Projection – the Enemy of Peace and Justice Part I

copyright 2005 by Jonathan Zap (and with updates and revisions continuing through 2023)

Note added on October 16, 2023: I posted the following comment in a public forum:

I have written about collective psychosis and the Middle East, but I’m emotionally torn by this topic as my family includes both Jewish Holocaust survivors and Christian Palestinians living in the West Bank (my sister married a Palestinian). Also, to really grapple with all the complexities of the politics of the region would be a full-time job, and I don’t regard myself for many reasons as qualified on Israel/Palestine. People on the left like Bernie Sanders and many moderates who, based on no research, call Islam “a religion of peace” have absolutely no clue on the subject. I recommend The Muhammad Code by Harold Bloom and The Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World by Jan Goodwin. Anyone who doesn’t realize that the treatment of women by Islamic fundamentalist regimes is by far the worst human rights abuse on the planet (in the numbers affected, nothing is even a close second) is also clueless. But I would prefer to leave that topic to others as my subject is writing about the singularity zone we have now entered.

On that same forum, I found a link to an article by Sam Harris which I am in about 90% agreement. Note: In posting this article, I am not responsible for anything Sam Harris has ever said. I don’t know everything that Sam Harris has ever said. I simply find merit in this article. My % of agreement would probably fluctuate if I were massively informed about what’s going on and what has gone on in the Middle East, but I can’t afford to make that my central life focus. I do know enough, however, to say the following; People who think Israel is the good guy and Palestinians are the bad guy, or, conversely, think that Palestinians/Hamas are the good guys and Israel is the bad guy, are massively ignorant. Trying to dialogue with such absolutist folks is usually a complete waste of time. What follows in this series is information for those interested in the actual complexities of what’s going on.

Note added September 16, 2014: My thoughts on projection and the Middle East are always fluctuating, and maybe that’s appropriate, given that it is such a fluctuating and unstable zone. A major shift happened earlier this year when I read My Promised Land by Ari Shavit, which I highly recommend. It provided, among other things, an unsanitized revisionist history of the state of Israel that I was overdue to encounter and is a vivid rendering of the paradoxes, the light and dark, the complexity and ambiguity of Israel. As with America, there were birth defects or original sins involved in the founding of the state. On the other hand, I also agree with most of what Sam Harris has to say in the following blog: Once again, I am by no means endorsing Sam Harris ever said said, as I don’t know he’s ever said, and if that’s what’s required when reading articles none of us would have time for anything else.

This essay came into being in a strange way. At the time I wrote this, I worked for a nonprofit, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center (RMPJC), and attended a dinner they put on and heard someone who is part of their International Collective (RMPJC is an umbrella organization with many separate components) speak about an international issue from a point of view that I found dangerously one-sided. I began to think about writing an email to the staff on this subject and found the creative muse pushing me with incredible force toward that. (For more on how the muse works in me and in others, see The Path of the Numinous). While brainstorming about the document I would compose, I ran into someone who shared my POV about this aspect of RMPJC, which seemed another support of my intention to write about it. I thought about it some more just before I went to sleep, and when I woke up, it was driving me to go right into it, and so I did, and the email grew to an all-day, one-sitting writing session and a 9,234-word document. Right after I emailed the document, an amazing constellation of synchronicities happened directly related to what I had written and with possible implications about the survival of the spirit after the death of the body, among other things. This was one of the most dramatic synchronicities in a lifetime of amazing synchronicities, and I document it at the end of this essay. What follows is a re-edited version of the original email. I took out some parts that are more relevant to the specific organization—-RMPJC—–and left in everything related to the central theme. Later, in subsequent parts, the document mutates further and includes s a sometimes heated dialogue between me and an Islamic Sufi Imam—Dawoud Kringle

Environmental destruction, racism, violence, injustice, war, everything that RMPJC works on derives from a single source–the human psyche. An activist, whether political or environmental, who is not interested in psychological underpinnings is analogous to a botanist who is not interested in biology. Environmental destruction and every form of conflict and violence are secondary effects of human psychology. Virtually all violence by humans to other humans, to the planet, and other species is done in a state of projection. If I am a corporate polluter, I act out in a state of projection that views the natural world as consisting of livestock and real estate to be exploited. If I am a racist, a pursuer of genocide, an abuser of women, etc. I commit my crimes under the spell of what Jung called “shadow projection,” where I see another person or group as embodying inferior elements I deny in myself.

Unfortunately, projection is much easier to recognize in others than in oneself. As the Biblical saying puts it, “You can see the speck in your brother’s eye, but can’t see the plank in your own.” Projection can be the grossest and most obvious of psychological phenomena but also the subtlest, most elusive, slipperiest, and inscrutable. To some extent, all perception is to “look through a glass darkly” and often to see a distorted reflection of your own psychic structure when you think you are objectively seeing something external.

The central message of the I Ching, and many other great spiritual teachings, is essentially to first get your relationship to yourself right. If you get your relationship with yourself right (so easy to say, such a never-ending, gigantic task to take on), then your relationships with others, to politics, to sex, time, power, food, body, emotions, money, etc. will all be as good as outer circumstances can possibly allow. Omit, neglect, or distort any aspect of your relationship with yourself, however, and your relationships with all those other things are distorted and diminished accordingly.

An activist is someone trying to be a healer in some way, to heal the environment and/or the human collective. To do so, they need first to adopt something like the Hippocratic Oath, which says, “First, do no harm.” A reasonable corollary of this would be “First, do not project.” Since an activist is largely working to undo the harmful effects of projection, she should first scrutinize herself for any signs of projections that would only contribute to the madness of the world. Where we are most likely to project is where we are emotionally engaged, and an activist is almost always a person who is passionate about their cause and, therefore, vulnerable to projection. Stripping away the details, an activist is a human psyche who objects to the perceived actions of other human psyches. Notice that this is one of the maximal cases possible of subjectivity and projection.

One time Jung was teaching a seminar in Germany during the Weimar Republic, and there were Nazis literally goose-stepping outside on the street below the room in which they were conducting the seminar. Someone asked words to the effect of, “What can we do about the terrible evils of the world?” Jung replied, “Begin by reclaiming your own shadow from the world.” In other words, call back your own shadow projections before you initiate extroverted actions while under the trance of shadow projection yourself. As Goethe put it, “If you want to clean up the whole world, begin with your own doorstep.”

We could all probably agree on cases of projection amongst fundamentalists and the extreme right-wing and so forth, but our own projections are a much more necessary object of inquiry and much more likely to be overlooked. The most classic form of projection is shadow projection, where we project inferior qualities we deny in ourselves onto some despised person or group. People on the left tend to project the collective shadow, for example, onto the US. Government, Israel, and globalizing corporations.

Projection doesn’t mean that what you project onto is an innocent scapegoat. Quite often, there is a hook in the perceived object for the projection. People like Dick Cheney, W, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft are such perfect hooks for my shadow projection that I feel nauseous even typing out their names. People on the left, including an amazingly well-informed, brilliant sage like Noam Chomsky, tend to project the collective shadow onto the U.S. government, Israel and globalizing corporations, with legitimate reasons mixed in with the one-sided projection.There is still an aspect of unconscious shadow projection going on. This becomes evident in their relative blindness, or greatly disproportionate inattention, to evils done by groups that they don’t shadow project onto, like people of color, etc.

The James Joyce character, Stephen Dedalus, said, “History is the nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.” A more penetrating statement was probably never uttered, but notice that the nightmare of history began long before America, Israel, or globalizing corporations ever existed. A world view that projects the evils of the world almost exclusively onto them is missing the core sources of these evils, which are ubiquitous and not to be found merely in certain groups but in all sorts of people and groups, and also within ourselves.

Denial of the shadow is endemic amongst Fundamentalists, most religious practitioners, practitioners of Eastern Religions, New Agers, hippies (“It’s all good!”), and non-spiritual materialists. How can you tell if you are involved in shadow denial and, therefore shadow projection? Here’s a really quick test I just thought of.

Which of the following best describes you?

A. I am not prejudiced. B. I am prejudiced.

A. I view politics and world affairs objectively. B. I view politics and world affairs emotionally/subjectively.

If you answered “A” to either question, then you are almost certainly unconscious of your shadow and probably engaged in full-time shadow projection. If asked, a majority of people will confidently assert that they are “not prejudiced.” A majority of people also believe they view politics and world affairs objectively. But this is almost impossible and is dramatically in denial of the way the human psyche works. Except in the case of some phenomenal spiritual prodigy, someone off the scale of ordinary human consciousness and perception (if such people exist), everyone is filled with prejudices–gross and subtle, favorable and unfavorable. When people say they are not prejudiced, what they really mean is that they are from a different faction than those who are outrageously racist, but any scrutiny reveals that they have all sorts of favorable and unfavorable associations (prejudices) with all sorts of groups and these largely conform to their identified subculture. Similarly, it is almost impossible to be a human psyche perceiving the mass behavior of other human psyches and not have a thousand subjectivities influencing your perception.

After more than a quarter century of formal self-inquiry, Jungian analysis, etc. I find myself to be a boiling mass of prejudices and subjectivities like the rest of my species. Seeking to be devoid of prejudice is as naïve an intention as those meditators who say they are seeking to eliminate their egos (there is no self-reference without an ego, you couldn’t function as a human being without this necessary psychic component). People who think that they have no ego, or who think they are unprejudiced and objective and so forth, are people in denial of their personal shadow and will therefore unconsciously act it out constantly as it functions as an autonomous ungoverned complex within them. So I don’t seek to rid myself of subjectivities and prejudices; rather I seek to be aware of them, to monitor them and their moment-by-moment fluctuations, and to compensate for them. By trying to stay vigilant about my many group prejudices, I seek to be able to separate the individuality of the individual above my continuing group projections. That’s a tough enough goal in itself, and I only imperfectly attain that goal through a moment-by-moment struggle.

Also, when I was a child, I was zoned into a junior high school in the South Bronx, where I took beatings from Nation of Islam kids. On more than one occasion, I was thrown down flights of metal stairs. Once, in one of the stairwells, one of them threw an M-80 right at my face. Fortunately, I ducked, but it permanently affected my hearing.  I give some more background on these events and how I overcame some of the PTSD by later teaching for several years in the South Bronx here: On Woke Racism

Anyone who has been traumatized by a particular group is almost certainly going to have residual bias. The best I can do is to try to treat individuals as individuals when I encounter them that way.

(see Operation Infinite Projection, written right after the 9-11 attacks, for more on projection and politics)

From a classical Jungian point of view, if you are conscious of a projection, it is no longer considered a projection; projection always means that you are unconscious of it. I find that to be too clean a distinction and over-confident. I can be infatuated with someone (and infatuation always involves projection) and be aware of the projection but still greatly influenced by it. I probably won’t act as crazily as someone who is unconsciously infatuated and has no perspective on it, but I am not altogether in the clear either.

The problem is that most activists I have encountered presume that they have a fairly objective take on politics and world affairs and are quite confident in their perception of who is wearing the black hat and who the white hat. Of course, they recognize themselves and members of their affinity group as white hats, and it is their duty to do something about what the black hats out there are doing. They don’t seem to notice that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld also think they have an objective view (and certainly they have more access to information) of the world and believe that they are the white hats. Everyone everywhere tends to believe they are seeing things clearly and are one of the good guys. Therefore, most activists are well-intentioned people who are seeking to heal a world suffering from the effects of projection while they themselves are in a state of projection.

Projection creates, at the very least, alienation, and that is not something anyone at the peace center wants to create, but I began to notice a very specific theme of alienation amongst some Boulderites very familiar with our organization. It was quite specific, usually an older, liberal, well-educated seeming Jewish person (like the man I ran into last night) who told me that he supports almost everything the Peace Center does but will not support us anymore financially because of our one-sided stance against Israel. When I asked these alienated people where they got the idea there was such a one-sided position (because I hadn’t seen anything related to that in the newsletters or on the website), they would sometimes tell me that they heard it on KGNU. After hearing this a number of times, I spoke to a couple of people at RMPC who told me that RMPJC was essentially a plurality of opinions and points of view and there was no monolithic position like that.

But hearing a couple of people speak at the recent dinner; I became aware that there was what appeared to be a monolithic point of view. I was very troubled to hear the infinite complexities of the Middle East reduced to a presumption that the Zionists and Israelis are the black hats and the Palestinians are the white hats. For example, S. talked about a campaign of divestment sponsored by the Presbyterian Church, and he didn’t even mention Israel, but it was apparently expected to be too obvious to have to mention. Why should it be obvious to any group that Israel is the one nation in the Middle East worthy of divestment? Isn’t Israel, for all its terrible flaws, the first democracy in the Middle East? Why shouldn’t I have assumed that he was talking about, for example, divesting in a country like Saudi Arabia that practices beheadings, slavery and apartheid, incredible oppression of women, and is in bed with the Bush administration? Or how about Iran, run by insane fundamentalists who are racing to build nuclear weapons to wipe another nation off the map and who believe in the subjugation of women in ways that surpass most of the worst abuses in the history of patriarchy?

Am I objecting because I feel that Israel is the good guy? Far from it! What I am troubled by is the disproportionate attention to the brutalities of the Israelis, while the brutalities of surrounding Muslim and Persian states are typically ignored by the same people. When the brutalities of Islamic nations are acknowledged, they are generally attributed as causally deriving from the approved groups for shadow projection–the U.S. government and corporations. Yes, occupation, the many horrible foreign policies of the U.S. and its military interventions breed hatred, but so do a lot of other unrelated factors never considered. Neurological factors breed hatred (see The Alphabet vs The Goddess by Leonard Shlain), biological species-wide factors (i.e. the theory of “pseudospeciation”—–see Chapter V of my book The Capsule of Intentionality), forms existing in the Collective Unconscious (see the collective unconscious category in my writing section and Vol. 10 of Jung’s collected works, Civilization in Transition). There is a subtle form of racism involved in people who say Muslim terrorists couldn’t have done 9-11 or that all conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere is caused by the U.S., Israel, and globalization. Unless your sense of history begins with the birth of Facebook, you should be aware that the region and much of the planet were in a state of conflict long before the U.S., Israel, or global corporations existed.  They seem to be indirectly saying: these other kind of people don’t have an independent, autonomous will of their own–if they do bad things, it is because we made them bad, and if they are to be set right, it will be because of our activism.

One of the greatest causes of violence throughout history, and continuing into the contemporary Middle East, is fundamentalist religion. The denomination doesn’t matter–Muslim, Jewish, Christian–all fundamentalist variants of religion (the Amish are an exception) involve shadow projection are responsible for high body counts. That was going on before there was an America, an Israel, or globalizing corporations. The dark aspect of reality is polyvalent, it is distributed into all sorts of force vectors of causality, and if your attention is fixated on particular groups as the predominate source, then you create in your perception a simplified moral universe where you can be comforted by the clarity of your distinctions, but where you will inevitably be blind-sided by the sources of darkness you are inattentive to.

But before I continue, let me put my projections and prejudices on the table. My family is both Jewish and Palestinian. My one nephew and two nieces are half Jewish and half Palestinian. My parents and I recognize Jamal, my Palestinian brother-in-law, as one of our family’s kinder and more reasonable members and an excellent parent. Jamal left Palestine, not so much because of the Israelis, but because of the way Christians were being abused, even fairly non-practicing secular Christians (like himself and his family) by Muslim Palestinians. When there were health emergencies, they found they got the best care by going to Israeli hospitals, where they were immediately welcomed and cared for. I am very glad that my two nieces are as far away from Muslim regimes as they can be.

I can certainly sympathize with the horrible suffering and atrocities experienced by the Palestinians. I was moved by the poems read by an apparently Palestinian woman at the dinner. I am a non-practicing Jew brought up in an immediate family of four, where only one out of four in the immediate family, my mom, had any close identification with religion, so my identification would be as a secular, ethnic Jew.

Philosophically, I am much more of a Jungian and a Dynamic Paradoxicalist. A great deal of what I read in the Hebrew Bible (the “Old Testament,” as Christians call it) is patriarchal, repugnant, violent and evil. The religious training I did get was in Reform Judaism, which openly repudiates the repressive stuff in the Bible, and sees it as a reflection of the consciousness of the era it derived from and which needs to evolve and be reformed. Very few Jews, except some crazed ultra-orthodox, take any of that seriously. (Apparently, even conservative and orthodox Jews also see the Torah as “only the beginning” and reinterpret and evolve ethical principles in the many books of the Talmud and in contemporary teachings.) I am a third-generation feminist, and in all the prayer books in the Reform congregation my parents are part of, all references to God as having a masculine gender have been removed. In Reform Judaism, one can have a variety of God concepts, emphasizing ethical conduct. Key areas separating it from fundamentalism include its feminism, openness to change and reform, recognition of other spiritual paths as equally valid, and placing evolved ethical views ahead of traditions and old texts.

Although I have Palestinian family, my identification, culturally and ethnically, is much more with Judaism. Therefore, by my own principles of projection outlined above, I should be expected to have all sorts of biases, prejudices, and projections adding many layers of subjectivity between me and clearly perceiving Middle Eastern conflict, and, indeed, that is most definitely the case. The most serious of these projections is that part of me would be pleased to be able to project the Israelis as the white hats and the Arabs as the black hats.

I have not, however, been able to confidently project white hats onto the Israelis for about forty years because it is also clear that they perpetrate plenty of violence and have quite a number of insane racist fundamentalists among them. The oppressed, they say, is always in the act of becoming the oppressor. It is also said you should choose your enemies wisely because you will become like them.

12/14/10 Netanyahu is a leader I disliked at first sight and still feel that way.  I am also increasingly disgusted with pro-Israeli absolutists (who seem like brutal morons), and I agree with the perspective of this article:  The relentless building of settlements and the rise of absolutists in Israel is extremely unfortunate and not to be excused.

I experienced one of the most charismatic of the insane Jewish fundamentalists and racist Zionists. It was in the Seventies. I was walking somewhere in lower midtown Manhattan when I saw a crowd gathering around the notorious Rabbi Mier Kahane (1932-1990), founder of the disreputable Jewish Defense League or JDL. Kahane had just vaulted himself onto the top of a car he was using as a soapbox. His eyes and body crackled with demented electricity–the intensity of complete and charismatic possession. He personified what Yeats meant in his apocalyptic poem “The Second Coming” when he wrote:“The best lack all convictions, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity. “

In 1990, Kahane was assassinated in New York City by an Egyptian militant, who was acquitted of the crime on a technicality, but later convicted in relation to the World Trade Center bombing. Although a classic projection of the white hat onto Israel no longer exists in me, a tendency in that direction still exists because, like someone who has been very disappointed in a former lover, it might be pleasing if I could be convinced of information that would restore any part of my old feelings of pride in them, etc. [8/9/06: I probably do project onto them a much lighter grey hat in the recent conflict with Hezbollah, where this Iranian surrogate is so successfully exploiting a strategy of placing their rocket launchers near civilian targets so that Israel can be portrayed as brutal baby killers. Many seem strangely delighted with accusing Israel of being a brutal bully.

I challenge those with that POV to look into their own ancestry and see if it is free of anti-Semitism. If you take the whole species as your ancestry, you are forced to recognize that virulent anti-Semitism is one of the most potent and prominent themes in the collective unconscious of our species for millennia. Through long generations of habituation, strong psychic tendencies carve channels, like dry riverbeds (an analogy Jung used about archetypes) in the topology of the ancestral unconscious. Psychic energy will be overwhelmingly likely to flow down such time-deepened channels rather than to carve new ones. And so many modern persons, who would vehemently protest that they have no anti-Semitism (or prejudices of any kind), never examine the strange satisfaction they feel at their disproportionate and self-righteous rage at Israel, which depends on a convenient tendency (supported by most of the world’s media) to overlook key facts.

I do project the shadow onto certain groups–particularly the Bush administration, many corporate exploiters, Nazis, and fundamentalists–especially Christian and Islamic fundamentalists. Again this is not quite classic projection because I am aware of it, and it is also somewhat mitigated by the fact that some persons and groups not only have a hook for shadow projection, they really are in themselves, and not just in delusionary projections, full-blown manifestations of the dark force. When I think of Joseph Stalin as evil, I don’t think this is a projection. Yeah, somewhere, sometime, there might have been a tiny speck of good in his black heart, but I don’t lose any sleep worrying that I might be unfair to Uncle Joe by pretty much stereotyping him in my mind as pure evil. Nazis and Islamic fundamentalists are the two groups sharing first place for identification with the dark force in my mind. Both groups like to burn people alive– for the Nazis, it was the Jews; for the Islamic Fundamentalists, it’s their own women, Jews, and other infidels when they can get them. Both are gold medalists in the evil Olympics. (If Islamists burning women alive seems nonliteral or exaggerated, see Jihaad Against the Feminine.

I talk about evil and the dark force because they are realities. As a Dynamic Paradoxicalist (see my philosophy Dynamic Pradoxicalism, my main perspective is non-dual because I recognize that dark and light, yin and yang, are completely necessary interwoven aspects of reality. (see Tolkien and the Developmental Need for Evil) I am aware of the subjectivity of human perception, but I don’t take subjectivity as far as the postmodernists (who dominate college and university and leftist circles). Many of them carry subjectivity into a foolish stance called “moral relativism” that asserts that all recognition of good and evil is based on culturally embedded prejudices. They have a naïve Star Trek “Prime Directive” sort of notion that we shouldn’t object to, for example, what Islamic Fundamentalists do to their women because “it’s their culture.” This position is absurd and self-contradictory for all sorts of reasons. The moral relativists always warn us not to be “judgmental,” but notice that nonjudgmentalism is a moral judgment and divides people into the good, supposedly nonjudgmental moral relativists and the bad judgmental folks. In philosophy, this is called “an error of performance.” You contradict your own assertion even as you make it. What’s bad is not being judgmental; you couldn’t possibly get through a single day without being judgmental about all sorts of things. The idea is to try not to be falsely judgmental, and that is about reclaiming your projections. People who claim to be “nonjudgmental” are unaware of their shadows, which are locked and loaded with myriad unconscious judgments.

So when it comes to burning women alive like Islamic Fundamentalists like to do, I don’t have a prejudice about that; prejudice means pre-judge; no, I judge that, I judge that to be evil, and I don’t give a damn what culture it is embedded in– if you are into burning people alive who don’t want to be burned alive, I judge that to be wrong. Let’s remember that the Nazis had a full-blown, highly developed culture with their own mythology, songs, art, insignia, customs, special words, architecture, etc. Burning people in ovens was also part of their culture. I also have this notion that an Islamic woman who is being burned is not particularly comforted by the realization that she is having a culturally authentic experience.

A nonprofit I worked for before and after stints with the RMPJC was the Women’s Assistance Fund, which was dedicated to helping Islamic women who are victims of abuse. One of the worst evils of the world, a real-time holocaust happening right now, is the treatment of women in Islamic regimes, and if you think that is a few exaggerated instances or something like that, you are badly out of touch with the reality of the situation. There are mountains of documentation on this and you can start with (RAWA—Revolutionary Afghan Women’s Association, an amazing organization of anti-fundamentalist Afghani women, another is The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq Anyone who is talking about the plight of the Palestinians and is not also talking about what is happening to Palestinian women and other women in Islamic regimes has a badly distorted view of the world. Any peace and justice society dealing with international issues should devote prominent attention to what is the most horrible atrocity (both qualitatively and quantitatively) on the planet, drastically affecting the lives of about 750 million women. The best one-volume book on the subject is The Price of Honor: Muslim Women lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World by Jan Goodwin. Where are the petitions to divest from nations that support these surreal atrocities, which are codified into their laws?

In order to sort between projection and actuality, we need to get into some of the history of the Middle East conflict, and although I am far, far from a historian, I am often shocked at just how little people on the left who make themselves spokespeople for the Palestinians know about the history of the situation.

For example, after I wrote Part 1 and sent it out as an email to the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center staff, a meeting was convened with some of the key staff where I was invited to talk about my issues. Carolyn B., who is frequently invited onto KGNU to discuss Middle Eastern politics, patiently explained to me how most Middle Eastern violence has to do with Israeli aggression and occupation.

“But Carolyn, what about, for example, the war between Iran and Iraq that had nothing to do with Israel?” I asked.

“What war between Iran and Iraq?” she inquired with a straight face.

“The one in the Eighties which had a couple of million casualties.” I responded.

“Oh, well, that was before I got involved with this issue,” replied Carolyn.

Later in this same meeting, getting a POV from Betty B. that military response was never justified, I wanted to make sure that I understood her position, which seemed extreme and one-sided to me.

“So Betty, should the U.S. even have a military?” I asked.

“No, they shouldn’t,” she replied.

“I can tell you grew up in a better neighborhood than I did,” I replied. (I grew up in the Bronx, during its violent years, while Betty seemed highly sheltered to have little experience with real-world conditions)

Before delving further into the complexity of Middle East conflict, a major disclaimer: I try to stay as up on current events as I possibly can, but I am no expert on the politics or the history of the Middle East. I don’t. as far as I know, don’t have a single friend or relative living in Israel. A frustration I have about many political situations is that without becoming a full-time researcher, I am always conscious that I have only the merest fragment of the information I need to make a really informed judgment, and much of the information is concealed by various governments. I am more than open to feedback if what I present is factually incorrect or marred by errors of incompleteness, etc. (As of 2023, this document has been online for 18 years, and no one has challenged the factual accuracy of any assertion.) I know that there is a mountain of evidence proving brutalities by Israel, and am open to hearing more of it. The case I am presenting evidence for is that the good guy/ bad guy POV is one-sided and distorted by shadow projections that much more comfortably rest on Israel than on the surrounding Islamic regimes.

I am not able to be complete or balanced; this would have to be a 1000-page document to even begin to do that. If you perceive a group to be one-sided, the compensatory action is to present the other side, and there are people far more qualified to present that other side, but I am going to outline some of the evidence I have that points toward a more complex view of the situation, but will necessarily be one-sided in this presentation of evidence. I can supply the documentation for the following, the first part of which is adapted from an article by Joseph Alpher:

Those who talk about Palestinian refugees seem completely unaware that there are actually more Jewish refugees from Arab and Islamic nations than there are Palestinian refugees. At the end of this document, I will present some information on the history of 120,000 Jewish refugees from Iraq, part of a Jewish community with a 2,600 year history in that country. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved Resolution 181, calling for the creation of two independent states in Palestine, one Arab and one Jewish. The territory would be divided on a demographic basis more or less equally between the two states, allotting three barely contiguous enclaves to each. The Arabs rejected the partition plan, and Palestinian irregular forces launched attacks on Jewish civilians, killing 79 Jews in just 12 days. After six months of unrest, the British completed their withdrawal from Palestine on May 14, 1948. The next day, Jewish Agency leader David Ben Gurion declared the creation of the State of Israel in the territory allotted to the Jews by the UN partition plan. The Palestinian leadership, together with the Arab League (then numbering seven states, including all of Israel’s neighbors), responded by declaring war on Israel. When the Israeli War of Independence (known by the Palestinians as the 1948 War, or the Naqba, disaster) ended in late 1948, Israel controlled 78% of Mandatory Palestine; the remaining 22% was controlled by Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (the Gaza Strip). A few feeble efforts by local Palestinian leaders in Gaza and the West Bank to proclaim a Palestinian state were squashed by those Arab states. Jordan proceeded to annex the territories it controlled–a move recognized over the ensuing years only by Britain and Pakistan–while Egypt instituted a military government in Gaza.

It was not until well after 1967, when Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a defensive war, that the Palestine Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat, called for the creation of a Palestinian state. Thus, it was not “the Jews” or Israel that prevented the formation of a Palestinian state in 1947 or even in the years preceding 1967. It was the Arabs.

The Palestinian refugee problem was a direct outcome of the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948. Approximately half of the 700,000 (not a million) Arabs who fled war zones did so of their own volition or in response to evacuation instructions issued by their own leaders (who expected to bring them back after they wiped Israel off the map). Also in 1948, Jews who were citizens of countries like Morocco, Syria and Yemen were also expelled with land and property confiscated and no right of return. It served the political purposes of the many surrounding Arab states to keep the refugee problem going and to refuse citizenship to Palestinians in their countries. The number of Jews made refugees by Arabs between 1948 and 1950 exceeds the number of Palestinian refugees.

The following is an excerpt from a letter to the editor printed in the New York Times on Dec. 15, 2005. The author is Heskel M. Haddad, President of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, and he is responding to the outrageous statements about the Holocaust made by the President of Iran.

“Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, implies that Israel’s population are all European survivors of the Holocaust. The truth is that more than half of Israel’s population are refugees from Arab and Islamic persecution. Mr. Ahmadinejad is perpetuating the myth that the Arabs are paying for the sins of the Europeans. The Arab and Islamic countries are guilty of forcing more than one million Jews to leave their homes in those countries and go to Israel as penniless refugees between 1948 and 1950.

Furthermore, the Jewish community in Iran is subjected to vicious persecution, executions (including the head of the Jewish community, Habib Elghanian, who was killed in 1979), torture and forced confessions and imprisonment.”

Arabs have inhabited Palestine for nearly 1,400 years, since the arrival of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula. The Jewish claim to this land goes back 2,000 years earlier, to Biblical times.

Jews have lived continually in the land of Israel since the destruction of the Jewish state by Rome in 70 C.E. In 1500, for example, an estimated 10,000 Jews lived in the Safed region, and in the mid 1800s, Jews constituted the largest ethnic group in Jerusalem. Many Palestinians, on the other hand, cannot trace their local lineage back very far. Two examples: the large and influential al-Masri clan in Nablus arrived from Egypt in recent centuries, and the 10,000 members of the Arab al-Turkman clan, in the Jenin area, migrated from Turkey in the 19th century. And during the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948), large numbers of Arabs from Lebanon and Syria settled in Palestine to take advantage of the relative prosperity that resulted from Jewish immigration.

This history contradicts the Palestinian historical-political narrative which asserts that the Jews who settled in the Land of Israel since the advent of Zionism in the late 1800s are not a people or nation with ancient roots in the land; according to this view Jews are foreigners, European colonialists of the Jewish faith who stole Arab land, etc.

While rejecting the legitimacy of any ancient Jewish claim to Palestine, Palestinian scholars and politicians have argued that Palestinians are descendants of the Jebusites and other biblical peoples who predated the Israelite conquest of Canaan in the 13th century B.C.E. This line of argument contradicts the insistence of Palestinian Muslims that they are descendants of the Arabs who swept across the Middle East and North Africa at the time of Mohammed, conquering Palestine from the Christian Byzantines in 637 C.E.

Another challenge to the Palestinian narrative of historical seniority in the land is the recent finding of several research projects in the 90s indicating that Jews are closer genetically to Palestinians than any other people. This finding reinforces the theory put forth by researchers who in the early 20th century observed unique Palestinian Arab customs in the Samaria region, such as the lighting of candles on Friday night, and postulated that at least some Palestinian Arabs are the descendants of the Jewish remnant that remained in the land of Israel after the Roman conquest and exile, and later converted to Christianity or Islam.

Talk about occupation never seems to make any qualitative distinction between the occupation of one nation unilaterally invading another—-say Nazi Germany invading France or Poland and what happened with Israel fighting defensive wars with much larger Arab nations who had massed together to wipe them off the map and lost territory in the process.

Arab states declare themselves to be “Arab” and in some cases “Muslim,” but they (and others) accuse Israel of racism for defining itself as “Jewish.” Tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs have been granted Israeli citizenships since 1967. Prior to then, some 60,000-70,000 Palestinian refugees were repatriated between 1949 and 1967 under a family reunification program. These Arab citizens are able to vote and even serve in the Knesset of this democratic state. The Israeli Supreme Court has a long history of independence and frequently rules in favor of Palestinians and against the Israeli military. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East with no death penalty, while it is surrounded by nations that behead, hang and shoot political dissidents. Israel has had women in its military for decades, and a policy of full equality for openly gay soldiers and members of the Knesset while surrounding nations persecute gays ruthlessly.

So why are so many on the left working for divestment of the one real democracy in the Middle East (not counting whatever Iraq is at this point) and not divestment, for example, in Saudi Arabia which allows slavery, and apartheid against non-Muslims, with signs indicating that Muslims must go to certain areas and non-Muslims to others. And who is working on divestment of China, which has occupied Tibet for half a century and is a gigantic totalitarian repressive regime?

(end if excerpt)

Anti-Zionist (and anti-Semitic) (and once very creative) Adbusters magazine (see The Dream of the Philosopher’s Assassin) printed a photo of Yassar Arafat with the single word caption, “Sincerity.” The anti-Zionists don’t seem to acknowledge that Arafat (who was born in Egypt) was a totally corrupt trickster who stole billions from his own people and was constantly obstructing the peace process. Barak, in Oslo, offered Arafat 95% of what he wanted, and Arafat himself, on Israeli TV, later admitted that it was a mistake to refuse the offer. Sure, some of the Israeli leaders are pretty bad too, but Arafat, who was given the Noble Peace Prize, was outrageously corrupt and a thief and self-serving manipulator of his own people. And yet some on the left related to him as if he were a cross between Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and Che Guevara.

During the past 30 years, a trail of blood has followed Yasser Arafat wherever he has made his headquarters. He and the PLO were expelled from Jordan in 1971 by the late King Hussein, from Lebanon in 1982 by Israel and the Lebanese Christians, and again from Lebanon in 1983 by Syria. These Arab governments accused him of breaking literally hundreds of ceasefire agreements. In Israel’s case, since 1994, he has violated signed undertakings to avoid incitement, incarcerate terrorists, and restrict armaments. Following its military operation in the West Bank in April 2002, Israel was able to produce testimony based on documents and interrogations that Arafat himself actively supported terrorism and diverted funds for this purpose.

Many people are unaware of the numerous connections between Nazism and Muslim extremists. Two of the then-Nazi divisions were Muslim. The Muslim alliance with Nazis predates the existence of the state of Israel. See for more on the Nazi/Islam alliance.


By Michael Medved:

Now that the controversy has begun to subside over the anti-Israel comments of veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas, supporters of the Jewish state ought to thank the abruptly retired journalist for a profoundly valuable gift: new clarity on the essence of the Middle East conflict. During a Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House two weeks ago, Thomas laughingly suggested that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany and Poland. She thereby made clear that her opposition to Israel isn’t based on the Gaza blockade, or settlement construction, or border disputes, or the decisions of the current Netanyahu government. It centers, rather, on the very existence of a Jewish state at the heart of the Arab world.

The most shocking aspect of her remarks wasn’t the suggestion that Holocaust refugees from 70 years ago should still look on nations that murdered their family members as “home,” but that the Israeli-born grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those survivors still had no real right to the nation they’ve built and defended.

An illegitimate homeland

Like other harsh critics of Israel, Thomas considers the whole idea of Jews returning to their ancient homeland as illegitimate. Her comments show rejection not just of specific Israeli policies, but of the entire Zionist enterprise — the notion that Jews deserve a homeland like all other enduring national groups, and that the logical site for that rebirth is the Holy Land of their ancestors. Her remarks not only reveal the contours of the existential conflict between Israel and its implacable enemies in Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and elsewhere, but also highlight two false notions at the heart of modern-day anti-Semitism.

First, Thomas’ demand that Israelis should return “home” to central Europe assumes most of them originated in Germany or Poland. This recycles the utterly misleading, puzzlingly popular belief that the Jewish state originated in some sort of compensatory gesture for the horrors of the Holocaust. Actually, the Jewish population at the time of Israeli independence (May 1948) was 600,000 — registering mostly natural birth increases (after a decade) from its pre-World War II total of 450,000. The British rulers of the area, eager to placate the deeply anti-Jewish Palestinian Arab leadership, restricted immigration of Jewish refugees to the Middle East during the peak years of Nazi persecution and even after the war.

The fleeing Jewish masses that flooded Israel shortly after independence were, in fact, overwhelmingly non-European. More than 800,000 arrived from Islamic nations such as Morocco, Egypt, Yemen and Iran. These North African and Middle Eastern Jews and their descendants far outnumber Holocaust survivors as the demographic core of modern Israel. Today, more than 100,000 black Jews from Ethiopia play a proud role in Israeli life. Would Thomas and like-minded commentators want them to return to their destitute and brutally oppressive homeland in East Africa?

Second, the thoughtless references to Israelis as “occupiers” who seized “Palestinian land” echo familiar charges. Even some well-meaning friends of Israel accept the erroneous idea that a new home for Jews meant homelessness for Palestinians, and that Zionist settlers could build their population only by driving out the indigenous population. In fact, widely available census data from Turkish and then British authorities who ruled the area during the period of Israel’s pioneering generations (1880-1948) show that as the Jewish population soared, the Arab population rose even more quickly — growing by more than 300%.

The Palestinian boom

In no major census before the 1948 Arab invasion of the newly independent Israel did the Palestinian population decline. The famous refugees who have inspired more than 200 United Nations resolutions didn’t flee Jewish settlement of the land but rather desperate warfare, initiated by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon — which all promised to strangle infant Israel in its cradle. By the same token, population figures provide no basis for the claim that genocide characterized the post-1967 Israeli occupation of disputed territories in the West Bank, Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In all these areas, the Arab population has grown since the Israeli takeover, with greatly improved life expectancy and other indicators of health. This hardly demonstrates genocidal intent by Israel.

While supporters of Israel felt wounded by off-the-cuff nastiness from Helen Thomas, they ought to express appreciation for the public service she unwittingly performed in highlighting that Israel’s survival remains the only real issue in the conflict with its neighbors, and that those who challenge that survival rely on misinformation and false history of the most irresponsible sort.

Michael Medved is host of a national radio talk show and author of The 5 Big Lies About American Business. He is also a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.


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