Understanding is Not Excusing
There is a difference between understanding and excusing. I might understand the arguments of Donald Trump and John Bolton, but by virtue of that very understanding I find their arguments inexcusable. The same goes for the arguments of the Israeli leadership and their diaspora allies. I hear their words and find that they can never excuse their actions.
Given this difference between understanding and excusing, it’s hard to know what to do with efforts to have us understand the “psychological obstacles” that supposedly prevent Israelis from making peace. A good example of this effort is found in a reprinted essay by Carlo Strenger, an Israeli psychologist and public intellectual who is a strong opponent of the Occupation. It appears in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz and is entitled “Psychological Obstacles to Peace in Israel.”
Though Strenger is an Israeli peace activist, his essay is really an effort to move the reader to take more seriously— to better understand—Israeli feelings of “existential” fear when it comes to prospects for peace with the Palestinians. Such understanding will, allegedly, bring us to “acknowledge that moving toward peace entails genuine security risks [for Israeli Jews], and to address these risks unflinchingly.” One suspects that this line has long been fed to the U.S. Congress, among others governments. In any case, for Strenger, this is the…