Alex Massie

Obama, Likud & Self-Loathing Jews

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Occasionally you hear or see or read people complaining that Barack Obama's administration is openly hostile towards Israel and Israeli interests. The purported evidence for this attitude has never persuaded me, but perhaps I'm wrong to be quite so stubborn. Matters become even odder, however, when that criticism is extended to all of liberal American jewry when any disagreement with Likud is characterised as a betrayal of Israel that can only be explained by Jewish self-loathing.

So, at the risk of arguing from some authority, let me point you towards Leon Wieseltier's latest piece in the New Republic. Wieseltier disagrees with quite a bit of Obama's middle eastern policies, but, well, read for yourselves...

On August 4, Haaretz reported that Benjamin Netanyahu called Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod self-hating Jews. A spokesman for the prime minister later denied this, but I have heard from Israeli friends that this conspiratorial explanation is quite popular in the prime minister's office. I have no reason to believe otherwise. The accusation of ethnic infidelity is an old feature of the political culture of the Likud. The defenders of Greater Israel have values, but the critics of Greater Israel have motives. Perhaps the nether regions of the Israeli right will soon follow the nether regions of the American right, and alongside the birthers we will have the brissers: I mean, any man who opposes Jewish settlement in the West Bank must have a foreskin. It is important to understand that for the paranoid mentality that regards disagreement as betrayal, all of Emanuel's Israeliness--his name, his Irgun father, his Hebrew, his service in an Israeli army program for civilians during the Gulf War--makes him more, not less, untrustworthy. There is a long and dark history, after all, of apostates and informers who came from within the community. Sometimes their defection was a matter of principle, a conversion, which was complicating, since a change of mind, when it is has intellectual integrity, has to be respected even when it has to be despised; but usually it was understood as a craven act of ingratiation, a hunger for power. When I was a student I believed this about Henry Kissinger, and stood with other students in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to denounce him as a moser for his shuttle diplomacy. (I admit it. I am a recovering Jewish fascist.) Jewish self-hatred is another term for Jewish anti-Semitism, for the internalization of the standpoint of the enemy; and this is a genuinely grave charge. Jews who fling it about for political ends are desperate and disgraceful. And they are some of the same people who are outraged when right-wing African Americans are smeared as Uncle Toms.

So I wish to attest--I have placed my hand on my copy of The Zionist Idea--that Rahm Emanuel is not a self-hating Jew. I know this. I have never met David Axelrod, but I am aware of no grounds for the suspicion that he has committed "race treason." (I take that charming phrase, which sounds like it was translated from Treitschke, from David Mamet's thuggish book The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews. Mamet is another one of the Most Jewish Jews of All.) Differing with Benjamin Netanyahu does not yet make you a bad Jew. If Emanuel is a self-hating Jew because he believes that Israeli settlement in the West Bank should finally cease, then I, too, am a self-hating Jew. Perhaps you will agree, friends, that this is not very plausible. Agreed. This is indeed not very plausible. To reiterate: Differing with Benjamin Netanyahu does not yet make you a bad Jew. Nor, for that matter, does it make you an anti-Semitic gentile. Once that is established, who knows, there may be a chance of discussing these matters rationally...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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