Israel and Anti-Gentile Traditions

Israel Shahak's theory that anti-Gentile traditions have influenced Israeli policy is well known in both Arab and anti-Semitic circles, but Jews have yet to properly confront it.

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Others use Shahak's work in their presentation of Judaism, and that fact alone should make it relevant to contemporary Jews.

Shahak was an ardent secularist and anti-Zionist, but he wrote his book as a challenge to Jews to engage the chauvinist, dehumanizing elements of Jewish tradition and to help create a self-critical and sensitive modern Judaism. It's true that he combed the rabbinic tradition in search of hateful passages, often--though by no means always--misinterpreting them and taking them out of context, but this may be beside the point.

Jewish texts exist that can be--and are--understood to be vehemently xenophobic. These texts must be openly and honestly grappled with, explained, and if necessary, repudiated.

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Ari Alexander

Ari Alexander studies the modern Middle East at Oxford University.