Battered Nation Syndrome

As a young attorney a few decades ago, I was trying a case of child neglect in the Family Court. The mother testified (trying to excuse her neglect) that she had been beaten regularly by her husband – weekly or monthly – for six or seven years. “Did you ever call the police?” I asked. “No.” “Well,” I said trying to impeach her credibility, “why would stay for years with a man who was beating you?”
The wrath of the court fell on me. I was called to the bench, where the judge asked me: “Counselor, haven’t you ever heard of the ‘battered wife syndrome’?”
Indeed, I hadn’t, but quickly gained an education. There are women, I was told, who routinely live with abusive husbands. They stay because they can’t afford to leave, because they always think the situation will improve and the last beating is the last beating (until the next one, and that becomes the “last” one), because there can be long periods of domestic tranquility punctuated by explosions, or because they have low self-esteem and on some level “feel” that they deserve the beatings by provoking their malevolent husbands or by not being sufficiently good wives.
Obviously, it is irrational, and almost inexplicable to an outsider with a healthy psyche and a normal, healthy way of looking at the world.
Welcome to Israel, afflicted with the “battered-country syndrome.” There is really no rational explanation why a nation would enter into negotiations with an enemy sworn to its destruction, when any outcome of those negotiations will redound to its detriment, and almost immediately. Furthermore, the very notion that Israel should have to bribe its evil interlocutors to come to the negotiation table by releasing another 104 murderers of Jews is beyond bizarre, beyond explanation, and only attributable to a virulent strain of a mental illness that is unprecedented and, as yet, untreatable. It is painfully obvious that no other country on earth ever has or ever will agree to liberate the murderers of its own citizens simply to purchase the right to have an enemy negotiate them into further concessions and weakness.
It is mindboggling. How would the US respond if Iran insisted, as the price of negotiations on its almost-finished nuclear program, that the US release Dzokar, the Boston Marathon bomber? The depraved absurdity speaks for itself. And Israel is releasing 100 Dzokars.
Note as well that the Obama administration, in pressuring Israel to free terrorists, refused to release Jonathan Pollard imprisoned now for almost 29 years. They would not consider it, despite the fact that Pollard has no blood on his hands, unlike the Arab murderers being released some of whom were involved in absolutely brutal slayings of innocent civilians. Only Israel, suffering from the battered-country syndrome. (And what does it say about the Arab society that demands freedom for these killers and celebrates them as heroes? But that is a different syndrome altogether.)
Israel’s response can only be the result of a mental illness because neither the negotiations nor the release make any sense – in timing or in execution. The Middle East is aflame – a tinderbox of violence and hatred. Three times as many Syrians have been killed by each other in the last two years than “Palestinians” have been killed by Israelis in 65 years, and few of those Palestinians were innocent of any wrongdoing. Egypt is in the midst of a civil war. Northern Africa is Islamasizing. Jordan fears for its future, as the unrest to its north and the radicalization of Islam that surrounds it threatens the stability of its monarchy. Gasoline prices in the United States have doubled – yes, doubled – since Obama took office.
And John Kerry can find nothing better to do than browbeat Israel into negotiations with its enemy, and at the price of freeing murderers as well? Kerry has made six trips to the region in his attempts to jumpstart these talks, which do not lead to a good place for Israel. There are only two possibilities ahead: either Israel makes more territorial concessions that further weaken it, strengthen the Arabs, and demoralize its Jewish population, or Israel makes no concessions and is blamed for the lack of peace in the Middle East and beyond. How is it possible that its government can be so obtuse and behave in such a shameless way?
Surely, PM Netanyahu knows the disadvantages of pandering to terrorists; he even wrote a book on it. And, of course, he has long insisted, quite passionately and eloquently, as is his wont, that “there will be no pre-conditions for negotiations!” That robust declaration, apparently, holds true – until it doesn’t. Does he believe that peace will come as a result of these talks? Does he believe that the US will give Israel a green light to attack Iran, or even attack Iran themselves? Does he believe that Israel cannot any longer bear the absence of negotiations? Does he believe that the same three people who failed in their last round of negotiations five years ago will now suddenly succeed, and the Arabs will morph into the Swiss? Does he believe that the European Union will renounce their hateful boycott of Israel? (Why not make that an Israeli pre-condition for negotiations??)
None of the above is credible in the least, and the ongoing weakness is only attributable to the battered-country syndrome. Just like the battered-wife blames herself for the violence, thinks she can improve the situation by making unilateral changes, lacks self-esteem, and therefore endures the violence, injury, emotional and verbal abuse and degradation that is her fate – so too Israel.
Only a country that lacks self-esteem willingly surrenders its land to its enemies; that diminished self-worth is only possible among those who deny the divine promise of the land of Israel to the Jewish people. Only a battered-country blames itself for Arab unhappiness and discontent, and thinks it can solve all its neighbors’ problems. Only a battered-country will tolerate rockets on its citizens’ heads, endure terror for years without responding, and then regret and apologize for its forceful response when it does happen. (Just like the battered wife will often regret defending herself against her abusive husband.)
Just like battered women have been known to seek out cosmetic surgery in order to please their husbands (new face, new look, new start), so too, only a battered country will make surgically excise parts of its homeland in order to please, or even just temporarily mollify, its abusers. And just like the battered wife always feels that relief is just around the corner, so too the battered country feels that peace is attainable, juuuuuuuuuuuust around the corner. It’s entirely visible, like any mirage.
The battered wife accepts repetitive cycles of abuse and tranquility, but always lives in fear of the abuse and thinks she can somehow avert it by changing something, anything. But the same story repeats itself again and again – like here, the same faces emerge once again: Livni, Molcho, Erakat, Indyk. Expect Dennis Ross to make a cameo, and Shimon Peres to take a bow at some point. And where is Hanan Ashrawi?
The battering husband never makes concessions, because he thinks he does nothing wrong. Fault lies only with the misbehaving, unsatisfying, failed wife. So, only Israel, the battered country, must make concessions. The only Arab concession –having to sit in a room for a short time with the accursed Jews – is bought at the price of freeing murderers of Jewish men, women and children. The battered country makes concessions in order to forestall terror and violence, because it thinks that it is responsible for the distress of the “husband,” and because it does not really believe it is entitled to a peaceful, tranquil existence, a normal life, as other countries have. It does not really believe it deserves such a life, and so it does everything it can to undermine it, and at every opportunity.
And then the terror resumes, and the heartbreak of expulsions and the denial of rights to its citizens recur. Just like the battered wife often takes out her frustrations on her children (as in the case above), so too the battered country abuses its citizens, expels them from their homes, expects to stomach terror, massacres, bombings and shootings, and exults in its victimization. After all, it deserves it.
The battered country, like the battered wife, thinks it cannot live without the “husband.” But the healthy know that the dependency is unhealthy and reversible. Thus, every country pressured by the Obama administration thumbs its nose at it; only the battered country is incapable of standing up for its interests and saying a polite “no.”
The greater irony here – and what underscores the illness –is the superfluity of it all. Israel is today living in relative peace and prosperity, much more than any other nation in the region and more than in most of the world. The “Palestinians” are a spent force, characterized by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal just three weeks ago as a “boring” people, whose affairs do not really interest the world or have any impact on global affairs. Watching the Israeli news the last few days, it was surprising that these negotiations barely rated mention in the first half-hour. The only outcry – from the pockets of normalcy that remain – was over the impending release of the Arab murderers. The cause of the Palestinians is not even in the top five interests of the Arab world today; it is probably not in the top fifty of important world concerns.
So why do it?
The Oslo process also began when the Arabs were in political decline. Their civil war had petered out, with Israeli casualties in the years before Oslo numbering annually in the twenties. (After Oslo, there was an awful spike in terror and casualties.) Now again, terror is at an all-time low, notwithstanding the recent increase in shootings, stabbings, and, in the last few days again, rockets. Why should Israel indulge Kerry, revive the dormant Arab cause, punish its own citizens, and weaken itself in the process? Why not just do as the battered wife should do – leave her abusive husband until he gets help, or just leave him altogether – as in “peace is not possible in this generation with these Arab leaders; let us focus instead on co-existence”?
It is inexplicable, as inexplicable as the battered country syndrome.

11 responses to “Battered Nation Syndrome

  1. Rav Yaakov Weinberg zya, late Rosh Yeshivah of Ner Yisrael asked, “Why did G-d create Amalek in the first place? “Ribono Shel Olam!”, Rav Weinberg decried, “Meemah Nahfshaych – Wherefore?! Please! Do me a Tovah (a favor)! Don’t create a Nation that is dead-set on eradicating The Children of Israel and we won’t need You to give us a Positive Commandment to wipe them out! Save us the trouble!! What – You had to go out of Your way and to create a Nation of baby killers just to give us a Mitzvah to fight back and destroy them?!”
    After a suitable pause to let the question sink in, Rav Yaakov answered with a deep insight.
    “It must be that when we fight for the Land we will come to recognize that it is ours.”
    Rav Simcha Weinberg shlitah, Rav Yaakov’s son, recently clarified this further, explaining that *THE* Challenge, the gauntlet being thrown down in front of Israelis’ faces is: How much of Israel do we want? Everything we have left? *WE* already gave back the Sinai and Gush Katif…. So what will it be? Will we come to recognize and claim Yehudah, Shomron, Chevron and Yericho again – or will we CHAS v’SHALOM fail to recognize that the Land is HaShem’s and He has given it to us. It is HIS Land and He has blessed us with it and we have flourished. We must now recognize that and fight Amalek to the death of their nihilism and necrophiliac ‘martyrs’ (sic).

  2. One more Critical, Critical thing:
    Rav Yaakov Weinberg taught: “If something is ‘On The Table’, you’ve already lost it. Some things…”, and then he exploded, “ARE NOT NEGOTIABLE!”
    “Well, we’re not saying we’re going to divide Jerusalem, but, it has to be ‘On The Table’ at least…”

    Let’s be very sure we cement the Rosh Yeshivah of Ner Yisrael’s words in the VERY SOUL OF OUR PEOPLE:


    I would have thought releasing mass murderers, baby killers, killers of elderly Holocaust survivors in our own Land!?!?! and home invaders would have been one of those things too. And so, yes, Rav Pruzansky, Kol haKavod for calling it out – no matter what those ‘special interests/pressures are’ that are twisting our Leaders’ arms into knots.

  3. The situation reminds me of a building which is almost entirely on fire except for 1 apartment that is calm intact & smoke free & the authorities are intent on holding a seminar on fire safety in the one intact apartment rather then trying to stop the blaze in the rest of the building.

  4. El-Ad – I had the honor of meeting and speaking with Rav Weinberg z”l many years ago as a Johns Hopkins undergrad. To say I was impressed with his intellect would be a huge understatement. But I must say, given Ner Israel’s less-than-fully pro-Zionist reputation, the quotes you provided were quite surprizing, as well as gratifying. Thank you, El-Ad.

  5. Yet again, Rabbi Pruzansky’s thoughts on a current issue exceed all that I have read. I agree with it all, but would add the following: Netanyahu strikes me as something of a schoolyard bully. Having risen to the top by talking the talk of the right, he leads solidly from the left (and has done so since his first term). This is not unusual in Israel. But the Israeli people are changing, and I am sure the Rabbi knows this. The last Likud election resulted in a new reality for the party. Yes, still larger than life, Bibi sits at the head as the only person who can lead the nation. But beneath him is a very small band of true loyalists who share his leftist tendencies. Most of his internal support comes from political dealings and intimidation. These supporters are primarily concerned with their own political careers, not with Israel’s well-being, and so trade their ideals for a ministerial portfolio or some other favor. But the fatsest growing segment in Likud and indeed in all of Israel, is the younger, nationalist, and genuine idealist camp. These are the “generation orange” kids who understand everything the Rabbi says here, and cut their eye teeth in protests with Zo Artzeinu, and in places like Gush Katif. Those 14 year olds are now voters, and, so far, they have not lost their wonderful idealism. I used to be very pessimistic about Israel’s future until I met two people who personify the new Israel: Moshe Feiglin and Shmuel Sacket. One a sabra, one an oleh, they share an ahavat Yisrael that is genuine and refreshing. I don’t know how much darker things will get before there is light, but I am extremely optimistic that the younger nationalists, both secular and religious, will soon begin to unite Israel and shake off the ghetto mentality that makes the “battered nation syndrome” possible. Keep praying!

  6. Rabbi Steven Pruzansky deserves the VULCAN AWARD for thinking logically in a world filled with highly illogical people.

    Pro-Israel articles that appeared in The Jewish Press around 1982 were extremely similar to the “Battered Country Syndrome” article that Rabbi Steven Pruzansky wrote in 2013.

    How sad to see Jews following the same illogical policies over 30 years later.
    Mr. Cohen

  7. David Kaplan


  8. Barton Green

    Once again, Rabbi Pruzansky astounds this Gentile with a simple analysis and explanation for what otherwise would appear to be a complex problem. I like it and think it makes perfect sense. Having said that, sensible solutions in this age, never come to the powers that be…in Israel or the USA. It’s unfortunate as both nations suffer more.

  9. @300Cincinatus: No argument with any of your statements, but if Israel had leaders who would answer the diplomats presuring Israel by declaring firmly that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish Nation, and not one inch of it is negotiable, I think the pressure would eventually fade, as its futility became apparent. Peace negotiations? Sure. Land negotiations? Never. Not one inch. In this regard, Israel’s leaders are indeed to blame, for suggesting that Israel will give up anything for even the chance to talk about peace.

  10. Conservative Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center said:

    “Nothing makes me more frustrated than Jews who, in the name of fairness, focus only and exclusively on Israel’s shortcomings, and neglect entirely the many achievements of Israel in the face of constant existential threat. There are more than enough legitimate enemies of Israel who are all too willing to focus exclusively on an Israel that they portray as the source of all evil, and their hatred is not going to be eased by any form of validation. There is nothing worth validating in that kind of hatred. When those from our own camp spend all of their energy focused in Israel’s faults, it only exacerbates this problem.”

    SOURCE: Learning to Love the Real Israel 11/8/2013 in the NY Jewish Week

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