Are Non-Jews Human?

Israel Shamir is a relentless Jewish critic of Jews and the Jewish state who I often find interesting and erudite.

Paul Gottfried writes: “As someone who studied some of the same texts more than fifty years ago, I am amazed by Israel Shamir’s erudition. He’s obviously studied the original Talmudic passages in Hebrew and Eastern Aramaic. Contrary to what some bloggers suggest, I think it’s culturally and socially important that some Jewish communities, mostly in Eastern Europe, studied such texts and from what I can tell from my exposure to those who did, took the views of gentiles that they encountered quite seriously. Sephardic Jews were less likely to have been exposed to such views. They generally did not study Talmud in the same depth as Eastern European Jews and confined their religious studies to learning compendiums of Rabbinic law, which determined their ritual practice.
It’s not a question of whether other groups also taught ideas of racial superiority to their young. What is striking in this case is the claim to stand for universal justice from a group that has been saturated with anti-gentile prejudice for many generations. But in this respect hypocritical Jewish universalists may be no different from spokesmen for the Third World, who drag their own ethnic baggage into the court of manufactured world opinion.”

Israel Shamir writes July 17:

An age-long discussion of Jewish attitudes to non-Jews had been pushed out of the central stage by the counter-discussion of goyim’s attitudes to Jews (beastly, anti-Semitic, prejudiced, leading to Holocaust, denying humanity). In the still uncensored corners and nooks of the Web, one still can find references to Jewish holy books and what do they allegedly say about non-Jews. All these references are soundly trashed and refuted by a plethora of Jewish sites robustly defending Talmud and later texts. The defenders of Jewish faith say that the quotes mean something completely different, they are taken out of context and the translation is wrong anyway. Or, often, they say that such a quote can’t be found in the mentioned book, or even the book can’t be found.

Without aiming to reverse the trend or to bring the discussion to a conclusion, we shall amuse you by a funny tidbit of Jewish lore, which is usually flatly denied by Jewish defenders. It is a reference to Midrash Talpiyot that had been known to debunkers of Judaism, saying that gentiles (goyim, or non-Jews) are beasts in human shape.

Midrash Talpiyot (or Talpiot, Talpiyoth) is a once-widely-popular and still-entertaining collection of Jewish lore assembled by a leading personality of XVIII c. Rabbi Eliyahu HaCohen of Izmir (or Elijah ben Solomon Abraham Ha-Kohen of Smyrna) (d. 1729). We shall call him RES. He is better known as the author of Shevet Musar (published in Constantinople 1712, and numerous editions afterwards), a collection of his sermons, one of the most popular books on ethics of his time. He was a brilliant and knowledgeable man, able to deliver a sermon on unusual subjects. I love his discussion of superiority of dogs over cats – dogs kept quiet when sons of Israel escaped Egypt with stolen loot, and thus acquired merit. (It was translated into English and makes a delightful and non-controversial reading). He was a great believer in harmony, in divine justice, in merit as the reason for any achievement.

In modern American Jewish sites, he is somewhat disparagingly called “a Turkish Jew”. In his days, Jews lived in Ottoman Empire and in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; so it is a Polish Jew or a Turkish Jew. Smyrna (Izmir) was a great centre of Jewish learning, and books of RES were translated into Yiddisch for the Polish Jews. They say he was a member of the heretical Sabbatean sect, and therefore all he wrote is of no value. He indeed flirted with Sabbateans for a while, like a good orthodox Communist would flirt with ideas of Trotsky or even Bogdanov. RES reverted to orthodoxy when it became necessary, and anyway his writing, including Talpiyot, had received imprimatur of leading rabbis of his time.

He was well versed in Kabbala, and this particular text from Talpiyot is based on Kabbalistic teachings. The author refers to “sod” (secret), the deepest level of exegetics.

It is a midrash, a search for deeper (often esoteric) meaning hidden in a normative text. Midrash is often quirky, usually entertaining and unexpected conclusion of delving into a text. It is located on the moot border between sheer fantasy and homiletics. For instance, Bible )Gn 24:1) says Abraham had been blessed “in all things” (בכל), and a midrash explains it as “Abraham had a daughter called Bakol, “In all things”. It is a part of Jewish reading and understanding, but it is often read with a grain of salt.

The normative text interpreted by this midrash is a well-known sentence from Talmud, uttered by the great sage R Shimon Bar Yohai, (Simeon bar Yochai), or RaSHBI. He discussed a technical question of impurity (or levitical uncleanness) caused by dead body in certain conditions. Apparently he had to explain why a dead body of non-Jew does not cause impurity. He did it by the way of midrash: he said that the biblical verse (Num 19:14) regarding impurity contains the word “adam”. Impurity has been caused by dead body of adam, while, he says, the word “adam” in the Bible never refers to a non-Jew. In his words, You (Jews) are called adam [in the Bible], while the non-Jews aren’t called adam. This was the beginning of a long dispute whether non-Jews are indeed human, and whether Jews consider non-Jews human. It will be dealt later, just bear in mind that RaSHBI was a great goy-hater of rather extreme kind…

RES asks a good question: who cares whether the Bible uses the word ‘adam’ for Jews only, for we know that non-Jews are also human and they are the same as Jews in their appearance. And he answers this question disclosing a cabbalistic ‘secret’, that is the deepest meaning of the text. The Gentiles are actually non-human but beasts created to serve Jews. They have human shape for two very different reasons. One, it is more pleasant and respectable for a Jew to be served by a beast in human shape, than by a beast in a beast’s shape. Two, a non-Jew may join Jews, while if he were in the shape of beast, he wouldn’t be able to.

I am not appalled that some Jewish thinkers have doubted the humanity of non-Jews. This is a universal tendency during times of stress — to doubt the humanity of those you are in a life and death competition with. This type of extreme thinking could even be an evolutionary advantage in times of extreme conflict. I doubt that Jews are more prone to thinking ill of out-groups than other people.

If you grow up in an insular community, you might be five, six, seven years old before you realize that there are people outside of your own group.

It is not wise to see texts in a victim. All texts are read by particular people with a particular culture. Jews, for example, have a low rate of criminal violence. I’ve never encountered Jews who doubt the humanity of non-Jews. I’ve never encountered a rabbi who taught that non-Jews are animals.

The more negative the circumstance for any group, including Jews, the more likely they are to produce sentiments that out-groups lack humanity. When Jews are tolerated or even welcomed by the goyim, Jews correspondingly raise their opinion of the goyim. For example, most Jews from America and Western Europe have a positive view of their fellow citizens, while Jews from Eastern Europe and Arab lands do not.

He writes July 17:


* Just because one jewish priest thought so, doesnt mean every jewish priest or every jewish person thought/thinks the same.

Also, remember in olden times almost every culture/leaders of cultures in varying degrees called ‘outsiders’ as barbarians or beasts. It doesnt mean the people of those cultures nor all books of the culture/religion thought they were barbarian.

* Aristotle taught all nations, Jews included, were created to be slaves to the Hellenes.

Hitler tried to pull a similar scam for the Germanics; did not work.

* Sorry, but pulling out a few passages from the Talmud (which is huge and notoriously difficult to interpret), doesn’t really say anything. Sorry, but the luminous intellects of are not up to the task of interpreting ancient texts.

You could find equivalent passages in Greek (Aristotle and his treatment of barbarians), Sanskrit (look at the laws of Manu and how they deal with people outside the caste system), Chinese (middle kingdom – enough said), Arabic, or Christian theology.

People like to think they’re special, and that their group and nation is special. This isn’t really news.

* The moral systems of all human societies are fundamentally oriented around ingroup-outgroup distinctions. However while ethnocentrism is by no means an exclusively Jewish trait, Jews do tend to greater ethnocentrism then most European gentile groups.

* The defining characteristic of Jews everywhere and throughout history is that they always have 1 set of laws or standards for Jews and another set of laws or standards for everyone else (the goyim).

This double standard is seen all the time everywhere. They practice the anti-golden rule.

This is why this article is so important, because it explains how Jewish power is derived from seeing others as cattle just like the mafia does.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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