Orr-Errs with Language

Deborah Orr is the Guardian writer who thinks that Jewish understanding of being a chosen people, makes them arrogant. She wrote:

“[…]so many Zionists believe – that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours”

That’s not the Jewish (or “Zionist”) understanding of chosenness at all. According to the Torah, God says to Israel (Deut 7:7):

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

That’s what most Jews will tell you – chosenness is not about being better than anyone else, it is about being appointed to fulfill a specific divine duty, in the service of God.

Justifying her article, Orr continues her unique understanding of Jewish theology and language, on her Twitter page.

Here is Orr on the word “Israel“:

Here is the passage from Torah (Deut 32), in which God names Jacob “Israel”:

וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ–כִּי, אִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל: כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹהִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים, וַתּוּכָל And he said: ‘Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

“Israel” comes from the verb “to wrestle”, with “God” incorporated into the name – he wrestled God. The name “Israel” is nothing to do with affirming chosenness as a concept for a people group, but rather is concerned with God himself.

Having complained,

“The more fed up I get at being called an anti-Semite, the more anti-Semitic I sound.”

Orr continues:

If Orr is arguing that Arabs are descended from Shem in the Biblical narrative, then she is correct. However, being an anti-Semite has nothing to do with disliking the families of nations descended from Shem in the Bible. “Anti-Semitism” is a specific term referring to anti-Jewish hatred. It is not a perfect phrase, and indeed, it was first used in the context of racialist theorising. As Ben Cohen wrote, in his excellent new piece,

It’s worth remembering that when the term “anti-Semitism” was coined in 19th-century Germany, its authors were not Jews, but Jew-haters. They wore the badge of anti-Semitism with pride, creating political parties with such names as the “League of Anti-Semites.” The word was owned not by the victims, but by the perpetrators. In that sense, nothing much has changed. The torrid controversies around anti-Semitism today indicate that the Jewish community has claimed neither the ownership nor the definition of the word. That’s why John Mearsheimer thinks his understanding of anti-Semitism is far superior to yours or mine. And that, you might say, is the greatest scandal of all.

Basically, Orr is making it up as she goes along.