“Self-Hating Jews”

By Thomas Kochman - 04.24.2010

The term and expression “self-hating Jew” is generally used to identify Jews –especially American Jews—who, as Richard Greener notes, do not fall lock-in-step with or unconditionally support the policies and practices of Israel’s government especially those of the right wing Likud party.

Yet when I think of “self-hating Jews”, it’s more psychologically and culturally in sync with the pariah status of Jews which in various twists and turns over the centuries, translates into Jews themselves not only expecting, but ultimately, anticipating, inviting and feeding on the hate and aggression that others direct at them.

This pattern of directing the aggression of others against oneself in ways that “combine both sadistic attack and masochistic indulgence” is characteristic of Jewish humor, as seen in the movie Borat –where public decency and decorum is routinely and outrageously flouted—and in its most recent incarnation, the films of Ben Stiller.

What’s funny in jokes and films however, is not funny when flagrant behavior threatens to destroy our global financial structure, or influences the way nation states like Israel behave not only towards its enemies—by reacting excessively to any and all provocations—but also towards its allies and friends, such as proclaiming new settlements in East Jerusalem at the time of Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, putting Israel once again, at the seat and center of public controversy and rekindling the Jewish/Israeli image of world pariah and difficult partner.

Driving and promoting much of this attitude toward the world of course is an all pervasive Jewish/Israeli feeling of insecurity.

As Roger Cohen notes that, “It’s not easy to parse fact from fiction, justifiable anxiety from self-serving angst, in this pervasive Israeli narrative.”

The problem with “unyielding angst”, however, like that of seeing oneself as a “victim”, is that it gets in the way of rational thinking. Read more »