Self-hating Jews, I think, deplore the reflection of themselves that they see mirrored in the eyes of the non-Jewish world; this determines how they experience their own Jewishness.
Non-Jewish societies have, for centuries, found reason to hate and criticize us Jews and we seem to buy into it each time anew. In ancient times, some of us conspired with our enemies to slaughter the more religiously observant members of our community (the Hanukkah story, for example). In later times, there were self-hating Jews who converted to Christianity and were often instrumental in the persecution of other Jews (examples given in Baum, 2010, pp 163-168).
Today the Jew-mirror reflects upon Israel and uses so-called violation of “Palestinian” human rights as the excuse. This is a particularly cynical weapon to use against us given the centrality of human rights issues within Judaism. Our orientation toward human rights was expressed, for example, in the not insignificant parts Jews played in the civil rights movement in the USA and in the fight against apartheid in South Africa (you do see the irony in that one, don’t you?).
The Jew, Israeli or not, who does not know our history sufficiently well, who does not truly understand the context of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, shouts out: “Not me! I’m not that kind of Jew.” This Jew tries to separate himself or herself from the Jew reflected in the eyes of contemporary haters. This Jew even shouts out: “Not In My Name,” meaning: “I’m a good Jew, not like those Jews there!” This Jew even conspires with the haters, imploring the haters to boycott that Jew and to file a suit against that Jew in the International Criminal Court. This Jew is no different than Tiberius; he used his knowledge of Jewish life to serve as advisor to the Roman legions that destroyed the very Temple the gates of which were constructed using resources donated by his own father.
Self-hating Jews, like many of us, have learned that each and every Jew represents The Jewish People in the eyes of those who hate us and those who do not (see: Once a Jew Always a Jew). Therefore, they have one of two options: (1) pretend they are not Jews at all; or (2) try to filter out those of us who, they think, reflect badly upon themselves. The latter are trying to create a Homogenized Jewish People, one they believe would render us acceptable to the non-Jewish world. If only the non-Jewish world would see how good we really are, they would not hate us so much, as if the hater distinguishes between this Jew and that Jew.
Not every Jew who criticizes the behaviour of our country is a self-hating Jew. Criticism is legitimate and important. However, there is a difference between criticism that attempts to make this country a better one and criticism voiced in such a way as to provide ammunition to the Jew-haters who seek our demise. The former can tolerate the tensions among all our diverse views and the latter is threatened by it.
The former can feel pride in our accomplishments, grief in our tragedies and dismay at our faults; the latter feels little if any pride in our accomplishments, righteousness in face of our tragedies and gloats about our faults. THAT is self-hatred.
So, when propagandists tell the world that Israel is oppressing Arabs, and neither the world nor many Jews have the historical facts straight, you create horror and anxiety in the minds of those Jews who impulsively agree that such oppression is criminal and must be stopped. They seem to feel they must fight against their fellow Jews — those who proudly serve in the IDF and those who live in Judea & Samaria.
They see the soldier and the “settler” as the reason for our decline from the former exalted status Israel enjoyed when we were seen as weak: David with a slingshot fighting the Goliath Arab World that tried to roll over us from north, south and east and push us into the sea. How absurd it is that in the wake of our astounding unanticipated success in defending ourselves, the wheels have turned and now we are being accused of bulldozing our way into Judea & Samaria, supposedly with the intention of doing to them what they intended (and still hope) to do to us!
Jews – Israeli or not — who do not know our history, who do not truly understand the context of the Middle East, seem to be able to regain their sense of security as “good people” only by agreeing to recognize themselves in the mirror set up by haters reflecting their distorted image back to them.
This article first appears on Israel Diaries.