Bernard-Henri Lévy’s Assault on the Idea of Chosenness

In The Genius of Judaism, the acclaimed French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy praises the Jewish tradition and inveighs against anti-Semitism. But, writes Meir Y. Soloveichik in his review, the book’s “overly dramatic tone” masks both an ignorance of Judaism and contempt for one of its defining principles—which Lévy blames for provoking Gentiles’ hostility:

Judging by its title, . . . The Genius of Judaism seems to be a celebration of the Jewish faith. The book, however, is actually an assault on Judaism’s central doctrine. Its thesis is that the concept of the “election” of the Jews, of their being chosen by God, is a “scandalous, almost scabrous word on which, since Jews have been Jews, their misunderstanding with the nations hang.” This millennia-long misunderstanding surrounding the chosenness of the Jews can now, apparently, be rectified, once our author strips the idea “of the load of prejudice, bad literature, and stupidity that has weighed it down over time.”

It turns out, Lévy writes, that Israel is neither chosen nor elect, and Jews have misinterpreted the Bible in claiming to be so; indeed, he insists, chosenness is not central to Judaism at all, and overcoming this misconception is essential to healing the rift between the Jews and those who hate them.

That this silly thesis is presented as the book’s main discovery is a shame, because there are admirable passages to be found in The Genius of Judaism. Lévy decries the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe; he lauds the contribution of Jewish ideas to the philosophical foundations of Western democracy, and of the culture of Europe; and he makes the case for being pro-Israel to his fellow leftists. Yet he stresses that his most important argument is that Jewish chosenness is not only false but also demonstrates ignorance of the Bible on which it is based. This is a terrible claim for a Jewish intellectual, who is also an influential celebrity, to make. . . . The Genius of Judaism is an attempt to redefine Jewish theology absent any serious grappling with some of the elemental texts of Judaism.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Bernard-Henri Levy, Chosen people, Judaism, Religion & Holidays

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict