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Jewish Divide over Israel: Accusers and Defenders
edited by Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor
(Transaction Books, 2006).
A little while back I was invited to address a high school class in Haifa on the subject of Jewish anti-Semitism and Jewish Holocaust Deniers. The students, and probably also the teachers, were astonished when the topic was announced. Once the talk had begun, I began to name names of Jewish anti-Semites and give details. A number of students pounced upon me with objections. "But, but, but HE is JEWISH," they argued after each example was named, "so how can HE possibly be considered to be an anti-Semite." Many believed that the notion of "Jewish Anti-Semite" is in and of itself a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron.
But not for long. I provided the high schoolers with detailed examples not only of Jewish anti-Semitism, but also of Israeli Jewish anti-Semites and even of Israeli Jewish Holocaust Deniers. Yes, they also exist. By the end of the talk, and having suffered through my long list of examples and citations of self-hating Jews, the students had swapped disbelief for bewilderment, shaking their heads in numb sadness.
I mention this incident because those students were not the only ones around who mistakenly believe that the idea of a "Jewish anti-Semite" is impossible, a contradiction in terms. Despite the rapid growth in the plague over the past two decades, many are still totally unaware of it altogether. And that works in favor of anti-Semitism itself. The planet's worst anti-Semites, from the communists to the Neo-Nazis to the Islamofascists, can turn to and publish one Bash-Israel column or internet article after the other written by Jews, each greeted with the same sense of serendipity by naïve readers, and each celebrated by anti-Semites all over the world as yet another proof that Israel is a criminal terror state that must be annihilated. After all, here we have JEWS themselves saying so.
It is for people unaware of the plague of Jewish anti-Semitism that this superb book has been written. The book is composed of a collection of essays composed by the very best Jewish authors in the English-speaking Jewish world, exposing Jewish anti-Semitism and Jewish anti-Semites. It is mandatory reading for anyone wishing to understand the madness of Jewish self-hatred. The only thing that could make the book even more powerful would be its speedy translation into Hebrew.
The main, but not the only, cause for Jewish anti-Semites around the world is of course the delegitimization of Israel and Zionism. In most cases, the villains under examination in the book do not openly declare themselves anti-Semites, preferring the pose of righteous lovers of justice for "Palestinians" and haters of Israeli crimes. In one of the essays in the book, Edward Alexander dismisses such posturing as "Anti-Semitism Denial", roughly the moral equivalent of Holocaust Denial. The targets are almost without exception Israel-haters from the Far Left.
One amazing aspect of the book is the revelation of how many of the rogues under investigation actually hold academic posts at major universities. Noam Chomsky, of course, has by now become a household name for anti-Americanism and anti-Jewish bigotry. Chomsky maintains intimate links with Holocaust Deniers and served as apologist for the Khmer Rouge while it was conducting genocide on its own people. Nevertheless, Paul Bogdanor manages to shed fascinating new light on Chomsky in two of the book's essays. In hundreds of documented facts and citations, Bogdanor traces Chomsky's candid devotion to seeking Israel's annihilation and the second Holocaust that would result from it. He shows how Chomsky legitimizes each and every form of Arab barbarism and terrorism, while promoting open Neo-Nazis and their views about Jews.
But even Chomsky cannot match the Chicago Neo-Nazi Norman Finkelstein, focus of a separate essay in the book. Finkelstein, son of Jewish Holocaust survivors, has made a career out of turning out anti-Semitic smears for Holocaust Deniers and Islamofascist terrorists. He spent last summer cheering on the Hizbollah's missile attacks on the Jews. Finkelstein himself has been declared to be a Holocaust Denier by the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and by numerous others, and Finkelstein is widely referred to as the "Jewish David Irving." Perhaps that explains Finkelstein's popularity among a certain strain of Israeli anti-Zionists, such as Neve Gordon from Ben Gurion University, who praised Finkelstein in an essay of his published on Neo-Nazi web sites and there compared Finkelstein ethically to the Prophets in the Bible.
Many of the other rogues exposed in the rest of the book are relatively unknown in Israel. Daniel Boyarin, an anti-Israel professor at Berkeley who used to teach at two universities in Israel, is the focus of a fascinating chapter by Prof. Menachem Kellner from the University of Haifa. Marc Ellis, a rogue about whom I myself have written at length, is the focus of a chapter contributed by Alan Mittelman from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Regrettably Israeli Jewish anti-Semites play only a relatively small role in the book, although an excellent chapter by Edward Alexander on "Israelis against Themselves" is devoted to them. Alexander cites some of the openly anti-Semitic comments made by Israeli "intellectuals" over the years, some of which also appear in the wonderful collection of such filth published by Arieh Stav of the Ariel Center. Alexander traces the increasing hostility to the Jewish state by people like David Grossman and Meron Benveniste, although his coverage of Israeli anti-Israel academics could have been expanded significantly. Another excellent chapter is that by Efraim Karsh, who has for many years tracked the career of Prof. Banny Morris from Ben Gurion University. While Morris has recently been attacked from the Left for moving partly away from his earlier anti-Zionism, Karsh is not convinced the atonement is for real and uncovers the long history of pseudo-scholarship and misrepresentation that forms the bulk of Morris' work.
Three opening essays, including the authors' own excellent introduction, discuss the problem of Jewish anti-Semitism in general. One of these, "The Modern 'Hep Hep Hep'" by the renowned American writer Cynthia Ozick, attracted enormous attention when it first appeared. ('Hep Hep Hep' was the cry of medieval anti-Semites attacking Jews in pogroms.) Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld, a well-known American Jewish writer about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, provides a chapter on the intellectual fallacies and failures of "progressive" anti-Israel Jews. He recently made headlines when the American Jewish Committee, itself a liberal left-leaning organization, published Rosenfeld's devastating essay, "Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism," targeting liberal/leftist anti-Israel Jews in America.
Jewish self-hatred is a unique genre, a disease that does not exist among other peoples, at least not in anywhere near the degree that it does among Jews. It is probably not one single disease and it probably has several different causes.
Up front it needs to be emphasized that Diaspora Jewish self-hatred is not the same as Israeli Jewish self-hatred, a distinction that is not adequately made clear in the book. For Diaspora Jewry, self-hatred was largely a manifestation of Jewish assimilation and loss of Jewish identity in any form. Once the walls of the ghetto were struck down and many of the barriers to Jewish participation in modern society were removed, the real danger to Jewish survival in much of the Diaspora turned out to be less anti-Semitic violence than assimilation. The secularization of Diaspora communities removed religion as the anchor of Jewish consciousness for most Diaspora Jews, especially in the West.
Having intentionally misdefined themselves in order to be accepted by gentiles as Germans of the Jewish faith, French of the Mosaic persuasion, Americans of the Jewish religion, most of these Diaspora Jews faced a profound dilemma once they stopped practicing the Jewish religion. They were left as generic Germans, French and Americans of no particular religion at all. By the late 20th century the real threat to Jewish existence in the Western countries of the Diaspora was less the desire of anti-Semites to murder them than the desire of gentiles to marry them.
By and large, for such secularized assimilated Jews in the Diaspora, Jewish "self-hatred" was less a form of anti-Semitism than it was an expression of indifference to their own Jewish roots and origins. Most "self-hating" assimilationist Jews in the Diaspora are simply non-Jewish Jews, people with no interest in belonging to the Jewish community or in practicing any form of Judaism. By and large they do not actively wish other Jews harm and most have no sympathy at all for anti-Semites.
There are of course exceptions to that last observation, and those exceptions are the focus of the Alexander-Bogdanor book. One can of course find examples of Jewish anti-Semites wooing gentile anti-Semites in order to be accepted by them, going back to Greek and Roman times. But, again, such anti-Semitic posturing should probably be seen as a particularly obscene version of assimilationism. Such Diaspora Jewish anti-Semites choose their Bash-Israel fashionable positions more out of desire for social acceptance than out of a serious political outlook. Surrounded by anti-Semites among whom they wish to mix and whose approval they seek, they mouth the magic passwords for acceptance about destroying Israel and opposing Zionism.
But Israeli Jewish anti-Semites are a completely different kettle of fish. They are not posturing against Israel and against Jews because they are a small persecuted ethnic minority in some gentile country of residence. It is true that there is an element of seeking social acceptance for them, attacking Jews and Israel in order to court favor among overseas anti-Semites, especially among Israeli leftists. There is also clearly a repudiation of all attachment to Jews and Jewishness among such people, where "Canaanism" in the form of post-Jewish Israeliness is almost universal among Israeli anti-Semites. But that is clearly not the same as Diaspora assimilationism. Israeli anti-Semites may posture as "Jewish Palestinians", but none of them are serious trying to learn Arabic or dress and live as Arabs.
If Diaspora "self-hating" Jews are by and large simply indifferent to their Jewishness, Israeli Jewish anti-Semites quite openly hate their own people and country. They invariably identify with and endorse the enemies of their country. Tali Fahima and Udi Adiv differ from other Israeli anti-Semites only in the degree of their actual treason. Israeli Jewish anti-Semites are not seeking social and cultural acceptance as much as they are seeking the destruction of their own people and the annihilation of their own country. They resemble far more Lord Haw-Haw or Taliban John than they do the assimilated suburban American Jew.
As such, Israeli Jewish anti-Semites increasingly resemble the candidly treasonous fringes of the American and European Left. Just like the American Left is essentially little more than a movement of anti-Americanism and can be counted on to endorse every enemy of the United States and oppose American interests in everything, so the Israeli Left is motivated by an acute desire to see its own country harmed. The difference of course is that the anti-American Left in the United States is harmless and an amusing distraction, whereas the radical self-hating Israeli Left is actively collaborating with the enemies of its own country during time of war and when the goal of those enemies is the annihilation of Israel.
Eric Ericsson, one of the fathers of modern psychology, once wrote that radical politics is generally a manifestation of an infantile rebellion against one's parents. Kenneth Levin from Harvard and others have suggested that psychological and psychiatric analysis is a better tool for explaining Jewish self-hatred than political analysis, and I personally think most Israeli Jewish self-hatred can be traced back to problems with toilet training.
In any case, I can think of nothing more desperately needed in
Israel than a companion book to this excellent one, focusing on
Israel's own variety of the species exposed in it. If anything, the
Israeli variety is worse than its overseas cousins, and it is
certainly far more dangerous. Israeli "progressive" self-bigotry is
more openly anti-Semitic. After all, clueless American Jewish leftist
"intellectuals" can afford to wallow in their delusions about the
Middle East without creating any clear and immediate danger to
anything. The Israeli Jewish leftist anti-Semites are a Fifth Column,
operating in a country at war and under threat of destruction.
Editor's Note: Read the Introduction of The Jewish Divide here.
Steven Plaut is an American-trained economist,
a professor of business administration at Haifa University and author
of "The Scout." He frequently comments -- both seriously and
satirically -- on Israeli politics and the left wing academic
community. His website address is http://www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.
Or write him at email@example.com
This article appeared May 7, 2007 in
Front Page Magazine
Steven Plaut is an American-trained economist, a professor of business administration at Haifa University and author of "The Scout." He frequently comments -- both seriously and satirically -- on Israeli politics and the left wing academic community. His website address is http://www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com. Or write him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appeared May 7, 2007 in
Front Page Magazine
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