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Judah Maccabee Was Your Father Print E-mail

By Sarah Honig
January 22, 2009

Happy days - the Israeli movie Waltz with Bashir is raking in the tributes. Having done us proud and won the Golden Globe, it's now a prime Oscar contender. Already under its belt is the Israel Film Academy's Ophir. It was singled out as the best animation feature by LA's film critics and was an unexpected box office hit in its recent theatrical release in America.

This presumably should make us ever-so-joyful. The much-maligned Jewish state, after all, craves honors, even when they effectively dishonor it.

To figure this out we might recall the Hanover-born philosopher Theodor Lessing, who was assassinated by Hitler's agents in 1933. The man who delved into the warped Jewish psyche and produced the still eminently germane volume entitled Der Judische Selbsthass - Jewish self-hate - deserves attention, especially as Israelis daily disprove his optimistic prognosis.

Born into an assimilationist family, Lessing converted to Christianity, as was the vogue among his contemporary up-and-coming young German-Jewish sophisticates. But then, deeply affected by anti-Semitism and passionately moved by the Zionist ethos of Jewish national revival, he recanted, returned to Judaism, visited pre-independence Israel and theorized that only in its environment of a healthy normal Jewish existence, can Jews stop hating themselves.

That's how much he knew!

Back then, three years before the Third Reich's birth (and, as it emerged, three years before his own unnatural death), he took it upon himself to painfully pick at the most intractable of Jewish scabs - the maddening capacity of Jews to loathe themselves or, more precisely, to loathe their fellow Jews. He ascribed this inclination to two millennia of abnormal persecuted existence. He assumed that the normalization, which Zionism took upon itself to achieve, would eradicate the aberration. It was a sound hypothesis, except that perhaps Lessing and Zionism underestimated the profound psychological deformity which 2,000 years of anomaly wrought.

THAT CROSSED my mind when Waltz won the Globe. In concept and execution this peculiar animated hybrid perhaps breaks with convention, but its central thematic core is every bit as predictable, cravenly conformist and run of the mill as nearly all Israeli flicks of the past few decades.

Local filmmakers uniformly revel in portraying Israelis as jaded, essentially unpleasant (if not altogether repulsive), justifiably insecure, rightfully apologetic, malaise-ridden, terminally devoid of vitality, corroded within and/or wretchedly wrecked by self-reproach.

The Arab is revealed as the antithesis to the inherently disagreeable, fatigued, befuddled, farcical, foolish and/or pathetic Israeli. Arabs are devoted patriots, confident in their cause, outspoken in their righteous indignation, vindicated in their umbrage, noble, proud, tough, young, vigorous and deserving of victory.

Some occasional counterfeit cardboard dichotomies are tolerable - freedom of expression and all that rot. However, when simplistic falsehoods become the single premise, then the overbearing presence of pressure by manipulative groupthink must at least be suspected. The utter lack of deviation from this one homogeneous portraiture-style testifies to the imposition of ideological diktats, obviously in the name of democracy and artistic free-will.

Misgivings are further intensified when we realize how many of these one-dimensional productions are subsidized by the Education Ministry's Israel Film Fund. Portions of our hard-earned incomes go - as taxes collected from you and me - to underwrite either outright slander of the Jewish state or, at best, unsympathetic depictions of a bumbling imbecilic entity.

No government dares reduce officialdom's largesse to Israel's self-appointed creative ambassadors, who blithely batter their country's image at any available film festival abroad. Hand-in-hand with omnipotent media cliques, our artistes vehemently orchestrate intimidating reputation-trashing onslaughts which no higher-up or administration in recent memory could withstand.

And so, willing or not, we bankroll them and, at our expense, they relish in thumbing their avant-garde noses at the "benighted" aggregate of ordinary Israelis who are denied other homegrown cinematic fare, certainly anything Zionist. Since nothing pro-Israeli can win accolades at Cannes or Berlin, the preferences of overseas nabobs must be pandered to in our filmmakers' quest for fame and fortune. Thus, to bask in the limelight of enlightened foreign approval, Israelis enhance the fraudulent Arab narrative. Pleasing the enemy is the one surefire way to make it in Israeli showbiz.

THIS STATE of affairs, after 60 years of Jewish sovereignty, would have shocked the Zionist in Lessing. Nevertheless, Lessing the scholar would have easily been able to fit the Israeli strain of "the old Jewish disease" into his painstakingly compiled typology of self-hating Jews.

In essence Lessing noted that Jews are unique in their self-deprecation, yet it's such second-nature that they seldom acknowledge the condition. Non-Jews would never dream of harboring such scorn for themselves.

Excessively moralistic and idiosyncratically contrary, Jewish intellectuals are predisposed to self-blame, even when not remotely guilty of whatever inequity they ascribe to their people. This meshes flawlessly with the historically honed and religiously indoctrinated propensity of non-Jews to scapegoat Jews. But uber-brainy Jewish suck-ups, stopping at nothing to ingratiate themselves, invariably praise those who despise and target them.

They demonstrate an inexhaustible aptitude for understanding visceral antagonism toward themselves and identifying with the antagonists' rationale. It's a combination of their contempt for their own kind and their hankering to be accepted by those who abhor them. That, in a nutshell, is the Jew's predilection for forsaking his own heritage and his longing for another identity.

Israel's artistic/intellectual milieu dovetails with alarming precision into Lessing's diagnosis of Jewish psychopathology. Its seasoned hotshots and neophyte pretenders alike yearn for approbation from globalized multiculturalism's makers-and-breakers, the dispensers of politically correct postmodernist endorsement. And since the latter, for a myriad of unsaintly motives, choose to subscribe to "Palestinian" historiography, Israel's eager-to-curry-favor intelligentsia must cozy up to the Palestinians.

Thereby, latter-day Israelis paradoxically parallel Lessing's peers, who courted esteem by renouncing their roots. Like their cerebral forerunners, they too enlist to battle the Jewish nation, creed and civilization. Lessing didn't imagine that what he dubbed "auto-anti-Semitism" could continue within the self-governing Zionist creation. The affliction which tainted his own generation with self-hate, he reasoned, was fated to disappear. While initially Zionism gained impetus from the rejection Jews suffered, the complex-free generation born into a liberated Jewish state "would be Zionist because it feels Jewish, not because it is injured by its Jewishness." Remember, Lessing urged fellow Jews, "Judah Maccabee was your father. Queen Esther was your mother. You are a link in the chain of Saul, David and Moses. Don't betray your destiny. Follow it." But both foremost and upstart Israeli highbrows would undoubtedly mock such exhortation as preposterously naïve, uncool and dangerously reactionary. They would anyway never deign to read Lessing.

Anything Zionist is backward and irrelevant for self-seeking post-Zionists, although - irony of ironies - they uncannily mimic the very self-reviling Jews whom Lessing so rigorously analyzed.

 

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