The Guardian’s anti-Israel Jews, and a letter to my teenage nephew


CiF’s Jewish Israel defamers

When joining the team here at CiF Watch, and attempting to understand why Jewish writers for the Guardian are often among the most vociferous in expressing their contempt for Israel, and so willing to demonize the state’s Jewish supporters, I had to get up to speed on the termTheobald Jew.”

I soon learned that:

According to the Benedictine monk Thomas of Monmouth in his The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich (1173), it was an apostate Jew, a certain Theobald, who, swore that Jews had killed twelve-year old William, a tanner’s apprentice, to fulfill their “Passover blood ritual” in the fateful year of 1144—the first recorded such episode in a long line of murderous defamations.

The CiF contributors I refer to include Naomi KleinNeve Gordon, Richard SilversteinAntony LermanSeth FreedmanTony Greenstein, among others.  These Jewish writers don’t merely critique Israeli policy, but routinely engage in hyperbole, vitriol, and gross distortions.  Their rhetoric is often spewed with hate towards the Jewish state, all but ignoring the behavior of her enemies - the terrorist and reactionary movements who openly seek her annihilation.  Such commentators often infer that the democratic Jewish state (the most progressive nation, by far, in the region) is almost always in the wrong, is usually motivated by a hideous malevolence, and represents a national  movement which they, as Jews, are ashamed to be associated with.

Freedman, for instance, has suggested that Israel is a theocracy – one which is on moral par with Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Gordon has on several occasions accused Israel of ethnic cleansing - once advancing such an ugly calumny in the radical anti-Zionist magazine, Counterpunch.  Tony Greenstein has ardently defended the ugly comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, typically advanced by extremists. Richard Silverstein has called the behavior of Israelis serving in the IDFsubhuman“, and has defended Hamas from “charges” that they are an extremist movement. Naomi Klein actually accused Israel of being so cruel and sadistic as to “bury children alive in their homes.”

While, for the Guardian, employing the services of Theobald Jews serves to inoculate them from charges of anti-Semitism, such Jewish writers, in return, receive the progressive and universalist credentials they so eagerly seek.

The Misnomer of the “Self-Hating Jew”

To be fair, I always found the term “self-hating Jew” to be at best misleading, at worst a complete misnomer.  First, because we typically have no way of knowing these writers‘ inner-thoughts.  But, more importantly, I never thought that it was an apt description of the anti-Zionist Jews I’ve met over the years.  If anything, most seem to possess a belief that they are indeed “better Jews” for being hyper-critical of Israel, opposing their own community, and rejecting the very idea of a Jewish nation-state.

Many seem singularly focused on being seen as a “progressive”.  And, as the progressive movement has moved further and further away from identification with Israel – and, to some degree, further away from identification with Jews as such – the need to be seen as progressive (“righteous”) in the eyes of others, has taken precedence over the seemingly parochial desire to identify with, and defend, their own community.

I have thought long and hard about the phenomenon of Jews who oppose their own community, have read and written about it, and there appears to be four dynamics worth exploring:

1. Moral Vanity

I was particularly inspired by Anthony Julius’s long two-part essay published at the American Jewish Committee site, Z Word. The piece was called Jewish anti-Zionism Unravelled: The Morality of Vanity. (Pt. 1Pt. 2).  Julius also rejects the notion of such Jews as being “self-hating”. Instead he refers to them as moralisers who continually desire affirmation from the non-Jewish world as to their righteousness.

The moraliser makes judgments on others, and profits by so doing; he puts himself on the right side of the fence. Moralising provides the moraliser with recognition of his own existence and confirmation of his own value. A moraliser has a good conscience and is satisfied by his own self-righteousness . He is not a self-hater; he is enfolded in self-admiration. He is in step with the best opinion.

2. The Temptation of Innocence

Ruth Wisse, in her book “Jews and Power“, identified the tendency of some Jews to vociferously oppose their own community as a dynamic which she, in part, attributes to a Jewish uneasiness with the projection political power and a tendency to almost fetishize the Jews’ history of powerlessness. Wisse concludes that Jews who endured, or know the history of, the powerlessness of exile are in danger of mistaking it for a requirement of Jewish life or, worse, for a Jewish ideal. This puerile desire not to be corrupted by the complexities, and occasional compromises, necessitated by possessing moral agency is described by Pascal Bruckner as “The Temptation of Innocence.”

3. Jewish Fear: Assimilation and Altruism as an Inoculation from Harm

More recently, Barry Rubin, director of the GLORIA Center (Global Research on International Affairs), in an illuminating and penetrating piece, entitledExplaining Jewish Political Behavior“, said:

[historically] Jews were attacked for allegedly having too much power, even when they had little or none, the emphasis was on being eager to make concessions, not to gain victories through threat or pressure.

…How would this strategy try to succeed? By proving Jews were good citizens, by showing they were unselfish and sought nothing for themselves, by demonstrating their willingness to dissolve the bonds and customs of their own community…and by showing that being nice to them would benefit everyone or almost everyone. In other words, altruism was a central element in the strategy

“…A key element of the assimilationist doctrine has been to deny there was a [Jewish] collective communal interest, and to avoid making collective demands.

Rubin, who, it should be noted, fleshes out his argument more fully in his book, Assimilation and Its Discontents, continues:

large parts of the Jewish elite are proud to stand aloof from their own people and deem it virtuous to abandon it and reject any notion of communal interests (including Israel and religion). Indeed, they think they can best prove their credentials by championing the causes of other groups even–sometimes especially–those in conflict with Jewish interests.

…The elite Jew’s emphasis is often to escape identification with the community, proving he is a  cosmopolitan with a universalist identity, being the first to demand the dissolution of any community loyalty and viewing the embodiment of Jewish peoplehood—Israel—as an impediment to those goals. While antisemites charge that all or almost all Jews in positions of power pursue a distinctively Jewish interest, the exact opposite is the truth. This explains how left-wing Jews extol multiculturalism and self-determination for other peoples even as they hold the exact opposite attitude toward their own people, whom they are determined to show are not their own people.

many Jews, particularly in elite positions, are eager to prove their credentials by criticizing their own people or Israel.

4. The Adversarial Jew: Skepticism and relativism disguised as reasoned political thought

I think there’s one last dynamic at play – an insight I came upon as a result of an email exchange I had with my 16-year-old nephew recently.

He reached out to me to seek my advice on this phase he was going through. It seems that he’s going through an early “existential crisis” of sorts – a frame of mind (I warmly noted to him) that most don’t arrive at until college.  He mentioned that, lately, he’s been questioning everything – every social convention, everything he’s ever been told, and wondering whether the wisdom, mores, and customs he‘s been brought up by his parents to believe in and abide by are indeed worthy.  He said that, since this struggle, he wasn’t misbehaving, but had resigned himself to merely “going through the motions” – but wasn’t really buying into what he always believed to be true.  He wanted to know what I thought.

In my reply, I assured him that what he’s going through is perfectly normal, and was a sign that he possessess a vibrant, active, and healthy mind – and, that, indeed, such existential crises were the inspiration for great works of poetry, literature, and philosophy through the ages.   I said that I also went through a similar mental orientation - that I, during the first couple years of college, questioned everything ever taught to me by my parents and my community.  I even looked down on the adults in my life, and their seemingly conventional thinking. In my arrogance, I said, I believed that I saw things they didn’t see…had arrived at answers to questions that had perplexed not only my a parents and relatives, but the most brilliant minds in my time and in generations past.

However, I also told him that I eventually learned to have a bit of humility about it all, and eventually realized that I didn’t know much about life, at that early stage in my life, at all.  And, that my parents, the older I got (and as my adolescence receded) seemed to become wiser and wiser with each passing year – in what I increasingly identified as their decency, sobriety, and plain common sense.

So, I asked my nephew if he would at least try to avoid the audacity of imagining that he alone possessed the wisdom and insight that has eluded his community – the Rabbis, sages, political, and community leaders – in his generation and though the ages.   I asked that he not assume that because his father claims that something is true, that the opposite must indeed be what’s actually correct.  I asked that he be patient and assured him that, with time and experience, he’ll eventually not be so quick to question the intentions of those who guide him. I expressed confidence that he will come to see that a healthy skepticism about “conventional thinking” is indeed normal, but that he’ll eventually understand that such thoughts need not devolve into a knee-jerk rejection of all the traditions and values of those who have come before him and have guided generations of Jews through often dark and harrowing times.

Julius, in his Z Word essay, dissected the potential moral pathos of many such renegade Jews:

He holds that the truth is to be arrived at by inverting the “us = good” and “other = bad” binarism. He finds virtue in opposing his own community; he takes the other point of view. He writes counter-histories of his own people. It is not enough for him to disagree, or even refute; he must expose the worst bad faith, the most ignoble motives, the grossest crimes. He must discredit.

My nephew is a smart, decent, and level-headed young man. And, I have no doubt that he’ll maintain his bearings during this intellectual “crisis” and not allow himself to surrender to hubris, nor develop a malevolence towards the family and community that has supported, nurtured, and guided him through the complexities of everyday life – those who love him dearly and have tried with all their heart to provide a path to protect him from the maddeningly complicated world he lives in.

It’s a simple lesson perhaps, but a vital one.  And, its wisdom that many of the Jews who write for the Guardian, quite shamefully, don’t even meagerly possess.

UPDATE: August 14

(Richard Landes posted the above essay at his blog, Augean Stables, and added a few of his own thoughts.  Augean Stables, for those not familiar, is among the more intellectually serious blogs, and one of the most vital in understanding the often complicated dynamics involved with the issues of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism which CiF Watch attempts to address.)

73 comments on “The Guardian’s anti-Israel Jews, and a letter to my teenage nephew

  1. Gharqad, the same people who the fuck gave you the right to decide.
    Sergio, I remember you, you were the shin-gimmel at gibor.

  2. Joe,

    1. You haven’t answered my first question from the previous comment (Remind me, since when is believing in “Kol Israel Arevim” a prerequisite for being Jewish or Zionist?).

    2. I don’t understand your reply to my question: “Who the fuck gives you the right to decide who is a Jew or a Zionist?”

    Your answer was: “Gharqad, the same people who the fuck gave you the right to decide.”
    ?????????????????????????????

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I never claimed to have the right to decide who is Jewish and who is not, as opposed to you. Zionism is another matter. Still, I have never heard Zionism being defined as someone who believes ni “Kol Israel Arevim”.

  3. Joe Millis, are you qualified in ESP? No? How then can you state so categorically that “many Jews” here hate other Jews? (You see, that sort of a no-brainer dismissal, which states your OPINION as fact, uses sloppy language, etc etc, marks you out as at least a CiF contributor).

    Some questions to the dumb: When was the last time (or indeed the first) that a Jewish organisation murdered a Jew or Jews because they expressed opinions with which the organisation disagreed?

    When was the last (or first) time that an Israeli Jew killed his daughter as an honour killing?

    When was the last (or first) time that an Israeli Jew had to go into hiding in Israel because of death threats against him for what he had written about other Jews?

    When was the last (or first) time an Israeli Jew stabbed someone for speaking out against his particular form of Judaism, or for criticising the Torah?

    Sources and dates please if you can find any.

    You see I would define those sort of activities as hatred of certain Jews for others who they perceive to be different from them.

    By comparison, your hyperbole is precisely that, isn’t it, Joe Millis, and the comments against Freedman, Shabi and all the Groan’s Theobald Jews, including Kath Viner who facilitates their poisoning the blogosphere, are fair comment and justly earned aren’t they?

    (And the reply to your accusation of “whataboutery” – again the last vestige of the ignoramus – may I point you to an excellent article here by Joe Geary at http://cifwatch.com/2010/07/23/whataboutery-no-dear-reader-it%E2%80%99s-through-the-looking-glass-mote-and-beamery/

    You should read it. I can certainly recognise you in it and, who knows, you might even learn something!)

  4. In answer to some of your questions, Serendipity, you have obviously never heard of Yigal Amir or Yonah Avrushmi. You also don’t follow the Israeli press which recently has had multiple reports of Israeli Jews murdering wives or daughters in the despicably known “honour” killings. And then there’s the killing of the gay Jews at bar-noar. And the attempted stabbing of homosexual Jews at Gay Pride in Jerusalem a couple of years back.
    I have no defence for the CiF commentariat, but it strikes me that some posters here are just as obnoxious and hate-filled.

  5. Gharqad, the basis of Zionism is the setting up of a homeland for the Jews. Note: All Jews, not just those with whom we agree. That’s kol yisrael arevim. Your version os more like kol yisrael aravim.

  6. Joe,

    1. I’m still waiting for an answer: Who gave you the right to say who’s a Jew? Will your answer arrive before the Messiah does?

    2. “Kol yisrael arevim” is from the Torah, and NOT a definition of Zionism.

    3. If Theobald Jews came here, they would be granted Israeli citizenship. Even that Apartheid-era judge would receive Israeli citizenship. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel like throwing up if I saw them here.

    4. “Kol Israel Aravim”???? (For those who don’t understand the lame play on words: “Kol Israel AREVIM” means something like “all the people of Israel are responsible for one another”, “Kol Israel ARAVIM” means “all the people of Israel are Arabs”). Apart from being a very childish play on word, does this sentence have anything to do with the topic being discussed here?
    What I said, and I stand by that: ANYBODY, be it a Druze or a Christian (and let me add: a Bedouin Muslim) who risked their ass for this country is closer to me than a Theobald Jew.

    As to what you answered Serendipidity:

    Yigal Amir and Yona Avrushmi are the ONLY two Jews who murdered other Jews on political grounds in the history of Israel (Arlozorov was before that). True, there was a hate crime against a gay-bar and an attempted stabbing at a gay parade. Violence exists in Israeli society, just like in other societies. Still, I wouldn’t compare the percentage to Islamic societies, or even other Western societies.

    Honor killings??? If you mean the killing of women by their spouses, that happens unfortunately everywhere. That is not honor killings, which happen occasionally in Israel in Arab society.

  7. Joe Millis

    In answer to some of your questions, Serendipity, you have obviously never heard of Yigal Amir or Yonah Avrushmi. You also don’t follow the Israeli press which recently has had multiple reports of Israeli Jews murdering wives or daughters in the despicably known “honour” killings

    You obviously have very little understanding of the so called ‘honor killing’. It is about family ‘honor’ and the whole family is involved in its preparation down to the last details. Then the ‘appointed’ men of the family proceed to implement it. The neighbors in many cases support it and, if ever brought to trial, the perpetrators are given light sentences. In Jordan, a year in jail.

    The cases in Israel amongst the jewish population of wife killing and killing siblings have been only the project of the husband who is eaten up by feelings of inadequacy or jealousy. The grand parents are horrified by the deed. All relations are horrified by the act. The legal system reacts with somewhat light sentences. Not less than 10 years, sometimes a few life imprisonments. The perpetrator often tries to commit suicide.

    If you do not see the huge differences, you are blinded.

  8. Brilliant, Serendipity and thank you for the link to Geary’s article which I had missed.

    Next you have to imagine the name is French:

    Joe Millis/Is very silly.

  9. al-gharqad, sometimes it’s a joy not to know a language.

    What a lovely surprise:

    For those who don’t understand the lame play on words: “Kol Israel AREVIM” means something like “all the people of Israel are responsible for one another”, “Kol Israel ARAVIM” means “all the people of Israel are Arabs”

    I said he’s silly.

  10. Joe Millis

    You wanted examples, Ghaqad, you got examples. You didn’t like them, but you got them.

    The only problems with your examples that they are not relevant at all regarding the points of your opponents, they mirror only your total lack of understanding of the subject.

  11. Give me the links Joe Millis, for these “numerous incidents” or fade quietly away as I expect you will. (This is not CiF which long ago lost the capability to distinguish between distinctly suss opinions and hard fact – here you have to supply source detail for any off-the-wall claims you make).

    And how many hundreds do you consider numerous? I am asking for a like on like comparison between the acting out of Islamist nut jobs whose prophet commands them to kill the infidel and the activities of a comparative few, the like of which will be found in any society, but about which Israel does not turn somersaults and turn their actions into excuses because their faith or culture commands them to do it.

    So come on, as I say, provide us with links so that we can see for ourselves, or fade away, as I expect you to because you are talking out of your rear end as usual.

  12. PretzelBrain

    The term [“self-hating Jew”] is accurate if one interprets it as meaning not a Jew who hates himself, but a Jew who hates other Jews, particularly those different from himself.

    i.e. you and others on this website, then?

    I am not Jewish. Your assuming me so is outright anti-Semitism.

  13. Toko, don’t you think it’s also not just about Jews but Judaism itself. Hate is a strong word, but I very much dislike those Jews that we term “self-haters”. It’s not just that those Jews hate other Jews, but they hate the religion (and Israel, which, like it or not – and they don’t! – is associated with it). So they are antisemitic self-haters, whilst those who dislike them are not.

    Also, in response to rlandes: “these Jews only identify themselves as Jews in order to attack Israel.”
    Good point. It’s the “if you can’t beat them, join them” thing. They resign themselves to the fact that they’re Jewish (conversion would be too complicated), but then they have to turn their Jewish status on it’s head, and go against the flow of the pro-Israel majority.

  14. “pretzelberg”,

    you wrote,

    “@ Daniel Bielak

    Sorry, but I don’t recall seeing your moniker before. So I’m wondering how on earth you could know what my “views” are.”

    I had a lengthy discussion with you on this site earlier – several months ago – which was a discussion in which I, at that time, as I am doing now, posted under my name, which is Daniel Bielak.

  15. “pretzelberg”,

    Even if I had not posted on this site earlier, that would not mean that I had not read posts on this site and would not mean that I had not read your posts on this site.

  16. pretzelberg,

    I know that you believe that the views that you hold about Israel and about the situation are not bigoted and not wrong, and I know that you believe that you do not hold any views about Jewish people that are bigoted wrong views.

    However, the views that you hold about Israel and about the situation are, in fact, bigoted wrong views, and, involved with that, you hold bigoted wrong views about Jewish people.

    I know that you are not “a bad person” – I know that you are not viciously malicious.

    You are ignorant about the factual history and current reality of the situation and you hold wrong views, as part of your being ignorant about the factual history and current reality of the situation, and as part of your holding wrong views, you are unaware of your own mind – you hold wrong views, and do not wish to know and comprehend facts that contradict the wrong views that you hold, because you are trying to protect a wrong self-view that you have of yourself, which is a wrong self-view that you want to have of yourself, in which you view yourself as being superior to Jewish people, and you hold bigoted wrong views about Israel and about the situation.

  17. Correction:

    I wrote to pretzelberg,

    “… I had a lengthy discussion with you on this site earlier – several months ago …”

    which should be,

    “… I had a brief discussion with you, in which I posted several lengthy comments, on this site earlier – several months ago …”

  18. Daniel Bielak:

    You really love long sentences. Is this also yours ?

    “Officials of the governments of the countries of Europe, and the authoritarian unelected officials of the authoritarian, totalitarian, Soviet-originated European Union, allow this immoral avaricious support and sustainment of the current regime of Iran by European companies because of the bigoted views that are held about, and because of the malice that is felt toward, the country of the Jewish people by those officials and by the majority of the people in Europe because of, most influentially, the indoctrination, most influentially by bigoted, craven, immoral European and Western journalists, of people in Europe in lies that vilify the country of the Jewish people, and in lies that obfuscate the nature of, and the existence of, the situation that Israel is in, and in lies that obfuscate the nature of, and the existence of, the global modern Islamic-Supremacist political movement.”

    whew !!!

    http://www.robinshepherdonline.com/israels-ambassador-to-the-uk-lays-out-a-powerful-home-truth-in-the-guardian/

  19. Pretzel:

    Yes, a wrong and baseless view that shows immoral avaricious support and sustainment of the current regime, because of the bigoted views that are held about, and because of the malice that is felt toward, the country of the Jewish people by the majority of the people in Europe because of, most influentially, the indoctrination, most influentially by bigoted, craven, immoral people in Europe in lies that vilify the Jewish people, and in lies that obfuscate the nature of, and the existence of, the situation that Israel is in, and in lies that obfuscate the nature of the facts that contradict the wrong views that you hold that protect a wrong self-view that you have of yourself, which is a wrong self-view that you want to have of yourself, in which you view yourself as being superior to Jewish people, and you hold bigoted wrong views about Israel and about the situation.

    I hope that’s clear now :-)

  20. So basically I am Jewish and am opposed to the Israelis policies, I am certifiably mad?

    Maybe send me to the asylum. Or take a further step to stamp out my illness -send me to the gas chamber.

    Sound familiar? Is that not what Hitler did with ‘mentally unstable’ people?

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