The Truth about the Truth about the Talmud

“The Jews are called human beings, but the non-Jews are not humans. They are beasts.”

Heard that before? According to numerous websites, including this Australian Islamic website, it’s from the Jewish holy book. It forms part of a collection of quotes, reportedly sourced from Jewish religious texts, that are supposed to show a Jewish contempt for non-Jewish life. Needless to say, these quotes have been given a good airing in recent weeks on mailing lists and other forums as some sought to explain the Israeli attack on Lebanon by referencing Jewish sacred texts and associated exegesis.

The problem, of course, is that whilst the quote makes a compelling caption for some anti-Israeli posters, it doesn’t exist in the text to which it is referenced. As British blogger Kashif discovers:

I started off with this quote, according to the article, found in Baba Mezia 114b. “The Jews are called human beings, but the non-Jews are not humans. They are beasts.”

Hmm… i thought, i can’t find that anywhere here.

Nevermind, could be a simple mistake; onto the next one: “Sexual intercourse between Gentiles is like intercourse between animals” in Sanhedrin 74b.

Again searching through the text, i found nothing that even remotely sounded like the above.

Kashif points to an interesting quote-by-quote discussion of the document which is worth reading. It seems that all of these supposed quotes are fabricated, mistranslated or taken grossly out of context.

The irony is that these are the very things that Muslims — quite rightly — complain about. Particularly in discussion of issues such as jihad, the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) to Aisha, the status of non-Muslims under Islamic law, or al-wala’ wa’l bara’, it is not uncommon for those with an axe to grind to take verses of the Qu’ran or hadith out of context or apply to them a meaning that does not exist in the classical texts. In discussing other religions, we should make sure that we apply the same standards that we would expect others to apply to our own faith.

As Kashif reminds us:

The embarrassment was compounded afterwards when i realised that you could find this article on Muslim sites. Where is the research from Muslims before sticking this stuff online? Verifying the authenticity of what we communicate to others is not only part of our religious heritage (the isnad/chain of narration) but it is also a command from Allah:

“O you who believe! if an evil-doer comes to you with a report, look carefully into it, lest you harm a people in ignorance, then be sorry for what you have done.” al-Qur’an 49:6