Thursday, October 22, 2009

Understanding the Israeli Psyche

by Nadene Goldfoot from Dr. Michael Oren's article, Deep Denial
Even before Israel was born in 1948, its citizens have had to become soldiers. The attacks have not actually stopped. Every man has had to serve one month out of each year in the military doing their milueem duty. Women also serve in this army. In fact, very often they are sergeants training young soldiers. Children are trained as soon as they can walk not to pick up objects on the streets as they might be bombs. Children sit outside school doors checking bags looking for bombs. The whole population is totally aware of the dangers that can befall them.

Michael Oren, the new ambassador from Israel to the USA, points out in his article "Deep Denial" in The New Republic, that Israelis are not prone to flattery. The Hebrew word for flattery is "chanupa". The Yiddish word is "firgun", which is more derisive. A joke told in Israel is that the word is on the exit from the Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv with a red diagonal line slashing through it along with the warning, "You are now entering a Firgun Free Zone."

Recently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the U.N. General Assembly and several Israeli commentators reacted unflatteringly to it. Everyone else applauded, but the Haaretz reporter Tom Segev thought his words were "unneccessary and embarrassing. Gideon Levy thought his words were insulting to the intelligence and demagogic. Aluf Benn, a respected Israeli journalist faulted the speech as failing to address a global rather than Israeli audience.

What he spoke about were some pretty important issues; Iran's nuclear abilities, the Goldstone Report travesty, and their hopes for peace with Palestinians based on security and mutual recognition. The reporters were upset not by those topics but about the Holocaust, his opening. Yet I think the opening explains a lot about the Israeli psyche.

He said that 1/3 of all Jews died in the Holocaust. Almost all Jewish families were affected by this, including his. He said that Ahmadinejad, the biggest Holocaust denier, spoke to this audience the day before about there not being a Holocaust. "Have you no shame, have you no decency?" he asked the audience.
The journalists thought by bringing up the Holocaust that Netanyahu had stooped to Ahmadinejad's level, or gave credibility to him by debating him over a "universally accepted truth." It's been 64 years since the WWII ended and now the validity of it all is in the UN General Assembly, Benn wrote. He felt that with that Ahmadinejad succeeded in instilling doubt.

Israelis are raised with Holocaust history. They are not aware of the world's youth's lack of education about how there was a Final Solution in store for the Jews. Our young American Jews may even be guilty of denial of these facts. This is a difference in our psyche.

Muslims can now think that if Israel was created by Europeans out of Holocaust guilt and it never actually occurred, then their existence is unjust. That's giving them fuel to fight against Israel.

Netanyahu's preamble speaking of the murdering 6 million Jews is important to understand the dangers posed to our 6 million Jews in Israel today by a nuclear Iran and by the Goldstone Report. Speaking about the Holocaust and knowing that it did indeed happen is vital in obtaining peace.

A minority of our American Jews have joined the band wagon in denying the seriousness of our position by joining leftist groups such as J street, where Muslims also have joined. They've developed a very American mentality that may be suitable here in the states, but is not even beginning to grasp the differences in the situation in Israel. This doesn't mean that it's okay to treat Palestinians in a different way from the way we treat members of our own family, but they just don't grasp how close we are to being obliterated. Where an Israeli must be constantly aware of danger and serving, the American only does it rarely if not at all. They might even be thinking the whole affair is an embarrassment for them.

Now Dr. Michael Oren has been asked by J Street to speak at their convention. The last I've heard is that he is declining. If he does change his mind, surely he will give them a "what for" and he may just decide not to give them more fodder for their fight.

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