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Individual vs. collective psychology

Reader comment on item: How Israel Can Win

Submitted by Farid H. (Germany), Apr 5, 2006 at 22:14

I fully agree with the last paragraph of Daniel Pipes' article. It would be a blessing for Palestinians to admit defeat and redirect their energy towards more peaceful activities (education, research, literature...). But wouldn't this be a mere pipe dream, at least for now?

IMHO, the problem is that individual and collective psychology are fundamentally different. The concept of "letting go", "admitting defeat", and deciding to pursue another goal in life, is inherently individual in nature. People and countries are different. Their inner cohesion consists of myths and collective belief systems. That's even the main "raison d'etre" of cities, countries and of any other collective in human history.

Of course, countries too had been psychologically defeated in the past: just look at Japan and Germany. But at what cost? Would Isreal be willing to physically exterminate a large portion of the Palestinians? They could have done so easily and still can. But they didn't and I don't think they will. And for very good reasons. And these reasons are -- again -- related to those collective myths that hold countries and people together.

Israel has myths just as Arab nations, just as the Palestinians, just as every other country or people in the world have. These myths are the only reason why Israel is showing restraint despite all what's happening there. That's why the Palestinians didn't really come to realize the predicament they're in and what would be their best course of action (and that's not showing juvenile defiance).

The myths of both sides (and of other acting countries as well) are intermingling and interacting, creating and sustaining the current psychological and political situation in the Middle East. That's really sad, because both semitic people, Jews and Arabs alike, have more myths in common than what either of them would be willing to admit; myths that could help mending fences more effectively than all those elaborate rather unsuccessful diplomatic activities.

Farid H, from Morocco.
Submitting....

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