Virtually everyone knows by now that something is terribly wrong with Israel’s prime minister. Even President George W. Bush suspects that Ehud Olmert’s eagerness to yield the strategically vital Golan Heights to Syria is not rational. Many people say that Olmert’s failure to resign after the Winograd Commission Report of his incompetence during the Second Lebanon War marks him as shameless—more so after repeated police investigations of his unethical and perhaps illegal financial transactions.
The truth is, and as I shall soon illustrate, Ehud Olmert is suffering from a mental disorder. If the Knesset, as a whole, was not itself infected by the same mental disorder, Olmert would have been forced out office two years ago. I call this mental disorder “demophrenia,” and I see its symptoms across Israel’s political spectrum.
Demophrenia is a form of schizophrenia manifested especially in democratic societies where moral relativism permeates academia and therefore the behavior of politicians who, after all, are college and university graduates. However, as the World Health Organization points out, schizophrenics, despite their vulnerabilities, are in the full sense responsive social beings like the rest of us. Put simply, schizophrenics or demophrenics are subject to one or another delusion, by which I mean a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.
Various researchers distinguish between positive- and negative-symptom schizophrenia. Positive-symptom schizophrenia includes hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. Negative-symptom schizophrenia includes escapism, stereotypic behaviors, apathy, flattened emotional reactions, and impairment of volition. Obviously, these negative symptoms exist on a continuum with normal behavior. They are quite evident among otherwise normal people who persist in a false belief despite overwhelming contradictory evidence.
I see escapism, stereotypic behavior, apathy, flattened emotions reactions, and impairment of volition in politicians eager to negotiate with Arabs dedicated to Israel’s destruction. I see escapism, stereotypic behavior, apathy, flattened emotional reactions, and impairment of volition in politicians as diverse as Binyamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni eager to negotiate with Arab leaders who are responsible for the murder and maiming of thousands of Jews year after year since the Oslo or Israel-PLO Agreement of September 1993.
What applies to Livni and Netanyahu obviously applies to most Jewish members of the Knesset, for they elected Shimon Peres President of Israel even though he is responsible for the Oslo Agreement, whose fatal consequences continue to this day.
This said, I must now demonstrate the sickness of Israel’s current Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. Here is what I have written about Olmert in the latest version of my book, Demophrenia: Israel and the Malaise of Democracy.
On June 9, 2005, Olmert, then Israel’s Vice Premier, addressed the Israel Policy Forum in New York. Israel’s Government, then under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was in the process of training some 50,000 soldiers and police to implement Sharon’s plan to withdraw from Gaza and expel its 8,000 Jewish residents. Olmert described the planned Gaza withdrawal as “a remarkable process … that will have an enormous impact on everything that will happen thereafter, in the State of Israel and in the Middle East.” He emphasized its unilateral nature and proceeded to make two self-revealing statements, one boastful, the other a paradoxical combination of egoism and self-effacement:
- (1) First statement: “We don’t have to wait anymore … we really don’t need the United States to lead the [peace] process in the Middle East, we will lead this process … We will lead it because it’s good for us. And we will lead it because it may do good to the Palestinians…. It will bring more security, greater safety, much more prosperity, and a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East.”
- (2) Second statement: “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors.”
What remarkable irony! The Second Lebanon War broke out in July 2006, less than a year after the Gaza withdrawal. By then Olmert had become Israel’s Prime Minister. Despite Israel’s failure to defeat Hezbollah in that war, and despite the Winograd Report, which attributed that failure to the ineptitude of Israel’s Government, Olmert nonetheless boasted of Israel’s success! This delusion was dramatized in May 2008, when Hezbollah gained control of Lebanon’s government! Iran now had one proxy, Hezbollah, on Israel’s northern border, and another proxy, Hamas, on Israel’s southern border.
So, how is one to describe the mentality of a Vice Premier whose nation is at war and yet confesses, in public, “we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies”? It seems to me that Olmert’s confession is symptomatic of degeneracy stemming from a bizarre fusion of egomania and self-effacement. This would be the diagnosis of Dr. Max Nordau, a psychiatrist of remarkable breadth of learning.
In 1895, Nordau published a heavy tome entitled Degeneration. Republished in 1968 by the University of Chicago Press, Degeneration has since been the subject of several doctoral dissertations. Of profound significance, Nordau regarded the connection of egoism and amorality (or moral relativism) as the basic cause of psychological degeneration. His book provides insights relevant to Israel’s ruling elites and their fixation on the policy of land for peace.
Nordau finds that nearly all degenerates “lack the sense of morality and of right and wrong” (p. 18). This amorality conduces to “egomania,” which Nordau discusses at great length (pp. 241-372). Surprisingly, Nordau finds that in many degenerates, egomania coexists with “self-abhorrence” (p. 20). Nordau sees that the fusion of egoism and self-loathing in degenerates conduces to impulsiveness, lack of balance, and weakness of will (pp. 19, 22, 23, 257-261).
Degenerates, says Nordau, also lack a sense of honor as well as a diminished sense of outrage at the suffering of others (p. 260). (Notice how Israeli prime ministers consort with Arab terrorists and shake their bloodstained hands. Notice how Israeli prime ministers have so often failed to retaliate against terrorist attacks and suicide bombings, which have reduced Jewish women and children to body parts.)
Nordau claims that the degenerate is “incapable of correctly grasping, ordering, or elaborating into ideas and judgments the impressions of the external world….” He “surrenders himself to the perpetual obfuscation of … fugitive ideas” (p. 21). He is given to “fixed” ideas, however visionary or unrealistic [such as the idea of land for peace] (p. 242). Moreover, “facts which do not please him he does not notice, or so interprets that they seem to support his delirium” (p. 31).
Nordau anticipates the renowned psychologist Harry Stack Sullivan’s concept of “selective inattention.” Thus, despite the fatal consequences of Oslo, and contrary to the warnings of Israel highest military and intelligence officials, the government persisted in its evacuation of Gaza.
This selective inattention raises the question of whether degenerates compulsively misrepresent or consciously lie about reality. Nordau contends that they believe in the truth of their fabrications (p. 25). It seems to me, however, that conscious but habitual liars will eventually believe in the truth of many of their lies. In any event, bearing in mind that fear governs many degenerates (p. 19), such is their inability to face reality that even their instinct of self-preservation, according to Nordau, is crippled (p. 31).
Now let us return to Ehud Olmert’s speech to the Israel Policy Forum where he said “we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.” This curious blending of egotism and self-abasement corresponds to Nordau’s assessment of degenerates. I contend that Israel’s prime minister is a sick man, a very sick man. He should be removed from office before he does any more harm to the people of Israel.