Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Can Jews be Anti-Semitic?

There is a strange and commonly observed phenomenon among Jews – a disdain for Israel. We see various indications of this. Here’s one I just read about:

·         Jewish students at Swarthmore College have become the first in the nation to break with the global student association Hillel and agree to open their doors to groups and speakers who do not support Israel. The Swarthmore student board unanimously voted to renounce Hillel International's restrictions, which bar chapters from sponsoring events, hosting speakers, or partnering with groups that oppose Israel's right to exist or support a movement for universities to end investments in Israel because of its policies toward the Palestinians.

Interesting, we don’t find this kind of thing among the Muslims. I experience this same phenomenon up close. Just last week, a Jewish woman – and she had visited Israel on numerous occasions but reflected an unbalanced sympathy for the Palestinian cause – expressed this disdain for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

I tried to balance her disdain by presenting other factors – Muslim atrocities, suicide bombings, threats, resolve to exterminate Israel, and their unwillingness, under any terms, to accept Israel’s right to exist. I even pointed out that Arabs live in Israel under more favorable conditions than they do in their own Islamic countries.

However, she would have none of it and fired back, “I hold Israel to a higher standard.” I wanted to point out that her “higher standard” was nothing more than a double-standard – a violation of justice and fair-mindedness – but the words didn’t come to me at that moment. However, it started me thinking about this strange Jewish phenomenon.

Some would ascribe it to Jewish anti-Semitism, explaining that the Jews had absorbed this contempt from the surrounding society. However, this woman didn’t seem to suffer from self-contempt; nor did the many other Jews who have expressed similar opinions.

(I would imagine, perhaps wrongly, that the Jews of Germany could have done much to stop Hitler, but they didn’t. I lean toward this conclusion because I have observed so many Jewish groups in denial about the present threat of Islam and the mass-exodus of Jews from Western Europe because of Islamic violence. Instead, they are content to run programming about the Jews of Eastern Europe and the Holocaust and refuse to see the growing Holocaust in their present midst. I talked to one director of a local NYC Jewish group about this absence among their programs, and she blithely informed me that the Islamic threat just wasn’t part of their vision.)

How then do we account for this obviously self-destructive tendency?  I don’t sense that it is a matter of anti-Semitism but rather of pride – a special Jewish pride. I know something about this, because it had been Jewish pride that enabled me to accept myself in the midst of crippling feelings. When I felt bad, I would remind myself that I belonged to a great race of people – a people that had produced Einstein, Freud and 30% of the Nobel Prize recipients. It was this pride that enabled me to get out of bed in the morning.

However, I didn’t realize that I was paying a great price for this elixir. Pride, as with any psychological dependency, requires continual feeding or fixes. I had to continually remind myself of who I am and who my people are. I had to be superior and so also my people. I was not content that my people be as other people. They had to be superior. My ego and self-image depended on it! Consequently, Israel had to be better than the other nations, and when it was not, Jewish pride required that Israel pay the price of our censure. The Jews now unjustly indict Israel for failing to live up to the inflated standards that we require to maintain our self-esteem.

What then is the answer? Transparency, honesty, and a re-evaluation! We need to recognize our unjust double-standard and why we produced it. However, this is almost impossible. We remain stuck in darkness, our self-constructed prison – a darkness that blinds us to the surrounding dangers. God help us!

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