[“Photo of israeli illegal settler taking pictures of palestinian young woman on the ground after she was shot by the israeli occupation forces in bethlehem city today.” palestine 8/11/2015]
I’m worried about my Jewish friends and family.
Not about my Jewish colleagues who chose to politely ignore me years ago.
Not about the angry Jewish leaders in the community who denounced me publicly.
And not about the Jews who criticize my advocacy about Palestine and Israel.
Each has found his or her own method of denial to ignore what they don’t wish to see. It’s easier for them to live within their bubble, than to face the cold hard facts.
No, I’m worried about my Jewish friends and family who have been opening their hearts and minds — little by little — to the cruelties of the Israeli occupation, maybe because they know me and love me, or maybe because there is overwhelming evidence coming out of the Middle East now that is impossible to ignore.
I recently posted this photo on Facebook and shared my concern. “I fear for the future when young people take photos like this. Have they lost their empathy?”
What do you see in this picture? I see a young Jew wearing a kippah taking a photo of a Muslim woman covered head to toe, either dead or wounded, on the ground.
Someone else saw something entirely different. He told me “I think you need to put the picture into context of what just happen. There can be many reasons why he’s taking the picture. For starters maybe he’s trying to show the world, that this is why Israel needs to put road blocks and check palestinian women walking around Israel because they can be about to stab an innocent person.”
I see a victim. He sees a terrorist. I see the Jew showing a callous disregard for human life. He sees the Jew gathering evidence to prove to the world that the security measures and the military occupation of Palestine are justified.
Israeli Professor Eva Illouz, a sociologist and the author of nine books, has written a very important piece in Haaretz entitled Israel is in National Denial Regarding Its Oppression of Palestinians. I encourage everyone to read it because I think it explains a lot. It also explains the reason for my worry.
Denial as a mechanism for self-protection is understandable, but denial as a moral choice and deliberate strategy to avoid the truth and to perpetuate harming and abusing others signals that the moral fabric of the nation (Israel in this case) and the individual is fraying. What happens to the collective (the state of Israel) or to the individual when the bubble bursts?
I’m not a psychologist and can’t begin to answer the question I’ve posed, but I’ll admit that the question keeps me up at night.
Professor Illouz writes about three forms of denial and says one form is “seeing but failing to register or actively ignoring the truth in front of our eyes.”
Some nations practice denial as a systematic policy, but we usually do not think of them as open societies. Yet I do not believe there is another way to characterize Israeli policy vis-à-vis the occupied territories. The mind-boggling, jaw-dropping claim that the State of Israel can quietly annex these territories, control the lives of 2.6 million Palestinians and still remain Jewish and democratic is denial on an uncanny scale – denial turned into grand political strategy (Palestinians and Israeli Arabs together would make up 4.3 million of the total population of Israel, a fact that would compel Jewish Israel to exercise an inhumane and unsustainable control over other human beings). In other words, what is unique about the Israeli case is that it not only denies the violence of the initial colonization of the land, but views the natives – those who inhabited the land – as the aggressors. This inversion of victim and perpetrator is a clear, classic example of denial, which at once erases one’s wrongdoing and projects it onto the other side.
I’m worried about my Jewish friends and family. They might be able to live their lives in a carefully constructed bubble, especially if they don’t live in Israel/Palestine. But I can’t – won’t live in their bubble with them. I won’t be able to ignore their bubble and pretend their world and the real world can coexist.
Someday the truth might invade, and what will happen to their carefully constructed world of lies?
My Jewish friends and family are good and decent people. They have dreams for the future. They don’t wish anyone harm. I know they would give the shirts off their backs to anyone in need, including a Palestinian. But the walls of denial, just like Israel’s “security fence” cannot keep the truth out forever . . . and THAT worries me.
Denial is not simply a flaw of our consciousness, as psychoanalysis sometimes naively suggests. Denial is a pact of ignorance we make with ourselves, a choice to know and not to know, and is thus a particularly disturbing moral deficiency.