- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Over the course of centuries, many groups of people have claimed to be “chosen” by God. But the Jews are the only ones targeted for it, argues Avi Beker, the former Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress. In his wisely researched, well-documented new book, “The Chosen,” Mr. Beker, a visiting professor at Georgetown University, compiles all the stereotypes, conspiracy theories and accusations about Jews throughout history.

While the current situation in the Middle East - especially since the attacks on September 11, 2001 - has created an undeniable Islamophobia that deeply offends Muslims, Beker turns the tables and describes in detail the well-established Judeophobia throughout the world. Like the accusations of the Saudi minister of interior, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz that Israelis and Jews were behind the attack. While the Jews and the state of Israel have been largely perceived as the root cause of all the trouble in the Middle East, and while Jews have been accused of controlling not only American policies, but also the world’s economy and the media, this book really is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic to put this mindset in a historical, political and substantive context.

Mr. Beker argues that people who believe in the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - represent a little more than half of the world’s population (excluding China, India, and Japan) but the arena of their contention for the titled “Chosen”covers 90 percent of the world’s inhabited continents. He looks back to when anti-Jewish policies were at their height in Europe - when Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. And the goal of that expulsion, Mr. Beker writes, was to create the “Chosen” mantle in Spain. Centuries later, Adolf Hitler chose a different path for the “Chosen” - not even allowing them a chance of escape from death. “The struggle for world domination will be fought entirely between us, between German and Jews,” Hitler said. “There cannot be two Chosen People. We are God’s people.” Mr. Beker also examines the issue of Jewish loyalty and allegations about Jewish influence in the United States. “In France, observed Walter Russell Mead, one of the most durable components of anti-Americanism is the deep belief that the American financial system is controlled by the Jews,” Mr. Beker writes.

“The mix of anti-Semitism with anti-Americanism has been a central element in political campaigns at the beginning of the new century. It reflects the changes in the international system, the still undefined balance of power, and the growing resentment against America, which brings in its wake anti-Semitism.” Crisscrossing the twin cultural and theological divides between Judaism, Christendom, and Islam, “The Chosen” explains how the Jews, of all people, have come to represent at once the epitome of both the good and the odious.

There’s also another pervasive perception about the Jews, which was depicted in the film “The Passion of the Christ.” Directed and produced by Mel Gibson, it recounts “the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life, which focuses on the transfer or the displacement of the Chosen designation, according to Christian theology, from the Jews to Jesus and His followers.” Of course, Mr. Gibson and his father are both known for their anti-Semitic remarks. During his August 2006 arrest in California on suspicion of drunk driving, Mr. Gibson “made amazing statements to the arresting officer about ‘f…ing Jews,’ adding that ‘the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.’ The true point, though, has nothing to do with the Gibsons personally,” Mr. Beker writes. “It is, rather, the continuing effect of the hatred propagated first by Paul of Tarsus two millennia ago as part of a campaign to validate Christianity’s claim to the mantle of the Chosen.”

Mr. Beker argues that “Jews cannot deny that the Chosen concept is religiously, historically, and culturally central to Judaism.” Yet he makes clear that many Jews, after all the suffering of generations, particularly the Holocaust, do not want to be affiliated with the concept of the Chosen; they just want to be “normal” people. He also emphatically notes that Jews should reject the idea outright that they are somehow personally or racially superior to others. It is just, he argues, that “they were ready to accept the Torah and commit themselves to serving God.”

Mr. Beker emphasizes how as a people, the Jews have suffered because of their belief in the concept of “chosenness” - and yet, in a way, explains that there is no easy way to escape being hated. It indeed doesn’t matter what the Jews think, “the world is looking at them as the Chosen People” “Traditionally, the hatred felt by other nations is considered to have begun at Mount Sinai at the very moment when the Jews became the Chosen. The sages of the Talmud play on the words “Sinai” and sinah” - “hate” in Hebrew. “Why is it called Sinai?” they ask. “Because from there the hatred against Israel descended … and from there the nations of the world received this hatred.” What Mr. Beker’s volume also makes abundantly clear is that even though history has been this way, it should not always be.

Tulin Daloglu is a free-lance writer.

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