Haters and Self-Haters

Eloquent and courageous, Edward Alexander takes the theme of anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism and transforms a mere topical debate into profound reflections on the meanings of self-hatred and bigotry; on Jews' hatred of themselves and on Gentile anti-Semitism in its most contemporary version. These occasional essays, written in the specific context of immediate controversies, transcend their occasions as Alexander pursues a single theme through diverse variations.

Jewish self-hatred is the more surprising subject, since, as a topic of public exposition, Jews' intense dislike of their own Jewishness, and the psychological and cultural consequences of that dislike, have found only a few important expositors. One was Theodore Lessing, the Czech Zionist murdered by the Nazis, who in 1930 invented the term "Jewish self-hatred" and defined its pathology; the other, Kurt Lewin, whose writings on "leaders from the periphery" and other aspects of ethnic self-hatred, in the late 1940's, proved prescient for the next half-century of American Jewish life. Now Alexander has shown how the relationship of American Jews to Israel—involving demands that Israel display a degree of self-abnegation unparalleled by any other nation—and Israeli Jewish self-hatred have shaped debate on Israeli policy.

He writes in the aftermath of the Arabs' remarkable propaganda victory in the Intifada, which dramatically...

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