Reposting my old post and summarizing some comments to it.
Quite a few Christians, especially Protestants, claim the following combination of beliefs that I find highly disturbing:
1) That “pharisaic” Judaism and its central text, Talmud, are “satanic”
2) That Islam is similar to Talmudic Judaism and therefore, by extension, is also “satanic”
3) That the entire world must support the state of “Israel” and that Palestinians are bad, because they don't support it.
Since I studied in traditional anti-Zionist rabbinical institutions, I am well familiar with this topic and I would like to say a few words about it.
Interestingly enough, these beliefs represent in a distilled form the original core idea of Zionism and demonstrate its origins very well. In colonial times, various British and American Protestant theologians of the early 19th century started spreading the idea of the “restoration of the Jews”. Based on their peculiar interpretation of the Christian Bible, they came to believe that if the Jews will gather in Palestine and establish there their own state, such event would trigger the Second Coming of Christ. Apparently, this idea originated from the Catholic Jesuit circles, but found a solid ground among the Anglo-Saxon Protestants, some of whom came to believe to another weird idea that they are the descendents of the original Hebrew tribes and therefore have the right to control Palestine. This website has a large collection of historical articles about these developments within Protestant groups.
Contrary to Judaism, these people viewed Jews as a race and not a religion. The colonial West in the 18th and 19th centuries was in general obsessed with racial and nationalist theories. The Church condemned the Jewish Talmud since the Middle Ages, primarily because it sharply criticizes the Christian Trinity doctrine and because is written is a style that most Christian couldn't comprehend. After the series of liberal revolutions, more and more assimilated Jews became emancipated in the Western society, but due to the spread of nationalism, new anti-Jewish currents emerged in the West. In contrast to traditional anti-Judaism of the Church, these new currents were based on racial mythologies.
Some assimilated Jews picked up the “brilliant” solution that early Christian Zionists offered for them: to establish their own state, based on the “enlightened” Western values of secular nationalism and colonial attitudes to non-Western people. Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, wanted originally to convert all Jews to Christianity, but later modified his views and supported “plain” secularization. Here comes a major paradox: those British and American Christians who supported this idea really wanted the Jews (and everyone in the world) to become Christians, but wished them to move to Palestine, where they could serve as allies of the colonial West. They didn't want anything “Talmudic”; they just wanted to create another “civilized” Western colonial state like South Africa.
Traditional Talmudic Jews, on their hand, were totally opposed to Zionism, because the Talmud explicitly forbids this idea of gathering in Palestine and establishing their own state. This idea contradicts the basic Jewish belief that only the true Redeemer sent from God can gather them in a miraculous way and even that is not universally accepted. According to some more esoteric Jewish teachings, the future messianic Redemption of universal harmony will transcend state politics altogether.
This is the real Zionist “conspiracy”: the entire Zionist movement started as a result of cooperation between Anglo-Saxon Protestants and anti-traditional assimilated Jewish nationalists. The Talmud as such plays no role in classical Zionism, except that some isolated concepts from it were adopted as secularized slogans, often in a completely twisted fashion. 90% of Jewish Zionists, let alone the Christian ones, are unable to read the Talmud at all. At best, they may consider it an important historical piece of Jewish literature. Typical high-rank supporters of the Zionist state like bankers and politicians are usually totally secular and have no serious Jewish education. As long as they thinks and acts like their right-wing Protestant Christian fellow ruthless businessmen, they are “cool”. If they would act "Talmudic", they wouldn't fit into the club.
Since the Zionists captured and twisted the minds of many Jews, new heretical varieties of Judaism emerged from this confusion. Such notorious fascists as Baruch Goldstein or Meir Kahane undoubtedly considered themselves followers of the Talmud. We hear now chief rabbis and famous religious figures supporting Zionism and spreading hatred against the Palestinians and Muslims. How did this happen? Simple enough and in some ways quite similar to Wahhabi currents in Islam.
The Talmudic corpus and related literature is a very large and complicated collection of texts, which may be compared to the Muslim Hadith collections. The Quran (5:32) contains an explicit quote from the Talmud and affirms the basic traditional Jewish belief that the Talmud contains supplemental parts of Moses' prophecy, which has been transmitted through oral narration. The above verse is found only in the Talmudic literature and not anywhere in the Bible. A number of other verses in Quran also have parallels in the Talmud and not found in the Scripture.
Besides orally transmitted information from the prophets, the Talmud contains many legal decisions that the Talmudic sages derived using certain logical rules, which were also transmitted from Moses. It also contains historical rabbinical decrees, esoteric interpretations of the Scripture, theological and ethical discussions, various folk legends and even ancient medicinal remedies. Those Christians who tried to study the Talmud and came to hate it didn't get what it is all about. The Talmudic literature is a extremely large and diverse collection of discussions about all sorts of things, recorded during many centuries mostly in Persia and written in a very Persian multilayer story-inside-story style. The largest and most reliable collection is called “Bavli”, which means the Babylonian or Iranian Talmud. It's written mostly in Sassanian dialects of Aramaic, not in Hebrew.
Practical law or advices comprise only a fraction of the Talmud and are a matter of debates and analysis. Many narrations and interpretations are rejected by the Talmudic text itself, but were still considered worth recording or allowing an esoteric interpretation. In some cases, parallel narrations allow to decide, which variant is more reliable in practice. A number of schools within Judaism, somewhat like Islamic madhhabs, derive various laws from the Talmud by somewhat different rules. One school considers a certain narrator or some text more practically reliable than another etc.
No one in traditional Judaism, since the Middle Ages, derives any law directly from the Talmud without consulting first classic commentators and existing practical legal literature. Proper understanding of the Talmud requires years of systematic study and reading lots of commentaries.
Maybe, this link to another Shiachat thread could help the readers to understand where most of these old Christian accusations come from. Anti-Muslim writers use the Ahadith in the same exact fashion, taking things out of context or by amplifying weak rejected narrations.
Many Talmudic discussions are related to similar theoretical issues. Capital punishment was abolished in Judaism about 2000 years ago, because no one is considered righteous enough to serve as a judge or witness for such serious cases. Even when capital punishment existed, it was very rarely practiced by the line of tradition that became what's known today as rabbinical Judaism. Only very directly committed offenses, with at least two righteous male witnesses and a proper warning, could lead to death penalty. In many cases, the Talmud discusses, whether some weird and disgusting actions could be punished, in theory, by a human court, or whether one who did them may perform certain religious rituals. Such discussions also help to understand the metaphysical, philosophical and esoteric underpinnings of various laws.
One classic example that Christians constantly use against the Talmud is that a Jew who kills a non-Jew is exempt from death penalty. First of all, some commentators explain that it only applies to people who worship idols and have no morality, and not to Christians and Muslims. Murder of a Jew or non-Jew is a terrible sin, whether punishable by human means or not. Second, the Talmud lists many other situations when a murderer is exempt from penalty. The general line in the Talmud is to find all possible ways and arguments to avoid death penalty. A court who would kill even one person in 70 years would be considered a “bloody court” and some sages provided a logic that, in Islamic terms, avoids “hudud” altogether.
Another classic example Christians use against the Talmud that it allegedly teaches that sex with a girl below 3 years is permitted. Absolutely not! What it says that if such undoubtedly disgusting act happened, the girl would still be considered a virgin and her honor would not be blemished.
The main and most famous complaint against the Talmud is its alleged teachings of Jewish supremacy. The Talmud never considers non-Jews “subhuman”. That's simply a fabrication. But it does contain pretty harsh statements about idol worshipers and teachings about the Jews' being a people who receive special and unique blessings from God, if they carefully follow Judaism.
One main source of controversy and potential misunderstanding is that the Talmudic texts sometimes conflate the terms "goy" (non-Jew) and "akum" (abbreviation of "Star worshippers"), because most non-Jews, when the Talmud was written, were "by default" idol worshippers of various kinds. Careful analysis of parallel narrations shows that all this negative stuff is about idolaters. The Talmud praises non-Jewish monotheists, including some Persian kings and other people.
Another example. Current standard editions of the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) contain the following: Therefore, humans were created singly, to teach you that whoever destroys a single soul of Israel, Scripture accounts it as if he had destroyed a full world; and whoever saves one soul of Israel, Scripture accounts it as if she had saved a full world. The oldest version of this Talmudic quote correspond exactly to the Quran 5:32 and don't mention Jews in particular. The Yerushalmi Talmud, the Midrashim and several other parallel transmissions of this quote also don't mention the word "Israel". Even in the case of the common Babylonian Talmud editions, this quote makes a difference between Jews and immoral non-believers, but does not, exclude non-Jews who practice an ethical monotheistic religion, as it is easy to prove by the internal logic of the same Talmudic tract, which praises non-Jewish monotheists and equated them with the Jewish High Priest who served at the Jerusalem Temple (Sanhedrin 59a). In Islamic terms, this is an example of a "weak Hadith".
The basic practical Talmudic structure of categories of believers/unbelievers, as their are interpreted in Judaism, goes as follows:
Torah-observant Jews, who receive special blessings for following Moses' prophecy. A convert to Judaism is a Jew. According to traditional Judaism, it doesn't matter, whether Jews today are descendents of the ancient Hebrews or Khazars or Romans.
Righteous non-Jews, who follow the prophecy of Noah and receive special blessings. Muslims are usually included in this category or in a somewhat different respected category of people. Trinitarian Christians are included by many opinions, but it's a matter of debate. Some schools of thought completely equate Muslims and Christians with the Jews on social and spiritual level. More liberal rabbinical authorities include all ethical people into this category, including polytheists and atheists, using basic ethics as the main criterion of righteousness. I personally agree with this opinion.
It's a duty for Jews to support, love, help, treat well, respect all good people.
Classic idolaters of Antiquity. In times of peace, Jews must treat them well and with hospitality, deal with them fairly, help their poor, but the basic attitude is to stay away from them, not to get too friendly and not to help them too much.
Ex-Jewish outright heretics and non-believers. The worst category in the Talmud. No love, no good treatment here. According to some hardcore opinions, they may be killed even without a court decree. To secular Jewish readers: No, neither me nor most Orthodox Jews today accept this attitude. People get confused and come up with all sorts of ideas. Some atheist definitions of nature or philosophical ground of being are more theologically sound than some other people's weird ideas about God, who may better decide, who is a heretic and who is not.
The “gray zone”:
Many classic sources of rabbinical law say that the Talmud condemns only the seven ancient Canaanite tribes who practiced human sacrifices or other ancient nations like the Romans who would come to a circus to entertain themselves watching animals tearing people apart or forcing slaves to fight each other to death. So, even someone would erect today a statue, proclaim it as a deity and bow to it, there is still room to disregard this behavior, love and respect such a person. Or, esoterically, one may say that everything is a reflection of God's names and this person in his heart really worships God. On the other hand, because the status of Trinitarian Christianity is a matter a debate in Judaism and because the Church systematically persecuted, killed, tortured and humiliated the Jews until recent times, there are many Orthodox Jews who avoid having close friendship with Christians and have negative opinions of their religion. For Christian readers: No, I don't agree with this attitude and many Orthodox Jews don't. But there is enough room for opposite opinions here. More inclusively minded Orthodox Jews tend to value ethical behavior over religious beliefs, while more hardcore Orthodox tend to regard people as heretics and idolaters for any slight deviation. In any case, traditional Judaism requires to treat everyone nicely and fairly.
Traditionally, Islam was always considered the closest religion to Judaism. Christianity, on the other hand, was often viewed negatively, although there are many highly positive opinions on it, i.e. by Menachem Meiri, Jacob Emden and Elia Benamozegh. Very many classic commentaries to the Torah and Talmud were written in Muslim countries, often originally in Arabic. Most classical schools of rabbinical law were established in Muslim countries.
The Zionists turned the Jewish history upside down. They discarded the long history of Jewish-Islamic cultural synthesis and invented the myth of “Judeo-Christian” civilization. Classical Judaism with its Talmud, which explicitly forbids the Jews to create a state in Palestine and which was written in a “politically incorrect” region (Iraq and Iran), has no place in classical secular Zionism.
But here comes a surprising twist. After the Nazi genocide of millions of European Jews, the Zionist movement captured the attention of most Jews who were well familiar with the long history of traditional Christian anti-Jewish hatred. But the Zionist's best allies and the originators of their ideology were some Protestant sects who don't exactly like Judaism. So the Zionists projected the history of Christian anti-Jewish persecution on the Muslims. To be fair, persecutions did happen under various Muslim rulers, but they were not nearly as common as in the Christian world and they were actions of certain corrupt individuals and not an integral doctrine of religion. The Jews perfectly understood that, but the Zionists seized the moment after the Nazi genocide and managed to confuse many people. Another factor that helped this confusion was that the governments in some Muslim countries made the conditions of the local Jewish communities unbearable after the Zionist state was established and forced them to leave the Arab countries. This was a very bad move, which only popularized Zionism and helped to created this new myth of anti-Jewish Muslim hatred. The final factor is the Salafi/Wahhabi type of Muslims who basically copied the old Christian hatred against the Jews. So, two very anti-traditional and somewhat similar movements, both strangely connected to Anglo-Saxon Protestantism in their ideology - Wahhabism and Zionist pseudo-religion - started fighting each other and polluting the world with their ideas.
As a result of all that, new forms of “religious” Zionists emerged. All negativity against the idolaters and oppressive types of Christians that one can find throughout the history of Judaism was redirected in a highly amplified and concentrated form to the Muslims. The fact that this negativity has to do with theology (idols and Trinity) was ignored. On the contrary, Muslims became somehow equated in this Zionist twisted version of Judaism with the worst kind of idolaters, who should be normally still treated nicely and without trying to dominate them. But here is a catch: one may kill “even the best of idolaters”, according to the Talmud, during a military combat. The “religious” Zionists declared that their state is in constant war with the Muslims who want to kill all Jews. Such twisted logic basically gives a license to kill. The same exact logic is used by Wahhabis who removed the concept of “Ahl Al-Kitab” from their version of Islam and consider everyone at permanent war with Muslims.
There is a good book written by Yakov Rabkin, A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism, which explains how traditional Judaism and Zionism are totally incompatible. The author is an Orthodox Jew and a history professor. I strongly don't recommend books written by anti-religious authors (Israel Shahak) or fanatical right-wing Christians (David Duke, Israel Shamir), because such authors usually have no serious knowledge of Judaism and often promote hatred against both Jews and Muslims under a mask of “anti-Zionism”.
I hope this rough introduction is clear enough. If people here will find these topics interesting, we could go into more detailed discussions. There also also esoteric trends in Judaism, kind of similar to Bektashis or Alawites, who tend to emphasize things like personal devotion and non-literal interpretations over fixed rules.
My main interest on this forum is not battling Zionism. I am trying to apply Henry Corbin's methodology to Jewish philosophy and esoterica, and I find studies of Hadith and Irfan in comparison to Talmud and Kabbalah very refreshing and important.