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Self-Hating Nonsense

By , contributor
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I hate the term "self hating Jew." Those who use it, employ the term to attempt to cut off all vigorous debate within the Jewish community. Designate Ms. X as one of that “gang” and you never have to confront her ideas. It is enough to apply the sobriquet and thus cast her beyond the pale of acceptability.



The writer David Solway has recently tried to define the term and sketch in some of the psychological and sociological elements which, he asserts, encourage some Jews to become traitors to their people. It is notable that Solway’s essay appears in Front Page, an organ edited by one time leftist David Horowitz, who is now associated with the far right and was a notable supporter of the unlamented Bush-Cheney administration. Solway embraces the journal’s crusade against the broader left, including social-democrats, liberals, and all those who may be, in the least, critical of Israel.

Solway’s self-hater feels betrayed by Israel and Judaism’s failure to realize perfection, to become the prophetic “light unto the nations.” She feels betrayed by her people and thus is justified in betraying her people. She or he enjoys the spotlight, the profit, the acceptance of “the others” that may be received by appearances as “a good Jew” at anti-Zionist conferences. It is also for such an individual a form of escape from the ghetto of his kinship. Solway’s generalizations are debatable but who are really the objects of his polemic? None of them are named until the end of his essay and the targets of his wrath are then listed as “Jewish leftist intellectuals, editors and academicians in both Israel and the far abroad.” These are supposedly the traitors who break solidarity with their brethren when they do not embrace Bibi Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and the settlers of the West Bank.

It is not true that many Jews have a perfectionist vision of Israel as a light unto the world; it is more to the point that rightists like Solway admit to no errors by Israel. The U.S. can be criticized as can Canada but not Israel. I believe that, part of the rebellion of many young Jews on the campuses of North America is against Solway and his ilk who gather the wagons around Israel, in what South Africans called the "laager mentality". But this inability to criticize your own is not only morally suspect it is also counter productive.

Horowitz and Solway have condemned those pro-Soviet Jews who could not talk about Stalin's criminal acts. They would also condemn those today who are the same kinds of apologists for authoritarian regimes or even Islamism. I am suggesting that the apologists for every unenlightened act by Israel also risk losing all credibility with the broader community and with Jewish liberal young people, as well, who will react against the apologists for a vile occupation, land-grabbing, dispossession of Jerusalem Arabs, second class citizenship of Arab-Israelis, destruction of Palestinian crops, etc. I certainly am not comparing Israel to some of the world’s worst human rights violators, for all the ills of Gaza it is not Darfu, but that is no reason to be complacent with her treatment of Arab-Israelis or of occupied Palestinians

At the end of his article Solway tells us that "survival is the desideratum" for Jews and for Israel. That was always the cry of the apologist for the Soviet Union. Every war Israel fights, for good or for bad reasons, becomes for Horowitz and Solway, an existential conflict. Thus, there is no room for criticism when life, the very survival of Israel is at stake. One might think that Israel today was not one of the world’s great military powers and armaments manufacturers and still the vulnerable enclave of 1948.

Let us all understand that the term “self hating Jew” gets thrown around all too loosely as a means of discrediting political opponents, rather than considering their criticisms.

A healthy diaspora politics should be free of Solway’s morally dubious appeal to “gather the wagons” around Israel. Love for Israel can best be demonstrated through fostering a real political discourse which in the words of Jewish Studies Professor Alex Sinclair, “can be critical of Israel and still love it; we can voice our frustration, our anger, and even our disgust with some of its policies, while supporting…its right to exist and flourish in peace.”


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