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On Not Being among Friends: Some Observations on the Political Mind Seminar “Psychoanalysis and Palestine-Israel: Further Thoughts,” July 7, 2020
A seminar entitled “Psychoanalysis and Palestine-Israel: Further Thoughts” was recently presented at the British Psychoanalytical Society. The seminar and an earlier article by the presenting psychoanalyst emerged from a forum in which encounters took place giving expression to enmity between Israelis and Palestinians. The forum was originally established to enable German and Israeli psychoanalysts to work through difficult issues in the long shadow of the Holocaust. This article offers a critique of the presenting psychoanalyst’s seminar and article, and of the project of eliciting enmity between Israelis and Palestinians. It argues that the underlying assumptions rendered the project, presentation, and article incapable of comprehending the complex reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which partly explains why the project did not succeed. The vacuum left by the absence of nuance, evidence, context, and history was filled by a spurious chain of equivalence, purporting to identify Jewish Israelis with Germans during the Nazi era and white South Africans under apartheid, and Palestinians with Jewish and black victims, and then, on this basis, to parcel out righteous hatred and deserved guilt to Palestinians and Israelis respectively. The presenting psychoanalyst had previously falsely accused Golda Meir of maintaining a genocidal fantasy of obliterating the Palestinians, a claim repeated without qualification during the seminar itself. The project, described as deepening enmity, seemed to have no obvious plausible purpose. A “wild psychoanalysis” of the Jewish Israeli psyche followed during discussion, which ignored the real threats Jewish Israelis face; an untenable analogy with South Africa was assumed without reasoned argument; and “settler colonialism” was invoked as a slogan to describe the Zionist project. This article argues that none of these elements withstand scrutiny.
psychoanalysis; Israel; Palestinians; Zionism; Holocaust; Nazareth Conferences; Jews; South Africa; ANC; Golda Meir; enmity; genocidal fantasy; projection; spurious equivalence; settler colonialism; wild psychoanalysis; ideology; apartheid; political left
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