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There are few conventional tools for describing the phenomenon of Jewish anti-Semitism. It is, after all, relatively rare. Being Jewish implies far more than being religious and those who turn on their Jewishness are not, therefore, simply demonstrating a loss of religious faith: they are abandoning their connection to an ancient history, excising themselves from their people and shedding their core personal identity. Jewish anti-Semitism is essentially a political phenomenon, yet political scientists appear incapable of offering coherent explanations. Instead, it is necessary to look to the field of psychology for descriptions of such behaviour.

One of the first to examine the pychopathology of Jewish anti-Semitism in the modern era was Professor George H. Mead (1863-1931), of the University of Chicago, who was a founder of the school of social psychology. Mead observed that when members of the majority expressed largely negative views of the minority, some among the minority might internalise the messages, leading to self-loathing. Building on Mead’s thesis, later researchers concluded that mere membership in an ethnic group, whether freely chosen or not, was sufficient to cause individuals to develop self-loathing responses if the group was negatively perceived by the majority.

A major discussion on the subject was initiated in the 1940s by German-born psychologist Kurt Lewin, who had transplanted himself from the University of Berlin to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1933. With his German background, Lewin explained the denial of an individual’s identity as a form of coping with the oppression of a dominant group. The anti-Semitic Jew, he wrote, “will dislike everything specifically Jewish, for he will see in it that which keeps him away from [joining] the majority, for which he is longing”.

Most recently, Dr Kenneth Levin, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, perceived a common thread running through Jewish history: some Jews, he wrote, embraced the indictments of their besiegers, however bigoted and outrageous, in the hope of “reforming themselves and assuaging the hostility of their tormentors”.

On an individual level, he regarded such behaviour as an expression of the psycho-dynamics, which was often found among abused children. “According to this interpretation, the abusers tell their young victims that the abuse is punishment for being ‘bad’, and the children, in their naïveté, accept this at face value,” he wrote. “Such children almost invariably choose to. . . believe that changes in their own behaviour can win them a better life.”

Levin added that “a broader occurrence of people under stress adopting the perspectives of their tormentors has been popularly recognised as the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’,” so called after a group of hostages who displayed sympathy for failed Swedish bank robbers after being held captive for six days in 1973.

Pity that Gerald Kaufman failed to recognise that he, like other anti-Semitic Jews, was suffering from a potentially curable psychological disorder.

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