It seems that one of the common themes that populate anti-Israel diatribes these days is the "racism" of the Jews in general and the State of Israel in particular. I always find this a bit puzzling, especially coming, as it does so often, from the Arab press or from those of our countrymen and women who feel compelled to speak up on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden palestinian people. And so, a few thoughts.
A regular backstop of the "Jewish racism" epithet is the Jewish notion of being "the chosen people."
"Zionism Reproduces Nazism" by R. Zein, English language Syria Times, September 5, 2001It goes on and on. The thread referred to in the previous post is just more of the same. Every once in a while it helps to take a step back and look at this concept of a "chosen people," what it really means to Jews (and what it doesn't) and how similar concepts find expression in other belief systems.
Like what the Nazi ideology was based on racial superiority, Zionism based its ideology on the "chosen people of god". Both Nazism and Zionism represent two faces of the same coin as each derives it ideology from racism, genocide and terrorism. Both are strong advocates of racist killing and both deny basic rights of other peoples and openly disregard human principles.
"Anti-Semitism or Just Jews Behaving Badly?" Institute of Islamic Political Thought
But why would the Palestinians want to kill Jews? Is it simply because the Palestinians are envious of the Jews for being God’s chosen people? Or is it the fact that the Palestinians are simply resisting an occupation of their homes by invaders that came from Eastern Europe, America, S. Africa and many other places out of greed but justifying their aggression by means of claiming themselves to be the chosen people of God who are given a divine license to dehumanize, kill and rob and entire nation of a decent living?
There is, of course, no single accepted understanding of the term "chosen people" within Judaism. Like so much else, the interpretation tends to vary with the wider perspective of the beholder. From the outset, though, I can state with certainty that it does not have anything to do with the right to kill, dehumanize, rob or otherwise oppress any other people, nation or religious group, and one would be hard pressed to find it used to justify such behavior in any Jewish source of any authority.
Following are three similar but far from identical frameworks within which the term "chosen people" is commonly understood. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they represent rather different viewpoints, ranging, it would seem, from the more orthodox end to the spectrum to the more liberal. Or do they?
First, as a simple preferential selection: Out of all the nations on earth, God singled the Jews out as both the beneficiaries of and those responsible for the dissemination of His* rules and laws of human conduct. This "choice" has been compared to that of a parent for a favorite child. The favor is often not earned or even necessarily deserved, it is simply bestowed, along with the great rewards and expectations that accompany it. It doesn't provide the "favorite" with a license for abuse, nor does it imply that the other children/races/nations are any less loved, cared for or protected.
Second, as a covenantal commitment: It is not so much that God chose the Jews, as that the Jews, again of all the nations of the earth, chose God. By seeking Him out, appointing Him our supreme ruler, voluntarily accepting the absolute rule of His law, providing a tabernacle for His word and a Temple for His worship, the Jewish people adopted this God as our patron, and God, through His acceptance of this devotion on His terms and conditions, agreed.
Third, as a humanitarian obligation: The Jews, having discovered and introduced in their unique way the precepts of monotheism, the laws of Moses and the ethics of the prophets, have been both blessed and burdened with the responsibility of reinforcing and perpetuating those ideas in the world. Whether through our own efforts or through those of our partners in other ethical systems of belief, it has been and remains our duty to insure that the flame is never extinguished. We are chosen, in other words, to be "a light unto the nations," to do better, to reach higher, to lead by example.
While this third permutation seems the most "universal," by changing a few words it could become quite the opposite and start to sound more like the first.
The Jewish ideas of morality are all based on the idea that man was created in the image of God. All human beings have the ability to refashion themselves in this divine image through following the moral principles that the Jewish people has taught humanity, but the Jewish people never had to learn them. We live them. We are them.This quote, from an article called "Living Chosen" by Rabbi Noson Weisz of Aish HaTorah, basically represents the most Orthodox point of view and incorporates, in essence, all three of the viewpoints expressed above. And, yes, it includes an assumption of inherent spiritual superiority that some may find unacceptable. I know I do. But here's what you won't find in Rabbi Weisz's essay or any other reputable Jewish source: the notion that other, non-Jewish belief systems are unacceptable to God; the notion that non-Jews must be conquered, converted or humiliated before the world can be at peace; the notion that God reserves His protection, sustenance and love for the Jews only. These you will not find.
Nations who are not living embodiments of God's image can survive without Torah. It is not their existential purpose in life to teach humanity how to live in the world as God's image. But we Jews exist in the world as a nation for this purpose only.
The concept of a "chosen people" and a "chosen religion," of course, also permeates Islam, though you'd never know it from the Arab response to its Jewish incarnation.
Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam, . . . (Sura 3:19)
You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah; and if the followers of the Book had believed it would have been better for them; . . . (Sura 3:110)
Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.(Sura 9:29)But this can't be racism. Racism is forbidden by Islamic law.
Meanwhile, in the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel (published 5/14/48), you'll find these clauses:
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.Amen and amen.
. . . WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
*Note: the use of the third person masculine pronoun in reference to God is for convenience and clarity only and is not a reflection my personal beliefs.