Richard Black

Why do we need to apologise?

Recently I was procrastinating by visiting one of my favourite groups on Facebook, the Sussex Friends of Israel. The video footage they capture from their weekly rallies in Brighton is often priceless. On Saturday Evening, Simon Cobbs and his heroic crew braved the mediocre English weather to travel to St. James’ Church in Piccadilly, which was hosting a fiercely biased ‘Bethlehem Unwrapped’ festival replete with a reconstruction of the security barrier.

One of their videos completely took me aback. In it, you can see a small delegation of ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’. One of the ladies made the extraordinary claim that the wall has saved no lives at all. It got worse. She then proceeded to claim that the wall provoked … of all things, you guessed it, GLOBAL ANTISEMITISM!

Apart from making me swear with frustration for most of my Sunday afternoon, it got me thinking quite a lot. Personally, I find few things as abhorrent, twisted and pernicious as the idea that Jewish people cause antisemitism. However it’s not just the deluded far Left of the community that panders this insanity. Recently, someone at the Union of Jewish Students proposed an appalling motion containing the wording “that having J-Socs in charge of Israel campaigns creates anti-Semitism.”. Luckily it was beaten by a majority of the delegates hand down. Even when I’ve spoken to friends and even a few members of my own family (whom I won’t name for fear of offending them), I’ve heard the perception within the Anglo-Jewish community that Jewish people cause antisemitism through the way they behave.

A few months ago, Douglas Murray wrote a brilliant article in the ‘Spectator’ which predicted that the British Jewish community would only remain comfortable at the price of publicly disassociating itself with Israel.. He said “Once it is complete then those ‘good’ anti-Israel Jews will be able to proclaim victory. But the same force that they encouraged to come for their co-religionists will then just as surely come for them. And then where will they hide?” Considering the infiltration of Jewish self loathing into the mainstream echelons of the community, I fear we may already be there.

I won’t bore you with the facts and figures about the security barrier, as I believe that this has been covered in much detail in other quarters. But since when did public opinion matter more than saving lives? And more to the point, why have some Jews swallowed the antisemitic lie that they cause their own antisemitism?

The Nineteenth Century Historian Thomas Carlyle famously called economics “the dismal science”. Antisemitism is practically a “dismal pseudo-science”. It aims to rationally explain what is wholly irrational. Throughout the centuries it has maintained Jews in absolute subjection to their host populations. In every generation, some Jews have tried to explain away or even sympathise with their persecutors’ prejudice. From post-Reconquista Spain to the Judenrats of Nazi Occupied Europe, some Jews have even tried to collaborate with their tormentors against their co-religionists. Antisemitism robs the victims of their human dignity and forces them to wear the garments of their oppressors. They feel they are wholly or in part responsible – in essence, only if they were less overtly Jewish would people stop being antisemitic. This form of ‘Jewish Stockholm syndrome’ was brilliantly captured by Ze’ev Vladimir Jabotinsky in his 1911 essay “Instead of Excessive Apology”. In it, he defiantly stated “Who are we, to make excuses to them; who are they to interrogate us? What is the purpose of this mock trial over the entire people where the sentence is known in advance?”

You would’ve thought with the advent of an independent State of Israel, this particular phenomenon would have been consigned to the dustbin of History. You would be wrong.

So what can Jews and other defenders of Israel learn to combat this sickness? One of my personal sources of inspiration are modern womens’ rights movements. After an appalling gang rape in New Delhi in 2012, a heroic group of female students took to the streets to counter the accusation that women attract rape by the way they dress. In one photo which went viral, they held a placard with a powerful message; “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out. Tell your son to behave properly!”

No minority or oppressed group – Black or White, Jewish or Gentile, Male or Female – should have to atone for the sins of their enemies. If the Jewish community and the wider Zionist movement could harness even one tenth of the power of that slogan, it would send a powerful message to our enemies. We will not be made to apologise for your prejudice.

Possibly the greatest defence of Jewish identity actually came from a non-Jew, the famous Twentieth Century French Philosopher Jean Paul-Sartre. In his 1946 essay “Anti-Semite and Jew”, he outlined that the antisemite found his purpose in life by excoriating Jews as the symbols of everything he loathed. Even if they did not exist, he would have to invent them.

There is only one way that a Jew can deal with such an irrational mindset – by affirming the Jewish identity that the antisemite loathes so much. There is no refuge in denial. They will hate us regardless of appeasing them or not. Only they can change their pathological worldview.

At a Memorial Service for Daniel Pearl (the American-Israeli journalist murdered by terrorists in Pakistan) the late Christopher Hitchens urged both Jews and non-Jews to be vigilant in the face of modern antisemitism. He stated “Our task is to call this filthy thing, this plague, this pest, by its right name. To make unceasing resistance to it, knowing all the time that it’s probably ultimately ineradicable. And bearing in mind that its hatred towards us is a compliment. And resolving some of the time, at any rate, to do a bit more to deserve it.”

We flatter antisemites by reassuring them that it is our fault. We have nothing to apologise for.

About the Author
Richard Black is a freelance journalist and a recent graduate of the University of Oxford.