Brit-Am versus British Israel
by Yair Dividiy
Yair Davidiy is an Orthodox Jew, who lives in Israel. He helps direct the Brit-Am Movement of the Ten Tribes of Israel and has authored several books and hundreds of articles, many of which have been well-received.
Brit-Am is often referred to as a “British Israelitish” Movement. Brit-Am is not British Israel and is not a British Israel movement in the negative sense that this term is often applied. Brit-Am is its own entity and believes that descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes are primarily to be found amongst Western Peoples. Such beliefs were known in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands long, long before “British Israel” ever existed. “British-Israel”, as projected by those linking us with it, bears an image of anti-Semitism and nineteenth century-type Christian mythology. This is NOT us!
British-Israel was ONCE a serious organization that encouraged original research and was mildly pro-Zionist and philio-Semitic. It changed to be almost the opposite… British Israel was always a mixture of people and opinions, but the “bad eggs” became influential. Many of its adherents, however, retained positive sentiments pertaining to British Israel as it ONCE was. Just recently there was a change in the administration of BIWF that may well presage a positive return to British Israel…What we are saying in the article below is that Brit-Am (with its pro-Jewish up-to-date academic attitude) as an organization is more true to the original British Israel positions than the BIWF later became.
We are against the association of Brit-Am with British Israel when the intention of those making the association is to besmirch Brit-Am, and by implication impute to us negative opinions that we do not hold. British Israel is only one of numerous organizations that believe the Lost Ten Tribes are in the west. Most of these organizations are actually pro-Jewish and pro-Zionist. Some are not, and they receive much of the publicity possibly because it’s convenient for “liberal’ intellectuals to deal with “Brit-Am” beliefs by unjustly besmirching them.
British-Israel is a belief though the name is also applied to a movement and organization. British-Israel is now claimed to be represented by the British-Israel World Federation (BIWF). It is also referred to as “Anglo-Israel”. British-Israel through the BIWF is popularly considered to represent the belief that the British and related peoples are descended from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. In practice the BIWF stands for other things, and it is Brit-Am that promotes British-Israel beliefs as understood by the public consciousness.
Belief that inhabitants of the British Isles were a part of the Hebrew descent has probably always existed…Brit-Am has shown this belief to factual, justified. The Romans and Ancient Arabs (as described in our work “Ephraim, the Gentile Children of Israel”) recognized in their own way the kinship between the Jews and the people of Britain. Gildas, the earliest historian of the Celtic British, and Bede, the Chronicler of the earliest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England, both recognized the Hebraic Choseness of their own peoples. These phenomena were noted by foremost Jewish historian, Leon Poliakov:
“The British had four great mythologies with which to construct their own myth of origin — the Greco-Roman, the Celtic, the Germanic and the Hebrew. In the writings of Gildas the Celts became the real Israel” (“Aryan Myth”, 1974).
Traditional British identification with Israel has also been remarked upon by Martin Bernal (“Black Athena”) and several other historians.
The following EXTRACTs from an essay on British-Israel continue the thread: http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/britisrael.html
Note these are EXTRACTS from a Wikipedia article on British-Israel. They do not represent Brit-Am Beliefs nor do they necessarily reflect real British Israel ones but rather a popular conception of British Israel as it has been projected in recent years.
Wikpedia Article Extracts: British-Israelism/Anglo-Israelism
“British-Israelism is not the name of an organization, but the name of an historical movement that has organizational manifestation in the U.S. and Europe today. The key idea of British-Israelism, also referred to as Anglo-Israelism, is that Great Britain is the geographical home of the lost tribes of Israel. The immediate implication of this belief is that it identifies the present day Anglo-Saxon people as God’s Chosen People.
“Scholars differ in their placement of British-Israelism’s origin. Some scholars attribute the beginnings of British-Israelite beliefs to the Puritans of the 1600s, for the Puritans claimed to be the spiritual descendants of the ancient Israelites. Others assert that the idea precipitated from a Dr. Abade of Amsterdam when he allegedly wrote in 1723, “Unless the ten tribes have flown into the air…they must be sought for in the north and west, and in the British Isles” ( Orr ).
“Historians find one of the first declarations of an actual European descent from the Israelites in the writings of Richard Brothers in the 1790s. British-Israelites view John Wilson as the true “Father of the Rediscovery of Israel,” … In his work Lectures on Our Israelitish Origin of 1840, Wilson attempted to provide empirical information that supported British- Israelism. His arguments suggested that similarities to English ways in certain elements in Hebrew language and social institutions were not merely coincidental (Barkun: 7). British-Israel organizations formed during the 1870s on account of slow, but growing acceptance of Wilson’s teachings. Upon the death of Wilson in 1871, a new leader of the British-Israelism movement emerged in Edward Hine… One of his most important teachings was pyramidism–1928 marks a key point in the history of British-Israelism. In this year, Howard B. Rand became the National Commissioner of the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America, and his significance rests on his anti-Semitic teachings. For the first time in the movement’s history, exclusionary hatred earned legitimacy.” (Kossy)
“Some scholars argue that British-Israelism entered the American Adventist movement — from which the Worldwide Church of God developed. In 1927, American Adventist Herbert W. Armstrong became keenly interested in British-Israelism. By 1933, Armstrong had established the independent Eugene congregation in Oregon, which “became the parent of the Worldwide Church of God” (Orr ). Along with other unorthodox doctrines, Armstrong and his congregation embraced British-Israelism. The Worldwide Church of God did not endorse anti-Semitism, nor racism. Following the death of its founder, The Worldwide Church of God dropped British- Israelism and other unorthodox beliefs in 1995.”
Another source tells us: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British-Israel-World_Federation
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
“The British-Israel-World Federation is a an organization that was founded in London during 1919, although its roots can be traced back to the Nineteenth Century. At one time this organization enjoyed the patronage of members of the British Establishment..
“British-Israel, as a belief, may well be as old as (or older) than the British. Proof for this belief is found in the Bible and at some level seems to have always been known to some people. [Similar beliefs dating back to at least the first Historical Chronicles have been recorded from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Frisia-Holland, Ireland, and probably also in related areas.] The idea was later taken up and given a modern dressing. Incorporated as part of the doctrine of the BIWF, it was exported to the USA and elsewhere. Originally the belief was, if anything, pro-Jewish! Friends and defenders of the Jewish people such as John Patterson, Orde Wingate, Billy Hughes, and Israel Zangwill believed in it.
At a later stage it was adopted by anti-Semitic reprobate organizations who gave it a bad name. The so-called “Identity” movement has a reputation for Jew-hatred. The anti-Semites are a minority among people who accept “Identity”-type beliefs. They are the ones who receive publicity…The anti-Semites do much harm to the respectability of this truth in the eyes of others and prejudice its chances of being objectively considered. The belief is now associated with the British-Israel World Federation. The BIWF in the past was quite important, but has now degenerated. The BIWF is often referred to simply as “British-Israel”. “Brit-AM” is continuing the historically positive aspects of “British-Israel” as much as, if not more than, any other organization!”
The latest issue of the British-Israel World Federation magazine “Crown and Commonwealth” (incorporating The National Message and B.I.W.F. Quarterly) volume 4, no.6 Summer 2005 has 28 pages. It has not got a single paragraph, let alone article, explaining why the British and kin are descended from Israel. It does have an almost three-page sympathetic article about an anti-Zionist pro-Palestinian (“Naturei Karta” type) so-called “rabbi” protesting on behalf of the Arabs against the existence of the State of Israel. The article shows some sympathy for the “Quisling” attitude of a few sick lunatics and gives expression to its own quisling tendencies. Relatively speaking this may be considered as not so bad. “Crown and Commonwealth” has usually kept its overall anti-Israeli bias at an obvious but low-key level. On the other hand, The National Message, which used to be distributed for free as an accompaniment to all postings of “Crown and Commonwealth” and is now listed as incorporated within it often contained anti-Semitic diatribes of the vilest kind. The source of the said articles was usually from Jew-hating authors in the USA. These writers belonged to the same circles that produce The Spotlight which “Crown and Commonwealth” also did occasionally quote from. The Spotlight is actually a Neo Nazi Holocaust-denying publication which is also strongly anti-British. It is produced by elements that depict the British (alongside the Jews) as enemies of all that is good.
This attitude of officials in British-Israel towards the Jews and the defacto flirtation of some British-Israel writers with enemies of British civilization goes back several decades. At the same time we must emphasize that THIS IS NOT TYPICAL of all BIWF supporters nor of all BIWF officials. It is not all one-sided: They are not entirely all anti-Jewish.
The BIWF, Brit-Am, and Yair Davidiy
BIWF in the past purchased books from Brit-Am. Yair Davidiy was once invited to be the guest speaker at an annual BIWF conference, but he was unable to attend. Brit-Am of Israel however did send emissaries to Britain to meet BIWF people and they were treated with courtesy. “Crown and Commonwealth” upon occasion has also made favorable mention of Brit-Am publications. Brit-Am has friends, sympathizers, and supporters among BIWF people in Britain especially in Ulster.
Brit-Am is sometimes confused with British-Israel. An Israeli academic remarked to Yair Davidiy, “Brit-Am is a kind of Jewish British-Israel, is it not?” In the past Brit-Am would attempt to distance itself from association with “British-Israel”. From the historical point of view this may have been mistaken since it is Brit-Am alone that is continuing all that was good in the former British-Israel tradition.
The BIWF and British-Israel
At the beginning of its activities British-Israel writers were often pro-Jewish and pro-Zionist. The BIWF published important works of historical research and did much to spread the message. With the rise of “scientific” Biblical Criticism and increased anti-Semitism in the 1930s alien influences penetrated the fringes of the BIWF and eventually reached the center. The BIWF did not originate the British-Israel idea. They took it over, developed it and did much to propagate it receiving significant public support including bequests and funding that still enables them to continue to function and maintain a sizable staff and all that goes with it.
The BIWF presents itself: http://www.britishisrael.co.uk/beliefs.htm
The Federation believes that that the Lost Ten Tribes of the Northern House of Israels descendants are to be found in the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic and kindred peoples of today. As the Federation believes in the whole Bible it therefore believes the Covenants made between God and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) are everlasting and the British nation plays an important part of Gods plan.
Israel was to spread abroad to the West, East, North and South. “And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 28:14) Israel was to have a David King. “For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the Throne of the House of Israel.” (Jer. 33:17)
The people of the Jews do not have a king… It can be shown that the Royal House of Britain is descended from King David. Further, the British Monarchs are anointed in the same way as Zadok the Priest anointed the Kings of Israel..Israel to be defended by God, could not be defeated. (Num. 24:8,9) This was clearly seen in World Wars I and II and looking through our history, in many other great battles such as the Spanish Armada, Trafalgar and Waterloo.
Prominent Features of British-Israel in Principle as Presented by the BIWF
The above quotation more or less sum up British-Israel World Federation belief and attitudes:
#1. They present themselves as strongly Christian.
#2. They say they believe that the English-speaking and related peoples are descended from Israel.
#3. They wish to emphasize their distinctiveness from the Jews to some degree or other.
#4. They claim that the Royal House is descended from the House of David though they base this claim on a legend concerning a princess (Tea Tephi) who was brought to Ireland by Jeremiah or by Baruch the disciple of Jeremiah. The claim to descent from King David according to British-Israel sources is therefore through the female side and dependent on a very tenuous source.
#5. Politics. They present themselves as nationalistic patriots. A lot of BIWF articles concern British politics. BIWF is against Britain being in the EU, supports conservative, religious-oriented policies, etc, but also was against British involvement in Iraq, mildly pro-Arab, and critical of the State of Israel whose very legitimacy it throws in doubt.
Prominent Features of the “BIWF” Version of British-Israel in Practice
#1. In practice British-Israel members usually belonged to the Church of England together with some fundamentalist tendencies. Some of their past literature takes a questionable approach to Scripture.
They may be “Christian” but they do not necessarily emphasize a complete acceptance of the Bible as the literal truth.
#2. They do not energetically promote the theme of Israelite descent neither from the Biblical nor the Historical point of view. It is however to be admitted that their Publications Catalog does include quite a few booklets on the subject though much of it is outdated and “quaintly” eccentric.
#3. Some of them are Anti-Semitic. Some of their literature is anti-Jewish and they have allowed themselves to become tainted with anti-Semitism. They are associated with the “Identity” idea. Because of them, and people like them, the whole “Identity” movement in public consciousness is often linked with antisemitism and similar notions.
#4. Their British Royal House “Davidic” descent doctrines may come across as fables based on wishful thinking but it is one of the strongest pillars of what little public support they still have.
#5. Politics. The BIWF position against Israel gives a defacto support to enemies of the Jews, of America, and of Britain and her daughters. The BIWF position does not reflect the sentiments of many BIWF followers and is not consistent with the British pro-Zionist Restoration Movement that was a genuine expression of patriotic British tradition. The BIWF attitude is in effect not consistent with true British nationalist patriotism.
Reasons Why Brit-Am is Closer to the Real British-Israel!!
“British-Israel” received its initial support and justification for being because it appealed to the recognition of truths that Brit-Am now represents whereas BIWF does not.
#1. The heads of Brit-Am are not interested in converting people to their own religion since Judaism does not encourage conversion and such a step is not required from the Lost Ten Tribes at this stage. From our point of view the whole question may be put to the side while we concentrate on spreading the message of Hebraic Ancestry and recognition of the need for reconciliation. This is our task. Brit-Am bases itself on the literal truth of the Bible and belief in the Bible. In our generation this is the main point of all belief. Brit-Am is in the front line asserting the truth of Scripture. Brit-Am Biblical belief reflects a common denominator with which all those who believe in scripture may identify. At the least the starting point and boundary lines should be clear.
#2. Brit-Am energetically promotes the theme of Israelite descent from both the Biblical and the Historical point of view. Brit-Am conducts research. Brit-Am reveals new true insights as well as strengthening and publicizing existent ones.
#3. Brit-Am works for the reconciliation of Joseph and Judah. Brit-Am strives to bring the recognition of this truth to Judah. Brit-Am works (with some success) to make these truths worthy of consideration in the eyes of Jews, potentially interested intellectuals, and descendants of Israelites in general. Brit-Am endeavors to redress the damage caused by the BIWF attitude and that of similar groups.
#4. Brit-Am publicizes evidence concerning the possible Davidic descent of some Royal Houses in Europe. The Brit-Am proofs are historically verifiable and stronger in their import than what has been proposed heretofore.
#5. Politics. Brit-Am works for the good of the USA, Britain and her daughters, related kindred peoples, and of Judah and the State of Israel. This attitude is consistent with the Biblical message and with the true will of the founders who initiated British-Israel in previous generations.
Yair is responsible for the Brit-Am/Hebrew
author of books, articles, and publications on history and religion.