of Our Days
Tikkun Magazine: December, 2003
New About Anti-Semitism?
Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is forced to say he is a Jew
who comes from a Zionist family before he is decapitated on video
by Pakistani Muslim terrorists, his head held aloft as a warning
to Jews everywhere. Signs at peace rallies scream: "Death to
Jews" and posters in college dorms read "Jews=Nazis."
The official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority declares that
the Holocaust is a myth which the Jews have exploited to get sympathy.
Jordanian children learn that the Torah is "perverted"
and that Jews have only "their own evil practices" to
blame for the Holocaust. Egyptian television viewers watch forty
serialized installments of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Academics spearhead a campaign to shun Israeli professors simply
on the basis of their nationality. An anti-Israel rally on an American
campus shows a photo of an eviscerated baby with the tag: "slaughtered
according to Jewish Rites." A Jewish student wearing a yarmulke
at Yale University is
attacked by a Palestinian in his dormitory. Neo-Nazi violence against
Jewish people and institutions escalates throughout Europe. Millions
of Muslims, indoctrinated by state-sponsored propaganda, believe
that Israel is responsible for September 11.
has been called "the longest hatred" and, judging from
events like these, it has retained its extraordinary durability.
In recent years, it has morphed and globalized into an ugly mix
of neo-Nazi violence; Islamist religious and racial Jew-hating;
Palestinian terrorism; ultra-Left anti-Zionism; and the demonization
of Israel throughout the world, particularly in the Arab and Muslim
nations and in Palestine. The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis
and What We Must Do About It, by Phyllis Chesler, is a vital contribution
to understanding the resurgence of this virulent new strain of anti-Semitism
in our time, which Chesler aptly describes as "more threatening
and dangerous to Jews than anything that has occurred since World
thoroughly documents not only the potent rise of neo-Nazi hatred
against Jews in Germany, Austria, Russia, Poland, France, and other
European countries, but also the religious and racial anti-Semitism
that is daily fare in Arab and Muslim nations. The most vicious
propaganda in the media since Hitler described Jews as a race of
vermin to be exterminated is now widely disseminated in the Middle
East, including Palestine. Depictions of Jews as rats, lice, snakes,
demons, parasites, hook-nosed liars who made up the Holocaust, evil
Nazis, and treacherous conspirators who plot to take over the world,
are injecting whole populations with anti-Semitic toxins on a scale
that is historically unprecedented.
does not present a detailed socio-economic analysis of how anti-Semitism
has functioned historically to displace the rage of oppressed populations
onto an all-purpose Jewish scapegoat. For this kind of analysis
(which certainly holds true for the oppressed masses in the Muslim
world), Michael Lerner's The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism on
the Left is indispensable. Published a decade ago, Lerner's warning
that anti-Semitic trends in the Third World, combined with economic
and social conflict in America, could augur a period of renewed
and heightened anti-Semitism, has proved all too prescient. The
crucial contribution of Chesler's book is her detailed presentation
of the confluence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism-the complex
hybrid of bigotry that is emerging today. "The anti-racist
anti-Zionist," says Chesler, "has a lot in common with
the old-fashioned racist anti-Semite." Israel has become "the
Jew of the world-scorned, scapegoated, demonized, and attacked."
The core of her argument is that Jew-hatred, Holocaust denial, and
violence against Jews in the Arab and Muslim nations, as well as
in Europe, Asia, and the United States, are "symbiotically"
nourished by a dogmatic form of anti-Zionism promulgated by students,
intellectuals, academics, and progressives. The Palestinian Intifada
is suffused with this new anti-Semitism and its supporters around
the world are infected with it. In short, the new anti-Semitism
is "the last acceptable prejudice" on both the Left and
confluence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is present, according
to Chesler, when Jews in the Diaspora are held responsible for Israeli
policy and targeted for verbal and physical attack. When it is held
that all groups are entitled to nationalist aspirations except for
Jews; that Israel doesn't deserve to exist while the racism or oppressiveness
of any other nation doesn't call for its wholesale elimination.
When acts of violence against Israeli civilians and Jews throughout
the Diaspora are justified as political strategy. And when Israel
is held to a higher standard than any other country and demonized
in the family of nations (for example, when the UN recurrently condemns
the Occupation while out-and-out genocides escape criticism). Increasingly,
Holocaust-denial or worse-blaming the Jews for the Holocaust-is
a strong feature of the anti-Zionist onslaught in the Arab and Muslim
world, as is the invidious equation of Zionism and Nazism. And most
disheartening of all, the confluence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
is present in the Palestinian uprising, which is riddled with organized
Jew-hatred pumped into the population on a daily basis in schools,
mosques, and on the streets.
of us who have noticed how Leftist statements against Israeli policy
easily spill over into a generalized, vitriolic anti-Jewish sentiment,
or those who haven't spoken up on listservs, at demonstrations,
in academic or feminist forums for fear that raising the issue of
anti-Semitism will mark them for attack or shunning, will be grateful
to Chesler for this brave book. So will anyone who genuinely wants
to understand how and why the new anti-Semitism is taking hold on
North American campuses, European streets, Muslim schoolrooms, and
in the West Bank and Gaza. While reading it, I experienced two incidents
that vividly illustrate two prominent aspects of the new anti-Semitism:
Holocaust hostility and anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism.
The first occurred the day I learned that my elderly father had
just had a massive heart attack and was lying in a hospital in Queens.
Speaking to the I.C.U. nurse, I wanted to let her know that my father
would need to be sedated, since being hospitalized caused him to
relive his Holocaust trauma. I got as far as "You need to know
that my father is a Holocaust survivor ..." before she interrupted
me, screaming: "So what? Don't talk to me about being a victim
and don't expect that you people are going to get any special treatment
here." The next day, addressing a group of graduate students
about grief, fear, and despair in an age of global threat, I cited
Israel/Palestine as an area in which repeated cycles of traumatic
grief turned to rageful acts of vengeance that undermined the prospects
of peace. A woman approached me at the end of my talk, a palpable
hatred radiating from her eyes, and launched into an anti-Israel
rant. "The Holocaust justifies absolutely nothing," she
spat out (though I hadn't mentioned the Holocaust). "The Jews
are not entitled to anger or grief. Only the Palestinians are justified
in their anger." Her vaguely threatening last words were: "I
hope you get what you deserve for what you're saying." I wondered
how a call for mutual compassion could arouse such hate.
the nurse and the student were enraged by the idea of Jews as Holocaust
victims. While the nurse's hostility was a frontal assault, the
student's rage erupted in a pseudo-rational political argument,
couched in an anti-Zionist "position." I was struck, in
both cases, by what Chesler calls the new "permissibility"
for remarks of this kind. Increasingly, Jews in the popular imagination
have jumped the divide, from post-Holocaust Victims to Jewish/Zionist
Villains. And that jump has everything to do with Israel.
How We Talk About Israel, Palestine, and Anti-Semitism
discussion of how anti-Semitism masquerades as anti-Zionism is bound
to be volatile. It's hard for many Jews, much less gentiles, to
define what exactly anti-Semitism is. Except for its most virulent
forms e.g. Jew-hating by neo-Nazis, we may wonder if something is
truly anti-Semitic, or if Jews are just defensive and paranoid.
(A history of genocide will do that to you). What is the relationship
between anti-Semitism and Middle East politics? What does it have
to do with the establishment of the State of Israel? With the Intifada?
tone of conversations about questions like these easily turns to
a hateful war of words that resembles, on a verbal level, the violent
clash of Jews and Arabs in Israel and Palestine. Many Leftists cultivate
a studied blindness to anti-Semitism around the world and conclude
it is largely a thing of the past. Others charge that anyone who
raises the flag of anti-Semitism in relation to the Israel/Palestine
conflict has the ulterior motive of "silencing" legitimate
criticism of Israel. On the other hand, right-wing Jews often take
the view that any criticism of Israel is by definition anti-Semitic.
There's very little neutral or calm ground here in which to have
a reasonable discussion. Anyone who contemplates the tinderbox of
the Middle East is likely to feel at some point a mixture of sorrow,
anger, fear, despair, and confusion. We humans generally don't do
very well with feelings like these. We tend to become either avoidant
and silent on the one hand, or desperate and dogmatic on the other.
a card-carrying Leftist for the past forty years, I've seen repeatedly
that Leftists are hardly exempt from these human frailties. Both
Michael Lerner and Chesler address the striking fact that old and
new Leftists have a history of minimizing and being silent about
anti-Semitism, in contrast to loudly condemning racism directed
at people of color. The charge of anti-Semitism is often treated
like an insult rather than taken seriously as a political criticism,
on its own merit. These lapses and silences, for people who are
ostensibly champions of the oppressed, can only be explained by
irrational bias or emotional blockage. Generally speaking, those
who subscribe to rigid orthodoxies of the Left or Right are fond
of reducing the confusing morass of violence in the world to simplistic
dualistic allegiances: Victims to be Championed versus Villains
to be Vilified.
moral and political claims leave us in a state of confusion and
anxiety that are dispelled by taking a "hard line." Not
surprisingly, most thinking on the subject of Israel, Palestine,
and anti-Semitism is limited by pre-selected information and dominated
by either/or dichotomies: either the Palestinians are anti-Semitic
or Israelis are racist Zionist colonialists. Either anti-Semitism
has nothing to do with the righteous acts of violence of the downtrodden
Palestinian people or anti-Semitism is the sole reason for their
discontent. Either Israel is the Promised Land of milk and honey,
the only democratic government in the Middle East and therefore
unassailable, or it is a Nazi-like apartheid state bent on racial
genocide and therefore must be eliminated (or held to a utopian
standard that pertains to no other nation on earth). This kind of
thinking, conversing, demonstrating, and hollering doesn't get us
too far. I would venture to say that in the turbulent global realignments
of the twenty-first century, adhering to rigid Left/Right "lines"
is actually interfering with our ability to understand the political
landscape. Understanding anti-Semitism today requires some open-minded
critical thinking that doesn't necessarily line up with any particular
"orthodoxy" and doesn't fall into the trap of either/or
thinking. Chesler is eloquent in her plea for this kind of informed
free-thinking, and she is to be commended for her contribution in
said all this, let me be clear that I don't lay claim to neutral
"objectivity" on this subject. I openly state my bias:
As a daughter of Holocaust survivors born in a refugee camp, I am
passionately concerned about the fate of the Jewish people. I identify
with Palestinians languishing in refugee camps and, at the same
time, I am angry about the rabid anti-Semitism on the streets of
the West Bank and Gaza. I feel a profound sense of betrayal in relation
to my Leftist brothers and sisters who obsessively condemn Israeli
sins while consistently ignoring tyranny, misogyny, and anti-Semitism
in the Muslim world; who excuse the murder and mutilation of Jews
in Israel; who have recurrently failed to understand anti-Semitism,
much less to raise their voices or rally against it. I am tired
and saddened by all the polarizing accusations and pseudo-rational
fact-mongering and would like to see something resembling a civil
conversation on the subject of the new anti-Semitism.
the midst of a subject bathed in much heat but little light, this
essay has four goals: 1) to clarify what anti-Semitism is; 2) to
make the case-with Chesler-that a particular style of anti-Zionism
is increasingly the new face of anti-Semitism on the Left; 3) to
argue that this anti-Zionism is part of a larger politics of hatred
that corrupts the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people;
and 4) to shed some light on how Jews themselves are often unwitting
accomplices in supporting such a politics.
Easy Ways to be an Anti-Semite
is a hardy and resilient plant, able to thrive in all sorts of climates.
When China opened its doors to Westerners, one of the first ideas
it warmed to was that of Jews as an evil people. Korea and Japan
have been fertile ground for the dissemination of the Protocols
of the Elders of Zion. Anti-Semitism can easily become part of a
particular ideology (like fascism) that seeks dominion. Have you
heard the quick summary of Jewish history and tradition? They tried
to kill us. We survived. Let's eat. Any Jew who has a passing familiarity
with the Jewish holidays has a gut knowledge of anti-Semitism. Yet,
despite its long history, anti-Semitism is not very well understood.
The trauma of Nazi genocide, on the one hand, and the (seeming)
absence of anti-Semitism in the United States, on the other, befuddle
many into believing that Jew-hatred is largely a thing of the past-and
that only Jewish "paranoia" keeps bringing it up. In fact,
anti-Semitism is a deep, abiding irrational bigotry that has a life
of its own in various forms of social organization and culture.
At its root, it is an age-old form of scapegoating Jews for anything
that scares or threatens a population-thus relieving national and
ethnic leaders of their responsibility for injustice, and giving
the populace a common Enemy to rally around (hence, "the socialism
of fools"). It tends to come in "waves"-periods of
calm followed by periods of heightened violence (when rulers are
threatened or the ruled are distressed).
not surprising that we're currently on the upswing of a new wave.
Given the end of days apocalyptic feel of the twenty-first century,
we should expect anti-Semitism (and all kinds of racism and xenophobia)
to be on the rise. In times of fear, anti-Semitism is a great crowd-pleaser,
and this era of uncertainty, terrorism, re-alignments of power,
economic decline and globalization, and unprecedented threats to
the earth itself, is not likely to be the exception to this rule.
Hence, since September 11, the myth of the "international Jewish
conspiracy" is enjoying a spirited revival. In a recent article
in the Sunday New York Times Magazine entitled "How to Talk
About Israel," Ian Buruma notes that this myth is increasingly
and openly voiced in the halls of power not just in the Middle East
but in Japan, Britain, France, and even in that bastion of Israel
support, the United States. "American foreign policy and ancient
prejudices," says Buruma "are reinforcing each other in
a vicious cycle." The linkage of the Israeli Occupation and
aggressive American "neo-colonialism" in the media and
on the Left has taken on a distinct anti-Semitic flavor that fits
very well with the rise of fanatic Islamism in places like Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.-where the United
States and Israel are not "critiqued" for their policies
but hated as the Infidel. Leftists, including Jews, who are fond
of debating Israel's right to exist, or who scapegoat Israel for
Western imperialism should be aware that their efforts are grist
for the anti-Semite's mill.
important aspect of anti-Semitism's hardiness is the fact that those
who fear and hate Jews know how to link their bigotry to despised
ideologies. In communist countries, where capitalism was the Enemy,
Jews were said to be the Leading Capitalists. In capitalist countries,
where communism is the Enemy, Jews are smeared as leaders of the
Communist Conspiracy. Today, among Leftists, the Enemy is global
capitalism and imperialism; and once again, Jews in the "cabal"
around Bush and company are seen as the motor force behind American
"neo-colonialism" and are taking the rap for the W.A.S.P.
elite. (As though Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld would not be warring
in Iraq if it weren't for those Bad Jews). Furthermore, Jews are
fast becoming the identified Terrorists of the age-witness the scapegoating
of Israel and Jews for September 11, which, in Islamo-fascist quarters,
is being called an act of Zionist terrorism designed to turn the
West against Islam. Of course many people who subscribe to this
belief also praise Osama bin Laden as the mastermind behind the
attacks. But then rational consistency is hardly the hallmark of
anti-Semitism. The hallmark of anti-Semitism is bigotry and hatred.
The ideological labels attributed to Jews-Communist, Capitalist,
Imperialist, Terrorist, Zionist-are simply ways to paint Jews as
the Enemy and thereby contribute to campaigns of hatred around the
world that are essentially displacements of fears and legitimate
grievances onto history's most popular scapegoat. "The international
Jewish conspiracy" lie is paralleled by the idea, popular in
Leftist circles, that Jews hold inordinate power in social life.
According to this view, Jews, comfortably ensconced in the United
States, are a dominant rather than oppressed group; and therefore
all talk of anti-Semitism is bogus. Some go further and say that
the fabled "monied Jews" are a lobby of power-hungry evildoers
who have highjacked American foreign policy on Israel, presumably
to keep Israel a stronghold of racist apartheid oppression of Palestinians.
What's wrong with this picture? The focus on Jewish economic privilege
in the United States conveniently ignores the fact that targeted
attacks on synagogues and other Jewish institutions have been and
continue to be planned by terrorist groups-and have been successfully
executed in the United States as well as Europe and South America.
Are we to ignore the threats against Israel, or against Jews worldwide,
because American Jews are, for the most part, safe in their homes?
we to say that synagogues that hire security guards to check for
weapons on the High Holidays are simply "paranoid" and
"overreacting" to threats on Jewish life? While we may
agree or disagree with the right-wing bent of mainstream Jewish
organizational politics, we cannot deny the simple fact that Jews
are still threatened as Jews, perhaps not very much in the United
States (though the bombing of a Jewish school in Los Angeles should
give us pause) but certainly in Israel and around the world. Must
we still remind those who see Jews as a "dominant" group
that the Jews in Germany were at the height of emancipated assimilation,
having risen to positions of great prominence in the professions,
business, and politics, when Hitler came to power and devised and
executed the Final Solution? Most Germans in the 1930's believed
that Hitler was a funny little clown whose appeal would blow over.
Many now put their faith in the belief that anti-Semitism will disappear
if the State of Israel and the Jewish people perfect themselves;
and that Islamo-fascist terrorism will go away if the U.S. stops
being an international bully. Anyone who can still find a modicum
of reassurance in such beliefs has not learned the lessons of history.
While Jews may be safer in the United States today than they have
been anywhere and at any point in history, a politics of hatred
that targets Israel and Jews is always dangerous and should never
be minimized. Anti-Semites who wish to become proficient in the
art of the longest hatred can do so by following some or all of
the following ten maneuvers:
In times of trouble, blame the Jews (or Israel).
Say that Jews are no longer victims of anti-Semitism because they
are economically privileged (i.e. all Jews are rich and rich Jews
are worse than rich gentiles).
Pander to racist stereotypes such as: Jews are arrogant, money-grubbing,
power-hungry, self-interested, narrow-minded, clannish, cheap, showy,
schemers and plotters who seek world dominion, and religious vampires
who drink the blood of non-Jewish children, etc.
Remain silent about anti-Semitism even if you recognize it, or better
still, react contemptuously when Jews bring it up.
Use ideology to mask Jew-blaming, i.e. point to Jews as the "leaders"
(and true culprits) of whatever bad thing you hate that you think
threatens you, e.g. capitalism, communism, imperialism, terrorism,
Bushism, AIDS, you name it (Jews are currently being blamed for
all of these).
Always judge Jews by a double standard, i.e. if Jews are not better
than good, they are worse than bad, e.g. if Israel is racist, it
doesn't deserve to exist.
A particular variant of the last step, but worthy of its own enumeration:
Jews in power are more blameworthy and vile than gentiles in power.
Excuse acts of violence against Jews on the basis of one ideology
or another, i.e. they have it coming to them.
Hold Jews everywhere responsible for the policies of the Israeli
government, i.e. if you're Jewish, you're personally responsible
for Ariel Sharon.
And last but by no means least: blame Jews for anti-Semitism e.g.
even the Holocaust is our fault. Or, better still, deny that anti-Semitism
exists or ever did, e.g. there was no Holocaust, the Jews made it
up so that they could come to Palestine and oppress Arabs while
plotting to take over the world.
ten ways to practice anti-Jewish bigotry have worked well historically;
they work regardless of cultural diversity; and, in the new post-Holocaust,
post-Hitler variants, they are working well today. Virtually all
them are rampant in the Middle East.
Demonization of Israel
the Israel/Palestine question, I'm reminded of the old story about
three blind people touching an elephant. The guy with his hands
on the trunk thinks it's a snake. The guy with his hands on the
leg says it's a tree trunk. The guy touching the torso is sure it's
a wall. We all share the "blindness" of partiality yet
speak as though the whole and only truth belongs to us. How many
readers of The Nation also read The Jewish Week? How many readers
of the official Palestinian Authority newspaper also read Ha'Aretz?
One can find "facts" to support almost any position one
takes about Israel and Palestine. The facts themselves are in dispute
and most of us are not Middle East scholars. What we choose to believe
and whose "line" we adhere to depends a great deal more
on where our "gut" emotions lie than most people would
care to admit. And those gut feelings can include a conscious or
unconscious bias against Jews, as well as a conscious or unconscious
bias against Arabs. The history of Jewish/Palestinian relations
will always be a contested one, written as much out of our unstated,
primitive passions as by our collection of favorite excised "facts."
Historical myths tend to be unchanging and unbending-they do not
accommodate to uncomfortable contradictions. They maintain their
integrity at the cost of disconcerting facts that might raise anxiety
about whether we are the good guys or the bad guys-especially in
areas where two moral imperatives co-exist.
contested history of the Middle East is encapsulated by two fundamental
mythic narratives. The Zionist narrative is that the great State
of Israel was created by the blood, sweat, and tears of the Jewish
people and came to birth after the genocide of the Holocaust, a
phoenix arising from the ashes of Jewish history. Israel is the
Promised Land-the flowering of the Jewish dream of Return for 2000
years; and its democracy is a shining light in the midst of a sea
of theocratic, oligarchic, and non-democratic Muslim nations. The
Palestinian narrative is that Jews were a foreign entity who created
a colonial outpost in a territory to which they had no right; that
they harassed, murdered, and displaced the indigenous population,
and created the dismal horrors of fifty years of refugee camps for
the natives. Jews now occupy a land that is the exclusive entitlement
of those who lived there before the Jews arrived. They have humiliated
and oppressed Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza for decades
and seek permanent domination of Palestinians who want only justice
and the right of return to their own land.
is a grain of truth in both these stories, surrounded by falsehoods.
As it is said, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing-and a partial
history becomes a dangerous myth. Along with reducing the complexities
of history into a simple hero and villain dichotomy, these myths
are conspicuous for what they leave out. Dogmatic Zionists tell
their story as though nobody lived in the land to which the Jews
returned ("A land without a people for a people without a land");
and as though hundreds of thousands of Palestinians didn't have
to be displaced for the homeland to be Jewish. Dogmatic Palestinian
nationalists and terrorists tell their story as though Jews did
not have a continuous presence in the land of Israel; as though
Jews stole rather than purchased the land from Arab landowners;
as though Arab anti-Semitism never did and still doesn't exist;
as though the refugee camps had nothing to do with the fact that
Palestinian leaders refused the state offered them by the UN in
1948, or the fact that the Arab nations preferred to let Palestinians
simmer in their hatred of Jews for generation after generation rather
than give them aid or welcome them into their borders.
most obvious fact about the Israel/Palestine conflict is the one
that both of these narratives leave out, namely that the history
of this neck of the woods is a story of two competing, equally valid
nationalisms for one tiny bit of turf. Anti-Semitic anti-Zionism
is distinguished by its attempt to totally delegitimize Jewish nationalism
while upholding a triumphalist nationalism for Palestinians. Israel
has no "right to exist," say ultra-Left anti-Zionists.
From my perspective, this statement has a genocidal ring. Perhaps
this is because I remember my first four years in the refugee camp,
where ideological debates about Zionism were a luxury no Jew could
afford. We were "Zionists" of necessity. Jewish quotas
existed in every one of the few countries willing to receive us-except
for Israel. Zionism had a primal definition: the will to live as
a Jew in a nation that would open its doors to us and defend us
those who accept the right of Israel to exist, the battle between
pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel nationalists hinges on the Israeli
Occupation and West Bank settlerism, on the one hand, and Palestinian
terrorism, on the other. Palestinians who are subject to Israeli
power are justifiably angry and entitled to resist and oppose domination.
Decades of humiliation of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories
have increasingly, and justifiably, drawn condemnation of Israeli
policy. The failure of the American Jewish establishment to criticize
Israeli abuses of power has led many to feel that Jews just don't
get it when they are not "victims" but "oppressors."
However, this Victim/Oppressor dualism tends to blind one to the
reality of anti-Semitism on the part of the "Oppressed."
Anti-Occupation revolt is not the same thing as anti-Zionism; and
anti-Zionism doesn't have to be infected with anti-Semitism. But
the Intifada has linked all of these, and that link is embodied
in the suicide bomber.
the course of the last three decades, and particularly in the last
three years of the Intifada, the once-popular post-Holocaust narrative
of Jews as Victims is being re-written. In a complicated twist on
an old theme, Jews-represented by the State of Israel-are increasingly
being seen as the world's Villains. The Occupation and Israeli expansionism
have fed into and bolstered a new version of the old myth of Jews
as a perfidious race bent on world domination.
understand this, we must have some knowledge of the history of Arab
and Muslim anti-Semitism. Millions of Muslims today go to their
local mosques and hear their preachers sermonize from the Holy Koran.
What do they hear? That God Himself describes the "black inner
selves" of the Jews. That the Jews are a race apart, an evil
"Other" responsible for terrorism, Western moral degeneracy,
and imperialist Empire. That Jews use the blood of non-Jewish babies
for their infernal Jewish rites. That Israel is the instrument of
Satan, a cancerous tumor in the Middle East, an Imperial threat
to Moslems everywhere. That the Holocaust was a hoax perpetrated
by the Jews in order to justify their will to dominate Muslims and
rule the world. And they are called to act: the Jewish Infidel must
mix of Nazi racial anti-Semitism, Islamo-fascist ideology, and Jew-hatred
disguised as anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism is striking. The
Nazi imagery has been added to Islamic stereotypes of Jews that
have existed for hundreds of years. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
spent the war years in Berlin, where he visited Hitler and picked
up some tips from the master. Since then, Nazi anti-Semitism has
thoroughly penetrated the Arab and Muslim world-including the Palestinian
refugee camps and the West Bank and Gaza. In Cairo one can enter
any bookstore and find a full range of "respectable" anti-Semitic
literature openly displayed and widely read, including so-called
"revisionist" books of Holocaust denial, and sixty or
more editions of the Protocols of the Elders if Zion. High-tech
broadcasting-combining the aura of objective "information"
with the stink of Jew-hatred-links drugs, arms, pornography, stock
market scandals, and all manner of evil to the Zionist plot to rule
the world. (For example, "investigative journalists" reported
that Israel introduced AIDS to Egypt via Jewish prostitutes).
Israel's decisive victory in the Six-Day War, Islamic fundamentalism
and the hatred of Israel, Zionism, and Jews intensified. Envy of
the Jews for their military and economic prowess played no small
part in this, since the mass of Muslims in Arab nations (as well
as Palestinians who are impoverished not only as a result of the
Occupation but because of their own corrupt leadership) live daily
with poverty and powerlessness. The Palestinian cause has been corrupted
by the potent anti-Semitism of Arab and Muslim cultures; and the
terrorist wing of this cause-supported and, to some degree, funded
by Arafat-is infested with it. So long as the Occupation continues,
this form of anti-Semitism will be provoked, under the cover of
legitimate revolt. But this doesn't mean that Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism
will disappear when the Occupation ends. Indoctrinated hatred dies
the West, the fear of demonic Jewish power was also heightened by
the Six-Day War, following a long post-Holocaust period in which,
for obvious reasons, the fear of Jews was dormant. The fact that
Jews were able to outlive Hitler's plan appealed to nations that
had just been at war with Germany. Jewish victims evoked guilt and
pity. The creation of the Jewish State, on a psychological level,
was related to guilt that the world stood by and let it happen.
Let the poor Jews have their state, we don't want them anyway, was
the logic of the United Nations. Hence for several decades after
the Holocaust, Jews were treated to a grace period of an all time
low in anti-Semitism in the West.
1967, the image of Israel flipped: from being the land of the Noble
Victim to the land of the Arrogant Victor. The tables turned and
Palestinians-who, up to this point, hadn't been championed by anyone,
including their own Arab -became the next Victim contest winners.
By the rules of this game, there cannot be two National Victim groups-only
one. Palestinians have become the cherished Victim group of the
moment. (Anyone who doubts that this kind of "radical chic"
exists might recall the Left's love affair with the Black Panther
Party and the willingness to overlook its violent and misogynist
excesses). Holocaust denial-the extreme pole of Holocaust fatigue
and Holocaust hostility-is a necessary ingredient of contemporary
anti-Semitism. If Jews are to be as Oppressive Villains and not
Meek Victims, their history of persecution has to be minimized,
forgotten, or denied; Jewish desperation for a national haven from
persecution in both European and Muslim nations has to be re-written.
Stereotypically, Jews are supposed to be pasty-faced Yeshiva bochers,
passive wimps, and effeminate men who pose no threat.
they are macho (like the State of Israel), they are Really Bad -
more bad than anyone else (steps 6 and 7 of the anti-Semite's creed).
The victimized Jew of the Holocaust was a "safe" Jew for
the culture-hunted, murdered, disempowered, miraculously outliving
the piles of cadavers in Nazi photos. But then this Jew went too
far. This pathetic Jew has transmogrified into a demonic threat-the
Israeli Jew, armed to the hilt and raining down missiles from the
sky-the repository of the greatest evil, identified with imperialism,
terrorism, Nazism, and world-wide conspiracy, the national Scapegoat
in a post-September 11 world. The flip-flop from elevation to demonization
is in full sway. The Islamist demonization of Jews as the Infidel
is paralleled by the delegitimization of Israel by anti-Zionists.
fact that anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jewish power are part of the
demonization of Israel doesn't mean that the Israeli Occupation
is justified. It doesn't excuse Israeli expansionism. It doesn't
mean that Israeli militarism is better than any other militarism
in the world. It is not. But it is also no worse-which is to say
it is terrible, and it must be opposed. But it must be fought as
a mistaken and corrupting strategy in the long war between Jew and
Arab nationalists in this part of the world-not as what the right
wing demagogue David Duke calls "Jewish supremacism."
The occupying Jew is no more the all-purpose devil than the terrorist
Palestinian is the all-virtuous victim.
today argue that Jews who were once victims have indeed become villains
on the world stage, that Israel has brought the new anti-Semitism
upon itself by being joined to American Imperial interests. That
hatred of Israel is "justified." Apart from the dangerous
practice of conflating Jews with Israeli policy, a logical question
that arises from this line of thinking is: if Arab hatred of Israel
is "justified," is then Jewish hatred of Arabs and Muslims
for anti-Semitism "justified"? And if so, where will all
this "justified" hatred get us?
argue that what we're seeing in the Middle East today, on the extreme
wings of the Israel/Palestinian conflict, is a politics of hatred,
which I define as any politics that relies on racist stereotypes;
that joins the twin fervors of ultra-nationalism and fundamentalist
religion in its demonization of the Enemy; or that is dogmatically
entrenched in the political dehumanization of an unredeemably Evil
"Other." When all of these features are joined together,
the mixture is highly dangerous and inflammatory. This mix exists
now in the Middle East, on both sides of the conflict. Racist attitudes
towards Palestinians by the expansionist ultra-nationalist wing
of the Israeli government and rampant anti-Semitism in Palestine
have escalated the hatred on both sides.
politics of hatred of Israel rests on the denial of the fact that
the Jewish State, despite its mighty arsenal, has been the target
of eliminationist Arabs since its birth. In the long war between
Israel and the Palestinians, Israel is still-it has never stopped-fighting
for its life. Leftists like to point to U.S. support for Israel's
seemingly unassailable military force as evidence of its status
as the archetypal Oppressor Nation. But imagine where Israel would
be if it didn't get this support? Those who hold to the belief that
Israel is invulnerable have obviously never spent the night in a
sealed room, wearing a gas mask and trying to comfort a child while
hoping that the SCUD missiles whizzing by are not tipped with chemical
or biological poisons. In the uncertain and shifting geo-political
alliances of this era, the military prowess of Israel in a Muslim
world seething with Jew-hatred could easily be undone by a number
of possible scenarios. One might consider what could happen if Iran's
Muslim fundamentalist government, currently being supplied with
Russian nuclear technology, were to develop nuclear capability within
strikingdistance of Israel. Or if an autonomous Palestinian state
joined forces with its Arab neighbors, who were more than willing
to supply the thousands of eager volunteer Jihadists needed to vanquish
the Zionist Infidel. Any politics which dehumanizes, demonizes,
and scapegoats Jews and Israel is apolitics of hatred. And regardless
of its "reasons" and justifications, a politics ofhatred
is always a lost cause.
hard to ignore the fact that many of the loudest Left-wing voices
of one-sided condemnation of Jews and Israel are Jewish voices.
Chesler explains how such attacks are often marked by an unconscious
attempt to distance the "good"(politically-correct) Jew
from the "bad" (politically incorrect) Jew, in order to
achieve an illusory feeling of safety. While "self-hating Jew"
can be used as an epithet, internalized oppression is still an important
concept. Women, blacks, and Jews internalize the damaging social
messages of misogyny, racism, and anti-Semitism. Jewish shame and
self-hatred are largely unaddressed features of Jewish psychology.
I grew up with this shame and it took me years to recover my sense
of dignity as a human being from the traumatic imprint of genocidal
assault that is my roots. As well as shame, fear that has mutated
to anger directed at other Jews is a prominent element of internalized
anti-Semitism. Virtually all of the ways that Jews try to survive
and adapt in cultures that periodically erupt in Jew-hatred are
marked by these features. Assimilationists declare their Jewishness
null and void, thus trying to erase the problem. Often these are
Leftists who keep a low Jewish profile, don't speak up for themselves,
downplay, avoid, or deny the existence of anti-Semitism, or blame
other Jews for "provoking" it. Those with a strong or
visible Jewish identity, on the other hand, can become Israel do-or-die
ultra-nationalists who attack other Jews as "self-haters,"
mistaking legitimate opposition to Israeli policy as betrayal and
abandonment by one's own family, so to speak. When a Jew feels radically
endangered in the world, it's a lot safer to attack other Jews than
to confront anti-Semitism.
trauma of traumas in Jewish history is the Holocaust, and it continues
to work its indelible mark on the Jewish psyche. Psychological features
of genocide trauma are operative not only in direct survivors and
their descendants but in every Jew alive who knows that Hitler would
have liked to snuff us all out. This trauma is triggered every time
a suicide bomber explodes another self-propelled pogrom onto the
streets of Jerusalem, Haifa, or Tel Aviv. Mutilated children, limbs
flying out of buses, Israelis lynched while mobs of Palestinians
rejoice and dance in the streets, children killed in front of their
mothers in kibbutz bedrooms, dancers at a wedding, people at a seder
blown to pieces, and on and on. How can Jews hear and read about
such events and not be (re-)traumatized? Jews who are unaware of
the impact of the Holocaust or annihilatory anti-Semitism on their
own psyches often end up blaming Jews for provoking the suicide
bomber, or calling friendly critics of Israel "worse than Nazis,"
or allying themselves with the pro-Palestinian solidarity movement
while ignoring the anti-Semitic overtones in this camp.
can take many forms, including a rigid ideological dogmatism. That
is, Jews passionately arguing against their own nationalism (and
only their own nationalism), their own people, or even their people's
survival. Much of the agitated, over the top quality of debates
about Israel and Palestine, from the Jewish side, is connected to
this traumatic imprint. We yell at each other when our hearts are
flooded with traumatic fear or grief. The fact that Michael Lerner,
who has championed one of the most balanced pictures of the Israel/Palestine
conflict, has been attacked by both Left and Right-wing Jews, is
a sad testament to the reality of Jews who are caught up in a traumatized
response to traumatic events. Internalized self-hatred, shame, denied
fear, traumatic grief, and misplaced anger are features of Jewish
psychology that anti-Semites can count on. Most Jews have some work
to do in this area.
Politics of Hatred
is fashionable in certain political circles to justify and legitimate
hatred as a rational response to oppression and injustice. The psychiatrist
Willard Gaylin devotes his study, Hatred: the Psychological Descent
into Violence, to dispelling this idea. He makes a critical distinction
between hatred and justified anger or rage. A group can oppose injustice
without resorting to hatred. As Gaylin defines it, hatred is more
than an emotion; it is a form of delusional thinking that demonizes
an Enemy. It is the sick glue that binds the hater to the object
of his hatred. The desperation in the Palestinian camps does not
explain or justify acts of terrorism committed by Palestinians,
says Gaylin, because hatred is not a rational emotion, or a viable
political program. Hatred is a social disease, and it is highly
contagious: "I have heard many say, in defense of Palestinian
hatred, that after generations of being kept in squalid refugee
camps ... feeling frustrated and humiliated by the exercise of Israeli
power, Palestinians are "entitled" to their hatred. This
is a sad misunderstanding of the nature of hatred. Hatred is not
an entitlement like health care. It is a disease (that) may infect
others, but it inevitably destroys the hater, diminishing his humanity
and perverting the purpose and promise of life itself. No one is
entitled to hatred any more than he is entitled to cancer."
hatred spreads in a population, acts of barbarism like suicide bombing
are the consequence. And when such acts are socially legitimized
and converted to a political program, the result is what Gaylin
calls a "culture of hatred," i.e. a group with a shared
history in which the leadership, the educational institutions and
the dominant religious forces indoctrinate the members of the community
with the venom of hatred on a daily basis. Gaylin makes the case
that, at the current time, Palestinian culture-regardless of just
claims to the land occupied by Israel and righteous anger at displacement
and dispossession-has become such a culture. I would add that peace-loving
Palestinians are also victims of this culture. As one Palestinian
mother, quoted in Chris Hedges' War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning,
puts it: "The children are fed ... hatred for the Jews from
the day they are born.... All they hear is that we have to get rid
of the Jewish enemy. The call to fight is pumped out over the radio
and the television. The trucks go through the streets of the camp
praising the new martyrs and calling for more." Conscripting
children to blow themselves up to kill the Jewish Infidel and live
forever in Paradise, far from being a legitimate political strategy,
is a horrific form of child abuse.
a distinguishing feature of a culture of hatred is the daily indoctrination
of the entire population, that feature does not yet exist in Israel
as a whole, says Gaylin. But it does, I believe, exist in some portion
of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Certainly the long conflict
between Israel and the Palestinians has stoked the hatred on both
sides, contributing to what Gaylin calls the "assault on morality"
that war requires. On one side, a vibrant sub-culture of anti-Semitism
infects the authentic nationalism of Palestinians, exacting a burden
of revenge that is as destructive of their national aspirations
as the suicide bomber is to himself. On the other side, Israeli
Jews, caught up in a re-enactment of the trauma of a history of
annihilation, become more and more corrupted by the fantasy of force
as a solution to fear, and thus give more and more to a futile,
ugly, and murderous Occupation, to fundamentalist nationalist settlerism,
and to collective reprisals that resemble, in lesser form, aspects
of their own history of persecution.
so the dance of death continues until, as in a Shakespearean tragedy,
there is no one left on the stage. This annihilatory destruction
of life is exactly where hatred and the politics of hatred leads.
While hatred may be a perennial human pathology, it doesn't come
naturally. It has to be taught. In War Is a Force that Gives Us
Meaning, Chris Hedges argues that "ancient hatreds" don't
generally explode of their own accord. They need the drums of war
to goad them on. These drums are beaten by leaders on both sides,
who foment hatred to justify war. Even the seemingly most intransigent
ethnic and religious conflicts (like that amongst the Croats, Serbs,
and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia), are actually manufactured
wars, fed by nationalist propaganda. Wars require lies and myths.
The Zionist and Palestinian myths have promulgated years of increasing
mistrust and hatred, not because Palestinians are inherently more
anti-Semitic than any other people, nor because Jewish settlers
are inherently more racist.
war between Israel and Palestine has been goaded by leaders on both
sides who are tragically short-sighted, or worse, corrupt and morally
bankrupt. "Nationalist triumphalism," as Chris Hedges
refers to it, egged on by these leaders, is a plague that easily
lends itself to the "collective psychosis" of war. Both
Sharon and Arafat are war criminals who have cynically manipulated
the intense nationalisms of their people into a long war that has
accomplished nothing but to escalate the hatred, killing, and "psychosis"
on both sides. "War gives a justification to what is often
nothing more than gross human cruelty and stupidity," says
Hedges. "It allows us to believe we have achieved our place
in human society because of a long chain of heroic endeavors, rather
than accept the sad reality that we stumble along a dimly lit corridor
psychosis of war thrives on the culture of victimhood, and both
Jews and Palestinians have come by their cultures of victimhood
honestly. It is this clash of two cultures of victimhood, on a psychological
level, that keeps this long war going. Each side bent on proving
that it has "no choice" but to defend itself by ever increasing
rounds of barbarism on one side and military might on the other.
"Once a group or a nation establishes that it alone suffers,
then all other competing claims to injustice are cancelled out,
" says Hedges. "The nation or the group falls into a collective
autism ... and does not listen to those outside the inner circle.
Communication is impossible."
this late date in the dance of death embraced by both Jew and Arab,
calling either side "just" or "unjust" may be
no more useful than saying that the Capulets and the Montagues were
justified in their orgies of revenge. Justice and injustice exist
on both sides. Peace, for the beleaguered victims of both nationalisms,
has less to do with political correctness than it does with reconciliation.
And reconciliation is, among other things, a spiritual undertaking.
As peacemaker John Paul Lederach puts it, reconciliation is only
possible when all parties can let go of a bitter past in order to
bring about a human future for the generations to come.
the more hopeful side, if corrupt leaders whip up the fires of racism,
hatred, triumphalist nationalism, and war, such leaders are not
invulnerable. They can be forced to step down-but only by their
own people. There is yet hope that both Israelis and Palestinians
will say "no" to the leaders on each side who are destroying
their chances for peaceful co-existence. This will take considerable
courage for peace-loving Israelis and Palestinians (who must defy
the culture of hatred and who are labeled "collaborators"
by their own terrorist organizations and subject to "street
justice"-including murder). Here are some hopeful facts: 69
percent of Israelis say they would give up all or most of the settlements
for an enforceable peace; and 71 percent of Palestinians say they
want the violence to end. These numbers point to the fact that just
as hatred is aroused under certain conditions and by certain leaders,
it can die down and make way for something resembling a "live
and let live" outlook. This kind of outlook would go a long
way to putting out the fires of anti-Semitism and racism in this
part of the world. Perhaps then future generations of Israelis and
Palestinians will be raised not on fear and hatred but on mutual
do we go from here?
of us who envision a less dangerous and crazy world need to raise
our voices in opposition to militarism and violence in all its forms
as a solution to global fear and unsafety. Since anti-Semitism always
diverts people's attention from the true causes of violence and
injustice, an active opposition to anti-Semitism is critical to
the success of any movement for peace and justice-in Palestine or
anywhere else. Such a movement must stand as squarely against the
alarming rise of Islamo-fascist terrorism and Arab and Palestinian
anti-Semitism, as it does against Western imperialism, globalization,
and racism. Where are the enlightened progressive activists who
will even utter the word "anti-Semitism" on their lists
of political grievances? Those of us who do political work related
to Israel and Palestine might note if we are as comfortable raising
the issue of anti-Semitism as we are opposing Israeli policy. If
not, why not? Are we frightened to "come out" as Jews?
Do we blame other Jews for provoking hatred against us? Are gentiles
afraid to be "tainted" by their identification with visibly
"out" Jews? Is our politics corrupted by an anti-Semitic
bias? Or by apathy to Jew-hatred?
an activist for decades, Chesler ends her book with a chapter entitled
"What We Must Do." Her suggestions are clear and sound:
1) face the fact that Israel is under threat; 2) move beyond ideological
reflexes and think beyond the boxes of Left/Right, pro-Israel/pro-Palestinian,
etc.; 3) as Jews, learn to be more tolerant, "less rigid and
rageful towards one another"; 4) be fair to Israel; 5) form
Jewish-Christian alliances; 6) form alliances with Palestinians;
7) restore campus civility; 8) fight "the Big Lies" (the
Jews killed Jesus, Jews control Wall St., Jews own the media); 9)
honor the dreams of peace. Chesler's wisdom in the ways of peace
is one of her most valuable contributions to this anguishing subject:
"Two competing rights can coexist," she says, "when
no one is wrong and no one is right. Perhaps we must learn to 'sit
with' a problem, for as long as it takes, until progress is made
in a nonviolent way. Instead of warriors with bombs and chemicals,
the world needs warriors of peace with wise words, patience, and
faith to outlast the guns of war and the sands of time." Amen.
terrorism, and war, in ever more frightening forms, are the plagues
of the twenty-first century. It seems to me that if this era is
asking anything of us, it is to understand hatred in all its forms
and to find another way to conduct ourselves as a species. Lest
we feel a bit burdened by the scope of this tikkun olam project,
let me add: I believe that even small deeds can contribute toward
creating a less hateful world.
reminded of a conversation I had with my father many years ago.
He told me that after the Holocaust, upon his return to Poland,
he contemplated his future. Of his extended family of eleven siblings,
parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, only a brother and sister had
survived. The pogrom in Kielce (forty Jews killed on a train) took
place soon after his return, reminding him that the rage to annihilate
the Jews was not over. "I had one thing on my mind," he
said, "to kill as many Germans as possible and then to join
my brothers and sisters in the next world." I was shocked.
All of my life, I knew my father as a sweet and gentle man, the
soul of kindness and compassion. I had no idea that he'd nursed
a suicidal hatred before concluding that vengeance would not be
a fitting memorial for the dead. It would not bring back his family
or resurrect the lost Jewish world. It took him a while, he confided,
but he renounced his hatred and decided to live as a Jew and to
raise a family. This would be his victory, his defiance of Hitler's
message of hate.
hatred, in all its forms, is the only thing that will save us-Israeli,
Palestinian, Tutsi, Hutu, Croat, Serb, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu,
Buddhist, Kurd, man, woman, and child. Are Palestinians "justified"
in nursing their rage at Occupation until it becomes a deadly hatred
of Jews? Are Jews "justified" in turning their fear of
annihilation and their anger at Arab terrorism into a blind and
spiteful Occupation? Where will this get us? Will it bring back
the dead on both sides? Will Arab mothers be able to lift their
children in their arms in a free society rather than send them to
their deaths in order to take down another Jew? Will Jewish mothers
be able to put their children on a bus without fear that they will
never see them again except, if they are lucky, at the morgue? Will
hatred bring about two states in Israel and Palestine? Will it bring
justice? Will it bring peace? Will it do anything at all except
spill more innocent blood and poison the soul of the hater? To paraphrase
a forgotten 1960's anti-war song: When will we ever learn? When
will we ever learn?
Greenspan is a psychotherapist in private practice and author of
A New Approach to Women and Therapy and the recently published Healing
Through the Dark Emotions: the Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair.
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