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Is Criticizing Israel Anti-Semitic ? A Psycho-spiritual Perspective


By John Kleinheksel

As a Jew, Richard Forer grew up as a partisan of the Israeli State, very sensitive to any criticism of his Jewish brothers and sisters. Like others, he “believed the cause of the I/P problem was the Arab world’s nonacceptance of a Jewish state in its midst” (p. 1). Then, he was led to investigate the Israeli narrative more closely.


He will be our guest at a Webinar on November 18 at 1:30. Please register to join us. You can do so by emailing Bart Den Boer at before Sunday noon, November 15.


As a way of preparing for his appearance, I’m giving you a bit more background. He begins his new book with the story of his transformation to be fully human first, not just an Israeli, thus able to appreciate the Palestinian point of view.


Mr. Forer’s objective in writing Wake Up: Reclaim our Humanity, Essays on the Tragedy of Israel/Palestine is stated on p. 226: My objective in this book has been to clarify history and to explain the psychospiritual dynamics at the root of suffering, conflict and violence. He himself claims to have found his “humanity” taking precedence over his Jewish identity, and desires everyone to be so transformed. The need wanting to belong and the need for self-determination motivates each person and people group.


One of our main questions is: “Why are we so sensitive when people criticize us? What’s behind this and what can we do about it? Why do some people get stuck in their pain or want to pass it on to others? And why are others guided by their pain to suffer with those who suffer?


Why do Israelis insist that asking for full citizenship for the natives is tantamount to denying the legitimacy of the Israeli State?  Is it fear? Insecurity? Yes, they fear being destroyed (especially the Holocaust survivors and their children)!  And they fear no longer being a majority in their God-ordained land.  How will Israelis proceed? How can Israeli critics proceed?


How can we in the US sympathize with Israeli fears and still advocate for great equality for oppressed persons there, here in the US and in other places on the globe?

In his work, Mr. Forer demonstrates that when we are wounded and become victims (as in the Holocaust), we take out our hurt on others, making them the cause of our hurt.

Richard summarizes his heart-based insights on pages 227 and 228 of Wake Up: Reclaim our Humanity, Essays on the Tragedy of Israel/Palestine.


  • “The cause of suffering is the attachment to a presumed, limited, and mortal identity and to the beliefs and images that emanate from and reinforce that presumption.
  • “The unconscious motivation behind rejection of valid criticism is preoccupation with protecting one’s presumed identity. We must let go of idealistic images we project onto nations or groups. . .and be healed of the suffering our attitudes and policies have created.
  • “The real enemy is not someone or something outside of us. The real enemy is the unexamined mind that unconsciously projects its suffering onto the other and then blames or scapegoats the other for its suffering. In truth, there are no enemies. There are only people who, while suffering the consequences of their unexamined beliefs, have forgotten their common humanity.
  • “With regard to Israel/Palestine, the real conflict is not Israel versus the Palestinian people or Israel versus a hostile world. The real conflict is the inability to integrate the hard-to-believe but unmistakable reality of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with unquestioned loyalty to the Jewish state. One consideration recognizes Israel’s dark side. The other denies the dark side exists.”


People in the US who criticize the “Black Lives Matter” movement also fail to take account of the systemic racism that has oppressed people of color through the centuries.


Mr. Forer’s new book documents how the early settlers had NO INTENTION of sharing the land with the natives.  The indigenous people were not acknowledged or seen as obstacles to Israeli nation-building. It was “Israel First” from the very beginning, and the Arab population got that message loud and clear.  Jews wanted a “Jewish homeland” unencumbered by those they found there.

The Washington Report Here! calls the Israel State “a settler colonial project”, meant to displace the native inhabitants.  Here is a brief passage from the article cited: [University of Massachusetts Professor Emeritus] Sut Jhally noted pro-Israel propagandists have the gall to depict Israel as the victim of Palestinian violence and intransigence. “[They] flip reality on its head,” he said. “Rather than presenting Palestinians as the victim of this, [they] present the Israelis as the victim.


“As anyone who watches cable news or reads the mainstream press knows, this victimization narrative is often spread with ease and met with little critical opposition. Jhally cited the 2018-2019 Great March of Return as a recent example of the media propagating pro-Israel talking points. Israeli soldiers shot, killed and maimed Gazans, who gathered along the border every Friday to demand a return to the homes and land from which they were ethnically cleansed when Israel was created in 1948. Yet, countless headlines emphasized the savagery of Palestinians. “When you have one of the largest armies in the world going up against unarmed protesters who are [infrequently] using feeble weapons, it’s still presented as though Israel is under attack,” Jhally noted.

Americans disenfranchised African slaves, from the very beginning, which is our Original Sin.  We are still trying to atone for it.  I think the intersectionality of the US/African and Native American struggle and the Israeli/Arab Palestinian struggle is the lens through which we have to see this issue.  It has relevance to the US.  We sympathize with BOTH Israelis and Palestinians.  If the Israelis give legitimacy to Palestinian claims, they fear losing their own claim to legitimacy.  They insist it must be an Israeli Democracy, NOT pluralistic democracy for the 20% Arab “citizens” (to say nothing of the millions of descendants of the 700,000 driven from their land in 1948 by Israeli terror).

I like what Frederick Buechner says about “snobs.”   SNOBS ARE PEOPLE who look down on other people, but that does not justify our looking down on them. Who can say what dark fears of being inferior lurk behind their superior airs or what they suffer in private for the slights they dish out in public?


Don’t look down on them for looking down on us. Look at them, instead, as friends we don’t know yet and who don’t yet know what they are missing in not knowing us.


Richard Rohr’s meditation for November 7, 2020, gives the same argument of Mr. Forer, as seen in this link.

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At Kairos West Michigan, we work to unify and mobilize West Michigan Christians to take a stand for peace in Israel/Palestine. We believe that the time is right and that God is preparing the way for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.

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