DAVID SOLWAY: THE JEWISH GENE?
I have long wondered what it is about the Jewish sensibility that is so internally divisive it will often jeopardize the very survival of the Jewish people in a perennially hostile world. What is the psychological factor that generates what often looks like a deeply harbored suicidal impulse, an irremediable tendency to set itself against itself, to consort with anti-Semites and even to collaborate with feral enemies who wish for nothing more than the suppression, ostracism or annihilation of every trace of Judaism in the world?
The long saga from the initial brother-slaying after the Biblical expulsion to the war between the Two Kingdoms to the virulent sectarian tensions over the ages that would result in episodes of mutual excommunication and even bloodshed, as amply chronicled in Yoram Hazony’s The Jewish State, to something like virtual warfare between competing political factions, defeats speculation as it defies belief. That this epic of fratricidal strife occurred, for the most part, to a population living in tenuous exile among peoples and nations that regarded so fractious and vulnerable a community with suspicion and hatred is equally bewildering.
These thoughts were brought home to me once again after AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), the largest and most influential pro-Israeli organization in the U.S., recently gave President Obama a ringing, pre-election endorsement, praising him for his “steadfast” support for Israel. Such approbation is as astonishing as it is dispiriting. For no reasonable person can doubt that Obama is one of the most anti-Zionist presidents ever to sit in the Oval Office. A friend of former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi who makes no secret of his animus against the Jewish state; a 20-year parishioner of the blatantly antisemitic Reverend Jeremiah Wright; a president who clearly favors the Palestinian cause and narrative and has accordingly worked to reduce the Jewish state to its pre-1967 borders; who snubbed and humiliated Israel’s prime minister during a White House visit; who awarded the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu, the first having presided over the Durban I anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli hatefest and the latter damning Israel as an apartheid state; whose administration leaked sensitive information to frustrate Israel’s pre-emptive preparations against the rapidly nuclearizing, genocidal Iranian regime and who refuses to issue clear red lines that Iran’s nuclear advance must not cross; and who has scaled back American participation in joint war games with Israel as it cooperates in military training with Egypt—this is plainly a president who, to put it tactfully, does not love Israel. This is a president who claims he “has Israel’s back” but has done everything he can to stab Israel in the very back he affects to defend. This is the president to whom AIPAC extends its “heartfelt appreciation.”
Such a manifestation of cognitive dissonance would appear unassimilable until one remembers that the Jewish people have always been susceptible to the twin demons of willed ignorance and self-delusion. Scriptural and historical examples are so abundant that massive tomes are required to record them. Closer to our own time, a majority of German Jews refused to recognize the imminent and unmistakable signs of their extinction. The Russian Yevsektsiya (or Zidokomuna) rejected their heritage, throwing in their lot with the Bolshevik revolution in which religious distinctions would be abolished, and reaped the bitter harvest. Factotum Jews have abounded in every problematic national circumstance. Even Israel itself is riven by an insidious left wing constituency that would effectively surrender the country to its enemies. Israel’s emblematic bird is the hoopoe, but when one considers much of its intellectual and celebrity elite, its academic caste and its subversive, foreign-funded NGOs, one might substitute the ostrich.
Today in the U.S., considerably more than half of American Jews are proud of their “liberal” and “Democratic” commitments and will vote for a president who is indisputably inimical to the interests and welfare of the Jewish state and who is conversely sympathetic to the interests and welfare of Muslim institutions at home and Islamist regimes abroad. In the words of Mark Tapson, “we have a president whose sympathies lie with the Muslim fundamentalists seeking to tear down America and the West.”
A conspicuous case in point is provided by the example of Alan Dershowitz, a brilliant lawyer and polemicist who has written eloquently and forcefully in defense of Israel (though not the “settlements”), but is simultaneously an ardent supporter of Barack Obama. Such radical discordance seems inexplicable—until one remembers who we Jews are. And as Andrew Klavan remarks, “Smart Jews know that Israel is important not just for their own survival but for the freedom of the world…Jews who vote for Barack Obama are dumb Jews.”
Not long ago I found myself in earnest discussion of these issues with the host of a Jewish convention where I was scheduled to deliver the keynote address. My host, a man of stalwart convictions, a student of Jewish history and a passionate champion of Israel, was no less perplexed than I by the phenomenon of Jewish tergiversation and self-betrayal. He had pondered this enigma for most of his adult life and could arrive at only one conclusion, namely, that there was something amiss in its genetic pool that pre-disposed the Jewish people to self-destructive behavior. He could see no other explanation apart from a toxic flaw in the “Jewish gene” to account for so irrational and perpetual a disposition to amnesia, ignorance, self-deception, and communal rupture and dismemberment. I must admit that his analysis, at least initially, seemed to me rather farfetched, but on further reflection I had to admit that he had a point. For the lessons of history, as they apply to a comparatively small and always beleaguered ethnicity which its enemies tend to regard as homogeneous, proliferate from generation to generation and cannot be dismissed except by kind of constitutional incapacity to see things as they are.
Whether this incapacity can be explained, as my host grew convinced, by a kind of genetic defectiveness, or, say, as a tendency acquired by the evolutionary experience of submissiveness, or as a common human frailty historically condensed in the activities and thought-patterns of a small but distinctive human community, must remain moot. But there can be little doubt that it exists and that it threatens to lead, despite temporary periods of abatement, to continual dislocation and suffering.
As a Jew, I must confess that I do not know what to make of my own people. Studies show that this tiny cohort is disproportionately ranked among the most innovative and accomplished people on the planet. At the same time, given its proneness to what I can only call cognicide, I cannot help but regard ourselves, by and large, as possibly the most stupid people on the face of the earth.
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