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Chosen Trauma and Terrorism: The Jewish Victim Narrative

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Palestinians have been victims of Israeli atrocities and war crimes such as mass evacuations, illegal settlements, systematic discrimination, and blatant attacks ever since Israel occupied their territory in 1967. Yet the international system remains unresponsive due to the projection of chosen trauma, leading to the Jewish victim narrative. The Jewish Israeli state exploits the holocaust to justify their current atrocities and attainment of national interest. This concept is deemed as chosen trauma and is a result of large-group identity and the transgenerational transmission of trauma.

Large group identity refers to the collective recognition of thousands or millions of people who are not directly associated with one another; however, they carry a sense of oneness and similar characteristics. Although large groups can be further divided into subgroups based on clans, religion, sects, and occupations, they fall under the same umbrella. Accordingly, the basis of this identity becomes stronger upon attacks or threats from external groups. Hence, attacks on a large group result in the projection of collective victimhood. Collective victimhood refers to the collective mindset of large groups subsequent to intentional harm with critical consequences. The inflicted harm is regarded as unjust, immoral, undeserved, and unpreventable; such as discrimination, slavery, and exploitation. The resulting concept is that; the perceived harm is stored in the collective memory of large groups.

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Accordingly, large groups can induce collective victimization, and its psychological domain deems it as a social construction. Shared beliefs can be reflected in in-group victimization, whereby, the inflicted harm is perceived as an intentional act towards the group and its members. According to Turner, the social-psychological theory argues that beliefs are the basic foundation of large-group formation. Subsequent to the process of de-personalization, individuals acquire numerous beliefs, attitudes, and emotions from the group. As a result, the infliction of pain on particular members of the group yields shared empathy, projecting collective victimhood on members not personally impacted by the harm. Moving forward, the perception of collective victimhood can cause groups to internalize past harms for cultural narratives, thereby projecting it as an element of their social identity. This notion can cause large groups to exploit collective trauma for particular benefits.

Thus, it can be argued that the transgenerational evolution of trauma is associated with distressing stories of large groups. Israel transmits such features due to prior collective trauma and the current atrocities being undertaken against the Palestinian community. In the years after the Holocaust, the Jewish narrative and the atrocities they experienced were projected in media, educational messages, and political rhetoric. Accordingly, the Holocaust survivors were proclaimed as national heroes in their resistance against a collective danger. In this manner, the individual memories of the victims of the holocaust reached public consciousness through media, film, and literature; thereby, allowing the trauma to be passed down through generations. It can be argued that generations later, the Jewish population still lingers under the realm of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The wounds of the holocaust essentially go hand in hand with heroism and aspirations to bring justice to the ancestral victims. According to the present population of Israel, the individuals are still victims of threats, which influence their existence. Correspondingly, they project violence against the Palestinian community, which directly challenges the existence of the Israeli state.

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As per the transgenerational transmission of trauma, the parental dilemma of the Holocaust survivors also had implications on the notion of choosing trauma. The parents were attributed to the inability to provide physical and emotional care to their offspring. According to Scharf and Mayseless, the parent-child relationship demonstrated signs of survival issues, low amount of emotional resources, and child struggles to satisfy their parents. Implying that, the holocaust generated unhealthy attachment styles, which generated undesired psychological development in coming generations. Moving forward, since the Holocaust massacred millions of Jews, the emerging offspring’s gained less family support. The parents that survived were also unable to instigate care and provide emotional support for their children. This can be elaborated through understanding that, children with one survivor parent demonstrated fewer signs of trauma, as opposed to those with two survivor parents.

Furthermore, during pregnancy, experiencing trauma caused unborn children to be exposed to distress. As a result, coming generations projected mental health concerns. Hence, both media and biological factors contributed to the transgenerational transmission of trauma, and radicalized Jews to take measures against parties threatening their identity and right to a state.

In conclusion, the psychological domain of transgenerational transmission of trauma argues that through depositing, the parties become free of the traumatic images and deal with their mental conflicts. The induced result is chosen trauma, whereby a collective sense of entitlement for the purpose of recovering from ancestral collective trauma is reflected. Along these lines, the Jewish Holocaust survivors passed down the trauma of concertation camps, torture, and sexual violence across generations. As a result, present-day Jews aspire to avenge the Holocaust by maintaining domination over Jerusalem and current Israeli land. As a result, the Palestinian community which challenges the aspiration of Jews is the victim of state-sponsored terrorism. Hence, the notion of chosen trauma is employed to justify Jewish atrocities against the Palestinians.

Author: Tamseel Aqdas is an Undergraduate student of Peace and Conflict Studies at the National Defence University, Islamabad. 

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Defense Insight.

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