The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege

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9781575255576: The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege
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In the 1993 Oslo accords, Israel embraced Yasser Arafat as its "peace partner." It then installed him in Gaza and the West Bank as head of a nascent Palestinian government, allowed him to bring with him some 7,000 of his loyalist gunmen, and provided the gunmen with weapons, even as Arafat continued to support terrorist attacks on Israelis and to assure Palestinians and other Arabs his goal remained Israel's destruction.Why did Israel pursue the path of Oslo? Why did it persist on that path when, in the wake of the initial Oslo agreements, the Palestinians unleashed an unprecedented wave of anti-Israel terror? Palestinian leaders also routinely called for holy war against Israel and compared Oslo to the Treaty of Hudaibiya, which Mohammed had signed in 628 and abandoned when his forces became strong enough to overwhelm his adversaries. Arafat and his subordinates told Arab audiences that Oslo was a step in the PLO's 1974 "plan of phases," a strategy of acquiring whatever land could be won by negotiations and using that territory as a base for pursuing Israel's annihilation. Yet Israel responded with additional concessions. What psychological, historical and communal forces spawned policies that undermined Israel's security and even threatened its survival? Dr. Levin's original and powerfully persuasive analysis relates Israeli diplomacy of the nineteen-nineties to psychological responses common among chronically besieged populations, whether minorities subjected to defamation, discrimination and assault or small nations under chronic attack by their neighbors. More particularly, he demonstrates links between the evolution of Oslo and the long history of Diaspora Jews being subjected to persistent abuse. The reaction of many enduring such abuse was to seek to improve their predicament by endorsing elements of the surrounding societies' bigoted indictments and embracing delusions of salvation through self-effacement and concessions. This case study in the psychology of a community under chronic attack takes on broader significance at a time when even traditionally safe and secure societies such as the United States are confronting the psychological challenges posed by terrorist assaults.

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KENNETH LEVIN earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the Univ. of Penn., a B.A./M.A. in English language and literature from Oxford University, his M.D. degree from Penn and a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. He is a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has taught at various psychoanalytic training institutes in Boston and maintains a private practice in psychiatry. His previous books include Freud's Early Psychology of the Neuroses: A Historical Perspective and Unconscious Fantasy in Psychotherapy. Dr. Levin has written extensively on Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. His articles have appeared in The New Republic, The Boston Globe, The Washington Times, The Jerusalem Post and elsewhere. Recent articles published by Kenneth Levin may be found in NEW YORK JEWISH WEEK (February 25, 2005), in THE JEWISH PRESS (May 19, 2005) and in AM NEW YORK (June 1, 2005).

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