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Holy Apartness is not Apartheid

18 9 19

The late and great Rabbi Lord Sacks gave a powerful keynote address entitled ‘The Mutating Virus’ to the European Parliament in 2016. He said antisemitism’s main variant of concern in our times results in hatred not primarily of the Jewish religion or of the Jewish race, but of the Jewish nation. He also points out that in our times, as in every other, antisemites always appeal to the highest authority of the age.

Rabbi Sacks reminds us that in medieval Europe, the highest authority was the Church, which condemned Jews for their religion. From the late 19th century in Europe the highest authority was science: Social Darwinism and other racialist theories that condemned Jews for their race. In our times, the highest authority is ‘human rights’, and has been since about the 1950s. Ergo the new antisemitism is anti-Israelism, and Israel must be condemned on the grounds of human rights, to the extent that she is condemned more times by the United Nations Human Rights Council than the combined total of human rights condemnations issued to all the other nations of the world.

What Rabbi Sacks did not mention in his speech on the new antisemitism is that the attacks on the Jewish nation are often led by Jewish groups and individuals, ostensibly appealing to principles of human rights. This somewhat complicates things. But the problem needs to be addressed, and I have written this essay in the hope that it can contribute to a better of understanding, for Jews and my fellow non-Jews alike. I will need to delve into some Jewish theology because, as we will see, Jewish human rights groups such as B’Tselem claim to be basing their relentless Israel-bashing on Jewish theology. As I have written before on Blogs TOI, I do have some good Jewish teachers, including Rabbi Yishai Fleisher and Rav Mike Feuer, to whom I tune in every week for their parasha-based discussions.

In view of the fact that ‘human rights’ carries such weighty authority today, we must be very discerning about every organisation that chooses to have ‘human rights’ in its title or its stated aims.


‘Israel’ is a complicated subject. And I suspect that one of the reasons so many of the world’s secular journalists and secular intellectuals write about Israel is the attraction of being seen to be clever and insightfully analytical in supplying the popular and lucrative market for Israel bashing.

For the billions of us in the world raised and educated as Christian, our Bible has thousands of instances of the words ‘Israel’, ‘Zion’, and ‘Jerusalem’. And the Bible in the English language (such as my King James Version) often refers to God as ‘God of Israel’. It is impossible, then, for thinking Christians to ignore Israel, and her meaning. (By thinking Christians I am talking about the minority. In my experience, the majority of my co-religionists in England, including the clergy, do not think very deeply about anything religious or philosophical.)

Obviously, God of Israel, and the Jewish tribe of the People Israel, are inextricably bound up with the Land.

Eretz Yisrael on the world map is a very tiny patch of land, amounting to a mere quarter of 1% of the landmass of the Middle East, but in terms of Biblical representation, no nation is bigger. No nation’s name is uttered in the world more than ‘Israel’, which more or less means, ‘God rules’. The notion of ‘progress’ to a goal of history – providentially running through the cycles of good times and bad times – was uniquely given to the world by the Jews, and this too is bound up with the Land.

Somehow, every nation of the world is to realise its destiny on Mount Zion (Isaiah 2:3-4).


At the beginning of the Common Era, the Middle East was imperialised by Persians, Greeks and Romans, then Muslim Arabs, then the Mongols, then Arabs again, then the Turks, then the British and the French, and then predominantly the Arabs once again. Today the Middle East is under Arab dominion, apart from Iran, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. And every nation of the Middle East is, it seems, inescapably involved in the region’s murderous internecine conflicts, which have resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the region’s Jews (cf. Uprooted, Lyn Julius) and ‘near genocide’ of the region’s Christians. (‘Near genocide’ are the words used by former UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, who ordered to the Church of England to report on the problem rather than continue to turn a blind eye.) And throughout the Middle East, all ethnic groups and minority religions are now under Islamist threat, such as Kurds, Yazidis, Druze, Baháʼí, and the Sufi tradition in Islam. A few months ago, I wrote a 10,000 word joint essay with Dr Richard Landes on the ‘ticking time bomb’ of this........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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