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Overview

This chapter highlights the general importance of both Jewish ethno-religious and Israeli national identities among the Israeli Jews who participated in the study. Most individuals regarded their Jewish and Israeli identities are inextricably entwined, and perceived anti-Zionism as indicative of underlying antisemitism. Moreover, there was a perceived realistic threat from hostile outgroups, echoing the notion of siege mentality (Bar-Tal, 2000). Interviewees invoked social representation that, because anti-Zionism undermined the ideology underlying Israeli national identity, anti-Zionist outgroups essentially wished to destroy the State of Israel. This was particularly threatening because Israel was widely regarded as a Jewish “safe haven” in which Jewish identity could be openly and safely manifested without fear of persecution. Anti-Zionism, therefore, was perceived as being conducive to a lack of safety and security for Jews.

Antisemitism and anti-Zionism were generally construed as threatening for identity, because these forms of hostility jeopardised the principles of self-esteem, self-efficacy and belonging, in particular. Holocaust denial was a particularly threatening form of antisemitism, because it challenged people's sense of selfesteem and continuity over time. Some respondents believed that Holocaust denial was dangerous because they interpreted it as evidence that the Holocaust could reoccur – indeed, this perception has been observed in previous empirical research (Jaspal and Yampolsky, 2011), and appears to be connected to the siege mentality that exists in the Israeli Jewish context. Furthermore, there was a perception that anti-Zionism could challenge one's sense of national authenticity, primarily because anti-Zionism was interpreted as contradicting the Jews' right to a homeland in the Land of Israel, as well as their Middle Eastern identity. Individuals perceived an impoverished sense of self-efficacy because they believed that anti-Zionism had given rise to security threats which in turn required Israelis to dedicate resources to their security, rather than to social and economic development (Bar-Tal,
This highlights that most respondents were keen to end anti-Zionism and

intergroup conflict.

Although siege mentality is clearly an important social psychological concern among Israeli Jews (Bar-Tal, 2000), respondents appeared to manifest considerable resilience in face of extreme anti-Zionism and they had developed strategies for coping with the ensuing threats to identity. Most individuals had internalised the social representation that Muslim outgroups were inherently antisemitic, which they construed as “routine” rather than threatening. This suggested the adoption of an acceptance, rather than deflection, strategy. It appears that the continuity principle of identity was no longer susceptible to threat given that participants had “accepted” this representation within their sense of self (Breakwell, 1986). Moreover, respondents appeared to have devised various social psychological strategies for optimising feelings of belonging, self-esteem and self-efficacy. These included re-orienting the Israeli national ingroup towards Europe, where antisemitism was not considered to be as problematic as in the Middle East and where individuals believed that Israel was more accepted. Conversely, Israel's relationship with Middle Eastern countries was attenuated. Consistent with this coping strategy, individuals attributed antisemitism to Muslims, both in the Middle East and in Europe. Thus, there was a tendency for individuals to attenuate European antisemitism rhetorically in order to draw attention to Muslim antisemitism – they were aware of European antisemitism but strategically downplayed its significance. This may be attributed to the human drive to seek acceptance and inclusion creatively and opportunistically so that both individuals and groups can “belong”. Respondents frequently challenged the legitimacy of Muslim critics of Israel as a means of deflecting negative social representations and protecting identity from threat.

Some participants reported engaging in the passing strategy in order to avoid anti-Zionism. However, the strategy of passing is unlikely to be psychologically beneficial in the long-term because individuals must derive self-esteem from their group memberships (Tajfel, 1982) and also seek identity validation from relevant others, that is, they need to be recognised as members of their valued social groups (Jaspal and Cinnirella, 2012). Yet, experiences of antisemitism and anti-Zionism problematised identity – this complex situation required a trade-off between avoiding antisemitism/anti-Zionism, on the one hand, and optimising social identity processes, on the other. This may be specific to Israeli Jews given the negative social representations of Israel and Zionism, which have gained ground following the establishment of the Jewish State (see Chapter 3). The next chapter of this book examines responses to antisemitism and anti-Zionism among British Jews, many of whom lay claim to various identities – Jewish, Israeli and British – and charts the relationship between these identities and their perceptions of these forms of prejudice.


 
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