Today’s news brings us tragedy — and rage. Who hasn’t been triggered by the week’s events? Who can’t identify with our precious boys, brutally taken? Or with their anguished parents? Israelis and Palestinians are both peoples of trauma, and here we go again. There are triggers in the psyche, triggers in events, and triggers in the streets.
I fear, to paraphrase William Butler Yeats, that our center may not hold.
Governments must take action, not vigilantes or hateful mobs. In this blog I ask us all to step back slightly and take a breath.
In the midst of rage it’s wise to remember that, like love, hate carries great power. We lost three beautiful souls, Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali; all three to hate. Soon we’ll find out more about another soul, Mohammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose life ended without mercy. We pray that it was not a Jewish perpetrator. .
So what is the lesson of hate? Here we look to the great psychoanalyst, Melanie Klein, who taught us about projective identification. If someone hates you enough, he challenges you to hate him back. You don’t start out that way. But, over time his hatred of you seeps in. He projects hate onto you and you own it, and soon, identify with it. Before you know it, you become the embodiment of the hatred that your accuser projected on to you. Maybe it started with him hating you, but soon you begin to hate as well. Your accuser then says, “You see, I knew you hated me.”
And, the sad thing is that now you do.
This happens in horrific divorce cases. I see it all the time in my work as an advocate for the children of divorce. But, the dynamics of projective identification can also work between peoples. We don’t want to hate the Palestinians. It is not who we are or hope to be. Yet, there are Palestinians whose hatred of us brought a terrible crime into this world.
We in turn are triggered to seethe in hate as well.
Just know that it is not wise to have someone else be the author of your life story. Some Palestinians clearly hate us. (And there are those among us who hate them.) They believe that they are the aggrieved party in our mutual conflict, and have mutated Palestinian grievance into a form of sickness. Do we want to participate in their drama? Do we need to hate?
Maybe today, yes. But, let us breathe deep and remember who we are and who we want to be. Let the simple power of pure hate not win this day. Let governments, not vigilantes decide what’s next. The coming days will bring more violence – and more hurt. Whatever we do, let our actions be thoughtful, tough, but prudent. And, just maybe, let there be a moment for true leaders, both Palestinian and Israeli, to pull us back from the brink.
We can hate for a moment. Who doesn’t want justice?
But, let’s wait a beat and then decide how best to proceed.
What we do now will count for some time to come.