The two-state psychosis: The Oslo Syndrome revisited

People under siege end up blaming themselves for their enemies’ hatred toward them, delude themselves about the malicious intentions of their foes.

Alan Dershowitz 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Alan Dershowitz 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
There were many cogent critiques of the Oslo process. But none addressed why Israel’s leaders, supported by the nation’s academic and cultural elites and much of the broader population, were pursuing a course that was demonstrably placing the nation, including their own families, at dire risk... given the irrationality of Israel’s course, the explanation had to lie in the realm of psychopathology. Israel’s Oslo diplomacy reflected a self-destructiveness inexplicable except in psychiatric terms – Prof. Kenneth Levin of the department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.
Psychosis: Fundamental derangement of the mind characterized by defective or lost contact with reality especially as evidenced by delusions – Merriam-Webster Online dictionary.
April was a bad month for level-headedness, least as far as the debate on Israel was concerned, and particularly in reference to the Palestinian issue.
Common sense and rational thinking were abandoned in favor of feverish flights of far-fetched fancy, totally divorced from recalcitrant realities down here on Planet Earth.
Fanatic, frenetic, frantic
As the evidence against the feasibility of any two-state outcome to the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs continually accumulates, the rhetoric of evermore desperate two-staters is becoming increasingly fanatic, their behavior increasingly frenetic and their policy proposals increasingly frantic.
Forced to concede that virtually all the assumptions upon which the land-for-peace approach, and its derivative two-state paradigm, were founded, have been demonstrated to be totally without foundation, two-staters refuse to acknowledge error.
Rather than relinquish the conclusions they had drawn on the basis of disproven premises, they cling to them as if they were some divinely ordained dictate, preferring to find alternative arguments to justify them – even if these happen be to diametrically contradictory to those previously invoked.
The latter part of last month saw a flurry of some of the more fanciful expositions/exhortations of the two-state principle being aired on several prominent public platforms.
Perverse, pernicious prescriptions
The perverse procession of pernicious prescriptions began on April 23, with the presentation of the bizarre notion of “constructive unilateralism” (a.k.a. “the independent option”) at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. As I pointed out in my previous columns, this is a policy proposal championed by “a nonpartisan political movement” known as Blue and White Future and endorsed by INSS, and the two organizations cooperate intimately to promote it domestically and abroad.
Since I have critiqued the idea of “constructive unilateralism” over the past two weeks, I will limit myself to reminding readers that this is an approach that advocates a policy of “preemptive surrender,” prescribing not only that Israel acquiesce a priori to virtually all Palestinian demands for statehood, in return for absolutely nothing, but shoulder the burden of financing much of their implementation.
Despite its misleading rhetorical wrappings, it is – much like the 2005 disengagement – clearly an initiative whose immediate focus is far more on ensuring the dismantling of settlements rather than attaining – and sustaining – a durable peace.Dershowitz’s feckless formula
Next in line came Prof. Alan Dershowitz’s feckless formula for two states, which he originally touted in The Wall Street Journal last summer (July 3) and was given an opportunity to re-espouse on April 28, at this year’s Jerusalem Post conference in New York.
Dershowitz seems to suggest we should go about solving the issues in dispute by... well, solving them; or at least by declaring the major issues solved, and negotiating – in “good faith” of course – those that remain “reasonably in dispute.”
Thus he proclaims with cavalier abandon that “the first issue on the table should be the rough borders of a Palestinian state,” apparently unaware that this has been the heart of the dispute for almost a quarter century – if not considerably longer depending on your historical point of departure.
He then goes on to declare blithely: “Setting those [borders] would require recognizing that the West Bank can be realistically divided into three effective areas:
• Those relatively certain to remain part of Israel, such as Ma’aleh Adumim... and other areas close to the center of Jerusalem.
• Those relatively certain to become part of a Palestinian state, such as the heavily populated Arab areas beyond Israel’s security barrier.
• Those reasonably in dispute, including some of the large settlement blocs such as Ariel.
Just how “realistic” this division is, can be gauged by the recent uproar over the prospect of Israel developing the E1 region which lies considerably closer to the center of Jerusalem than the rest of Ma’aleh Adumim, which Dershowitz deems “relatively certain to remain part of Israel,” and in fact comprises the territorial link between them.
Puerile, prejudicial and paradoxical
Putting aside the thorny question as to which Palestinian leader would agree that communities such as “Ma’aleh Adumim and other areas close to the center of Jerusalem” are “to remain part of Israel,” and that Ariel is “reasonably in dispute” – indeed, would even survive making such a publicly binding commitment – there are many reasons why Dershowitz’s proposal should be dismissed as puerile, prejudicial and paradoxical.
I have given a detailed analysis of the flaws and fallacies of Deshowitz’s proposal elsewhere – see “Disputing Dershowitz – again” (July 12, 2012); “Mad hatters, flat-earthers and two-staters” (July 19, 2012). Accordingly, I will spare readers a detailed repetition of my critique and confine myself to perhaps the most glaring defect, which illustrates why the harsh epithets are indeed justified.
This relates to his attitude to the “disputed” areas. He says the “freeze [on Israeli construction] would continue in disputed areas until it was decided which will remain part of Israel and [which will be] part of the new Palestinian state.”
However, he then proceeds to prejudge the outcome of the “reasonable dispute,” by refraining from placing a similar freeze on the Palestinians. To eliminate any doubt about how he really sees the fate of the these “disputed” areas, Dershowitz declares: “An absolute building freeze would be a painful but necessary compromise. It might also encourage residents in the West Bank to move to areas that will remain part of Israel, especially if the freeze were accompanied by financial inducements to relocate.”
Clearly, if the Palestinians are permitted to build in these areas where the Jews are not only barred from doing so, but “induced” to leave, deeming them “disputed” is little more than a disingenuous ruse. For if Palestinian development is allowed, while Jewish development is not, the obvious intention is for them to be eventually transferred to the Palestinians.
See what I mean by “puerile, prejudicial and paradoxical?” While I might disapprove of the disrespect displayed toward Dershowitz personally at the Jerusalem Post conference, I can understand the derision with which his proposal was greeted.‘Age of intellectual absurdity’
Then, on April 30, Intelligence Squared staged its first debate in Israel, featuring two zealous two-staters, Peter Beinart and Michael Melchior, former MK and currently chief rabbi of Norway.
In the past, I have pointed to the ignorance and arrogance that characterize Beinart’s self-righteous pontifications on Israel’s conduct, and the perversions, prevarications and platitudes that comprise his proposals for Israel’s policies – see “Perfidious Pete, treacherous Tom” – I & II (April 11 and April 20, 2012); “Richard Beinart and Peter Goldstone” I & II (May 31 and June 7, 2012).
But I cannot resist inserting here a caustic comment made by Prof. Barry Rubin in an article titled “Betrayal Glorified: The Bizarre Jewish Movement to Destroy Israel by Pretending to Save It.”
In it he dismisses Beinart, and the positions he espouses, with a withering barb: “We live in an age of intellectual absurdity in which someone who has no notion of Israeli reality and who is, at best, decades... out of date is treated as if he could possibly be of some relevance.”
As for Melchior, in a September 2012 interview, headlined “Islam is ready for peace with Israel,” he condemned Israeli rejectionism – or at least reluctance – for obstructing peace between Judaism and Islam, including the more radical extremist elements, thus, as one popular website observed, “placing the onus for lack of peace with extremist Islamic movements on Israel.”
One can only wonder whether the good rabbi realizes that by expounding such wildly unfounded indictments of the Jewish state, he is merely providing more grist for the mill of the Judeo-phobic elements that harass his ever-diminishing Nordic congregation.
Preserving democracy by promoting tyranny?
Both Beinart and Melchior espoused the well-worn theme that if Israel does not facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state, it will “impair not only its democratic character but ultimately its Jewish character” (Beinart) and “empty the real content of what it means to be a true Jewish state” (Melchior).
We are thus asked to believe that the only way to preserve Jewish democracy is to facilitate Muslim tyranny.
After all, the Israeli withdrawals – whether negotiated or unilateral have made Sinai a lawless jihadi no-man’s land; resulted in Gaza becoming a Hamas-dominated theocracy; and allowed the ascent of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Even dedicated two-staters, such as Dershowitz, concede it is not “out of the question that someday Hamas might gain control over the Palestinian government, either by means of a coup, or an election, or some such combination of both. Israel cannot be asked to accept a fully militarized Hamas state on its vulnerable borders.”
The only way the putative Palestinian state will not become a haven for Arab terror organizations is for the Palestinians to behave in a manner entirely different – indeed, diametrically opposed – to the manner in which they have behaved for seven decades – arguably even longer.
But two-staters have yet to produce persuasive arguments – rather than fervent hopes – as to why this is at all likely. Until they do, they should not be surprised that many relate to their proposal – at best – as a wildly irresponsible gamble.
Or is it that two-staters believe that being nice is more important – and more Jewish – than being?
The Oslo Syndrome: Explaining the inexplicable?
How then can we account for this proclivity for self-destructive irrationality? Prof. Kenneth Levin of the department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, has ventured an intellectually audacious explanation that should not be hastily discounted.
Apart from his MD degree Levin, who has hugely impressive and diverse academic credentials, including degrees in mathematics (University of Pennsylvania) an MA in English literature (Oxford), a PhD in history (Princeton), was at a loss to explain Israel’s behavior in rational terms.
Accordingly, in his book The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege, he turned to the psycho-pathological.
In it, he drew on his experience with children, chronically abused by their parents, who typically blame themselves for their fate, since this sustains a fantasy that if they reform, if they become “good,” their parents will treat them differently. To look at their situation more realistically would force them to acknowledge their inability to change their circumstances.
Adults, as well as children, prefer to fend off acknowledging such bitter realities and to preserve the illusion of control – even when no such possibility exists.
Likewise, people under chronic siege tend to deny the severity of the threat, to blame themselves or others within their community, for the danger or their enemies’ hatred toward them, and to delude themselves about the malicious intentions of their foes. Placing the onus on themselves, rather than on their adversaries, creates the hope that there is something they can do to end the enmity against them.
The distasteful alternative
Levin has come up with an original and, in many ways, compelling, thesis that is becoming ever-more relevant.
As he notes, “Israel has, at best, a capacity to respond effectively to attacks by its neighbors; it does not have the capacity to end the Arab siege, to force peace upon the Arabs.”
Indeed, it is becoming increasingly evident that Arab/Muslim hostility towards the Jewish state is not a result of what it does but of what it is – Jewish. It can thus only be placated by the Jewish state ceasing to be Jewish.
Accordingly, the Oslo Syndrome theory is one that deserves – indeed requires – urgent and widespread debate. Its validity needs to be carefully, but expeditiously, explored, for the only alternative is highly distasteful.
It is to assume that two-staters prefer to imperil the country, rather than admit the error of their politics, that they are willing to forgo the nation’s security rather than their personal and professional