The Moment of Truth — July 22, 2006

The Self-Hating Jew Libel

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the really good cole slaw that comes free on the side—and not in one of those dinky little dental-rinse cups either, but in a generous portion.

I am today going, for the first and, I hope, last time, to address the “self-hating Jew libel.” Many of you, not being Jewish, have not had to deal with the insipid, classist, racist, xenophobic calumny that is the self-hating Jew libel. The self-hating Jew libel is generally made by supporters of all military actions taken by Israel regardless of how inhumane, provocative, self-defeating, out of proportion, or frickin’ stupid. These blindly loyal supporters of Israeli military force use the self-hating Jew libel to explain why some Jews don’t support Israel’s inhumane, provocative, self-defeating, out of proportion, and frickin’ stupid military escapades. It’s an ad hominum argument. And it relies on anti-Jewish stereotypes to impute a pre-diagramed psychology upon someone of whom the libeler has no understanding. It offers nothing of substance except to accuse the Jewish critic of Israel of secretly hating the swarthy, pushy, hairy, greedy, monkey-like Shylocks of his own fantasies and projecting that anti-Semitic image inward. He knows he’s a Jew, just like all the pushy, garlicky, stroemel-sporting heebs the goyim hate, and out of fear of confronting his own exile from goyishe acceptability, he has come to hate the greasy matzo-ball-eating foreskin-cutting hook-nosed diamond merchant that is himself.

For the purposes of this essay, I am going to give a name to the Jews who use the libel to attack Jewish critics of Israel. I am going to call them the Suicidebaums. I call them this because I believe it will offend them, and because I think the use of the self-hating Jew libel is a form of cultural suicide. But that, my friends, Jew and Gentile alike, is an ad hominum argument in no way bearing on my sadness and disgust at the Israeli destruction of Lebanese people and society that has gone on for the past couple of weeks.

The reasons I’m sad and disgusted with Israel’s continued attack on the Lebanese are manifold. That means, for you Suicidebaums out there, that there are many of them. First, I have a personal connection with people there through a musician friend of mine who visited Lebanon as recently as three or so weeks ago. Before he left Chicago, he and I ate goat together at a Mexican restaurant on the south side, and when he got back I ran into him at a bar on the north side. Both times I got a thrilling sense that Lebanon was pushing toward a political and social breakthrough that would have given its exciting culture even greater opportunity to enrich the rest of the world. Like most cultures, Lebanon’s is far more complex and advanced than its dominant social and political institutions might lead the casual observer to believe. However, even a casual observer with any sensitivity has an instant sense of the country’s unique cultural and historic qualities. Eat at a Lebanese restaurant. Read Omar Shariff’s bridge column. Then talk to me about Lebanon.

Or go to, keeping in mind the guy is blogging while explosions are going on all around him.

I also believe the political developments in Lebanon during recent months were good for Israel and the USA and people of goodwill in general, because there was a vital discussion going on via public reasoning, a discussion about the destiny of the nation and its independence from external manipulation by Syria, in particular, and from Iran and Syria’s manipulation of Hezbollah. The disarming of Hezbollah was on the table. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese had poured into the streets of Beirut to demand an end to political meddling by Syria. It seemed a moment for Lebanon just short of analogous to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Here was a country recovered from decades of war, recovered enough to use its own political system to stand up for its own freedom from tyranny.

Nothing, by the way, could have been worse for Hezbollah than such a state of affairs.

And it was to thwart such a state of affairs that Hezbollah provoked Israel’s attack. Which is another reason the current bloodshed disgusts me, because Israel’s bombing of Lebanon in response has probably given Hezbollah exactly what they want—a justification for their existence and a social chaos in which civil discourse cannot possibly disarm them. If a miracle happens and somehow every violent, ambitiously sick murderous opportunist in Hezbollah is destroyed during the general destruction, Syria and Iran will still have won a military victory without having shed a drop of their own blood. Lebanon’s struggle to reclaim itself through its own civic processes has been set back decades, and that is neither a good thing for democracy in the Middle East, nor is it for Israel.

Which leads me to another important reason I oppose Israel’s mega-violence in Lebanon: it is counterproductive. It is an ineffective policy. It is the opposite of a good geopolitical military strategy. Why people who support the action don’t see this, I’m not sure. I think it may be because they think only in binary terms of Israel being attacked and Israel defending itself, not of the more complex nature of efficacy, let alone the overall destiny of the human project of civilization and how helping guide such a project onto a positive trajectory is good for everyone—including Israel.

I repeat: if Israel wants to make Lebanon a good neighbor, inhospitable to terrorists, it is doing the exact opposite of what needs to be done. I understand Israel has the right to defend itself. I just don’t think destroying the infrastructure of social peace in Lebanon is a way to defend Israel. It’s a good way to screw it up.

I’d like to say, being a US Jew, but having been to Israel and engaged in bitter discussions with Israeli career military folk who are as crazy as can be, that the Israeli government and the IDF don’t represent the world’s Jews anymore than Hezbollah represents Lebanon. In fact, they don’t even represent a majority of Jews in Israel. Well, at least I hope not. All right, maybe that’s a little over-optimistic. They certainly don’t represent me, and I’m angry that they think they’re doing Jews all over the world some kind of big fat favor with their insane overkill response to Hezbollah’s idiotic and evil provocation.

And to call me a self-hating Jew because I make the above argument is ignorant, hypocritical, grotesque, obscene, and simply infuriating. Please allow me a moment to say that the self-hating Jew libelers, those Suicidebaums, are the ones actually supporting a policy and course of action that is destructive both to Jews and to Israel. I could stoop to their level and say, it must be because they hate themselves that they support such stupidity. I won’t. But my inclination—call it the Evil Inclination if you must—is to say to these Suicidebaums: lech lim sotz, kish mirn tuchas, y chupa mes huevos, bitches.

On top of the tragedy of arresting Lebanon’s social progress and demolishing its economy and citizens, and on top of the loss of Israeli lives taken by Hezbollah, there’s, for me, the sadness of hearing that Tsfat (or Safed as it’s called in the newspapers for some reason) in Israel was hit, albeit mildly compared to southern Lebanon. I visited Tsfat about twenty-five years ago, and it really struck me. In the late Middle Ages it was a gathering place for kabbalists. The city is a treasure of spiritually charged landmarks. I remember going into a small synagogue, over 400 years old, just a kind of dome of white plaster and stone inlaid inside with blue and white ceramic shards and glass, and the sun coming in from a skylight overhead. The kabbalists had always seemed kind of dark and gloomy to me, with their fasting long into the night gazing at candles until letters and numbers began to dance in the darkness, and here I got an entirely new sense of their esthetic, a Sephardic esthetic, a Spanish influence, an Andalusian, Islamic influence, and the influence of Air and of Light, which, after all, emanates ultimately from the palace of the Supernal Being—it was an amazing feeling that has been re-awakened in my memory by the recent exchange of atrocities.

I’m perfectly at home as a Jew. I am filled with light as a Jew. And I sure as hell don’t need some violent, shortsighted, bigoted punks telling me how to think about myself and what a great job they’re doing for me and how I should appreciate it. I don’t need it in Iraq, and I don’t need it in Lebanon. If your actions are so indefensible they can’t be supported on their merits but must be cloaked behind a reflexive, substanceless libel, well… there’s a word for people like you. There are a lot of words for people like you. But I’m too much of a gentleman to list them here.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!