Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Richard Greener vs "The Self-Hating Jew Myth"

Richard Greener is back with a new article, even less well put together than his infamous "settlements" piece a couple of weeks ago. This time, he takes on what the headline refers to as "the myth of the self-hating Jew."

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?
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Update: Here are some comments from the article that I thought were worth sharing.

bamainatlanta
You are neglecting to give place the suicide bombing phenomen in its context, which is asymetrical conflict. If the Palestinians were given billions every year by the U.S., and could acheive military equality with the Israelis, there would be no suicide bombers.
Who really thinks that Israel would be willing to offer land for peace if the Palestinians had not had the tactic of violence to use against Israel? I don't like war, and I think suicide bombings are horrible, for both victims, and perpetrators. But Israel has cultivated the kind of hate in the Arabs that has led to suicide bombing. Hatred for Israelis does not occur in a vaccum.

Ivriniel
Please cite your source for your claim that 50% of the Jews in Israel were driven out of Arab an Muslim countries.
I'm not denying that this happened, I'm saying that you're majorly overestimating the proportion they make of the population of Israel.
Also, I would ask you what prompted those countries to expel large parts of the Jewish populations which had lived in those countries for hundreds, if not thousands of years? If it was all about hating Jews and wanting to steal their property they could have done it at any time, like England or Spain. Why did this do it around the midway mark of the 20th century?
It was a response to the creation of the State of Israel. I'm not going to argue that it was the right response, but given that Israel was engaged in activities like removing all Palestinians from a zone along the Lebanese border, it is somewhat understandable.

bamainatlanta
Actually, most Jews who emigrated from Arab nations, did so as a result of a concerted Zionist campaign to scare them into moving into Israel.
The bigotry toward Israel is actually well deserved. The Pals are not hateful because Israelis are Jews, but because they dispossessed and entire people.

BrotherOrchid
I don't go as far as the Satmar Hasidim's call for an end to the state of Israel, within the 1967 Borders Israel is a member in good standing in the world community. . . . . but outside of those 1967 borders Israel is just another rouge nation.
BrotherOrchid
They can't share?
because Israel is an Apartheid nation
They occupy, they Invade, They Bomb, They do not Share.

mollybeejay
Not only are you self hating, you are delusional and a little confusing.

twigy
A little confusing?? His mob has gone the whole 9yards into delirium.
The very idea that est. European Khazar pagans has a link to the ME that supersedes the rights of the indigenous people is sheer fantasy. That they believe they can uproot the Palestinians and replace them with Israelis is knocking on the door of bat@@it crazy. Israel have been trying to superimpose themselves on the Palestinians for 65years and still they haven't learned 7million Israelis can never overrun 2billion Muslims.

mollybeejay
It's funny how you can quote chapter and verse the things that were done to poor lil Israel, however, you blithely ignore all of the atrocities that Israel has heaped upon their so called enemies. Israel is not the victime you would like to paint them to be.

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