In an earlier piece on my own blog, Israel Thrives, I discussed the sad phenomenon of contemporary Jewish “dhimmitude,” or what is sometimes called Jewish Stockholm Syndrome. This is what psychologist Kenneth Levin discusses in his groundbreaking work, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.

Levin writes:

Almost invariably there are parts of the population that accept the indictments of the besiegers in the hope that they can win relief and peace. This is a psychological response to being besieged, and Jews have been besieged for 2000 years. As Max Nordau wrote over a hundred years ago, the greatest success of the anti-Semites was that they had gotten the Jews to see themselves through anti-Semitic eyes.

In the comments, some have made it clear that they find references to Jewish dhimmitude to be offensive and not reflective of anything that resembles reality. It has been suggested that the tradition of Islamic dhimmitude is not operative in the west, or in Israel, and therefore it is neither fair, nor correct, to use that term in regards Jewish people today, whether Israeli or diaspora.

I disagree.

Jewish dhimmitude is alive and well and takes the form of Jews who have incorporated elements of the “Palestinian narrative” into their
understanding of the long Arab war against us. “Dhimmi” as we use that word in its contemporary context does not only mean a non-Muslim  “Person of the Book” with “protected” and inferior status within a Muslim culture, but someone who has incorporated the viewpoints of one’s traditional persecutors into the way one views one’s own people. If as a Jewish person you honestly tend to think that the Jews are primarily responsible for Arab hostility toward us then you represent a measure of Jewish dhimmitude.

Most Jews, I suspect, have it in some degree.  I certainly did and probably still do, to some extent.  For many years I was entirely convinced that the reason that Palestinians sometimes strapped bombs onto Palestinian youngsters, for the purpose of murdering as many Jews as possible, was because I believed in much of the Palestinian-Arab narrative of never-ending Israeli guilt.  As a liberal American Jewish guy raised in the wake of the Vietnam War my automatic sympathies went with “persecuted people of color.”  I always felt a strong sympathy for Israel, but I also thought that Israel was largely guilty in the conflict.

Boy, was I wrong.

The fact of the matter is that Jews suffered under the boot of Islamic imperialism for 13 centuries as second and third-class citizens in the Arab Middle East, true dhimmis.  Although dhimmitude varied according to time and place it was never better than was the American Jim Crow South for black people in the early twentieth-century, and usually considerably worse.  We were often not allowed to ride horses or build new synagogues or to bathe in public baths.  For thirteen centuries we had no recourse to courts and no means of self-defense against an overwhelming majority population that held us in contempt on religious grounds.  When we finally freed ourselves, with a little help from World War I, the majority Arab population launched a war against the Jews of the Middle East which continues to this day.

And, yet, Jewish dhimmis feel guilty.

I am sorry, but I do not. When I am in Israel and I see and hear the Hebrew language wherever I go, I feel pride. And when I am in Israel and I see so many young Jewish men and women in uniform and carrying around rifles, I feel anger. I feel anger that we Jews must continue to protect ourselves from a hostile world and I feel anger at the fact that so much of the international left, and it is mainly the left, believes that Israelis are the aggressor when history clearly demonstrates that this is not the case.

And I feel terrific sadness that so many Jewish “progressives” honestly think that the conflict is primarily Israel’s fault and that if only you guys, you Jewish Israelis, would do this, that, or the other, then the local Arabs would finally agree to a country for themselves in peace next to the Jewish one. History has shown us very clearly that this is simply not the case. The Arabs turned down a state for themselves in peace next to Israel with their rejection of the Peel Commission of 1937. Then they rejected UN 181 in November of ’47. {You know the litany, for chrissake.} The famous “3 Nos” of ’67. Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s offer in 2000 and dictator Abbas’s rejection of Olmert’s offer in 2008.

It’s no and no and no and no and no.

Yet the fact of the matter is that very many progressive-left diaspora Jews blame you guys, you Israeli Jews, for never-ending Arab rejection of your supplications for peace.  Why?  What explains this?  Why does so much of the Jewish left continue to condemn, and berate, Jewish Israelis for the behavior of the hostile Arab majority that surrounds you?

I cannot say for sure, but what I can say is that many of them have come to believe some of the very worst accusations that came out of decades of Arab and Soviet propaganda against you are true.  Levin suspects that by blaming you they empower themselves.  After all, diaspora Jews may have at least some influence over Israeli policy.  We clearly have none over the Arab states.  If the problem is really pretty much all your fault then maybe we can help by taking the J-Street line and that means forcing you, with the help of Barack Obama, to do this, that, or the other.

But if you are mainly innocent, and if no matter what you do the Arabs will simply not accept Jewish sovereignty on historically Jewish land, it means that we in the diaspora cannot bring peace.

And for many people, particularly Americans you have to understand, a sense of helplessness is simply intolerable.

And that’s why the Jeremy Ben Amis of the world and the J-Streets of the world and the Peter Beinarts of the world blame you for your own persecution.

It gives them a delusional sense of power over the situation.  It makes them feel better, because it gives them some feeling of control.

I just find it sad.