Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from every other people’s. They do not observe even the King’s laws; therefore it is not befitting the King to tolerate them. If it pleases the King, let it be recorded that they be destroyed. …” The King and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Sushan was bewildered—navocha. … Then Mordechai said to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you will be able to escape in the King’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from some other place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!” (Megillat Esther 3:8-4:14)
Throughout our wanderings, Jews have faced difficult encounters with a king, a prime minister or a president, and confronted the prejudices of the day in lands not ours. These conflicts are merely tests by our G-d to forge our people into a stronger nation…tests of our fortitude, devotion and respect for those who struggled before us, and as role models for those who would follow us. These were times when it would have been much easier to cower or convert. These were often moments when our people were navocha, perplexed.
Reflecting on history often leads me to my old sage Ben Hecht and his Guide for the Bedevilled for his insights and words of wisdom:
The history of the Jews reads like a trick done by the late Harry Houdini, master of illusions. They are captured, bound in chains, bashed with hammers, pierced with knives in all their vital places, jammed into a trunk, and the trunk, before your eyes, is lowered to the bottom of the sea. After an impressive interval, the trunk is hoisted to the surface, the lid unbound and opened – whereupon the Jews step out – refreshed. There is no mark on them, and they are not even wet. The effect of this trick is stupendous. …
On this, Nietzsche writes, “It was Jewish free thinkers, scholars, and physicians who upheld the banner of enlightenment and of intellectual independence under the severest personal sufferings, and defended Europe against Asia. … The Jews are the opposite of all decadents. … They are the health of Europe.” (p. 76)
…When I had finished the last of Graetz’ five heavy volumes, I felt a little stirring of sympathy for Europe, Christendom, and the lands of Islam. To have fought tirelessly and with so many ingenious and powerful weapons, and to have fought so small a foe as the Jew, and to have lost always – impressed me, fleetingly, as a debacle calling for some sympathy. It must be confusing to anti-Semitism to have planted victoriously a thousand standards over the heads of Jews – usually through their skulls – and to see these heads rise constantly higher in the world. Never was there a land so stamped out as that of Israel. (p. 72)
And as I contemplate this erev Purim in the context of our current “misunderstandings,” I can’t seem to get good old Ezekiel out of my thoughts:
The hand of Hashem was upon me; it took me out … and set me down in the valley, which was full of bones …and behold, they were very dry. Then He said to me, “Ben Adam, can these bones live?” And I said, “Hashem/Elohim, You know!” He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them: ‘O dry bones, hear the words of Hashem. … ‘ ” Then I looked, and behold, sinews were upon them and flesh had come up and skin had been drawn over them; but the spirit was not in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the spirit and say: ‘From the four directions come, O spirit, and blow into these slain ones that they may live.’ ” I prophesied as I had been commanded; the spirit entered them …and they stood upon their feet – a very, very vast multitude. And He said to me, “Ben Adam, these bones – they are the whole family of Israel; … Say to them, ‘Behold, I am opening your graves and raising you up from your graves, My people, and I shall bring you to the Land of Israel …and set you on your soil. Then you will know that I, Hashem, have spoken…’ ” (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
Reflecting on the faith of Mordechai and Esther in the face of a royal decree, the wisdom of Hecht in a world of madness, and the prophecy of Ezekiel commanded by the Almighty, can it be that the “diaspora delusion” (h/t Rabbi Asher Lopatin) that so perplexes Jewish Americans today—and the navocha that perplexed the Jews of Sushan in Persia 2300 years ago—are one and the same? Are the liberal Jews of American so morally bankrupt that it’s more 2
important to be a liberal Democrat than to stand up for Israel, refusing to grasp the reality that Persia a.k.a. Iran is re-telling the world an old story—on the eve of Purim, no less! Are liberal Jewish Americans willing to dance to the old tune of a newer Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
Iran is building a nuclear bomb, and Iran’s leadership, Haman incarnate, has announced to the world its intention to destroy Israel. Are Jewish Americans so self-assured that this modern-day Amalekite doesn’t mean it? In Elie Wiesel’s words, “Better to believe the threats of our enemies, than the promises of friends.” But”Pinky” Rosenthal the Opinionator, suddenly a national security expert, doesn’t believe Iran is an existential threat, so he dislikes Bibi because “Bibi is coming to the United States to tell Congress that Iran is an existential threat when it is not.” How strange it is that “Pinky,” who repeatedly reminds his readers that he is the son of Holocaust survivors, calls attention to Netanyahu’s repeatedly mentioning the Holocaust, terror, anti-Semitism and despair “as embodied in his frequent allusion to the ‘existential threat,’ referring to Netanyahu’s dire warnings about the Iranian nuclear program.” (02/06/15) One or two nukes, and poof – No more Israel! I guess being a card-carrying Democrat has priority over protecting almost nine million Israelis.
As for his repeated rants that there is no anti-Semitism today, apparently the Opinionator doesn’t read the news. It seems like Jews in Europe are back in 1938-mode…but so are “Pinky” and his J Street collaborators. The Speaker of the House invited the Prime Minister of Israel to address a joint session of Congress about the threat of Iran producing a nuclear weapon which, according to Iran, is to destroy Israel. And the son of Holocaust survivors dismisses it, like Jewish Americans shrugged off Mein Kamf. The Jewish Americans who stood idly by in the 1930s and ’40s also believed in a Democratic president – voted for him by 90 percent — and Poof! Six million Jews gone, while grateful Jewish Americans slobbered over Roosevelt. In their shame, it became easier to write a guilt check for a Holocaust museum.
As Hecht observes, “Jewish deeds, however valiant and talented on behalf of foster lands, are fineries quickly stripped of him. Loaded with medals and diplomas, he is sent packing into ghettos, exile or death, and if he is not a Jew in the eyes of G-d or the rabbis, he is always a Jew in good standing in the eyes of misfortune.” (p. 48)
Myth seems to have overtaken reality. Yes, Truman’s representative at the United Nations, Warren Austin, did vote to recognize the State of Israel. But some selectively forget that Truman weakened Israel’s ability to defend herself against five Arab armies ready to pounce by embargoing all arms destined for Israel and making it illegal for returning American soldiers to fight in Israel’s war of 1948. Truman was behind in all the polls, and it was Clark Clifford, a special presidential advisor, who told Truman that he didn’t have a chance of winning if he lost the Jewish vote. And it was Chicago’s Jacob Arvey who wrote Truman, “I fear very much that the Republicans are planning to exploit the present situation. … This ought not to be permitted. … Only a declaration [of support for the new Jewish state] can transform the sentiments of the multitudes.” (John Snetsinger, Truman, the Jewish Vote and the Creation of Israel, p.105). Forget the urban legend about poor, disheartened, Jewish Eddie Jacobson. Truman’s recognition was a pragmatic decision to win an election.
“Pinky” expounds on the Yom Kippur War and how America came to Israel’s aid, once again displaying his ignorance of the truth. The devious Jewish U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger demanded that Israel refrain from preemptively striking Egypt. In view of the buildup of arms along the Suez, General David Elazar (“Dado”) was ready to attack; but Golda Meir, after discussions with Kissinger, refused to give the order. Once the war began on October 6, 1973, General Ariel Sharon was called up from reserves and put together his tank battalion. By October 9, he had moved his battalion to a point called “the seam” between Egypt’s Second and Third Armies and was ordered not to advance. The resupply promised by the Americans was nowhere to be seen. Waiting until October 13, Sharon then disobeyed orders and began his crossing of the canal, moving west into Egypt proper. Kissinger went ballistic, believing Sharon would advance to Cairo. An agreement was reached on the 15th that Sharon must stop, and the U.S. would then commence its resupply as promised—but only after 2500 heroic Israeli soldiers were sacrificed for American duplicity. History can be painful. What Israel needed most was not “just military equipment” but an honest, “rock-solid,” reliable ally.
By 1981, Begin had learned the lessons of the Yom Kippur War, and he didn’t tell the United States when he decided to bomb the Osirak nuclear reactors in Iraq. President Ronald “Give Diplomacy a Chance” Reagan and his Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, were furious that Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear plants without consultation; and at the United Nations, the U.S. was one of the first countries to condemn the bombing. Ambassador Samuel Lewis recalls, “Begin had been warning us—over and over again—you’ve got to get this thing stopped…and we were saying, ‘Give us time…give us time.’ ” (Dan Raviv, Friends in Deed, p.198). Sound familiar? Would you be willing to bet with the lives of your family? “Rock-solid…unbreakable…unshakable…common values…” Really? Or just more expendable Jews! 3
Someone who constantly reminds his readers that he is the son of Holocaust survivors and that he lost so many family members, should learn from history to stop waving his liberal credentials for the Democratic Party that did nothing to help save his relatives. He owes them that. In spite of this administration’s perfidious procedural nonsense, let those who want to hear truth come and hear it. And for those Democrats who choose not to come, thank you for your honesty in showing how “unshakable” you really feel about Israel. Come, Bibi, and speak with the wisdom of Mordechai and the courage of Esther. Speak for history! Dispel the navocha – perplexity. Hazak, hazak, v’nit hazek!
Purim is coming. Which mask will liberal Jewish Americans be wearing?
Shabbat Shalom, 02/27/15 Jack “Yehoshua” Berger
[Readers have asked who “Pinky Rosenthal” is. It’s a pseudonym for a real columnist whom I quote as a characterization of leftist ideology. My focus is solely on the person’s viewpoint, not on the person himself.]