The Issue of Jewish Exceptionalism
On February 7, 2007, Daily Kos regular LondonYank wrote a diary on the problem (in her opinion) of Jewish exceptionalism. Her diary starts like a verbal recapitulation of D. Honig’s cartoon (see also here): she lauds Jews past for joining every civil rights movement, but chides the Jews of now for not showing enough enthusiasm in joining the movement for the dismantling of Jewish settlements and the application of the “Palestinian Right of Return”. She says:
Somewhere in the 1970s there was a divergence of interests. The objective of equality was replaced with a doctrine of exceptionalism.
Adopting exceptionalism, the major Jewish lobbies no longer sought to advance general principles of tolerance, non-discrimination or equal treatment before the law. Instead they sought narrow preferential treatment for Jews and for Israel that recognises a special status they would deny to other minorities in the American body politic.
The Wikipedia link is in the original. It is therefore suitable to see what Wikipedia says on the matter (retrieved from the article last modified 12:14, 27 January 2007):
Exceptionalism is the perception that a country, society, institution, movement, or time period is unusual or extraordinary in some way, and thus does not conform to normal rules, general principles, or the like. Used in this sense, such a perception reflects a belief formed by lived experience, ideology, perceptual frames, or perspectives influenced by knowledge (or lack thereof) of historical or comparative circumstances. (Bold original, a Wikipedia convention. —ZY)
The Wikipedia entry does not fit LondonYank’s purpose. She talks of exceptionalism as being contrary to “general principles of tolerance, non-discrimination or equal treatment before the law”, but the Wikipedia article defines exceptionalism as a doctrine born of observance of a group’s being extraordinary. Exceptionalism is the belief that a group is unique in some way, that it evades the fate that befalls all other groups. Exceptionalism can, but not always does, bring the group to believe that it is not beholden to any human laws and values shared by other groups. I covered this point in my post Chosen To Show, from October 19, 2006, where I contrast Jewish exceptionalism with, for example, Nazi German exceptionalism: the former stems from the belief in the divine task given to the Jewish people, a task from which, when completed, all nations will benefit, while the latter was the pretext for unprecedented atrocities. So, contrary to what LondonYank says, Jewish exceptionalism does not give rise to the thought, “it’s okay if you’re a Jew” or “it’s okay if you are Israel”. On the contrary, most of Israel’s actions toward the “Palestinians” are the barest minimum a nation can do toward those who have sworn to destroy it, a show of restraint bordering on insanity.
Jewish exceptionalism is born of both religious belief and continuous historical experience. We believe that we, the nation of Israel, have been chosen by G-d, the creator of the universe, to follow His instruction, the Torah of Israel, some of whose injunctions can be carried out only on the Land of Israel. As I said, this belief, unlike that of the Nazis in the past and of the Muslims today, does not lead us to even want to lord it over all other humans. Our desire is independence to live and worship G-d in our land, which even at its great extent is a modest-sized strip on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. If Jewish chosenness were an excuse for spreading our dominion over the whole globe like cancer, then it would be an exceptionalism worthy of condemnation and eradication; as it is not so, its sole offense is its being contrary to the sentiments of the politically correct.
Christianity and Islam were religions just waiting to arise; they each took part of the Jewish message and universalized it. Certainly if there is only one deity, one deity who created and governs all humans, then it would make sense—human sense—for Him to bring one universal religion for all of mankind. But G-d says through His prophet Isaiah (55:8–9):
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
If Jewish chosenness does not permit Jewish global imperialism (contra Nazism and Islam), why the anger? Why is it that Jewish exceptionalism, as the diarist says, “grates and raises hackles even among Jews themselves”?
Before I got religion, I considered the belief of Jewish chosenness to be the height of arrogance. But that was because I did not believe in the foundations of Judaism. It is just as the man who calls himself King of Sweden is arrogant… unless, of course, his name is Carl Gustaf, in which case he is not arrogant but simply telling the truth! The charges against Jewish exceptionalism are valid only if it has been ascertained that the Torah’s claim is false.
Where does this, shall we say, theological debate meet the issue of anti-Zionism? I have shown, from the beginning of this blog repeatedly, how anti-Zionism serves today as the mask for hatred of the Jews. It follows, then, that the accusations against Zionism and the Jewish state can serve as the mask for what was once leveled against Judaism itself. We can see that this is the case: the charges of racism, arrogance and scoffing at human law, once made against the religion of Judaism, now appear under the acceptable covering of being leveled against the Jewish state and its founding ideology, Zionism.
Would that all the Leftists were that honest. From Zombietime.
G-d has commanded the Jewish people to be a nation apart. Ample ink has been spilled throughout the ages against Jewish practices of separateness, for example the laws of kashrut. As that is not acceptable now, the equation of Zionism with racism and the branding of Israel as an “Apartheid State” serve as modern, acceptable, politically correct substitutes. Never mind that other groups stand equally guilty of refusing to assimilate, and even more so—the Muslims (in Europe, for instance) do so not for survival but for exercising gradual dominion over their host countries. Yet anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are equivalent in Leftist eyes. Those morally-confused people attack the harmless exceptionalism of the Jews while giving a free pass to the imperialistic, colonialistic, cancerous exceptionalism of the Muslims.
We know that as the age reaches its close, masks tend to fall one after the other, and taboos tend to break one by one. I remember how not long ago it was that any talk of the need to redress “the problem of the Palestinian refugees of 1947” was unheard of, not just in Israel but outside as well; nowadays there is almost not a single “peace plan” that doesn’t bring that as one of its main points. The talk of Israel being a mistake is commonplace. And it took just one book by Jimmy “Too Many Jews” Carter to make the comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa all the rage.
I think I am not making all too wild a prediction in saying the day is not far off when it is acceptable to heap vitriol on Judaism itself. It is only a natural progression: first there was criticism of Israel’s “occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967”, then came the charges against Israel for “the Palestinian refugees of 1947”, which gave rise to the insight that the state of Israel was “born in sin” and ought to be dismantled (G-d forbid) for the sake of world peace and justice, and after that the notion that the inherently racist founding ideology of the state of Israel, Zionism, was that which is obstructing that utopian dream and should be fought against. It will not be long before the haters of Israel arrive at the final revelation, namely that that racist ideology of Zionism has its roots in the Jewish religion itself, and then Judaism will be slated for demonization as “the gravest impediment to peace and justice in our time”.
I am not totally sure of this scenario—after all, history is in G-d’s hands, and He can turn it in ways unimagined by mankind (see the quote from Isaiah above). If my scenario does come to pass, however, it is my hope that the blatant blasphemy of the Torah by the wicked will spell the end of G-d’s suffering of them, and then we will behold the fulfillment of, “hen ga’alti etchem reshit ka’acharit”—“For I will redeem you, as in the beginning, so in the end”, in which our eyes will behold the likes of the miracles of Egypt.
We Jews are nothing in and of ourselves; but G-d has chosen us to bear witness of His sovereignty over all His creation, an exceptionalism which, if true, He is true, and if false, He is false. Behind the masks of the questions of the Israel/“Palestine” conflict and Zionism and all the rest, the true issue is whether people wish to worship false gods, such as the Proletariat Dialectic (“…and Karl Marx is its prophet”) and Gaia (“…and Al Gore is her prophet”) and the god described in the Koran (“and Mohammed is…”), or the G-d Who Really Is, who established His truth not in front of Moses alone, but in front of the entire ancestry of the Jewish people.