Self-loathing only aggravates antisemitism

Liberal excoriation of fellow Jews is appropriated by antisemites for moral justification, while the myth of Jewish racism is often perpetuated by nonobservant critics who claim their rejection by the Orthodox is a form of bigotry. Op-ed.

Matthew M. Hausman ,

Leftists protest in Tel Aviv against
Leftists protest in Tel Aviv against
Flash 90

For generations, antisemites have justified their hatred by blaming Jews for bringing it upon themselves. In medieval Europe, blood libel and host desecration accusations precipitated crusades and massacres while in the Muslim world charges of blasphemy and undue influence instigated persecution and slaughter.

With the Enlightenment came claims of Jewish particularism, global control, and economic deviancy, which further demonized Jews and paved the way for mass extermination. And since 1948, Israel has been blamed for enabling Jew-hatred, a sentiment seemingly reinforced by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s recent comments implicating Israeli public relations failures under former PM Netanyahu for the current spike in global antisemitism and diminishing its singularity by comparison to other hatreds.


It may well be that some Jews provoke antipathy, but not in the delusional way liberal critics maintain and certainly not because of supposed PR failures. Rather, it is progressive rationalization and tolerance of antisemitism that exacerbates the threat, as well as the tendency to deemphasize its uniqueness as “the oldest hatred.” To be sure, the world is full of racial, ethnic, and religious conflicts and strife. But comparing thousands of years of Jewish suffering across all continents and cultures to more regional, localized, or societally specific hatreds is revisionist and irresponsible.

Not all hatreds are equal, and none are as historically pervasive.

Ethnic atrocities in Rwanda and the Balkans were certainly horrific but they did not result from centuries of systematic dehumanization, institutional degradation, or replacement theology. The Hutu massacre of Tutsis followed longstanding intertribal friction marked by mutual hostility, while the mass murder of Croatians by Serbians during the Yugoslav Wars was part of an ongoing conflict wherein Croatians had slaughtered Serbs (and Jews) during World War II. Though genocide is certainly abhorrent and unjustifiable, none of these conflicts compares in historical scope, chronicity, or power dynamic to the near-universal persecution of the Jews.

Progressives minimize antisemitism by comparing it to other prejudices or blaming it on bad Jewish conduct. But antisemitism leads to genocide; sexism and homophobia do not. They also twist the aggressor-victim dynamic by accusing Jews of ethnic intolerance or racism – often acting as an echo chamber for antisemites who assert the same vile slanders – when in fact it is Jews who have historically been the victims of such enmity. Whether motivated by partisan zeal, willful ignorance, or pathological self-loathing, the Jewish left shields progressive haters who sanitize their own bigotry with false analogies. “If Jews denounce their own heritage and history,” they say, “how can we be prejudiced for saying the same things?”

So why do progressives and the non-Orthodox movements lend credence to a revisionist narrative that denies Jewish national identity? Are they ignorant of history or do they reject it?
Liberal excoriation of fellow Jews is appropriated by antisemites for moral justification, while the myth of Jewish racism is often perpetuated by nonobservant critics who claim their rejection by the Orthodox is a form of bigotry. Some Reform clergy and congregants, for example, assert that the Orthodox establishment denies them legitimacy because their congregations include members of diverse races and ethnicities. Such contentions are ridiculous, however, and merely demonstrate ignorance of Jewish law and tradition.

It is certainly possible under Halakha (though not easy) to become a Jew irrespective of heritage or background, and true converts are welcome. The heterogeneity seen in many liberal congregations is not the result of people accepting the commandments and validly joining the Jewish nation, however, but of widespread nonobservance and intermarriage punctuated by demands for acceptance of prohibited unions, non-halakhic conversions, or patrilineal descent. In a larger context, this is the result of a nearly two-hundred-year effort to purge Jewish identity of its ethnic and national components, and of the acculturation that inevitably follows. Incredibly, many liberal rabbis defend intermarriages as “outreach” opportunities and enthusiastically officiate at such unions.

The preoccupation with supposed Jewish racism pervades the social justice agenda that has come to define the non-Orthodox movements, and which demands their embrace of a Palestinian narrative that falsely depicts Israel as a colonial power. With naïve zeal bordering on useful idiocy, many regard Palestinians as a persecuted nonwhite minority whose national aspirations were quashed by Israeli colonialism. This premise fits neatly into their partisan worldview but has no basis in reality, and in fact contradicts history. Palestinians are not defined racially. Moreover, they have no historical footprint and never had a country.

Nevertheless, Palestinian revisionism is a linchpin of today’s political antisemitism, particularly among progressive Democrats. What better way to demonize the most persecuted people on earth than to say they stole their country from its “rightful” inhabitants? And what better way to legitimize antisemitism than to adulate leftist Jews who reject their birthright? Such sophistry, however, is undermined by evidence from antiquity. Whereas the Jews’ presence in their homeland is well-documented by archeology, literature, ethnography, scripture, and habitation, the historical record is silent regarding Palestinian Arabs, who bear none of the cultural, linguistic, or institutional hallmarks of national existence.

Indeed, Arab culture and Islam are ultimately not indigenous outside the Arabian Peninsula but were spread by conquest from the seventh century onward. Those who doubt this should consider the persistent survival of the Copts in Egypt or Maronites of Lebanon.

This truth was acknowledged in the past by Palestinian Arab leadership, including Zahir Muhse’in, who in 1977 stated in the Dutch newspaper Trouw: “[t]he ‘Palestinian People’ does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the State of Israel for our Arab unity.” Yasser Arafat observed likewise in his authorized biography, stating: “The Palestinian people have no national identity. I, Yasser Arafat…will give them that identity through conflict with Israel.”

Despite lacking corroborative substance, the Palestinian Arab narrative is deemed sacrosanct by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and progressives who advocate historical justice for a polity that never existed. If there were any truth to the tale, there would have been demand for a Palestinian state when Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan occupied Judea, Samaria, and the Old City illegally from 1948 to 1967. But the world was silent then because the subterfuge had not yet been invented.

Palestinian nationhood is a modern political invention; and absent historicity, its proponents can only reinforce it by delegitimizing Jewish tradition and national aspirations. Without provenance to justify pretense, however, their nullification of the Jewish past can only be explained by antisemitic rejectionism.

So why do progressives and the non-Orthodox movements lend credence to a revisionist narrative that denies Jewish national identity? Are they ignorant of history or do they reject it? Though Jewish literacy is low among the nontraditional movements, self-rejection seems to correlate with progressive politics irrespective of knowledge level.

Whatever the reason, it was not surprising when Ben & Jerry’s announced it would boycott the “occupied territories,” considering the ice-cream company’s typical embrace of progressive causes. Apparently lost on the company’s decisionmakers was the fact that Judea and Samaria were never “illegally occupied” under traditional standards of international law – unless one counts their occupation by Jordan from 1948 until their liberation by Israel in 1967. No matter how anti-Israel boycotts are rationalized, they are foundationally antisemitic because they repudiate Jewish history.

Boycott apologists deny antisemitic intent by pointing to BDS activists who happen to be Jewish, but history abounds with examples of heretics who advocated their aggressors while forsaking their ancestors. Indeed, the phenomenon of Jewish self-rejection goes all the way back to Biblical times.

According to the Midrash (Mekhilta, Shemot 13:17-18), four-fifths of the Jews chose to stay in Egypt and died in the plagues. During the Hellenistic period centuries later, many emulated Greek culture, repudiated their ancestors, and attempted to surgically undo their circumcisions, while during medieval times apostates denounced Judaism, advocated forced baptism, inflamed the Dominican hordes, and instigated public burnings of the Talmud and other sacred texts. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many became socialists and abandoned Judaism, while during the Soviet era, the Communist Party’s “Jewish Section” attempted to eradicate Jewish religion and culture.

Though they will strenuously deny it, many progressives have an ingrained antipathy for their ancient homeland. If this arises from historical ignorance or the conflation of Jewish and secular political values, then better education might provide them with more enlightened perspectives. But if their rejection stems from self-hatred, they are no different from apostates of past generations who burned the Talmud, sabotaged their communities, and sought to erase their people from the face of the earth.

The sad reality is that self-loathing can indeed foster antisemitism, though liberal Jewish leaders have shown little inclination to acknowledge the problem for fear of insulting the progressive left. They have instead shown they are willing to ignore antisemitism when it comes from their political bedfellows and, consequently, that they are unsuitable to serve as community leaders and role models.

Matthew M. Hausman is a trial attorney and writer who lives and works in Connecticut. A former journalist, Mr. Hausman continues to write on a variety of topics, including science, health and medicine, Jewish issues and foreign affairs, and has been a legal affairs columnist for a number of publications.