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Judaism is not on trial

This post is prompted by a You Tube video I have just watched.  The video was made by the ugly anti-Semite Fredrick Toben, in support of our local anti-Semitic non-celebrity Brendon O’Connell.  I’m not posting a link as I have no desire to attract traffic to the video itself.

In the video, Toben requests that Jews who are honest and sincere about their religious affiliation step forward.  

Well, here I am.

I am a Jew.  My religious observances and beliefs (in that particular order) make me distinguishable as a Jew.  However that is not WHY I am a Jew.  I am a Jew because I was born to Jewish parents; more specifically a Jewish mother.  That also make me eligible to be a citizen of the world’s only Jewish State, Israel.  My ethnic identity is Jewish.  It so follows that my religious beliefs conform to that ethnic tradition.  My ethos, my culture, my race, my ethnicity, my religion, and my blood is all Jewish.  I was born Jewish and I also choose to live in accordance with that birth identity.   

Does that sound racist to you? 

For millennia people have poured over the discussion, philosopher and ignoramus alike, whether Judaism is an ethnicity or a religion.  Sometimes the confused Jews amongst us also have trouble trying to work it out.   

There is no distinction.  Jewish identity is a national, ethnic and religious identity, all intertwined.  Such a definition does not impact or threaten the liberty of the Toben’s and O’Connell’s of the world as they would like to think that it does.  Nor is this critical to the resolution of the legal technicalities that define the basis of charges laid against their brazen anti-Semitism.

Even the UK supreme court has managed to adjudicate on matters of Jewish identity without putting Judaism itself on trial.  In an article relating to that case, Lesley Wagner writes: ” However, as Judaism, uniquely, defines religious status through descent, rather than affirmation, this makes Jews an ethnic group as defined by the legislation and case law. We are Jews because our parents were Jewish, whether we believe or practice any Jewish principles or not. Converts can join this group, but they don’t change the essential nature of the group.”

Perhaps the key word in determining the true nature of Jewish identity is “nation”.  Jewish nationhood developed when Israel entered Egypt as a family, and emerged as a people.  Shortly afterwards the covenant of Sinai became the unique national constitution of the Jewish people. 

There was a Jewish State which came into existence over 3,000 years ago.  It existed in the form of two different Commonwealths for approximately 1,000 years. 

For almost 2,000 years the world has not been used to treating their Jews as a “nation”, as the physical instrument of a State, and the mechanism of self-Government was transformed from a system of justice (one that had principles that greatly differed from the empires of the time, and formed the basis of what we call Western Civilisation today) to a system of intellectual rigour.  The texts of Judaism have preserved the knowledge needed to recreate Jewish national self determination.

Being a Jewish resident of a Jewish State is incomparable.  Although modern Israel has yet to transform itself into a nation governed by Jewish law, even today a “Jewish Israeli” has a different connotation to a “Christian Australian”.  In order to fulfill the definition of “Jewish” the person has to do more than just identify or accept an ideology.  To preserve their identity they have to practice and live a Jewish way.  That is why ethnicity is a perfectly rational definition to apply. 

Judaism is not on trial, by any court or by any legal system.  By contrast, Brendon O’Connell is on trial.  Here is a person who is proud of his anti-Semitism.  In good company with Toben, O’Connell will be instructed by the law that his brand of racial hatred is not accepted within Australian society.  Although these people want to grandstand and use their few minutes of infamy in court to “expose” Judaism as a religion and entice the legal system to declassify Judaism as an ethnicity,  the entire crusade they represent is pathetically irrelevant.   

Jewish people will continue to be Jewish, proudly upholding their religious-ethnic identity.  In Australia, we should have confidence that the judicial system and the political system that supports it will continue to uphold both religious and ethnic freedom for all creeds, free from vilification.

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