A trauma-like model of political extremism: Psycho-political fault lines in Israel

Nathaniel Laor*, Alma Yanay-Shani, Leo Wolmer, Oula Khoury

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This study examines a trauma-like model of potentially violent political extremism among Jewish Israelis. We study the psychosocial characteristics of political extremists that may lie at the root of sociopolitical instability and assess personal (gender, stressful life events, Holocaust family background, and political activism) and psychological parameters (self- and political transcendence, perceived political threats, in/out-group identification ratio) that may predict readiness to engage in destructive political behavior. We examine the ideological zeal of various political groups, the relationship between the latter and perceived political threats, and the predictors of extreme political activism. Results showed that the extreme political poles displayed high level of ideological and morbid transcendence. Right extremists displayed higher perceived threats to physical existence and national identity. Left extremists scored highest on perceived moral integrity threat. Higher perceived threats to national identity and moral integrity, risk, and self-transcendence statistically explain morbid transcendence. When fear conjures up extremely skewed sociopolitical identifications across political boundaries, morbid transcendence may manifest itself in destructive political activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-31
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Fault line conflict
  • Jewish-Arab conflict
  • Political extremism
  • Threats
  • Transcendence
  • Trauma


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