palestine/Israel group headed by Dr Nadia Ramzy, including Drs Yasser Ad-Dabbagh, Ira Brenner, Nancy Hollander and Stephen Portuges, and in particular to Adib Jarrar. Thanks are due also to Carl Schieren. Nevertheless, the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reect those of the people mentioned earlier or the ofcial policy or position of the institutions with which the author is afliated. 2 In Hebrew . A Google search on this exact expression in Hebrew retrieved close to 80,000 citations as of December 22. Speeches of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) spokesperson, IDF chief of Staff, the Israeli Prime Minister and numerous members of Knesset is replete with this exact utterance. This prevalence is interpreted here as an indicator to the centrality of the term in the Israeli views of its armys soldiers and actions. 3 The bill concerns any small community of up to 400 families in the Negev or the Galilee regions, and stipulates that the allocation of land to a person for the purpose of its acquisition as part of a communal settlement can be done only with the approval of an admissions committee. Such admission committee will be comprised of ve individuals: Two members of the community, a representative of the relevant settlement movement, a representative of the Jewish Agency, and a representative of the regional council to which the community belongs. It should be noted, however, that a last minute amendment to the bill reads an admissions committee will not refuse to accept a candidate purely on grounds of race, religion, nationality or physical handicap.
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

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When unconscious wishes become laws

4 Notable other recent legislation of similar nature include a law that prohibits foreign funding to any organization (including human rights organizations, non-governmental organizations [NGOs] and watchdog groups), whose agenda is not approved by the Israeli government ( ), a law that allows a person to sue for up to 300,000 NIS ($78,000) any person that could have potentially cause a decrease in the popularity of their product without having to prove actual damage ( ), a law that prohibit boycotting of merchandise produced by settlements in the Occupied Territories ( ); Changes in the composition of the Knesset committee for the appointment of judges to allow the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice who resides on a settlement in the Occupied Territories. Declaring the settlements in the Occupied Territories areas of national preference ( ), thus increasing their nancial support, and concerted efforts to close down news channels that are critical of the Israeli government (e.g. , 10). 5 See, for example, Op-Ed of military analyst Guy Bechor: New developments grant Israel unprecedented military advantage over enemies, retrieved November 25, 2010, from http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L3989257,00.html; Forbes: Israel #20 in Best Countries for Business, retrieved October 3, 2011, from: http://www.forbes.com/lists/2011/6/bestcountries-11_Israel_CHI028.html 6 See, for example, Steven M. Cohen and Ari Y. Kelman: Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and Their Alienation from Israel by Jewish Identity Project of Reboot, 2007. Retrieved September 29, 2011, from http://www.acbp.net/About/PDF/Beyond%20Distancing.pdf; Dana Goldstein: Why Fewer Young American Jews Share Their Parents View of Israel, retrieved September 29, 2011, from http://ideas.time.com/2011/09/ 29/why-fewer-young-american-jews-share-their-parents-view-of-israel/; Stephen M. Walt: Do the American people support the special relationship?, retrieved June 3, 2011, from http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/ 2011/06/03/do_the_american_people_support_the_special_relationship; University of Maryland 2010 US Public Opinion Survey, Professor Shibley Telhami, Principal investigator, retrieved from http://www.brookings. edu/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2010/1209_israel_public_opinion_telhami/ united_states_powerpoint.pdf 7 This diffusive nature of identity applies to both the self and to others, and is thus marked by extreme vulnerability to mistrust of both self and others. This malleability in the self- and other-concept is viewed, in both individual and group psychodynamic theories, as an indicator to an unstable internal representations of both self and others, whereby the sum of their representations in autobiographical memory fails to buffer the individual against momentary insecurities. Unencumbered by realistic memories, these insecurities then become highly susceptible to reality-biasing defenses, such as black-and-white thinking (splitting), projection (including projective
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Cohen

identication) and cognitive rigidity including catastrophization, overgeneralization and pathological overcondence (Cohen, 2011b; Hrz et al., 2009; Kernberg, 1975; Kernberg & Michels, 2009). 8 Historians have pointed out that Hadrians suspicion of the seditious potential of the Jewish commemorative and mourning rituals over the destruction of the temple were not entirely unfounded. In fact, the ofcial date for the destruction of the second Jewish temple was chosen to coincide with both the destruction of the rst Jewish temple and the fall without any survivors of Bethar, the last bastion of the Jewish revolt, in AD 135 (e.g. Bloom, 2010). From the psychological point of view, this choice may facilitate a propagandist generalization of Jewish victimization, along with providing an inspiration for the righteously vengeful rekindling of the mythical revolt in later date as indeed it had at various times throughout Jewish history (e.g. Boustan, 2009; van Henten, 2002; Ricca, 2007; Shapira, 1989; Sternhell, 1998; Zerubavel, 1995). 9 A psychologically-plausible alternative explanation to the steady increase in the commemoration of the holocaust in Israel could be the nature of the national-level post-traumatic emotional processing. Thus, with the passage of time, holocaust survivors might have processed their trauma well enough to express their experience in ways that the Israeli society could tolerate without being overwhelmed with guilt (including survivor guilt) and shame. A thorough evaluation of the relative contribution both the holocaust industry and slow recovery components is outside the scope of this paper. However, several well-documented facts may detract from the psychological plausibility of the latter:(1) The incongruence between the awareness of the holocaust trauma and the awareness (including funding) of survivors needs, especially in the form of mental treatment (see, for example, Brodsky and DellaPergola (2005), Davidovitch and Zalashik (2007) and Dorner, Izikovitch, and Moav (2008) which curiously stand in contrast to the minimization of this problem and the biased focus on the post-1987 AMCHA in Kennedy, Kover, and Scalmati (2009)).(2) The deliberate neglect in commemorating non-Zionist Jewish holocaust survivors, and the blame (initially explicit but increasingly tacit) of survivors as opportunists who did not subscribe to the Zionist ideology voluntarily before the nal solution, and as suspects of having had preferred to settle in another country were it not for a strict pre-emptive anti-immigration policy that was implemented by most developed nations (especially the United States) after World War II ended. For example, a recent study by Arens (2011) highlights the critical role of non-Zionists in the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the consistent suppression of this fact from the Zionist narrative, despite being a common knowledge among holocaust survivors (see also We fought for a better tomorrow by Benny Mer, retrieved July 29, 2011, from http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/we-fought-for-abetter-tomorrow-1.375943)(3) The discrepancy between the prevailing
Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies (2012) DOI: 10.1002/aps

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When unconscious wishes become laws

humanistic and pro-social message of the testimonies given by holocaust survivors in the United States (see quantitative thematic analysis in Finkelstein and Levy (2006)), compared to the militant, alarmist, and nationalist tone of their Israeli counterparts (e.g. http://www.wejew.com/ and http://www1.yadva shem.org/). 10 See for example: Satisfaction Gap Divides Israelis, Palestinians by Steve Crabtree, retrieved January 9, 2008, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/ 103642/Satisfaction-Gap-Divides-Israelis-Palestinians.aspx; Half of Israeli teens want to live abroad by Tamar Trabelsi-Hadad, retrieved July 20, 2007, from http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3427762,00.html; Torres (2007).

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Shuki J. Cohen John Jay College of Criminal Justice Psychology, 524 W 59th St, Rm. 10.63.18, New York, NY, 10019, USA Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, 34 Park St. Suite #B-38 New Haven, CT 06519, USA shcohen@jjay.cuny.edu

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