In preparing for a lecture in my honor-shame class, I was thinking about about the nature of the accusation that Israel is like the Nazis. This obviously doesn’t have anything to do with reality. There’s nothing that the Israelis and the Nazis have both done that every other sovereign entity in recorded history has not done. On the contrary, any study of Jenin 2002 will reveal that the Israeli army is, militarily speaking, the opposite of Nazism on a scale of what is humanly possible. To accuse Israel of acting like the Nazis is an act of moral sadism, the worst insult you can hurl at a Jew.
So it’s not about reality, it’s a shouting match… the kind so common to honor-shame cultures, in which verbal provocations, degradations, and violence are paired in the struggle for dominance. Your mother wears army boots writ large.
So what are Jews doing calling fellow Jews Nazis? And doing it publicly, before eager audiences of non-Jews, indeed, anti-Zionists? These Jewish anti-Zionists, people like Norman Finkelstein, who go out of their way to identify as Jewish and then side with the people who are dumping on their people.
They are self-degrading. Such a designation for Jews whom some call self-hating, the alter-Juifs, the scourges, gets at a key element of their behavior. Rather than identify their driving emotion – self-hatred, self-loathing, messianic masochism – this designation gets at their actions, and the framework in which they have meaning.
For an example of a group of Jews who make this self-degradation a matter of urgent principle, see this about a group called Independent Jewish Voices, who insist that anti-Semitism is overblown, and people like Irwin Cotler are just trying to prevent the legitimate criticism of Israel.
Honor Killing and Self-Degrading Jews
When I was preparing my talk for Yale it occurred to me that those whom I then called scourges (Anthony Julius’ term) were engaged in a peculiarly Jewish form of honor-killing. Israel, because of the terrible image that she has in the MSNM, has shamed liberal and progressive Jews, humiliated them in front of their colleagues and friends on the left. The most horrified of these, has adopted the Palestinian narrative – Israel is born in sin and must be destroyed – as a way of killing the member that has shamed the family.
As with Arab honor-killings of daughters, it doesn’t matter whether Israel has actually done the things she’s accused of. (In Jordan, for example, the family kills the daughter suspected of having been in an illicit affair, then the autopsy determines whether she was a virgin. If yes, it stops there; if no, they go after the suspected male lover.) Just the fact that she has such a bad reputation is sufficient to make her worthy of elimination.
Anything to save face.