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Feldman, H. (1958). Children of the Desert: Notes on Arab National Character. Psychoanal. Rev., 45C(3):40-50.

(1958). Psychoanalytic Review, 45C(3):40-50

Children of the Desert: Notes on Arab National Character

Harold Feldman

Padre, assai ci fia men doglia

se tu mangia di noi: tu ne vestisti

queste misere carni, e tu le spoglia …

Più che'l dolor, potè 'l digiuno.

Dante: Inferno, Canto 33

The hostility that exists between the Arab states and Israel today seems to act out again two legends of both peoples. The mother of Ishmael was driven into the wilderness, thus assuring the inheritance of Abraham to his younger son, Isaac. Isaac's son, Jacob, the trickster, in his turn wins the inheritance that belonged to his older brother, Esau, by deceiving his father and taking unfair advantage of his brother. Here we see a struggle for the position of “favored son” and the consequent envy, hatred, and guilt that is cherished on both sides. This article is an attempt to go a little beyond the surface theme of sibling rivalry and to penetrate to a more unconscious factor that is particularly evident on the Arab side. The aspects of love and tenderness among adults and between generations are neglected in this paper. This is not to say that they play any less a part in Arab life than among other nations but only to emphasize one particular manifestation of Thanatos which has not found enough recognition in psychoanalytical literature.


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