American Jewish Leaders Must Address Internalized Anti-Semitism In The Community

The anti-Semitic turn the American left has taken recently, especially over the past few months, has been dramatic and frightening.

creating change anti israel protesters
Anti-Israel protesters at Creating Change

At the LGBTQ movement’s national Creating Change Conference in January, for example, protestors overtook and shut down an event sponsored by A Wider Bridge, a group that connects American LGBTQ people with their peers in Israel. One conference attendee wrote of the experience, “I was reminded of the stories I’ve heard and read about the European ghettos being stormed by torch-wielding anti-Semites, blaming our ancestors for countless horrors.”  At Vassar College, several academic departments recently sponsored a speaker who promoted the modern blood libel that Israel is harvesting organs from dead Arabs. And at Oberlin College, while the Holocaust was being called “white on white crime,” a Jewish student had a rock thrown through her window.

All the while, the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel spreads its slanders among both students and left-wing faculty on America’s college campuses, calling Israel’s self-defense measures “apartheid,” “genocide,” or “extrajudicial executions.”

What’s most remarkable, however, and most disturbing, about the anti-Semitism that has been infecting the American left, is the role that anti-Semitic Jews are playing in propagating it.

Jewish Voice for Peace
Members of Jewish Voice for Peace

The libels that are being spread about Israel would not be able to take root in the same way that they are, were it not for the complicity of Jews. The charges of “pinkwashing” that provide the cover for the LGBTQ left’s crusade against Israel were popularized by Sarah Schulman, who describes a somewhat bizarre “Jewish” upbringing in her book, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International. The Vassar lecture at which the modern blood libel was promoted was sponsored by the Jewish studies department. Perhaps worst of all, the “Rabbinical Council” of the so-called Jewish Voice for Peace kosherizes anti-Semitism at church groups such as the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Another symptom of the problem of internalized anti-Semitism is Jews who, in any case of disputed facts, automatically disbelieve the Israeli side of the story and reflexively impute the worst of motives to Israelis. For example, in the fall of 2014, a Jewish group legally purchased eleven apartments in the historically mixed Jewish and Arab Shiloach neighborhood in Jerusalem. The Arab residents of the area were not exactly welcoming to their new Jewish neighbors, to put it mildly. Yet Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, slammed this group of Jews in the Washington Post, writing,

In this case, Elad [the group that purchased the homes] claims to have purchased the apartments legally, via a U.S.-based shadow company. The Palestinians dispute these claims. While it will take some time to sort out the legal issues, we can say this: A person who has legally purchased a new home does not generally move in under cover of night, flanked by riot police. . . . In its use of subterfuge, shadow companies, and dead-of-night incursions, Elad represents the worst kind of thief.

Downplaying or rationalizing anti-Semitism is part of the problem as well. At Oberlin College, even Jewish students say that “the only reason people care about the Holocaust is because it happened to white people.” A Vassar student recently wrote in the Forward that the blood libel accusation, as well as numerous other incidents on that campus recently, meant nothing in comparison to the many students who turned out for Shabbat dinner and a cute-sounding mezuzah-decorating project.

Gaza protest
Gaza protest

Most rational people, even on the left, still recognize that stereotypes about a cabal of Jews controlling the world or making matzah from the blood of Christian babies are anti-Semitic. What so many fail to understand, however, is that saying “Israel massacres children in Gaza,” or “Israel is an apartheid state,” is a difference only of degree. Those types of statements are still counterfactual, and they are made for the purpose of demonizing Jews, specifically a subset of Jews known as Israelis. Those statements then are used to justify discrimination, and even violence, against that same group.

For the sake of comparison, it’s worth looking at a definition of internalized homophobia. Dr. Brian Mustanski, Professor of Medical Social Sciences, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Psychology at Northwestern University, wrote in 2010,

One of the most widely studied topics in the decades of research on LGBT health has been the concept of “internalized homophobia.” Although definitions of IH differ somewhat depending on the theorist, the concept generally refers to the internalization of society’s homophobic attitudes within a lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) person. Over the years, researchers have found internalized homophobia to correlate with a variety of psychological, behavioral, and medical outcomes like depression, substance use, and sexual behaviors that put one at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Like gay men and lesbians, Jews have been objects of discrimination, bigotry, and bigotry-based violence for literally centuries in both Europe and the Middle East. This history is too pervasive to imagine that American Jews do not carry its effects with us. It’s been pointed out, for example, that Sarah Schulman’s own account of her childhood offers a “glimpse into the psychopathology of Israel-hatred.” Memorably, Max Blumenthal, the author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, has chased a German politician into a bathroom stall, video-recorded the chase, and bragged about it, because the politician disagreed with his positions on Israel. Readers can easily form your own conclusions about that incident.

While these may be some of the more prominent examples, the phenomenon of internalized anti-Semitism is far-reaching. Many Jews today accept and repeat baseless allegations against Israel, such as, that it engages in genocide or apartheid. Many more, including many community leaders, blindly accept that Jews should not be permitted to live in a future state of Palestine, and that therefore those who, today, settle in Judea and Samaria are the “obstacles to peace.”

Jewish Voice for Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace

While these ideas are seriously damaging to Jews in Israel, they are also damaging to Jews in North America. As Ben Cohen wrote, the BDS movement, while a concern for Israelis, is a “domestic form of anti-Semitism that attacks local Jews through the demonizing of the Jewish state.” Diaspora Jews are also in the line of BDS’s fire, and, distressingly, it is other Jews who are leading the charge.

In 2014, in a Jerusalem Post op-ed, Ariel Chesler wrote,

I suggest that in the same way we talk about internalized sexism and racism and homophobia we must talk about internalized anti-Semitism. The pervasiveness of prejudices ensures that we have internalized the messages we see about women and minorities. This may manifest in many ways, such as when women dislike gender non-conforming women, or when African-Americans uphold white privilege.

It is the same with the Jews and the Jewish State of Israel. All people have internalized age-old prejudices against Jewish people and it is revealed when the topic of Israel is raised, and especially when Israel dares to defend itself with physical and military force. This observation is not meant to shut down dialogue and debate about Israel. Rather, it is a call to be mindful of how internalized anti-Semitism plays a significant role in how we react to Israel’s actions, how we judge the Jewish state, and how we analyze the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. . . .

Internalized anti-Semitism encourages ferocious rage against Israel and Israelis, a level of rage expressed against no other people. It permits the viewing of Israel as uniquely racist and oppressive and evil, instead of being seen as ordinary or all too human. Even what I would call “soft” or “positive” anti-Semitism encourages double standards and unfairly heightened expectations for Israel which faces extraordinary challenges from an enemy lacking morality.

Unfortunately, Chesler’s call has not been heeded.

I’m not a psychologist and I can’t speculate as to the causes of this phenomenon. Whatever the reason, we’ve known for some time that this problem exists, often going under the name “self-hatred.” In Jews Against Themselves, Edward Alexander discusses how this problem has existed for centuries. Those who suffer from this infirmity are now, as they have historically, causing problems for the wider Jewish community.

It is high time for our community leaders to recognize that, while disagreements among Jews will always exist, there are boundaries of acceptable discourse. It is time for our community leaders to recognize and address the internalized anti-Semitism that causes Jews to lead the way in bigotry against their own people. It is causing too much damage to Jews, both in the US and in Israel, to be permitted to continue unexamined.

33 thoughts on “American Jewish Leaders Must Address Internalized Anti-Semitism In The Community”

  1. Right now I think you might have your priorities all wrong, Mirabelle. It isn’t the likely Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, who proposes to be neutral between Israelis and Palestinians, but rather Republican front runner Donald Trump. It isn’t major Democratic donor Haim Saban who proposes to drop atomic bombs on Iran and expresses a lack of concern if Israel ceases to remain a democracy but Republican big-money donor Sheldon Adelson. The American Right, filled with irrational and uninformed politically-empowered players, seems to be a far greater danger to the well-being of Israel than those in the mainstream of the political Left in this country.

    1. ahad_ha_amoratsim

      And you would be wrong. Neither one would be good for Israel. Hillary, based on her history in the State Department, her choice of advisors, .is likely to be much worse.

      1. Hillary would essentially be a continuation of the Obama Administration policies toward Israel. Who really knows what Donald Trump’s policies would be; it’s a complete crap shoot. I think it’s fair to expect that Marco Rubio would be best for our relationship with Israel assuming Prime Minister Netanyahu remains in office for the foreseeable future.

        1. Norman_In_New_York

          Donald Trump has repeatedly denounced Obama’s shabby treatment of Israel. As for the peace process, Trump is a quicker study than Obama or Kerry and if he finds that Arab intransigence makes a peace deal impossible, he is most likely to back off, at least in my view.

          1. I hope we’ll never have to find out what kind of policies toward Israel a President Trump would roll out. Trump is demonstrably unqualified to be president of the United States. I hope some how, some way the Republican establishment can find a way to stop Trump before it’s too late for all of us. Even as a life-long Democrat, it gives me little pleasure witnessing the Donald’s hostile takeover of the GOP.

            1. Norman_In_New_York

              The Republican establishment screwed itself by being tone deaf to the feelings of their rank-and-file, just as the Democratic establishment has been putting all its eggs in Hillary’s rotting basket. Who the hell are the geniuses who thought the American public eagerly awaits another Bush vs. Clinton election?

              1. ahad_ha_amoratsim

                And therefore we should go with a RINO from the Democrat establishment, who is a DIABN (Democrat in all but name)?

            2. “Even as a life-long Democrat” Well, then, at least you have one thing in common with Donald Trump. The guy’s a phony “conservative”.

        2. ahad_ha_amoratsim

          I’d be happier certainly with Rubio, or Cruz, or even Kasich. But if I can’t have my druthers, I still would have to vote against Hillary

    2. If no one had something to fear, it would be a strange world. Those on the right tend to fear physical threats, ISIS, Saddam, Terrorists, etc…, those on the left tend to fear abstract concepts… patriarchy, racism, inequality, etc…. One side is likely to study engineering, the other is likely to study gender relations…. one side is likely to be a net contributor to society financially, the other a net taker…. there are means to spin the above characteristics into the context of Israel.

      1. So what exactly are Trump voters saying with their support of this guy? It seems to me that a significant number of them are saying they fear Mexicans and Muslims at a minimum. Some would argue that Donald Trump is not even a creature of the political right and I would agree with that assessment. And yet a core base of Republicans are willing to give Trump their vote irrespective of his core beliefs, whatever they might be. Clearly, one issue that does not motivate Trump voters is America’s support for Israel.

        1. Norman_In_New_York

          In a sense, Trump is lucky. Not long after he called for building the southern border wall, a Mexican illegal immigrant under the protection of San Francisco’s “sanctuary” murdered a young woman in cold blood. Not long after he called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration came San Bernardino and the revelation that one of the perpetrators was here as a result of bungled procedures that should have kept her out. Trump has been saying things that no other politician or the media dare say while putting forth an optimistic vision of America that rings more true than the platitudes of his opponents and Republican voters have found it refreshing.

        2. I don’t think trump can be put into a traditional political box… he seems to be more of a pragmatist with appeal to the centre… many of whom are disgusted with the political discourse at both ends… alternative descriptions might be opportunist / populists / emblematic of a fad or mania.

    3. I don’t usually like contradicting you, Jim, especially when it’s a rather trivial difference, but Saban said the following:

      The normally more dovish Saban took a
      militant stand. “I would bomb the living daylights out of the sons of bitches,” an impassioned Saban stated, should all else fail. “Take military action, but only after all options have been exhausted. A stick and a carrot yes — but we’ve shown too many carrots and a small stick,” he said, referring to the US-brokered interim deal in which sanctions would be dialed back in exchange for Iran dialing back its nuclear activity.

      Saban was still in the realm of conventional weapons… but only after exhausting other options.

      It was Adelson who made the remark about using nuclear weapons:

      He suggested a demonstration in the Iranian desert, followed by a strike on Tehran, if the regime failed to comply with American demands.

      That kind of thinking is incredibly stupid. But then you have former Palestinian “Intelligence” head Jibril Rajoub saying something quite similar:

      Weapons of that kind of degree of destruction are incredibly stupid. And while I don’t think Putin is that stupid, I wouldn’t vouch for any of his successors I wouldn’t bet on Trump though, and I’d hope that an executive order like that would be disobeyed.

      The insanity of the cold war was noted by military strategist Edward Luttwak who observed that 90% of US and Soviet nuclear weapons were aimed at the nuclear silos of the opposing power. The real problem was that the aftermath of such an exchange would affect not only the targets, but the planet as a whole.

      1. I see Haim Saban is not all sweetness and light when it comes to defending Israel. On balance, that is probably a very good thing. Thanks for sharing.

    4. I am not responding to you in support of any U.S. presidential candidate.

      However, Hillary Clinton’s campaign website states unequivocally that she considers any threat to Israel’s security to be a threat to American security.

      To allege, as you are doing, that Clinton is “neutral” between Israel, and say, Hamas, would appear to be counterfactual.

      1. I’m not sure how you got that impression from my comments here, but let me try to be as clear as I can be. I believe Hillary Clinton will maintain her pro-Israel policies she has held for decades if she becomes the 45th president of the United States. I was referring to Donald Trump’s position of neutrality between Israelis and Palestinians based on his answers to questions posed by Joe Scarborough on his MSNBC program last week.

      2. It’s all relative… in hiillary’s mind, she could consider Bibi a threat to Israel’s security… it’s like iran wishing for peace… sounds good, but in their context, it is in the sense that Israel is destroyed and the 12th imam appears… yeah, if that is peace. no thanks.

    5. ahad_ha_amoratsim

      True, HillRy does not propose being neutral – she plans to continue the hostility against Israel, double standards against Jews, and pressuring Israel to make duicidal concessions, that have all characterized the Obama administration. No thank you. Better a wild card than a death card.

  2. Norman_In_New_York

    It is no coincidence that this has arisen while Obama is president. The pathologies of the loony left have been given free rein and sanction.

    1. this is not new

      it is based on the precepts of the haskallah and reform judaism

      but goes all the way back to biblical times

  3. It’s how the left operates across the board.. For example, they have people who have pay cheques and working conditions that most people would envy, yet, somehow they are convinced that they are oppressed by their employer and grossly under paid… either they are extremely gullible or their is an element of guilt….. or both.

  4. Well put, Mirabelle. It is an age old problem What says the wicked child? Had they been in Egypt they would not have left and would not have been redeemed.

    Even what I would call “soft” or “positive” anti-Semitism encourages double standards and unfairly heightened expectations for Israel which faces extraordinary challenges from an enemy lacking morality.

    Indeed, islam has NO ethics, NO golden rule

    1. Islam does have ethics. They don’t map one to one on Jewish or Christian ethics, but neither do Jewish ethics map onto Christian ethics exactly either.

      The Golden Rule is a good example. The Christian version is “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” This can be used to justify proselytization. Since “you” as a Christian would desire to be “saved”, if follows that you should work on convincing others to covert. The Jewish version is “Do not unto others as you would not have others do unto you.” The problem of proselytization goes away.

      Islam certainly does have ethics wrt to piety and charity. It’s presumptuous to state that there are no ethical principles in Islam which cannot be appealed to, and there are hadiths which do contain variations of the Golden Rule. It’s not a central focus.

      1. islam has NO ethics, hence how muzlims behave.

        How’s this for ethical?

        The Quran plainly tells Muslims that they are a favored race, while those of other religions are “perverted transgressors”:

        Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors. (3:110)

        1. That’s the Yusuf Ali translation. I’ve usually used the first part of this Surah to show that Muslims also have a tradition of being chosen, while emphasizing that the Jewish notion is not one of being “better”, it’s one of being chosen and choosing to assume an obligation. In future I will cite the whole Surah. The translation you’ve chosen is the least flattering, but none of the translations should escape the same criticism.

          I wouldn’t call this an ethic as it doesn’t tell one how to behave, though it does incite the believer against Christians and Jews.

          Surah 17:26 You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the travelling alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant.

          That’s an ethic.

          The difference between criticism and demonization is that the former allows for acknowledging both positive and negative, a point I make consistently while refuting so called “criticism” of Israel. As tempting as it is to strike back in a similar fashion, let’s not fall into the same trap that our enemies have ensnared themselves in. Factually, there are ethics in Islam.

          1. That’s an ethic.

            Some ethic.
            Only applies to helping some muzlims, not kaffirs.
            In addition, this may be one of the abrogated suras.

            You’re here telling us there is something good in islam, eh?
            The only positive thing I can say about islam
            is that it is a culture destroyer.

  6. this is not new

    go back to the creation of reform judaism, where all mentions of israel as the homeland of the jews and the concept of a mashiach, were removed from their prayers

    this is just the end game

    these people are lost

    they have burned their jew cards

    they have created a concept of tikun olam, which has nothing to do with judaism

    they shall either do teshuva, or end up going the way of the saducceem and karaites

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