Chosen People – Source of Anti-Semitism?
I’ve often heard the Jews referred to as the “Chosen People.” Isn’t that possibly the source of much of the anti-Semitism in the world?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
I think the real question is whether the “Chosen People” idea is indeed a legitimate cause of anti-Semitism – or whether it is merely another excuse.
If Jewish "choseness" is in fact the cause of anti-Semitism, then hatred against the Jews should disappear when Jews drop the claim that they are chosen.
Late in the 19th century, the Jews living in Germany and Austria collectively rejected their "choseness" and were assimilated by their host nation. In fact, they believed that the non-Jews among whom they lived were the true chosen people. "Berlin is our Jerusalem!" they loudly proclaimed. Gentile society was their social environment of choice, and Germany their beloved motherland.
Did anti-Semitism disappear? We all know the tragic answer to that question. The Jews in Germany and Austria experienced the most vicious outpouring of anti-Semitic hatred in history. Precisely when Jews rejected their claim to "chosenness," they suffered the most virulent forms of anti-Semitism.
Another test of the Chosen People theory is to see how humanity responds to other peoples who claim to be "chosen." If the claim that Jews are chosen gives rise to anti-Semitism, then all groups who make similar claims of having been "chosen" should also become targets of persecution and hatred.
Christianity and Islam represent two other major religious groups that claim to have been chosen. Christian theology accepts that God gave the Bible to the Jews and made the Jews His special messengers. However, it is the Christian belief that once the Jews rejected Jesus, the Christians became God's new chosen people.
Muslims likewise believe that the Jewish Bible is the word of God. However, Muslim theology claims that when Mohammad appeared on the scene, God made the Muslims His chosen people. But why hasn't this historically generated hatred against them?
Indeed, nearly every nation on earth has at one time or another claimed to be chosen. Americans claimed Manifest Destiny – that their annexation of Texas and Alaska – against the wishes of the inhabitants of those areas – was divinely willed. The Chinese chose to name their country China because the word means "center of the universe." The name Japan means "source of the sun." For Native Americans, the same word means both "human being" and "Indian" – implying that every non-Indian belongs to some subspecies.
These nations are not hated for having claimed superiority. A claim that one is chosen does not in and of itself cause hatred. If it did, then so many other nations would be the targets of the intense, universal hatred that is in fact unique to the Jews.