Monday, July 7, 2008

Sometimes War IS the Answer- Ask any Recovering Victim of Abuse

There is some indication that I have struck a significant nerve with my last two posts. This, I believe is a window into a new understanding of an old situation. I want to review what I am hearing, add some more thoughts that are suggested by the feedback I have received and ask for more responses.

My first significant response came last Thursday. It is, in fact, one the most gratifying emails I have ever received.

It was addresses to my personal email and read:

I spent 1 year denying the violence & threats, & another year planning very carefully how my son, mother & I would escape in a way that we would not be stalked.

one of your statements was too powerful......I was left breathless. I made a song of it. it is attached.

Sanity must prevail, LONG LIVE Israel!
Peace, & thank you, Esquecida

"Esquecida" also included an mp3 of the song.
(Listen to it here)
‘dialog is a death trap’ (4/4 / serious DISCO BEAT)

Here are the lyrics (my words) and her musical directions as she rendered them:
“Any part-time social worker
in a woman’s shelter
can tell you that
dialog is just fine
when you are negotiating
how to share the house work.

(12 bars)
(Catchy little hook 2 make the masses bob-in-unison / 8 measures 4/4 funk-disco-Bass-solo)

When violence
has happened more than once
and is escalating,
when that certain someone
is declaring an intention
to kill you, .....................................
dialog is a death trap..."

(repeat vamp OUT until ‘they‘ get it!)

This was heady stuff for a stodgy old blogger. I've never inspired music before, and I don't get such a powerful personal endorsement of one of my ideas everyday. 

I wrote back to Esquecida and expressed my gratitude that she is now safe and I asked permission to post her note as a comment to the first post. Here is her reply"

of course!!!! YES......we have linked back to you also.

please use this file, it has all info..
please credit the band, They Blink in Unison
from their not yet released CD 'UNKNOWN'......@ this URL...

if there is any kind of problem, please contact us.

we are safe now....thank you for asking.
Very powerful writing Yaacov
....cuts to the bone!! Peace, Esquecida
A positive response from an actual abuse victim meant a great deal to me. Then, if I still had any doubt, someone with a different but just as credible showed up.
Therapydoc a Ph.D. and practicing Social worker chimed in with a comment calling it an "apt comparison".

This got me to thinking about what I had done in publishing the idea of linking these two sorts of phenomena that share many deadly aspects but are of vastly different hierarchic levels. 

I had actually started thinking about it in the first place because of the pattern that we seem always to observe in any negotiation or confrontation that takes place with an Arab/Islamist entity. The prime example is the, so-called "Peace Process" between Israel and the entire Arab world but there have been so many other examples. Saddam Hussein's prevarications leading up to the current Iraq war, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah's cynical, murderous gambit in Lebanon- the list goes on and on.

My original thought was to draw a superficial comparison. I wanted to ask (especially of the feminists and people of the left) why, if it is so obvious to everyone that the common and well-documented cycle of pathological denial, minimization, deflection and projection that domestic partner abusers employ to keep control of their victims and to avoid punishment for their episodes of violence must be met by confrontation or, at the very least, the safe escape of the victim, can't they recognize the need for confrontation and punishment for the analogous behavior by the Arab/Muslim world against Israel. 

As I thought about it, though, I saw more points to address. For instance, those behaviors cannot succeed without the complicity of the victim. It appeared to me that I needed to open up a discussion of whether, in their blindness and paralysis, Israel, America and the west act as "enablers". Then too, that would make the very people to whom I wanted to address the original question part of the "enmeshed" dysfunctional family of the victim nation. I began to see that it was important to go further with the comparison- that there is something very fundamental that we can learn about the underlying nature of both the intimate and the international forms of abuse by looking at the comparison more deeply. 

In contemplating the way that most reasonable and fair-minded Westerners view the situation, I recalled one of the better known quotes from the the Israeli statesman Abba Eban. back in the early Seventies Ebban once described the pattern of the relationship with the Arabs this way, "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity". Eban's summation only makes sense if he believed in the hopeful but enabling assumption "they want what we want". Eban took the Western/Israeli view that peace, equity ad prosperity were the goal. Eban spoke those words in 1973, though, and I would submit that experience has taught us that his point of view did never squared with the facts and that hard experience by now should have disabused us of that soothing fiction. 

This is the same degree of self-deception as believing that a wife-beater, given one more chance, will suddenly begin to value intimacy and love over his compulsion for control and dominance. Unfortunately, we know that that level of self-deception, incredible as it may seem, is possible.

For example, in the current Gaza situation, the facts are, roughly:
  • Egypt brokered a "cease fire" between Hamas which is the government on the ground in Gaza. (Great news! We're back in therapy!)
  • Qassam rockets continued to hit Israel from Gaza. (He's still hitting me but not nearly as often or as hard as before)
  • Israel closed border crossings in the mildest possible response to the rocket fire. (I told him that I'm only going to make tuna for dinner instead of his favorite steak if he hits me again)
  • Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Gaza, accuses Israel of not living up to its part of the truce. and says, "We still say that maintaining the calm is a national interest, but the Israelis must commit to lifting the siege and opening the crossings," (He says not making the steaks makes him angry so its my fault that he hits me)
  • Another Hamas official announces that he is freezing the talks on freeing Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped and held hostage over two years ago because Israel has "violated the calm agreement by closing the crossings," (He said if I don't make the steak, he's going to lock the baby in the closet and not let me feed him)
So, the cease fire really amounts to Israel offering Hamas an opportunity to begin a constructive dialog and Hamas seizing the opportunity to get a break from Israeli military pressure while continuing terror against Israeli citizens, deflecting the blame on Israel and torturing the illegally held Shallit (and his loved ones and all decent people everywhere).

Eban, thoroughly western, well educated, elegant and fair-minded as he was, could not see that The Arabs are actually very good at seizing opportunities- he simply could not believe that they are that uncivilized. By the way, if you object to my use of the word "uncivilized" in this connection, you do not understand the problem yet. 

This is one lesson we need to learn: It is not a matter of respecting their culture, it is a matter of understanding why they cannot understand and respect ours. If we understood their culture we would see that.

So they get away with pretending to play our game while consistently acting on their own agenda and relying on our assumption of good-faith and humanistic pricipals to protect them from punishment. 

It works for them- even when we often overhear them saying things like "Israel must be obliterated" or "We will conquer the west and institute the new Caliphate" or "the whole world will be under Shari'a". We explain it away- "those remarks are just rhetoric", "there are more moderates than extremists", "Islam is a religion of peace" or, my favorite new one, (I call it the Obama/Wright ploy) "you are using small selected quotes from some Arab leaders".

They strike us over and over and we don't feel free to doubt their intentions. Some of us have even gotten adept at questioning our own sincerety and good faith. 

So, it has begun to seem to me that there is a deep and fundamental human psychological weakness at work here that we need to understand better.

Then, last night, a comment came in from Barbara who writes the blogs Barbara's Tchatzkas and Abuse Sanctuary (she is also another former abuse victim). She included a link to her post about why she has broken away from her Progressive friends on the issue of Israel. Here is a piece of that post:
I saw Israel as a abuse victim. A classic abuse victim who is blamed and shamed for the abuse they are taking! Just like me. A victim whom no one wants to admit they are using and hurting. A victim who was being smeared as the aggressor. It was right in my face. To this day I find it mind-boggling how others don't see this very same thing... I've claimed Israel as one of my anti-abuse advocacy 'clients.'
Barbara mentions the public aspect- the smearing of the victim by others outside the abusive relationship. This also throws a different light on those who will say they are not anti-Semitic but "only" anti-Zionist. But a smear is a smear and they too must be aware that the Arabs chant "Death to the Jews" not "Death to the Zionists" What do they have in common, really, other than hatred of "The Jews". Jew hatred (no matter how thinly disguised as anti-Zionism) is a cornerstone of the otherwise unlikely alliance of Islamist Jihad and Leftist Progressivism. 

But Barbara also reminds us that there is a subtle intersection of the two levels of abuse. The "public" face of abuse that she mentions is based on "shame". Shame is  a complex emotional area where cultural behavior and psychobiology meet in an explosive and elemental way. When an individual feels shame for a cultural failure, that feeling can become a biological effect such as an uncontrollable rage or high blood pressure. The reverse is also true. Physical affect that has been damaged by shame reactions such as poor posture, bad complexion, depression and confusion can (actually, almost always does) lead to cultural failures (poor job performance, inability to relate to others, etc...).

It is becoming apparent to me that what is being revealed here goes beyond similar patterns of behavior. It seems to me that we have actually laid open an entryway into the understanding of how how central culture is to survival and how vulnerable it is when its integrity is minimized by intellectual misconceptions (multiculturalism, moral relativism) or damaged by psychological disorders.

A domestic abuser is one who behaves outside of cultural ideals but is able to maintain enough of a culturally parallel behavioral appearance (affect) that he can keep his illusion of control and superiority alive and, at the same time, avoid punishment and censure. Islamists are attempting the same balancing act.

A commenter to the second and most recent post who posted her comment under the name "Ruth"  added this which gave even more dimension to the idea:

The comparison is eerily spot on:

The terrorist murderer was once involved with a Jewish woman.

<"I can't believe he did what he did; he was a good, caring person," the Jewish ex-girlfriend of Hossam Dawyyat said Thursday, a day after the bulldozer driver's killing spree in downtown Jerusalem left three people dead.>,7340,L-3563682,00.html

This good, caring person was convicted in court for assaulting this same woman and threatening her with murder. He served a prison term on this.

You see the battered woman syndrom in action...
Least the glimpse into this abyss of human frailty depress you too much, let me remind you that, as I pointed out in my first post on this subject
People hid their shame much more back then and suffered greatly for it. Women were much more trapped and had far less opportunity to escape situations like this back then. There are many more shelters now, the law enforcement, therapeutic community, social welfare professionals and the society at large are much more sensitive and aware. There are web sites, books, radio shows, movies and even classes in school. Not that the problem is solved, but as a culture we have made a commitment to a fundamental correction of the cultural weaknesses that allow it to go on.
If we have been able to raise awareness of and take action against domestic abuse, we we should be able to do the same about cultural abuse. The key is, just as we had to shake off toxic orthodoxies like "Divorce is not the answer" "Keep the Family Together at all cost" and "A wife's place is with her husband" and "he's a good provider" and "she probably deserved it" we have to expose the idiocy of neo-orthodoxies like "War is Not the Answer" and "All cultures are equally valid" and "we probably deserved 9/11" and the "Israelis are colonists" or "Israel is an Apartheid State". They do mean it and have to be willing to say that "Sometimes War IS the Answer!"


Anonymous said...

CONGRATS, BROTHER Y!! What a high, and touching, honor.

Our buddy Ken Levin of CAMERA wrote a fat book analyzing "the Oslo Process" as a psychosis a few years back. It is an extremely apt analysis.

Can it be that you can take the Jews out of the shtetl, but you can never take the shtetl out of the Jews? Very depressing.

Jewish Odysseus said...

I also must congratulate you & your fellow pro/am "shrinks" because you have conspicuously broken out of the hideously tenacious psychological trap that we Westerners have been buried in for many years--examining the Arabs/Islamists as "equals" with legitimate grievances" who must be "negotiated with/satisfied." As I like to say, we see them as grammatical "subjects" when we need to see them as OBJECTS. OBJECTS to focus on and manipulate and deliberately impose our will on, like rats in the woodpile or viruses in the bloodstream. Or sociopathic criminals in the neighborhood.

Do we try to address the "legitimate grievances" of such objects? No, we merely develop plans and strategies to GET RID OF THEM. One way or the other.

Barbara said...

Bless you for posting so strongly about this (and many thanks for the mention.) I want to give you a couple more articles to back up my stand and YOURS on this issue:

Let Them Talk

The Real SHONDA in Revealing Abuse

Bullying, Intimidating & Extortion Attempts

Every single one of these articles can be applied to Israel. And should be.


Anonymous said...

one finds a similar phenomenon in the Israeli official hasbarah community. journalists who aren't openly sadistic are welcomed as "not so bad," and fighting back is discouraged because "we have a good working relationship with them..."

Chana @ Lemon Lime Moon said...

One of the worst things about abuse is hearing yourself, the victim, accused of being everything the abuser is!
They can be such charming liars that they are believed by some even though the stories are incredulous!
Comments such as "he doesn't look at that big or dangerous to me" are hurtful but common.
It seems we hear the same thing about Israel as they are always the evil party getting what they deserved.

Barbara said...

One of the worst things about abuse is hearing yourself, the victim, accused of being everything the abuser is!

That's called Projection.

They can be such charming liars that they are believed by some even though the stories are incredulous!

Narcissism and/ or Sociopathy

And abusers and their proxies ALWAYS minimize the abuse. Always!

Abusers also always REFORMAT & TWIST history to make themselves into the victims (Palestinians!). It's been done to me. And then some!

The moment the victims steps up and tells the truth they are maligned and attacked... relentlessly

Anonymous said...


Such a powerful post.
As a former victim of abuse I can tell you the abuser did not see himself as the bad guy. I was for filing a police report. "I was locked up like a caged animal".
Never mind that my head was split wide open and I was covered in bruises.

"And abusers and their proxies ALWAYS minimize the abuse. Always!

Abusers also always REFORMAT & TWIST history to make themselves into the victims"


Arius said...

What more can you expect from the religion of the psychotic pedophile prophet of mass-murdering .