Screenwriter, film director, and producer Oliver Stone is a cultural icon. He has won multiple Academy Awards and has contributed to the making of dozens of iconic films that have helped shape our views on war, love, politics, and other weighty matters. Oliver Stone is also an antisemite.
Alan Dershowitz is a lawyer, an author, a gifted speaker, and a cultural icon in his own right. Alan Dershowitz is also a staunch supporter of Israel. When Dershowitz heard that Stone had blamed Israel of meddling with the recent US election, he challenged Stone to a debate about whether or not there was truth to his statement.
Mr. Dershowitz has been making the case for Israel for many years, and his support is heartwarming and impressive. In 2005 he conducted an epic debate with Jewish Israel basher Noam Chomsky at Harvard University, and he works tirelessly to support Israel on every front.
Still, judging by the exponential growth in antisemitism in the US and around the world in recent years, these efforts have had zero impact. However reasonable the arguments, they will never taper antisemitism because hatred needs no reasonable arguments to justify itself.
Jew-Hatred Makes No Sense
Throughout history, Jew-hatred has worn different attires at different times. Jews have been accused of poisoning wells, baking matzos with the blood of Christian (and now Muslim) children, warmongering, usury, slave trading, conspiring to dominate the world, and spreading disease (from the Black Death to Ebola). Jews have also been accused of manipulating the media to their needs, disloyalty to their host countries, harvesting organs, and spreading AIDS.
Moreover, Jews are often accused of conflicting “crimes.” Communists accused them of creating capitalism; capitalists accused them of inventing communism. Christians accused Jews of killing Jesus, while dissidents of the church accused Jews of inventing Christianity. Jews have been labeled as warmongers and cowards, racists and cosmopolitans, spineless and unbending, and countless other contradictions.
Clearly, Jew-hatred is irrational and deep.
To change people’s feelings about Jews and the nation state of the Jews, namely Israel, we must appeal to their feelings, to their hearts, and not to their minds. To do that, we must address the old trope to which Dershowitz referred in the post I mentioned earlier: if anything went wrong, it’s the Jews’ fault.
Hatred from Without and from Within
As is evident by the irrationality of Jew-hatred, the Jews are not an ordinary nation. Since its inception, its most prominent proponents have been the target of aggression and enmity. Abraham was thrown into a furnace after his own father, Terah, brought him to be tried by the king. Terah did not protest the verdict. Joseph was thrown into a pit full of snakes and then sold to slavery by his own brothers after they relinquished their initial plan to assassinate him. Moses was chased by his adopted grandfather, Pharaoh, and was often criticized by his own people.
After Moses, when the people of Israel were established as a nation, they suffered internal conflicts that were just as bad, if not worse, than the enemies they encountered from the outside. The First Temple was ruined due to idol-worship, incest, and bloodshed. Even before it was ruined, the Hebrew kings Ahaz and Hezekiah both looted the Temple and handed over its treasures to foreign kings.
At the time of the Second Temple, Hellenists—Jews who wanted to install the Greek culture and belief in Israel—hated their brethren so fiercely that they fought them to the death instead of the Greeks.
In the end, self-hatred inflicted the ruin of the Second Temple and an exile that lasted two millennia. Worse yet, Tiberius Julius Alexander—commander of the Roman armies that conquered Jerusalem, ruined the Temple, and exiled its people—was an Alexandrian Jew whose own father had donated the gold and silver for the Temple gates. In fact, before Tiberius Alexander stormed Jerusalem, he had obliterated his native community of Alexandria, causing “the whole district [to be] deluged with blood as 50,000 corpses were heaped up,” according to Jewish-Roman historian Titus Flavius Josephus.
In my previous column, I mentioned more of the countless cases where Jews turned against their own people. It turns out that we are unique not only in the relentless, irrational hatred we suffer from without, but also in the profound odium that Jews feel and display toward their own brethren. This begs the question: What is it about Jews that makes them the object of such pervasive loathing?
Who Is a Jew?
The book Yaarot Devash (Part 2, Drush no. 2) writes that the word Yehudi (Jew) comes from the Hebrew word yihudi, meaning united. When Abraham the Patriarch first established his group, he did so on the backdrop of an outburst of egoism in the Babylonian Empire where he was born. The book Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter of Rabbi Eliezer) describes how the builders of the Tower of Babylon “wanted to speak to one another but did not know each other’s language. What did they do? Each took his sword and they fought each other to the death. Indeed, half the world was slaughtered there, and from there they scattered all over the world.”
To help the Babylonians, Abraham developed a method for connecting people. He realized that selfishness was intensifying faster than people could contain it. Therefore, instead of trying to restrain their egos, Abraham suggested that they shift their focus to connection. In this way, he hoped his countryfolk would rise above their egoism and connect.
Although Abraham was expelled from Babylon (having survived being thrown into the furnace), he continued to circulate his views as he wandered toward the Land of Israel. Gradually, writes Maimonides in Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1), Abraham, together with his wife, Sarah, gathered tens of thousands of people, all versed in uniting above their egos.
This special characteristic of Abraham’s students—to make unity and brotherhood the means as well as the end—became the essence of Judaism. This is why Old Hillel told the man who wanted to convert: “That which you hate, do not do unto your neighbor; this is the whole of the Torah” (Shabbat, 31a), and why Rabbi Akiva asserted, “Love your neighbor as yourself; this is the great rule of the Torah” (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim, 30b).
We became a nation only when we vowed to be “as one man with one heart,” and immediately after, we were commanded to be “a light unto nations”—to circulate our special unity to all. Just as Abraham intended to do in Babylon, when he wished to spread unity indiscriminately, we were commanded to be a light unto all the nations—to spread unity throughout the world.
Therefore, our nationhood consists of two tenets: 1) to be united as one man with one heart, 2) to share the method for achieving unity with all of humanity. If we do not abide by these two rules, we are not Jewish.
Since these two principles have been the essence of our peoplehood since its inception, any accusation that the Jews are inflicting harm upon the world, such as the trope that Dershowitz mentioned—that if anything goes wrong, it is the Jews’ fault—is a (usually unconscious) statement that the Jews are not Jews. In other words, they are not projecting unity and brotherhood, but rather the opposite.
In some cases, the sensation of antisemites that Jewish egoism is the problem is so intense that they can even verbalize it. German philosopher and anthropologist Ludwig Feuerbach wrote in The Essence of Christianity: “The Jews have maintained their peculiarity to this day. Their principle, their God, is the most practical principle in the world—namely egoism.”
If this is what we are projecting, is it any wonder we are hated? We may have given ourselves amnesty from the “verdict” of being “a light unto nations,” but the nations have never given this to us. Their accusations, the high moral standards by which they judge Israel and the Jews, their admiration and their fear speak for themselves. It will not help us if we try to be like them; they will not accept us as such. We have been, are, and always will be expected to be a beacon of unity, “a light unto nations.”
Until we unite above our hatred just as our ancestors did millennia ago, we will continue to be the world’s only pariahs.
No compelling argument, conclusive proof, or hard evidence will convince the Oliver Stones in the world that they are wrong. In their hearts, they know that they are right—that Jews are to blame for every bad thing that happens. For Mr. Stone, that bad thing is the election of Donald Trump as president. But even before Trump was elected, Stone found reasons to dislike Jews, proving once again that hatred will cling to any pretext to justify itself, regardless of objective truths.
Therefore, if we truly want to oust antisemitism, we must do the thing we want the least: unite with our brethren to the tribe—our fellow Jews—above all of our disputes, alienation, and hatred.
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