February 04, 2012

Chosen people?

This is interesting. Zionists in the UK have scored some successes on the bad faith allegations of antisemitism front lately. Howls of protest have greeted any use of the expression "chosen people" in connection with the privileging of Jews as per the zionist project and worldview.  Playwright, Caryl Churchill, was accused of antisemitism over her play, 7 Jewish Children.  When specific allegations against the play were shown to be false, the false accusers tended to fall back on the fact that one of her characters in the play suggested telling his daughter that "we're chosen people".  More recently The Guardian's Deborah Orr came in for flak over her invoking of the "chosen people" motif when discussing Israel's prisoner swap over Gilad Shalit.

Well now, according to a survey published in Ha'aretz, it turns out that 67% of Israeli Jews believe Jews to be the chosen people.
Once there was a secular majority. No more. That's the finding of a comprehensive, newly published study, "Beliefs, Observances, and Values among Israeli Jews," conducted by the Guttman Center for Surveys, which operates under the auspices of the Israel Democracy Institute. According to the survey, 80 percent of Israeli Jews believe in God; 67 percent believe that the Jews are the chosen people; 65 percent believe that the Torah and precepts are God-given; and 56 percent believe in life after death. It's no longer a matter of popular fondness for traditional customs. This is definitely a matter of belief: three of every four Israeli Jews are not atheists. Even if they are not Sabbath observers, they cling to the basic belief system of the Jewish religion.
There's far more to the article than I've alluded to here but clearly the chosen people idea is a central theme in Judaism. It's no big deal as a personal religious belief but when it's the majority view of the people the State of Israel also holds to be chosen, it does look a little worrisome. As for the idea that it is antisemitic to suggest that the chosen people idea plays some part in zionist thinking, this is yet another example of bad faith allegations of antisemitism undermining those of us who really are opposed to all forms of racism.

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