I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. (Carl Jung)
I recently came across a rather strange letter from a man called Philip Sandland. The letter was sent to a parochial English newspaper called The Sentinel, which usually deals with minor concerns like the local cricket scores and the quality of care in the local hospital. Here it is:
“May I be allowed to say a few words in answer to Margaret Browns letter on June 19? She says that Sunni and Shia Muslims have been fighting for more than 1,000 years. This is only partly true. When strong leaders such as President Assad or Saddam Hussein were in control, peace usually was the norm – minorities like Christians and Druze were left pretty much in peace. I believe that the fly in the ointment is Israel. The West has allowed the Zionist Jews to establish a state in Palestine, which enraged much of the Muslim world, and this is understandably so! How would the average British citizen feel to be thrown out of his rightful home and sent packing? The violent attacks by certain Muslims on Western targets is I believe due to a servile approach by the U.S. and sadly Great Britain to the misdeeds of the Israeli state, which invariably go unchallenged.”
There are many things that I could say about this letter and none of them would be complimentary. According to Mr Sandland, Muslim-on-Muslim killings in Syria are the fault of “Zionist Jews.” Why the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 has any bearing on centuries-old hatred between Sunnis and Shias is unexplained. But of course, Mr Sandland doesn’t need to explain his reasoning. He just needs to blame Israel.
This letter is a typical indication of the level of political discourse in Britain. And it is also typical of a highly unpleasant mental condition called Israelophobia, which is quite simply a political variant of anti-Semitism. Israelophobia, like anti-Semitism in general, is a mental illness, quite possibly a neurosis or morbid fear, although it some cases it takes on the characteristics of psychosis – paranoia, delusions, denial and the loss of contact with reality.
Whether it is neurotic or psychotic, Israelophobia can be defined as the hysterical, spiteful, hyperbolic and irrational fear or hatred of Israel. The unhealthy fixation with the State of Israel and Zionism is sometimes referred to as the “new anti-Semitism.” The “new anti-Semites” have merely substituted the word “Jew” with the word “Israel.” This is why Israel is sometimes called the “Jew of the nations.” All the old religious, economic and nationalist prejudices about “the Jew” are reinterpreted for a modern audience. Israel-bashing is merely a way of expressing and legitimizing irrational feelings about Jews. This can be seen in Mr Sandland’s bizarre letter.
As with all irrational prejudices, Israelophobia is intolerant and obsessional. It is espoused by a motley array of factions that include the Left, the Far Right, many Christian denominations, conspiracy theorists and the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, some of whom are dangerous jihadists. The fact that Israelophobia attracts people from across the ideological, cultural and political divide is a good indication that it is unreasonable and confused.
In any other circumstance you would be hard pressed to find a situation in which Islamists, neo-Nazis, socialists, liberals, radical Islamists, Quakers and people who believe in shape-shifting aliens agree on anything. But when it comes to Israel and “the Jews,” all these factions share the same demented prejudice. Moreover, the disproportionate focus on Israel by the UN, the media and university campuses clearly indicate that Israelophobia is an obsession. And an obsession is a neurosis.
Even after the horrors of the Holocaust and the several attempts by Arab nations to annihilate the Jewish state, otherwise sensible and intelligent people are not immune to Israelophobia. It is amazing how many people fetishize the Palestinians and make unpleasant and ill-informed references to Jews and/or Israel but deny they are anti-Semitic. Indeed, George Orwell once noted that intelligent people are ashamed of being anti-Semitic because anti-Semitism is “an irrational thing.”
Many people hide their anti-Semitism (even from themselves) by accusing Israel of outrageous things such as war crimes, apartheid and imperialism. This is no different from accusing Jews of poisoning wells or using the blood of Christian children to make Passover brad. To any sane mind, accusations of well-poising and apartheid are entirely devoid of truth-content.
Sadly, Israel-bashers are completely immune to facts and statistics. I could mention the fact that the 1920 San Remo Conference and the 1922 Mandate of Palestine endorse the creation of a Jewish homeland in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). I could point out that Israeli Arabs have the vote and can represent their constituents in the Knesset. I could present a dazzling assortment of photographs of Gaza’s five-star hotel, its luxury shopping mall and beautiful beaches, as well as jeeps and refrigerators supplied by Israel. But Israelophobes would still insist that Gaza is a prison camp.
But as Orwell said, “If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues.”
You can always spot an Israelophobe when he is ready to jump to conclusions. So when a Palestinian child is killed by a stray Hamas bullet but it is repeated all over the internet that Israel was responsible, then this will confirm the Israelophobe’s suspicion that the Jewish state is evil. Even when the truth comes out and the newspapers reluctantly bury the correction on page 12, the people who believed the misinformation will still cling to their anti-Israel prejudices.
Why? It is because Israelophobes are anti-Semitic. They are not anti-Semitic because of Israel’s perceived wrong-doings. They are Israelophobes because they hate Jews. In short, Israelophobia is a symptom of anti-Semitism and not the other way round. In fact, I would go far as to argue that Israel-bashers do not want a political solution in the Middle East because that would remove their excuse to demonize the Jewish people.
This may explain why the Arabs have rejected a two-state solution on several occasions. Demonizing Israel and advancing the Palestinian cause without ever solving it is politically useful to Arab regimes and Islamic fundamentalists who are inspired by the Quran to hate and kill Jews.
In the end, there is no reasoning with these people because they don’t want to be reasoned with. Such people persistently deny they have a problem by refusing to admit they are anti-Semitic. But denial is just another sign of their madness. If these people weren’t so dangerous, I would pity them.