*The former book project under the title “ZioNazi” has been changed… mainly for sad practical reasons… to the working title of “On Settlements and Stupidity.”
When Barack Obama snubbed the Knesset, and Jews who live where he does not want them to live, during his last visit to Israel, he claimed that Israelis needed to learn to see things through “their eyes.” The implication, of course, was that the Jews of the Middle East are lacking the requisite compassion to gain peace for themselves and their children.
I would argue something rather different.
I would suggest that the so-called “Palestinian narrative” of pristine victim-hood has made remarkable advances into Jewish minds, particularly progressive-left diaspora Jewish minds. The problem is not that the Jews are lacking in empathy, as Obama shamefully implied, but quite the opposite. Diaspora Jews, as a group, tend to be so painfully empathetic that we cannot really bring ourselves to take our own side in a fight, as the Holocaust proved. This explains the fact that Israeli Jews tend to be more “conservative” while diaspora Jews tend to be more “progressive.” Israeli Jews are under siege and diaspora Jews, with the growing exception of European Jews, are not. Thus Israeli Jews are tougher and diaspora Jews are softer on security issues viz-a-viz Israel.
The process through which the Palestinian colonization of the Jewish mind accomplished itself found its primary vehicles in the final quarter of the twentieth-century with the rise of post-structural and neo-colonial theories within the western academe. The former trend, following scholars such as Michelle Foucault, suggested that knowledge is subjective and represents political imperatives that bolster systems of power. This laid intellectual foundation for anti-Zionist Jews, such as Ilan Pappé , who famously claimed:
Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers.
The latter discipline, neo-colonial theory, as it bubbled onto the popular level with much help from Columbia University professor, Edward Said, represents a popular and snapping critique which divides the world into malicious imperialistic white people and their innocent victims of color. Given that the ruling elite within Israel tended, since its founding, to be “white” Ashkenazi Jews of eastern European descent it became very easy for the enemies of Jewish sovereignty, influenced by post-structuralist and neo-colonial theories, to jam the Israeli round peg into their ideological square hole.
In this way they simply ignored the fact that about half of Israelis are “people of color” and they did so – and do so – because portraying Israelis as white imperialist colonialist murderers fits preconceived political agendas that bare remarkable resemblance to western religious notions of Good versus Evil, with the Palestinian Arabs representing the Good and the White Imperialist Colonialist and Racist Jews representing Evil. This is not so far removed from medieval European conceptions of transcendent Jewish malice as we would generally prefer to think.
These broad popular and academic inclinations, over decades now, have had their effect on the way that westerners, and western Jews, view the ongoing Arab-Muslim war against us in the Middle East. The effect has been to entirely ignore the long history of Jewish people in Judaea and Samaria – the Jewish homeland – which they insist upon calling “West Bank,” a twentieth century Jordanian term designed specifically to erase Jewish history. The very notion of “West Bank” is an erasure of Jewish heritage and therefore some of us wonder why it is that the great majority of western Jews use terminology that erases their own heritage?
One answer to that question goes under the moniker “Oslo Syndrome.” Harvard University professor of psychology, Kenneth Levin, in The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege, suggests that, much like battered children who promise to be “better” in order to make the beatings stop, the Jewish minority has tended over many centuries to hope for relief by endeavoring to appease our persecutors through adopting their ways of thinking. This represents a particularly Jewish version of Stockholm Syndrome wherein the victim adopts her persecutors ways of thinking as a psychological defense mechanism. Whatever the validity of this notion, there is small question but that the tendency among diaspora Jewish progressives is to lay the great majority of the fault for Arab aggression against their fellow Jews at the feet of Jewish victims of that aggression.
This tendency of pro-Israel diaspora Jews to incorporate the “Palestinian narrative” into their intrinsic understanding of the conflict, along with the imperatives of domestic partisan politics pitting Democrats against Republicans in the United States, has inclined many of them to think of Israel’s friends as enemies and some of its enemies as friends. Evangelical Christians, for example, are widely perceived among western diaspora Jews as representing a political enemy, despite the fact that the Evangelicals have long been a great friend to the Jewish state of Israel. Meanwhile some progressive-left diaspora Jews think that “BDS,” the movement to bitch-slap, denigrate, and silence supporters of Israel, is actually a positive thing because Israel allegedly requires “tough love” and that they must “save Israel from itself” by imposing their will upon it.
The “Palestinian narrative,” embraced by much of the western left, infuses our understanding of the conflict. The presumption, even among Jewish supporters of Israel, is that the Jews of the Middle East are guilty of horrific crimes against the “indigenous” population. There are about 6 million Jews in the Middle East and about 400 million Arabs, which means that there are somewhere between 60 to 70 Arabs for every individual Jew, yet, somehow, the tiny minority of Jews are said to be the oppressors who not only persecute the local Arabs, but who spread war throughout the region. Progressive-Left Jews who embrace the “Palestinian narrative” see Jewish self-defense as a form of aggression. They therefore blame Jewish “aggression” for Palestinian-Arab “self-defense” in the form of suicide bombings and general terrorism; a notion that they spread throughout the west, more generally.
This is a terrific mistake.
Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.