Aspects of Development, Identity, Mimetic Structures, and Collective Shadow in Conflict

Sharain Clark By Sharain Clark, 17th Jul 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
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An Analysis and Application of theories by R. Bly, W. Drath, R. Heifetz and Assoc., R. Kegan, R. McGuigan, and V. Redekop: As applied to the Jerusalem courts controversy regarding Justice Salim Joubran’s choice to remain silent during the singing of Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva”.


This paper explores the perspectives surrounding the Justice Salim Joubran Controversy and its undercurrent of influencing factors in relation to Vern Redekop’s (2002) identity needs theory, Robert Bly’s (1989) and Richard McGuigan’s (2009) work on Collective Shadow, Robert Kegan’s constructive-developmental theory, as well as references to Ronald Heifetz’s and M. Linsky’s (2002) concept of Going to the Balcony and Wilfred Drath’s (2001) Leadership Principles. Some of the questions that the essay seeks to answer are as follows: What are the deeper identity needs and developmental perspectives involved? What were Joubran’s motivating identity need factors? What role does leadership style play in the different perspectives and how might they help us better understand the conflict? In conclusion, personal responses and hypothesis concerning the Joubran controversy will be offered in summary of what I have taken away from this analysis in terms of learning and increased perspective.


Spurring society toward social change from a position of influence is a balancing act incomparable to most. Successfully planting the seeds of social change from an affluent position may very well result in volatile political and cultural conflict. Conflict, dynamically understood and strategically utilized, has the potential to walk hand in hand with change. This is, hypothetically, the catalytic predicament that Justice Salim Joubran has found himself in as the only Arab of fifteen Justices serving Jerusalem’s high courts. According to Ethan Bronner’s Article Anger and Compassion for Arab Justice Who Stays Silent During Zionest Hymn, published in the New York Times, March 4, 2012, Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch was retiring from a respected career in the courts. Her departure brought a day full of ceremonies, sentimental speeches, and the inauguration of a new Chief Justice, followed by a closing ceremony that including standing and singing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva”. Justice Salim Joubran stood respectfully during the closing song, but his lips did not move. (p.1) What ensued was political and cultural upheaval concerning his actions.

Analysis and Application

There have been diverse responses of opposition and support for Justice Salim Joubran and his choice to remain silent during Israel’s national anthem at Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch’s retirement ceremonies. The nature of the conflict carries significant undertones of multi-cultural identity issues of meaning making, collective shadow projection, and developmental implications for both individuals and the groups they represent. I chose to focus primarily on the negative responses to Joubran’s actions they tend to carry interesting implications of shadow energy with them on a collective level. Richard McGuigan (2009) backs this up in his essay Shadows, Conflict, and the Mediator when he suggests that

If we are curious about what is in our collective Shadow or “state” bag, we need only listen closely to the language of today’s leaders as they describe fighting the war on terrorism, goodness winning over evil, right prevailing over wrong (Bly, 1989 in McGuigan, 2009, p. 12).

One such leader highlighted in Bronner’s (03/04/2012) article made his anger and opinion concerning Joubran’s actions very clear. Bronner’s (03/04/2012) quote of the individual provides interesting insight toward the perspectives and shadows at play within the controversy:

“He spat in the face of the state of Israel,” asserted David Rotem, a member of Parliament with the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party . . . Those who object to the Zionist hymn, he said, “can find a state with a more appropriate anthem and move there.” . . . Justice Joubran “should do the decent thing and step down.”

There are several clues in this quote that might offer insight into what is brewing under the surface of this clash with Joubran’s actions in terms of identity, developmental state, collective shadow, mimetic structures, and leadership style. The first that comes to mind here concerning David Rotem is the passion with which he defends his position of opposition to Joubran’s actions. There is a deeper meaning making construct at work that has his blood boiling; something that he adheres to, believes in, and strives toward that Joubran’s perceived public denial of was terribly upsetting to. Nevertheless, we must be careful about what we assume. What we can assume is that he strongly identifies with his tribal values and will go to great lengths to defend and preserve them. There seems a presence of collective shadow energy being projected onto Joubran that could lead to increasingly volatile tensions as well. This is reflected in Rotem’s statement, “Those who object to the Zionist hymn, he said, “can find a state with a more appropriate anthem and move there.” This also implies that he is quite willing to openly make Joubran a public scapegoat for what he feels is in service to a greater purpose. A passage in Vern Redekop’s (2002) book From Violence to Blessing: How an understanding of deep-rooted conflict can open paths to reconciliation speaks to Rotem’s contempt, putting an insightful spin on its interpreted contribution to the conflict:

Theologian Raymond Schwager, a primary interpreter of Girard’s thought, looks at the role of passionate emotions in generating violence. He asserts that “passion can dupe reason and make it its ally,” indicating that our emotions can take over our cognitive processes. He also points out that at the beginning of a scapegoating process, people think they are working for justice. (p. 91)

The overtly angry nature of Rotem’s statements suggests that Joubran poses a perceived threat to Rotem’s meaning making in terms of identity needs and values in relation to his tribe’s goals (Redekop, 2002, p. 53). This hints toward the possibility that Rotem’s attachment or subjectivity to his primary identity is high and not yet self-authored. Rotem’s statements also reflect a concrete component, an inability to take Joubran’s perspective, which leads me to believe that he is working from a mindset that presents itself with an “absence of a shared reality.” (p.91) as described in Robert Kegan’s (1982) book, The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. This is indicative of a primary mindset in stage two Imperialism on Kegan’s (1982) developmental continuum. (p. 91) Going further, based on these assumptions, Rotem’s strong ideals as to what a person holding a judicial office in Jersualem’s court system ‘should’ look like, suggests a leadership style of Personal Dominance as described by Wilfred Drath (2001) in his book The Deep Blue Sea: Rethinking the Source of Leadership. (p. 12). As a practitioner, I imagine that working with Rotem at the negotiation table and building on his capacity for perspective would be challenging. I can see how his occupying a position of leadership and authority that confirms his current mindset would pose an obstacle to his being able to make it to Heifetz and Linsky’s (2002) balcony, in order to see how he is affecting dynamics on the ‘dance floor’, since he seems to genuinely believe that he is already there.

Without detailed information, it is difficult to determine the foundation on which Rotem’s perspective is built, but what we can determine, from the limited perspective in his responses, is that the developmental capacity to see things from Joubran’s perspective is for all intensive purposes, absent, thus creating conditions that could perpetuate an intractable conflict of clashing identity needs and interests. The passionate nature of his stance is also indicative of mimetic structures being present on both sides of the conflict, long before the Joubran incident took place.
In direct contrast to Rotem’s derogatory response to Joubran’s quiet refusal to sing Israel’s national anthem, another of Bronner’s (03/04/2012) chosen leaders to quote is one of Joubran’s direct peers within Israel’s court system, Justice Elyakim Rubenstein:

“Arab citizens should not be required to sing words that do not speak to their hearts and which do not reflect their roots,” Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said . . . and that those Arab citizens who sang “Hatikva” should be welcomed, but that the decision was a personal one. (p.2)

There are few, if any similarities between the two prior perspectives and responses presented to Joubran’s actions. Justice Elyakim Rubinstein offers his perspective from a place of security in personal and tribal identity, with tolerance for those whom are different. This is a stark contrast to Rotem’s Imperial mindset, and I find it most interesting that Justice Rubinstein holds this view as Joubran’s peer, representing values that welcome Joubran’s inclusion to his tribe, despite their different cultural identities, while Joubran had been expressly excluded from Rotem’s. Given the deduced nature of the three men, I have to wonder if Rubinstein would be so tolerant of Rotem’s imperialistic stance if faced with it directly, and how might he view him in terms of inclusion to his tribe?

Rubinstein seems to be viewing Joubran’s actions from Kegan’s (1982) Institutional developmental mindset, as he stresses the value and significance of personal choice in the matter, demonstrated by his statement “and those Arab citizens who sang “Hatikva” should be welcomed, but that the decision was a personal one.” (p. 2) Rubinstein’s expressed identity needs reflect a primary need of “being/self, which breaks down into selfness, presence, character, heart, and emotions” (Redekop, 2002, p. 47). His needs do not seem in competition with Joubran’s so much as they are supportively encouraging the acceptance of individual value, almost to the point of being held higher than the system as a whole, leading me to believe that the leadership style that Rubinstein employs is in Drath’s (2001) Interpersonal Influence and possibly entering the beginnings of Relational Dialogue. Although Rubinstein brings a much more evolved perspective and sense of meaning making to the Joubran controversy than Rotem, my instincts lead me to believe that his perspective carries the classic limitations of the aforementioned developmental and leadership mindsets.

Swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction once again, Bronner (03/04/2012) brings yet another quote to the mix of responses to Joubran’s silence during the Israeli national anthem that not only brings to question Joubran’s actions, but touts his actions as representative of the unmistakable frailty of Israel’s democracy as if Joubran would be the straw that breaks Israel’s proverbial back:

As Mr. Levy put it: “Among all the speeches (yada, yada, yada) at the new Supreme Court president’s inauguration ceremony, it was Joubran’s silence that taught us an important lesson: that Israeli democracy is paper-thin and fragile. All it needs to ruin it is one judge who refuses to join the choir.” (p. 3)

Mr. Levy, as noted by Bronner (03/04/2012) in his article is “a leftist columnist at Haaretz” whom Joubran is nothing more to than a ‘fig leaf’. Given Levy’s sarcastic stance and his pejorative use of the term ‘fig leaf’, there is a strong sense of collective shadow being imposed on Joubran’s act, regardless of the intent behind it, leading me to believe there may be some scapegoating occurring here as well, but by whom? His comments alone suggest a very concrete, imperialistic mindset with little capacity for taking perspective, but the angle from which he imposes Joubran’s action as a fracture to Israel’s democracy as a whole, hints toward a deeper and broader awareness. As this becomes evident, you begin to wonder if Levy is even thinking for himself, or if he is just “going to bat” for a larger group identity from which he derives his meaning making? This observation leads us to the fact that Mr. Levy is a columnist, a writer whose career is perpetuated by ratings and readers responses to his work.

From this perspective alone, Mr. Levy almost has to take an extreme view in order to remain an asset to the institution for which he writes. With this in mind, judgments or assumptions as to the source of Levy’s extreme attitudes need to be taken with a grain of salt. Heifetz and Linsky (2002) make a strong case for leaders in any arena concerning pressurized performance when they discuss subordinates need to read “authority figures for clues” (p. 67) as to whether or not performances are being well received and if adjustment is necessary. My hypothesis is that despite his leftist views, Levy is at the mercy of the pressure of what his audience demands and responds to so he perpetuates volatile emotions, at least partially to serve that purpose, no matter the impact on the conflict itself.

Upon first reading Bronner’s (03/04/2012) article concerning the Joubran controversy, my reactions were strong. I developed an instant disdain for David Rotem and Gideon Levy as I read their almost belligerent responses to Joubran’s actions, while I felt more at ease with Rubinstein’s perspective, albeit feeling it a bit ambiguous and incomplete. But when I stopped judging and starting listening to what Heifetz and Linsky (2002) would call the activity of “listening to the song beneath the words”(p. 64), nothing that either of negative commentators said had the extreme pull on my emotions any longer. Although my personal feelings resonate most with Rubinstein’s support of individual expression within the collective, what I’ve learned and seen from standing on this particular balcony is that my initial impression of things does not always add up to the truth of what’s really occurring. I have to observe and listen closely to what is behind what is occurring because the greatest potential for finding new, informing perspectives lay beneath the surface. Identity needs, shadow, and developmental capacity can become lost in translation in the undercurrent of meaning making hidden from view. It is the awareness of my own tendency to react and the development of the skills necessary to pick up on those subtleties and nuances in the undercurrent of meaning making, happening on the dance floor before me that will give me an edge in contributing to effective intervention as a leader.


In conclusion, I would like to pose a hypothesis concerning Justice Salim Joubran’s reasons for quietly, but respectfully refusing to sing Israel’s national anthem at the Chief Justice ceremonies. In light of viewing several perspectives in response to Joubran’s actions, I feel it is only appropriate to contemplate his side of the story despite his lack of response to the media regarding the situation. It is my opinion, in this case, that silence has spoken louder than words beyond the incident itself, as Joubran’s silence, as well as his colleagues, has continued since the ordeal. In “listening to the song beneath the words” (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002) or the lack thereof, there seems a peace in their silence, a place of purpose in the eye of the storm, and in the face of heated conflict. In my mind, this strongly suggests that his actions were not only a personal choice, but a strategically placed, well thought out catalyst toward social change that anticipated the political unrest it has brought about. Without a great deal of further research, I would not attempt to confirm or deny this train of thought as fact. But what I will say, is that what I sense Justice Salim Joubran may be accomplishing, is voicing Israel’s need for adaptive leadership from his limited point of influence in a meaning making world that has yet to give Arabs full ownership of rights as Israeli people, without raising his voice, at all.


Conflict, International Affairs, Israel, Palestinians

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author avatar Sharain Clark
In the beginning, a toddler with toy alphabet, chalkboard, and desk; then pencil and paper, a typewriter next; then journal, pen, and an old weeping willow; and still today, the story continues . . .

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