The Siege Mentality and Its Troubles
The Siege Mentality in Israel
I will review a psychology paper by two psychologists who are professors at Tel Aviv University, Daniel Bar-Tal and Dikla Antibi. Hopefully, the fact that they are Jewish will reduce the sense that “an outsider is attacking the Jews.”
The siege mentality is defined as:
A belief held by members of a group that outsiders hold highly negative behavioral intentions toward that group. … This belief is a central belief held by a majority of the group with high confidence (a certainty that it is true).
Other national and ethnic groups have had a Siege Mentality throughout history but this paper focuses on this belief in the Jewish population of Israel. Examples given.
The authors begin by explaining the reasonableness of the siege mentality in light of historical persecutions and hatreds, such as the holocaust, and traces a long and stunning history of
persecutions, libels, special taxations, restrictions, forced conversions, expulsions and pogroms.
Current attitudes: They review surveys of contemporary Jewish Israeli’s done in the 1980s showing a strong beliefs, such as, “Hatred for Jews still exists in the world,” “The whole world is against us,” and “The holocaust was not a one time event and could always reoccur,” and “In all the world there exists anti-Semitism, even if not expressed explicitly.” Perhaps most importantly is the belief that “No one will come to our aid in a time of need,” and “World criticism of Israeli policy stems mostly from anti-Semitism.”
Then the authors shift gears and review the ancient writings of Jewish scholars dating back to the second century showing evidence of the Siege Mentality. I will quote a number of examples as they communicate the depth and the profoundly enduring nature of these beliefs.
“The Jewish tradition finds anti-Semitism to be the norm, the natural response of the non-Jew. The term ‘Esau hates Jacob’ symbolizes the world that Jews experience.” (Lieberman 1978)
“…persecution is not simply a tragic consequence of being a Jew in a hostile world; rather it is build into the fabric of the Jewish covenant with history.” (Stein 1978)
They quote a number of bible references emphasizing the aloneness and separateness of the Jews from the other peoples:
“… a people that dwell alone, among the nations it will not be reckoned.”
The Jewish religious tradition differentiates between Israel and all other nations. Saturday night a Jew recites a blessing saying:
“He who distinguishes between Holy and secular, between light and darkness, between Israel and all other peoples.
”In addition to separateness, Bar-Tal writes
the Jewish tradition contains a deeply rooted belief in the other nations hatred of Israel and their intention to hurt it. … from the Passover Haggadalah…
“For more than once they (other nations) have risen against us to destroy us; in every generation they rise against us and seek our destruction. But the Holy One, blessed be he, saves us from their hands”.
“Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not; and upon Kingdoms that call not upon Thy names; for they have consumed Jacob and laid waste his habitation”.
Second century Rabbi Shimon suggested that “hatred of Israel is as a rule” … “imprinted in the Peoples of Esau (non-Jews) and cannot be uprooted”.
In the 16th century, Rabbi Maharal,
“… expressed the view that the hatred of Israel is a unique phenomenon, which has no logical basis and is not dependent on particular circumstances.”
Soloveitzik, in the 19th century explained that
“There is no point in trying to adapt ourselves to the gentile leaders in order to find favor because their hatred is so deep and they wish to destroy the soul of Israel.”
“hatred weakens over time. …But the hatred of Israel is different than any other hatred. On the contrary, the hatred of Israel strengthens over time….”
Siege Mentality is the basic foundation of Zionist movement. Bar-Tal reviews the Zionist writers:
“All of humanity among whom Jews live, is infected to the depths of their soul with the poison of anti-Semitism, from the illiterate farmer to the outstanding personalities …” (Briman, 1951)
Pinsker in 1882, explains the need for a separate Jewish state:
“Fear of the Jewish ghost has been handed down and strengthened for generations and centuries… Judeophobia is a psychic aberration. As a psychic aberration, it is hereditary and as a disease transmitted for two thousand years it is incurable… Thus have Judaism and anti-Semitism passed for centuries through history as inseparable companions.”
And Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism:
“No-one can deny the gravity of the situation of the Jews. Whenever they live in perceptible numbers they are more or less persecuted… [W]e cannot hope for a change in the current of feeling… The nations in whose midst Jew live are all, either covertly or openly anti-Semitic.”
The authors give many examples of the Siege Mentality in current Israeli culture. Many examples of songs, poetry, educational textbooks and stories are provided.
A popular song from the 60’s was “The Whole World is Against Us.”
The whole world is against us.
This is an ancient tale
Taught by our forefathers
To sing and dance to.
If the whole world is against us,
We don’t give a damn
If the whole world is against us,
Let the whole world go to hell.
Several short story writers convey the sense of anxiety and terror that perceives the surrounding Arabs as an amorphous threatening presence, the stuff of nightmares.
There is a genre of fiction called “Hebrew Holocaust Fiction” in which stories of persecution, inspired by the holocaust, are played out. One, called “The Hunt” written in 1971, tells a story of the Jew’s hunter. The powerful imagery paints the picture of an archetypal threat “that has existed since the beginning of time.”
Bar-Tal believes that the Siege Mentality, firmly established millennia ago and anchored into the current generation’s mindset by the holocaust, is the leading political myth of modern Israel. He shows that it is actively maintained and nurtured in contemporary Jewish culture.
The authors make a very zen-like observation that we respond to the world that we perceive to be true, not necessarily the world as it actually is. A group that deeply believes that others intend them harm will act very differently. The second part of this paper goes over the consequences of the Siege Mentality.
So where does this universal and timeless hatred for the Jews come from? Did God implant this hatred into the hearts of non-Jews all over the world and throughout the centuries? Or is there some way that the Jewish people think, act and relate that elicits resentment?
As our marriage therapist has started many a session:
“Lets use our big brains to understand each other, the ways that we affect each other, and find a better way.”
Several writers here have imagined a regression to more fundamentalist religious or primitive moral frameworks during times of collapse. (James Howard Kunstler was one with a post here on PP–though I can't find the link.)
Maslow's hierarchy says that our needs must be met in order–only when we are fed and warm are we concerned with respect, kindness and meaning.
Ken Wilbur has a developmental stage theory describing an ever more inclusive sense of self that occurs with maturation. Where so we place the border between "us" and "them."
Egocentric–the individual is only concerned for his individual well being. This person would "sell his own mother for a nickle." Intensely Narcissistic. Will harm others for personal gain.
Socio/ethno-centric–sense of us includes both the individual and "my group." Usually people who look like us. Our race. Our religion. Our Tribe. The connection can be membership in a mythic group– royalty, the elite, "followers of ____." Will harm and wage war on out-groups for in-group advantage.
Worldcentric–the sense of us includes all human beings, even those of different races, genders and group identifications. Will not harm other's for gain. Values relationship higher than economic advantage.
Kosmocentric–the "us" sense includes not only all peoples, but the biosphere, (plants, animals) and all of the natural world (mountains, rivers, oceans, deserts, the moon and sentient beings from other worlds–should they be found). Mystics might expand this sense even further.
Lets imagine a time of collapse when all the food has been consumed except for that one last can of chili in my neighbor's pantry.
I go over and ask my world-centric neighbor to share it with me, but faced with his own starvation he refuses. Though I am normally a world centric person myself, I kill the neighbor and steal the last can of chili. I take it home and give the chili to my children.
I now function at a socio/ethno-centric level. In even more extreme conditions, I might not share at all and be egocentric.
After a break from obsessing about the world to learn the Hora (Jewish Wedding Dance) from a youtube video in preparation for a (GREEN) friends wedding this Saturday, I found a good example of the way that the BLUE Meme Jewish (BMJ) thought process works in an article from Haaretz.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen Jan 07, 2014 11:12 AM
(I have extracted and abbreviated from the original article–thus these are not quotes)
NEW YORK – The paradox of the recently murdered Menachem “Max” Stark is profound. On the one hand, he was a 39-year-old Hasid who owned about 1,000 apartments in NYC. He is described as a slumlord with a list of enemies “a mile long.” He had not paid tens of thousands of dollars in fines levied by the city for rental properties in severe disrepair. He and a business partner had been sued for $51 million for defaulting on five separate loans. A Yelp reviewer wrote that he lived in a building owned by Stark for five years and “the plumbing was a nightmare. The first-floor was overrun with big-ass rats. Electricity would randomly be shut off for days at a time.”
In 2011, Stark was arrested by undercover cops and charged with assaulting a woman on a Manhattan subway.
Then he was murdered. Security footage showed Stark being attacked and pushed into a van late last Thursday night. His burned body was discovered Friday in a gas-station dumpster.
In contrast, people in the Williamsburg Satmar religious community have been unequivocal. “He was a big ba'al tzedaka (giver of charity). Everybody only has good to say about him.”
Yet at his funeral on bitter-cold Saturday night, attended by some 1,000 people standing on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Stark was lauded as a pillar of his [religious] community.
How can Stark’s two faces — on the one hand a wealthy philanthropist in his community, but on the other an alleged exploiter when it came to business dealings outside of it — be reconciled?
Samuel Heilman is an expert on Hasidic communities like Satmar. Heilman, authored “Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry” and is a distinguished professor of sociology at Queens College. He explains:
“What you do to the goyim is not the same as what you do to Jews,”
That attitude stems from days when Jews were actively persecuted, he said. “Part of the collective mind-set in the crucible of history when this part of Jewry was formed, the outside world was filled with anti-Semitism and persecutors. The whole understanding of that was that you need to keep a distance from them, that they are a different level of human being”
Samuel Katz, now a Fulbright biomedical scholar, grew up in an orthodox community but later became secular. He explains:
“growing up in such a community, boys in the community are taught that non-Jews aren’t quite human. “you don’t see commonality with people who aren’t Jewish. There is a completely different taxonomy of people. There are Jews and then there are non-Jews, who don’t have souls.”
When the messiah comes, “every boy is taught that the bad goyim will be killed and the good gentiles will have the privilege of serving us, of being our slaves.”
"The way Stark dealt with tenants is part of that world view… It’s not taking advantage of them, [rather] that is the world order you’re taught to expect.”
“It informs your moral compass. Like all good people Stark was benevolent and generous to the people who he saw were like himself,” but not to other people, added Katz. “There’s an empathy 'blind spot' that imbues the Haredi outlook.”
This explanation is a perfect example of the BLUE Meme way of thinking.
In September, at Unz Review, Stephen Sniegoski reviews a coordinated set of efforts within (American) institutions and think tanks to push Trump into war with Iran. Sniegoski is a Ph.D. historian who has specialized in documenting the Neoconservative movement within the US. The report is documented well with abundant source articles from mainstream academic publications.
Similar to the report, Which Path To Persia, from the (American) Brookings Institute, the necessity of economically crippling Iran is considered a self-evident given. In no place are the words "Jewish," "Israeli" or "Oded Yinon Plan" mentioned. All of the above arguments for attacking Iran are presented in reasonable tone and from an American perspective. Rationales are peace and stability.
A Bad Neighbor Policy
Israel is pursuing bad neighbor behaviors in the middle east. The Oded Yinon Plan summarizes the goal of domination by harming non-Jewish neighbors who might otherwise compete with Israel. This vision included preemptive attacks on emerging neighbors to destroy economies and infrastructure BEFORE they become competitive. Since Israel does not have the military might to destroy its neighbors alone, Israel-loyal American Jews (neoconservatives) work to bring the US military in to help.
Would you want to live next door to someone like this?
The Twin Poles of this Circle of Insanity
From the Spiral Dynamic framework, this is a structure stuck in the BLUE Meme way of thinking. BLUE has not yet discovered the advantages of cooperation, mutual respect and the seeking of a mutually beneficial win-win arrangements. BLUE seeks safety through domination — a win-lose relationship. BLUE thinks zero-sum and has not found that cooperation can increase the size of the pie for everybody.
The two poles of this insanity are:
1. superiority beliefs
2. persecution beliefs
Both of these beliefs are backed up by scripture, making them very persistent.
Two corollaries follow.
1. collective identity is ascendant over individual. This gives rise to pack or hive behaviors. Circling the wagons to protect the tribe. Collective, coordinated actions offer powerful tools for group benefit.
2. Superiority has a flip side: a deep devaluation of the lives of non-Jews. Non-Jews are harmed casually (at the 11:00 minute mark) for Jewish benefit, eliciting resentment and a repetitive pattern of rage. This leads to repeated expulsions of Jews and feeds the cycle of persecution. There are many, many, many examples of this.
As long as the role of the Jewish people themselves is not seen, then the anti-Jewish fury can be viewed as "irrational bigotry" or perhaps "an attitude implanted by God into the hearts of all non-Jews." Laws and public policies forbidding hate-speech and anti-Semitism might seem reasonable from this perspective. I suspect that both the superiority and persecution beliefs may persist in the Jungian shadow part of the psyche in the more liberal Jewish people who consciously deny such beliefs. (The shadow is a psychological mechanism for self deception.) But a devaluation of non-Jewish lives is the overt and consciously held position of fundamentalist Jews. Read about Gush Eminem, Rabbi Kook, Rabbi Yosef, Rabbi David Bar-Hayim,
BLUE Meme thinking is let go when the cycles of conflict become too painful and tiresome. Discovering the economic advantages of cooperative relationships (ORANGE) and a sense of compassion that includes out-groups (GREEN) offers a way out of BLUE.
Ordinarily I have found that it is very bad form (and terribly offensive) to critically examine another person’s sacred myths, and I apologize in advance to my Jewish friends. However, it also seems unlikely to me that anyone was born of a virgin or that an angel showed anyone golden plates and then made them disappear.
Usually our sacred stories (myths) do no harm, offer meaning, and improve quality of life. They touch a sacred part of each human heart which is real in my direct experience, even if the stories build around them are not necessarily historically “true.”
But sometimes the myths do harm. And in that case they must be critically examined even risking offense.
Shlomo Sand reviews the myth that the modern day Ashkenazi Jewish people are the descendants of the Ancient Israelites. This myth is the rationale for the genocide and expulsion of the Arab peoples from Israel, and the Jewish tribal superiority belief. The apartheid social structure of Israel is justified by this myth.
This myth justifies the rightfulness of the Jewish people to return to their homeland, and by extension, justifies the expulsion and killing of the indigenous peoples currently living there. It is the basis of the Likud claim on Greater Israel territory. (This claim impacts the war in Syria, ownership of the Golan Heights, and rightful place of Israel as the ME regional hegemon.)
Shlomo Sand summarizes his take on genetic and historical findings: The Ashkenazi people are descendants of Eastern Europeans who converted to Judaism between 700 and 1200 ACE. They are not descendants of the middle easterners scattered during the Diaspora. The Levant region is not the source of the Ashkenazi DNA.
Maternal mitochondrial DNA, a separate line of genetic evidence, also shows eastern and northern European origins of the Ashkenazi lineage.
There is a greater possibility that the current day Palestinians are the descendants of the ancient Israelites, than the current day Ashkenazi Jews.
(When a person endeavors to look up the genetic information on this, be aware that immense economic and political fortunes depend upon this myth and it is defended heavily, especially in biology and history departments of Israeli universities.)
I again apologize in advance to friends who find peace, meaning, belonging and sacredness in these stories.
A friend sent me a link to a article reporting on a phone app that is used to coordinate the American Jewish Community in activism for Israel. It is called ACT.IL
The Herzliya headquarters is the base of Act.il, a hybrid Israel advocacy effort and online information operation. A joint project of two Israeli not-for-profits, it is led by former Israeli intelligence officers and has close ties to Israel’s intelligence services, its Ministry of Strategic Affairs and American Jewish casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
There is a posted video encouraging all of the American Jewish people to rise out of their apathy and preoccupation with the issues of their daily lives and to begin to work for Israel. The video is telling and well done and I would recommend it to both Jewish and Non-Jewish friends who want to understand the mindset of ethnic activism.
Again, the two reasons that American Jews should work tireless on behalf of Israel are
1. The Jewish superiority myth, and
2. Perpetual persecution (*for no reason*).
The story of being a superior people is very seductive. The Brahmins liked it and maintained it for millennia. The nobility of every nation enjoyed having royal blood. And the clergy relish their status as “sitting at the right hand of the father.” There is nothing unique in the pleasure of being extra special in the heart of God.
But what if one group’s extra-specialness depends on others being less-special? We love to be the Coke. But what of the Pepsis? Or even worse, the RC Crown Colas? The more-special are balanced by the less-special.
A superiority myth is deeply seductive and is effective with each of the first tier Spiral Dynamic Memes. (RED, BLUE and ORANGE–the Memes where 90%+ of the world population lives–all love being a superior class of people.)
RED loves God’s commandments to Joshua to conquer and plunder everything. To take everything by physical and intellectual (deception) force. Might makes Right.
BLUE loves being God’s Extra Special Favorite and obeying God’s commands that he be ascendant over others. It is righteous. Plundering out-groups is “God’s Work.” BLUE can “do well while doing good,”–the BLUE-ORANGE transition position.
ORANGE full well realizes the advantages of hunting in coordinated packs. This is similar to a football team with specific plays pre-memorized and each person filling its assigned role aimed at group advantage. We have the Hasbara effort, AIPAC and now the ACT.IL
Coordination is not the problem. It the domination of one group over another.
When you see casual disregard for the experience of out-groups (in people with intact capacity for empathy), you can know you are looking at a superior people myth. When think-tanks, the media, congress, the State Department, AIPAC, JINSA and Act.il are all working toward a single goal, you have the foot prints of an ORANGE/BLUE group in action.
This is contrasted with the GREEN and YELLOW Meme viewpoints that:
We are special, valuable, loved by God, and so are you.
God loves everyone. No exceptions.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights….
I do know that most of the Jewish PP members are GREEN and YELLOW. The superiority myth is in their scripture and heritage, but they do not hold it too tightly. The boundaries between in-group and out group have softened and empathy and respect for non-Jews is functioning well.
The world needs you to find and teach the GREEN and YELLOW implementations of Judaism.
Love the concept but the color meme is too complicated and even if Ilearned the code I would really only be able to communicate with those who know it as well.
The superiority concept was also part of the “oil” thread, Americans are too_________, so it will be their fault when or if __________. As if we at PP have a corner on superiority, insight and education. Blaming is so easy when one feels superior for whatever reason! We’re a little light on empathy I think.
An awfully important concept, keep them coming! Good post and thank you!!!!
In his groundbreaking new book “Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom” Norman Finkelstein argues that Israel, with U.S. backing, has caused a “humanitarian disaster” in Gaza, and that international human rights groups have failed to uphold justice for its besieged people.
Finkelstein, interviewed this week on the ever indispensable TheRealNews.com makes it abundantly clear why organisations like ACT.IL are so essential to shore up Israel’s deservedly lamentable international image.
I wonder how many of those fresh-faced, young Israelis who appear in the ACT.IL video eagerly took part in recent “wars” in Gaza as members of the most moral army in the world…drumroll, please…the IDF!
Cognitive dissonance is a bitch, baby! It can make a society crazy…
Bonnie Faulkner: Andrei Raevsky, [blogging as “The Saker”] welcome back to Guns and Butter.
The Saker: Thanks much for having me, Bonnie. It’s always a pleasure.
Bonnie Faulkner: In your recent essay, “2018: War or No War,” you take a detailed look at America’s role in global geopolitics and come up with a very disturbing picture. You write that “It is plainly obvious that the neocons are now back in total control of the White House, Congress and the US corporate media.” What is the evidence that the neocons are now running things?
The Saker: I think the strongest piece of evidence is the recent move by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which is a typical kind of thing neocons would do. It’s purely ideological and it is basically a “Screw you” to the entire planet, “We do whatever the bleep we want and we don’t care.” And it’s also very characteristic of their lack of intelligence, because if you look at the consequences of that move, they are dramatic.
One of the biggest, most effective tools Israel had in the Middle East was to have the United States impersonating a neutral mediator. Everybody was honest knew that was a joke, that the U.S. was acting on behalf of Israel, but that fig leaf of neutrality was crucial to push forward Israeli agenda.
Now this is gone. The United States has basically removed itself from the role of a mediator, which is a disaster, I think, for Israel, actually, and very good for the rest of the region. So I personally welcome that move. I give it a standing ovation. But from the point of view of the neocons, United States and Israel it’s an absolutely disaster. Yet they did it, and I think this is just the latest in a long series of clumsy attempts by Trump to appease the neocons because he realizes, correctly, that they form the core that opposed his presidency, that they were the number-one enemy. He tried to appease them and all he did is sell out to them completely, and now he’s basically just taking orders straight out of Israel….
Bonnie Faulkner: You write about the reality of the situation in Syria being the exact opposite of what the US claims it to be, and that everyone knows it but no matter; the U.S. government in its rhetoric simply describes a situation that doesn’t exist.
The Saker: Yes, of course. The simplest points, which I don’t think anybody who would base his or her opinion on facts and logic would disagree with, is that a) al Qaeda is a US creation; — Daesh, al Qaeda, ISIS, Al Nusra, Takfiris…. Whatever we want to call them, this is a US creation, first of all. Secondly, these people were pushed then and supported, and still are as we speak right now, get military support from the United States and advisors and intelligence supports. They are supported to the hilt. The United States says the opposite, that they are in a war against Daesh, which is an absolute lie and everybody knows that….
when you repeat a lie [that the USA is fighting al Qaada] and you know that nobody believes you and you still go on repeating this, you’re a pure ideological product, again. You basically don’t care about facts on the ground or even facts in the head of the people that you’re speaking to. It’s, again, I think, a tremendous sign of weakness. It’s something that the United States would never have done in the past. To call water dry and black white is a new development, which, again, I would say is a very clear sign of neocon influence.
Bonnie Faulkner: What is your assessment of President Trump’s recent verbal attack on Pakistan and the freezing of most military aid to that country? I doubt that Trump came up with this by himself. What is your sense of who is behind this broadside on Pakistan?
The Saker: The very same neocons. I don’t think there’s anybody around him left. He’s surrounded by wall-to-wall neocons or basically – their ideology’s very simple. Israel first, violence everywhere, and no diplomacy. That’s how I would sum it up. In their opinion, diplomacy is basically issuing threats and sanctions.