Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli jazz musician, defines himself as anti-Jewish and sees the torching of synagogues as a rational move. Prof. Israel Shahak, a chemist from the Hebrew University, once justified the Khmelnytsky Pogrom, in which tens of thousands of Jews were massacred.
This is not baseless hatred, it's self-hatred.
The Beit Avi Chai cultural center is holding a symposium for Tisha B'Av on Tuesday, which will include films and discussions on the different aspects of hatred in the Israeli society – such as hatred among children, political hatred and self-hatred.
The session dealing with self-hatred will include the screening of segments from "The Believer", a film based on the true story of an American Jew who was a member of a neo-Nazi movement. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Prof. Robert Wistrich, head of the Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, and journalist Merav Michaeli.
'The Believer' trailer. Unbelievable hatred
"Self-hatred can be the Jewish version of anti-Semitism," explains Prof. Wistrich. "Jews lived in the Diaspora for nearly 2,000 years, and some still live there, surrounded by people who were raised on cultures which are unfriendly to the Jewish minority.
"Their self-hatred is an internalization of dominant stereotypes. This hatred is expressed in different ways – there are Jews who deny their Jewishness, who'll conceal their identity and change their name. There's a classic response, which was very common until recently, and that's conversion – mainly to Christianity. In quite a few cases, the converts excel in their hatred toward Judaism and even lead anti-Jewish campaigns. It happened in the past and exists in modern times too.
"The first blood libel was published in the Middle Ages in England, by a priest who received the information from a Jewish convert.
"At the start of the reformation in Germany, in the 16th century, there was a Jewish convert who published one of the most anti-Jewish books in the history of Germany, in which he accused the Jews of sucking Christians' blood through a usurious rate of interest, and said that Jewish doctors poisoned their patients' blood and were the source of all evil. This phenomenon exists today just like it existed in the past."
But self-hatred exists not just in the Diaspora, but in Israel too. "This phenomenon is not as big here, but it exists. We are talking about a minority, usually intellectuals and academics. By the way, it hardly exists in any other country, and it’s a direct continuation of the pathological phenomenon of Jewish self-hatred.
"These are people who are not really interested in the majority in the State, and whose reference group is the world and the desire to be accepted by their colleagues abroad. If you want to make progress and be invited to conference abroad, you have a better chance if you slander and strongly criticize your country.
"I'm not talking about those who criticize a policy, but about those who are willing to deny its right to exist and who work to cause as much damage as possible. Those who openly call for a boycott against the State and for a boycott of its universities, defining the State of Israel as a racist state and comparing it to Nazism.
"They openly seek to completely de-legitimize and dissolve the State of Israel, and that requires a great amount of hatred."
Variations of hatred
Michaeli looks for the variations in the Israeli society. "You sometimes see it in Mizrahi people's attitude toward themselves," she says. "My friend, journalist Gal Gabai, told me that when she saw the residents of Tel Aviv southern neighborhoods protesting against foreign workers, she saw the Mizrahim – who were once subject to racism – demonstrating racism.
"That's what happens when one is surrounded by racism and internalizes this outlook. I think we reenact what we have been instilled with as children by our close environment. If we were loved, we'll be loving people, and if we experienced hatred – we'll hate.
"It stands out in the case of women too. We live in a patriarchal and hierarchal society, headed by the white man, who creates mechanisms reproducing racist models. When you're an adult and have the ability to make wise decisions, the responsibility for this conduct moves on to you."
Michaeli believes that self-hatred is also a control means. "The oppressed have been fighting it for years," she says. "In some cases this struggle has been successful – slavery was canceled, the apartheid regime collapsed, women have the right to vote. I believe changes can still be made, we just have to insist and work for it."
What are the reasons for self-hatred?
"We don't have any accurate research about it," Prof. Wistrich replies, "but in the case of Jewish anti-Semitism, I often see family difficulties in the background, like hatred toward a Jewish father who portrays the Jewish traits.
"Sometimes it's ambivalent and mixes feelings of hatred and admiration, feelings of inferiority, a shaken Jewish identity, environmental pressure and a desire to make progress.
"I dare say that Jewish hatred of Israel has been accompanying the Jewish people throughout the generations, and this is the exact message of Tisha B'Av. The Second Temple was destroyed because of the hatred of one group of Jews toward another group of Jews. Then they had zealots and ascetics; today we have other types."
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