The Jew Flu: The strange illness of Jewish anti-Semitism
By Uzi Silber , November 11, 2009, HaAretz
The 1930s Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson asked "Is there another People on Earth so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful, while every murder, rape, robbery committed by their enemies fill their hearts with admiration and awe?"
This is Jew Flu—the virus of Jewish Anti-Semitism, and its Jewish Anti- and Post-Zionist mutations, afflicting a small but inordinately loud minority of Hebrews.
Its modern symptoms are a rejection of Israel's identity as a Jewish state and a dismissal of its right to defend itself militarily, while embracing the goals of its nihilistic Arab enemies. Those infected with the virus wildly inflate Israeli sins real or imagined, while excusing or rationalizing Palestinian anti-Semitism and outrages against Jews.
Those afflicted with Jew Flu often view the notion of Peoplehood as an artifice, which implies a rejection of Jewish national self-determination and acceptance of the 90-year-old Palestinian Arab contention that Jews are not a nation but merely members of a religion, and as such don't merit a national home of their own.
Is Jew Flu a bona-fide illness? Michael Welner, a psychiatrist at New York University, suggests that Jewish Anti-Semitism is akin to a personality disorder, enabling a person to "derive some psychological benefit from this pathological thinking."
What causes Jew Flu? Harvard psychiatrist Kenneth Levin argues for twin culprits: So-called 'Stockholm Syndrome', where "population segments under chronic siege commonly embrace the indictments of their besiegers however bigoted and outrageous", as well as "the psychodynamics of abused children who blame themselves for their situation and believe they could mollify their tormenters if they were 'good'."
Julie Ancis, a psychology professor at Georgia State University says that it isn't "uncommon for a minority group with a history of oppression and persecution to possess internalized self-hatred regarding their cultural/religious identity."
I'm no therapist, but that won't restrain me from proposing my own theory for the ultimate cause of Jew Flu. More on that later.
Since the defamations of Jew Flu victims are propagated across the Internet and are extensively documented and challenged in many fine books and articles, repeating them here would be redundant.
Suffice it to say that Noam Chomsky, Daniel Boyarin, Joel Kovel, Avrum Burg, Ilan Pappe, Steve Quester, Jacqueline Rose, Tony Judt, Naomi Klein, Michael Neumann, Ben Ehrenreich, (the apparently "outed") Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and their ilk, spout pronouncements eerily similar to the propaganda routinely ejaculated by representatives of Fatah, Hamas or Hezbollah.
At the same time, a hearty "shout out" is due those who have made it their business to forcefully rebut the Jewish defamers, including Andrea Levin, Edward Alexander, Alan Dershowitz, David Solway and others. Those interested in a quick and free primer on Jew Flu should download Alvin Rosenfeld's UJA-sponsored brief, "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism."
Jew Flu, of course, isn't new: It has lurked in our midst for millennia. Jews collaborated with Greeks, Romans and Inquisitors; Bolshevik self loathers displayed savagery towards their brethren; their prophet Karl Marx was described by author Rafael Patai as the "most influential of Jewish self haters", who thought "Israelite faith" most repugnant, and whose rabid anti-Semitism was attributed by the historian Simon Dubnow to "the natural hatred of the renegade for the camp he deserted."
Incredibly, certain young Jews in Weimar Germany, members of a certain Association of National-German Jews were sufficiently maddened by Jew Flu to attempt to "identify and ingratiate (themselves) with the Nazi Party."
Jew Flu developed its anti-Zionist strain in the decades preceding the creation of Israel: renowned philosopher Martin Buber of Hebrew University and others actually justified the Palestinian Arab pogroms of 1921, 1929 and the late 30s, urging that desperate Jewish holocaust refugees be permitted to enter Palestine only with Arab permission.
In 1944, and with the destruction of European Jewry proceeding apace, Lessing Rosenwald, the President of the American Council for Judaism equated the ideal of Jewish Statehood with the concept of a racial state "the Hitlerian concept."
Following remission during the post-Holocaust years, Jewry experienced a relapse of Jew Flu in the aftermath of the '67 Six Day War. In the U.S., young Jewish radicals of the New Left branded Israel a fascist, colonial power while praising Arab countries as progressive and revolutionary - unsurprising since many were Soviet client states.
They remained largely silent as Soviet tanks crushed the 1968 Prague Spring—presumably a 'progressive' development.
New Left sentiments found expression in Israel even during the aftermath of the traumatic Yom Kippur War; at a Tel Aviv reception in late 1973, my mother found herself amid a chatty crowd of cocktailing cultural figures casually dismissive of their own country's right to exist.
The infection among Israel's cultural elites intensified through the Lebanon War and the two Intifadas that sandwiched the delusional Oslo era. As author Aharon Meged lamented in 1994, there existed "an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel's intelligentsia, and its print and electronic media, with people committed to our annihilation."
Epitomizing this "moral identification" were the certain prominent Jewish journalists who, according to Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea, crucially failed the so-called 'lynch test', by exhibiting an inability to ever criticize Palestinian terror, even following the widely-televised gruesome execution of two Jews by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah In 2000.
It was at this time that Jew Flu claimed a childhood friend of mine. We'd come of age together in the early '80s, like-minded Zionists, he more "Kahanish" [follower of American-Israeli rabbi Meier Kahane, who urgently advocated immigration to Israel as a survival strategy] in temperament. Immigrating to Israel the day after graduation, he'd serve in the IDF, settle in Jerusalem, marry, spawn a brood, and settle into the life of an Israeli academic, where anti Zionist stances are common and open identification as an Israeli patriot is tantamount to career suicide.
Infection struck during the Oslo years: Before the millennium was out, the youthful Kahanist yeshiva boy had morphed into a militant Jewish Anti Zionist, mindlessly spouting hackneyed and malicious anti-Israel canards on leftwing and Arab websites, and regularly consorting with a posse of Arab academics in Ramallah.
This episode recalled a scene from "Radio Days", the Woody Allen movie in which an uncle fasting on Yom Kippur indignantly watches the Jewish communists next door brazenly barbecuing. In Holiday suit he marches out the front door to scold the Reds on their evil ways, only to return shortly after chewing on a chicken drumstick, indignantly decrying religion as the opiate of the masses.
Those like my friend afflicted with Jew Flu deny their infection, contending that criticism of Israel isn't Anti-Semitism or even Anti-Israel.
Helpfully, Natan Sharansky formulated his so-called 3D litmus test to clearly distinguish mere Israel critics from Jew Flu victims, and has allowed me to diagnose my old friend.
As it turns out, the afflicted regularly engage in at least one of the following:
During March 2002, Jihadist suicide murderers were exploding on Israeli buses every other day, massacring and maiming hundreds of Jews in a cascade of latter-day pogroms; savage images of Haim Nahman Bialik's monumental poem, "City of Slaughter" blazed across the broken land.
125 Jews were massacred and hundreds were wounded by Palestinian suicide murderers that month. Yet unsurprisingly my stricken friend declined comment.
My friend seems to amuse his Arab colleagues: Appearing at a conference some years ago at Cairo's American University, an Egyptian fellow panelist quipped to the audience that our mutual friend was "more pro-Palestinian than me—I am more pro-Israel than him."
Incidentally, this college has since instituted a ban on Israeli academics.
At this point allow me to complicate things: It's easy to assume that those struck with Jew Flu would be contemptuous of Jewish religious observance. They often hold Marxist views, which would imply an atheist outlook.
Yet what one should one make of my friend who performs Kiddush on Friday nights, fasts on Yom Kippur and uses two sets of dishes in his kosher kitchen? Would such Jewish customs be performed by an anti-Semite?
Knesset speaker Avrum Burg is a lifelong modern orthodox Jew, a skull capped davener [one who prays] whose Jew Flu was latent for years but burst out into the open when he took to smearing Israel in Nazi-like browns.
Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin are pleasant, prominent and yarmulked [skull-capped] professors of Jewish history who don tefilin [Jewish phylactery] daily, daven [pray] on Shabbat and holidays and are easily mistaken in appearance for West Bank settlers.
Yet Daniel is comfortable vilifying Israel regularly as a violent outlaw state. And Jonathan admitted to me some years ago during an especially sweaty Simchat Torah "hakafa" on the Lower East Side that his views are identical if not even more radical than Daniel's (if that was possible.)
Actually, it is interesting that the views of such radical yet observant Jews resemble the tenets of Catholic Liberation Theology. But could such a trio be accused of outright anti-Semitism?
The Burgs and Boyarins of this world have long revered another devout Jew, the departed Yishayahu Leibowitz, a renowned scholar, recipient of the Israel Prize, and editor of the Hebrew Encyclopedia, a Jerusalemite who habitually referred to drafted Israeli soldiers who happened to be defending his charmed way of life as "Judeo-Nazis."
Was Leibowitz an anti-Semite?
Submitting their pronouncements to the Sharansky test demonstrates that even tefilin wearing, kosher food eating Kiddush reciters can speak and write like an Anti Semite
But back to the elusive cause of Jew Flu: what makes one Jew vulnerable and not another? Wouldn't a far larger proportion of Jews fall prey to Jew Flu if, say, Stockholm syndrome was the culprit? Is there a prime mover, some physiological or neurological smoking gun pointing to a root cause?
There may be. David Brooks recently reported in the New York Times on research by a Haifa University team led by Reem Yahya who studied the brains scans of Arabs and Jews while showing them images of hands and feet in painful situations.
Brooks reports that "the two cultures perceived pain differently. The Arabs perceived higher levels of pain over all while the Jews were more sensitive to pain suffered by members of a group other than their own (italics my own)."
This phenomenon was epitomized by Rosa Luxemburg, a prominent Bolshevik and Jew Flu victim. "I have no room in my heart for Jewish suffering," declared Rosa the Red. "Why do you pester me with Jewish troubles? I feel closer to the wretched victims of the rubber plantations of Putumayo or the Negroes in Africa... I have no separate corner in my heart for the ghetto."
And then there's the modest story Ahmad the cabbie related to me last week as we drove through Eilat-like Palm Springs: Ahmad's brother in Nablus was employed for many years by an Israeli Jewish building contractor. When the outbreak of Intifada in 2000 permanently barred Ahmad's brother from work in Israel, his Jewish boss continued to pay the brother's salary for five years.
The intriguing research out of Haifa suggests that Jews may very well be inherently altruistic. But while exhibiting more sensitivity to another group's pain is one thing, embracing the goals of people openly committed to one's destruction is a form of madness.
So here's my ultimate theory for the cause of this nefarious virus: Jew Flu is a condition in which being "more sensitive to pain suffered by members of a group other than (one's) own metastasizes into a malignant emotional and moral identification with people committed to (one's) annihilation."
Like any other virus, Jew Flu is contagious but containable. Yet ultimately incurable.