Diagnosis of a Mental Disorder
By Prof. Paul Eidelberg
A mental disorder has crippled Israel. This disorder is rooted in fear, but
this fear has yet to be adequately diagnosed.
The idea that fear permeates the Jewish psyche is not a new. It is the
well-known consequence of two thousand years of statelessness and
dispersion, persecution and humiliation, pogroms and holocausts. It is the
inevitable result of the world’s perennial and deadly hatred of Jews and
There is nothing paranoid about this fear. It reflects a sober assessment
of a typically hostile world. But this fear has been magnified and rendered
pathological by a related fear, a fear engendered by the triumph of
democracy in Israel over Zionism. Let me explain.
That democracy has replaced Zionism as the one and only justification for
the State of Israel has profound but hitherto unexplored psychological
During the past three decades, especially since 1975 when the United Nations
declared Zionism as a form of racism, what has most endowed Israel’s ruling
elites with legitimacy and respectability are their democratic credentials.
Despite Israel’s miniature size and precarious existence in the Arab Middle
East, its ruling elites have been conditioned to pursue policies toward
Arabs—not toward Jews—which make Israel appear more permissive and
egalitarian than democratic America, a continental superpower!
This is a basic reason why the Sharon Government does not crush the
PLO-Palestinian Authority. Crushing the Palestinians would or could make
Israel appear as a fascist state, and this fills Israel’s ruling elites with
dreadful fear. This fear compounds the fear of anti-Semitism.
Admittedly, kindness, mercy, and magnanimity are characteristic of the
Jewish people, inherited from the Patriarch Abraham (see Genesis 14:14-24;
18:3-7, 23-32.) This benevolence of Jews on the one hand, and their having
been so often oppressed on the other, tends to inhibit Israel’s government
from using overwhelming force even against such cruel enemies as the Arab
Palestinians. However, when Jews HABITUALLY make no distinction between
those who are and those who are not worthy of benevolence, they cross the
boundary that separates sanity from insanity. What has induced Israel’s
ruling elites to cross this boundary is DEMOCRACY!
Tolerance of violent behavior and leniency in the punishment of such
behavior are characteristic of democracy—a mixed blessing. But these
characteristics reach pathological levels in Israel. The first three years
of the intifada that broke out in December 1987 witnessed 122,218 incidents
of rock-throwing, road blocks, and rioting in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza; some
2,495 firebomb attacks; 157 sniper attacks using live ammunition; 58 grenade
attacks; 1,004 reported cases of arson; close to 4,000 Jews injured and 57
killed. The government obviously tolerated this horrific Arab violence. So
did the courts which imposed a fine of only 2,500 shekels (then $1,250) on
Arabs who threw rocks at moving vehicles—an act defined by Israeli and
American law as attempted murder!
Matters have grown worse. During the first thirteen months of Ariel Sharon’s
premiership, hundreds of Jews were murdered and many thousands were wounded.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court quashed the indictment of Arab Knesset Member
Talib a-Sana, who, in an interview on Abu-Dabai TV, not only praised a
recent suicide bombing attack in Israel but also called for more of the
But this insane political tolerance and judicial leniency must be understood
as the consequence of democracy having become the one thing that endows
Israel’s political and judicial elites with legitimacy and respectability.
To safeguard their democratic reputation, they must be more democratic than
their American counterparts, and this compels them to tolerate a deal great
of Arab terrorism, to be lenient toward Arab terrorists to the extent of
warning them of impending military retaliation! But this is not all.
Having absorbed the “ethos” of democracy into their psyche, Israel’s ruling
elites have also imbibed the moral and cultural relativism that dominates
the democratic mind. Hence they can no longer believe in the absolute
justice of Israel’s cause. This is why Ariel Sharon could say he no longer
thinks in black and white terms vis-à-vis the PLO-Palestinian
Authority—another motive for not crushing that despotic regime.
For the Jewish state to crush the Arabs would signify Jewish national
pride—something Jewish democrats can ill-afford. Jews must be meek. Better
to be victims than victors. And so Jews must always make unilateral
concessions to their enemies, must take risks for peace with their enemies,
must sacrifice their holy of holies for the sake of peace with their
enemies. God forbid that Jews should stand upright and maintain their
God-given right to Eretz Yisrael! No! No! This would smack of racism!
This would nullify the democratic respectability of Israeli politicians,
judges, academics, journalists, and not a few rabbis! Democracy is their
life raft. Yes, but it is democracy, with its permissiveness and moral
egalitarianism that has sickened the minds of Israel’s ruling elites.
More articles by Paul Eidelberg are available at www.jewishstatesmanship.com
from the April 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine