Blogs > HNN > E. James Lieberman, M.D. reviewed Avner Falk's "Fratricide in the Holy Land: A Psychoanalytic View of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Wisconsin)

Mar 4, 2005 12:55 pm


E. James Lieberman, M.D. reviewed Avner Falk's "Fratricide in the Holy Land: A Psychoanalytic View of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Wisconsin)




Israeli political psychologist and historian and author of three biographies as well as A Psychoanalytic History of the Jews, points to a dearth of material on irrational forces and personalities in the historic Middle East conflict, and seeks to address it. Writing clearly, with impressive historical and cultural insight, he analyzes both Ariel Sharon and Yassir Arafat as destructive yet charismatic leaders. Besides biographical studies of the two antagonists, Falk has informative chapters on the Arab mind and the Israeli mind, nationalism, and war. The central focus includes unconscious factors and mechanisms such as denial, externalization, projection, splitting and "the problem of empathy, the inability to mourn, large-group psychodynamics, the psychology of suicidal terrorism…the need for enemies." The result, writes reviewer E. James Lieberman, professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University School of Medicine, is a rich combination of history, culture, religion, and psychology—especially in relation to empathy, mourning, and projection. At times Falk slips into jargon: "Oedipal" and "narcissistic" become shibboleths of an armchair sleuth using speculative Freudian logic rather than real evidence. Still, he effectively challenges historians and political "scientists" who tend to ignore the psyche. General readers will enjoy a mostly engaging, articulate and sensible overview that is remarkably nonpartisan.

Library Journal, January 2005



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