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Karpman Drama Triangle

Reader comment on item: Americans Battle the Arab-Israeli Conflict
in response to reader comment: American Arabs may be more anti-Israel than Middle East Arabs, but American Jews go both ways

Submitted by Jonathan Carey (United States), Mar 13, 2015 at 13:55

Egypt's Anwar Sadat said that failed attempts at peace in the Middle East are due to, "a psychological barrier between us, a barrier of suspicion, a barrier of rejection; a barrier of fear... It is this psychological barrier that….constitutes 70 percent of the whole problem."

The Karpman drama triangle describes the phenomenon behind this sentiment and article, the rewards and disfunction of three positions on the triangle (bully, victim, rescuer). I have written a paper on the topic.

Here's an example of how the triangle would work in a fictitious dysfunctional family situation: A "persecutor" father abuses alcohol and mistreats his wife "victim", while their teenage son "rescuer" conjures up a plan to "help." The son picks up one of dad's empty beer bottles and hits dad on the head and in the process becomes the new "persecutor," while dad becomes the victim. The wife, the new rescuer, calls 911 and has the son arrested. The wife is now the persecutor, and the son, the victim and so on. Parties on the Triangle continually flip around. Everyone just changes positions in the triangle without actually getting off to resolve the conflict permanently.

On maintaining Palestinian "victims", certain Arab and Muslim leaders have shown an interest in maintaining the perceived suffering and powerlessness of the Palestinian people. Suffering people make better victims for the media, and can be used to divert attention from domestic policy failures. Palestinians themselves also may use their powerlessness and suffering to secure more sympathy and generous financial aid packages from outside sources.

On Israelis as "bullies", or those in the triangle position who think they are always right...since its miraculous victory in 1967, it has been widely stated by Israel and its supporters that Israel would be willing to make peace, but for a real peace partner. Therefore, any continuing failures towards a lasting peace are usually blamed on the Palestinians and their leaders, as evidenced by the following quotes:

- Abba Eban: "Palestinians never miss an opportunity, to miss an opportunity."
- Ariel Sharon: "You know who built the fence? Terror built the fence."

Finally, the "rescuers", like this article explains, are like the advocates for a plaintiff and defendant in a courtroom battle with both sides considering themselves to be helping the "victims" in the war for hearts and minds on campus and in communities far from the actual conflict.

I would be happy to share the paper...


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