by Dafna Yee


The psychological mechanism of how violence affects people, particularly when the violence is carried out over a long period of time, is the same whether the person is a victim of domestic violence with one perpetrator, or a group of people, e.g. Israeli leaders dealing with terrorist groups. This dictum can also be applied to the entire nation of Israel, which exists surrounded by enemies, and which must constantly deal with a hostile world.

One only has to look at the events following each Israeli concession over the last twenty years to note the continual escalation of hostility that has occurred after each and every attempt at making peace through negotiation. This parallels the pattern of behavior that most women live through when they attempt to alter their abusive partners' violent acts by changing their own behavior.

Domestic Abuse

A rule that applies both to domestic abuse and terrorism is that violence always escalates if it is not stopped by an external source. The way to stop the increasing violence in a domestic situation is to remove the perpetrator, which has to be done by an external authority. The victim cannot do it herself because only the perpetrator can alter his behavior. It is not possible to completely stop the violence when you are dealing with terrorists, because there is no external authority capable of completely removing them from their intended victims. However, the escalation of terrorism can be stopped by refusing to "negotiate" with these terrorists and by making their terrorism too expensive in terms of both money and lives to continue.

While it is impossible to halt the growth of violence completely when one is dealing with terrorists, it is possible to limit its intensity and to stop it from escalating. Only acknowledging that negotiation will not work, ever, can do this. The one response that would be effective is always to fight the terrorists with every available resource. Every act of terror must be met with a strong and direct consequence. For example, if one knows the building that is the source of Kassam rockets being fired at Israeli cities, one must bomb that building out of existence. Just as importantly, one must stop pretending that Israel has a "peace partner" to deal with the terrorists or to negotiate with.

There are no moderates among the Arab leaders. This definitely includes Mahmoud Abbas who, it should be remembered, was Arafat's handpicked successor. Being a so-called lesser terrorist group does not make that terrorist group the lesser of two evils, and the passage of time does not change a terrorist into a diplomat. Neither does changing the name from Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to the Palestine Authority metamorphose that organization from a terrorist group to a legitimate government with a police force.

Just as an abused woman will try repeatedly to placate her partner as long as she believes that it is within her power to change the situation by her own actions, the Israeli leaders' repeated offering of more and greater concessions has continued because they still believe that their own actions can change the outcome of terrorist acts. The Israeli leaders will continue their negotiations only as long as they believe it is within their power to alter the terrorists' actions. Unfortunately, the results of these "negotiations" will continue to be more Israeli citizens being killed and wounded by these same terrorists. (This is especially true when the concession is freeing Arab terrorists from Israeli jails!)

The specific pattern that occurs in domestic violence situations starts with a series of incidents where the perpetrator gets increasingly angry for diminishing reasons, eventually reaching a point where the woman will leave. This is followed by a "honeymoon period" where the perpetrator apologizes, begs for forgiveness, and promises never to repeat the abuse. This apologetic behavior typically lasts until the woman has returned to her partner with the resolve to alter her own behavior in some way, and he again feels sure that she is under his control. After control is reestablished, the abuse starts up again, but the abuse is more violent and accelerates over a shorter period of time until she leaves again. Once this pattern is established, it continues over and over until the woman finally realizes that no matter what she does or does not do, it will not affect the outcome, because she does not have the power to control the abuse.

Repetition of this pattern of behavior is not only dependent on a woman's belief in her power to control the situation, it also occurs because of a misplaced sense of responsibility, i.e., a belief that her actions or behavior actually caused the abuse. Phrases such as "You made me hit you" or "You know doing that makes me crazy" and others in a similar vein are also part of the abusive pattern. After listening to this constant barrage of blame, many victims of domestic violence come to believe these lies as if they were true.

Isolation is also part of the pattern of abuse. When a woman is isolated from family and former friends, not only does she have no means of supporting herself and her children, but she gets no feedback to counter the lies, nor does she get support to build up her ego. In fact, in many situations, even if the woman seeks outside support, she will not find it, because many people still hold to the belief that once a woman gets married, she becomes her husband's responsibility. Indeed, there are many cultures whose accepted traditional customs and social mores lock a woman into the pattern of abuse.

In order to fight this pattern of behavior, a woman has to build her self-esteem, which will have taken a battering along with other physical and emotional scars. An abused woman will leave, return, and leave again many times before she makes a final break. Studies have shown that in America, a Caucasian couple will generally repeat this cycle seven times before the woman finally leaves — unless she is murdered first.[1]

The most dangerous time for a woman is when she tells her partner that she is going to leave him. Most murders occur when a woman gives her husband a "last chance" to stop the abuse. It has been shown that anger itself acts like a drug, and a person who is addicted to anger gets angrier each time there is an incident, which is one of the reasons why violence always escalates.[2]

Israel and Its Neighbors

Along with many other people, I've often wondered why Israel's leaders have "negotiated" away Israel's security along with her land and pride without receiving anything in return except empty promises and worthless treaties. As a result of my background in psychology, I noticed that all of these leaders are behaving exactly as a woman does when she is trying to placate an abusive partner. It became clear that the behavior of the victim of violence is the same whether the perpetrator is an abusive partner or the "elected" leaders of terrorist groups masquerading as "peace partners" and "moderates."

Before explaining how this perpetrator-victim dynamic developed between the Arabs and the Israelis, here is a brief history of "Palestine" and the "Palestinians." The following will also give an overview of the mechanisms behind domestic violence and why continuing the relationship ALWAYS leads to more and greater abuse no matter what efforts are made by the victim to change matters.

The reason for the persistent use of the quotation marks around any variation of "Palestine" except when referring to the pre-1948 territory by that name, is that there is not now, nor has there ever been an independent nation known as "Palestine." Ever since the Roman conquerors renamed the lands of Judea and Samaria "Palestine" in a deliberate attempt to erase all records of Jewish presence, "Palestine" has been a vague territory between Syria and Egypt without specific borders. Under the Ottomans, Palestine was known as southern Syria and the first established border was between Egypt and Palestine that was formed in 1905 after the incident at Taba:

The Ottomans made a unilateral attempt to redraw Egypt's eastern boundary by reassigning most of the Sinai to their direct rule. They and the British sent forces to occupy Taba and other points on the Gulf of Aqaba in a struggle to assert their territorial claims (known as the Taba incident). The agreement fixed the boundary on an almost straight line from al-Rafah on the Mediterranean to Taba at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. This line later became the boundary between Egypt and the Palestine Mandate.[3]

Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, only Jews were referred to as Palestinians. Just like the citizens of other countries, Palestinian Jews did not call themselves Israelis until they were citizens in their own country. This was true even though they had a functioning infrastructure that was separate from the British who occupied the area from 1917-1948. Yet Arabs and their supporters freely apply the name "Palestinian" to anyone who wishes to join in their reprehensible cause—the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a new country to be called Palestine—or to anyone who claims to have lived in pre-1948 Palestine. (Note that no documentation of any kind has ever been offered or expected from any "Palestinian" in order to be considered a refugee.[4]

In addition, the Arabs who presently designate themselves or others as "Palestinians" have only used that particular name since 1964 when Arafat began his campaign to take over both ]0rdan and Israel with his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Actually, the "Palestinians" of today have only been recognized as a separate political group since 1974 at the Rabat Summit Conference.[5] Their elaborate "history" is nothing more than a cleverly crafted and widely disseminated hoax. (If one checks any source written prior to I964 and after 1948, one only finds references to the Arab-Israeli war, Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab riots, etc.; there is absolutely no mention of any established political entity called "Palestinians.")[6]

Forty years ago, when the Israelis won the Six-Days War, they did not fight against the "Palestinians." In fact, three years later, when Golda Meir was asked whether the Palestinians were an important factor in the fighting, she replied that, yes, they were a new factor, but no, there were no Palestinians:

Important, no. A new factor, yes. There was no such a thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian State? It was either southern Syria before the First World War and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.[7]

Parallels between "Restorative Justice" and Arab-Israeli "Negotiations"

The psychological rationale behind the behavior of Israeli leaders and their refusal to see why trying to bring about a peaceful conclusion by "negotiation" with "Palestinians" is impossible, can be understood by substituting the words "Israeli leader" for "victim" and "Restorative Justice" (a legal term for returning the offender to his former situation) for "negotiation." That Israeli leaders continue with "negotiation" in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is not merely ineffective but is actually harmful, can only be explained in terms of this same psychological dynamic.

Let's look at some of the specific reasons why Restorative Justice (RJ) does not work in cases of domestic violence and how such a policy actually exacerbates an already volatile situation. (This information has selectively extracted from the Position Paper at Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non- Violence[8])

RJ requires community investment and an awareness of the seriousness of the crime committed. The community has not historically demonstrated this level of concern regarding domestic violence-related crimes.

  1. Victim blaming: The domestic violence victim is frequently seen as complicit in the victimization.
  2. "Good/true" victim mentality: Only those victims who meet the standard are seen as deserving of help/ belief.
  3. Focus on the relationship rather than the crime: In its attempt to "restore" the offender to the community, RJ may inadvertently support "restoring" the victim-offender relationship.
  4. Retribution by the abuser: The community (neighbors, family, etc.) may be afraid to intervene because of possible retribution by the abuser.
  5. Ambiguity about what constitutes domestic violence: The community is ambiguous about what level/type of domestic violence is criminal. The presence of a pre-existing relationship between the victim and abuser makes restorative justice potentially dangerous.
  6. Abuser's access to the victim: The domestic violence abuser often has ongoing access to the victim.
  7. Victim's fear: The victim may agree to RJ to appease the abuser or the abuser's family.
  8. Abuser's manipulation: Any "empathy" the abuser may demonstrate should always be suspect.
  9. High probability of future offense: The probability that the abuser will engage in future domestic violence related criminal behavior is high.

These points directly parallel the Arab-Israeli relationship:

  1. Victim blaming: Israelis are blamed for the Arab terrorism every time someone finds an excuse for the Arabs to kill them.
  2. "Good/true" victim mentality: Where Israelis are when they are attacked determines whether or not the world decides that the victims "deserved" what happened.
  3. Focus on the relationship rather than the crime: The world—and many Israelis—are concentrating so much on having a relationship with a non-existent "peace-partner" that they treat the terrorism as an issue to be negotiated about instead of as a monstrous crime to its citizens that should not be tolerated at all.
  4. Retribution by the abuser: Many people/countries are afraid that if they come out and openly denounce Arab terrorism against Israelis, they might become a target.
  5. Ambiguity about what constitutes terrorism: When terrorism occurs in Israel, the media, world leaders, and many ordinary people refer to the terrorists as "militants" or "freedom fighters", and consistently expect Israelis to show "restraint" in their response. Outside of Israel, these same groups refer to terrorism without euphemism, and condone or even encourage retribution to the perpetrators.
  6. Abuser's access to the victim: Since every attempt to prevent or respond to terrorist acts meets with world-wide outcries about "oppression" and "apartheid," and the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah are established both north and south of Israel': borders, with "neutral" Jordan to the west, Israelis are far too accessible to Arab terrorists.
  7. Victim's fear: Many Israeli leaders fear, not the terrorists themselves so much as loss of support from other countries, particularly the US if they appear to be intractable with negotiations.
  8. Abuser's manipulation: The Arabs manipulate the world by issuing "moderate" statements in the English-speaking press which gains them world-wide support all the while continuing to proclaim their intentions (in Arabic) to destroy all of Israel and using terrorism in their attempts to accomplish their goals.
  9. High probability of future offense: Since the Arabs' use of terrorism has clearly accomplished so much for them, they have no incentive to stop their terrorism and every reason to continue. This situation will stand until they are forced to stop because Israel's retaliations make it impossible for them to continue.

In addition to the above, isolation also figures into why Israeli-Arab negotiations are doomed to failure. The majority of people around the world, and certainly in the UN, are strongly on the side of the Arabs. Israel's only steady supporter, and its support is always conditional, is the United States. This is yet another reason why negotiation with the Arabs can never bring about a peaceful solution or stop the terrorism.

The Israeli leaders show a misplaced sense of responsibility just as does an abused woman. They spend too much time and energy trying to figure out where Israel went wrong during previous negotiations before deciding that the only thing to do is to increase the size of their concessions. This false assumption of blame continues to aid in the Israelis' self-delusion that some effort on their parts can change the outcome of the terrorists' behavior.

A woman's lack of self-esteem after years of abuse correlates with the reactions of many Israelis to repeated acts of terrorism. The Israelis' need to please others and their need to get outside approval for every action they take supersedes their need for security for themselves and their country.

Learned Helplessness and Myths Concerning Domestic Violence

"Learned helplessness" is the behavior that occurs when people are faced with an abusive situation and take no action to escape it because of their previous inability to avoid it even when an action was taken.[9] The psychological phenomenon of learned helplessness is applicable to both Israelis who continue to try using "negotiation" and women who are abused in domestic violence situations. "Those [people] who have been unable to escape violent situations in their homes are much more likely to refuse help and accept future violence as inescapable. This is true even when presented with real options to avoid future violence."[10]

When one studies the myths concerning abused victims' actions or lack of actions, one will see direct parallels to those myths used to explain the behaviors of Israeli leaders and those proponents who continue to try and "negotiate" with non-existent "peace partners," despite never achieving their goals. The prevalent idea that both Israel and the Arabs must stop fighting in order to stop the "cycle of violence" is as mistaken a belief as the myth that domestic violence is a family dynamic, implying that everyone in a family must change for the violence to stop. The fact is that "only the batterer has the ability to stop the violence. Battering is a behavioral choice for which the batterer must be held accountable.[11] The Israelis' retaliatory military actions to terrorists' deliberate murder of civilians does not cause the blowing up of buses, bombing of pizza parlors, nor the gunning down of babies in their beds. The only acts that the Israelis have done which could be said to have caused terrorist behavior are their continued attempts at negotiations in their one-sided quest for peace.

Israeli leaders have demonstrated that the years of unremitting terrorism have caused the learned helplessness response. That is why they continue to "negotiate" and make more and greater concessions without waiting for evidence of the terrorists' willingness to favorably alter their behavior. When one looks back over the series of treaties, the pattern of Israeli concessions followed by increased terrorism can be seen plainly. The following lists only a few examples: (This information is from ACPR Policy Papers — Middle East "Peace Process"[12] and AIPAC Publications — Israel's Search for Peace[13])

1) Yasser Arafat did not become a "moderate" or democratically elected leader simply because the Israelis were willing to make concessions and needed someone to make them to. Yet, in 1993, Arafat and Rabin signed the Oslo Accords and established self-rule for the newly created Palestine Authority. The cease-fire that followed was broken within a few weeks by a series of horrible bombings in cities and towns across Israel.

2) In 2000, at Camp David, Israeli leaders offered everything they possibly could while still remaining a viable country, and Arafat refused to accept their offer. Instead, another rash of murders of Israeli civilians swept the country.

3) In 2005, Ariel Sharon decided to go beyond making offers, and actually forced the evacuation of more than 8,000 Jews from Gush Katif, now known as Gaza. The former prosperous area was given over to the Arabs, who promptly elected Hamas terrorists as leaders. Gaza is now the source of continual rocket attacks fired onto Israeli homes (mainly concentrating in Sderot), and is now a base for terrorist activity. Another outcome that can directly be related to the takeover of Gaza was the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Not a single so-called cease-fire has ever brought any cessation of terrorist activity. As one can see, these acts have progressed from scattered bombings and shootings to open war. Since Israel did not achieve its aims in Lebanon, which were to free the kidnapped soldiers and to render Hezbollah ineffective, it is clear that the terrorism will only continue to escalate despite all attempts at arbitration.


Since the reasoning behind the actions is the same for both situations, the outcome of "peace negotiations" between Israel and the "Palestinians" will be as unsuccessful as trying to bring about a non-confrontational end result between a perpetrator of violence and the victim of his abuse.

A woman will not make the final break with her abusive partner as long as she believes that her actions and/or a change in her behavior can stop the violence. Likewise, Israeli leaders will not use the full force of their military to retaliate effectively against terrorists until they recognize that "negotiation" with terrorists, even "moderate" ones, will inevitably lead to an escalation of violence instead of peace.



1. The Battered Woman by Lenore E. Walker (N.Y.: Harper Colophon Books, 1979)

2. Hightower, Newton. How to Stop Losing Your Life to Anger. (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

3. The Encyclopedia of World History. Agreement over the Ottoman-Egyptian border in Sinai, 1906, Oct. 1. (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

4. Yee, Dafna. Where are the Arab Documents? Israel Hasbara Committee (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

5. Palestine Facts. What was the significance of the October 1974 Rabat Summit Conference of Arab leaders? (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

6. Yee, Dafna. What is "Palestinian Land" and Who Are the "Palestinians"? (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

7. The Times of London, June 15th, 1969

8. The Boulder County Domestic Abuse Prevention Project Advisory Board. A Resolution Regarding Restorative Justice and Domestic Violence. (Retrieved Dec. 6, 2012)

9. Encyclopedia Britannica. Learned Helplessness. (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

10. AllPsych Online. Learning to be Helpless. (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

11. Clark County Prosecuting Attorney. Domestic Violence. (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

12. Ariel Center for Policy Research. Middle East "Peace Process". (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

13. American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Israel's Search for Peace. (Retrieved Nov. 19, 2012)

Dafna Yee is an independent writor and editor. She lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth Texas area. This article was reprinted from Mentalities/Mentalités 21:69-73 (2007)

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