In xenophobia, the Distinct Other is an object of fear, rejection and hatred. The Other carries the projection of what the subject detests in him or herself, refuses to accept and relate to, and splits off. The Other, carrying the subject’s (‘my’) shadow projection, relieves me from the pain of reflection and introspection. In my struggle to remain ‘pure,’ the impure, dirty, contaminated, is split off, projected, and carried by the Other as Enemy. In its most severe forms, when the ego identifies with archetypal heights of collectivism (such as a totalitarian ideology or regime), the distinct other “needs” to be persecuted and exterminated, as in Nazism or Islamism.
At its extreme, the distinct other carries no face, no image, only a collective projection of split-off aspects of the shadow.
This is the case, for instance, with classical anti-Semitism.
The Similar Other
This is a more complicated projection, since it does not emanate from the simplicity of projecting onto the well-defined, distinct other. The Similar Other, rather, is similar to the subject. It is often the tragic result of an open mind, able to reach out to the distinct other as an equal, as equally valuable, and in respect of the Other’s distinct difference.
However, the guilt and shame that inevitably result from reflection and introspection, may be burdensome to carry. I may then ‘need’ to split off and project onto the other within the tribe, such as “I can’t stand the settlers who don’t understand the suffering of the Palestinians; if they don’t get out of occupied territories, I could kill them.”
Or, the liberal minded Jew, who needs to separate and differentiate him or herself from “those savage Israelis; I am NOT like them.”
Israel and the Jews may be a convenient target for both these Others – for the classical anti-Semite and the xenophobic Right, they are the Distinct Other, while for the liberal-minded, they are the Similar Other, from which I need to distinguish myself.
The Other Within
To be able to carry the other within, to sense my wholeness in my shortcomings and limitations, may be far more difficult, and yet far more healing. Without idealizing myself or the other, and also without splitting off those parts in me (as an individual and society) which I reject, feel ashamed of, and oppose, I stand a better chance of attaining human potency – characterized by partiality and mortality in contrast to the immortality and totality of the gods.
Regarding Israeli society, it would require not only healing the inner split (“let’s make peace among ourselves,” with the implication that peace with the Palestinians can wait), or the phantasy of healing the external conflict (“if we only end the conflict with the Palestinians, Israel will thrive again,” as if the Palestinians are entirely peace-loving and only the Israeli right prevents a peaceful resolution), but it entails finding partial solutions with the Palestinians, and embracing the settlers, many of which will have to do similar sacrifices as the ten thousand who had to leave Gaza when Israel disengaged.
Creativity emanates from the tension that resides in the frustrations of partiality and the dissatisfaction of absence and deficiency. The time has come for the Israeli leadership to create new conditions and venture untried paths.
Some of my books deal with aspects of these topics, particularly The Hero and His Shadow:Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel, and Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return (both published in English as well as in Hebrew).