Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What Do Israel and the US Have in Common with Battered Women?

...A lot more than you might think...

What would you say if you visited your sister or daughter in her first apartment and found that she had a boyfriend living there. Lets just say that he is half her height, uneducated, stays home all day living on the proceeds of a family inheritance, he is domineering, ignorant and a religious fanatic. What if you witnessed this roommate ordering her around like a slave and screaming at her- calling her every vile name in the book and telling her that she didn’t deserve to be alive. You might, at the very least, want her to take him to a counselor who could mediate a better relationship for them.

“Oh, yeah”, she says to you, “he doesn’t like to talk about it. When I ask him to talk to me, he just agrees with me until I’m done talking and promises he’ll act better from now on. So, then I agree to do whatever he wants me to do and he agrees to be nicer to me. But that never lasts long, I just wind up giving in more every time and he just gets worse and worse.

Then, the next time you see her she has a black eye and a missing tooth. When you ask her what happened, she says, “Oh, uh, Mr. X did that, but it wasn’t his fault. I deserved it.”

When you ask her what she means, she says, “I guess I was bad, Mr. X doesn’t like the way I behave, He says I am a devil woman and that he should kill me- But there’s nothing to worry about because I know, deep down, he really respects me as an individual and loves me and wants to live with me. Besides he promised he won’t do it again”

My guess is that this would not seem right to you.

What would you do? I can’t imagine that, in this day and age, any clear thinking person would not want to make sure that their loved one got out of that situation right away. Most, I think, would also like to see Mr. X arrested by the authorities and punished for his behavior. A good-sized majority would even consider making some kind of intervention themselves.

We know from the accumulated, important work done by the social sciences and publicized so effectively by the Media, that this is a very dangerous situation and one in which the abused party is sometimes powerless to extricate herself from the peril.

How many times have we heard of abused women staying in this kind of relationship against all advice and in the face of increasingly terrifying behavior?

So, then, what would you do the next time you visit and find her on crutches with a crooked and swollen nose. Would you take action then?

What if she called you on the phone one day and whispered to you that she was getting concerned because she had found a receipt on Mr. X’s nightstand- a receipt from the police department for an application he has made- for a license to buy and own firearms? When will you tell her that the time for talking is done- that its time to call the police? When will you insist? When will you intervene physically?

If this all seems self evident, think back. It wasn’t so easy to recognize these patterns only forty years ago. Back when I was in my teens this was all a much murkier territory. A man’s home was his “castle” and there were deep social taboos against “outsiders” meddling in “family matters”. It was the old patriarchal notion, noble and comforting in theory but regrettably undependable in reality, that the family is the one dependable shelter and comfort in life- that a paternal husband and his wife would be each others best and most dedicated guardians and caretakers. Of course, that system put the “man of the house” in a position to be either a brutal despot or, if he chose, a benevolent sovereign in the castle.

Not to minimize the complexity of the issue or the shame and pity of the cases that come to light weekly in the news media, but I think it is safe to say that the severity of this problem is substantially diminished from the time when a young woman in an abusive relationship would have nowhere to go and get no advice but “show him that you can be a good wife and maybe he’ll learn how to be a good husband” or “try to be nicer to him” or “cook him his favorite dinner” or “greet him with a smile and he’ll be happier”. Domestic abuse was always a betrayal of the ideal in our culture. But today it is one of the last vestiges of the decayed honor/shame family style that allowed some minority (albeit much too large a minority) of men to give vent to the violent results of their flawed personalities by battering their families.
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.

So, it is with a sudden and overwhelming dismay that I realized, only last week, that two of the true loves of my life have allowed themselves to be locked into the horror of a battered woman and I had been missing the warning signs for years. What’s even worse, almost the entire world has responded just exactly the way those unhelpful advice givers used to in the past.

Thinking back, I can see that the signs were there as much as forty years ago. It began to dawn on me as I was reading (for the second time) the Introduction of Michael Ledeen’s excellent book The Iranian Time Bomb. If you have not read this book, it would be very hard to imagine how you could have a full appreciation of the nature of the Iranian threat.

Ledeen cites a long history of violence by Iran and her surrogates (Hizbollah, Hamas, etc…,) against the U.S., Israel and the west. Interspersed with these violent attacks were dozens of pathetic and futile attempts to “engage,” placate and negotiate by all five U.S. presidents to have served since that time.

Carter, whose hopes of reelection were ruined by the hostage crisis, Ledeen writes “…offered to arm the revolutionary regime within days of the fall of the shah”.

Regan’s administration was humiliated and taunted:
“…In the 1980s, Hizbollah operating in tandem with the PLO organized suicide bombing attacks against the French and American Marine barracks (241 U.S. dead and 58 French), and the American Embassy in Beirut, as well as the kidnappings of American missionaries and military and intelligence officers. Two of the latter were then tortured to death.”

Ledeen gives us Reagan’s response:
“…the Reagan Administration secretly sold weapons to Tehran and provided the mullahs with military intelligence to help in their war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq”.

Then there was the Clinton Era and Ledeen continues the list:
In the 1990s, Hizbollah conducted lethal attacks against Jewish targets in Argentina, for which leaders of the Iranian regime have been indicted.”
“The 1998 Embassy bombings in East Africa, for which al Qaeda took full credit, were in large part Iranian operations.”

“…the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 American Air Force personnel were killed and 372 wounded.”

“…the Clinton Administration secretly permitted the Iranians to arm Bosnian Muslim fighters in the Balkans, and secretly permitted the Russians to arm the Iranians and support their nuclear program.”
“Clinton showered largesse on the Iranians, and even dispatched his secretary of state to apologize for real and imagined American sins in decades past. Encouraged by the election reformist Iranian president, Mohammed Khatami, we opened a channel of communications to the highest levels of the regime, liberalized our visa policies, expanded cultural exchanges, and removed the Islamic Republic from the State Department s lists of state sponsors of terrorism and narcotrafficking governments. We even eased the trade embargo. Then came Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s open apology. She apologized for the American role in restoring the shah to his throne in the 1950s. She apologized for American support to the shah prior to the revolution, and for regrettably shortsighted help given to Iraq during the war.”

“Clinton’s many gestures, concessions and giveaways, like those of his predecessors, produced a swift kick to a delicate part of our national anatomy. Supreme Leader Ali Khamene summarily rejected the American demarche, and reiterated the Islamic Republic’s passionate hatred for the American Great Satan.”

Under George W. Bush it has taken far too long to recognize long to identify and move against the Iranian source of aid and personnel to the Insurgency in Iraq. Ledeen says of this,
“This latest intelligence failure proved fatal to a considerable number of Americans, Iraqis, British, Italian, Spanish, Polish and other members of the coalition, along with many more Iraqis, in and out of uniform.”
Time after time Iran has bloodied our nose, killed our people and purposely destabilized their part of the world and George W Bush has, at least until recently, behaved as though it is America who owes Iran the apology.

More quotes from The Iranian Time Bomb:
“…following the defenestration of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Indeed, Iran attempted to foment civil war all over Iraq, aiding both sides in every potential conflict, from Sunni vs. Turkemans vs. Kurds, Arabs vs. Kurds, and so on. It was simply a continuation of the mullahs’ war against America, which had been under way for nearly three decades.”

“Even the Bush Administration, which famously placed Iran alongside North Korea and Iraq as a charter member of the Axis of Evil, pursued a grand bargain with the mullahs, and American officials sometimes made statements as when Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage proclaimed that the Islamic Republic was a democracy- that can only be explained as an effort to woo the Iranian leaders.”

“…the Iranians have shown no desire for reconciliation; quite the contrary, unless you think killing Americans on a scale considerably larger than the tempo of murder in the Clinton years represents some odd form of mating dance…The terror war against us now extends to four continents, running from Thailand and Indonesia to India and Pakistan, down the Horn of Africa to Somalia and Yemen and back up to Afghanistan, on to Iraq, Palestine/Israel, and Lebanon, and thence to Europe, the United States and South America. The Iranians are involved in every one of those theaters…They believe they defeated Israel in the summer war of 2006, that they will expand their control over Lebanon in the near future, and in relatively short order destroy the Jewish State. They fully expect to compel us to surrender, and submit to their will.”

Submit to their will! Yes, that is the goal of all abusers. The pathetic, abusive spouse tries to change the all too real failure of his personality and identity by having complete domination of his most intimate partner and if he can’t have domination, he will destroy her. He will never accept that there are limits to his power. The Jihadists are so invested in the supremacy of political Islam that they cannot abide a world in which Jews and Christians are more educated, more productive and, for now at least, still (in spite of their vast oil wealth) more powerful than they are.

And it is apparent that The United States of America has, for some time been caught in a relationship that mirrors the spiraling, escalating violence of domestic abuse. Think about our reactions and compare them with the patterns found in spousal abuse:
  • Denial (war is not the answer, they don't really mean they want to kill us)
  • Guilt (why do they hate us?)
  • Bargaining (restrict free speech, lowering our standards of behavior and responsibility on the basis of multiculturalism)
  • Depression and self-hatred (bushitler, code pink) etc…

The resemblance is no accident. The Islamic world and Iran in particular does not view the relationships between nations the way we do for the very same reasons that they experience the relationships between individuals differently than we do. In The West we have come to value mutual stability, peace and prosperity above all. In Iran’s world it is about Honor and Shame, about who has power over whom. At the international level it produces terrorism and conquest vs. diplomacy and economic cooperation and at the intimate level it produces submission or honor killing vs. intimacy or divorce. Only in the world of international relations there is no divorce- only war. So while we keep trying to establish a future of intimacy and cooperation, they keep nursing resentment and hatred.

It is not that, in The West, we have perfected our ideal relationship- we obviously have not. It is that we hold the mutual and beneficial as the ideal to strive for. It is why Israel accepted the original partition plan in 1948 and the Arabs did not. It is also why when America was subjected to mass murder, the first reaction of a large proportion of our population was “Why do they hate us?” Was it also the reason why Israel, so much more powerful, organized and accomplished than her tormentors has never used her power to overwhelm and eliminate the Palestinian forces and disperse the refugee camps that support them?

Yes, Israel behaves as a prototypical battered woman too! Actually, Israel even more so! She is subjected to the same pattern- she sustains savage attack after savage attack and her weak, ugly, hate-filled little bed-mate in that narrow little sliver of Israel/Palestine deflects the blame for the violence onto her. All the while the abusive little savage is armed, egged on and supported by the same Iranian fanatics and Saudi plutocrats that have been tormenting America. And a whole world of on-lookers cluck their tongues, tell her to be nice to him, pander to his twisted desires, expect her to submit, placate and even apologize. In the end, even her apology is not enough for them, they will insist that she atone for the miracle blessing of her own rebirth – won out of the ashes of the holocaust and the Arab alliance with Hitler they will not be happy until she admits to their accusation that she does not deserve to live and commits suicide in expiation.

This is the ultimate in what is known as ‘Blaming the Victim” Here is a paragraph from an article on a women’s web site on this issue
Victims often go through a period of blaming themselves for their partners’ violence. In reality, we are each responsible for our own behavior. In their efforts to avoid responsibility for their actions, batterers can be quite adept at deflecting blame onto the victim, telling her and others how things she did or failed to do “made” him do it. Unfortunately, there are some traditional cultural ideas that support his reasoning and that are still embraced by some members of our society. That such notions exist in the culture at large, makes it easier for the victim to internalize blame and harder to fight the deflection of responsibility, especially when other people echo the batterer’s excuse-making. Besides being illogical and profoundly unfair, victim blaming traps the victim in a cycle in which she keeps trying (and failing) to avoid abuse by satisfying, and even anticipating, the abuser’s every whim and mood. She fails, of course, because only he is responsible for his behavior.”
In Israel’s case the behavior of the Arab world, even leaving aside that of the Jihadis, has been unforgivable from the start. Every Arab country in the world that was able to field an army, combined forces to try to murder the infant nation of Israel on the very evening of her birth. Even though she was formed in a legal and morally irreproachable way the leaders of the Islamist ad Arab nationalist movements have remained adamant in demanding her destruction ever since. That might have given the world a clue- if they cared about Israel. The fact that the media refers to the violence that results from the warfare to destroy Israel in misleading terms such as “the cycle of violence,” “collective punishment” or “reprisals” shows that they have chosen to ignore the reality of the abusive situation and to “blame the victim”.

Here in the U.S., 1979 should have marked our “consciousness-raising”. The hostage crisis, which began in November of that year, was a grave insult- not just to U.S. interests and prestige but, even more significantly, to the entire civilized process that governs problem resolution and basic relationships between countries. Just like the first time an abuser hauls off and smacks his or her spouse, it was a rupture in the very fabric of the relationship, a rupture that should have told us something fundamental about what we were up against. Diplomatic protocol is a voluntary commitment to live within guideline that foster a civilized approach to living together in a mutually beneficial way. It is, in a way, the inter-national equivalent of “marriage vows” for inter-personal interaction.
There is a war of annihilation declared against the U.S. (and all of Western Civilization) just as there is against Israel. The fact that the nation that wants to annihilate us is not able to do so today is not really relevant.

Here is Ledeen again:
“From the moment of the overthrow of the shah, the leaders of the Islamic Republic have declared, and waged, war against the infidels of the West, above all against Americans and Israelis. The hostage crisis that doomed the Carter presidency was the opening salvo of a long war against America, branded the Great Satan by Khomeini.”

“What are they thinking?” Who cares.
“Why are they attacking us?” Not the right question.
“Why do they hate us”? If you really want to know, listen to what they say. We occupy ourselves with these questions to our own detriment. Condi Rice, as did Albright, Powell, Kissinger and all the others, goes on assuming that she can strike deals based on mutual interests and our respective national priorities. Ledeen gives us a quote from Khomeini that should have disabused us of that folly thirty years ago:
“We do not worship Iran. We worship Allah,” he declared, “For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land (Iran) burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”

To me, that sounds like nothing more than a scaled-up, megalomaniacal, religious fanatic version of an abusive husband, so shamed by his life and so committed to preserving his compensatory illusion of complete omnipotence and control by dominating and controlling “his woman\family\world” that he is ready to take her/them/it with him in a murder-suicide.

He couldn’t be more explicit but our diplomats (like our media) ignore his warning. Like the battered spouse, paralyzed by the old fiction of the sacrosanct and unfailingly protective patriarchal family, the soothing but misguided assumptions of multiculturalism and realpolitik have combined to make western civilization into the abused captive of the Islamist Jihad, powerless to use our superior power to defend our civilization.

And now we have the hapless man/infant Obama saying he would sit right down and talk with the mullahs as soon as he is president. He’s pro-dialog. 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. 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.

And that’s not even the worst news. There is no need for the drama of a whispered phone call about it, they have told us what they plan to do. Ahmadinejad has been crowing about it for a few years now. Don’t look now, but Iran is going out to get The Big Gun. The Iranian nuclear project raises the ante for us just like the gun does for the battered woman in our original example. They have already specifically said they want to use it on Israel. We know they want to destroy all of The West and don’t care if their own country “goes up in smoke” to achieve the ascendance of their brand of Islam. What further question could there be about the gravity of the situation? How many times will we go back to that squalid apartment and try to cook them “just the right dinner”- and get slapped around for our trouble before we get the picture and realize we have to address this as a real threat?
A battered woman can sometimes escape the confrontation by going to a shelter but her abuser is almost always a lost cause. Israel is permanently stuck in the burning bed of “the river to the sea” with the Palestinian abuser and his howling troop of relatives swarm all around her borders. In the U.S. we are still so dependent on Islamist oil that we are forced into a co-dependant, connubial hell. Our options are limited – we have no choice but to find a way to force them to let us live.

Allow me one more Quote from Ledeen:
“We can win or lose, but we cannot escape this confrontation. As Salim Mansur puts it, “To achieve peace and freedom the most bigoted elements within the Muslim world- the Jihadi Muslims and their allies- need to be irrevocably defeated.”

I reached the same conclusion in my series on the erroneous but useful comparison between the American Indian and the Palestinians, conclusive defeat is the only way to resolve the conflict between cultures that are so completely unable to understand each other and whose people have such entirely different desires for their lives.


Unknown said...


I absolutely agree with you that Israel is like an abused woman. I wrote about this way back in an A7 article:

It is telling that it is so easy to see this relationship that two independent writers would see it in the same way!

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of Israel feeling like a second-class citizen in its own home. It is about time we took back our legitimate role and stopped cowering.

Anonymous said...

"value mutual stability, peace and prosperity"

Excellent. It's not about being noble - although sometimes we are -but we have learned it's better for all.The middle east just hasn't gotten there, it's all a zero sum game to them, life and politics.

Barbara said...

Great minds think alike: