‘Oslo Syndrome’ is a phrase coined by historian and psychoanalyst Kenneth Levin, who wrote a book called The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege (Smith & Kraus, 2005). It is related to the so-called ‘Stockholm Syndrome‘ in which hostages come to identify with their captors, but is a specific response of Jews to Jew-hatred (the name ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ comes from a 1973 bank robbery/hostage situation that took place near Stockholm. ‘Oslo Syndrome’, of course, relates to the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO).
I wrote about the Oslo Syndrome several years ago, but insofar as it continues to be epidemic among Jews, I decided to revisit the topic.
So what is it? It is a psychological defense mechanism adopted by Jews in response to persecution and Jew-hatred. A Jew displaying the syndrome a) comes to believe the accusations of Jewish culpability of the Jew-haters, and b) also believes that it is in his power to mitigate their hatred by becoming a better person by their standards.
Such a Jew may assimilate, reject Judaism or (especially) Zionism, or even become part of the forces persecuting Jews or attacking Israel, because he subconsciously believes that this will protect him from their wrath. This is illogical and has been proven false many times, but the subconscious need not be rational.
This is one of the explanations for the attraction of Jews to anti-Israel organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, etc. These Jews often issue embarrassing mea culpas which remind me of the ‘struggle sessions‘ of the Chinese Cultural Revolution or Soviet show trials. Because of the deep-seated emotional motivation — in a word, fear — the syndrome sufferer can’t easily be persuaded by facts and logic. He will often take refuge in the mindless repetition of buzzwords like ‘occupation’, ‘apartheid’ and ‘racism’.
They also tend to viscerally object to expressions of Jewish particularism. They find nationalism, armies and borders abhorrent, and are attracted to multicultural, universalist and humanistic ideas. If we say often enough that all cultures — including the ‘Palestinian’ one that finds political expression in the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc. — deserve respect, that we should take down the security barrier and end conscription to the IDF, that we understand their ‘right’ to ‘resist occupation’ (sometimes expressed with meat cleavers and firebombs), then they won’t kill us. Right?
Levin provides powerful and shocking examples of how Oslo Syndrome delusional Jews fought attempts to save Jews during the Holocaust (from my 2011 article):
For example, Levin notes that the New York Times, under direct orders from its (Jewish) publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger, published only one story during the war relating to the Holocaust on page one above the fold: one which reported as true a State Department claim in the Fall of 1943 that 580,000 Jewish refugees had entered the country (the true number was about 21,000). The story had the immediate effect of short-circuiting support for a Rescue Resolution in Congress, at least until other sources revealed that the State Department numbers were false.
Perhaps even worse, the philosopher Martin Buber, whose own butt was safely in Jerusalem (he escaped from Germany in 1938), published an article in 1944 which called for a binational state and said that levels of Jewish immigration must be determined in agreement with Palestinian Arabs (who of course wanted it to be zero and whose leadership collaborated with the Nazis). So although he professed admiration for the spirituality of the Jews of Eastern Europe, Buber preferred to leave their bodies in the hands of Hitler!
Indeed, all through the 1930’s, as David Ben Gurion frantically tried to create a united front to maximize Jewish immigration to Palestine from Europe — where he clearly saw that there was no future — he was fought tooth and nail by Jews like Buber, Felix Warburg and Judah Magnes, all of whom felt that a Jewish majority would be disastrous (it would lead to antisemitism, be unjust, etc.).
How many Jews could have been saved but for the obstructions placed by Jewish anti-Zionists? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We don’t know, of course.
Israeli politician Naftali Bennett has built his campaign around the rejection of the Oslo Syndrome (as well as the spirit of the disastrous Oslo Accords). “Stop apologizing,” he says in his TV commercials and Internet ads. The subtext is that we should stop accepting the false and defamatory Arab narrative in which we are guilty of stealing their land, murdering their children, maintaining an apartheid state and even committing genocide against them.
Bennett is aiming directly at the Israeli Left, some of whose members have internalized the Arab point of view so well that they are better slanderers than the Arabs themselves. A recent article and book by Ari Shavit in which he invented a massacre is one example. And here is another particularly bald-faced one, in response to Bennett, from the inimitable Gideon Levy. One wonders why he doesn’t cut his own throat to save the Arabs the trouble.
To Levy and Shavit, we are guilty, guilty, guilty. The antidote to a mild case of the syndrome is simply to study history, but when someone is as far gone as they are, they are incapable of seeing the truth no matter how clearly it is presented.
Has the time finally come, after the long detour that began in 1993, that an appeal to Jewish pride and patriotism will appeal to younger Israelis, who will replace the nihilistic Left with leaders like Bennett, Tzipi Hotovely, Ayelet Shaked, Ronen Shoval, and others?
someone like Simon Oslo Peres ?
Before reading this article on New Year’s Day, I had just finished listening to a Milt Rosenberg podcast with his guest Allen Dershowitz. Many podcasts are grist for airing a writer’s recent wares, and Milt was kind enough to plug the latest book by his friend, about the Hamas terror tunnels, with his audience. In the past, Dershowitz had publicly endorsed, and, indeed, voted for Barack Obama in both elections. Despite Obama’s Administration’s poor relationship with Israel and its leaders, no one can ascribe anti-Israel sentiments to Dershowitz; he has also been an unstinting champion of the two-state solution and frequently debates its merits with opponents. When asked about his political allegiances, he says quite openly, that his support as a liberal Democrat comes from his backing of gay rights, abortion rights, strong gun-control laws and the need for American healthcare–positions that, he says, do not have a home in the Republican Party. Dershowitz is an argument for nuance in one’s positions.
If the Oslo Syndrome is about internalizing the causes of enmity by outsiders for Jews and Israel as some sort of self-betterment program to be practiced to rid oneself of the need to fight back against calumnies and the tide of the mob, there needs to be another sort of syndrome-style title for the learned who adopt views that place the dilemma of Israel’s survival in terms that internationalize perspective on particular acts of terrorism or governance, and diminish the role of sovereignty to a bargaining klatch between holders of land and those suing for land.
The practical arguments for Israel holding onto and developing Judea and Samaria are overwhelming; the need to expel Fatah-PLO-PA from these territories and Hamas from Gaza are even more compelling. The spectacle of a John Kerry prodding Israel to make an agreement that would solidify the PA and Hamas positions, with the wind at his back of European and OIC pressure on Israel, is part of a political vision that means to see Israel diminished, now or a hundred years from now, and lands reverting not to functioning new Islamic states, but to the benighted rule of Islamist clans. There is no such thing as a two-state solution except as a talking point for this vision. The aim of talks and bad propaganda by the true believers of Oslo is the satisfaction of a slow jihad against the Jewish state. Reasonable chit-chat about liberal Democratic values that may arguably be worthy of defense by notables like Dershowitz, is never put in the balance against what it means to give ground (literally and figuratively) to the enemy… and lose everything. It ought to be obvious that this thing can’t be talked into a 21st century solution as if ‘everyone already knows’ what a solution will look like. Rather, one can be certain that this prescription will turn out a as bloodbath.
Truly the Israelis must shed their Oslo vision, and the would-be supporters of the Jewish State must not trifle with its security by presuming the other side will play fair and deal honorably, nor push to have an Israel sovereign issue moved to the calendar of international problems to be lobbied for and solved by non-Israelis. That will only get Israelis killed.
As to why Oslo lingers on… why do any failed ideas keep resurfacing? Political entrenched elements, groups and nations favor them to the exclusion of fact, pushing for their own dreams with their own motives. We need a dozen articles like yours a day to thwart the desire to resuscitate Oslo, and a hundred to reverse it by making a notion of a vibrant, expanding Israel the heart of the culture. In these young leaders, we may be seeing them begin to subsume the better, more sensible ideas.
I agree that Israelis should stop apologizing and have no need to apologize. I too think it important that Israelis understand that the ‘Palestinian narrative’ is pervaded by falsehood.
Israelis and more generally Jews have done great damage to Israel by buying the false narrative of our enemies.
But believing in the rightness of our own cause however justified and wise does not solve the problem we have with the Arabs living in the land of Israel. It is not enough to get us where we want to be , living in peace and security.
Here it seems to me no one has anything like a realistic answer to this problem.