Monday, January 23, 2012

What It Really Means to Be a Self-Hating Jew

In the second era of Bibi, "self-hating" is the name for a Jewish critic of Israel.  Opposed to the occupation? Self-hating.  Against Orthodox dominance? Self-hating. In favor of political or religious pluralism? Self-hating. Desirous of an equitable peace process? Certainly self-hating. Yet, these concerns do not belong to the self-hating Jew; they belong to a Jew with a deep love for his religion and his people.  He may be ambivalent, but ambivalence does not negate close ties and deep affection for the Jewish state. If anything such consternation is the sign of love for Israel even greater than that of Israel's staunchest defenders, as it is the kind of concern with which one would address an errant family member.

A self-hating Jew has none of these feelings.  He squirms at the very mention of Jewish pride, the incessant rattling off of names - filmmakers, authors, lawyers, bankers.  He scowls at the constant invocation of the words "chosen people" - the very words that kept Jews separate and ghettoized for centuries. The self-hating Jew knows that he is not part of the Israeli "we", and no longer wants to be part of the Jewish "we". And who can blame him?

A self-hating Jew tries to escape the narrow tribalism that renders nearly everyone else an outsider. The self-hating Jew knows he is part of the Jewish nation, which he desperately wants to forget.  He does not, however, wish for an end to Jewry. Instead, he wishes for the end of his link to Jewry. The self-hating Jew does not criticize Israel; he no longer cares about Israel.

The paradoxical thing about the self-hating Jew is that each angst-ridden reaction to the latest Jewish outrage is another affirmation of his Jewishness.  Every time he wishes to forget his heritage, he is reminded of his membership to the wretched tribe. His self-loathing is, perhaps, the most Jewish thing about him.

And I know, because I am, and I was, him. There are times when I no longer want to be bound to the smelly morass of three thousand years of history.  I don't want Israel to speak for me, and I no longer want to speak about Israel.  Sometimes, I even want to forget that it exists.  Yet, every time I try I end up immersed in it even more.  The very fact that I've written this is proof; the self-hating Jew can never escape his Jewishness. I am, then, in a sense, stuck.

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