Examining Responses to Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism

Although there has been much debate about antisemitism and anti-Zionism, few scholars have systematically examined the social and psychological repercussions of these forms of hostility for Israeli Jews and diaspora Jews. This can give the impression that these groups do not have a stance on antisemitism and antiZionism, and how they respond to these forms of hostility is not entirely clear. In order to facilitate positive intergroup relations, it is necessary to examine such responses, as this will help to construct a fuller picture of the social and psychological outcomes of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Despite this lacuna in theory and research, in various accounts of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, there is some cursory insight into reactions from diaspora Jews and Israelis. For instance, in her overview of anti-Zionism on UK university campuses, Klaff (2010) observes that campus anti-Zionism has “resulted in a situation where anti-Semitism is fl on UK campuses, causing direct harm to Jewish students and confi their 'outsider' status” (p. 89). She argues that this has had negative outcomes for social and psychological wellbeing among Jewish students because they may feel compelled to conceal their sense of connection to Israel. It is noteworthy that many Jews construe Israel as a symbol of their Jewish identity (Graham and Boyd, 2010) and, thus, the perceived obligation to conceal their connection to Israel may be psychologically threatening. It is now generally accepted that individuals can derive psychological wellbeing from the manifestation of their ethnic and religious identities and, thus, any hindrance to the construction of a positive ethnic/religious identity can have the reverse effects (Jaspal and
Cinnirella, 2012). Furthermore, Klaff (2010, p. 97) notes that “the demonization of Israel causes Jews to feel emotional pain”, particularly when this is coupled with various forms of Holocaust revisionism (see Chapter 2, this volume). Accordingly, Klaff argues that anti-Zionism on campus ought to be regarded as a form of hate speech. However, it must be stated that, although there is some important research into European Jews' responses to antisemitism and anti-Zionism (e.g. Boyd, 2013), there is little qualitative social psychological work on British Jews' responses to these forms of prejudice which can shed light on how their identities may be shaped and how they may attempt to cope with potential threats to identity. This specifi research path can provide detailed insight into the social psychological mechanisms underlying responses to antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

In an early paper on identity rejection and identity reawakening, Diller (1980) provided an interesting perspective on US Jews' identities and coping strategies. He discussed Jewish identity rejection, identity ambivalence, secondary emotional reactions and repression and outlined a model for facilitating what he referred to as “Jewish reawakening”. He argued that Jews might develop identity rejection when their Jewish identity “is not fully integrated or accepted by the self” (p. 41). Crucially, this may occur when one's Jewish identity is highly stigmatised in a given social context and is perceived as being conducive to negative social and psychological outcomes. Indeed, this response would be expected in an antisemitic context. In such a context, one may be led to believe that one's Jewish identity is incompatible with the dominant cultural, religious or national ethos, thereby facilitating a sense of identity confl Under these circumstances, one may opt for the “exit option” (Tajfel, 1975) and repress one's Jewish identity. As part of his four-stage model, Diller suggested that identity-rejecting Jews needed to be exposed to “a different and more satisfying view of their Jewish heritage” (p. 43), highlighting the importance of social representation in identity cognition (see Chapter 4, this volume).

Similarly, scholars before Diller had long argued that some Jews might suffer from “self-hatred” and “negative chauvinism” as a result of the stigma of their Jewish identity (Lewin, 1948). Lewin highlighted that there was an observable tendency for members of marginalised and stigmatised groups to display a degree of hostility towards their ingroups and argued that this was observable in Jewish hostility towards “the Jews as a group, against a particular fraction of the Jews, against his own family, or against himself” (Lewin, 1948, p. 187). He proceeded to argue that such hatred “may be directed against Jewish institutions, Jewish mannerisms, Jewish language, or Jewish ideals” (p. 187). According to Lewin's account, Jewish self-hatred emerged from frustration at Jews' inability to leave their stigmatised ingroup and from their desire to assimilate to the nonJewish outgroup by accepting the outgroup's negative perceptions of the Jewish ingroup. Although there has been considerable criticism of Lewin's framework, particularly as the concept of self-hatred has been employed in order to stigmatise and even pathologise dissent (Finlay, 2005), it is possible that some individuals come to experience guilt and negative emotions on the basis of their Jewish ethnoreligious and/or Israeli ethno-national group memberships and that they may seek
to disidentifty with these groups by manifesting what has been described as “selfhatred”. This has some overlap with the aforementioned “exit option” described by Tajfel (1975). Similarly, Friesel (2011) argued that Jewish Judeophobia manifested in the guise of anti-Israelism constitutes a “problematic form of Jewish identity” (p. 514), which results from “the intricate balancing act between the influence of the non-Jewish environment and weakening sway of the Jewish heritage” (p. 516).

Friesel's account of contemporary Jews against Israel may also be applicable to Israeli Jews and particularly to the so-called “new historians” in Israel, such as Ilan Pappé (2006, 2007) and Avi Shlaim, (2001, 2009) who have been described as anti-Zionist scholars. However, there are other perspectives that had been offered. Political commentators frequently acknowledge and debate Israel's position in the international community and, more specifi , its political and military actions. Very rarely is the link made between widespread antisemitism and anti-Zionism and the defensiveness manifested by Israel. Some scholars have discussed the notion of Israel's “siege mentality”, which refers to the inter-related beliefs that one's ingroup is under siege, that the rest of the world has highly negative intentions towards one's society and that one's society is alone in a unanimously hostile world (Bar-Tal, 2000). It has been noted that when groups, like the Israeli national group, perceive themselves to be existentially threatened by outgroups, they will naturally respond in defensive ways (Jaspal and Yampolsky, 2011). The measures undertaken can seem extreme and disproportionate but are socially and psychologically understandable when viewed in the context of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Group members respond to group stigma in diverse ways – some disidentify with the stigmatised group, while others may decide to accentuate their identification with the stigmatised ingroup. It is necessary to examine how Jews and Israelis may be affected by antisemitism and anti-Zionism in order to understand these forms of prejudice in a holistic manner.

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