The Contemporary Rivalry over the Chosen People: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives

, October 27, 2008

No. 38,

  • The idea of the Chosen People occupies a central place in Jewish tradition and liturgy and should be viewed as the key defining concept of Judaism. It also remains, however, the central unspoken and explosive psychological, historical, and theological problem at the heart of Jewish-Gentile relations.
  • The struggle over the mantle of the chosen was the driving force in the history of Jewish relations with the world and continues to be so today-in contemporary anti-Semitism, in the theological support of millions for the state of Israel, and in the current Middle East conflict over the Land of Israel and the “chosen city” of Jerusalem.
  • Large parts of both Christianity and Islam are governed by the supersessionist theory, the claim that they have replaced the Jews as the Chosen People. The Catholic and many Protestant churches have modified their doctrines on the displacement of the Jews with reinterpretations of its theological significance. Christian Zionists had to revise their theology on chosenness to facilitate their active political support for the state of Israel.
  • Islam’s inability to reverse or reform its displacement theology presents a major barrier to conflict resolution in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Introduction

“Chosenness” continues to play a major role in current interfaith relations. The idea of the Chosen People occupies a central place in Jewish tradition and liturgy and should be viewed as the key defining idea of Judaism. The chosenness of the Jews has been recognized and documented by the other two monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam, which have also appropriated the title to themselves. Yet the concept remains the central unspoken and explosive psychological, historical, and theological problem at the heart of Jewish-Gentile relations.1

Many Jews, throughout the generations, have been ambivalent about the idea of chosenness, which they regarded at best as awkward if not an arrogant call for preeminence. The apologetic and sometimes ostrichlike approach of Jews to this concept should be rejected. Chosenness does not imply hegemony over other nations, nor does it seek to impose the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) on other peoples.

Chosenness implies distinctiveness and burden but not preeminence and privileges. From a religious and historical standpoint it can be argued that anti-Semitism is an antithetical, negative way to prove the uniqueness of the Jews’ chosenness. In any case it is clear that attempts by Jews to distance themselves from the idea or outright reject it have not changed the perception. As the American sociologist Daniel Bell put it in 1946: “The Jews are a chosen people, if not by God, then by the rest of the world.”2

Some critics argue that the Jews invented their theory of chosenness. However, this “invention” gave birth to two other monotheistic religions, which are practiced by billions. G. K. Chesterton, a renowned English writer of the early twentieth century, succinctly stated his anti-Jewish bias: “How odd of God to choose the Jews…. Not so odd the Jews chose God.” Yet in so stating, Chesterton, like many others, confirms that the concept of chosenness is at the heart of the mystery of Jewish existence, and the best paradigm for comprehending the paradoxes of that existence.

The Struggle over Chosenness

The struggle over the mantle of the chosen was the driving force in the history of Jewish relations with the world and continues to be so today-in contemporary anti-Semitism, in the theological support of millions for the state of Israel, and in the current Middle East conflict over the Land of Israel and the “chosen city” of Jerusalem.

Billions of people around the world define their religion, their nation, their tribe, or even their sports teams as the chosen ones. This is natural: nations and religions alike tend to regard themselves as special. The 1.2 billion people in China see their country as the “center of the universe,” which is the meaning of the Chinese word for China.

Another 3.3 billion people who belong to the two largest monotheistic religions-Christianity (2 billion) and Islam (1.3 billion)-believe that they are the chosen ones of God. Other nations such as India (with another billion citizens), Spain, Germany, France, Britain, and the United States also believe in their chosen status.3 All like to entertain the chosen concept, but only the Jews-the biblical Chosen People-are censured for it. Jews themselves have historically recognized the difficult situation imposed on them by their “chosen” status. Sigmund Freud, using his theory of the subconscious, blamed this special categorization (in his words, “the firstborn, the favorite child of God”) for the world’s obsession with and hatred of Jews.4

Abrahamic Religions

“Abrahamic religions” has become a widely used term, particularly among interfaith groups, to designate the three major monotheistic faiths. This phrase, focusing on the figure of Abraham, seeks to emphasize the shared characteristics of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As the first person to establish a covenantal relationship with God based on His role as the sole deity and supreme authority, Abraham is accepted as a prophet by all three monotheistic faiths.

On a theological level, both Christianity and Islam have had to reconcile their belief that Abraham is a true prophet with the notion that his religion-Judaism-is not the true religion. This inherent need to invalidate Jews as the “Chosen People” has had concrete manifestations throughout history. It is at the root of much of medieval and contemporary anti-Semitism.

Resolving this seeming paradox has been the first step in healing Christian-Jewish relations (see below), and is a necessary process for Muslim leaders as well before any serious interfaith work can be successful.

The comparative analysis of the chosen factor is restricted in this essay to the three monotheistic-Abrahamic religions. It will refer to some differences in interpretation within each of these groups and devotes separate analysis to each of the two major Christian denominations, Catholicism and Protestantism.

Jews on the Chosen

No theme in the Hebrew Bible is more fundamental than that of the Covenant between God and Israel and the idea that the Jews have responded to that call. The Bible is clear in the assertion that the Jews were chosen by God to be His own beloved treasure, His firstborn son.5 In Moses’ farewell address the Children of Israel are told that they were selected not because of their power or numbers but because God loves them (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

In various discussions in the Talmud and the Midrash, Jewish sages examine different interpretations of the most dramatic event in Jewish history: the giving of the Torah on Sinai. Some rabbis argue that the Jews did not receive the Torah and their chosen role out of their free will but rather were compelled by God (as an “overturned vat”), under a death threat, to accept it.6

This view stands in sharp contrast to the very popular midrashic story about God peddling the Torah among the various nations, in the process of his choosing, only to be spurned by the wicked and corrupted who cannot accept the moral commandments that are an integral part of the package. He found no takers but Israel, who tells him “We will do and we will be obedient,” setting the Jewish people apart from the rest of the world.7 These contradictory approaches in the Talmud represent the orthodox view in Judaism on “choosing the chosen,” embodying a complex and spiritually rich amalgam that emphasizes both the significance and also often the painful responsibility of chosenness.

Similar Ideas

Some Jews throughout history have looked upon the chosen concept as controversial and arrogant, and many have tried to reject or deny it. Some of those who have rejected the concept resorted to similar ideas that emphasized Jewish uniqueness or separateness. Baruch Spinoza, who had rebelled against the Jewish religious authorities in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century, rejected the traditional chosen doctrine because it implies Jewish superiority, but admitted that Jews had maintained their mystical existence because of their separate religious rules. Moreover, in what can be regarded as Spinoza’s pre-Zionist prophecy, he also predicted that the Jews would once again establish their independent state and then “God will again choose them.”8

In the Conservative movement chosenness is regarded, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put it, as a “spiritual act,” in which Israel was chosen by God as a “spiritual order” to serve as “a ‘holy people.'”9 In 1885, the Reform movement in America adopted the Pittsburgh Platform, declaring that they did not wish to be a nation at all and thus reinterpreting the concept of chosenness as part of a moral mission to help the world.

However, the Pittsburgh Platform is clear on the chosenness role of the Jews, recognizing “in the Bible the record of the consecration of the Jewish people to its mission as the priest of the one God, and valu[ing] it as the most potent instrument of religious and moral instruction.” Rabbi Kaufman Kohler, who was the guiding spirit and convener of the Pittsburgh Platform, was a great believer in Israel’s mission and election, which he regarded as “the central point of Jewish theology and the key to understanding the nature of Judaism.”10

About fifty years later, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of the Reconstructionist movement, proposed a Judaism that rejected, in his words, the “anachronistic” and “arrogant” concept of the Chosen People, which perpetrated “race or national superiority.” Kaplan’s ideas on chosenness did not receive much support among American Jewry.

Zionism

Kaplan found his own way of retaining the uniqueness of Judaism by focusing on another aspect of chosenness. This was Zionism and the support for an independent Jewish state in the ancestral homeland. Whereas the Reform movement and some other Jewish organizations rejected or vacillated on this particular aspect of chosenness, Kaplan became a spokesperson and ideologist for American mainstream Zionism well before Israel’s establishment.11 But even this outstanding exception of the Reconstructionist movement is gradually evaporating, and new prayer books have been modified following discussions in the early 1980s. Members of the movement indicated clearly that the “Kaplanian position on the chosen people might be passé.”12

Early Zionists also tried to escape the fate of chosenness in order to be a “normal” nation. Yosef Haim Brenner, an influential writer of socialist Zionism and the kibbutz movement, wrote at the beginning of the twentieth century: “I would blot out from the prayer book of the Jews of our day the [words] ‘Thou hast chosen us’ in every shape and form.”13 However, other leaders of the Zionist Labor movement and founding fathers of the state, such as Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, are perfect examples of secular promoters of the chosenness concept.

According to Ben-Gurion, who often used the term chosen, the Covenant between God and the Jews is an original concept making the two parties equal. There was a universal Covenant between God and Noah and then came the Covenant between God and Abraham, which led to the Covenant with the Children of Israel given on Mount Sinai. In Ben- Gurion’s view, the role of the Jews according to the Bible relates not only to crucial human values of justice, truth, peace, and fraternity but also, as has occurred so often, to Isaiah’s declared mission of being a “Light unto the Nations.”14

Outside observers such as Conor Cruise O’Brien, the Irish diplomat and writer, are convinced that even secular Zionists were driven by the mysterious “chosen” factor. O’Brien asserts that Zionist leaders like Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, and others, though not religiously observant “in the wider sense…could not be anything else but very religious Jews indeed.” Their “imaginations were saturated in the Bible” and they maintained a “burning faith in the restoration of the Chosen People to the Promised Land.”15

Christianity and the Chosen

Christianity’s relationship with Judaism has long been governed by the supersessionist theory, established by Paul at the end of the first century, which claims that the followers of Jesus replaced the Jews as the “true Israel.” Paul, who is for all practical purposes the founder of Christianity, made the historic decision to turn the new faith away from its Jewish origins along with shifting the guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus from the Romans to the Jews.

This theme is found in Christian literature as early as the second century, with Christians envisioning themselves as “Israel after the spirit,” replacing the Jews who had fallen out of favor with God (“Israel after the flesh”).16 One of the earliest Christian saints, Justin Martyr, referred in 160 CE to the Christian church as “the true spiritual Israel.”17 This urge to discredit Judaism also explains the Christian obsession with Jews as the killers of Christ-an element in the religion’s early attempt to vilify Jews. As characterized by scholar David Flusser, “Christian anti-Judaism was not a coincidental lapse” but a tool serving as “godfather to the formation of Christianity.”18

Christian vilification of “the Chosen Jews” inspired several waves of violence, such as the attacks on the Jewish communities in Europe that followed Pope Urban II’s declaration in 1095 of a “holy war” (the First Crusade) led by the “race beloved and chosen by God.” The expulsion of the Spanish Jews preceded Christian efforts to transfer the “chosen” moniker to Spain, which was claimed to be “God’s land.” Hitler also believed that the Aryans were the chosen race. He stated that “There cannot be two Chosen People” and that “We are God’s People.”19

Vatican II

It took Christianity two thousand years of policies that persecuted and demoralized Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, to arrive at Vatican II, the gathering in 1965 that confronted the charge against the Jews as the killers of Christ. By removing the collective blood guilt from “the Jews of today” and in ancient times, the gathering’s pronouncement allowed the recognition by the Catholic Church of the Jews as “Thy Chosen People” and led later to Pope John Paul II’s declaration, during his historic 1986 visit to the Synagogue of Rome, that the Jews are “our elder brother.” This doctrinal change would later allow the Vatican to cross the theological barrier that required the Jews to remain dispersed, humiliated, and without sovereignty, as was explained to Herzl in his 1904 meeting in Rome with Pope Pius X.20

The 1965 modifications of the Catholic doctrine have greatly contributed to a more harmonious relationship with the Jews. It seems, however, that the obsession with Jewish chosenness is still very strong. The basic assertion that Christianity has replaced Judaism as the chosen religion is still dominant in Catholic theology. The Dominus Iesus document, written in 2000 by the current pope, Benedict XVI, stressed a desire “for the instant in which Israel will say yes to Christ.”21

Early in 2008 the Vatican decided to revive the traditional Latin prayer for the conversion of the Jews (which was removed in 1969), which fostered centuries of Jewish humiliation and suffering at the hands of inflamed Christian faithful.22 In another act, in the summer of 2008, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decided to delete from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults the sentence saying that “the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.”23 This decision, which awaits Vatican approval, again shows how difficult it is for the Catholic Church to accept the historic role of the Jews as the chosen “elder brother.”

Protestantism

Martin Luther, who broke away from Catholicism in the mid-sixteenth century to create the Protestant Church, sent cordial and welcoming messages to the Jews, expecting that they would convert to his purified form of Christianity. After their refusal he launched his vicious campaign of anti-Semitism, arguing that they were no longer the Chosen People and were instead “the Devil’s people,” adding that the Jews were “base, whoring…that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.”24

It is widely agreed that Luther’s anti-Jewish rhetoric contributed significantly to the development of anti-Semitism in Germany, and in the 1930s and 1940s provided an ideal foundation for the National Socialists’ attacks on Jews.25 Today various Protestant churches in Europe and America, while continuing to maintain ambiguous statements on the Jews’ chosenness, are vilifying the state of Israel and promoting drastic measures of economic boycotts and embargoes that would endanger the Jewish state’s ability to survive.

Not all groups stemming from the Protestant Reformation have adopted the anti-Jewish teachings of Martin Luther. For instance, in Britain some groups regarded themselves as the Chosen People and “the New Israel” but at the same time viewed the Jews’ return to their homeland in Palestine as a critical event in hastening the prophetic process culminating in the return of Jesus.

In these groups’ view, as consolidated in their religious-political movements such as the Plymouth Brethren founded in 1830 by John Derby, there was no contradiction between their role as the new and true Israel that inherited God’s promises to the Hebrews and the continuing role of the Jews as a unique and “chosen” people. These doctrines were rejected by the mainstream churches and were regarded as marginal and extreme. Yet they had a clear impact on politics, religion, and history and a special role in fostering the beginning of political Zionism.

Christian Zionists, as they are called, were very much involved in inspiring, acting, and lobbying for the restoration of the Jews in their historical Promised Land. A large number of American Protestant churches (some in Europe as well) have substantially adopted an evangelical theology that represents a sea change in modern history and in the doctrine of Christian redemption.

Evangelicals still believe in their own chosenness and attach great importance to their duty to spread their Christian values through the world. They no longer, however, subscribe to the age-old Christian supersessionist and displacement doctrine that refuses to recognize the viable existence of the Jewish people and, particularly, its chosen status. These churches, which today represent an important political force in America, believe that the Jews continue to be favored as God’s people, and some of them even renounce supersessionism and affirm that the Jews have a valid way to find God within their own faith.26

Islamic Supersessionism

Islam faces a similar theological need to explain away Jewish “chosenness.” But unlike Christianity, the Muslim displacement theory does not base itself on being the “New Israel;” instead, it recasts the Jewish prophets as Muslims by creating a direct link with Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the “first Muslim” according to the Qur’an. As the early Christians had done before him, Muhammad started his campaign with a conscious effort to bring the Jews within the fold of Islam. Muhammad accepted the Jewish God and prophets and many Jewish practices, including initially the orientation of prayers toward Jerusalem.

In the Qur’an Muhammad refers to the Jews as the “Chosen People” and to the Land of Israel as their “Promised Land.” The Qur’an acknowledges the Jews’ covenant with God: “O Children of Israel! Remember my favor which I bestowed upon you and that I exalted you above all people.” In particular it exhorts the Children of Israel regarding the Land of Israel, telling them to “dwell securely in the Promised Land.”27 Needless to say, given the contemporary Arab campaign to deny any Jewish links to the Land of Israel, this and similar comments about the Jews and their land are nowhere to be found in the rhetoric of today’s Muslim or Arab leaders.

After realizing that the Jews were not going to join his new version of Judaism, Muhammad proceeded to establish a separate religion. From that point on relations with his Jewish neighbors deteriorated quickly, and after declaring that Mecca, not Jerusalem, was the holy city, in 628 CE Muhammad attacked the Jewish tribes, dispossessing, enslaving, exiling, and massacring them.28

Sura 5 of the Qur’an presents the Muslim doctrine of supersession, and the commentators explain that Islam remedies “the backsliding of the Jews and Christians from their pure religions to which the coping stone was placed by Islam.” What follows is referred to by traditional Islamic commentary as “the memorable declaration” (5:3): “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”29 The verse puts it bluntly: the favor of Allah, which went initially to the Jews, has moved in its perfected form to Islam.

Islam Influenced by Judaism

In his doctoral dissertation published in 1833, the philosopher Abraham Geiger (later the founder of Reform Judaism in Germany) showed to what extent Islam was influenced by Judaism, using a title that many today would consider politically incorrect: Did Muhammad Borrow from Judaism? Geiger dedicated a special appendix to explain what he viewed as a contradiction: if Muhammad did indeed borrow so much from Judaism, why did the Qur’an contain so many anti-Jewish statements?

Geiger gives what is basically the most obvious explanation for Islamic anti-Semitism: “Muhammad’s aim was to bring about a union of all creeds, and no religious community stood more in the way of the attainment of this end than the Jews with their many cumbersome laws.” However, he borrowed so much because “he loved the old Abraham customs and kept to them.” Since the Jews annoyed and ridiculed him, “he wished…to make a final separation from these hateful Jews, and to this end he established entirely different customs.”

Geiger refers to those Arab sources, among the followers of Muhammad, who admitted that these changes were made for purposes “of abolishing resemblances to the Jews.”30 Geiger’s analysis thus points to the same “supersession complex” as witnessed in Christianity. Islam’s similarity to Judaism and, moreover, inherent dependence on it seemed to make the Jews the worst enemies of Islam and the target of incitement and hatred.

Vilifying or Killing Jews

Vilifying or killing Jews is a recurring motif in Muslim holy texts, and it is very much related to the Islamic version of supersessionism. The Qur’an repeatedly accuses the Jews of falsehood, distortion, and of being “corrupters of the scriptures.” It argues that the Jews did not deserve to be the Chosen People, and because of their sins are condemned to “degradation in this world.”

An oral tradition from Muhammad, for example, contends that the rivalry with the Jews will continue until the end of days: “The Last Hour will not come until the Muslims fight against the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them until the Jews will hide themselves behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say: ‘O Muslim, the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.'” Islam’s obsession with Judaism is no less grave than that of the Catholic Church before Vatican II. Unfortunately, it has become even more severe over the past few decades.

With their “displacement” theology, which claims that Islam has replaced the chosen Jews, Muslims find it even more confusing and irritating to watch the return of the Jews to their homeland, and even worse, their victories over Arab armies. In 1968, for example, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University referred to the Arab defeat by Israel in 1967 as an “unexpected event [that] occurred before a roguish Zionism whose adherents had been destined to dispersion by the Deity,” and quoted the Qur’an (2:61): “And humiliation and wretchedness were stamped upon [the Jews] and they were visited with wrath from God.”31

The Saudi government, which is the world’s leading distributor of the anti-Jewish forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blames the Jews in its official publications for deceiving the world into thinking that “they are the chosen people and that God wants them to once more take possession of Palestine, the promised land.” A 2004 article in the Saudi armed-forces journal refers to the “Jewish sense of superiority in the world” and “quotes” Jewish leaders who claim that “[w]e are the ones who invented the story of a ‘chosen people’ and we established ourselves as saviors of the world.”32

Conclusion: The Roots of Envy

There are a plethora of books on Jewish history and many theories about anti-Semitism. The chosen concept helps tie together the mystery of Jewish existence with the perplexity of anti-Semitism. Historians have always grappled with the unique story of the continued existence of the Jews as individuals and communities despite their wide dispersion, lack of sovereignty, strong forces of assimilation, and so much violent hatred. There was a clear need to go beyond conventional theories.

Economic, sociological, and political theories are insufficient and even the scapegoat theory cannot explain why the Jews are so often the scapegoats even in places where there are no Jews. Religious inquiry is critical, not because all people are religious but because almost all anti-Semites employ myths and prejudices that have strong religious roots. The Jewish mystery goes back to the very roots of Christian and Muslim belief and dogma. The chosen doctrine is critical for both Christianity and Islam, and surprisingly it is also central for many nonobservant Jews.

Possibly the most outspoken public figure ever to address the concept of the Jews as the Chosen People was Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister of Great Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century, a converted Jew baptized by his father right before his bar mitzvah. In his many books and speeches, Disraeli expressed strong views about the Chosen People, whose existence he regarded as “a miracle; alone of the ancient races.”

These strong opinions of his were often a source of embarrassment and even irritation for the Jews in England. Disraeli was a prolific writer of novels, and several of their heroes are Jews who are admired spokespersons on behalf of the Chosen People. One of these, Sidonia, is a rich Jewish banker and an idealized version of Rothschild. The real Baron Lionel de Rothschild was a close friend of Disraeli, and Disraeli supported him in the political struggle to change the law that did not allow Jews to be elected to Parliament. In his novels, Disraeli did not hesitate to include among his heroes individuals such as Rothschild whom anti-Semites loved to hate.

At one point in his novel Coningsby (1844), Disraeli puts in the mouth of Sidonia what is clearly the link between the privileged role of the Chosen and anti-Semitism:

Favored by nature and by nature’s God, we produced the lyre of David; we gave you Isaiah and Ezekiel…. Favored by nature we still remain, but in exact proportion as we have been favored by nature, so we have been persecuted by Man…. We have endured fifteen hundred years of supranational slavery…. The Hebrew child has entered adolescence only to learn that he was the pariah of that ungrateful Europe that owes to him the best part of its laws, a fine portion of its literature, all its religion.33

*     *     *

Notes

1. These issues and the impact of the chosen concept on Jewish-Gentile relations are elaborated in my book, The Chosen: The History of an Idea and the Anatomy of an Obsession (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

2. Daniel Bell, “A Parable of Alienation,” Jewish Frontier, 11 November 1946, 14.

3. See Conor Cruise O’Brien, God Land: Reflections on Religion and Nationalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988).

4. Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism (London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1939), 147.

5. The verb “chosen” is used in many references to Abraham, Moses, and the Children of Israel. For instance: Exodus 19:5 and 24:7, Deuteronomy 7:6-8 and 26:17-19

6. “For it is written [in Exodus] that ‘they stood at the foot of the [Sinai] mountain’ and Rabbi Dimi bar Chama said: this teaches us that the Holy One, Blessed be He, tipped the mountain and positioned it over the Jews as though it were an overturned vat and told them if you accept the Torah, all is well-but if not your burial will be there!”-Talmud, Avodah Zarah 2b.

7. Exodus 24:7 and the Midrash of Sifrei, on Deuteronomy 33:2.

8. Baruch Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1991), 100.

9. Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1956), 423.

10. Kaufman Kohler, Jewish Theology, Systematically and Historically Considered (New York: Macmillan, 1928), 323.

11. Samuel Friedman, Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 73.

12. Jack Wertheimer, A People Divided (New York: Basic Books, 1993), 65.

13. Shalom Spiegel, Hebrew Reborn (New York: Macmillan, 1930), 375-89.

14. David Ben-Gurion, Biblical Reflections (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1976), 223-24, 242. [Hebrew]

15. Connor Cruise O’Brien, 50.

16. Jacob Neusner, Judaism and Its Social Metaphors (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 186-87.

17. Eric Francis Osborn, Justin Martyr (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1973), 176.

18. David Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), 587.

19. Hermann Rauschning, Hitler Speaks: A Series of Political Conversations with Adolf Hitler on His Real Aims (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1940), 234-38.

20. Raphael Patai, ed., The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, vol. 4 (New York: Herzl Press, 1960), 593-94.

21. Beker, The Chosen, 62.

22. “Turning Back the Clock,” editorial of Forward, 15 February 2008.

23. Daniel Burke, “Catechism Edit ‘Troubling,’ Jewish Leaders Say,” Washington Post, 13 September 2008, B9.

24. Robert Michael, Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 111.

25. Johannes Wallmann, “The Reception of Luther’s Writings on the Jews from the Reformation to the End of the 19th century,” Lutheran Quarterly 1 (Spring 1987): 72-97; Leon Poliakov, History of Anti-Semitism: From the Time of Christ to the Court Jews (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 216; Richard Grunberger, The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany 1933-1945 (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971), 465.

26. Beker, The Chosen, 12-13, 140-43.

27. Qur’an, 2:47 and 122, 17:104, 10:93.

28. Paul Johnson, History of the Jews (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), 167.

29. Introduction to sura 5 in the popular Saudi edition The Qur’an: King Fahd’s Holy Qur’an (Saudi Arabia: The Royal Palace, 2000).

30. Abraham Geiger, Judaism and Islam (New York: Ktav, 1970), 158-59. This translation of Geiger’s book did not retain the original title: Did Muhammad Borrow from Judaism?

31. Yossef Bogdansky, Islamic Anti-Semitism as a Political Instrument (Houston: Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, 1999), 76-84.

32. Ma’ashu Muhammad, “The Jews in the Modern Era,” Al-Jundi al-Muslim [The Muslim Soldier], MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), Special Dispatch Series 768, 20 August 2004.

33. For this quotation and an extensive analysis of Disraeli’s writings on the Jews as the Chosen People, see Beker, The Chosen, 81-87.

*     *     *

Prof. Avi Beker is the Goldman Visiting Professor at the Department of Government of Georgetown University and former secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress. He has published several books and numerous articles on international security, foreign policy, and world Jewish affairs.  His most recent book, The Chosen: The History of an Idea and the Anatomy of an Obsession, was published in April 2008 by Palgrave Macmillan.


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About Dr. Avi Beker

Dr. Avi Beker is former secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress and has testified before the U.S. Congress on the Jewish refugees from Arab countries. He teaches international diplomacy to MA students and heads the Jewish Public Policy project at the School of Government and Policy at Tel Aviv University.