In my regular column in Haaretz, my new article: “Our Own Worst Enemies“
Jews-turned-anti-Semites reject not only their heritage, but primarily their task to bring the method of connection for the entire world.
After a prolonged silence regarding the JCCs bomb threats, the FBI released the stunning news that the majority of threats had a single perpetrator and that the felon was not an alt-right zealot or a Muslim extremist, but a 19-year-old Israeli-American from Ashkelon, a small town in southern Israel. Indeed, the self-hatred of Jews seems to be an undying fountain of sinister ingenuity.
Another example of self-hatred is the Jewish involvement with the BDS movement. Today, the UN is finally recognizing the anti-Semitic nature of BDS and is holding an anti-BDS conference at the UN General Assembly Hall. But while the state of Israel and various Jewish organizations have finally mustered enough international support to fight the BDS, many Jews and former Israelis are among the leaders of the movement, and several Jewish organizations support it, such as J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Jews for Justice for Palestine.
Jewish self-hatred did not begin with the BDS. Nor did it begin with George Soros or Noam Chomsky. Throughout our history, we have had to face internal disputes that often erupted into full-blown wars. The rebellion of the Maccabees, circa 160 BC, was first and foremost against Hellenized Jews rather than the Seleucid Empire. Likewise, the commander of the Roman armies that conquered Jerusalem and exiled the Jews was Tiberius Julius Alexander, an Alexandrian Jew whose own father had donated the gold and silver for the Temple gates that Alexander shattered. In fact, prior to the ruin of Jerusalem, Julius Alexander obliterated his own Jewish community of Alexandria, causing “the whole district [to be] deluged with blood as 50,000 corpses were heaped up,” according to Jewish-Roman historian Titus Flavius Josephus. Similarly, during the Spanish Inquisition, the chief inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada was of recent Jewish descent, but that did not abate his zeal in expelling and killing the Jews. And just this past century, the Association of German National Jews supported and voted for Hitler and the Nazi Party.
History is replete with examples of Jews who hated their people so vehemently that they dedicated their entire lives to its destruction. If there is any hatred more enigmatic than anti-Semitism, it is Jewish anti-Semitism.
Who Are You People of Israel
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article in The New York Times titled “Who Are You People of Israel” that talked about the unique origin of the Jewish people and the reason for anti-Semitism. The responses I received from readers made me write a more elaborate essay titled “Why Do People Hate Jews,” which I turned into a mini-Internet site that also contains a free copy of my book, Like a Bundle of Reeds: Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour. Under the constraints of a newspaper column, I can only offer a brief explanation, so you are welcome to follow any of the above links.
If we search for a specific origin for the Jews, we will not find one. Our nation is based on an idea, not on familial kinship or ethnic or biological affinity. The “progenitor” of the Jewish nation was Abraham, which is why we refer to him as “Abraham Our Father.” The book Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 24) says that Abraham was very concerned about the Babylonians among whom he lived. He saw them growing increasingly hostile toward each other and wondered why this was happening.
As he was reflecting on the predicament, writes Maimonides in Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1), he realized that in all of nature there is perfect balance between good and bad, connection and separation, and strength and weakness. Everything in nature is balanced by its opposite. At the same time, he noticed that human nature, unlike the rest of nature, is completely off balance. Among humans, the bad reigns high. The hatred of Abraham’s countryfolk for each other revealed to him the truth about human nature: “The inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21).
Abraham realized that if people did not replicate nature’s balance of their own volition, they would destroy themselves and their society would collapse. He began to speak of his idea to anyone who would listen and started gathering substantial following. Regrettably, as we know from Maimonides, Midrash Rabah, and other sources, Nimrod, King of Babylon, was not happy with Abraham’s success and chased him out of Babylon.
As the expat wandered toward what became the land of Israel, he kept speaking of his idea that human society must cultivate unity and brotherhood as an antidote to human egoism and hatred. Over time, Abraham garnered thousands and even tens of thousands of followers, whom he and his disciples indoctrinated with a method of connection that had one simple principle: When hatred erupts, cover it with love. Centuries later, King Solomon summarized it with the verse: “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes” (Prov 10:12).
Despite their efforts to unite, Abraham’s disciples were not regarded as a nation until they achieved a profound level of unity and solidarity. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, they pledged to be “as one man with one heart.” Then, and only then, were they officially declared a nation. At that same time they were also given the task to spread their method of connection to the world, or as the Torah states, to be “a light unto nations.”
Over the generations, the Jewish people developed their connection method and adapted it to the changing needs of each generation. During Moses’ time, the simple principle that Abraham had taught was not enough to lead an entire nation on a path of unity above hatred, so Moses gave them the Torah. But the principle of covering hate with love remained the same. When a man came to Old Hillel and asked him to teach him the Torah, he simply said, “That which you hate, do not do unto your neighbor; this is the whole of the Torah” (Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Shabbat, 31a).
For all their efforts, the hatred and egoism among Jews was (and is) growing just as it does in all other nations. As factions of the Jewish people became too self-centered to maintain Hillel’s principle, they departed from the Jewish people and either assimilated or developed less demanding forms of Judaism, which catered to their growing self-absorption. These factions eventually disappeared among the nations.
However, sometimes, such as with the Hellenists, these rogue factions became staunch enemies of Judaism. Ka’ab al-Aḥbār, for example, was not only Jewish, but a prominent rabbi from Yemen who converted to Islam and became an important figure in establishing the Sunni denomination. Ka’ab accompanied Khalif Umar in his voyage to Jerusalem. When Umar asked him where he thought the khalif should build a place of worship, Ka’ab pointed to the Temple Mount. This is why today the Dome of the Rock is located where the Second Temple stood before.
In resenting their origins, Jews-turned-anti-Semites are rejecting not only their heritage, but first and foremost their role as the bearers of the method of connection for the entire world.
Yet, like it or not, the Jews are treated as different despite their endless efforts to blend, mingle, and assimilate into the local culture. Just recently, Dr. Andreas Zick of Bielefeld University in Germany revealed that anti-Semitism is still extremely commonplace in Germany. Moreover, Dr. Zick attributes this to the Jews “not being viewed as an integral part of society, but rather as foreigners.”
We will be regarded as foreigners until we acknowledge that we were formed through unity and that our vocation is to share the method for achieving unity above hatred with the world. All of our sources state that the Temple that the convert Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār turned into a mosque was ruined by our hatred of each other and that this is why we were exiled and dispersed. We will continue to be pariahs until we restore our mutual responsibility, our sense of unity, and love of others. When we do this, we will be welcome everywhere. The most notorious anti-Semite in American history, Henry Ford, expressed that specific demand in his book The International Jew—the World’s Foremost Problem: “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.”
Clearing Out Hatred
During this time of the year, when families are getting together to celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom, we should remember that the one slavery we have yet to cast away is our own hatred of our brethren to the tribe. The hametz [leaven] is our unfounded hatred, and removing it, even if just for a week-long holiday, will be the greatest ever cleanup operation of our lives. It will also be the greatest service we can do for ourselves, our nation, and the world.
Being “a light unto nations” means setting an example of unity and brotherhood. With our current hatred, we are setting the opposite example. Biur hametz [clearing out the leaven] symbolizes the clearing up of our hearts from hatred and preparing them for unity and the establishment of our nation. This is why in the Torah, Passover comes before the reception of the Torah, which as we said is “love your neighbor as yourself,” and which began our peoplehood.
At a time of conflict and alienation, let us be true Jews—united in love that covers all crimes, and bonded in brotherhood and mutual responsibility.
Happy and kosher (hatred-free) Passover.