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A similar phenomenon can be seen in the American Jewish community. Today, polls of American Jews show them overwhelmingly sharing the concerns of the great majority of Israelis regarding the threats Israel faces from Iran, with its calls for Israel’s annihilation and its advancement towards nuclear weapons. They likewise share Israeli wariness vis-a-vis a Palestinian leadership, and Arab states, that employ their media, mosques and schools to promote genocidal anti-Semitism and its corollary demonization of Israel and exhortation to pursuit of the Jewish state’s destruction. Yet a notable portion of American Jewish elites, including elements of Jewish community leadership but more particularly numbers of those within academia, journalism and the arts, choose to downplay the threats faced by Israel, disparage anyone who emphasizes those threats, and insist that Israeli refusal to make sufficient concessions is the chief obstacle to Middle East peace. They do so not least to ingratiate themselves with and cement acceptance by those groups with which they identify and whose approval they seek.
One might wonder why Thomas Friedman has for decades written, in column after column, that Israel’s unwillingness to return essentially to its pre-1967 armistice lines is the primary cause of continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and why he has, over those decades, generally ignored or downplayed Palestinian and broader Arab rejection of Israel’s legitimacy and incessant incitement to the Jewish state’s destruction. One might be still more puzzled by his recent parroting of hoary anti-Semitic tropes, his insistence that if Congress gives a warm welcome to Israel’s prime minister and if some American leader endorses pro-Israel stances that are, in fact, widely shared among Americans, they must do so because they have been “bought and paid for” by Jewish money.
One might wonder why another Jewish journalist, Peter Beinart – even as he repeatedly declares his devotion to Israel’s well-being – either makes light of the threats Israel faces or acknowledges them only to construe them as a product of Israeli policies; why he devotes an entire book to indicting Israelis for their reluctance to make greater concessions to those who would destroy them.
Could it be that Friedman and Beinart essentially identify with Israel and, like the abused child, are primarily moved by a wish to embrace, in the face of painful circumstances, fantasies of Israeli control over those circumstances, however removed from reality such fantasies may be; that their writings are expressions of wishful delusions that Israel, by its own actions, can end its besiegement? Or are they moved primarily by a wish to distance themselves from a besieged Israel and choose to identify with groups whose members are more inclined to be detractors of the Jewish state?
It is perhaps not insignificant, as evidence of what most motivates them, that both Friedman’s columns and Beinart’s book are published by the New York Times, which for over a century has sought to distance itself from Jewish travails. The paper did so most notoriously in the 1930’s and during World War II, including burying stories on the mass murder of Europe’s Jews. And it has likewise either ignored the genocidal anti-Semitism that pervades Palestinian and broader Arab culture, as well as that of much of the wider Islamic world, or has noted others’ concerns about this Jew-hatred only to downplay or dismiss such concerns or even to ridicule them.
In understanding a Friedman or a Beinart, the more germane explanation is likely that reflected in Thurgood Marshall’s reference to the predilection of some within besieged groups to distance themselves from their group, and Marshall’s recognition that – expanding on his particular examples – this is especially common among those eager to win and maintain approval by parties not notably sympathetic to the besieged.
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