Was “Hebrew” the First Anti-Semitic Slur?

The Hebrew Bible generally refers to Jews by some variation of the word Israel. (The word Jew does not appear as such until the later biblical books.) Yet, occasionally, Jews are designated as Hebrews. Yitzhaq Feder notes an interesting pattern:

[T]he bulk of occurrences of this term in the Bible appear in the speech of Egyptians and Philistines in reference to the Israelites, and a more thorough survey of these occurrences suggests that this term was indeed a derogatory racial slur. . . . The most thorough exposition of this approach is the literary critic Meir Sternberg’s epic work Hebrews between Cultures (1999), which argues that “Hebrew is a codeword for the Bible’s in-group as misrepresented from the outside by the arch-foreigner, the [Egyptian].”

This raises another question, says Feder: “If Hebrew is a derogatory term, why do we find it used by Israelites, by the narrator, and even by God?” His answer: the Torah uses the word in the book of Exodus for its dramatic effect, highlighting the reversal of roles; it is the lowly Hebrew slaves who, through divine intervention, will come to be treated with fear and deference by their once-contemptuous Egyptian masters.

Read more at TheTorah.com

More about: Anti-Semitism, Bible, Egypt, Exodus, Hebrew, Language

As Hamas’s Reign of Terror Endures, the International Community Remains Obsessed with Jews Living in the Wrong Places

On Thursday, foreign ministers of the G-7—the U.S., Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—along with the EU, made an official “statement on the situation in the West Bank,” an area where they are very concerned, it appears, that too many Jews are dwelling. In particular, the G-7 condemned Israel’s decision to grant municipal status to five ad-hoc villages built without proper permits. Elliott Abrams comments:

I can see “condemning” murder, terror, kidnapping, and “rejecting” that legalization. Indeed in the next sentence they “reject the decision by the government of Israel to declare over 1,270 hectares of land in the West Bank as ‘state lands.’” Building houses should not be treated with language usually reserved for murder.

The statement then added complaints about the Israeli settlement program more generally, and about Israel’s decision to withhold some tax revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Why does Israel ever withhold such funds? Sometimes it is in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. Sometimes it’s domestic politics. But it’s worth remembering something else: the Taylor Force Act, which became law in 2018 and stated that the “Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.” Until those payments cease, most forms of aid from the U.S. government to the Palestinian Authority may not be made. The payments continue. It is not clear if the State Department is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to end them.

Such moral considerations are entirely absent from the G-7 statement. The statement may be correct when it says, “maintaining economic stability in the West Bank is critical for regional security.” But it should be obvious that ending the pay-for-slay program and rewards for terrorism is even more critical for regional security. It’s a pity the G-7 did not find time to mention that.

The statement, it’s worth noting, appeared on the U.S. State Department website.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Europe and Israel, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy, West Bank