Normalcy and Jewish Self-Hatred
During the late 18th
and early 19th century, “enlightened” Jews in Western and Central
Europe accepted the fundamental premise of anti-Semitism that something was
basically wrong with the Jews, and, only if they would change their own
behavior would the world accept them. As the 19th century wore on,
large numbers of Jews became immersed in assimilation. Many adopted the notion
that other Jews and/or the Jewish people were not normal. Some displayed what is
known as Jewish self-hatred or as Jewish anti-Semitism. In our time, these two
phenomena are no longer peripheral issues. They have penetrated deeply into the
Jewish people and must be understood and reckoned with as a major theme in
Jewish life (Gilman, 1986; Kaufman, 1936; Lessing, 1930/2004). Both the sense of
Jewish abnormality as well as Jewish self-hatred must be viewed against the
background of Jewish assimilation.
Three Types of Assimilation
This discussion distinguishes three types or
manifestations of assimilation:
acculturation, without a sense of abnormality.
Assimilation with a sense of
abnormality and a search for normality.
Assimilation with a sense of
abnormality and with rejection of, or antagonism toward, Jewry, Judaism or
Israel. This latter type is called self-hatred or Jewish anti-Semitism, the
two terms being inter-changeable (Demakovsky, 1978; Gilman, 1986).
Type I is the foundation for
Types II and III. It has not yet been determined if the three types form a
scale, if they indicate degrees of assimilation or if they describe a process of
development. One can be assimilated almost totally without any sense of
abnormality or signs of self-hatred. Type II, the sense of abnormality, is
probably most often included in Type III, but the reverse is not true. A sense
of abnormality might tend to generate an attitude of self-hatred, but in many
instances that is not the case, and a sense of Jewish abnormality is clearly not
always accompanied by self-hatred. The basic assumption here is that Types II
and III of assimilation can appear without one invariably preceding the other.
Type III assimilation,
self-hatred, can stem from many different sources. An individual may have a vast
range of experiences, memories, concepts or motives that “explain” the emergence
of Jewish anti-Semitism, from family or peer relationships all the way to highly
rationalized political or theological theories. We cannot point to a specific
configuration of circumstances that necessarily generates Type II or Type III
assimilation. Nor can the three types of assimilation be measured simply by the
extent of someone’s religious observance or lack of it. Its many dimensions and
levels appear among observant as well as among non-religious Jews. Types II and
III of assimilation may emerge from different historical, social or
psychological backgrounds, but the outcome is the same.
Assimilation: Type I
Type I assimilation forms the
basis and background for the other two types of assimilation presented above. As
used here, Type I assimilation refers to the virtually universal phenomenon of
adopting some or many elements of the culture of a dominant group or nation by
members of another group or nation. Assimilation is a natural and expected
phenomenon and does not entail any pejorative meaning. Jewish assimilation is a
process of acculturation into a non-Jewish society. Jews adopted many features
of each and every culture in which they lived throughout the centuries, including
our own. That process assumed a variety of forms and degrees, and has not been
uniform among Jewish groups in all countries.
Assimilation: Conscious and Unconscious
Assimilation per se is not
necessarily pursued consciously as a goal. Perhaps a majority of Jews proceed
along the path of assimilation with minimum consciousness about what is
happening to them as Jews and what the future holds for their descendents.
Anyone who gives the matter a thought probably assumes that nothing unusual
will happen to one’s descendents as far as their Jewishness is concerned, and
they will continue to be Jewish just as he or she is now.
Nevertheless, assimilation cannot
be a totally unconscious process, however, many individual Jews may prefer to
ignore it, or however significant assimilation may in fact be beyond the awareness or
control of the individual. The social, political and religious conditions of the
Jews in the Galut (the Jewish Diaspora) everywhere impinge on
individuals’ decisions regarding their Jewishness: Will they accept the norms of
Gentile society, or will they invest effort to resist them? People must make
many critical decisions about the direction of their lives that profoundly
affect the nature of their assimilation. In many ways, Jewish history is the
story of Jewry’s resistance to forces threatening to corrode and destroy Jewish
life. But it is also a story of the overwhelming power of assimilation that has
engulfed Jewish life for the past two centuries and transformed it (Kaufman,
1930-32; Vago, 1981). Intermarriage often entails some awareness of taking a
step away from the Jewish group. Intermarriage is one of the primary social
mechanisms leading to the ultimate dissolution of one’s
ethnic-cultural-historical affiliation, even though more than one generation is
required to eradicate the traces of one’s ethnic-historical origins.
Alongside the relatively
unquestioned or unconscious adoption of the dominant culture, there is also an
ideology of conscious assimilation expressed by some Jews. This “school
of thought” asserts that the United States and other Western democratic
countries have fulfilled the conditions for total cultural and political
integration of Jews into non-Jewish society, such as the following statement by
an American rabbi:
It is altogether possible for the American Jew to achieve that
fullness of integration with the “people of the land” that was denied to the
Jews of Central Europe. Here the Jewish immigrant may well strive to become part
not only of the “political” state that is America, but of that popular matrix of
sentiments, ideals, memories and dreams, traditions and even prejudices that
constitute the American nation...the Jew can be utterly at home, thinking of
himself as an American of the Jewish faith, as “normal” in the civil sense of
the term as any other citizen... (Agus, 1954: 505).
Assimilation and Intra-Jewish Conflict
Assimilation has also spawned
conflicts and antagonism among Jews. Some who consciously pursue assimilation
occasionally oppose Jewish groups who appear to be too Jewish and who challenge
the success of assimilation. The “ethnic” “nationalist” or “religious” Jews
allegedly serve to remind non-Jews that Jewry is a collective body that differs
from the dominant group or from other nations. Assimilationists outside Israel
want to be recognized as local patriots who are clearly distinguished from
particularist “ethnic” Jews, while inside Israel they wish to be viewed as
liberals who have a cosmopolitan ethic. Among the numerous examples of this
phenomenon in the United States during the first half of the 20th
century are Arthur Hays Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, and
Lessing Rosenwald (Sears, Roebuck and Co.), along with their colleagues
from the American Council for Judaism, who fought strenuously against Zionism
and religious groups (Leff, in press). Others have since taken their place (Schoenfeld,
Awareness of being Jewish can be
jolted suddenly by events such as outbursts of anti-Semitism, war in Israel
(such as the Six-Day War), a personal search for identity, and so forth.
Anti-Semitism now on the rise in Europe in part may be in response to Arab
pressure, but mainly is the continuation of Europe’s age-old hatred of the Jews
(Gerstenfeld, 2003; Sharansky, 2003; Schoenfeld, 2004). In some cases, the new
wave of anti-Semitism rekindles Jewish awareness and identification. In others
it intensifies assimilation. Most typically, assimilation entails alienation
from, and ignorance of one’s history and heritage, except for the Jews who have
decided to resist assimilation one way or the other.
The 4.5 million Jews from many
countries who immigrated to Israel during the past 54 years came from the same
families and background as the Jews who remained in the Galut, and they brought
with them their way of life and attitudes. They were not suddenly reborn in
Israel with a new culture. They are also subject to the same assimilatory
processes that prevailed in the countries from which they emigrated. Many Jews
who settled in Palestine prior to 1948 shared a socialist, even Soviet-communist
ideology whose impact can be observed in political circles in Israel to this day
(Dothan, 1996; Lord, 2000; Kantzler, 1979; Shiloah, 1991). Some had deeply
negative notions about the Jewish people and about Jewish national identity, and
retained strong anti-religious views (Canaani, 1976; Schoenfeld, 2004; Sharan
and Birnbaum, 1999; Stav, 2003). These attitudes persist in Israel, and may
continue to do so for generations to come.
Abnormality of Jewry:
Type II Assimilation
The Normal and Abnormal
Type II assimilation refers to
Jews who believe that their fellow Jews, or the Jewish people, are abnormal in
some way. The belief that Jews are abnormal, disturbed or deviant seems to stem
from the acceptance by Jews of anti-Semitic stereotypes. Fifteen centuries or
more of exposure to hatred and persecution in Europe and in the Middle East has
left its mark on many Jews who came to believe that other Jews were abnormal.
One such manifestation appeared
in the field of psychology. Many outstanding figures of 20th century
psychology and psychoanalysis were Jews, a few of whom accepted from German and
French psychiatry the notion that Jews were inclined to mental illness. Jewish
hyper-vulnerability to mental illness was accepted as beyond question by Charcot,
Kraft-Ebbing, Bleuler and other first magnitude authors of psychiatric works
during the 19th and early 20th century (Gilman, 2000).
This is only one form of abnormality attributed to Jews by anti-Semites and
later by Jews who adopted those negative stereotypes.
The list of negative features of
Jewish abnormality accepted by non-Jews and Jews is too long and odious to be
reproduced here (Gilman, 1986). Someone can believe that he/she is abnormal in
different ways and for a vast number of reasons. In modern times, the Jews have
sought normalcy conceived of as acceptance by European/American culture. Jews
could not accept being different from Western (Christian) society, and
some groups within the Jewish people clung to the idea that being different also
meant that Jews were not normal. Racial-ethnic groups in the West
(from Russia to South America) who are very different from the dominant Western
culture do not think of themselves as abnormal. Of course they do not suffer
the consequences of being the bearers of Jewry’s historical legacy.
Jewish assimilationists still
preach the idea that Jews should strive to be normal so they would not be
different from Europeans or Americans (Yehoshua, 1984). With the loss of
ethnic-religious-national self-esteem that often accompanies assimilation, Jews
became far more vulnerable to the terrible impact of anti-Semitism than ever
before. That made it all the more imperative for them to be accepted as normal
and to shed what they believed to be their differences from the dominant groups
in Europe and the United States (Vital, 1999).
The Pathological Search for Normalcy
Non-Zionists as well as Zionists
were engaged in searching for, or creating, a “normal” life for the Jewish
people. “Much of the theory of Zionism has been concerned with making the Jews
into a normal nation in Palestine like the gentiles of the lands and the
families of the earth” (Magnes, 1930, in Hertzberg, 1959, 447). The author Haim
Hazaz places that same ideology in the mouth of Yudke (The “Galut” Jew), the
protagonist of his story The Sermon (1946/1976). But, for Yudke, as well
as for the entire Zionist critique of Jewish life, our abnormality expressed
itself in Jewry’s lack of control over its own history. Zionism rejected the
social-national condition in which the Jews lived in the Galut, and sought to
rejuvenate and restore Jewish life
(Schweid, 1983). Despite the claims of a few
notable authors, Zionism was NOT a critique of the Jews’ culture or personality
(Kaufman, 1930-32, 1936, 1952). The non-Zionist, assimilationist version of
Jewish abnormality claimed that there were flaws in the character of the Jew as
a person, and these flaws could be remedied by assimilation into non-Jewish
society and culture.
The Jews are not the only people
to import cultural patterns from other groups or nations. Nations around the
world have adopted portions of American material culture, but did not
necessarily adopt the cultural-political norms of American society. Hence they
did not relinquish their unique historical civilization and identity
(Huntington, 1996), nor do they harbor a sense of abnormality about their own
nation. A sense of being an abnormal people expressed by Jews in and outside of
Israel is rooted in a far-reaching loss of Jewish self-esteem and assimilation
into the mentality and value system of the non-Jewish world (Sharan, 2003;
Sharansky, 2003). Even Israel’s political behavior is frequently dictated by
adoption of other nations’ norms rather than by a need to assert, or even
defend, Israel’s own national interests. The more Israel adheres to other
nations’ demands, the less it behaves as a normal nation. Paradoxically, then,
seeking normality in the eyes of others reinforces Jewry’s status as an abnormal
group in the eyes of others, and in its own eyes.
This statement stands in
contrast with the view current among post-Zionist Jews in Israel. A.B.Yehoshua
...clarification of the concept of Zionism for the nations of the
world will, in my opinion, result in a distinct decline in the wave of recent
attacks on us. It is even possible that it will lead to a renewal of the
historic friendliness that the world displayed toward the process of Jewish
normalization (in Israel –SS)(Yehoshua, 1984, p. 136).
This is another variation on the
theme of the conscious pursuit of normalcy by the “abnormal” Jewish people as a
means for achieving national acceptance by other nations. According to A.B.
Yehoshua and like-minded people, Israel will not be accepted in our present
state of abnormality as expressed in Zionism’s assertion of Jewry’s historical
and legal ownership of the Land of Israel. Jews in the Galut are also abnormal
because Galut is ipso facto neurotic. Attributing abnormality to the Jews
in Israel and in the Galut instead of focusing attention on Jewry’s precarious
survival in the Diaspora or in Israel is to misunderstand and misrepresent
Assimilation is a necessary
but not sufficient condition for thinking that the Jews are abnormal. It is a
necessary condition that is fulfilled in the lives of almost all Jews today. The
sufficient condition needed for thinking that the Jewish people is
abnormal, or for harboring animosity toward it, is the inability to tolerate
being ourselves, to be different. Today Jewry and Israel are denounced as a
People that does not accept the prevailing views of European nations (Gerstenfeld,
2003; Sharansky, 2003; Schoenfeld, 2004). Not a few Jews seek near-total
conformity to Gentile culture, to the point of accepting their enemies’ claims
that deny Israel’s right to be a Jewish nation in its own territory. Some
maintain that Jewry’s sovereignty in Israel should be abandoned, while others
insist that it should be shared with the Arabs whatever the consequences.
Several European nations want Israel to conform to their national
interests that conflict with those of Israel and not do what nations
normally do in their own defense. Jews afflicted with a sense of abnormality and
with self-hatred accept that demand.
The “sickness” of some groups of
Jews is not the mental aberration of individuals, as some some psychologists in
Germany believed (Gilman, 2000). Rather, the abnormality exhibited by some Jews
is expressed in the conviction that our differences from the Gentile world must
be eradicated in order for us to be normal. Hence, the Jews’ search for
normalcy is the chief expression of our pathology. A.B. Yehoshua wrote
succinctly: “The Jewish people is a people like all other peoples, and I am
amazed at the extent to which that simple truth is not apparent to others.” (Yehoshua,
1984, p. 64) Given the conviction that Jewry is like all other peoples – NOT in
the sense that the individual Jew is a human being like all other human beings – Yehoshua and his comrades in ideology cannot possibly comprehend why so many
Jews do not agree with them.
No nation willingly abandons its
heritage in order to eliminate its differences from other nations, or believes
that those differences indicate anything abnormal about itself. Being different
from other nations is the universal condition of all nations, and hence, by
definition, completely normal. There is no better description of normality
than the universality of national differences. The demand by Jews and
non-Jews alike for Jewish assimilation is the abiding legacy of Galut. Jewry
survived the Galut because we are different. It is not the case that Jewry
became different because it lived in the Galut.
No other nation experienced
anything akin to the history of the Jewish people in terms of its particular
religion, culture, its victimization by Christianity and Islam, and of course
its two-millennia saga of exile, homelessness and return. “To whom shall we
compare Thee?” the Hebrew daily prayers address to God. The same may be said
with great accuracy about the Hebrew nation itself. Jewry, like all other
nations, held the conviction that we are worthy and proud of being different, of
being who we are. In religious terms, or poetic terms if you will, God made us
different. The God of Israel symbolizes Jewry’s difference from other nations
for the past 3,500 years. Many Jews in modern times are less and less able to
tolerate the differences between us and the other nations. To think that
we are abnormal is the consequence of our lack of tolerance for ourselves and
for our condition in respect to the other nations.
Type III Assimilation
Type III assimilation is the
manifestation of self-hatred or Jewish anti-Semitism. Self-hatred does not mean
that someone hates himself/herself. The term refers to the denial of the
connection between oneself and one’s group and/or between one’s group and its
historical-cultural identity. When Jews deny their own identity, or when they
unjustly denounce, de-legitimize, degrade or defame the Jewish people or
the nation of Israel, they should be perceived as self-haters.
Some Jews narrowly avoid falling
into the category of self-hatred because they remain committed to a positive
affirmation of Jewish life. Identifying those who have descended to the level of
self-hatred cannot be free of controversy. Still, the denunciations of some Jews
of other Jews or of groups of Jews, or the steps taken to degrade or betray Jews
or the Jewish nation, in not a few instances reaches a degree of ridicule
or deceit that must not be dismissed. Assimilation does not entail
self-hatred unless it is accompanied by denying, negating, denouncing, or
otherwise expressing rejection of: a. Jewry’s national character, b. its
cultural-religious heritage, c. one’s relationship to either or both of them.
Self-hatred does not refer to
legitimate criticism intended to improve Jewish life. Constructive criticism is
vital for a healthy society. The defamation by Jews of other Jews, the Jewish
people, Judaism (in any of its manifestations) or Israel, that negates their
legitimacy or one’s relationship to them, is self-hatred, not self-criticism.
That criterion is universally recognized as the sine qua non for
self-acceptance and for mutual respect and acceptance among groups and nations.
Self-respecting persons, groups or nations do not reject their relationship to
their own history or debate the justice of their existence. “Negotiations” of
that kind are contrary to the fundamental premise of their own identity and
survival. Jews who engage in that debate are expressing self-hatred, not
self-criticism. One example is that of Uri Avnery whose articles appear in Arab
newspapers devoted to the defamation of Jewry and Israel. Others, too, are
quoted at length (Schoenfeld, 2004).
Some of the nations of the EU and
the Arabs, as well as anti-Semitic groups in various countries, eagerly seize
upon the example of self-hating Jews as proof of Jewry’s, or Israel’s,
condemnable character and behavior.
Assimilation in the sense of
acculturation in language, dress, and so forth (Type I assimilation) and in
varying degrees, encompasses all of the Jewish people (Kaufman, 1930-32). Not
all Jews who rejected Jewish nationalism on the one hand, and manifestations of
Jewish religious tradition on the other hand, were, or are, necessarily
self-hating Jews. But the kind of normalcy pursued by Jews who have rejected the
national version of Jewish life, not just ignored or forgotten it, does not seek
to improve Jewish life but to terminate it. The pursuit of that
kind of normalcy derives from the distressing sense of abnormality that
is an essential ingredient of Jewish self-hatred. How else can we understand
the message that Jewry should commit historical suicide by quietly disappearing
from the face of the earth, except as an expression of self-hatred?
The term “self-hatred” can
mislead people into thinking that it is an emotionally charged state in which
someone deeply and vehemently despises other Jews, the nation of Israel or the
Jewish religious-cultural tradition. Beyond its relatively obvious and vulgar
manifestations, Jewish self-hatred often adopts sophisticated forms.
Intellectuals or scholars often display what sounds like “rational” ideas with
no hint of emotional vehemence ordinarily associated with the word “hatred”. But
however muted the tone or intent in expressions of “self-hatred”, the
anti-Semitic message remains indisputable: The Jews, Jewish tradition and Israel
are inherently unworthy of survival. Jewish self-haters have frequently
formulated that suicidal message in sophisticated theoretical language. In the
19th century, it was formulated unequivocally and aggressively by
infamous anti-Semites including Karl Marx. In our day, Jewish intellectuals
seriously suggest that the Jews or the Jewish nation should disappear in order
to fulfill the “liberal” ideas of democratic society. Some notable Jewish
anti-Semites have offered “plans” on how Israel can be eliminated without
murdering all of its Jewish citizens (Schoenfeld, 2004, chapter 5).
The Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua
(1984) asserted that the Jews themselves are responsible for having created
and maintained the Galut. Jews employ the Galut to sustain their need to feel
different from other nations or groups. He adds that Jews must reform themselves
as a precondition for expecting reasonable treatment at the hands of the
non-Jewish world. Self-reform includes redefining Zionism in such a way that it
will cease to arouse opposition. That will reduce our conflicts with the world (Yehoshua,
1984, p. 144). The same writer also propagates the notion that the Galut is a
“neurotic” condition for the Jews. Oddly enough, precisely because the Galut
promised, or actually became, “normality” for the Jews did it engulf them so
extensively, until such time as animosities latent within the Gentile society
erupted (Kaufman, 1930-1932). Yehoshua’s thesis that the Galut offers Jews a
place to be different is patently absurd, even grotesque. Did Jews live in
ghettoes for hundreds of years because they chose to maintain their
distinctiveness? For the past two centuries, Galut Jewry strove with all its
might to be identified with the national group within which it lived, and not to
be different. Jews became good Russians, Germans, Poles or Americans to be
maximally “normal”. Why the process of assimilation faltered in Europe and is
rapidly progressing toward more complete consummation in the United States is a
complex subject to be treated elsewhere.
Yehoshua and his comrades are
actually recommending that Jews reject Zionist ideologies that embody and
express our historical identity. Such denial is construed to bring the Jews into
greater alignment with the prevailing goals and values of the non-Jewish world.
The suggestion to redefine Zionism is actually a plea for Jewish assimilation.
Yehoshua’s (1984) thesis about Jewish responsibility for anti-Semitism and the
need for self-reform as the royal road to defusing it, reverts to the classical
assimilationist-self-hating mentality (Gilman, 1986). It is easier to change
ourselves than it is to change all of the Gentiles, so Jewry must abandon
Zionism (Yehoshua, 1984, p.144). Israel as a nation must conform to world opinion
and prove to the non-Jewish world that we have truly relinquished our
“separatist” aspirations and abandoned our national identity.
Self-Hatred Among Zionists
Yehezkel Kaufman (1889-1963), the
towering scholar of Jewish intellectual-religious history and of the Bible, and
the foremost analyst of Jewish life in the Diaspora, was staunchly devoted to
Herzl and political Zionism. Nevertheless, he wrote scathing criticisms of some
Zionist spokesmen and writers for their destructive self-hatred. Kaufman (1936)
showed that, already at the beginning of the 20th century, some
Zionist publications echoed classic anti-Semitic claims. Hebrew writers, such as
Yosef Chaim Brenner, Micha Yosef Berdechewski and A.D. Gordon, had become
embroiled in the web of anti-Semitic accusations, although these writers’
criticism was made with the “best intentions” of bringing about a “reawakening”
of the Jews’ moral conscience (Kaufman, 1936, p. 262; 1952). Some Zionist writers
also asserted that living on the Gentiles’ soil is parasitic, so that Jewish
life in the Galut is inherently immoral, not “just” the historical tragedy of
the Jewish people (Schneider, 1994).
After 20 years of teaching at the
Reali High School in Haifa (1929-1951), Yehezkel Kaufman (1952) wrote:
Every educated and half-educated “Zionist” expressed the judgment
about 2000 years of Exile: A nation of pimps or middlemen! Every infant knows
what was the character of the Jews “there” ..generations (of young people)
brought up in Israel accept these views literally (that) 16 million pimps were
there (i.e. in Europe –SS); that’s why the Gentiles hated them- and rightly so.
Parents, teachers, writers, youth leaders, and so forth keep repeating that
jingle to them – in the name of “Zionist” education... For that reason, it is
our sacred duty to repeat...that this entire conception is a false and
anti-Semitic idea. It is anti-Semitic not because it is critical of Jewry, but
because it is criticism based on lies. That is the essence of anti-Semitism:
falsehood...During the first ten years of this century, the movement for Jewish
national redemption became polluted by anti-Semitic ideas... (Kaufman, 1952,
Soon after Kaufman’s denunciation of the
anti-Jewish opinions spread by Israel’s schools, virulent anti-Jewish views and
attitudes of writers born in Palestine appeared in print, such as in the novel,
The Days of Ziklag by S. Yizhar. Many works of Hebrew literature
expressed radical anti-Semitic and self-hating ideas reminiscent of Brenner’s
denunciation of traditional Jewish life a generation earlier (Kariv, 1956;
Kurzweil, 1965; Kaufman, 1936, 1952; Lord, 2000; Oren, 2003; Schneider, 1994).
Virulent Jewish anti-Semitism was not
abandoned even after the horrors of WWII: In recent decades it has taken on new
life and is painfully obvious in the activities and publications of Jewish
scholars and writers in the US, England, and Israel (Alexander, 2003; Lord,
2000; Oren, 2003; Stav, 2003; Weiss, 2003). Self-hatred is now being passed on
to the younger generations of academics and writers. The earlier claim that
living on Gentile land in the Golah is immoral has been replaced with the “new”
self-hatred. It preaches that living in Israel is immoral because Jewry “stole”
the land from the Arabs. Accusing Jews of committing diametrically opposed
“crimes” simultaneously – such as being capitalists and communists, parasites on
the economy and financiers of the world, lovers of the Galut and dwellers on
stolen soil in the Land of Israel – is typical of modern anti-Semitism and of
Jewish self-hatred (Schoenfeld, 2004).
Jewish Self-Hatred and Transnationalism: Dissolving National
Some intellectuals in the United
States advocate a transnational global government to replace all existing
national governments (Fonte, 2003). The list of authors – among them political
scientists and professors of law - who represent that view in the United States,
includes a notable percentage of Jews. Transnationalism is not a “Jewish idea”,
but it has attracted Jews. Beneath the veneer of a radical anti-nationalist
liberalism lies contempt for Jewish history and nationhood.
Global governance would avoid
recognition of any particular religion or ethnic group, and it would eliminate
the existing nation-states. That would seem to create a “neutral”
social-religious environment in the world (Greenberg, 1950) where Jews can be
free to be whoever they think they want to be, without being who they are! The
non-Zionist cosmopolitan Jew wants a world without nations so we could not
possibly be identified as a separate nation.
Yitzchak Lamdan prophetically
depicted this view of the anti-Zionist cosmopolitan Jew in his monumental poem,
“Masada” (1927). A refugee from Europe meets up with a series of Jews who
attempt to dissuade him from going to Palestine. They invoke various ideologies
that promise universal redemption to all men if they participate in the
Communist Revolution. All of the dissuaders discarded their Jewishness for some promise of
redemption by means of total identification with the cause of some other,
non-Jewish nation, and with “the world”.
Fifty years after the Revolution,
after WWII and after Stalin, a Jewish author and scholar still faithful to the
Marxist cause clearly articulated the relationship between Marxism, Jewish
national identity, global governance in a non-national world, and, predictably,
the anti-Semitic doctrine that negates the legitimacy of Jewish survival, all
formulated in terms of liberal humanitarianism.
This is the crux of the Jewish tragedy. Decaying capitalism has
overstayed its day and has morally dragged down mankind; and we, the Jews, have
paid for it and may yet have to pay for it... All this has driven the Jews to
see their own State as the way out. Most of the great
revolutionaries...have seen the ultimate solution to the problems of their and
our times, not in nation-states but in international society. As Jews they were
the natural pioneers of this idea, for who was as well qualified to preach the
international society of equals as were the Jews free from all Jewish and
non-Jewish orthodoxy and nationalism? It is paradoxical, because we live in an
age when the nation-state is fast becoming an anachronism, and an archaism – not
only the nation-state of Israel but the nation-states of Russia, the United
States, Great Britain, France, Germany and others... The world has compelled the
Jew to embrace the nation-state and to make of it his pride and hope just at a
time when there is little or no hope left in it...their intense enthusiasm for
“national sovereignty” is historically belated... I hope that...the Jews will
ultimately become aware...of the inadequacy of the nation-state and that they
will find their way back to the moral and political heritage that the genius of
the Jews who have gone beyond Jewry has left us – the message of universal human
emancipation (Deutscher, 1968, pp. 39-41).
It is patently foolhardy to
subscribe to a vision about the consequences of global governance when The
United Nations, once divided between the democratic and communist nations, is
now racing toward the new fault line of the Christian/Western-Muslim/Middle
Eastern rift that has replaced or overshadowed its predecessor. Both the earlier
and the present ideological-political chasms between nations preclude any
prospect of transnational governance, now or in the foreseeable future.
Deutscher hoped that
the nation-state would disappear. He also thought that Jewry would simply
discard its historical heritage and adopt some unknown and non-existent way of
life that he read into the life-history of a few famous assimilated Jews who he
erroneously and arbitrarily described as having “gone beyond Jewry” (Freud, Heine, Rosa Luxemburg, and Marx). Deutscher was dominated by his blinding faith
in the ultimate victory of Marxism and Communism over capitalism long after
their failure and inhumanity were well known. Contempt for Jewish history and
for Jewry’s national existence is the central theme of this point of view in
which reality clearly played a minor part.
Jewish self-hatred appeared in a
blood-soaked form as part of the Bolshevik Revolution. Some Jews who had
embraced Communism perpetrated horrible cruelties on fellow Jews who were not
communists, including the slaughter of not a few of them. Marxism continues its
anti-Semitic assault on the Jews through the doctrine still preached by many
cosmopolitan Jewish academics, that the Jews and Israel should disappear. In
other instances as well, Jews have behaved with particular harshness toward other
Jews in order to demonstrate their loyalty to some prevailing ideology (Hazaz,
1946/1976; Katznelson, 1956, written in the Warsaw ghetto; Vital, 2002). Jews
with high-ranking positions in various countries exerted prejudicial and harmful
influence on their government’s policy toward the Jewish people. Bruno Kreisky,
who served as prime minister of Austria, is only one of many examples in modern
Since early Byzantine times,
Christians accused the Jews of deicide. Yet, until the Emancipation at the end
of the 18th century, that terrifying burden did not lead Jews to
believe that they were abnormal and should be ashamed of their Jewishness. Five
hundred years ago, Shakespeare placed poignant words in the mouth of Shylock in
defense of Jews as normal human beings. The point here is that Shylock’s remarks
express complete solidarity with the Jewish group. Assimilation had not yet
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? ...if you poison us do we not die? And
if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? (The Merchant of Venice, Act III,
Throughout history, Jews were
despised and abused in the extreme. Some took refuge in conversion to
Christianity or Islam. Forced conversion was also common in both the Christian
and Muslim worlds. External coercion to abandon their religion and nation has
been exerted on Jews for the past two millenia. Yet, Jews never demonstrated any
socially significant movement to convert to some other religion by their own
free will (Kaufman, 1932). Contemporary manifestations of Jews’ sense of
abnormality and expressions of self-hatred also stem in no small measure from
social-political currents acting upon the Jews (Schoenfeld, 2004). Nevertheless,
we must not avoid recognizing that Jews have adopted and internalized
anti-Semitic images of themselves and of Israel. Jewry is now plagued by
self-hatred that cannot be explained exclusively as a defense against animosity
from non-Jews. Jews are NOT responsible for anti-Semitism as self-hating
Jews claim. They ARE responsible for hating their own heritage and their own
Remember: Jews continue to
rebuild their nation and their history in the face of profound assimilation,
devastation, internal political weakness, and relentless opposition from many
quarters, including self-hating Jews. Despite the dwindling numbers of Jews in
the world, despite the vast resources of the Arab world used to defame and kill
Jews, and despite assimilation and self-hatred that has affected some Jews,
Israel will soon grow to be the largest Jewish community in the world. We still
enjoy support and admiration from friends all over the world. No one alive at
the time of Herzl’s death only one hundred years ago (1904) would have predicted
that. Our task at present is to lead the Jews in Israel back to themselves as
Jews (Epstein, 2003), to dispel the shadow of self-hatred, and to build a nation
with sufficient self-respect to secure its future.
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