Harold Behr

Jews among the pro-Palestinian demonstrators

Among those being swept along by the current wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations are many young Jews, some only in their teens. Thrilled by the thought of participating in a cause of which they have scant understanding, they join the hateful jihadi-inspired calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.

The blatantly antisemitic chants and slogans at these demonstrations apparently wash over the heads of these gullible young Jews. Their outrage at Israel’s war against Hamas and that country’s efforts to rescue their hostages blends in perfectly with the genocidal purposes of Hamas and its terroristic collaborators.

What has happened to these young Jews to turn them into agents of Jewish destruction? Evidently, some of them have been seduced by the ‘woke’ culture of today’s higher education institutions which preach diversity and equity for all ethnic groups – except the Jews. Some of the protesters have embraced a leftist ideology which is dedicated to the dismantling of Israel as a so-called colonialist ‘Apartheid’ state. The Jewish people’s long and difficult struggle to achieve statehood in the face of implacable hostility has passed them by, nor have they thought about the implications of a victory for Hamas for both the Jews as a people and for Israel as a democratic state.

As I remember from my own student days in South Africa, peer group influence can be intoxicating. There is nothing quite like the exhilaration of participating in a mass protest against perceived iniquities, especially when such a protest is reinforced by the rhetoric of admired teachers. The disapproval of cautious parents is brushed aside in the face of powerful incentives to act in the cause of justice. Rebellion against conservative inertia is considered a virtue. Failure to act is deemed culpable paralysis.

None of these motives is excusable in the present circumstances. What we are witnessing, in simple terms, is the phenomenon of Jews joining in with protests which have at their heart the destruction of Jews.

As a young liberal, I had been inoculated against antisemitism by a sound education in Jewish values stemming from my childhood. I was fortunate enough to have had a father who had been steeped in Jewish studies and was determined to impart his knowledge to me. The history of my family’s escape from pogroms and from the flames of the Holocaust was inscribed in my consciousness by my parents’ grief at the deaths of close relatives who had remained in Europe. Poignant photos reinforced the story, as did literary accounts of what had happened.

As well as learning about the history of the Jews, I was given a strong flavour of Jewish culture through my parents’ participation in Jewish communal life. Though we were not a particularly religious family, we celebrated the major festivals in more or less traditional fashion and observed enough of the customs at home to give me a good sense of where I had come from spiritually.

My family’s particular solution to the perennial dilemma of the Jewish people, namely where to find a safe home, was Zionism. Even though they did not move from South Africa to Israel until late in their lives, they had always supported Israel. Although I made a different life choice – to settle in the United Kingdom – I have always been committed to the State of Israel, a commitment which has grown stronger with the rising tide of antisemitism which we are now seeing on a global scale.

Other Jews took a different route to salvation. They threw in their lot with the indigenous peoples of the country which initially gave them sanctuary and adopted left-wing ideologies which purported to strive for freedom and justice for all. Ironically, these Jews are now being rewarded by a particularly vicious outburst of antisemitic hatred disguised as unconditional support for the Palestinian cause. Still other Jews have retreated into troubled religious isolationism.

Those Jews who now form part of the demonstrations massing in the name of Palestine have, I believe, succumbed to a disease from which I was mercifully protected as a child. A combination of ignorance and misplaced idealism has knocked their moral compass askew. Some of them may yet see the light, but I fear that in the absence of parental and Jewish communal input, most will drown in the sea of hatred which presently surrounds them.

About the Author
I was born in South Africa in 1940 and emigrated to the U.K. in 1970 after qualifying in medicine. I held a post as Consultant Psychiatrist in London until my retirement in 2013. I am the author of two books: one on group analytic psychotherapy, one on the psychology of the French Revolution. I have written many articles on group psychology published in peer-reviewed journals. From 1979 to 1985 I was editor of the journal ‘Group Analysis’; I have contributed short pieces to psychology newsletters over the years.
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