Monday, August 24, 2009

Grobman: Israelis Denouncing Israel: Legitimate or Arrogant?

When Israelis Denounce Israel: Legitimate Criticism of Israel or Arrogant Self-Delusion

Dr. Alex Grobman

Critics of Israel abound. Some are antisemites who seek the demise of the Jewish state. Others have legitimate concerns about particular Israeli policies. Among the most vocal are a number of Israeli intellectuals who challenge the country’s raison d’être.

In an August 20, 2009 editorial in the Los Angeles Times, Neve Gordon, a professor of political science at Ben-Gurion University, accused Israel of being an apartheid state. He said a two-state solution was the “more realistic” way to end this inequity. Since only “massive international pressure,” will bring about this state and thus save Israel, Gordon recently joined the Arab sponsored Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement founded in July 2005.1

Vilification of Israel by Jews is not a new phenomenon. As early as May 1, 1936 Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson asked: “Is there another people on earth whose sons are so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful, while every murder, rape and robbery committed by their enemies fills their hearts with admiration and awe? As long as a Jewish child…can come to the land of Israel, and here catch the virus of self-hate…let not our conscience be still.”2 For Katznelson this was aberrant behavior, not the norm. Today, criticism of Israel has become ubiquitous among a significant portion of Israeli intellectuals.3

In the 1950s, psychologist Gordon Allport explained that Jewish self-hate is the process in which the victim identifies with his aggressor and “sees his own group through their eyes.” The Jew “may hate his historic religion…or he may blame some one class of Jews…or he may hate the Yiddish language. Since he cannot escape his own group, he does in a real sense hate himself—or at least the part of himself that is Jewish.”4 Self-hating Jews play a significant role in anti-Israel campaigns of the Western media. Historian Robert Wistrich noted that Jews highly critical of Israel are featured in the British media.5

Manfred Gerstenfeld, chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, found that the French elite and media adore Jews and Israelis who are highly critical of Israel.

A number of marginal Jews, who are not known in Israel, are presented as part of the Israeli mainstream. 6 Israeli’s condemnation of their country is a result of living under “a state of chronic siege,” posits Kenneth Levin, a historian and psychiatrist. Israelis have been abused for so long, that they escape their pain by espousing anti-Israel sentiments. Appeasing the terrorists, they believe, will end hostilities. Israel only has to acquiesce to Arab demands, cease obsessing about defensible borders and other strategic issues, and peace would ensue and such concerns would become irrelevant.7

Sol Stern, a former editor of the New Left Ramparts magazine, adds that this assumes both sides act rationally. According to this scenario, when Israel’s concessions are considered equitable, amity will compensate for any remaining differences. Didn’t the enmity between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union end in détente? Hadn’t President Richard Nixon gone to China? Aren’t “the Arabs rational” people? 8 Any “peace process” is intrinsically superior to war. Regardless of all previously failed attempts, isn’t another peace overture worth trying? To suggest there might be “something inherently violent and unreasonable in Arab Muslim political culture” could be interpreted as racist.9 Instead, Israeli intellectuals began disparaging their own culture and re-writing their country’s history. When they concluded that the Arabs had legitimate grievances, they decided “it was time to try again to split the difference.”10 In the 1980s and 1990s two different Israeli administrations offered “land for peace’ to Syria, but were rebuffed. Under terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Israeli government permitted terrorist organizations to return to the West Bank and Gaza and gave tens of thousands of weapons to Yasser Arafat’s security services, before he signed a peace treaty or an irrefutable security agreement. Arab failure to rescind the Palestine National Covenant’s demand for Israel’s demise and replacement by a Palestinian state was either ignored or minimized.11 “No nation in the world has taken so many mortal risks for a putative peace with its most implacable enemies,” Stern observes. Even after the Oslo Accords were shattered when the Arabs began blowing up civilians in pizza shops and on buses, Ehud Barak offered another proposal at Camp David. Instead of accepting this offer, Arafat unleashed “yet another savage wave of extermination against Israel’s civilian population” with weapons Israel had provided him.

Stern credits neoconservatives with understanding that Israel’s right to exist as a democratic Jewish state has always been the main problem for the Arabs, not the “disputed territories.” Arab attempts to bring their case to the attention of the world are not arbitrary.

Suicide bombings are a cleverly planned strategy that has produced considerable advantages. After the first series of attacks against Israeli supermarkets, cafés, malls and buses, the Arab cause was championed by European governments and on American campuses.12 Israeli victims receive little sympathy, historian Tony Judt and a severe critic of Israel claims, because they are not seen as victims of terror, but as “collateral damage of their own government’s mistaken policies.”13 Israeli offers to exchange land for peace have not succeeded. Appeasement has only increased hatred of Israel. Yet Israel is continually pressured to make concessions.

The reason, Stern believes, is that progressive critics cannot acknowledge a fundamental truth: “that there can be political movements, like Islamic terrorism—in which the jihad and the intifada merge—that are so pathological in their hatreds that we can solve the problems they purport to care about only after they are defeated.” 14

Levin sees an element of arrogance in “this self-delusion” by Israelis who believe they can affect change. Jews assume a responsibility for something over which they have no control, to ward off despair. This is similar to an abused child who feels responsible for his plight and views himself as “bad.” The child maintains, “the fantasy that if he becomes good enough,” his father will stop hitting him, his mother will give him attention and whatever other form of abuse he suffered will end.

In the same way, some Israelis are delusional when they assume they can control Arab behavior.

Dr. Alex Grobman is a Hebrew University trained historian. He is the author of a number of books, including Nations United: How The U.N. Undermines Israel and The West, Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? and a forthcoming book on Israel's moral and legal right to exist as a Jewish State.

1. Never Gordon, “Boycott Israel: An Israeli comes to the painful conclusion that it’s the only way to save his country,” (August 20, 2009).2. Edward Alexander, “Israelis Against Themselves.” In The Jewish Divide Over Israel: Accusers and Defenders. Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor, Eds. (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2006), 35.
3. Ibid., 35-36.
4. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Jews Against Israel,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs No.30 (March 1, 2005).
5. Ibid.
6. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “European-Israeli Relations: Between Confusion and Change? An American Watching Anti-Israeli Bias in France, Interview with Nidra Poller.” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (September 2006).
7. Kenneth Levin, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege (Hanover, New Hampshire: Smith and Kraus Global, 2005), vii-viii, xv, xix-xx.
8. Sol Stern, “Israel Without Apology.” City Journal. (Summer 2003), Online.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Tony Judt, “The country that wouldn’t grow up.” Haaretz. (May 5, 2006), Online.
14. Stern, op.cit.
15. Levin, op.cit. xvi-xx.