The trend was set when in eighteen fifties the rich in identities and in compensatory visions central and eastern Europe gave rise to Jewish Hegelians, starting with Krochmal. He rewrote Hegel's universal history making the Jewish line historically and spiritually exceptional. Then there was Hess with his Judaism as "historical religion", and during the second half of the 19th c., lo and behold, Graetz with his seminal 11 vol. "Jewish history". It rationalized the Talmudic exceptionalism into a real historicist philosophy where the bearer of the Weltgeist - absolute spirit - is the Jewish people alone and all world nations lag following the faulty Hellenic principle and cult of the "nature". They are called proto-Zionists and the messianic trend of the Zionism of the 20th c. stems right from there.
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from the article: What Netanyahu can give himself, and Israel, for his 60th birthday