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Surprising as it may seem, this ancient form of afflicting the body is still practised among various groups these days.

Roman Catholic devotees, especially in places like the Philippines and elsewhere, continue to indulge in this ritual, particularly at Easter time.

It is also widely practised by Hindus in India, among other places.

Shia Muslims beat themselves with swords during the Festival of Tatbir.

Among Jews, this sort of extreme physical mutilation is nowadays non-existent and lingers in mainly a symbolic form among some on Yom Kippur eve.

However, there is another form of self-flagellation that seems to be endemic and very much alive in our time. It seems to be a particularly potent affliction, especially in Jewish communities and, of course, in the Jewish State.

It takes the form of blaming oneself for each and every situation, which in turn results in no less damage and incapacity than the physical variety.

A common myth that, however, has some element of truth to it is that Jews are more guilt-driven than any other people on the planet. Perhaps that is why the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry have attracted so many Jews over the years.

Past and recent events seem to point to a definite trait that afflicts large swathes of Israeli and Diaspora Jews. Plainly spelt out, it is the uncanny and unhealthy phenomenon of feeling guilty for each and every event where Jews are targeted.

When bad things happen, there are those who inevitably conclude that the events must have been precipitated by some heinous act carried out by the victims themselves. This knee-jerk guilt-by-association syndrome has now become endemic among some sectors. It leads to a completely distorted perspective as to the real motives behind each and every incident of hate and incitement.

Excusing the perpetrators because of a perceived provocation by the victims is the default argument trotted out by the legions of the woke left and their myriad politically-correct followers. They have one thing in common, and that is an uncontrollable urge to pillory Israel.

Ongoing recent incidents should help to explain how self-flagellation has established itself as a seemingly acceptable reaction.

Some opinion pieces in post-Zionist and leftist media outlets assert that “because Israel is built on the idea of Jewish supremacy over the indigenous Palestinians”, there can be no mystery as to why they embark on a murderous spree of mayhem. This totally warped and fallacious reasoning is also endorsed by the leader of the ultra-left Meretz Party and its associated gaggle of lemmings. No amount of reality can shake them from their dogmatic tunnel vision whereby the State was born in original sin and continues to perpetuate this sin by actually surviving endless waves of terror.

Presumably, the only way to be absolved is to confess and be prepared to suffer the consequences. This means disappearing as the nation-state of the Jewish People and embracing the paradise of some sort of mythical Garden of Eden where Jihadists will live in perfect harmony with “the descendants of pigs and apes”, as Jews are described.

An IDF spokesperson has blamed “settler terror against Palestinians” as the logical reason for the rise in Palestinian acts of violence. He went on to assert that “as soon as settler violence is eliminated there will be less Palestinian terror.”

While one cannot condone Jews taking unlawful action against anyone, a few questions need to be asked.

Is Arab terror against Jews something new and of recent origin?

Anyone with even a smattering of historical knowledge should be fully aware that this terror jihad has been ongoing since at least the 1920s. Its lethal consequences have left a trail of murdered Jews and bereaved Jewish families in its wake ever since Islamic mobs massacred Hebron’s ancient community in 1929. Claiming that the Temple Mount is being invaded is not something new and has been used as an excuse for pogroms in the distant past. Terror groups incited their followers this recent Tisha B’Av to carry out a pogrom against Jews praying at the Kotel.

For how long are Jews expected to be willing sacrifices? Once, we were powerless to either defend ourselves or retaliate. Is this the preferred status we are expected to adhere to in 2023?

As recent events have clearly demonstrated, Arab terror makes no distinction between religious chalutzim (settlers) and those who imagine themselves as politically correct secular residents of Tel Aviv.

Teenagers and even those younger are having their minds poisoned at summer camps and UNRWA schools. A fifteen-year-old proudly stated that “only martyrdom is fitting for the life of a Jihad fighter.” Abbas, the PA lifelong President, laid a wreath in honour of these martyrs, and his colleagues assert that Israel’s apprehension and elimination of these “martyrs” is a war crime.

Those dedicated to the demise of Israel and Israelis, based on their past track records, are hardly likely to throw in the towel if the victims of their nefarious agenda turn the other cheek. We tried that failed scenario with the fatal Oslo disaster, and only masochists would want to repeat that sort of flagellation again.

It is worth noting that Palestinian Arabs don’t even need Jews as an excuse to perpetrate violence. They are rampaging and murdering their own people quite successfully as it is. In fact, it has become so bad in Lebanon that some Arab countries are advising their citizens not to travel there.

Who needs to blame “settlers” when they are so busy eliminating each other?

Deciding whether to emigrate is a fundamental right for citizens living in a democratic country and Israel is no exception. Despite hysterical and unhinged claims by those currently causing chaos because they oppose the present coalition’s legislative agenda, the ability to leave Israel and seek a home elsewhere is not under threat. One can find Israelis in every conceivable country. In fact, one can hear Hebrew being spoken in some unlikely places around the globe.

The problem is that in an increasing number of countries speaking Ivrit in public is becoming a hazardous and even life-threatening exercise. Jews are being attacked and assaulted in Germany and other parts of Europe as well as in the USA and the UK. School children are threatened on public transport, and Jews wearing identifiable clothing and kippot are regularly targeted.

There are many reasons for emigrating, including educational opportunities, employment, economic advantages and alternative lifestyle experiences.

The current excuse is disillusionment with the direction that the country is taking. Instead of staying and using democratic means to change things, many are threatening to abandon the Zionist enterprise altogether. If you don’t have a strong faith-based reason for living in the land of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, then seeking a life in the Galut is no big deal.

However, the grass is not always greener elsewhere.

Assimilation in the Diaspora is increasing, and detachment from any Israeli connection gathers pace with each succeeding generation.

The biggest irony is when those leaving maintain that they are doing so in order to live in a more democratic country and for personal safety reasons. I read an interview with a family who are shifting to the paradise of California. According to reports, businesses and locals are actually fleeing California because of rampant crime, drug epidemics, homeless problems and illegal immigrants. It is highly unlikely that their children will be able, as they do in Israel, to safely walk down the street to visit and socialize with their friends. In the USA, where the Supreme Court judges are appointed by politicians, democracy is also under threat.

At least in Israel, one has a choice of over forty political parties. In the USA, you have a choice of only two, neither of which necessarily inspires great confidence.

Self-flagellation knows no boundaries.


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David Bedein

Department of External Relations and Communications (East Jerusalem) | UNRWA