AN ATTEMPT TO LOOK AT THE CURRENT CONFLICT BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS FROM A JUNGIAN POINT OF VIEW
This short article brings up contemporary insights following the recent bursts out of hostile acts among Israeli Arabs & Jews echoed by mutual hostility between Hamas from the Gazza strip and Israel. The current conflict leads us immediately to our Collective Unconsciousness with a well-known historical, traditional, and cultural mythos talking about the birth of cursed brothers.
Genesis, chapter 16: “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bears him no children, and she had a handmaiden, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, behold now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing, I pray thee, go to into my maid, it may be that I may obtain children by her, and Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. … and he went unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes, and Sarai said to Abram, my wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes, the Lord judged between me and thee. And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her face, and the angel of the Lord found her by the fountain in the water to Shur, and the angel of the Lord said to her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction, and he will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren…and Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bore, Ishmael.” Genesis, chapter 17: “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name: Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”
From a Jungian point of view, we notice here a helpless impotent Father figure whose weakness and impatience causes him to fall into the negative side of the Feminine principle. Sarai (the archetypal great Hebrew mother) expresses an instinctual survival initiative to use her servant’s womb in order to conceive an heir. Plot, jealousy, and manipulation are rooted in the story where Hagar is an innocent victim and Sarai is a hysterical actor. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is based firstly on an everlasting victim-abusive relationship. Ishmael, the child born out of manipulation will bear shadowy archetypal traits while God’s compensatory correction, Isaac, will possess innocent archetypal traits. Two sides of the archetypal son figure of Abram endured 3000 years with an endless bloody conflict. In this biblical chapter the ancestral couple undergoes a Persona metamorphosis as they turn from individual figures into national archetypal symbols: God commands Sarai to become Sarah, and Abram turns into Abraham, both holding God’s name: H.
Those two chapters bear “word-games” where the Hebrew roots Ger (foreigner) and Gar (domestic inhabitant) interplay in the existing status of Abraham (the Ger) and Ha-gar, whose name signifies a well rooted domestic maid.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals the Jungian nationalistic ‘Individuation’ concept. In ‘Society, Nationalism, and Mobs: Jung’s Sociological Clumsiness’ by Johann Graaff, he writes: “In writing about modern nationalism, in general, and German nationalism in particular, Jung very insightfully lays great emphasis on the hidden influence of powerful archetypes, as we have indicated in defining Jungian sociology.” Here I am drawing on his various chapters in the volume, Civilization in Transition, but particularly the well-known chapter entitled, Wotan. In this chapter, he focuses on the archetype of the Norse god, Wotan, as the fundamental anchor of German nationalism. Paradoxically, both the Jewish Zionistic national movement and the Pan Arabic National self-definition occurred at the end of the 19th century. The First Zionistic Congress in Basel took place back in 1897, and the “Istiklal” Palestinian national movement came about in 1920. However, it was the Balfour Declaration issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War that announced the support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, which was then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population. This declaration immediately caused intense aggressive conflict between the Arab and Jewish populations in Palestine. Following the Jewish Holocaust, on November 28th, 1948, the United Nations declared the start of the State of Israel. Jung’s Wotan, the warrior archetype, declared on that very night the War of Independence (an expression coined by the Israeli authorities) and in parallel initiated the Palestinian exodus of the fracturing, dispossession, and displacement of Palestinian society, known as the Nakba.
Nevertheless, history shows that both half-brothers never reconciled, and never overcame their destiny to reach reciprocal peace and live together. The prominent fact that displays the depth of the conflict is that since 1948 Israeli Arabs speak Hebrew whereas the Jewish Israeli population is totally ignorant about the Arabic language and Arab customs. If we face a fake “Persona”, we fall into prejudice and scapegoating episodes. It is the Israeli regimes that we should have long accused of this deliberate political arrogance, living in the Arab Middle East and denying the region’s domestic pan-language, a language as old as the biblical Hebrew.
There is a huge Shadow, actually a ‘double complex crush’ lying out there between those two people who share a 300×70 square km narrow tiny homeland! This “complex” is a mixture of several basic archetypes which turn out into very explosive energy: The Father, The Shadow (Evil and Inferiority), and the Destructive archetypes.
Starting with the Palestinians, we face a “complex” as they themselves are diverted as different people with common values but with different Arab dialects, not necessarily common roots, yet with controversial interests. The poor people in Gaza are different from the West Bank’s wealthy well educated inhabitants (supported by Christian churches and past British colonial tradition), they are different from the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and they are different from the Jordanian Palestinians who at the time were brutally suppressed by the late King Hussein after their attempt to threaten his reign back during “Black September” (1970). On top of that, there are Israeli Arabs who have owned Israeli identity cards since 1948. These contemporary Israeli citizens live in Arab villages and mixed cities in Israel. They are well-educated and generally financially well-established. In the last elections, they came up with three different Arab political parties. They occupy advanced jobs, such as medical doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, and technical professions, yet even amongst them one finds youth delinquency and negligence, and discrimination in jobs that require security codes caused by the deliberate segregation policies of the Israeli government. In addition, there is terrible violence and abuse against women in this society. Lately, they gained significant political power as they created the political party ‘The Deciding Factor’ for a fragile coalition against the current Prime Minister Netanyahu (who surprisingly recently flattered them to finally obtain a miserable chance to create a fragile coalition). One must admit that that portion of Israeli Arab citizens collaborates mutually, decently, and peacefully with us, Israelis, during routine times and on the daily roads of our interwoven current life (even while the political and historical shadow always hides under every pedestrian stone). To this complexity, we should add the Israeli Bedouin tribes who live in the south of Israel and the north of Galilee. Lately, they have turned into violent bandits, as the police ignore them and cannot cope with their crimes.
The same complex characterizes the Jewish citizens of Israel: When not threatened by external enemies we are terribly polarized through opposing subtribes who immigrated to Israel all throughout the 70 years of our independence. The Sephardic (dark-skinned and traditional Jews) are paranoid and easily accuse the Ashkenazi (white) Jews of past discrimination. The ‘left’ defend themselves from the ‘right’ who bully them with the encouragement of Prime Minister Netanyahu. The Russians (ex-Communist atheists) are antagonistic to the ultra-Orthodox Jews (who do not acknowledge the Zionistic secular state of Israel yet run a few political parties in the parliament). The people who live around the Gaza Strip or periphery feel neglected by the Tel Aviv Metropolitan inhabitants and the big gay community protects itself from the religious fascists. Amazingly enough, all these tribes represent a multitude of political parties which could not, in the last two years during four elections, create a coalition and government. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu has benefited from this complexity for 12 years and contributes to this hate while at the same time is accused in the Supreme Court of three bribery and breach of trust cases. The police are weak but at the end of the day we win Eurovision contests, we successfully produce scientific innovations, we are considered a Start-Up Nation, we find gas in our sea and we develop progressively sophisticated ammunition. We are also the first country in the world who successfully defeated Corona.
Read Steven Fry’s Mythos, on contemporary Greek Mythology, and you will notice how the Greek Gods become pale witnessing the Israeli-Arab fights and plots.
Enantiodromia is a principle introduced by Carl Jung. In Psychological Types, Jung defines enantiodromia as “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time.” It is similar to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance. When things get to their extreme, they turn into their opposite. Jung adds that “this characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counter position is built up which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.” However, in Jungian terms, a thing is psychically transmogrified into its shadow opposite, in the repression of psychic forces that are thereby cathected into something powerful and threatening.
Unfortunately, in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, the expected pendulum does not occur. We sing songs about peace, we are dressed in white, Jewish and Arab women stand at crossroads protesting against violence from both sides, our leaders obtain Nobel prizes for peace and yet for one hundred years we keep on bleeding. The Enantiodromia does not occur, the psycho-physical expected phenomena are avoided due to two reasons. Firstly, we fail to create archetypal leaders made out of the ‘wise – nurturer – hero – revolutionary’ archetypes. Our educational systems and nationalistic values, on both sides, nurture a mythos of current leaders who turn into army commanders made out of shadow evil qualities. Those are leaders who through their hero quest are stuck on the Hero’s road of trial, meeting the goddess and mostly the woman as a seductress (As described by Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’). In simple terms, they are hypnotized by power, corruption, self-centered rightness, lack of spiritual decency, and immense persona maneuvers of uniform, fanatic religious slogans, and hardly self-approved lifestyle which contradicts their public proclamations. On both sides! Secondly, as history shows us, this region had always been manipulated by far away strong strategic powers. The Pharoah’s Egyptians back then and the Gulf countries and Egypt nowadays (Qatar transfers millions through Israel to Gaza who uses the money to arm itself against Israel, digging underground ammunition cities underneath their lands), the Persians then and the Iranians now (trying systematically to invade Syrian Lebanon and Gaza through Hezbollah), the Mongolians then and the Russians now (coordinating with Israel the bombings in Syria against Iran and in parallel occupying parts of Syria), the Romans then and the Europeans now (as Great Britain sketched cynically the artificial borders of Jordan, Iraq, and Israel and nowadays European countries, quite hypocritically, vote one-sided decisions against Israel) and so on. We are condemned to the archetypes of destruction, shadow, inferiority, and negative ruler who are all dominated by materialistic interests. We cannot get a hold of spiritual values such as peace, equality, love, compassion, collaboration, and humbleness. We do see minor attempts to bridge between the gaps but the evil shadow hits us harder. In the routine life of the Middle East, those values seem like pure romantic hallucinations welcomed by bar singers. A negative shadow magnet grabs us tight and releases us for short cynical pauses, assuring us we shall explode again and again.
Belfast overcame its bloody conflict with Britain, the countries of the former Yugoslavia found stability and peace, South Africa overcame the crimes of the whites over the blacks and the Soviet Union enabled countries to redefine their nationality. Where are those wise courageous brains, leaders of nations, experienced politicians, and positive tricksters who could have imposed an international peace conference on all parties here, which will allow these two half-brothers in the Middle East to finally arrive at peace?