The term "learned helplessness" was coined by psychologist Martin Seligman, who investigated the process by which people are exposed over a prolonged period to a situation where there is no connection between their reactions to stimuli and changes in these stimuli. In other words, there is no connection between actions and their immediate consequences.
The psychological concept embodies Palestinian society and the inability of Palestinians to see beyond the victimhood status that has been thrust upon them by their own leaders for over 60 years. It is also why the so-called Palestinian occupation is more mental than physical.
Earlier this week, Judge Richard Goldstone, the author of the infamous Goldstone Report on the 2008-2009 Gaza War, recanted his findings and said that the United Nations Human Rights Council should similarly reject the document. In an op-ed originally carried by The Washington Post, Goldstone wrote:"If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying; its rockets were purposely and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets."
Goldstone and his report has been validating and feeding the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) and its accompanying "apartheid" campaign by portraying Israel as a pariah state engaged in the intentional and unlawful targeting of civilians. Goldstone's Jewish identity has been used to give credence to the fact that his original findings were legitimate and not biased.
Goldstone's retraction is unlikely to make any serious waves in the BDS movement. Moreover, while steps may be taken to enhance the article's status within the UN system, the probability that Goldstone's new position will enable repudiation of the report by the bodies that adopted it is questionable. Given the politically charged environment in the UN, efforts to pursue this line of action may backfire.
Zeal trumps pragmatism
The attitude in the United Nations is reflective of a more general recidivism regarding Israel and its place among the nations. In the wake of protests sweeping the Arab world, a renewed toxic brew of violence and provocation is fermenting in the Palestinian territories. From the abstract – Facebook campaigns to provoke a "third Intifada" – to the awfully manifest – the slaughter of five Jewish family members in their beds in Israel, a terrorist bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem, and intensified rocket attacks on southern Israel; it seems that whatever was left of the "peace" process is in tatters.
In the inimitable words of Abba Eban, "(The Palestinian leadership) never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity." If logic played a factor in Palestinian nationalism, there would be a consensus that a new Intifada would constitute an unprecedented campaign of political suicide by West Bank residents. But experience reveals that at every similar historical juncture, anti-Zionist ideology and unrestrained nationalist zeal trump pragmatic realpolitik - and Palestinian leaders balk at the crucial moment when a chance of peace might be possible.
George Orwell wrote, "All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting." The Palestinians' biggest success story is a pyrrhic victory that celebrates ideological vanity rather than the peace to be found in a negotiated compromise; and the iconization of violence and demonization over the recognition of mutual humanity.
Asaf Romirowsky is a Philadelphia-based Middle East analyst, a lecturer in history at Pennsylvania State University and an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum. Nicole Brackman, Ph.D. is a former Soref Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.