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Notes on the Dialectics
of Israeli Anti-Semitism

Arieh Stav
Policy Paper No. 22, 1998


The Jewish people has known the phenomenon of self-hatred unlike any other people. This attribute has principally been associated with assimilationist Jews, particularly German ones, and it has a long history. Furthermore "Israeli anti-Semitism" appears a paradox because this self-hatred was thought to belong to the Exile: those attempting to identify with the surrounding Gentiles had to prove their new identity by hating their former brethren. Zionism was supposed to heal this psychological pathology but among the Radical Left classic Jewish self-hatred recurs – in their hatred of the religious community and particularly the Haredi part of it.

The roots of Israeli anti-Semitism lie firstly in the failure of Israel, after 50 years and five wars, to provide security (it is still the most dangerous place in the world for Jews). Secondly, the crumbling of the Soviet Union removed the mental and spiritual foundation of the Israeli Left (much of its thought-world stemmed from elements in Communism). Thirdly, the religious community generally, and the Haredi community in particular, have a power of faith and an authenticity, quite different to the cultural emptiness of the secularist Jew.

"Black ants" (Ran Cohen, Knesset Member), "black forces" (author and journalist Yoel Marcus), "They are greedy, domineering, evil and primitive, immoral, parasitical and power-hungry" (Shulamit Aloni told the Knesset). Thus have the "ultra-orthodox" Haredi been described by many among the Israeli Left intellectual elite which professes above all to espouse the cause of equality, democracy and tolerance. Such hate the notion of racism. There is no group of people in the world against whom these humanists would cast the derision or scornful slander which they save to use scurrilously against a section of their own people. It is unthinkable that in any democratic state the most vicious of anti-Semites would dare utter expressions equaling the racist Judeophobic hatred uttered by certain Israelis in their own country.

One of the most vicious of Israeli anti-Semitic expressions, recalling, sometimes even replicating, Nazi propaganda, is the comparison of Haredim to parasites, blood-suckers of the secular population. The terms "parasite" and "blood-suckers" have so deeply embedded themselves into the consciousness of sections of the secularist community that the metaphor, at a certain point, has merited a "scientific" explanation. It has become real.

The central element of the Socialist-Zionist ethos, which had a major influence on shaping the "new Jew", was the concept of "the Religion of Labor". This concept soon metamorphosed from the Tolstoyan naiveté of A.D. Gordon, the grandfather of the Jewish pioneers, to the doctrinaire harshness of historical materialism and the class struggle ideology. The basic claim was that anti-Semitism arose from the improper social structure of Jewry in Exile, the "inverted pyramid" concept. In a normal society, the productive section of the population made up the wide base of the pyramid whereas at the top were found the "parasitical elements". Among the Jews, supposedly, the top was wider than the base. The curse of the Jewish inverted pyramid was, therefore, the cause of anti-Semitism. Socialist Zionism sought to turn the pyramid over, to set it on its base and thereby remove the malediction of anti-Semitism from the Jew. Viewing the Jew as a "non-productive" parasite, as did Zionist-Socialism, was an anti-Semitic principle that Jewish Marxists absorbed wholly from Karl Marx himself; and Hitler borrowed from Marx his enunciation of the ‘parasitic Jew’.

Even if some justification could be found for the use that Socialist Zionism made of this anti-Semitic element in its bitter struggle with the effects of the Exile on the Jew, it should be remembered that in reality, it had nothing to do with the true picture. As Yehezkel Kaufmann repeatedly demonstrated, the socio-economic stratification of Exile Jewry was no different from that of the non-Jewish society surrounding them. If the percentage of Jews in the professions of enterprise and finance was above their part in the general society, this stemmed from objective reasons, and in any case, was a major contribution to the economies of the countries they lived in.

This variety of anti-Semitic propaganda was fed by the Marxist economic doctrine which was eventually to fail, economically and socially. But the lie took root. The anti-Semitic principle remained; at times dormant but always seeping up, sporadically breaking out until it took bloom in the Jewish state itself following the Six Day War, and more aggressively, in the 1980s and 1990s with the growth of the Haredi parliamentary representation in the Knesset.

"Israel is a ghetto, albeit better armed than the Warsaw ghetto and in a better economic condition than the Lodz ghetto, but there ends the difference". This remark, attributed to General (Res.) Benny Peled, former Air Force Chief Commander, is a cutting criticism of the State of Israel, likened to an Eastern European Jewish township, a shtetl, its leaders likened to members of the community synagogue board. But Peled unwittingly revealed another, graver truth: the bitter failure of Zionism’s attempt (very heroic it must be stated) to release Israel from the curse of anti-Semitism. Not only did anti-Semitism not "disappear immediately" but the State of Israel became the focus for Jew-hatred. During the state’s short history, a brief period in the Jewish people’s long chronology, it has faced those who sought to destroy it and has had to maintain the largest army in the world in proportion to population. Israel has referred to the intervals between these conflagrations, marked by vicious Arab terrorist attacks from within and wars of attrition from without, as "peacetime".

The rapid proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region evokes nightmares of gas chambers, as demonstrated by the mass flight of Israeli citizens from population centers during the Second Gulf War. This factor -when combined with the Nazi character of Arab Islam, which does not hide its intentions and preparations for Israel’s annihilation – gives a macabre note to Abba Eban’s descriptive phase for Israel’s 1967 frontiers ‘Auschwitz borders’. This all adds up to the difficult choice Israel faces: to live by the sword or not to live at all.

This cruel alternative demands powers from the depths of one’s being, a demand which the Israeli Left cannot meet. With the double collapse of socialism and Zionism, the Left is left facing the ruins of its faith and raison d’etre. It must have a new messianic challenge, otherwise, it will find itself discarded, useless, on the trash heap of history.

The comprehensive de-Zionization that started among Israel’s elites depended a great deal upon the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism. This was legitimized among the radical left and then among wider circles which refer to themselves as the "Zionist Left", by identification with that accusation. Israeli historical revisionism, especially the writings of the "new historians" such as Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, and particularly Ilan Pappe, presents Zionism in the spirit of that UN resolution. The "peace process", a euphemism for the destruction of the state of the Jews, is at the very same time, the reason for existence of the Jewish Left, a chillingly illustrative of the verse "your detractors and destroyers will issue forth from you". While the Arab enemy becomes the ally of the Left, all who stand in its way are sworn rivals threatening its existence. Such is the religious community, particularly Gush Emunim, whom the Left vilifies vituperatively. The settling of Judea and Samaria, is a double threat to the Left, essentially and pragmatically. Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem, are the cradle of the Hebrew nation, and thereby the reason behind Zionism. Any longing for or link to these areas represents a threat to the trend of alienation of the Left from both Zionism and Judaism. A thriving Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria puts in doubt the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state – the very core belief of Arafat’s Jews. The combination of both these realities becomes the "obstacle to peace", a Judeophobic epithet which has obtained international consensus, and which the Left has taken as a fundamental political principle.

Paradoxically, the more the Haredi community has become involved in the state’s politics, the more the almost xenophobic suspicions of it have resulted in unrestrained verbal assaults. The language has even suggested death: Naomi Hazan (MK) has declared: "Only if we succeed in getting rid of this terrible evil, of the taking over of our lives by the black demon, can we nurture all that is good in the state". The idea is that these, particularly because of their attire, cause anti-Semitism. Aesthetically this is the more obvious because of the Israeli heat and bright sun. Even in an age when ‘youth culture’ has made evading military service fashionable, the Haredi community is attacked for its use of religion for self-interest. Yet the fuss is all the more disproportionate considering the demoralization and overall draft evasion in the IDF over the last decade.

The Jewish anti-Semite, lacking identity, a cast off of Western civilization, finds consolation for himself – at best – in American sub-culture on one hand, and in anti-Semitic activity on the other: any attempt to deny national heritage leads to spiritual decay and cultural prostitution. Hence the attempt, so to speak, at "uprooting the blood-sucking parasites from the heart" will involve uprooting the heart itself.

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