FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique

The test of Judaism is to be an uncompromising supporter of Israel. I reject that. Shimon Peres’s death brought out an avalanche of encomiums. To raise one word of criticism, his early stand on the settlements, his atrocities in Lebanon, his failure, supposedly changing his overall position, then to confront head-on, Israeli militarism, brings on one a tirade of abuse. There must be unanimity, particularly among Jews, like myself, or else subject to the charge of traitorous conduct if not worse. Today, in response to NYT’s Roger Cohen article, “Peres and the Passing of Hope,” I wrote a Comment (see below) and was denounced by a reader as a “ghetto Jew,” one hiding behind walls of fear, and not granting Israel’s supreme goodness and democracy.

No, not a ghetto Jew who has slunk away from slights and an inferiority complex, but fiercely proud of being Jewish, contesting all my life against anti-Semitism, but with several provisions: that to be Jewish carries with it, historically, the special responsibility to lock arms with all who have been persecuted and the victims of social injustice. Symbolically, I turn to Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger (see my CP obit., Jan. 2014), Dr. King, Eugene Debs, the proudly standing humanists and members of the Left, including, particularly in the trenches, like Schwerner and Goodman, along with Cheney, not Netanyahu, Adelson in America, the tribalists who demand complete obedience to policies of exclusion and ruthlessness.

Israel disgraces, tears down, ridicules Judaism, a once-living creed of compassion for, and struggling on behalf of, the dispossessed, the poor, the dissidents, yes, the Rosenbergs and Rosa Luxemburg, the avowedly radical, who have only contempt for those who rely on force, arrogance, and a sense of superiority. By that token, Peres was better than most Israelis, yet failed to stand up to fascistic tendencies of a Greater Israel. To that extent, he lent respectability and legitimation to the nation and its hard-liners by not going into unequivocal opposition. He, again, better than most, was not a son of Torah, agitating with every fiber of his being against Israelis’ daily infliction of humiliation on the Palestinians. Rather than president, prime minister, etc. etc., it takes courage to say NO to the war machine, those complicit in the crimes of intervention, assassination, regime change, evident in the record of the US, which has Israel’s back, as does Israel its back, whenever possible. Indeed, today in America, a self-respecting Jew cannot be critical of the policies and record of either nation. I reject that identity.

My New York Times Comment on the Cohen article (Jan. 29), same date, follows:

“And now?” Schlaim’s words, “chang[ing] his image from Mr. Peace to Mr. Security,” describes why Peres is not the saint, the visionary, a role we almost unanimously accord to him. The contradictions were there from the start. Advocate for military strength and nuclear development is not a harmless avocation. One pairs Peace and Security in such a way as to make them incompatible.

If Peres were truly courageous, he would have been a stronger critic of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, and a stronger critic of Israel’s international posture, which gave carte blanche to American foreign policy and tended to support dictators globally. The sad fact is that Peres is the best that Israel could produce, a giant set beside Netanyahu, but hardly a man of peace and social justice.

I regret having to say that. I am not a self-hating Jew, the conventional put-down, but one deeply admiring of Judaism, both as a world religion and beacon of freedom in years past in America. Much has changed. Israel has transformed American Jewry from a progressive social force, whether on race, politics, or economics, into a people of knee-jerk extreme conservatism and reaction. Go back to the New Deal period, a time when one could proudly, as a Jew, claim the mantle of defender of the poor, defender of labor, defender of human rights and justice.

I wish Peres had shown more guts in standing up to Israel ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and militarism. He then would deserve the eulogies.

More articles by:

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

November 20, 2018
John Davis
Geographies of Violence in Southern California
Anthony Pahnke
Abolishing ICE Means Defunding it
Maximilian Werner
Why (Mostly) Men Trophy Hunt: a Biocultural Explanation
Masturah Alatas
Undercutting Female Circumcision
Jack Rasmus
Global Oil Price Deflation 2018 and Beyond
Geoff Dutton
Why High Technology’s Double-Edged Sword is So Hard to Swallow
Binoy Kampmark
Charges Under Seal: US Prosecutors Get Busy With Julian Assange
Rev. William Alberts
America Fiddles While California Burns
Forrest Hylton, Aaron Tauss and Juan Felipe Duque Agudelo
Remaking the Common Good: the Crisis of Public Higher Education in Colombia
Patrick Cockburn
What Can We Learn From a Headmaster Who Refused to Allow His Students to Celebrate Armistice Day?
Clark T. Scott
Our Most Stalwart Company
Tom H. Hastings
Look to the Right for Corruption
Edward Hunt
With Nearly 400,000 Dead in South Sudan, Will the US Finally Change Its Policy?
Thomas Knapp
Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago
November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” Given Their Record in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail