Recent events offer two interconnected mysteries. How could so many people decide Israeli soldiers murdered the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, when the Palestinian Authority sabotaged the autopsy, leaving it unclear whose bullet actually killed her? And how, after a crazed 18-year-old racist murdered 10 Black Americans in Buffalo, 6,000 miles away from Israel, did some purported “experts” link this Jew-hater’s “Great Replacement theory” rants to Zionists’ “opposition to the Palestinian right of return”?
Jew-hatred is highly adaptable
We know that Jew-hatred is the most plastic hatred, forever form-fitted to fit the obsessions of the moment, but this is ridiculous!
Welcome to the ongoing, ever-evolving, Jew-haters’ jamboree. Here, facts and logic don’t count. Here, Zionists lurk behind every disaster and evil thought, spreading racism, supremacy, even disease, from COVID-19 to George Floyd’s murder, from Russian invasions to Buffalo massacres.
Still, pity the poor Jew-haters – they know not joy, complexity, subtlety. These all-or-nothing know-nothing know-it-alls live in a world where, by exaggerating Israel’s evil, they exaggerate Jews’ power, too. When you deem Zionism Satanic yet Israel keeps thriving, it must be hell on your nerves.
Ask the Palestinians how well this Jew-hatred has worked for them. It’s kept them stateless, powerless, languishing. All it has gotten them is Hamas oppressors and PA thugs propping up their dictatorships with Jew-hatred, demonizing Israel to justify squelching Palestinian thought, freedom, prosperity and independence.
Who would want to join this bigot’s banquet? I prefer living in my blue-and-white world, struggling with occasional grays, to living in their bleak black-and-white world, forever calling for my blood and that of my people. Exploiting trend after trend and any communal or universal setbacks, they blame everything on the Jews, making Israel the world’s Muck Magnet. It’s Sisyphean. Zionophobes cook up new recipes – accusations – and then bite into them, only to taste the same stale, bitter Jew-hatred, which poisons their souls, not ours.
Obviously, people can criticize any country, including Israel. But these obnoxious obsessions and assaults on truth mock history, sociology and political science, sending us passed psychology into psychopathology. Zionophobia is riddled with what therapists call “cognitive distortions.”
Psychology of bigotry
Psychologists have long shown how perverse perceptions imprison people in misanthropic misconceptions. CBT – cognitive behavioral therapy – helps patients reframe their understandings of reality. Beware mental filters, therapists warn, brain fritzes blocking or shrinking the good, the generous, the comforting, while locking in and overinflating the bad, the negative, the unnerving. Such reframing, such brain fixes, reprogram what people see to be more accurate and constructive.
Instead, regarding Israel, many prefer de-framing – reframing reality to defame. Popular anti-Zionist perversions include:
Stretching: Anti-Zionists love “kitchen-sinking,” throwing everything at Israel, including the kitchen sink. As bogeymen rise and fall, fanatics try hogtying Israel to the big crime of the moment or the latest, trendiest ideological sin, like the Great Replacement theory, just as Israel is forever accused of racist, imperialist, colonialist crimes other powers committed, not Israel.
Indicting: Any mistake any Israeli makes, or any crime any Israeli commits, supposedly justifies Israel’s permanent place in the dockets of the UN, the International Criminal Court, and much of the human rights community. Somehow, mini-Israel looms super-large in the craziest worst-case scenarios of the far Left and the far Right.
Catastrophizing: It’s all black-and-white, totally bleak, regarding Israel. Too many conversations about Israel become no-nuance and complexity-free zones. Anything Israel does ends up integrated into some systematic conspiracy against the always blameless Palestinians. A journalist can die accidentally in a firefight, yet anti-Israel congresswomen declare that Israeli snipers targeted her, as though these 20-year-old soldiers fighting for their lives knew who she was – or cared.
Calcifying: For anti-Zionists making up twistory, time stands still, nothing ever changes, progress must be ignored. It’s too much fun to keep shrieking about “Deir Yasin” and the supposed “Nakba,” as though it’s still 1948. And it’s too tempting to ignore Israel’s many attempts to make peace with Palestinians, its breakthroughs with Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Morocco, and the Sudan, let alone countries like Saudi Arabia, which informally cooperate with the “Zionists.”
Spearheading all this Stretching, Indicting, Catastrophizing, and Calcifying, Palestinian extremists try “Siccing” the world on Israel. For centuries, crying “Sic ’em” unleashed attack dogs, because owners bark orders in short, punchy ways dogs can hear to “seek” particular targets. Fittingly, “sic” also highlights when someone erred – making SICC the right acronym for this perverse but increasingly respectable pastime which blindly exploits tragic incidents from Jenin to Buffalo.
The solution: Zionist behavioral therapy
IF CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, cures individuals caught in this perceptual cyclone of negativity, perhaps ZBT – Zionist behavioral therapy – can cure anti-Zionist SICos sucked into this vortex of lies. Reframing begins with understanding the Zionist trinity: that (one) Jews are a people, with (two) a 3,500-year-old love affair with one piece of land, and (three) the right to establish a state on that homeland.
ZBT emphasizes studying, not stretching or straining; investigating, not indicting; and accepting complexity while viewing everything in proportion, without exaggerating or oversimplifying. Going beyond perception into matters of tone and tactics, ZBT also involves talking, not yelling; listening generously, not judging harshly; leaning in, not cutting out.
These approaches are best mastered up close in Israel. That’s why the tourists crowding Jerusalem’s streets for the first time in two years are so welcome.
But you can reframe with ZBT anywhere, anytime, by opening your mind and maybe even a book, rather than being closed-minded, coldhearted, and so thickheaded and soul-shriveled you see the complex, ultimately redemptive, 3,500-year-old Jewish journey as a one-way march to Zionist villainy.
The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, and the author of nine books on American history and three on Zionism. His book Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, coauthored with Natan Sharansky, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.