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

Feb. 21 2017

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

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan