Are American Jews Traumatized?

The American Jewish community, united to Israelis by bonds of the heart, has, through this tie, been facing terrorist onslaughts for years.  Israel suffered the per capita equivalent of 250,000 Americans dead and wounded during the “peace process” when arch-terrorist Yassir Arafat was installed in power.  Yet the rise of Palestinian and Arab-style Nazism has been ignored and tolerated by the majority of Jews, who at times appear deficient in basic human capacities for self-defense and reality testing.  I will propose the thesis that American Jews display the faulty reactions typical of trauma victims.

American Jews do not see themselves as victims, but as winners, and they are right.  Most victimized groups are dysfunctional.  Societies who have suffered two thousand years of oppression and assault could be expected to disintegrate into social pathology -- murder, violence, alcoholism, family breakdown, neglect and abuse of their children -- but the Jewish community, in every country, is to the contrary marked by the lowest levels in all these social symptoms.

Jews rightfully take pride in their history: for millennia, Judaism has exerted a sustaining and civilizing power to create humane people in humane families and a humane community.  In Israel, we see a society under threat of annihilation, repeatedly invaded by her neighbors, isolated by international defamation, which has not lowered its standards and commitment to peace, human rights and democracy. 

Despite sustained terrorism,  Israel has maintained equal rights for all her citizens, Jew and non-Jew, full protection of civil rights and free speech, and such a humane occupation that under Israeli administration, before the Oslo accords, the life expectancy of Palestinians rose by 20 years.  

Here is a society that has had to enlist every citizen in the military but has not become a militaristic culture, that has never given up hope or been unwilling to compromise for peace.  This is not to say that Jews are models of psychological or cultural health.  Far from it.  Jewish pathologies lie elsewhere.  To understand, we must turn from politics and sociology to psychology.  

My interest in the traumatic aspects of Jewish-American identity was set off by a book talk at Brandeis University by ex-priest James Carroll.  In his magnum opus, Constantine’s Sword, he recounts the 2000 years of murderous abuse of Jews.  After Carroll spoke, there was a discussion panel.  I looked forward to hearing from the Brandeis professors about the impact of persecution on the Jewish psyche and culture. 

Dr. Arthur Green, a professor of Judaism, replied (I paraphrase): Thank you James Carroll for acknowledging the expulsions, the cruel invention of ghettoes, the mass tortures of the Inquisition, the murderous Crusades, and complicity in the Shoah.  I’d like to be just as honest:  we, too, are abusers.  In the Middle East, “many words have been said and deeds done that diminish the good name of Israel, which is also the name of the entire Jewish people.” 

He went on to say that an abusive relationship has two players, and that it was the Jews who were primarily guilty for the Church’s cruelty.  Yes, it was Judaism which taught the Catholics to practice religious oppression, through the concept of the chosen people.  Moreover, Jews exploit the victim role and enjoy feeling “moral righteousness.”  He then falsely declared that rabbinic Judaism limits ‘noble ethical proclamations to one’s fellow-Jews rather than extending them to all humanity.’

I was astounded:  Dr. Green was adopting the infamous antisemitic charge leveled against Jews in medieval disputations, that Jews feel no ethical restraints on lying, stealing and murdering non-Jews.  He had unearthed this medieval canard and hurled at his Brandeis audience.

It was quite a spectacular performance of what psychologists call “blaming the victim” -- Jews are the culprits, especially bad Israel, who has besmirched Dr. Green’s name.

Carroll’s depiction of horrific and inescapable abuse and the Jewish discussant’s self-accusing response was a familiar pattern to my ears, trained by years of work as a psychotherapist.  The reaction of Dr. Green was a textbook example from psych 101 of identification with the aggressor -- the self-blame, the guilt, the false accusations of being worse than the abuser, the pretense you were the one who caused the problem. 

He was using Israel as an introject on whom to act out a demand for perfection in order to cope with his fears of punishment.  Like so many liberal Jews, Dr. Green was confusing self-betrayal with proof of moral goodness.   2000 years of sadistic attack, coupled with the present day defamation and existential threats to Israel, had triggered a classic victim response.

Those who study rape and incest victims, Vietnam soldiers, and Holocaust survivors report that being unable to escape life-threatening violence destroys the mind’s normal abilities to assess reality.  Evil renders the world hopeless, despairing, and meaningless.  The victim uses psychological defenses to block out the unbearable situation, by creating an alternate reality.  In the alternate reality, it is the victim who is actually the one at fault.  This reversal of reality creates hope and empowerment.  If your behavior is the problem, the solution is also in your hands.  

Unfortunately, since this a falsification of reality, this psychological defense can be fatal.  It can result in being beaten to death because you keep trying to please a battering husband. It can result in bringing the world’s most famous terrorist, Yassir Arafat, to be set up as a petty dictator over his people, and allow him to rearm, to teach hate, to prepare for war.  It can result in giving a Nobel Peace Prize to this same terrorist leader, who has already announced in Arabic that he has no intention of fulfilling the peace accords he recently signed, but plans to use the opportunity to build up his strength and wipe out the Jewish enemy.  In the alternate reality, there is no danger, because you are the bad one.

I was witnessing the answer to my question of what happens to a people after 2000 years of victimization.

I wanted more than Psychology 101.  Is it true that American Jews are traumatized?   There was something big at stake here -- nothing less than the key to future Jewish survival, in both Israel and America. 

Academic specialists on American Jews claim that the Holocaust did not impact American Jews -- we are told they immediately put the dark past aside, moved to the suburbs and became happily assimilated Americans.  Prominent historians Oscar and Mary Handlin are quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg in his 1996 book, Jewish Power, with this statement extraordinary for its pathological denial:  “At mid-twentieth century, American Jews could look back with satisfaction at their recent past.” 

These successfully assimilated Jews now mostly marry non-Jews -- 72% among the secular -- and by a 3:1 margin they are choosing to raise their children as Christians or as nothing. The result is that one hundred secular American Jews alive today will only produce 5 Jewish grandchildren, and thus disappear from the face of the earth as a cultural group by the end of this century.   (Orthodox Jews are flourishing, but there are only about half a million of them, 13% of American Jews.)

The reason, we are told by the experts, has nothing at all to do with Jewish pain or fear -- on the contrary, it is a sign of Jews’ complete sense of safety and sameness in America, of the inability of Judaism to compete with secularism, and of Jewishness to compete with individualism.

Yet, in an unwittingly hilarious 1985 survey of San Francisco Jews, 30% said Jewish candidates could not be elected to Congress in their area due to anti-Semitism.  At the very time, 3 of 4 congressional representatives, 2 state senators, and the mayor of San Francisco were Jews. This study is often quoted to show that American Jews cling to delusions of anti-Semitism, supposedly because they lack any positive reason to remain Jewish. 

Such comments ignore a deeper truth:  American Jews do not feel as accepted as their successful assimilation would warrant.  Perhaps they know something the experts don’t: their own fear.  They know how they avoid distinctive Jewish identity as the only way to win superficial American acceptance. 

And so we come to the 1990 population survey sponsored by the Council of Jewish Federations.  This survey confronted Jewish leadership with the bad news that non-observant Jews are disappearing in America.  Most Jewish children are now born into mixed marriages.  When they ask, “What am I?  Am I Jewish?” They’re told, literally (yes, these are quotes): “No.  You’re nothing.” “You’re half and half.” “You’re free to make up your own identity later, when you’re older.”

Yes, a decrease in American bigotry has allowed Jews to intermarry -- but it doesn’t explain what they tell their children.   One may intermarry and still make the commitment to raise Jewish children together.   But the vast majority of intermarried Jews choose to not even try, even when their spouse says they’d be happy to raise the kids Jewish.   

Most Jewish parents of non-Jewish children see this choice as evidence of being tolerant and American.  They rarely let themselves know they’re choosing to disappear: it’s just an unfortunate side-effect from falling in love with this terrific person who happens not to be Jewish.  Using love as an explanation, the exit is easy.  American Jews no longer have to admit they are fleeing, no longer have to convert. 

The question remains: why are Jews using this exit in such vast numbers? 

Some Jews rationalize that higher values teach they shouldn’t limit their identification to one group.  Isn’t it morally superior to identity first and foremost as “human beings,” as most of the students in a Reform temple education class (whose goal is promoting Jewish continuity) did recently, with the beaming approval of their teacher?  It is common to hear, even from rabbis, that it is chauvinistic to tell your children that being Jewish is significantly different.  Jewish pride is now something to be ashamed of.

Most liberal Jews teach their children to feel shame about Israel, as seen in the words of Prof. Green.  This leaves Jewish kids defenseless against the assault of Israel-bashing they encounter in college, because they don’t recognize that hyper-criticism of Israel is a form of anti-Semitism.  So it is morally inferior to teach Jewish pride, morally superior to teach shame. 

Jewish parents don’t act as if it is in their children’s best interest for a happy, good, meaningful life, to be Jewish.  If you buy the idea that Jews feel completely secure and accepted in America, this is truly odd.  Wouldn’t everyone want their children to have the benefit of the subculture that produces the most stable families in America, the least social pathology, financial success, the highest achievements in the arts and sciences and social sciences, in social activism, charitableness, in every helping profession working to make life better, happier, longer for others? 

In the crassest of terms, it pays to be Jewish: Jews are less than 2% of the population, yet 1/3 of the billionaires, 25% of the multimillionaires; 30-50% of elite highly paid and high status professionals in many fields are Jews. 

Or if you care about higher values, what better way to counter American materialism and selfishness and alienation, than giving your children membership in the people-oriented embrace of the Jewish community and the high moral teachings of Judaism? 

You value the arts, the sciences, the social sciences -- fields where Jews are even more spectacularly over-represented than they are among the wealthy -- the numbers seems to indicate you will increase your child’s chance of having creative and academic values and capacities by giving them a Jewish identity. 

Care about making the world more just?  It was Jewish lawyers (notable among them Morris Abram) and Jewish money that won the defining Civil Rights court rulings, One Man One Vote, Brown v the Board of Education, and fair-employment laws.  On the level of personal courage, half of the white volunteers who went south to help Martin Luther King win the Civil Rights Acts were Jewish.  Later spurned by militant blacks, Jews turned their reforming energies to Amnesty International, the ACLU, peace missions. 

Of course there are brilliant, creative and good people of all religions, and activists from all ethnic groups -- but you can’t explain away that in reality, Jews are represented in huge numbers, the leaders and the foot soldiers, and the philanthropists, the key players -- wherever independent thinking and creativity and hard intellectual work and compassion and a drive for justice is called for in American life.

Being Jewish should be seen as an amazing prize.  Yet the majority of American Jews are not willing to enlist their spouse and tell their child “you’re a Jew.”   There has to be an explanation beyond feeling so comfortable in America:  “I’m so secure and comfortable, I’ll tell my child he’s nothing rather than drag in being Jewish.”

Here comes my point about the identity of trauma.  The experts tell us Jews are being assimilated because of the end of anti-Semitism.  Yet according to a CJP survey the vast majority of American Jews report their subjective experience is that anti-Semitism is still a very strong factor in America.  This is dismissed rather disrespectfully by the pundits, as unrealistic, a cartoonish clinging to distrust of goyim.  They don’t focus on what it shows about us:  American Jews are scared. 

Could it be that it is modern anti-Semitism that has driven Jews away from being Jewish?  The blessings of being Jewish come with a high emotional price tag.  Who wants to pass on memory of the Shoah, responsibility for Israel, and the present reality of Arab defamation, violence and hate?  Could it be that American Jews chose to not teach their children Jews are a distinct group, partly out of unconscious shame and fear, but also out of love.  Being Jewish entails a high price -- the price of taking on the traumatic burden of being a Jew. 

Since the Jewish experts are pretending there is no problem with the pain and fear of being Jewish, I turned to the more complex picture that surfaces in biographies, memoirs, and novels, and work in other academic fields.  They indicate that despite material security and success, no Jew in America lives free from the terror and pain of the Shoah, gut wrenching fears that Israel might not make it, and an undercurrent of discomfort among fellow Americans.

In “Jewish-American Artists & the Holocaust”, author Matthew Baigel  writes that as the noose closed around the Jews of Europe, American Jews were filled with “profound despair, … utter helplessness and … apprehensiveness about antisemitism in this country.”  Despair, helplessness, fear -- the key emotions of trauma.

American Jewish artists’ primary coping response: increased commitment to the strategy of appearing as non-Jewish as possible .  The generation of artists growing up in 1930’s and 40’s internalized American society’s view of Jews as inferior and worthless.  Self-hatred and self-protection reinforced the decision to become invisible.  They turned from representative painting to create the school of abstract expressionism, devoid of recognizable content.  Nothing personal to say, let’s move on.  The Shoah, Baigel writes, was for American Jewish artists “a primal injury.”

In the next generation, growing up in the 1950’s, we have the experiences of this Jewish woman from Baltimore, whose oral history was recorded by psycholinguist Michael Garbutt, in Hear My Story:

“My parents wanted me to have my nose done.  ‘So, you’re gonna have a nose job?  You’re gonna have a nose job, aren’t you?’  And why I resisted it I cannot tell you. I mean, my sister had her nose done, but I didn’t.  I mean I always hated my nose.  But it’s a Jewish nose, and I instinctively knew that my face wouldn’t look right without it.  You know…you’re meant to be put together in a certain way?  And that’s the way it is….But the good news is: as I was growing up I learned to talk the talk and walk the walk and I could do it.  I could pass.  And people -- it’s embarrassing -- people would say, ‘Oh, you’re Jewish?  But you don’t seem like a Jew to me…’ I mean, I took it as a compliment.  I tell you what I think.  I think that when I was growing up, there had to be an underlying terror of being Jewish that we weren’t fully conscious of.  I mean, if you didn’t have it before in the shtetl with pogroms, and I mean, hello!!!  I can’t really imagine that the shadow of the Holocaust didn’t incredibly fuel the desire to pass.”

Dr. Leslie Brody, director of clinical psychology at B.U., writes of her experience as a Bunting fellow at Radcliffe in the mid-90’s in an unusually honest book entitled Daughters of Kings: Growing Up as Jewish Woman in America.  She found that most of the elite Jewish women who were Bunting fellows hid their Jewishness in their liberal professional settings, from academia to Balkan peace negotiation.  When one of them spoke openly at Radcliffe of being Jewish, Dr. Brody felt alarmed:  “I did not imagine anyone feeling … warmly toward her for this public admission.” 

Dr. Brody reports: “My first recognition that people might hate me simply because I was Jewish came when I was seven.  My best friend Alice, also Jewish, spoke to me in a chilling whisper about the Nazis.  ‘They came with pitchforks to the door of Jewish children and twirled Jewish babies on them’….The conversation marked an abrupt loss of innocence I can never reclaim….To this day I can remember where we stood as we spoke.”  This kind of hyper-vivid memory is typical of trauma.

Dr. Brody writes, “Some cope with these fears by hiding their Jewishness to public eyes; others try also try to hide it from themselves, perhaps going so far as to …raise their children with no sense of their Jewish history.”

She herself was raised with no Jewish education and little religion, so that she feels left out of the Jewish community.  “I was left to define Judaism the way the majority defined it, internalizing all the negative stereotypes about Jews that I was exposed to… I almost never reveal that I am Jewish to a non-Jewish audience: …will they hate me…pigeonhole me with negative stereotypes…will they hurt me?” 

Dr. Brody’s Jewish fear and shame are even more common in today’s college generation.  In a psychology class at B.U., a visiting professor asked the 100 students to call out their ethnic identity or religion.  Fifteen ethnic backgrounds were called out.  None of the Jewish students spoke.  None.  At B.U., which has a large Jewish student population.  Finally the professor asked “are there any people of Jewish descent here?”  Notice the euphemism reminiscent of pre-war Germany.  A few of the many Jewish students silently nodded.  Dr. Brody subsequently posed the same question with other classes, with the same result.  

Philosophy professor Dr. Joshua Halberstam writes,

“The Shoah is arguably the worst single event in human history, and it happened to the grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins of American Jews.  You don’t lose more than a third of your people, a million and a half of your children, and not stagger through the next part of your history.  The lives of American Jews…proceed under this overwhelming shadow. …The Holocaust is certainly not history for them or the people in their lives….Most American Jews …fail to recognize that, as a community, Jews are still reeling from the terror even if they seem to be standing erect and confident.  The effect of trauma often works that way.”

If your defenses are so effective that you present an appearance to yourself and others of being erect and confident, how will you heal your wounded identity?  How will you overcome fear and pain if these emotions are compartmentalized, permitted briefly to emerge at Holocaust memorials, and then buried again?  How do you admit to fear and shame, when the fear and shame themselves are stigmatized emotions?  Could this be why the majority of American Jews are deciding not to raise Jewish children?  Could this be why criticism of Israel, however unfair and unfounded, makes many cringe with shame, or fall silent in distrust?

Even as the shadow of the Shoah hangs over us, news of Israel daily brings new feelings of despair, helplessness and fear.  Jews are once again the target of murderous rage cultivated by dictators for political purposes, nurtured by a powerful religion, and embraced enthusiastically by the masses.  Every American Jew lives with the knowledge, that there are tens of millions of Muslims today who think it is being a good person to kill and torment Jews -- them, their friends and neighbors, their children. 

In the words of an intermarried Jew quoted in Dr. Halberstam’s book, Shmoozing, published five years before 9/11,

“… Jews everywhere live in constant trepidation, if only subliminally.  The fear is buried below the conscious level…but when I look at my daughters, I’m aware that somewhere on this planet, at this very moment, there are people who want to murder them…Unfortunately, some of these people have the money, means and ideological connections that can transform them from … haters to real-life killers….This fear, this existential insecurity, is authentic and it sets Jews apart.” 

We are aware of the unintended result of the Oslo experiment.  Palestinian neo-Nazism is an open secret that few call by its real name.  The moment they gained autonomy, all during the hope-filled “peace process,” the official Palestinian Authority TV programs and summer camps, their schools and government appointed imams have been teaching their children that Jews drink human blood, that Jews are devils, that Allah wants Jews to be tortured and killed, that it is their life’s duty to wipe Israel off the map. 

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that blueprint for Nazism, is a bestseller among educated Palestinians (as well as Saudis and Egyptians and Jordanians, our moderate American allies).  Children are trained to sing songs, starting at age 4 and 5, about killing Jews. Not Israelis, Jews.  Holocaust denial is not only official government policy, it is popular belief. 

If this isn’t a neo-Nazi society, what is?  If Jews can’t call it by its real name, who will? The official PA web site shows their map, in which Israel has been wiped out.  It was posted for all to see during the entire peace process, but the sight was too depressing, and most of our media and most Jews turned their eyes away.

Just as in the 1930’s with the German Nazis, Palestinian Islamist Nazism is occasionally reported in the news, but rarely without being rationalized and justified as legitimate form for frustrated national aspirations.  This is the same way our media, led by the New York Times then as now, whitewashed the rise of German Nazism, as documented in Deborah Lipstadt’s book, Beyond Belief

Arab children have been abused and used as human sacrifice in the most horrific ways, their natures perverted into being killing machines.  Yet, lacking the psychological strength to let ourselves know these facts, nothing was done -- in the name of being good to these children, giving them a better future and of helping peace develop! 

The overwhelming drive to block out the reality of evil is central to the psychology of victims, and bystanders, and explains the irrational thinking of many previous Oslo supporters, Jews and non-Jews.  To understand this almost suicidal refusal to face anti-Semitism, we must turn to the classic work of the psychology of trauma, Trauma and Recovery, by Dr. Judith Herman, called by the New York Times one of the most important psychiatric works to be published since Freud.

To look at traumatic abuse is to stare into the face of evil.  It is unbearably discomforting for witness as well as victim.  It is the norm to avoid this pain by taking the side of the perpetrator, who asks all be forgotten.

To listen, to look, is to share the burden, not just of pain, but of despair and meaninglessness and helplessness -- some of the worst feelings in the human psyche.  It is so much easier to listen to the perpetrator -- the Nazi, the Palestinian or Saudi Jew hater, the incestuous child abuser, the batterer -- to buy into his denial and rationalizations: the victim is lying, the victim is exaggerating, the victim brought it on himself, the victim deserves it, I’m a person just like you, I’m the real victim, I was just so frustrated, you must understand why I got so angry, it is time to move on. 

No one wants to know.  Whether discussing Israel’s persecution by the Arab world dedicated to her annihilation or a child molested by her own father -- each must contend with society’s desire to deny the situation.  The credibility of the victim and of those investigators willing to document the truth, are repeatedly challenged -- to the point where advocating for truth is a career breaker.

The sustained investigation of trauma, Dr. Herman reports, depends on political support by an organized movement.  Thus Freud’s initial discovery that hysteria was caused by sexual abuse, led not to social action, but to a new theory that soothingly proposed it was all a figment of the women’s diseased minds.  The very existence of sexual abuse of children dropped from view until the feminist movement a century later insisted the truth be faced.  Unless Jewish organizations insist that society face up to Arab neo-Nazism, it will never happen.  In Dr. Herman’s words, “repression, dissociation and denial are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness.”

Facing the truth poses a traumatic social and political problem, because there are no obvious solutions.  Arab neo-Nazism is a traumatic problem, which lacks a powerful constituency to insist on its being faced and addressed properly.  No one wants to know -- not the Jewish community, not the wider society, not the media, not our politicians.

The Anti-Defamation League is keen to publicize American skinheads and the danger of prayer in the schools -- these are safe, socially acceptable targets in their social milieu.  But the rise of Arab anti-Semitism to the levels of neo-Nazism -- if this is not what ‘Never Forget’ refers to, what is? -- was of minimal interest to ADL until after 9/11.  Before 9/11, if you called to ask what ADL was doing about Palestinian anti-Semitism, you’d be referred to their web site which contained a letter from Abe Foxman and a two-year-old article.  That was the total of their efforts. 

As for the Wiesenthal Center -- the recent terror war has led them to become active for the first time in publicizing Arab anti-Semitism.  Yet before 9/11 when a concerned donor (myself) called the development office to offer $10,000 to their program publicizing Arab anti-Semitism, they had to turn down the contribution -- they were doing nothing. 

Virtually all the information we have about what’s going on in Arabic is the translation work of a tiny underfunded independent research center called MEMRI (www. MEMRI.org).  According to MEMRI director Yigal Carmon, long before 9/11 the Wiesenthal Center gave MEMRI a $25,000 grant to translate the Arab media, but on reading the results -- anti-Semitic ravings not seen since the days of German Nazism -- the Wiesenthal Center chose not to publish the report, nor would they allow MEMRI to publish it.  The Wiesenthal Center buried news that Nazi propaganda is back with us in Arab guise.  No one was willing to know.

Similarly, Brandeis University a month before Sept. 11, quashed a high-level panel examining the rise of state-sponsored Arab anti-Semitism that had been a year in the planning.  Sylvia Fuks Fried, the executive director of the Sarnat Center for the Study of Anti-Jewishness, decided at the last moment that she preferred a focus “on a comparative scholarly investigation into images and representations of the “other” in the Middle East.  This larger perspective would … delve into the more ambiguous and ambivalent forms of expression as found in novels, poetry, in addition to “popular culture” throughout the Middle East.”  However, since “the scope of the latter model goes well beyond the scope of the initial vision, and requires considerable planning,” she wrote, “These discussions have led me to decide to put the event on hold indefinitely.”  Even a university prefers silence. 

Just as with rape or child abuse, paying attention to the perpetrator can earn the journalist a stunted career.  Any group that tries to publicize Arab hate is criticized and marginalized as right wing.  News of Arab anti-Semitism is routinely and thoroughly censored by NPR, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, because the reality of these facts is unwelcome.

Steven Rosenfeld, then editorial page editor of the Washington Post, when asked in the name of free speech and full reporting to publish information on state-sponsored Palestinian anti-Semitism, told CAMERA, a media watch-dog group: ‘I’d rather give up Israel than give up my belief in the rational solution of problems.”  As if his job as an editor were to decide the fate of Israel, instead of cover news. 

Similarly, the New York Times, under pressure from CAMERA, finally ran one single story on the topic of Palestinian Authority incitement of violence.  The New York Times article concluded that Israeli complaints about Palestinian incitement were dubious and excessive.  Quote:

“Israelis cite as one egregious example a televised sermon that defended the killing of the two soldiers [in Ramallah]. ‘Whether Likud or Labor, Jews are Jews’ proclaimed Sheik Ahmad Abu Halabaya in a live broadcast from a Gaza City mosque...” 

The Times reporter used the quote to show how mild Palestinian incitement is. “Likud or Labor, a Jew is a Jew.” Big deal.  But the following quote comes from the same exact sermon:

‘Fight them; Allah will torture them at your hands, and will humiliate them. … Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them...”

When CAMERA discussed this mendacious selection of quotes from the same exact sermon with Times News Editor Bill Borders, he defended the Times and said, “...instances of hate speech in the region do not strike us as unusual or pivotal events.”   He thus admitted it was the Times policy not to cover Arab anti-Semitism -- but the Times was willing to print the falsehood that official Palestinian incitement to hate and kill Jews was minimal.  This is so far beyond the bounds of normal professionalism, that it is almost incomprehensible -- except for Judith Herman’s insights into how society has treated traumatic terror and abuse, time after time.   

Let us turn to Judith Herman again.  One of the most common effects of trauma is a psychological mechanism called displacement. “(The abused child) tends to displace her anger from the dangerous source and to discharge it unfairly on those who did not provoke it.”  Thus, good hearted liberal Jews are not angry at the Palestinians for their violent, hate-filled actions -- they are angry at Jewish settlers.  They project their anger onto “bad Jews” -- the Orthodox, Likud supporters, settlers -- to bolster a sense of their own goodness, and the potential goodness of the abuser.

Dr. Herman, describing an abused child: In an adaptive function to preserve hope, the child creates a “delusion of good parents.”  “When it is impossible to avoid the reality of the abuse, the child must construct some system of meaning that justifies it.  Inevitably, the child concludes that her innate badness is the cause.  The child seizes upon this explanation and clings to it tenaciously, for it enables her to preserve a sense of meaning, hope and power.  If she is bad, then her parents are good.  If she is bad, then she can try to be good.  If somehow, she has brought this fate upon herself, then somehow she has the power to change it.” 

Let’s read this paragraph again, applying it to Israel and the Palestinians -- If Israel’s badness is the cause of Palestinian hate and violence, then there is hope.  If the Israelis are the ones who are bad, then we can believe that the Palestinians are reasonable people who really want peace.  If Israel is bad, then Israel can try harder to be good.  If Israeli injustice and intransigence is the cause of the unending hate and violence and terror and neo-Nazism, then we Americans can get rid of this pain by pressuring Israel to change her badness.  In the effort to preserve hope, we create the delusion that Arafat was a peace partner.

One of the main effects of trauma is what Dr. Herman calls a “damaged self.”  The result is a person prone to guilt, shame and doubt. 

“The child entrapped in this kind of horror develops the belief that she is somehow responsible for the crimes of her abusers.  Simply by virtue of her existence on earth, she believes she has driven the most powerful people in her world to do terrible things.”  The abused child cannot afford to face the truth or feel anger towards her abuser, so she blames herself.  This is the victim mentality. 

It was not long ago that even liberal Americans and Europeans knew that Israel had the right to exist, and that the recognition of Jewish national sovereignty in Israel was an act of great justice.  We once could see clearly the big lies of the Arab propaganda war.  We knew that Jerusalem had never been an Arab capital or even a primary Arab religious site.  Even semi-informed people knew that the Arabs living west of the Jordan River were not a distinct national unit  (they considered themselves Syrian), and had tragically become a group of pathetic and suffering refugees, rejected and manipulated by their own people for unworthy political ends.  It didn’t take much reading to discover the PLO was founded in 1964, before the West Bank was ‘occupied by Israel,’ and that its goal was and remains seizing all of Israel from the Jews.

But many liberal bystanders, including prominent Jews with liberal careers at stake in government and media, avert their attention from the easily available information that exposes Arab motives and goals as something completely other than justice and legitimate national aspirations.  Maybe Israel’s very existence is an injustice, they suggest to themselves, in which case, Israel deserves the abuse they are getting. 

If only they would behave better, those Jews, the Arabs would not hate them.  If only we had behaved better, we German Jews, the Germans would not become Nazis.  If only we dressed differently, we rape victims, it would never have happened.  If only we were good girls, we incest victims, this wouldn’t happen to us.  It’s the victim and bystander mentality.

Unless forced by pressure groups, society always blames the victim and ignores the perpetrator.  Dr. Herman writes, in language that could be directly transposed to the way society approaches Palestinian violence against Israel:  “It is sometimes forgotten that men’s violence is men’s behavior…. (There is an) enormous effort to explain male behavior by examining the characteristics of women

Why should Israel need to convince fellow westerners there is no justification possible for teaching children to blow themselves up to murder other children?  It is that society is highly motivated to block out facts that indicate the victim is not to blame -- whether it be Jews, rape victims, traumatized soldiers, battered wives or abused children.

For most American Jews, Israel is not a real place.  Only a fraction have ever visited the country.  It is the locus of fears.  It is the locus of displaced shame and guilt and anger.  It is the locus of dreams for a rescuer who will make all Jews feel safe.  Remember Professor Green of Brandeis, seeing Israel as if it combined the sins of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust, and then asserting that Israel had harmed his good name. 

This is a transference reaction, seen repeatedly by therapists working with victims of violence: We first identity with Israel as the strong savior, then demand perfection from it, then perceive even the slightest flaw as a betrayal and gross deception, then wish to coerce it…and then, in advanced cases, to abandon it and let it feel the trauma we now imagine this idealized savior inflicted on us.

Israel is the only country in the world facing the threat of annihilation for daring to exist, just as the Jews did in pre-Holocaust Europe.  How can American Jews feel safe at home, when the world still contains nations eager to annihilate Jews en masse, supported by an indifferent American media and most of the worlds’ governments? 

Maybe the reason there will be so few American Jews left by the end of the century is that they’re scared to be Jews, unwilling to raise Jewish children to be traumatized in turn.  Maybe one generation after the Holocaust, facing a world of Islamist hate, it seems like a loving option. 

This is not just an American Jewish problem.  W all need to become aware of and overcome our victim and bystander identity if we want to face the real world.  Actual peace can never be won through blaming the victim. 

State-sponsored murderous Jew-hatred is part of a larger complex of violence, whether in Nazi Germany or today’s Islamist fascists, that threaten us all.  September 11 has made that perfectly clear.

Maybe its time we all look in the mirror, and notice that we have a lot of honest appraisal to do.

The American Jewish community, united to Israelis by bonds of the heart, has, through this tie, been facing terrorist onslaughts for years.  Israel suffered the per capita equivalent of 250,000 Americans dead and wounded during the “peace process” when arch-terrorist Yassir Arafat was installed in power.  Yet the rise of Palestinian and Arab-style Nazism has been ignored and tolerated by the majority of Jews, who at times appear deficient in basic human capacities for self-defense and reality testing.  I will propose the thesis that American Jews display the faulty reactions typical of trauma victims.

American Jews do not see themselves as victims, but as winners, and they are right.  Most victimized groups are dysfunctional.  Societies who have suffered two thousand years of oppression and assault could be expected to disintegrate into social pathology -- murder, violence, alcoholism, family breakdown, neglect and abuse of their children -- but the Jewish community, in every country, is to the contrary marked by the lowest levels in all these social symptoms.

Jews rightfully take pride in their history: for millennia, Judaism has exerted a sustaining and civilizing power to create humane people in humane families and a humane community.  In Israel, we see a society under threat of annihilation, repeatedly invaded by her neighbors, isolated by international defamation, which has not lowered its standards and commitment to peace, human rights and democracy. 

Despite sustained terrorism,  Israel has maintained equal rights for all her citizens, Jew and non-Jew, full protection of civil rights and free speech, and such a humane occupation that under Israeli administration, before the Oslo accords, the life expectancy of Palestinians rose by 20 years.  

Here is a society that has had to enlist every citizen in the military but has not become a militaristic culture, that has never given up hope or been unwilling to compromise for peace.  This is not to say that Jews are models of psychological or cultural health.  Far from it.  Jewish pathologies lie elsewhere.  To understand, we must turn from politics and sociology to psychology.  

My interest in the traumatic aspects of Jewish-American identity was set off by a book talk at Brandeis University by ex-priest James Carroll.  In his magnum opus, Constantine’s Sword, he recounts the 2000 years of murderous abuse of Jews.  After Carroll spoke, there was a discussion panel.  I looked forward to hearing from the Brandeis professors about the impact of persecution on the Jewish psyche and culture. 

Dr. Arthur Green, a professor of Judaism, replied (I paraphrase): Thank you James Carroll for acknowledging the expulsions, the cruel invention of ghettoes, the mass tortures of the Inquisition, the murderous Crusades, and complicity in the Shoah.  I’d like to be just as honest:  we, too, are abusers.  In the Middle East, “many words have been said and deeds done that diminish the good name of Israel, which is also the name of the entire Jewish people.” 

He went on to say that an abusive relationship has two players, and that it was the Jews who were primarily guilty for the Church’s cruelty.  Yes, it was Judaism which taught the Catholics to practice religious oppression, through the concept of the chosen people.  Moreover, Jews exploit the victim role and enjoy feeling “moral righteousness.”  He then falsely declared that rabbinic Judaism limits ‘noble ethical proclamations to one’s fellow-Jews rather than extending them to all humanity.’

I was astounded:  Dr. Green was adopting the infamous antisemitic charge leveled against Jews in medieval disputations, that Jews feel no ethical restraints on lying, stealing and murdering non-Jews.  He had unearthed this medieval canard and hurled at his Brandeis audience.

It was quite a spectacular performance of what psychologists call “blaming the victim” -- Jews are the culprits, especially bad Israel, who has besmirched Dr. Green’s name.

Carroll’s depiction of horrific and inescapable abuse and the Jewish discussant’s self-accusing response was a familiar pattern to my ears, trained by years of work as a psychotherapist.  The reaction of Dr. Green was a textbook example from psych 101 of identification with the aggressor -- the self-blame, the guilt, the false accusations of being worse than the abuser, the pretense you were the one who caused the problem. 

He was using Israel as an introject on whom to act out a demand for perfection in order to cope with his fears of punishment.  Like so many liberal Jews, Dr. Green was confusing self-betrayal with proof of moral goodness.   2000 years of sadistic attack, coupled with the present day defamation and existential threats to Israel, had triggered a classic victim response.

Those who study rape and incest victims, Vietnam soldiers, and Holocaust survivors report that being unable to escape life-threatening violence destroys the mind’s normal abilities to assess reality.  Evil renders the world hopeless, despairing, and meaningless.  The victim uses psychological defenses to block out the unbearable situation, by creating an alternate reality.  In the alternate reality, it is the victim who is actually the one at fault.  This reversal of reality creates hope and empowerment.  If your behavior is the problem, the solution is also in your hands.  

Unfortunately, since this a falsification of reality, this psychological defense can be fatal.  It can result in being beaten to death because you keep trying to please a battering husband. It can result in bringing the world’s most famous terrorist, Yassir Arafat, to be set up as a petty dictator over his people, and allow him to rearm, to teach hate, to prepare for war.  It can result in giving a Nobel Peace Prize to this same terrorist leader, who has already announced in Arabic that he has no intention of fulfilling the peace accords he recently signed, but plans to use the opportunity to build up his strength and wipe out the Jewish enemy.  In the alternate reality, there is no danger, because you are the bad one.

I was witnessing the answer to my question of what happens to a people after 2000 years of victimization.

I wanted more than Psychology 101.  Is it true that American Jews are traumatized?   There was something big at stake here -- nothing less than the key to future Jewish survival, in both Israel and America. 

Academic specialists on American Jews claim that the Holocaust did not impact American Jews -- we are told they immediately put the dark past aside, moved to the suburbs and became happily assimilated Americans.  Prominent historians Oscar and Mary Handlin are quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg in his 1996 book, Jewish Power, with this statement extraordinary for its pathological denial:  “At mid-twentieth century, American Jews could look back with satisfaction at their recent past.” 

These successfully assimilated Jews now mostly marry non-Jews -- 72% among the secular -- and by a 3:1 margin they are choosing to raise their children as Christians or as nothing. The result is that one hundred secular American Jews alive today will only produce 5 Jewish grandchildren, and thus disappear from the face of the earth as a cultural group by the end of this century.   (Orthodox Jews are flourishing, but there are only about half a million of them, 13% of American Jews.)

The reason, we are told by the experts, has nothing at all to do with Jewish pain or fear -- on the contrary, it is a sign of Jews’ complete sense of safety and sameness in America, of the inability of Judaism to compete with secularism, and of Jewishness to compete with individualism.

Yet, in an unwittingly hilarious 1985 survey of San Francisco Jews, 30% said Jewish candidates could not be elected to Congress in their area due to anti-Semitism.  At the very time, 3 of 4 congressional representatives, 2 state senators, and the mayor of San Francisco were Jews. This study is often quoted to show that American Jews cling to delusions of anti-Semitism, supposedly because they lack any positive reason to remain Jewish. 

Such comments ignore a deeper truth:  American Jews do not feel as accepted as their successful assimilation would warrant.  Perhaps they know something the experts don’t: their own fear.  They know how they avoid distinctive Jewish identity as the only way to win superficial American acceptance. 

And so we come to the 1990 population survey sponsored by the Council of Jewish Federations.  This survey confronted Jewish leadership with the bad news that non-observant Jews are disappearing in America.  Most Jewish children are now born into mixed marriages.  When they ask, “What am I?  Am I Jewish?” They’re told, literally (yes, these are quotes): “No.  You’re nothing.” “You’re half and half.” “You’re free to make up your own identity later, when you’re older.”

Yes, a decrease in American bigotry has allowed Jews to intermarry -- but it doesn’t explain what they tell their children.   One may intermarry and still make the commitment to raise Jewish children together.   But the vast majority of intermarried Jews choose to not even try, even when their spouse says they’d be happy to raise the kids Jewish.   

Most Jewish parents of non-Jewish children see this choice as evidence of being tolerant and American.  They rarely let themselves know they’re choosing to disappear: it’s just an unfortunate side-effect from falling in love with this terrific person who happens not to be Jewish.  Using love as an explanation, the exit is easy.  American Jews no longer have to admit they are fleeing, no longer have to convert. 

The question remains: why are Jews using this exit in such vast numbers? 

Some Jews rationalize that higher values teach they shouldn’t limit their identification to one group.  Isn’t it morally superior to identity first and foremost as “human beings,” as most of the students in a Reform temple education class (whose goal is promoting Jewish continuity) did recently, with the beaming approval of their teacher?  It is common to hear, even from rabbis, that it is chauvinistic to tell your children that being Jewish is significantly different.  Jewish pride is now something to be ashamed of.

Most liberal Jews teach their children to feel shame about Israel, as seen in the words of Prof. Green.  This leaves Jewish kids defenseless against the assault of Israel-bashing they encounter in college, because they don’t recognize that hyper-criticism of Israel is a form of anti-Semitism.  So it is morally inferior to teach Jewish pride, morally superior to teach shame. 

Jewish parents don’t act as if it is in their children’s best interest for a happy, good, meaningful life, to be Jewish.  If you buy the idea that Jews feel completely secure and accepted in America, this is truly odd.  Wouldn’t everyone want their children to have the benefit of the subculture that produces the most stable families in America, the least social pathology, financial success, the highest achievements in the arts and sciences and social sciences, in social activism, charitableness, in every helping profession working to make life better, happier, longer for others? 

In the crassest of terms, it pays to be Jewish: Jews are less than 2% of the population, yet 1/3 of the billionaires, 25% of the multimillionaires; 30-50% of elite highly paid and high status professionals in many fields are Jews. 

Or if you care about higher values, what better way to counter American materialism and selfishness and alienation, than giving your children membership in the people-oriented embrace of the Jewish community and the high moral teachings of Judaism? 

You value the arts, the sciences, the social sciences -- fields where Jews are even more spectacularly over-represented than they are among the wealthy -- the numbers seems to indicate you will increase your child’s chance of having creative and academic values and capacities by giving them a Jewish identity. 

Care about making the world more just?  It was Jewish lawyers (notable among them Morris Abram) and Jewish money that won the defining Civil Rights court rulings, One Man One Vote, Brown v the Board of Education, and fair-employment laws.  On the level of personal courage, half of the white volunteers who went south to help Martin Luther King win the Civil Rights Acts were Jewish.  Later spurned by militant blacks, Jews turned their reforming energies to Amnesty International, the ACLU, peace missions. 

Of course there are brilliant, creative and good people of all religions, and activists from all ethnic groups -- but you can’t explain away that in reality, Jews are represented in huge numbers, the leaders and the foot soldiers, and the philanthropists, the key players -- wherever independent thinking and creativity and hard intellectual work and compassion and a drive for justice is called for in American life.

Being Jewish should be seen as an amazing prize.  Yet the majority of American Jews are not willing to enlist their spouse and tell their child “you’re a Jew.”   There has to be an explanation beyond feeling so comfortable in America:  “I’m so secure and comfortable, I’ll tell my child he’s nothing rather than drag in being Jewish.”

Here comes my point about the identity of trauma.  The experts tell us Jews are being assimilated because of the end of anti-Semitism.  Yet according to a CJP survey the vast majority of American Jews report their subjective experience is that anti-Semitism is still a very strong factor in America.  This is dismissed rather disrespectfully by the pundits, as unrealistic, a cartoonish clinging to distrust of goyim.  They don’t focus on what it shows about us:  American Jews are scared. 

Could it be that it is modern anti-Semitism that has driven Jews away from being Jewish?  The blessings of being Jewish come with a high emotional price tag.  Who wants to pass on memory of the Shoah, responsibility for Israel, and the present reality of Arab defamation, violence and hate?  Could it be that American Jews chose to not teach their children Jews are a distinct group, partly out of unconscious shame and fear, but also out of love.  Being Jewish entails a high price -- the price of taking on the traumatic burden of being a Jew. 

Since the Jewish experts are pretending there is no problem with the pain and fear of being Jewish, I turned to the more complex picture that surfaces in biographies, memoirs, and novels, and work in other academic fields.  They indicate that despite material security and success, no Jew in America lives free from the terror and pain of the Shoah, gut wrenching fears that Israel might not make it, and an undercurrent of discomfort among fellow Americans.

In “Jewish-American Artists & the Holocaust”, author Matthew Baigel  writes that as the noose closed around the Jews of Europe, American Jews were filled with “profound despair, … utter helplessness and … apprehensiveness about antisemitism in this country.”  Despair, helplessness, fear -- the key emotions of trauma.

American Jewish artists’ primary coping response: increased commitment to the strategy of appearing as non-Jewish as possible .  The generation of artists growing up in 1930’s and 40’s internalized American society’s view of Jews as inferior and worthless.  Self-hatred and self-protection reinforced the decision to become invisible.  They turned from representative painting to create the school of abstract expressionism, devoid of recognizable content.  Nothing personal to say, let’s move on.  The Shoah, Baigel writes, was for American Jewish artists “a primal injury.”

In the next generation, growing up in the 1950’s, we have the experiences of this Jewish woman from Baltimore, whose oral history was recorded by psycholinguist Michael Garbutt, in Hear My Story:

“My parents wanted me to have my nose done.  ‘So, you’re gonna have a nose job?  You’re gonna have a nose job, aren’t you?’  And why I resisted it I cannot tell you. I mean, my sister had her nose done, but I didn’t.  I mean I always hated my nose.  But it’s a Jewish nose, and I instinctively knew that my face wouldn’t look right without it.  You know…you’re meant to be put together in a certain way?  And that’s the way it is….But the good news is: as I was growing up I learned to talk the talk and walk the walk and I could do it.  I could pass.  And people -- it’s embarrassing -- people would say, ‘Oh, you’re Jewish?  But you don’t seem like a Jew to me…’ I mean, I took it as a compliment.  I tell you what I think.  I think that when I was growing up, there had to be an underlying terror of being Jewish that we weren’t fully conscious of.  I mean, if you didn’t have it before in the shtetl with pogroms, and I mean, hello!!!  I can’t really imagine that the shadow of the Holocaust didn’t incredibly fuel the desire to pass.”

Dr. Leslie Brody, director of clinical psychology at B.U., writes of her experience as a Bunting fellow at Radcliffe in the mid-90’s in an unusually honest book entitled Daughters of Kings: Growing Up as Jewish Woman in America.  She found that most of the elite Jewish women who were Bunting fellows hid their Jewishness in their liberal professional settings, from academia to Balkan peace negotiation.  When one of them spoke openly at Radcliffe of being Jewish, Dr. Brody felt alarmed:  “I did not imagine anyone feeling … warmly toward her for this public admission.” 

Dr. Brody reports: “My first recognition that people might hate me simply because I was Jewish came when I was seven.  My best friend Alice, also Jewish, spoke to me in a chilling whisper about the Nazis.  ‘They came with pitchforks to the door of Jewish children and twirled Jewish babies on them’….The conversation marked an abrupt loss of innocence I can never reclaim….To this day I can remember where we stood as we spoke.”  This kind of hyper-vivid memory is typical of trauma.

Dr. Brody writes, “Some cope with these fears by hiding their Jewishness to public eyes; others try also try to hide it from themselves, perhaps going so far as to …raise their children with no sense of their Jewish history.”

She herself was raised with no Jewish education and little religion, so that she feels left out of the Jewish community.  “I was left to define Judaism the way the majority defined it, internalizing all the negative stereotypes about Jews that I was exposed to… I almost never reveal that I am Jewish to a non-Jewish audience: …will they hate me…pigeonhole me with negative stereotypes…will they hurt me?” 

Dr. Brody’s Jewish fear and shame are even more common in today’s college generation.  In a psychology class at B.U., a visiting professor asked the 100 students to call out their ethnic identity or religion.  Fifteen ethnic backgrounds were called out.  None of the Jewish students spoke.  None.  At B.U., which has a large Jewish student population.  Finally the professor asked “are there any people of Jewish descent here?”  Notice the euphemism reminiscent of pre-war Germany.  A few of the many Jewish students silently nodded.  Dr. Brody subsequently posed the same question with other classes, with the same result.  

Philosophy professor Dr. Joshua Halberstam writes,

“The Shoah is arguably the worst single event in human history, and it happened to the grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins of American Jews.  You don’t lose more than a third of your people, a million and a half of your children, and not stagger through the next part of your history.  The lives of American Jews…proceed under this overwhelming shadow. …The Holocaust is certainly not history for them or the people in their lives….Most American Jews …fail to recognize that, as a community, Jews are still reeling from the terror even if they seem to be standing erect and confident.  The effect of trauma often works that way.”

If your defenses are so effective that you present an appearance to yourself and others of being erect and confident, how will you heal your wounded identity?  How will you overcome fear and pain if these emotions are compartmentalized, permitted briefly to emerge at Holocaust memorials, and then buried again?  How do you admit to fear and shame, when the fear and shame themselves are stigmatized emotions?  Could this be why the majority of American Jews are deciding not to raise Jewish children?  Could this be why criticism of Israel, however unfair and unfounded, makes many cringe with shame, or fall silent in distrust?

Even as the shadow of the Shoah hangs over us, news of Israel daily brings new feelings of despair, helplessness and fear.  Jews are once again the target of murderous rage cultivated by dictators for political purposes, nurtured by a powerful religion, and embraced enthusiastically by the masses.  Every American Jew lives with the knowledge, that there are tens of millions of Muslims today who think it is being a good person to kill and torment Jews -- them, their friends and neighbors, their children. 

In the words of an intermarried Jew quoted in Dr. Halberstam’s book, Shmoozing, published five years before 9/11,

“… Jews everywhere live in constant trepidation, if only subliminally.  The fear is buried below the conscious level…but when I look at my daughters, I’m aware that somewhere on this planet, at this very moment, there are people who want to murder them…Unfortunately, some of these people have the money, means and ideological connections that can transform them from … haters to real-life killers….This fear, this existential insecurity, is authentic and it sets Jews apart.” 

We are aware of the unintended result of the Oslo experiment.  Palestinian neo-Nazism is an open secret that few call by its real name.  The moment they gained autonomy, all during the hope-filled “peace process,” the official Palestinian Authority TV programs and summer camps, their schools and government appointed imams have been teaching their children that Jews drink human blood, that Jews are devils, that Allah wants Jews to be tortured and killed, that it is their life’s duty to wipe Israel off the map. 

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that blueprint for Nazism, is a bestseller among educated Palestinians (as well as Saudis and Egyptians and Jordanians, our moderate American allies).  Children are trained to sing songs, starting at age 4 and 5, about killing Jews. Not Israelis, Jews.  Holocaust denial is not only official government policy, it is popular belief. 

If this isn’t a neo-Nazi society, what is?  If Jews can’t call it by its real name, who will? The official PA web site shows their map, in which Israel has been wiped out.  It was posted for all to see during the entire peace process, but the sight was too depressing, and most of our media and most Jews turned their eyes away.

Just as in the 1930’s with the German Nazis, Palestinian Islamist Nazism is occasionally reported in the news, but rarely without being rationalized and justified as legitimate form for frustrated national aspirations.  This is the same way our media, led by the New York Times then as now, whitewashed the rise of German Nazism, as documented in Deborah Lipstadt’s book, Beyond Belief

Arab children have been abused and used as human sacrifice in the most horrific ways, their natures perverted into being killing machines.  Yet, lacking the psychological strength to let ourselves know these facts, nothing was done -- in the name of being good to these children, giving them a better future and of helping peace develop! 

The overwhelming drive to block out the reality of evil is central to the psychology of victims, and bystanders, and explains the irrational thinking of many previous Oslo supporters, Jews and non-Jews.  To understand this almost suicidal refusal to face anti-Semitism, we must turn to the classic work of the psychology of trauma, Trauma and Recovery, by Dr. Judith Herman, called by the New York Times one of the most important psychiatric works to be published since Freud.

To look at traumatic abuse is to stare into the face of evil.  It is unbearably discomforting for witness as well as victim.  It is the norm to avoid this pain by taking the side of the perpetrator, who asks all be forgotten.

To listen, to look, is to share the burden, not just of pain, but of despair and meaninglessness and helplessness -- some of the worst feelings in the human psyche.  It is so much easier to listen to the perpetrator -- the Nazi, the Palestinian or Saudi Jew hater, the incestuous child abuser, the batterer -- to buy into his denial and rationalizations: the victim is lying, the victim is exaggerating, the victim brought it on himself, the victim deserves it, I’m a person just like you, I’m the real victim, I was just so frustrated, you must understand why I got so angry, it is time to move on. 

No one wants to know.  Whether discussing Israel’s persecution by the Arab world dedicated to her annihilation or a child molested by her own father -- each must contend with society’s desire to deny the situation.  The credibility of the victim and of those investigators willing to document the truth, are repeatedly challenged -- to the point where advocating for truth is a career breaker.

The sustained investigation of trauma, Dr. Herman reports, depends on political support by an organized movement.  Thus Freud’s initial discovery that hysteria was caused by sexual abuse, led not to social action, but to a new theory that soothingly proposed it was all a figment of the women’s diseased minds.  The very existence of sexual abuse of children dropped from view until the feminist movement a century later insisted the truth be faced.  Unless Jewish organizations insist that society face up to Arab neo-Nazism, it will never happen.  In Dr. Herman’s words, “repression, dissociation and denial are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness.”

Facing the truth poses a traumatic social and political problem, because there are no obvious solutions.  Arab neo-Nazism is a traumatic problem, which lacks a powerful constituency to insist on its being faced and addressed properly.  No one wants to know -- not the Jewish community, not the wider society, not the media, not our politicians.

The Anti-Defamation League is keen to publicize American skinheads and the danger of prayer in the schools -- these are safe, socially acceptable targets in their social milieu.  But the rise of Arab anti-Semitism to the levels of neo-Nazism -- if this is not what ‘Never Forget’ refers to, what is? -- was of minimal interest to ADL until after 9/11.  Before 9/11, if you called to ask what ADL was doing about Palestinian anti-Semitism, you’d be referred to their web site which contained a letter from Abe Foxman and a two-year-old article.  That was the total of their efforts. 

As for the Wiesenthal Center -- the recent terror war has led them to become active for the first time in publicizing Arab anti-Semitism.  Yet before 9/11 when a concerned donor (myself) called the development office to offer $10,000 to their program publicizing Arab anti-Semitism, they had to turn down the contribution -- they were doing nothing. 

Virtually all the information we have about what’s going on in Arabic is the translation work of a tiny underfunded independent research center called MEMRI (www. MEMRI.org).  According to MEMRI director Yigal Carmon, long before 9/11 the Wiesenthal Center gave MEMRI a $25,000 grant to translate the Arab media, but on reading the results -- anti-Semitic ravings not seen since the days of German Nazism -- the Wiesenthal Center chose not to publish the report, nor would they allow MEMRI to publish it.  The Wiesenthal Center buried news that Nazi propaganda is back with us in Arab guise.  No one was willing to know.

Similarly, Brandeis University a month before Sept. 11, quashed a high-level panel examining the rise of state-sponsored Arab anti-Semitism that had been a year in the planning.  Sylvia Fuks Fried, the executive director of the Sarnat Center for the Study of Anti-Jewishness, decided at the last moment that she preferred a focus “on a comparative scholarly investigation into images and representations of the “other” in the Middle East.  This larger perspective would … delve into the more ambiguous and ambivalent forms of expression as found in novels, poetry, in addition to “popular culture” throughout the Middle East.”  However, since “the scope of the latter model goes well beyond the scope of the initial vision, and requires considerable planning,” she wrote, “These discussions have led me to decide to put the event on hold indefinitely.”  Even a university prefers silence. 

Just as with rape or child abuse, paying attention to the perpetrator can earn the journalist a stunted career.  Any group that tries to publicize Arab hate is criticized and marginalized as right wing.  News of Arab anti-Semitism is routinely and thoroughly censored by NPR, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, because the reality of these facts is unwelcome.

Steven Rosenfeld, then editorial page editor of the Washington Post, when asked in the name of free speech and full reporting to publish information on state-sponsored Palestinian anti-Semitism, told CAMERA, a media watch-dog group: ‘I’d rather give up Israel than give up my belief in the rational solution of problems.”  As if his job as an editor were to decide the fate of Israel, instead of cover news. 

Similarly, the New York Times, under pressure from CAMERA, finally ran one single story on the topic of Palestinian Authority incitement of violence.  The New York Times article concluded that Israeli complaints about Palestinian incitement were dubious and excessive.  Quote:

“Israelis cite as one egregious example a televised sermon that defended the killing of the two soldiers [in Ramallah]. ‘Whether Likud or Labor, Jews are Jews’ proclaimed Sheik Ahmad Abu Halabaya in a live broadcast from a Gaza City mosque...” 

The Times reporter used the quote to show how mild Palestinian incitement is. “Likud or Labor, a Jew is a Jew.” Big deal.  But the following quote comes from the same exact sermon:

‘Fight them; Allah will torture them at your hands, and will humiliate them. … Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them...”

When CAMERA discussed this mendacious selection of quotes from the same exact sermon with Times News Editor Bill Borders, he defended the Times and said, “...instances of hate speech in the region do not strike us as unusual or pivotal events.”   He thus admitted it was the Times policy not to cover Arab anti-Semitism -- but the Times was willing to print the falsehood that official Palestinian incitement to hate and kill Jews was minimal.  This is so far beyond the bounds of normal professionalism, that it is almost incomprehensible -- except for Judith Herman’s insights into how society has treated traumatic terror and abuse, time after time.   

Let us turn to Judith Herman again.  One of the most common effects of trauma is a psychological mechanism called displacement. “(The abused child) tends to displace her anger from the dangerous source and to discharge it unfairly on those who did not provoke it.”  Thus, good hearted liberal Jews are not angry at the Palestinians for their violent, hate-filled actions -- they are angry at Jewish settlers.  They project their anger onto “bad Jews” -- the Orthodox, Likud supporters, settlers -- to bolster a sense of their own goodness, and the potential goodness of the abuser.

Dr. Herman, describing an abused child: In an adaptive function to preserve hope, the child creates a “delusion of good parents.”  “When it is impossible to avoid the reality of the abuse, the child must construct some system of meaning that justifies it.  Inevitably, the child concludes that her innate badness is the cause.  The child seizes upon this explanation and clings to it tenaciously, for it enables her to preserve a sense of meaning, hope and power.  If she is bad, then her parents are good.  If she is bad, then she can try to be good.  If somehow, she has brought this fate upon herself, then somehow she has the power to change it.” 

Let’s read this paragraph again, applying it to Israel and the Palestinians -- If Israel’s badness is the cause of Palestinian hate and violence, then there is hope.  If the Israelis are the ones who are bad, then we can believe that the Palestinians are reasonable people who really want peace.  If Israel is bad, then Israel can try harder to be good.  If Israeli injustice and intransigence is the cause of the unending hate and violence and terror and neo-Nazism, then we Americans can get rid of this pain by pressuring Israel to change her badness.  In the effort to preserve hope, we create the delusion that Arafat was a peace partner.

One of the main effects of trauma is what Dr. Herman calls a “damaged self.”  The result is a person prone to guilt, shame and doubt. 

“The child entrapped in this kind of horror develops the belief that she is somehow responsible for the crimes of her abusers.  Simply by virtue of her existence on earth, she believes she has driven the most powerful people in her world to do terrible things.”  The abused child cannot afford to face the truth or feel anger towards her abuser, so she blames herself.  This is the victim mentality. 

It was not long ago that even liberal Americans and Europeans knew that Israel had the right to exist, and that the recognition of Jewish national sovereignty in Israel was an act of great justice.  We once could see clearly the big lies of the Arab propaganda war.  We knew that Jerusalem had never been an Arab capital or even a primary Arab religious site.  Even semi-informed people knew that the Arabs living west of the Jordan River were not a distinct national unit  (they considered themselves Syrian), and had tragically become a group of pathetic and suffering refugees, rejected and manipulated by their own people for unworthy political ends.  It didn’t take much reading to discover the PLO was founded in 1964, before the West Bank was ‘occupied by Israel,’ and that its goal was and remains seizing all of Israel from the Jews.

But many liberal bystanders, including prominent Jews with liberal careers at stake in government and media, avert their attention from the easily available information that exposes Arab motives and goals as something completely other than justice and legitimate national aspirations.  Maybe Israel’s very existence is an injustice, they suggest to themselves, in which case, Israel deserves the abuse they are getting. 

If only they would behave better, those Jews, the Arabs would not hate them.  If only we had behaved better, we German Jews, the Germans would not become Nazis.  If only we dressed differently, we rape victims, it would never have happened.  If only we were good girls, we incest victims, this wouldn’t happen to us.  It’s the victim and bystander mentality.

Unless forced by pressure groups, society always blames the victim and ignores the perpetrator.  Dr. Herman writes, in language that could be directly transposed to the way society approaches Palestinian violence against Israel:  “It is sometimes forgotten that men’s violence is men’s behavior…. (There is an) enormous effort to explain male behavior by examining the characteristics of women

Why should Israel need to convince fellow westerners there is no justification possible for teaching children to blow themselves up to murder other children?  It is that society is highly motivated to block out facts that indicate the victim is not to blame -- whether it be Jews, rape victims, traumatized soldiers, battered wives or abused children.

For most American Jews, Israel is not a real place.  Only a fraction have ever visited the country.  It is the locus of fears.  It is the locus of displaced shame and guilt and anger.  It is the locus of dreams for a rescuer who will make all Jews feel safe.  Remember Professor Green of Brandeis, seeing Israel as if it combined the sins of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust, and then asserting that Israel had harmed his good name. 

This is a transference reaction, seen repeatedly by therapists working with victims of violence: We first identity with Israel as the strong savior, then demand perfection from it, then perceive even the slightest flaw as a betrayal and gross deception, then wish to coerce it…and then, in advanced cases, to abandon it and let it feel the trauma we now imagine this idealized savior inflicted on us.

Israel is the only country in the world facing the threat of annihilation for daring to exist, just as the Jews did in pre-Holocaust Europe.  How can American Jews feel safe at home, when the world still contains nations eager to annihilate Jews en masse, supported by an indifferent American media and most of the worlds’ governments? 

Maybe the reason there will be so few American Jews left by the end of the century is that they’re scared to be Jews, unwilling to raise Jewish children to be traumatized in turn.  Maybe one generation after the Holocaust, facing a world of Islamist hate, it seems like a loving option. 

This is not just an American Jewish problem.  W all need to become aware of and overcome our victim and bystander identity if we want to face the real world.  Actual peace can never be won through blaming the victim. 

State-sponsored murderous Jew-hatred is part of a larger complex of violence, whether in Nazi Germany or today’s Islamist fascists, that threaten us all.  September 11 has made that perfectly clear.

Maybe its time we all look in the mirror, and notice that we have a lot of honest appraisal to do.