The Chosen People and Antisemitism
I recently remarked to my six-year old daughter that I love the God of Israel. She fumed and cried out, “Not only people in Israel love God, but other people too!” This remark provoked an epiphany.
If a six-year child who has been raised in a heavily philo-Semitic environment feels aggravated by God’s special relationship with the Jewish people, then this is clearly one of the roots of anti-Judaism.
The rabbinical sages were conscious of this reality and thus drew parallels between the word Sinai and the Hebrew word sinah, which means “hatred.” Their inference was that hatred of the Jewish people is rooted in God’s election of the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.
It would nevertheless be wrong to take this teaching at face value. The Chinese, Japanese, Hungarians, and Armenians each believe in different ways that they are chosen nations. The fact that no other nation believes them saves them from the envy and resentment faced by Jews.
Historically, Christians and Muslims claimed that they replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. This implicit acknowledgement of Jewish election was crucial in turning many Muslims and Christians into antisemites.
In the past, Christians hated Jews bitterly for their refusal to accept God’s “new Covenant.” It was only after Hitler murdered six million Jews that most Christians ceased hating them. Christian attitudes have been reformed by shame and guilt for the Holocaust taking place in Christian Europe. However, it is no less true that after Auschwitz, most Christians do not feel threatened by Jews’ special relationship with God.
Nowadays, Muslims tend to hate Jews with a passion out of all proportion to Zionist actions. One of the reasons for this hatred is that Zionist success and Muslim failures discredit Islam’s claims to supersede Judaism.
Secular totalitarian ideologies such as Nazism and Communism also hated Jews due to their rival narratives of election. The Nordic race and the international proletariat could not brook any competition from a Semitic nation of traders and merchants.
The roots of hostility towards Jews thus lie in gentile recognition of the election of the Jewish people. This also explains why antisemitism is largely absent among Hindus and Buddhists, who ignore this election.
The fact that anti-Judaism is partially motivated by a Jewish doctrine is encouraging. If anti-Judaism were solely due to social, political, and economic factors extrinsic to Judaism, Jews could do little to remedy the situation. This is demonstrably untrue. The problem can be addressed by educating non-Jews on the genuine meaning of this election.
Regrettably, most Jews are still unable to adequately explain the concept of Jewish election to outsiders. Jews, therefore, tend to downplay or deny this concept, fueling gentile suspicions that Jews are not candid about their faith — and pushing many Jews to abjure a key tenet of their religion.
Every Jew should be able to state that Jewish election was sealed between God and the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai, and involves Jewish obedience to numerous restrictions in return for divine blessings and protection.
Claims that divine election is racist must be countered by conversations on how Judaism welcomes sincere converts. Jews should also publicize the seven Noachide Laws that enable ethical people outside the tent of Judaism to attain salvation. Jews could proudly point out that their religion does not restrict the afterlife to coreligionists.
These elements are essential to refuting the antisemitic libel that Jews view themselves as Übermenschen. Indeed, it is high-time that the world realizes that no nation has embraced its spiritual mission with more abnegation and self-sacrifice than the Jewish people. Centuries of persecution have only cemented Jewish resolve to fight for global peace, freedom, and justice. This is the reason the Chosen People’s relationship with God is, always was, and will forever be a blessing for all humanity:
For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
Rafael Castro is an Italian Yale- and Hebrew University-educated political analyst based in Berlin. His pieces on Middle Eastern politics appear regularly in the Israeli press. Rafael can be reached at [email protected]