This is Dr.Gerstenfeld’s article on the Jewish masochist tradition, published today in the Jerusalem Post, and republished at the Tundra Tabloids with the author’s consent. This version has footnotes.
From Abraham to Woody Allen: The Jewish Masochist Tradition
The largest Palestinian party, Hamas, which triumphed in the 2006 democratic elections, openly promotes genocide against Jews. It is explicitly stated in its official charter and repeated from time to time by its leaders. The second largest Palestinian party, Fatah, is only (sic) a racist party. Its leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has declared that no Israelis will live in a future Palestinian state.1 The Palestinian Authority furthermore regularly glorifies murderers of Israelis.2 Compared to those of other Arab states and entities, Palestinian levels of prejudice and criminality are probably somewhere in the middle. Polls indicate that should current elections be held, Hamas leader Haniyeh would easily win against Abbas.3
Despite all of the Palestinians’ criminality, there is a significant number of Israelis who have little or no critique of them. Simultaneously, a certain number of these Israelis prefer to criticize the Israeli leadership for a variety of failures. However legitimate and significant these critiques might be, they pale in comparison to the moral degradation of the Palestinian nation, which voted Islamo-Nazis and glorifiers of murderers of civilians into political power.
This widespread masochist attitude among Israelis has deep roots in Jewish tradition. It begins with the founder of the Jewish people, Abraham. He pleads at length with God about how many righteous citizens of Sodom one would need to find in order that the evil city be saved. However, when God tells him to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, Abraham is willing to fulfill this divine order without any argument. God ultimately saves Isaac – but not because Abraham has asked him to do so.4 That is the plain reading of the Bible text.
Besides this masochistic attitude, there is a second Jewish tradition which might be best described as the Mosaic one. Moses pleads for himself in addition to fighting for his people. When God tells him that he will not enter the Holy Land, Moses argues to convince God otherwise. It is in vain, but at least he tried.5
The Jewish masochistic tradition continues throughout the centuries. A variety of texts of the prophets also fit this approach. A Talmudic text even states it explicitly: “Rabbi Abahu says be always among the persecuted and not among the persecutors. 6
Many Holocaust survivors would take exception to these words, which classically are seen as an expression of wisdom. The Holocaust generation is witness to how many Jewish doctors and humanitarians were murdered, and how many of the most brutal executioners survived and weren’t even brought to justice.
An exegetic text of the Midrashic literature shows a similar attitude as the above Talmudic one: “Abel was the victim of Cain, Abel’s offerings were accepted; Noah was persecuted by his contemporaries, Abraham by Nimrod, Isaac by the early Philistines, Jacob by Esau, Joseph by his brothers, Moses by Pharaoh, David by Saul, and Saul himself by the Philistines; and amongst all these the persecuted and not the persecutors were chosen by God.”7
Similarly, some Jewish prayers have a strong masochistic content, which reaches its pinnacle in the prayers around the High Holidays. One such prayer is, “we have sinned more than any other nation.” Taking into account global events such as the mass murders in the Arab world and in Africa, for instance, or the genocidal calls emerging from parts of Islam, the prayer’s text is surrealistic.
A more extreme form of masochism is self-hate. Theodor Lessing, in pre-war Europe, coined the term as a title for his book.8 A typical example of this self-loathing is evident from the politics of the Jewish prime minister of Austria, Bruno Kreisky. Only a Jew could plead the Austrians partly-free of their huge guilt during the war. His Jewish self-hate was made clear with statements such as, “If the Jews are a people, they are an ugly people.”9
The Jewish masochist tradition also expresses itself in Jewish humor. The English make fun of the Irish, the Germans joke about the Poles and the Dutch laugh about the Belgians. Jews, however, often make jokes at their own expense. This is epitomized by a line from Woody Allen’s film, Annie Hall. Alvy, the filmmaker’s alter ego, says, “I am comparatively normal for a guy raised in Brooklyn.”
In May 2014, the visit of then-president Shimon Peres to Norway yielded a far-going example of Israeli self-abasement. In Norway, anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are rife. A poll showed that 38% of the population consider that Israel behaves like Nazis toward the Palestinians.10 During the visit Peres said, “Norway is the pearl of humanity, built on human values, and seeks to keep people equal and free.”11
This small selection illustrates a deeply rooted tradition which manifests itself to different extents across large parts of the Israeli political spectrum. The appeasers and peace movements who continue to push for further territorial concessions to the Palestinians are unable to learn anything from Ariel Sharon’s disastrous decision to withdraw from Gaza. The masochism does not sit in their genes, however; children are not born masochist but get it from their education.
The masochistic tradition also sits, to a lesser extent, in many other places within Israeli society. Consecutive Israeli governments have not exposed the severity of official Palestinian criminality. Examples of Israeli masochism on this issue abound –and nothing is done about it. It is one of the main reasons why so many enemies of the Jews regularly enjoy a free anti-Semitic lunch.
It is essential that the fight against masochism becomes a central issue in Israeli society. This applies to the appeasers within Israel who choose to look away from the crimes of the enemy, and is equally valid concerning those Jews promoting anti-Israelism abroad.
1 “Abbas: ‘Not a single Israeli’ in future Palestinian state,” The Jerusalem Post, 30 July 2013.
2 “Violence and terror,” Palestinian Media Watch, 2015.
3 “Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No -53,” Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 29 September 2014.
4 Genesis 22
5 Deuteronomium 3, 23-27.
6 T. Bavli, Bava Kama 93a
7 Leviticus Rabba 27
8 Reissued as Theodor Lessing Der jüdische Selbsthaß. (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2004).
9 Robert S. Wistrich, From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012), 496.s
10 “Antisemittisme i Norge? Den norske befolkningens holdninger til joder og andre minoriteter,” Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities, 30 May 2012, www.hlsenteret.no/publikasjoner/antisemittismei-norge. (Norwegian)
11 Lahav Harkov,“Norwegian royal family greets Peres with honor guard, cannons,” The Jerusalem Post, 12 May 2013.