Are the Israelis repeating Holocaust traumas upon the Palestinians? From the July 1992 issue of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
Dr. Jan Bastiaans, a Dutch psychiatrist, is an authority on the Holocaust syndrome, and has treated many survivors. In 1973 he wrote, “In recent years the Ka-tzet (concentration camp) syndrome has suddenly received general recognition…This concept is concerned with…pathological processes that occurred after the war in former concentration camp prisoners…The Ka-tzet syndrome is the expression of a permanent, chronic obstruction of sound human relationships. The victims are not free from the concentration camp…Behind their adaptation facade continues to live the child or adult of [that time] in all fear, in all misery, in all powerlessness.”
Dr. Haim Dasberg, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Hebrew University and medical director of the Ezrat Nashim Jerusalem Mental Health Center, has written extensively on PTSD and the Israeli army. Now living on the outskirts of West Jerusalem in an apartment pleasingly filled with books, paintings, and oriental rugs, he resisted conversion efforts by the Christian couple in Holland who adopted him after his father was put into a Nazi concentration camp and his mother went into hiding.
As a therapist for the Israeli military, he encourages battle-shocked soldiers to return to the front because he believes there is no cure for PTSD except the return to community and belonging. “If you leave your comrades in war, you are exiled and cannot function again,” he writes.
Dr. Dasberg and three colleagues have written thoughtfully on the psychological disintegration that can follow severe trauma, explaining: “The trauma forces the opening of boundaries (in the sufferer). This forced, open state and the inability to terminate it is accompanied by intense emotions, immense fears. The usual supports…have been drastically de-structured. The final realization is that the rules which define reality are not operational anymore and the individual loses the capacity to function and collapses.”
An American-born Israeli, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, heads Israel’s Clergy for Peace. A tall, slender, compassionate young man, he explains: “The Holocaust has left Jews so scarred we believe powerlessness is a sin. We feel the whole world is hostile to us. This is sick behavior. Our political agenda is irrational because of the Holocaust. Our Jewish state has been implemented at the expense of the Palestinians (partly) because spiritual Zionism changed to statehood after the Nazi persecution. Our agenda is corrupt because we’re not permitting the Palestinians to reunify. We Jews feel guilt toward the Palestinians and we’re unwilling to have a dialogue with them because it will be so unpleasant.”
An Israeli psychiatrist, who wished to remain anonymous, warned me that “It is very dangerous to suggest that our people in government still suffer from the Holocaust. They are our government, our leaders—they cannot be crazy.” Pressed as to whether these leaders “suffer from PTSD,” he responded, “Holocaust survivors do not suffer from PTSD. But they have similar symptoms.”
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