Revenge at Itamar -- and the Sweet Tooth Fairy

by NANCY HARTEVELT KOBRIN, PHD, JOAN JUTTA LACHKAR, PHD March 17, 2011
 
As psychoanalysts we try to make sense out of the senseless or, as Wilfred Bion would say, to find meaning out of the meaningless. We have stressed time and again the dynamic of revenge in the psyche of the Arab mind (or mindless mind), a thinker without a thought. One could say that revenge has a built-in psychic infrastructure instilled since childhood or what is known as "ego syntonic," as opposed to "ego dystonic" - meaning they see nothing wrong with killings, murder, slaughtering, beheadings, which are experienced as normal. This is very similar to walking past a homeless person and feeling no compassion because it has become familiar.
 
The revenge at Itamar - let alone the killings of thousands of innocent victims including the beheadings of Danny Pearl and Nicholas Berg - are examples of this kind of "normalcy." It was said in passing to one of us that "the feeling of revenge is so deep that it is in their bones." So how can we promote change and bring awareness to a people who have lost their sense of humanity? A people going from suicide bombings to the slashing of a baby’s throat and to a brother being stabbed through his heart, to say nothing of the violent slaughter of the parents and another brother. Clearly the world was horrified by this unprecedented event upon an innocent family such as the Fogels. As a family member said in his eulogy, to exploit their lives as symbols would be to dehumanize them.
 
It is noteworthy that political analysts and historians do not recognize the role that the ability to deal with “loss” plays in the global war against terrorism, mainly the ability to mourn, to deal with loss, eventually to make reparation by moving forward. We look to Japan in their extreme state of loss. They remain calm, orderly and are prepared to deal with whatever it takes to restore normality following the most catastrophic earthquake ever recorded in history. 
 
In order to grow and develop one must be able to tolerate the pain of mourning in order not to engage in revenge or retaliate. Melanie Klein, the pioneering psychoanalyst, spoke of two positions – the paranoid schizoid position and the depressive position. The paranoid schizoid position is a fragmented position where thoughts and feelings are split-off and projected into “the other.” This happens because the psyche cannot tolerate feelings of loss, pain, emptiness or sadness. Primitive defenses such as mania, revenge, shame, blame and paranoia dominate and are substituted in place of genuine mourning.
 
Klein speaks of the “depressive position,” whereby one does suffer feelings of remorse, grieves from the experience, makes reparations and moves forward. The Palestinians have not reached this more evolved stance. It stands to reason that if one cannot develop and integrated a cohesive self, one cannot mourn loss and cannot move forward to an emotionally richer life. 
 
At Itamar we have seen slaughter as a rage that exceeds murder and which becomes a more pervasive force than life itself. In Israel there has been a significant debate about releasing the photos of the atrocity. In an unprecedented move, it was decided to do so though with the consent of the family and with respect to the dead that their faces be blurred.  We are not placing a link to those photos, even though we agree with the decision to publish them. Yet we have underscored repeatedly to our readers that violent imagery has been used as a recruitment tool for radicalizing jihadis. We do not want to add fuel to the fire or provide justification for more killings.  Please refer to the first author’s book, The Banality of Suicide Terrorism: The Naked Truth of Islamic Suicide Bombing, which specifically addresses this issue of violent imagery. It is the only book to date, which focuses on the unconscious meaning, which the terrorists unwittingly reveal about themselves through the brutal imagery.
 
 
In Gaza they passed out candy to celebrate this atrocity as the adults cheered the carnage. It is their shamatat al-‘ada’i, (Arabic: “the rejoicing at the calamities of one’s enemies”), the Arabic equivalent of Schadenfreude. The tragedy is that this perversely links the sweetness of a treat to premeditated cold-blooded murder, another way of instilling vengeance and envy in their little children. It literally changes the biochemistry of their children and programs them unconsciously to be violent, denying them the right to learn to mourn loss. These acts should be condemned on the grounds of child abuse but we hear nothing from the international community. The Palestinians are deliberately destroying their children’s lives. Why does this not surprise us? Because they kill their own children and call it honor.
 
Dennis Prager in "The Other Tsunami" noted their intent is to dehumanize us and when they do they celebrate because they envy that we know how to live humanely.
 
"There really is only one historical parallel, and it, too, involved the word "Jew." The Nazis also succeeded in fully dehumanizing the word "Jew." Thus, for Nazism, it was as important (if not more so) to murder Jewish babies and children — often through as cruel a means as possible (being burned alive, buried alive or thrown up in the air and impaled on bayonets) — as it was to murder Jewish adults."  
 
We all believe in the human spirit, that human needs are universal. Arab children are not any different than any other children. All have the desire for love, compassion, self expression, creativity and education. They are brainwashed to believe these needs are destructive and shameful, but they do not have to hate even if they have been traumatized, particularly the children in Gaza and the West Bank. We must stay the course and demand that the Palestinians treat their children of the future generation with the respect they deserve.
 
 
May the memory of Udi Fogel (36), Ruth (35), Yoav (11), Elad (4) and Hadas (3 months) be for a blessing.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Dr. Nancy Kobrin, a psychoanalyst with a Ph.D. in romance and semitic languages, specializes in Aljamía and Old Spanish in Arabic script. She is an expert on the Minnesota Somali diaspora and a graduate of the Human Terrain System program at Leavenworth Kansas. Her new book is The Banality of Suicide Terrorism: The Naked Truth About the Psychology of Islamic Suicide Bombing. 
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Dr. Joanie Jutta Lachkar is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist in private practice in Brentwood and Tarzana, California, who teaches psychoanalysis and is the author of The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Marital Treatment (1992, The Many Faces of Abuse: Treating the Emotional Abuse of High -Functioning Women (1998), The V-Spot, How to Talk to a Narcissist, How to Talk to a Borderline and a recent  paper, “The Psychopathology of Terrorism”  presented at the Rand Corporation and  the International Psychohistorical Association. She is also an affiliate member for the New Center for Psychoanalysis.
 

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