February 17, 2019

Let's Retire the Term "Self-Hating Jew"

“There is the unambiguous extremist, the sort who marches with torches in Charlottesville, and who believes, with some justification, that there is a sympathizer in the White House.

There is the utilitarian anti-Semite, “the pot-stirrer who enables haters,” whom Lipstadt finds even more reprehensible than the openly hateful ideologue, because of the way he can stealthily manipulate audiences. President Trump and British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn fit into this category.

There is the dinner party anti-Semite — the sort who knows better than to demean Jews in polite company, but who nevertheless sows seeds of contempt.

Finally, Lipstadt describes the clueless anti-Semite, who “is an otherwise nice and well-meaning person who is completely unaware that she has internalized antisemitic stereotypes and is perpetuating them.”

Based on the rhetoric I hear and read, some Jews act as if there is a fifth category: the Jewish anti-Semite. The self-hating Jew.

And they get to decide who fits the description.

I would, instead, suggest that we retire the term. Even if it has some historical or descriptive value, it has become so weaponized and partisan that it’s become a counterproductive and demeaning slur.

Yes, there are Jews who hate Judaism. There are Jews who may hate Israel. There are Jews who may hate other Jews.

In a society that values freedom of speech, conscience and expression, this ought to be allowed. You don’t have to approve of such people, or invite them to your synagogue or your Shabbat table, or cheer if they are dating your daughter. But to imply that someone is “self-hating” is impossible to prove, highly insulting and self-defeating. It gets you nowhere.

It makes you the arbiter of what it means to love yourself as a Jew, and that is not the role any human can or should play.”

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