The second twist is Beinart’s inclusion of Biblical references to support his case.
Much Jewish sophistry intended for internal consumption contains lame Biblical references like these designed to lend the demands, which are fundamentally driven by Jewish ethnic self-interest, an air of moral plausibility and divine sanction. As with almost all Jewish sophistry, it falls apart on closer examination.
The three Biblical anecdotes Beinart cites to explain why Jews should be nice to immigrants are the episodes in which Abraham and his nephew Lot welcome strangers into their homes and one in which Abraham resides temporarily in Egypt. Here are the relevant portions of his article.
The worst anti-Semitic attack in American history occurred while Jews around the world were reading the Torah portion that tells the story of Lot, an immigrant.
Lot moves to Sodom, and prospers there. The Midrash says he becomes a judge. His daughters intermarry with the locals. Then one day, while sitting at the gates of the city, the assimilating immigrant sees two strangers approach. He asks them to “spend the night and bathe your feet” the Midrash says he learned to welcome strangers from his uncle Abraham, the first Jew. Lot “prepares them a feast.”
But in Sodom, the natives hate strangers. “Where are the men who came to you tonight?” they demand. “Bring them out to us.” Lot tries to protect his guests. “I beg you friends,” he implores, “do not commit such a wrong.” For the men of Sodom, however, this just underscores Lot’s foreignness. He hasn’t really assimilated; he isn’t one of them. He’s a threat. “The fellow came here an immigrant and already acts the ruler,” they declare. “Now we will deal worse with you than with them.”
As Parsha Vayera suggests, welcoming the stranger is among the most fundamental Jewish imperatives. Lot “baked unleavened” bread for the strangers who came to Sodom. The parallel to the exodus from Egypt is clear. Lot and Abraham welcomed strangers; Pharaoh oppressed them. And 36 times in the Torah Jews are reminded to be like Abraham and Lot: To remember the heart of the stranger because were strangers in the land of Egypt.
In Abraham’s case, the guests tell Abraham that his wife, Sarah, shall bear him a child, even though she is old.
In Lot’s case, the guests shepherd Lot and his family out of the city, Sodom, so they can escape its impending destruction.
According to Beinart, this proves that good things happen to Jews when they are nice to strangers.
Now let’s proceed to a critical examination of these claims.
First, Abraham had left his place of origin, Ur, and entered someone else’s country, Canaan, which, as their names suggests, belonged to the Canaanites.
Abraham and the Lord (the projected image of the Jewish tribal ego) planned to dispossess the Canaanites of their land.
“The Canaanite was then in the land”. This phrase, or variants of it, appear several times in the Biblical text. They, of course, imply that the Canaanites are no longer in their land at the time the Bible was written, because they have been dispossessed and destroyed by the Jews.
When Canaan experienced a famine, Abram and his wife “sojourned” in Egypt. Abraham told his wife, Sarai, to pretend she was his sister so he could pimp her out as a marriage prospect to the local Egyptian notables. (Genesis 12)
Both Sarai and Abram (their names became Sarah and Abraham later) were well treated by the Pharaoh.
The Pharaoh, however, found that his land was soon tormented by plagues. When he inquired into the reasons for this, he learned that Sarai was Abram’s wife, not his sister, and the “Lord” was punishing him for this. Even then, after discovering that the proto-Jew Abram had grossly and basely deceived him, the Pharaoh doesn’t harm him but permits him to go peaceably on his way, even allowing him to retain the riches he had acquired.
Let’s come now to the anecdotes in Genesis 18 & 19 where Abraham and Lot are nice to “strangers” and arrange for them to be given food and shelter.
Abraham knew that the guests were not normal guests, but were somehow mystical emissaries of God. He surely doesn’t deserve much moral credit, then, for choosing to be nice to them.
It’s not clear from the Biblical text whether Lot also knew his guests were mystical emissaries of God although there is a hint that he did. In any case, when he welcomes them into his house, the people of the town crowd round about, asking to have a look at them. Lot refuses to let them and, bizarrely, offers his daughters up to be gang-raped in order to protect the immigrants.
The townspeople decline this offer and insist on having a look at the “guests”. Their suspicion is entirely justified because the guests are there to destroy the city and, in fact, do destroy it the following day. The Jews welcomed in and sheltered the “immigrants” (angels) who ultimately destroyed the city, killing all of its inhabitants except the Jews.
All three of the Biblical anecdotes referenced by Beinart have the following elements in common:
* Jews enter a land that isn’t theirs.
* In contrast to what Beinart implies, they are initially welcomed and well-treated by the locals.
* In the course of time, the behaviour of the Jews arouses suspicion and anger.
* Jews then bring ruin upon the original inhabitants of the land they have entered. To the Canaanites they bring death and dispossession. To the Egyptians, they bring plague. To the inhabitants of Sodom (Sodomites!), they bring complete annihilation.
In every case, the local people who were nice to the Jews and accepted them as immigrants or refugees are ultimately harmed or destroyed by them and their vicious God.
Beinart thinks this proves that Jews should be nice to immigrants. I think it proves Gentiles should be suspicious of Jews.