I just read a fascinating article about the integral role anti-semitism has played in the formation of the modern Jewish identity, and why that is a problem. It is by Avraham Burg and was published in Haaretz (on a side note, isn’t it amazing that Haaretz is so critical of Israeli policies while not a single western media outlet dares to be critical?)
The main question was:
The time has come to take the next step and ask whether we can in fact exist at all without an external enemy, without anti-Semitism. Do we have the courage to take issue against the embarrassing, absurd conclusion of both these writers, which holds that we need anti-Semitism in order to define ourselves?
The author clarifies that of course anti-semitism does exist. But it is little when compared to what it was in the past and what it could be in the future. Burg also touches on the issue of linking criticism of Israeli policies to anti-semitism:
Israel sweeps all the criticism against it, both justified and unjustified, under the same anti-Semitic rug. It is actually we who are repeatedly mixing up proper criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. The reason is to avoid at any price having to confront the situation and make tough existential decisions: the occupation, the injustices, the discrimination, the persecution of the non-Jewish minority in our midst. As long as “they” are anti-Semites, we feel pure and justified in our own eyes.
Burg argues that the establishment the State of Israel not only failed to solve the problems for the sake of which it was founded but, on the contrary, made them a lot worse.
In the past, anti-Semitism was the primary focus of Western hatred. The society of the First World is saturated with immigrants, with new “others.” Muslims and people from the East, labor migrants and seekers of political asylum, Turks and Koreans, Jews and Chinese, pagans and Hindus.
Yes, the Western world is once more coping with issues relating to the “other” by means of hatred and segregation. But this time we are not at the top of the list.
Burg concludes with the following:
There is an internal Jewish essence that is not dependent on external circumstances. It is buried deep below layers of historical trauma. But its heart still beats; in the form of humanism, responsibility for the peace of the world, universalism without boundaries. Israel’s establishment ought to enable the realization of this potential. For example, the state of those who were ostracized can do everything in its power to assist the present-day ostracized who have taken their place. It can be a partner in the creation of a world coalition against hatred. Precisely because of its memories.
It really is one of the best articles I’ve read in a while on Israeli/Jewish identity. You can find the article here.