I suppose before I begin talking about the article I should start by taking about what exactly the concept of "self-hating Jew" means, as it is not a term that has an obvious meaning. Simply put, the term "self-hating Jew" means a Jew who holds anti-Semitic beliefs. That doesn't mean that the person in question literally hates himself, after all, many so-called "self-hating Jews" don't think of themselves as Jews at all. As for whether or not Jews can hold anti-Semitic beliefs, it is perfectly possible in theory. MJ Rosenberg seems to be a big fan of conspiracy theories, including that Jews (right-wing ones, of course) control the media and that American Jews' real loyalty is to Israel. And the user lbsaltzman has made many comments that fit the definition of anti-Semitism. In both cases, it is unlikely that these people are in fact anti-Semitic or "self-hating Jews," in fact they probably aren't aware that what they are saying is crossing the line into hate speech. But as I have said before, determination is made by what people say, not by what people are. As for whether or not "self-hating Jews" exist, I am not so sure. Prager and Telushkin use the term "non-Jewish Jews." I personally think that there are simply Jews who believe that certain anti-Semitic myths and beliefs are true. How this impacts their views of themselves, I couldn't say.
Of course, this phenomenon doesn't simply exist among Jews. The term "Uncle Tom" to describe black people who choose "white culture" over their own has been around for centuries, and eventually led to the term "black shame." "Chicano vendido" has also appeared for Mexicans. To take an example from pop culture, the character of Uncle Rufus from "The Boondocks" is a good (though fictional) example of a self-hating black man. The fact is that there are a lot of anti-Semitic and racist beliefs and stereotypes out there, and Jews can fall for them the same way non-Jews can. Nobody questions that the phenomena of self-hating people of color is real. Why is it then when it comes to Jews that this suddenly becomes a "myth?" Mr. Greener attempts to explain further, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it doesn't pan out.
In his attempt to "bust the myth" of the self-hating Jew, Mr. Greener does not live up to what his headline claims. In his article, he does not attempt to deduce whether or not "self-hating Jews" actually exist. Oh no. If he had, it might have been a really interesting article. Instead, he simply makes a parallel claim: That Jews use the term "self-hating Jew" to silence all (or most) criticism of Israel and his policies. He even gets his facts wrong from the very first paragraph:
" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to have made just this accusation against two of the highest-ranking members of President Obama's White House staff. The mythical part, of course, is the precept that any Jew -- especially an American Jew -- who does not unconditionally support the government of Israel is ipso facto a "self-hater."First of all, Mr. Greener heard an unsubstantiated report, the equivalent of a rumor, and decided to go to town with this article anywhere. Second, as one of the commentators in the thread pointed out, it turned out to be Netanyahu's brother who made the comment, not the Prime Minister himself. Mr. Greener has neither changed his article nor his thesis since the comment was posted.
Greener goes on to repeat himself even more forcefully:
"The "self-hating Jew" becomes a powerful and effective symbol. Israel seeks to make it the equivalent of the Scarlet Letter no Jew wants to wear. Its detrimental force has kept many American Jews from expressing their reservations about Israel, particularly its recent policies and actions."Second, and more interestingly, is Greener's claim that the mythical part is that "any Jew" who doesn't support everything Israel does is labeled a "self-hating Jew." Greener doesn't deny that self-hating Jews might actually exist. Again, the headline is incredibly misleading, and Greener is still wrong. The only people who think that every Jewish critic of Israel's policy is silenced in this way are those who are usually critics of Israel. Those who have a balanced view of the subject, like Bradley Burston, understand that there are those who criticize Israel, those who are self-haters, and those who overuse the term "self-hating Jew." And for the purposes of this argument, let's take the "accusers" to mean people who's opinions actually matter, like the Prime Minister of Israel or Alan Dershowitz. If you search through the internet long enough you'll probably find endless labels of "self-hating Jew," but I don't think that's what Mr. Greener is referring to.
That being said, I am willing to hear Greener's argument. He thinks that the term "self-hating" Jew is used against every critic of Israel's policies. Fine. I personally don't agree, I think it's an extreme exaggeration at best, but let's continue with the article and hear what he has to say.
What he has to say, however, is an anecdote by Phil Ross who says basically the same thing Greener did. He tells a story we have heard a million times before: First Ross liked Israel, then he didn't, and now he's a very strong critic of Israel's policies. Okay, that's fine. The trouble is that he really doesn't talk about self-hating Jews at all. The term is not mentioned even once. Greener holds Ross up as a Jew who criticizes Israel and then finishes his article by saying:
"I know that Phil Ross is a good man, a loyal American, and a good Jew. He's no "self-hater."What? That's your big argument, Mr. Greener? Of course Mr. Ross isn't a self-hater, he never said anything anti-Semitic either, but how does that prove your original thesis: That all Jews who criticize Israel about anything are slandered with his term? Wasn't that the whole point of your article, was to "debunk the myth?" Was Phil Ross ever accused of being a self-hating Jew? He certainly didn't mention it if that were the case. Did you perhaps forget what your article was supposed to be about halfway through writing it?
So to conclude: We have an article with two stated goals: The headline implies that Greener is going to prove that "self-hating Jews" don't actually exist. Well, he doesn't do that, but that might be a Huffington Post editorial problem. Second, Greener himself makes the statement that, "any Jew...who does not unconditionally support the government of Israel is ipso facto a "self-hater." But he does not even attempt to back up this claim. He just makes the statement and expects us all to believe him unquestioningly. Is this the kind of journalism that we can expect among the bloggers on the Huffington Post?
Update: Here are some comments from the article that I thought were worth sharing.