Harold Behr

Israel’s changing relationship with the Diaspora

When Israel was established as a sovereign state in 1948 it was seen as the strong, young offspring of elderly, diminished, traumatised parents seeking to heal themselves in the Diaspora. The early Zionists, from Ben Gurion onwards, argued that Israel was the only place where Jews could feel truly safe from the predations of antisemites. Neither the continuing assaults by terrorists nor the recurring wars which subsequently plagued Israel shook the assumption that the country was an impregnable fortress in a sea of Arab hostility. Pride in the military achievements of the new state steadily metamorphosed into arrogance and complacency.

Meanwhile, efforts at a political solution stumbled on, ultimately defeated by intransigence on both sides. Instead, there arose the embittered belief on the part of Jewish Israelis that the only way forward was to stave off further onslaughts by constructing a ring of steel around the beleaguered state to protect it from hostile neighbours and maintain a watertight security presence within its borders.

As far as Israel was concerned, the Diaspora was a forgotten planet. The elderly parent was there to be visited by the soldier-child and turned to for unconditional support when needed, but never seen as a source of wise counsel. The Israeli child, living among wolves and forced to fend for itself, evolved the notion that it knew better than its Diaspora parents. However, this asymmetrical relationship was not destined to last.

Following the Hamas attack of October 7th, there has been a sea-change in the relationship between Israel and world Jewry, between child and parent. Both have been shaken out of their complacency but neither is capable of leading the other out of the morass. Further, there is a dawning awareness that the scales for both are equally weighted with the eternal curse of antisemitism.
Child and parent have been drawn together, but there is no meaningful dialogue between the two.

Jewish mistrust of non-Jews, bred by centuries of persecution, has led to the myth that, while material aid is welcome, political advice is not, and that it is Israel, alone and unbound, that has the capability to work out the political future for both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. This is the product of an inward-looking, isolationist mentality. Israel, a country in disarray, is determined to pursue a unilateral course towards a political solution. Even the tempering advice of the United States, Israel’s longstanding ally, is being brushed aside in the process.

American Jews, together with Jews everywhere, are being dragged deeper into the quagmire of antisemitism. Some of the younger generation, aware of the Holocaust but unaware of the rich tapestry of Jewish culture, and politically naive to boot, are identifying with the Palestinian cause and marching in lockstep with pro-Hamas and antisemitic elements.

Israel, preoccupied with its own internal military and political struggles, seems oblivious to this ominous turn of events. Facing defeat as a fighting force, Hamas, with its blizzard of lies and calumnies, appears to be heading for victory on the world stage. Unless parent and child join forces against extremist elements on both sides of the fence, the immediate future for the Jewish people is bleak.

About the Author
I was born in South Africa in 1940 and emigrated to the U.K. in 1970 after qualifying in medicine. I held a post as Consultant Psychiatrist in London until my retirement in 2013. I am the author of two books: one on group analytic psychotherapy, one on the psychology of the French Revolution. I have written many articles on group psychology published in peer-reviewed journals. From 1979 to 1985 I was editor of the journal ‘Group Analysis’; I have contributed short pieces to psychology newsletters over the years.
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