Writing in the Independent, Antony Lerman, former director of the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research, says Jewish anxiety over anti-Semitism makes it difficult to think clearly about how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
In the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza, eager voices are telling us that anti-Semitism has returned – yet again. Eight years of Hamas rockets and the world unfairly cries foul when Israel retaliates, they say. Biased media are delegitimising the Jewish state. The Left attacks Israel as uniquely evil, making it the persecuted Jew among the nations. Even theatres keep wheeling out those anti-Semitic stereotypes, Shylock, Fagin and the "chosen people", just to torment us. If this bleak picture were an accurate portrayal of what Jews are experiencing today, who could deny that suffering is the determining feature of the Jewish condition?…
The problem, Lerman says, is that such thinking is a "distorion and deeply damaging":
Some pioneering research, published as Israel’s bombing of Gaza began, throws some light on this. It reveals just how much the feeling that no matter what we do, we are perpetually at the mercy of others applies to Jewish Israelis. A team led by Professor Daniel Bar Tal of Tel Aviv University, one of the world’s leading political psychologists, questioned Israeli Jews about their memory of the conflict with the Arabs, from its inception to the present, and found that their "consciousness is characterised by a sense of victimisation, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanisation of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering". The researchers found a close connection between that collective memory and the memory of "past persecutions of Jews" and the Holocaust, the feeling that "the whole world is against us". If such a study were to be conducted among Jews in Britain, I suspect the results would be very similar.
For Jews to see themselves in this way is understandable, but it’s a distortion and deeply damaging. As Professor Bar Tal says, this view relies primarily on prolonged indoctrination that is based on ignorance and even nurtures it. The Jewish public does not want to be confused with the facts. If we are defined by past persecutions, by our victimhood, will we ever think clearly about the problem of Israel-Palestine and the problem of anti-Semitism?