History envy

I was trying to come to terms with the upside down world we live in, when it comes to Israel. I think I have the answer. I’ve invented a new term. I think coining this new expression assures my place in the annals of history. I call it: “history envy”.

Most people are aware that the father of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, came up with the idea of the “unconscious” i.e., the repository of ideas and desires repressed by the conscious mind. According to this view, many of our conscious acts are dominated by unconscious desires. I think most people today agree with this. Freud came up with another idea which most professionals dismiss, but it has entered the modern lexicon: “penis envy”. This is one of his bedrock ideas; namely, that the unconscious is a realm dominated by penile lust. Freud believed that all libido, female as well as male, is phallic. He believed that boys become men by transforming their aggressive phallic energy into an “instinct for mastery”. At the same time, they are forever fearful of “the threat of castration”. Essentially, according to Freud, human history is driven by penis related anxiety. As for women, Freud believed that the minute the little girl realizes that she is not, and cannot be, a little man, she falls victim “to envy for the penis”. Basically, boys are driven by a desire not to lose their penis, and girls are driven by a desire to have one. Today, the term “penis envy” is common but the philosophy behind it has been rejected.

Neo-Freudian psychiatrist Karen Horney has turned Freud on his head by arguing that little boys develop “womb envy” when they realize that they can never give birth. From this point of view, history is driven by man’s attempt to make up for a basic deficiency – the lack of a womb. Again, not many have bought into this psychological explanation, but the idea that there is an unconscious motor to history is shared by most analysts.

Carl Jung took the idea one step further. Basically, he invented the term “the collective unconscious”. According to this view, it’s not merely individuals that are driven by unconscious impulses, but entire groups such as peoples and nations.


And here is where we come to the Jews. When it comes to the Jewish people, I think that the nations of the world are suffering from “history envy”. The way it works is like this: today, most of the planet believes in the God of Israel. Think about it; the Jews represent less than one quarter of 1% of the world’s population. And yet, the world accepts that 3,500 years ago the creator of the cosmos revealed Himself to them on a mountain in the Sinai desert. I mean, besides Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that God revealed himself to Moses at Mount Sinai. This is without precedent. Is there another tribe on the face of the planet that has a founding story that most of the planet accepts as fact? But there is another part to this story. According to the Bible, God chose the Jewish people as his instrument for revealing Himself in history for the betterment of all mankind. And here is where “history envy” kicks in.

The same people who believe the first part of the story, have trouble with the second part of it. They regard the Jewish people with envy, jealous of the fact that God chose them as the motor of history. This envy simmers in the collective unconscious of monotheistic peoples. It lies just below the surface waiting to explode with violent rage. When it’s not manifesting itself in irrational violence, it’s expressing itself through political means. The Jews are demonized, marginalized, ostracized, boycotted and criticized in an orgy of negativity reserved for this one and only people. Immediately after the Holocaust, when the images of Auschwitz were fresh in people’s minds, there was a momentary reprieve. For a few decades, the Western World was shocked by its own deeds. How could the “civilized” West murder six million non-combatants, one and a half million of them children? Why would any people shove another people into gas chambers? And how could the world watch in silence as this went on year after year? But after a few decades the shock has warn off. It’s the Jews that are really the Nazis, the progressives say. It’s the Jews that are really the brutal oppressors of other people. It’s the Jews that are the worst of the worst. It’s “history envy” all over again.

The envy is triggered by something real. It’s clear to everyone that is interested in history that there is something unique about the Jewish experience. After all, no other people has been exiled and returned to its homeland. The Jews have done it twice. The modern state of Israel was born in 1948, some two thousand years after the Romans crushed Jewish independence in the land of Israel, and exiled the survivors. How is it possible that the Jews survived? How is it possible that they came back? How is it possible that in less than 70 years they went from being victims at Auschwitz to building the most powerful army in the Middle East? It all doesn’t make sense. And the more it doesn’t make sense, the more the world suspects that the God of Israel is behind it all; that the Jews are, indeed, His favourite children. Envious, Christianity claims to be the “new Israel” and Islam claims that the Qur’an is the correct version of the Torah and that Ishmael (the forefather of the Arabs), not Isaac (the forefather of the Jews), is the “chosen” one. This is “replacement theology”. Namely, the peoples of the world embrace Israel’s story, but not Israel. Replacement theology requires that the new Israel destroy the old Israel. And when that enterprise proves unsuccessful, the rejected son feels more and more jealous of the beloved son. This isn’t philosophy, this is your front page news.

The newspapers are dominated by an irrational obsession with all things Israel. For example, most people have heard of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. But how many people realize that in its entire history, this conflict has claimed less than thirty thousand lives? I’m not diminishing a single life but conflicts that have claimed millions of people have gone unnoticed, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict overshadows them all. For example, “blood diamonds” have been used by rebel groups to fuel brutal wars in Africa. These conflicts have resulted in over 4 million deaths and the displacement of millions of people in Angola, Sierra Leone, the DRC, Liberia, and now in Ivory Coast. But who cares? Not very many people. You probably have never even heard of these conflicts. It’s probably a shock to you that over 4 million people have died in them. These poor individuals had the misfortune of fighting in a conflict that does not involve Jews. If Jews were involved, all the forward thinking people in universities around the world would have made sure that you heard about the conflict. Lucky for the Palestinians, they are fighting Jews. That way, they are sure to dominate the international discourse. Why? Not because anyone cares about Palestinians, but because so many millions are obsessed with the Jews – “history envy”!

“History envy” leads to a topsy-turvy world. In this world, freedom loving people support groups like Hamas and Hezbollah that are anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Christian, anti-democratic and, for that matter, anti-Arab nationalism. They are for an Islamic worldwide theocracy. And yet, they are supported by pro-democracy, feminist and gay groups. Why? Because they are fighting Israel. In Israel black people, Arabs and Druze sit in its parliament. A black woman is Miss Israel representing Israel’s idea of beauty to the world. And yet, it is Israel that is condemned as an “apartheid state”. In Arabic, the word for a black person is “abed” i.e., slave. Black slavery still exists in the Arab world e.g., the Sudan. And yet, in universities around the world, these racist states are celebrated.

The utter madness of it all reached a low point when Israel released 26 cold-blooded killers; convicted terrorists who killed innocent civilians just because they were Jewish.


The released murderers were welcomed in the streets of Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority, as heroes. They were released because Israel was asked by the United States to provide a “peace gesture” for the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that are taking place right now. What other people have ever been asked to release convicted murderers as a way of accelerating peace? Is America releasing any prisoners sitting in Guantanamo as a “peace gesture” towards Al-Qaeda? Is Pakistan releasing the terrorists in its jails? Is Turkey? Is Russia? What people have ever been asked to release terrorists as a sign of goodwill? The families of the victims watch in horror as the killers of their loved ones are being fêted for having taken their loved ones away. And yet, in Washington, Paris and London they think this is a good thing.

Until now, there was no logical way of explaining this upside down thinking. But now I offer a new analytic tool for understanding the not understandable – “history envy”. As long as those people who claim to worship the God of the Torah accept Him but not his people, the world will oscillate between periods of physical violence against the Jews, and periods of rhetorical and political violence against them and their country. All we can do is contextualize the madness, understand the unconscious processes and prepare to defend ourselves when the neurotics become psychotic.

About the Author
Simcha Jacobovici is a Canadian-Israeli filmmaker and journalist. He is a three-time Emmy winner for “Outstanding Investigative Journalism” and a New York Times best selling author. He’s also an adjunct professor in the Department of Religion at Huntington University, Ontario.