THE PEOPLE OF ILLOGIC: NOTES ON JEWISH SELF HATE
by Seth J. Frantzman
Jewish self hate is one of the most fascinating of phenomena. While many nations now produce intellectuals who have self-hate the Jews seem especially adept at it. It is worth examining a few cases to understand that self-hate is primarily based on illogical concepts.
Recently the German government gave one of its highest civilian awards, the Federal Cross of Merit, to Felicia Langer, a supporter of the Palestinians who calls Israel the "apartheid of the present" and a defender of Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinjad. She noted that the Holocaust denying Iranian president "is right" when "speaking about the suffering of the Palestinians". He had left Israel in 1990 "because for the Palestinians, unfortunately we cannot obtain Justice." She speaks often of how the Holocaust has harmed her family and when in Israel spoke of being part of the "other Israel" and noted "I'm for justice and against all those for whom the conclusion of the holocaust is hatred, cruelty and insensitivity." Al Ahram described her as "a beautiful and petite women with intense blue eyes" who "married Mieciu Langer, a Holocaust Survivor" and when she was given the award the spokesmen noted it was partly due to how "her own background as massively affected by the Holocaust."
Then in late July Prof. Yuri Pines wrote in an email to student about the threat of an Israeli soldier who died in a recent war having his home removed by the government that "I hope that not only the Major's home will be destroyed, but the entire settlement, and that the settlers will all be gone with the wind... I favor a complete annihilation of the settlement enterprise...they are my enemy." In an earlier interview the professor had said "I was... disgusted and astonished by the belief in Jews being the 'chosen people', in the 'eternal Jewish rights' and in the need of all Jews to gather in Palestine." He encouraged Israeli soldiers to "betray" their country.
These two cases of angry and fanatical Jews who live and thrive off of condemning other Jews is illustrative of most of the shrill and angry hatred by some Jews of other Jews. This strain of anger and those who practice it should be termed "the people of illogic". Consider a few more examples. Meir Margolit, Meretz representative on the Jerusalem City Council, noted about a new Jewish housing complex on the border with East Jerusalem" The Jews will change the Palestinian profile of east Jerusalem, and this will be an obstacle for peace in the Middle East. I say thank you to these Jews who are coming now because this is a provocation, and we will take advantage of this provocation." Note the anger against "the Jews" and the idea that this will be used as a "provocation" by Meretz in order to encourage Palestinian violence against those Jews.
Consider Professor Bill Freedman, an American immigrant to Israel, who declared that he would begin publically celebrating the Nakba, the day of mourning that Palestinians mark on Israel's independence day, instead of Israel's independence day. Freedman said "I can not sit on the sidelines while Israel descends into anti-democratic fascism... I am American originally, and the subject of freedom of speech is ingrained deep inside of me." Note the anger at his adopted country which he now calls 'fascist.'
Naomi Klein, who frequently stresses that she is a Jew, came to Israel for a book tour recently. She published her book Shock Doctrine in Hebrew through a publisher run by Jews(Andalus) that specializes in Arabic books and donated all proceeds from it to the Palestinians. She went to Bilin to throw stones at Israeli soldiers and noted "Boycott is a tactic ...we're trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa..It's an extraordinarily important part of Israel's identity to be able to have the illusion of Western normalcy," the Canadian writer and activist said. "When that is threatened, when the rock concerts don't come, when the symphonies don't come, when a film you really want to see doesn't play at the Jerusalem film festival... then it starts to threaten the very idea of what the Israeli state is."
Then there are rabbis Brian Walt, former executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and Brant Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston who began, along with 13 other rabbis, a "Taanit Tzedek-Jewish fast for Gaza." The group supports dialogue with Hamas, and asks "why does Israel need other countries to agree to the nature of its existence... why should other parties affirm the Jewishness of Israel?"
On July 1 Jacques Serving and Igor Vamos withdrew their film "The Yes Men" from the Jerusalem Film Festival in solidarity with the boycott and divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. They spoke of how they "shared with" other participants "our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died." They wrote that ". In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law." They said "its embarrassing as Jews to hear constantly what's going on in Israel"
Lastly there is Rosanne Barr and Josh Neuman, the former a comedian and the latter the publisher of Heeb magazine, a "jewish" magazine. Both are "Jews". In a recent photo shoot Rosanne Barr, who recently compared Israel's actions in gaza to Nazism, dressed up like Hitler and was photographed baking cookies in an oven (a gas oven?) and eating them. Such a stunt could not be made up and who else would publish such a thing but a Jewish magazine. Rosanne blogged about anti-semitism as her reason for doing this, but the same woman who compares Israel to nazim dressing up like the chief nazi, it all seems illogical.
What all these people share and the thousands like them is a claim that they are Jewish, a claim that they were affected by the Holocaust, a focus on Israel although usually they are not born there and an attachment to the Palestinians. But what they also share is a lack of logic. Consider Mrs. Langer. Langer is not a Holocaust survivor. She was born in Poland and fled the German invasion to Russia where her father supposedly died in Stalin's gulag. But she married a Holocaust survivor and from that point began to claim that she was affected by the Holocaust. Now with that supposed connection to the Holocaust she moved to Israel. In Israel she became an immediate supporter of the Palestinians who she identified with. Later she then left Israel, a country she had no sympathy or identification with and went into "exile" in Germany where she then became a "German Jew" even though, in reality, she was a Polish Jew who was not a Holocaust survivor. As a "German Jew" she not peddled her Holocaust credentials more as someone who, with her Holocaust background, was an automatic expert on human rights and "as a Jew" had a moral "obligation" to speak out about Israel. Thus the very fact of being "Jewish" means condemning Israel. That was then taken one step further by her, in her identification with the Palestinians, she supported the Iranian president in his hatred of Israel, even as he denied the Holocaust and called Israel a "nazi" state. But consider this problem. Without the Holocaust Langer could not longer be "massively affected by the Holocaust." Illogic is the center of the Langer ideology. Without the Holocaust there are no Nazis to compare Israel to and there is no Holocaust to make Langer seem like a moral beacon who must "sound the alarm" about Israel. Without the Holocaust, in short, there is no Langer, she is just another "petite blue eyed" woman.
But Yuri Pines illogic is even more interesting. Here is a "Jewish" person who grew up in Russia and opposed Communism, supposedly. He then moved to Israel where he immediately identified with the Palestinians and joined the Communist party in Israel which he found comforting in its calls for a Jewish-Arab brotherhood. He believes the existence of Israel to be illegal and hates settlers, yet he himself settles on the land, land he believes was illegally stolen from Palestinians. He encourages the murder and annihilation of settlers and the destruction of their homes, all the while living as a settler in Israel. Furthermore he condemns the Jews for claiming to be a "chosen people", a claim that they do not make but one foisted upon them by him. He condemns Zionism for choosing Palestine as a Jewish home and yet he makes his home in Israel, in Palestine. In Russia Yuri hated Communism so he came to Israel in order to hate it as well, condemning it for being Jewish which was the very thing that allowed him as a "Jew" to immigrate there. His Communist Palestinian-Israeli state would, of course, cancel the 'right of return' that allowed him to come.
Every extreme anti-Israel hater has the same illogic in their bones. Bill Freedman, an American who celebrated July 4th independence day in the U.S, moves to Israel, as a "jew", only to then identify with the Palestinians to such an extent that he mourns their Nakba but not his newly adopted state's independence day. Why didn't he just move to Jordan or the Palestinian territories or stay in the U.S? Why move to a state that one feels is "fascist"?
Naomi Klein, a Canadian, comes to Israel and claims to know that it is very important for it to be "western". Towards this end she claims to want to cancel "rock concerts" and "symphonies" from coming to Israel because she believes most Israelis value these things. But most Israelis can't ever afford to see the expensive rock concerts in Tel Aviv and no one in Israel except the Israel-hating bourgouise left in North Tel Aviv go to "symphonies". The "rabbis" in the U.S who fast on behalf of Gaza are equally illogical. Of all the things that as "humanistic Jews" they might fast for Gaza should be low on the list. But there is no fast for Darfur, there is a fast for Gaza precisely because it is next to Israel. Palestinian identity therefore defines these rabbis Jewish identity.
And Jacques Serving and Igor Vamos are even more confused. Neither has a Jewish last name but both claim to be Jewish and both claim to be connected to the Holocaust. Yet while they don't have any connection to Israel, aren't citizens or even visitors, they claim to be "embarrassed" by its behavior and "embarrassed" because other people call it "fascist". Consider the logic in this. A person living in a far off land suddenly decides he has some familial connection with people 5,000 miles away. He then find out other people call those people "fascist" and finds out those people he thought he had a familial connection to don't behave nicely. He then becomes "embarrassed"? Does this seem logical? Finding out that neighbours of this family these people suddenly are embarrassed by are calling for a boycott they then boycott this people. Its twisted because Mr. Serving and Vamos never had to pretend to have a connection to Israel in the first place and the connection to the Holocaust is entirely contrived, the "Holocaust survivor" connection only informs their hatred of Israel.
Ruth Bronner, a Jerusalem based researcher has shown that in fact the self-hatred of the Jews begins with the German Jews and the Holocaust. For leading Jews such as Hannah Arendt and Victor Klemperer the Nazis "were not German." In addition "everything Jewish was foreign." Consider how this works. The Nazis, who sprang from the bosom of Germany, were not the "real" Germans, because that was reserved for the Arendts and Klemperers, assimilated German Jews. Yet the actual Jews, mostly Ostjuden, who were hated and disdained by the German Jews, were "foreign". So the Nazis and the real Jews were both foreign. So how does that translate down to the present? For the German Jews and those who pretended to be German Jews like Langer (Klemperer too was born in Poland, like Rosa Luxembourg-Klemperer and Langer were also supporters of the Communist regime in East Germany and collaborated with it in its creation of the largest police state ever created) the Nazis and Jews were equally foreign and thus Israel, a Jewish state, can easily be transfigured into a Nazi state, as it has been in the language of many German Jewish intellectuals such as Hebrew University Professors Moshe Zimmerman, Zuckerman, Baruch Kimmerling and others. Thus the logic by which non-Israeli Jews object to Israel being a Jewish state has a logic, they believe that they are the true Jews and Israel, as a foreign thing, a Nazi apartheid fascist thing, is not Jewish and cannot be Jewish because to be Jewish is to be German-Jewish and therefore to be a Holocaust survivor. For these people there are two Judaisms, there are the foreign Jews and there is the self-Jews, those Jews for whome everything Jewish is foreign but who nevertheless need their Jewishness to be unique, because otherwise they fade into the larger mass of humanity and can no longer pretend to be "Jews for Justice in Palestine" or "Rabbis for Human rights".
Seth J. Frantzman is a graduate student in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, living in Jerusalem. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his website: http://journalterraincognita.blogspot.com This article appeared July 26, 2009 on the Terra Incognita website. July 26, 2009
Guest Columnist: Neve Gordon is not the problem
Sep. 2, 2009
daniel gordis , THE JERUSALEM POST
Intentionally or not, Neve Gordon, senior lecturer and head of the Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University, has unleashed a firestorm in Israeli academe. His recent op-ed in The Los Angeles Times declared that Israel is an apartheid state, and that it ought to be boycotted to "save Israel from itself."
Sensing a public relations debacle among their American supporters, the president and leadership of BGU distanced themselves from his comments and hinted that he ought to resign. Predictably, other Israeli academics leaped to Gordon's defense. Most interesting, however, was the outrage Gordon's column has evoked among many American Jews. Some are so beside themselves that they are now threatening to withhold their financial support from the university.
To be sure, Gordon's argument is deeply flawed. He writes as if Israel sought or enjoys controlling the Palestinians, making no mention of the fact that it captured the West Bank in a defensive war that it did not seek, or that more than once (most recently with Ehud Olmert's election in 2006) Israelis have chosen leaders whose campaigns called for relinquishing those territories. Add to that his failure to admit that the Palestinians still refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist and continue to call for its destruction, and one can appreciate the fury of Ben-Gurion University's American supporters.
The fury these American Jews are suddenly expressing illustrates how little these very supporters know about the system of higher education in Israel to which they are so deeply committed. Is this really their first glimpse into the widespread and long-standing hostility of Israeli academe to Jewish statehood? Gordon has been espousing this viewpoint for years. He regularly writes for anti-Israel publications, holed up with Yasser Arafat during the siege of Ramallah, and has on more than one occasion likened Israel to Nazi Germany. But he's always enjoyed the steadfast support of the university, to its very highest echelons. His views are widely held among his colleagues.
Nor is BGU unique here. Coming to Gordon's defense, Tel Aviv University professor Shlomo Sand stated outright that Israeli universities are not Zionist institutions and should not be. They are about scholarship, he insisted, not about the Jews or their state.
There are non-Jews and non-Zionists at these universities, he claimed, and the universities must serve them no less than anyone else. And at Hebrew University, the crown jewel of Israeli academe, the long-term influence of the binationalists involved in the university's founding has also been well documented.
Indeed, the only thing that is surprising about this latest turn of events is that American donors are surprised. For, to those who know even a bit about Israeli academe, the anti-Israel posture of many departments is really yesterday's news.
The important question in all this is what American philanthropists who are committed to Zionism and to Israel's higher education ought to do. Surely they can't really believe that universities will suddenly silence their professors or terminate tenure. What, then, are the options?
These philanthropists ought to look close to home for their answers. For many of America's great universities developed from an entirely different tradition. Woodrow Wilson, as president of Princeton, spoke unabashedly of "Princeton in the nation's service." Columbia College instituted its now-classic core curriculum as an explicit defense of Western civilization. Neither Princeton nor Columbia, like many other great American liberal arts colleges, saw any conflict between superb scholarship and inclusiveness on the one hand, and devotion to country and one's own civilization on the other.
Is it at all surprising that these colleges have produced an abundance of America's great leaders?
Israeli education needs more support from American Jews, not less. Rather than withholding their funds, a much more useful response would be to channel their support and their knowledge to create an Israeli version of the "college in the service of the nation."
Those American philanthropists currently wringing their hands probably have no idea that Israel has not a single liberal arts college to its name. Typical Israeli undergraduates get none of the curricular breadth that an American education usually requires, and as a result, they know almost nothing about Western civilization, the majesty of Jewish intellectual history or even the competing philosophic currents inside Zionism.
In today's Israel, the People of the Book do not even read their own books. When they read or hear someone like Neve Gordon, nothing in their education has given them the tools to evaluate what he says, or to take him on. They are helpless.
TODAY'S NARROW model of education, in which students essentially study only one discipline, produces excellence, but excellence as technocrats. It does not produce the broadly read, intellectually nuanced people that the Jewish state so desperately needs.
Without dramatic change, Israeli universities will produce only more Neve Gordon's - scholars of varying quality, who feel no love for the very country that has saved their people. If it learned from American education, Israel might actually begin to cultivate a new wave of leadership, and with it, a generation of Israelis who actually love their nation.
Dr. Gordon is correct - Israel needs to be saved from itself. What Israel needs now is a reconceived notion of the educated Israeli.
It needs a liberal arts college, and the young people prepared to speak constructively about Jewish sovereignty, its challenges, its failures and its future that only that kind of college can produce.
A century ago, who could have imagined that the Jewish state would one day have a world-class army but a failing, collapsing educational system? Whether or not American Jews have the foresight to use their philanthropy to promote genuine change in Israeli academe still remains to be seen. But if they do, Neve Gordon's op-ed may ironically have goaded both Israel and the American Jewish community into taking the first steps needed to begin to save the Jewish state.
The writer is senior vice president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End (Wiley, 2009). He blogs at www.danielgordis.org.
Think Again: Aiding the destroyers among us
Sep. 3, 2009
Jonathan Rosenblum , THE JERUSALEM POST
The Swedish government refused to condemn a totally unsupported article in the country's largest-circulation newspaper alleging that Israel routinely kidnaps and murders Palestinians to harvest their organs. To comment, said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, would be a violation of the country's principles of free speech.
Those who called for donors to withhold giving to Ben-Gurion University after BGU Professor Neve Gordon penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, in which he advocated an international boycott of Israel, were accused of violating academic freedom.
Those responses share a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of freedom of speech and academic freedom. Just because the content of speech is legal does not make it proper or immunize it from criticism. I have the right to express my thoughts. But I do not have a right to have The Jerusalem Post publish them, or to demand that it not publish letters ridiculing its "haredi apologist."
Freedom of the press and speech protect Aftonbladet from sanctions by the Swedish government. But the Swedish government has its own interests - or so one would have hoped - in disassociating Sweden from ancient anti-Semitic stereotypes, as the Swedish ambassador to Israel rightly recognized. Had a major Swedish paper printed anything offensive to Muslims of a violent bent, the government would have fallen over itself to express its regrets. And while an academic has the right to his opinions, private donors who find his views or research repugnant are equally entitled not to support that research. Given the fungibility of money, that might mean withholding support from the university that employs them.
Nor do professors' statements become immune to criticism because they are uttered in a classroom. Professors, like everyone else, should expect to have their work evaluated. Just as parents and students have an interest in knowing which professors have a tendency to get too friendly with female students, so do they have a right to form judgments about which professors are using their classrooms for political indoctrination, not education.
GROUPS LIKE Campus Watch and Israel Campus foster such informed judgments by publicizing both the published utterances and classroom statements of university lecturers.
In general, it would be foolish to refrain from contributing to a university based on the views of one faculty member. Doing so would eliminate every potential recipient.
But Neve Gordon is not a solitary rogue professor on the BGU campus. The BGU Department of Politics and Government, which he chairs, fits the description of former Minister of Education Amnon Rubinstein of academic departments in Israel in which no traditional Zionist could be appointed. Before he published his Los Angeles Times piece, Gordon shared his message with his department colleagues. According to Professor Fred Lazin, there was a "unanimous decision not to let him step down [as chairman]."
BGU President Rikva Carmi professed to be "shocked" by Gordon's boycott call. But she has in the past defended him as a "serious and distinguished researcher into human rights," and lashed out at academic monitors of his output, which appears regularly on anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial sites and Aljazeera.com, as "Kahanists."
Nor did Gordon's boycott call come out of the blue. For years he has described Israel as an "apartheid state." He once joined 250 International Solidarity Movement members serving as a human shield in Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound, where he was photographed holding hands aloft with Arafat and quoted expressing doubts about the latter's involvement in terrorism.
Gordon is the last person entitled to hide behind the cover of free speech and academic freedom. He once labeled his former army commander Aviv Kochavi a "war criminal," forcing Kochavi to forgo graduate studies in England for fear of prosecution. Gordon filed a libel suit against Haifa University Professor Steven Plaut over the latter's sharp criticism of his ISM escapades and of Ha'aretz's choice of Gordon to write an effusive review of Norman Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry, which alleges, inter alia, that the number of those murdered in the Holocaust is greatly exaggerated. Before filing, Gordon then went forum-shopping to Nazareth, where neither he nor Plaut live, in search of a suitably sympathetic Arab judge.
ISRAELI AND Jewish Israel-bashers constitute a major, perhaps insuperable, obstacle to any attempt to defend Israel in the court of world opinion. Anyone attempting to defend Israel abroad will inevitably be confronted with some statement characterizing Israel as a racist, apartheid state, perpetrating war crimes against the Palestinians, from the mouth of an Israeli academic or journalist. The fact that the source is Jewish or Israeli is assumed to provide credibility.
Sadly, many Jews who care deeply about Israel's existence help fund its delegitimization. The New Israel Fund raises millions of dollars annually from American Jews. Donors are told that New Israel Fund supports Israel as a Jewish state and opposes the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, and that the NIF does not fund organizations that engage in propaganda or support boycotts of Israel.
None of these claims are true, as two recent studies of NIF grantees prepared by the Center for Near East Policy Research demonstrate. The Coalition of Women for Peace recently sponsored a speech by Naomi Klein in support of the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BSD) against Israel. Six NIF grant recipients - including CPW, Mossawa, and Machsom Watch - petitioned the Norwegian government for sanctions against Israel.
Ittijah, an umbrella group of Israel Arab NGO's, issued a statement prior to its attendance at Durban II in Geneva in which it charged that "the Jewish character of the state of Israel contradicts international law" and referred to the "racist character" of the State. The draft constitution prepared for Israel by Adalah, the Legal Center for Minority Arab Rights in Israel, another NIF grantee, calls for Israel to recognize responsibility for the Nakba of its creation and to recognize "the right of return." Adalah participated actively in the preparations for the UN sponsored Israel-bashing fest in Durban and in the drafting of the conference resolutions.
The director until recently of I'lam - the Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, Balad MK Hanin Zoabi was one of the signatories of the Haifa Declaration calling for the negation of Israel's Jewish character. She supports Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and has participated in Israel Apartheid week activities in the United States. The organization's Empowerment Coordinator calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, and its director of International Relations describes Hamas as "a genuinely emancipatory liberation and resistance movement."
Perhaps the best indicator of the NIF's real agenda was unwittingly supplied by a 2001 letter to The Jerusalem Post. Evalyn Segal recounted how she was a "devout Zionist" until she made the "haj" to Israel on a 1989 NIF study tour and had her eyes opened to the "racist contempt of the Israel government . . . towards the Palestinians [and] how the founders of Zionism schemed from the start to take over, by any means necessary, the whole of Palestine and to cleanse it of Palestinians."
The prophet Isaiah (49:17) long ago foresaw that "your ruiners and destroyers will come from amongst you." But generous American Jews, committed to Israel's existence, should not be supporting the destroyers' efforts.