by Shalom Freedman
February 09, 2005
There has been much written and said about the 'self-hating Jew'. But little has been written and said about one particular kind of self-hating Jew, one unfortunately increasingly important and disturbing: the self-hating Israeli.
The self-hating Israeli may be someone raised within Israel society, someone who knows its institutions and people well, someone who is even a part of its academic, journalistic, legal or political elite. This familiarity and knowledge of the society he is criticizing gives his criticism particular force and even authenticity. It legitimizes the criticism of Israel-bashers, even anti-Semitic Israel-bashers, as they will exultantly proclaim, "But we are only saying what the Israelis says about themselves."
One great locus of Israeli self-haters is its most prestigious daily newspaper, Haaretz. The long list of Israeli self–haters is headed by Gideon Levi and Amira Hass. Their identification with Israel's enemies is total, and they have been known to invent and distort facts, do anything and everything possible, to absolve the Arabs and blame Israel in disputed incidents. Another vicious hater of Israelis is the writer Yitzhak Laor, whose reputation was built in part on a blood-libel poem featuring Israelis baking matzot from Arab children's blood.
But the list is very long indeed and is frequently expressed not only in what is said, but also in its tone. What joy is in the tone of these writers whenever anything goes wrong for Israel. And how eagerly do they rush to proclaim an Israeli defeat and disaster. In fact, one of their favorite tactics is predicting disaster constantly. Their hope is that wishing will make it so.
Recently, a long–time Arafat-booster, Danny Rubinstein, exulted about the Palestinians preparing their victory celebrations when Israel withdraws from Gaza. Any long-time reader of Rubinstein knows how much he longs for Palestinian victories and Israelis defeats. Another very big Israeli self-hater is Meron Benvenisti. He is somewhat unusual, however, as he hates everybody, both of the Right and the Left, and considers himself to be the only one who is ever right about anything. Akiva Eldar, a diplomatic correspondent who for years found peaceful intentions in Hafez Assad and Yasser Arafat, and always blamed Israel for any failure in negotiations, loves to throw around the word "racist" when he refers to Israeli society.
Haaretz is always ready to open its paper to academic Israel self-haters. Ze'ev Sternhall and Baruch Kimmerling frequently tell us why the Israelis are the stupidest, cruelest, most inhumane people in relation to the kind, peace-loving and gentle-souled Palestinian Arabs.
The list is too long, and is being added to continually, especially by those who wish to win favor in certain areas of the academic and journalistic worlds. The real question is why this is so, why there is such hatred, and not merely criticism, harbored by Israelis for other Israelis and for Israel itself.
One answer might be that most of these people, however successful in their own areas, are not really part of the decision-making political elite in Israel. Out of their own frustrated ambitions and powerlessness may come their resentment of others.
Another answer is that these people are 'idealists', who expected perfection from Israel and are deeply disappointed. They may have been raised with pictures of Israel as a light to the nations, and come by their own eyes to see how filled with faults and failings it is. Many have suffered, as I suspect most of us on occasion have, from rudeness, stupidity and inconsiderateness. But they, instead of considering the great stress many are especially subject to here, are unforgiving; instead, they are angry and resentful.
All this, however, does not answer the question of why their resentment and hatred is so deep, why it leads them to so blindly and absolutely support the 'other side' when the other side is clearly, in terms of basic human decency, a very bad lot indeed. It does not answer the question of why, instead of dislike and resentment and criticism of undesirable parts of Israeli society, there is such hatred of it. And it does not answer the question of why, instead of desiring to change the society for the better, they seem to be aiming at the undermining of it.
I do not have a definite answer. But I do know that these people are causing damage to Israel not only within the country, but in the world as a whole. And I strongly believe that they have been a major force in promoting the dramatic increase in the past four years of anti-Semitism in the world. One need only look on the web-sites of the most vicious Arab anti-Semites to see, proudly featured, the bylines of many Haaretz stalwarts.