Jewish Xenophobia

Since we’re having a slow news-month so far…

Fifty Israeli rabbis have signed an open letter warning Jews not to rent or sell property to non-Jews, saying those who do should be "ostracised", a copy of the letter showed on Tuesday.

“In answer to the many questions, we say that it is forbidden in the Torah to sell a house or a field in the land of Israel to a foreigner,” says the letter, referring to the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible.

I guess it could be in the “religion” section, however this also smacks of good old racism (IMHO the true word for “xenophobia”).

I know what circumcised is, but ostracised is a big word; and an ostrich is ‘n groot voël. Oh, the also say later in the article “Anyone who sells (property to a non-Jew) must be cut off!!”

OK, not relevant, but the whole matter seems laughable to me. I mean, who wrote this “Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible.”

I find your humour truly cuts to the core of the issue. It removes any unnecessary fat from the equation and just leaves you with the meat.

Who wrote it? Dead towelheads?

it is unknown who wrote the Pentateuch although it’s credited to Moses…strange though as the Pentateuch speaks of his death! Certainly was not him but the result of thousands of years of oral history…there were for example different gods (northern tradition and southern tradition) no evidence of the destruction on Canaan under Joshua etc etc. Most of the legends were written in Homerian and Herodotic narrative style, legends, myths, demons, angels and gods galore…mostly folklore and not intended as a historic document.

All history has been influenced by folklore, angels, beasts, gods, legends, demons and so forth. Likewise narratives contain some sort of history. The Pentateuch (as other parts of the Scriptures) share narratives that can be found in other (like Egyptian) writtings. This supports the fact that they were influenced by fabels and folklore.
No man is an island, and this goes for writing too.

And yet the people who hold to these books as Holy, and control or influence the people around them, still wield enough power to wreak havoc under the banner of their particular god (mostly Allah or Jehovah). Credulity, superstition and myth still bring about extreme xenophobia and blatant racism sanctioned by faith and untouchable by reason and the kind of morality borne only by compassion and shared humanity. Makes me sick.

to add to your disgust Steve, this at Epiphenom: Is religion a kind of racism? Yes... and no!

Is religion a kind of racism? Yes... and no! By Tom Rees on Wednesday, December 08, 2010 Humans have a tendency to seek out their own kind, preferring others who have the same skin colour, the same culture and, yes, the same religion.

What’s more, there seems to be some sort of connection. People who are the most stridently religious also tend to be more racist, and to generally be more cautious about dealing with people from outside their own group.

Does this connection stem from some deep, common mechanism that drives people to be suspicious of non-group members (a “central affiliation mechanism”)? Or are do each of these prejudices derive from an independent mechanism. Does the brain have a pro-racism module, a pro ethno-centrism module, and a pro-religionism module (an “essentialism mechanism”)?

Gary Lewis and Timothy Bates, from the University of Edinburgh, set out to investigate the genetics behind this using data from the MacArthur Foundation Survey of Midlife Development (MIDUS) in the United States. They quizzed 957 identical and non-identical twins on their attitudes to people from outside their own group, using questions like “How much do you prefer to be with other people who are the same religion as you?”

Basically, the idea is that if identical twins score high on all three forms of prejudice, then it suggests a central affiliation mechanism. If particular identical twins tend to rate higher on one or other form of prejudice, than that suggests an “essentialism mechanism”.

So they cranked the numbers, and what they found was that both mechanisms are needed to explain the data!

Well, to be more precise, they found that the “central affiliation mechanism” accounts for 35%, 69%, and 21% of variation in religious, ethnic, and racial favouritism, respectively.

There does also seem to be a genetic trait that’s specific for religious prejudice. This predisposes for religious prejudice independently of racial and ethnic prejudice. However, according to Lewis and Bates’ data, it’s pretty weak - taking it out of the model didn’t much affect the results.

So it seems that religious prejudice is mostly driven by a general purpose prejudice module in the brain. Yes, religious prejudice is a kind of racism.

They found something else interesting. The shared environment - the family home, for example - didn’t have any effect on prejudice. That’s a surprise, and may simply indicate that their study sample wasn’t big enough to pick it up.

But they did find that the “unique environment” (all those environmental factors experienced by one of the twins but not the other) did have an effect, and in a surprising way. The more the unique environment favoured religious prejudice, the less it favoured ethnic prejudice - and vice versa.

According to Lewis and Bates, that’s because religion and ethnocentrism act in opposition:
This may reflect the influence of religious teachings, which may increase ethnic tolerance, or the possibility that religion became superordinate to coalitions based on ethnicity.
So although religious prejudice and ethnic prejudice stem in part from a common brain mechanism, they don’t seem to go together as traits. If your genes incline you to prejudice, that could form either into racial or ethnic prejudice, but not both (at least, not amongst this group of Americans).

That doesn’t seem to be the case for racism, however!

IMO, the jury is still out on this one although it gives one pause to consider the bias that religion does create and what the early conditioning of children in one or other religion does to create barriers, prejudices and even hatred in societies.

“Religious teachings” is a very broad concept. If religious teachings propagate racial superiority, it will almost certainly cultivate racism, and conversely religious teachings may promote equality and tolerance. This study comes across as flawed in that it does not assess the content of the religious teachings.

True enough Hermes, but IMO any religious teaching that professes to be the absolute truth to the exclusion of all others will create these biases and lead to a possible lack of tolerance of other views. “Content” is furthermore one thing but the manner in which the content is enforced leading to group coherence (and rejection of non-conformance) (take what would happen if a christian were to go to a Muslim school ( (wtf!!) ) that creates stereotypes and bigotry.
The study should IMHO also have included a sample of persons who had not been subjected to religious education of any kind…if that was possible???

Amen. It’s the major benefit of all evidence-free thinking: You get to be right, irrespective of anything else.


Agreed; I don’t think this point is in dispute.

I interpret the article as a study of the relationship between religion and racism. Early in the article it claims:

People who are the most stridently religious also tend to be more racist…

This can be observed in conservative rural societies, both in SA and in the US Bible Belt.
After studying twins, the authors then found that
…religion and ethnocentrism act in opposition…

IMO this finding is rather far-fetched if the content of the religious teachings is ignored. The article proceeds to suggest that religious teachings may influence ethnic tolerance, or that religious cohesion my superordinate ethnic cohesion. For this to happen the content of the religious teachings must emphasise those qualities that would enhance racial harmony. As we know, the Old Testament and Koran do exactly the opposite. I can therefore not support the view that religion and ethnocentrism would necessarily act in opposition.

A topical blog and discussion on Why Religion Can Lead to Racism is worth a peek. Three findings are recorded:
I. Subconscious religious prompts may increase racism;
II. Religious conformity is linked to racist attitudes;
III. Religious fundamentalism may increase right-wing authoritarianism.

to add to the dismal picture and illustrate the centuries’ old bias:

‘Christianity also teaches the duty of working and denounces idleness as a sin. To Christianise a Kaffir is the shortest way, and the surest, to make him put his hand steadily and willingly to the work that is waiting to be done.
extract from the Christian Express VIII, 1878. Lovedale, South Africa.


Even Hitler who was a Christian, (Hitler A.‘Mein Kampf’. Translated by Ralph Manheim, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, 1943, Vol 1 Chapter 2: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."), ironically enough believed in Jesus, a Jew. Jewish hatred did not spring from Hitler though; it came from the preaching of Catholic priests and Protestant ministers throughout Germany for hundreds of years. Martin Luther himself hated the Jews and their Jewish religion. In his book, "On the Jews and their Lies," Luther set the scene for Jewish hatred in Protestant Germany up until World War II
("Moses was a Liar" Raider Books)


There was also another man called Artuković who in a country called Croatia was found guilty by the authorities of the mass murder of Serbs, Jews, gypsies and other minorities. He had studied at a Franciscan Monastry which was part of the Catholic Church much like the Jesuits here. This all happened during the Second World War. When he fled after the war, he was assisted by Franscican monks to flee. Many other war criminals were helped by the so-called Vatican Ratlines to escape justice and they fled to other countries. It was well established that the Vatican actively sheltered and assisted war criminals."

Are you sure they mean the racial term and not the “heathen” term?

The original meaning of the word is 'heathen', 'unbeliever' or 'infidel', from the Arabic 'kafir' and is still being used with this meaning by Muslims.[1] The Arabic term Kafir (arab كافر) is, however, also applied to simply anyone who is not a Muslim.

The term has obvious origins as we know but was clearly racialised in SA. The use of the word is shocking to us today but was a common reference to black people in the colonial years, I think irrespective of whether they were indeed baptised or not.

Here’s the source quoted from Peter Kallaway, 1988:

Therefore, whilst the missionaries provided western education to the African for the public good, they had many private interests that they wanted to fulfil. The British government and the missionaries used education to attain their political goals. Christie quotes Sir George Grey, governor of the Cape in 1855, when he said: If we leave the natives beyond our border ignorant barbarians, they will remain a race of troublesome marauders. We should try to make them a part of ourselves, with a common faith and common interests, useful servants, consumers of our goods, contributors to our revenue. Therefore, I propose that we make unremitting efforts to raise the natives in Christianity and civilization, by establishing among them missions connected with industrial schools. The native races beyond our boundary, influenced by our missionaries, instructed in our schools, benefiting by our trade would not make wars on our frontiers. The above quotation summarizes the basic political intentions of missionary education among the Africans. It was geared to make the Africans docile and tame through the use of the Christian philosophy. Missionary education had an impact on the indigenes and while they were being anglicized, the Afrikaners started formulating their own education system. The Afrikaners had set up their schools in the trekker states such as the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. It was in these trekker states that Apartheid Education had its beginning
Clearly the term was used in the racial context IMO