Laura Blumenfeld, author of "Revenge: A Story of Hope," talks about tracking down the Palestinian who shot her father.
April 5, 2002 1:41 PM   Subscribe

I learned a lot about the mechanics of the psychology of revenge. And one important thing that fuels revenge is humiliation. In an Arab society, pride and honor are very important. Palestinians feel humiliated, whether it's an individual Palestinian being stopped at a roadblock or the fact that their entire Third World society lives next to this wealthy, Westernized society. The Palestinians are thinking, "Why are we deprived?" So there's this national humiliation and individual humiliation that definitely fuels the search for revenge on the Palestinian side.

For the Israelis, their state was built on the ashes of the Holocaust, which was for them the ultimate experience of victimhood. There's this revulsion at being a victim. There's a cycle called "predator and prey" where people feel like, in order to avoid becoming a prey, they have to become a predator. In Hebrew, the word for revenge is "nekamah," which is linked to the verb "kum," which means rising. So nekamah is about being a prey and becoming a predator, rising up. Israelis are obsessed with security and not being suckers. So they feel like whenever they're attacked, they have to attack back. Whether or not it benefits them strategically or militarily, it answers the public need to lash back.

So on one side you have humiliated Palestinians who feel like they need to get revenge, and Israelis who can't stand the idea of absorbing a blow without returning a blow. For their own reasons, they feel like they have to strike back.

Then you have these two leaders, Arafat and Sharon, who are playing out this grudge match from 1982 in Beirut in a kind of death clench. They're absolutely trying to rewrite the history of the Lebanon War by reliving it today. Ramallah is on its way to looking like Beirut.

posted by donkeyschlong at 1:42 PM on April 5, 2002

Call me biased but I am growing weary of learning that the reason the mess continues is that Sharon and Arafat are in a grudge heavyweight fight. After all, Sharon would not have gotten elected had Arafat not walked away from the Barak compromises. Sharon was was a right-winger choice but he pulled the votes when those not right wing began to realize that Arafat was not willing to make a deal, using Right of Return etc as a deal breaker. In fact, Arafat, either was worried about "selling out" or had no desire to make an accord. I suspect Sharon was also less inclined to make an accord, but he got off the bench and into the game because of Arafat.
The Israelis could dump Sharon if they wanted; the Palestinaisn can not do so with Arafat. But now 70+ percent of Israelis think Sahron is doing the right thing after the 40 killed in mall suicide.
posted by Postroad at 4:41 PM on April 5, 2002

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