Friday, April 4, 2008

Jews against Jews

So what is it about Jews against Jews? Or Jews against Zionism? Or Jews against Israel? Are these all the same thing- or as near as dammit as to make no difference? Or not?

These questions are pertinent in view of the substantial (at least in terms of noise, if not numbers) of the anti-Zionist/anti-Israel/anti-Jewish lobby. It is also difficult to avoid such questions with Kasrils - see Its Almost Supernatural, 2 April - (and, more regrettably, Zapiro since he has genuine talent) in our midst.

For the moment I'm going to take these positions to be sufficiently similar as to lump them together as Jews Against Jews, or JAJs, for short.

Why the exquisite sensitivity to the imperfections of Jews or Israel but near total blindness when it comes to the actions of those who oppose or hate Jews? How come, the actions of others can always be explained by "circumstances" and "context" but those of Jews (or Israel or Zionists) are simply evil?

These questions also arise in the context of thinking about what may be termed "the moral stance" in politics, especially international politics. I have briefly addressed this in a previous post, but want to look at it in greater depth in due course - not in this posting.

Certainly part of the explanation for JAJs is psychological; what kind of psychology (or psychologies?) lies behind this phenomenon?

The conventional wisdom, amongst much of the Jewish community at any rate, is that it is internalised anti-semitism, picked up from the social environment. This is certainly plausible. A considerable body of psychological research points to the internalisation of racist stereotypes by the targets themselves. This is a staple of anti-racist discourse, and there is no reason why Jews should not be as susceptible as anyone else.

There are now well-established (though not universally accepted) methods for detecting the existence of such unconscious stereotypes in individuals, but I'm not aware of research conducted specifically on Jewish anti-semitism. It should be done.

But even if true, it can't be the entire explanation for JAJs. After all many Jews may have anti-semitic stereotypes lurking in their unconscious or semiconconscious, without becoming overt self-haters.

Is it genuine self-hatred, a projection of one's own weaknesses, inadequacies and evil thoughts onto the Jews. "Projection" as a psychological mechanism is frequently used to explain the attitudes of anti-semites and other racists. Does it also account for the JAJs?

Yes, I think it does in part. So extreme is this at times - see below - that the "self " is split, with the Jewish component of the self being assigned to some kingdom of evil (I don't exaggerate) which must be destroyed.

But I think that other mechanisms may also be operative. For example, old-fashioned vanity and narcissism. Any opposition simply makes such people more vehement and excessive. Ego and self-image is so tied into their self-appointed position of moral spokespersons that they will defend their views to the last gasp.

To get a flavour of the lengths to which such individuals are driven, the following quotes are revealing:

"He (David Saks) tries to argue that Israel shows remarkable restraint, which is exactly the same language used by apartheid’s rulers in their repression of our people. While Israel will mark its 60th anniversary in May this year April 9 sees another 60th anniversary; one of the most infamous of the many barbaric massacres carried out against Palestinians, where Jewish terrorists slaughtered 254 men, women and children in cold blood at the village of Deir Yassin." Kasrils

(Note the term "Jewish terrorists" instead of "Zionist terrorists".)

"To regard Hitler as the ultimate evil is nothing but surrendering to the Zio-centric discourse. To regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook. ... Israel and Zionism are the ultimate Evil with no comparison. ... The current Israeli brutality is nothing but evilness for the sake of evilness. Retribution that knows no mercy. Israel is a devastating collective resurrection of the Biblical Samson. It is a
modern representation of the man who kills women, children and the elderly, the Hebraic victorious master of blind indiscriminate retaliation. ... Israeli cannibalism ... If we want to save this world, if we want to live in a humane planet, we must focus on the gravest enemy of peace, those who are wicked for the sake of evilness: the Israeli State and world Zionism. ... We all have to de-Zionise ourselves before it is too late. We have to admit that Israel is the ultimate evil rather than Nazi Germany (52)."
Gilad Atzmon (an ex-Israeli) quoted by Anthony Julius

It is a truism to point out that such tirades are eagerly seized upon by dyed-in-the-wool, non-Jewish anti-semites for whom the extinction of the Jews would be of little consequence, if not a much desired outcome.

For a nuanced and powerful overview of JAJs see "Jewish anti-Zionsim Unravelled" by Anthony Julius part 1 and part 2, Blushing for the Jewish State by Balint and Anti-semitism and the Left that Doesn't Learn by Mitchell Cohen.

A balanced view allows for Jewish self-criticism and disagreement with specific acts and policies without descending into the pit of semi-psychotic self-hatred.

To end on a more positive note, and to cleanse ourselves of these hateful delusions, here is a lovely quote from the writings of Haim Nahman Bialik (1925) in the article "Fragments from the Archives" published by Z-word:

"We are not coming here to seek wealth, or dominion, or greatness. How much of these can this poor little country give us? We wish to find here only a domain of our own for our physical and intellectual wealth. We have not yet achieved great things here. We have not yet had time to wash the dust of long wanderings from our feet and to change our patched garmets. Undoubtedly many years have yet to pass until we have healed this desolate land of the leprosy of its rocks and the rot of its swamps. For the present there is only a small beginning of upbuilding; yet already the need has been felt for erecting a home for the intellectual work of the nation."

Let the JAJs put that in their pipe and smoke it. The Jews did better than Bialik imagined possible and it is not over yet.

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