Economist

The Economist: “Israelis seem especially susceptible to hysteria”.


A 2012 Economist article claimed that Israelis and their Prime Minister fears Iran because they suffer from “Auschwitz complex” – a “ghetto mentality” evidently based on obsessing over past suffering and reinforced by the Jewish festivals of Purim and Passover. Further, their insight into the inner-workings of the Israeli mind contextualized concerns over a nuclear Iran not by referencing the Islamic Republic’s use of terror proxies to attack Israelis and Jewish targets, nor by citing genocidal designs of Tehran’s leaders, but by suggesting that Jerusalem was relying on “familiar ideological tropes from the Jewish playbook”.

The headline was revised by Economist editors, and the words “Auschwitz Complex” was removed, but the message seemed clear: Israelis are gripped by an irrational fear which prevents clear-headed thinking about the threats they face personally, and as a nation.

A July 2016 article in the Economist (Arab-Jewish tensions force two passengers off an Aegean Airlines flight, by M.D.) doesn’t attempt such an offensive psychological analysis of Israeli Jews, but nonetheless includes a broad, unsubstantiated charge about the national character that is astonishingly facile.  The article, commenting on a recent incident in which dozens of Israeli passengers demanded – seemingly for no good reason – that the flight crew on a Aegean Airlines flight from Athens to Tel Aviv remove “suspicious” looking Arab passengers, begins reasonably:

IT STARTED with a flickering of paranoia in the mind of one Jewish passenger; perhaps justifiable, given the recent surge of terrorist attacks in Israel; perhaps prejudicial, emblematic of the deep distrust between Arabs and Jews, who both see a homeland in the Holy Land. It ended with two entirely innocent customers being hauled off a commercial flight…

As is usually the case with such incidents, it is difficult for commentators [at this blog] to know where the blame lies. Perhaps the airline’s staff could have defused the situation better, or been firmer with those initial instigators; perhaps they performed impeccably, averting a still-worse quarrel. Perhaps the Jewish complainants acted with spiteful malice; perhaps they genuinely feared for their lives. Perhaps, indeed, the two Arabs really were acting suspiciously.

Indeed, the next paragraph begins fairly, in noting that a similar incident – one not involving Israelis – occurred on a British flight in 2006. 

What happened aboard this Aegean flight made headlines because of its extraordinary outcome—both for the unfortunate Arab pair and for the Palestinian reaction. In many ways, though, these were unremarkable events. This is not the first time that a group of passengers has retreated into a mob-like mentality after picking up the vaguest scent of danger. In a similar incident in 2006, two Asian-looking men were apparently forced off a British flight by their fellow travellers for no greater crime than speaking Arabic.

Then, out of nowhere:

Israelis seem especially susceptible to hysteria: a flight marketed by Arkia, an Israeli airline, was grounded in October when customers belatedly realised that it was being operated by a Czech partner carrier. “I can only feel safe flying with an Israeli company,” one traveller said. Arkia said it was “astounded at the exaggerated response from some of the passengers”.

So, the entire case for asserting that “Israelis seem especially susceptible to hysteria” appears based on a total of two incidents. Even more curiously, the author cites a counter-example to Israel’s putative inclination towards madness in the face of a perceived danger.

Here’s the concluding paragraph:

Earlier this month, Ruti Tehrani, an Israeli bus driver, also faced calls from her passengers to eject a suspicious looking Arab customer. After establishing that the threat was imaginary, she refused, and instead told the complainants to disembark if they felt unsafe. Several of them did. They had time to contemplate their prejudices on the long walk home.

So, what are we to take-away from the example of the Israeli bus driver?

Well, for starters, most who truly understand Israel would see the incident as a reflection of the fact that Israelis – who face terror, jihadism and existential threats on a scale far and beyond what most in the West can conceive of – are complex and don’t always respond perfectly to every situation.

However, the response to the current terror wave – as with wars and intifadas throughout their history – has, on the whole, been measured and proportional to the threat.  Despite the fact that, since Sept, 13th, 29 people have been killed and nearly 300 injured in 108 stabbings, 37 shootings and 22 car rammings (acts mostly committed against Israeli Jews by Arab Muslims), day-to-day interactions between Jews and Arabs have largely carried on as usual.  Though there have been some calls for Israeli security forces to adopt more draconian measures, the sobriety and moderation of the broad Israeli center – the overwhelming majority of the population – continues to set the parameters of the debate. 

Reasonable people can of course raise questions about the behavior of some Israelis on board the Aegean Airlines flight, as they may question the wisdom of Netanyahu’s policy towards Iran. However, we’d hope that contributors to a journal which claims to offer “authoritative insight and opinion” on international news would avoid such crude, intellectually lazy characterizations of an entire nation.

19 replies »

  1. If the economist is correct, how do they explain the mass mental illness of muslims? Or isn’t blind adherence to a cult that preaches hatred, violence and death regarded as abnormal?

    • There’s also mass mental illness among socialists. How do they explain the mutual admiration between socilalists and islamofascsists? Leftards and Hamassholes/Hezbullies solidarity is curious and and dangerous that needs to be exposed.

  2. That a prestigious publication like “The Economist” should opine in lay terms about a non-diagnosis that harks back many decades, is appalling journalism. The term “hysteria”, from Wikipedia, “Generally, modern medical professionals have given up the use of “hysteria” as a diagnostic category, replacing it with more precisely defined categories such as somatization disorder. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association officially changed the diagnosis of “hysterical neurosis, conversion type” , the most dangerous and effective type, to “conversion disorder”.

    “For at least two thousand years of European history until the late nineteenth century hysteria referred to a medical condition thought to be particular to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus (from the Greek ὑστέρα hystera “uterus”)”. Today, the term is considered sexist and misogynistic as the behaviour it describes not uncommonly turns out to be caused by organic brain disease such as malignant and benign brain tumours, epilepsy and a variety of serious mental illnesses.

    For over 100yrs, neurologists and then psychiatrists wrote about “shell shock, neurasthenia and from 1980, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Living in Israel, with a history of constant conflict pre-dating its creation in 1948 and four wars since that involved multiple Arab nations attacking the tiny Jewish State with the stated intention of destroying it and the Jews living there and further afield, Israeli Jews live in a chronic state of hypervigilance and stress that produces symptoms of PTSD in most and the full syndrome in a substantial minority. Flashbacks to previously experienced terror attacks or those that shocked the nation with their depravity, panic attacks precipitated by reminders of the trauma, both in reality or imagination, emotional numbing and stoicism, isolation from others and a fight/flight centre in the brain that always runs hot, ready on a hair trigger to propel the sufferer to enter survival mode, regardless of the true severity of the threat, or even in the absence of threat.

    In people exposed to repeated trauma over decades, the syndrome of PTSD frequently takes on an additional component, more familiar to the public when seen in survivors of long term domestic violence, where it is commonly described as “battered wives syndrome.” We are all aware of the long suffering wife who suddenly snaps and murders her abusive husband instead of leaving the marriage. Years of abuse bond the victim in a Stockholm Syndrome of dependency, fear and self-blame. Fighting back is usually impossible and fear and dependency make escape terrifying. So with some Israeli Jews. Decades of murderous violence and Jew Hatred can lead to a chronic helpless state that allows the Israeli Jews to get on with their lives in a setting that would paralyse most of us with stay at home fear. In this state, extreme terror can erupt with minor provocation.

    Israeli Jews sacrifice their peace of mind on a daily basis because they love their country and know in their hearts that the future of the Jewish People depends on the survival of the Jewish State. The Economist has had an ignorant, cheap & tawdry swipe at Israeli Jews and should unreservedly apologise for the hurt they have undoubtedly caused.

    Dr Jerome L Gelb
    Psychiatrist – specialising in PTSD in Veterans.

    • Yes, indeed – but your first sentence contains a fallacy🙂
      They were only ‘prestigious’ because at some remote time in the past they behaved accordingly, and people regarded them as having prestige on that basis.
      Now they are just another Jew-hating cageliner.

    • “Years of abuse bond the victim in a Stockholm Syndrome of dependency, fear and self-blame.”

      I think that’s actually as good an explanation as any I’ve heard regarding Jews and our relationship to Europe. And now the introspection of the Far Left that consistently blames Israeli Jews for their own troubles.

      No idea if you’re familiar with the writings of Dr. Jonathan Shay (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Shay) on PTSD, but he’s been working on the concept of Moral Injury, an if you have any familiarity with the concept, I think that would be how I’d describe the state of things when it comes to Jews and much of the rest of the world. We have been the recipients of Moral Injury far too long.

  3. “question the wisdom of Netanyahu’s policy towards Iran” – really? I wonder what terrible things he has done (other than refraining from blowing to smithereens the genocidal Iranian nuclear programme).

    • I question the wisdom of Obama’s policy towards Iran – even while the supreme ahole of fascist iran continues to call for death to America.

      I’d demand that Obama and Kerry respond and call for DEATH to fascist iran and the furherious ayatollahs.

  4. Firstly, a note about mob behavior: So-called pro-Palestinian peace activists regularly unleash hysteria in response to pro-Israel speakers. Yet even though this hysteria has not even the pretense of being self-protective (can words kill?) but rather is of the purely aggressive variety, no media “diagnosis” is forthcoming.

    On the other hand, as noted here, even though cool-headedness is the norm in Israel, a couple of ambiguous lapses trigger an unsavory generalization about Jews (why “Jewish complainants”? Jews qua Jews are the targets, yes; but mightn’t a non-Jewish Israeli be jittery?). Thus, as always, “the Jews” are a wrong-headed people (they wrongly react to 2,000 years of persecution culminating in Auschwitz); they are despicable in their hatreds, and they constitute the ultimate ill above all else (certainly above the actual stabbings). You really don’t have to be a genius to get the subtext here.

    When you start getting this kind of anti-Semitic trash from The Economist (calling it “intellectually lazy” is a cover-up), the trend is clear. In three years’ time the public debate will no longer be “Is such-and-such anti-Semitic?” It will be: “Is anti-Semitism really wrong?” The Islamic world already answers the question openly; how long before their Western admirers catch up?

  5. and another thing….

    I make no defense of harassing innocent Arabs just because they’re Arab, but what’s particularly galling here is that the media meantime voices little condemnation of slaughtering random Jews just because they’re Jews. On the contrary, this is considered a legitimate (rather than hysterical) way to express frustration with Mr. Netanyahu’s “policies.”

  6. A July 2016 report in the Economist! Clairvoyance right in front of my eyes! I shall always be sure to come here to get the news 6 months in advance.

    • Sanity it is not what is in front of your eyes that causes concern.

      It is the empty space behind your eyes that causes the problems.

      • What causes most concern is the antipathy you and the rest of the useful idiots at this site have towards brown skin.

        • Sanity the last refuge of the scoundrel and the intellectually inept that you have to make a silly and unsubstantiated allegation of racism.