Recently on October 27, we at the ZOA celebrated the release of an important film documentary by Gloria Greenfield entitled Body and Soul. In a festive, gala North American premiere, 750 people watched an eloquent encapsulation of Jewish and Zionist history, explaining and justifying the very reasons for the existence of the Jewish state. No small feat condensing greater than 3,000 years of history in just over an hour. Two overarching principles were expressed by the numerous speakers in the film, which included such luminaries as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Prof. Robert Wistrich, Prof. Ruth Wisse, Prof. Yoram Hazony, Bret Stephens and many others.
One, making this film should have been unnecessary. It states the obvious. In a normal, non-inverted world, recorded history would be well known, truth would be clear, right would be right, and the distinction between good and evil easily apparent. Biblical and extra-biblical documentation, archeological evidence, contemporaneous primary historical sources, ancient population censii, and basic common knowledge for thousands of years, would have been sufficient testimony to the presence of the Israelites, later called the Jews, in the Land of Israel. They built two Temples only to have them both destroyed, were exiled twice from their Land, only to miraculously return after the devastation of the Holocaust and re-establish the Third Jewish Commonwealth. These facts were obvious to all for thousands of years, attested to by friend and foe alike.
Alas we live in an upside down world, where a competing “narrative” and history has been created, leading to the absurdity that no Jewish Temples ever existed in Jerusalem, no Jewish kings ever ruled their Jewish subjects. In short the Jews have no connection to the land, but are rather late arriving colonialist interlopers. In addition, Jesus was a “Palestinian Muslim prophet,” not a Jew, thus denying not only Jewish historiography but Christian theology as well. It would be akin to saying that the United States did not declare its independence on July 4, 1776, but rather it was the Russians who valiantly fought the British led by their noted general and later President Gregor Washingtonovich. After all, it’s a “legitimate competing narrative,” and were you there then to say it’s not true?
Second, was the bold assertion made by Prof. Wisse, applauded vehemently by the crowd, that Israel erred in 1948 by not requesting, nay demanding, that the world recognize this history, these rights, and be treated with respect. By soft-pedaling our historic and religious connection to the Land of Israel and not demanding the respect due an ancient people returning to its language, land and religion, after almost 2,000 years of persecution and exile, we allowed the beasts of untruth and hatred to enter the door and flourish. The world, then and now, was and is all too willing to accept these packs of lies as “truth.”
Which brings us to the next day, October 28, with the revelation that an unnamed official or officials from the Obama White House have referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “chickens**t,” “coward,” “lacking political courage and vision” as well as other unflattering epithets, reported in an article by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic. No one questions the veracity of these reports. The antipathy of many in the Obama administration, especially the president himself, to the Prime Minister of Israel is well known and well documented. In fact the only thing surprising is that an administration official would even repeat these words on the record, even if at the same time requesting anonymity. (Who’s the real “chickens**t”?)
Yet applying what we have learned from the lessons of the documentary above helps pave the way for our response to this latest crisis in US-Israeli relations.
Firstly, the fact that these charges are blatantly untrue needs to be vigorously challenged.
To wit —
Mr. Netanyahu, a “coward”?
The fact that he served with distinction in the elite Sayeret Hamatkal unit in the IDF, and was involved in rescue commando operations. What military unit did Mr. Obama serve in?
The fact that he withheld a military response to Iran’s nascent nuclear program, when such a strike might have been more easily and successfully accomplished, at the behest, in fact the pleading, of the Obama administration, reluctantly by Mr. Netanyahu, so as to allow the purported “diplomacy,” which is now leading us to the predictable Obama “bad deal”?
The fact that the Prime Minister has just prosecuted an unwanted but necessary defensive war with Hamas, yes with “boots on the ground” (not like the make believe war with IS, using drones and minimal air assaults only) at great personal cost to the nation, and to individual families, only to have that victory partially offset by the self-same administration that dallies negotiating with Hamas and pursues funding for those terrorists from the EU, Qatar, Turkey and US taxpayers?
The fact that he made the tough political decisions, disillusioning a great portion of his base, by invoking a 10 month settlement freeze, adopting the unworkable and dangerous “two state solution,” again at the urging and threats of Mr. Obama, to allow “peace talks” to proceed? While we at ZOA certainly opposed these decisions, one has to be myopic not to see the political courage required in bucking his supporters, leading to great declines in his popularity and approval.
The fact that the Prime Minister has had to navigate a continually unfriendly landscape at the hands of the President (left to cool his heels in the White House anteroom, ushered out of White House via back doors, vilified by Mr. Obama in a hot mike incident with former French President Sarkozy, endured “dressing downs” from Mr. Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton, ambushed by an announcement of a recommended withdrawal to “1967 borders” while Mr. Netanyahu was enroute to Washington etc, etc.) and European nations, Israel’s alleged “friends,” all the while keeping his cool, sometimes to his own detriment. If not courage under pressure, is that not an example of class and integrity, something so lacking in this administration? There is no record of the Netanyahu government ever using the vile language of “chickens**t” or anything like it to describe those in the Obama administration, though at times he certainly would have been justified in doing so.
Secondly, the demand that we be treated with respect. As Prof. Wisse so eloquently indicated in the documentary about the State of Israel as a whole, we, the Jewish people, the people of Israel, and her Prime Minister, demand that we, and he or she, no matter who it is, be treated with respect! You can disagree, you can criticize, and the good Lord knows we Jews disagree about most everything, but our leaders, our people, our nation, and our religion must be treated with respect and courtesy, not vile names and calumny. Again, only in this upside down universe, dor hatahapuchot, that we live in would it be disrespectful and bigoted to speak the truth about Islam, a religion in whose name there are those that routinely kill, behead, torture and demean those that disagree with it, while vilification of Israel, Jews and Judaism, a religion that prays for peace thrice daily, is perfectly acceptable. In fact Jews will even pay for their own self-abasement as seen by the production of the anti-Semitic opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” supported in great measure by the donations of Jews.
It is time for us to demand the respect that all great nations and all great peoples deserve. For as history and truth has shown, we are a great nation and a great people. We have brought innumerable blessings to the world, whether it be in the arts, sciences, medicine, industry, intellectual pursuits, morality, the very foundations of the world’s civilization. We don’t ask for your thanks, but we demand your respect and courtesy. It begins with self-respect, and demanding of our so-called “leaders” that when one of our leaders is pilloried in a decidedly personal, vicious and unkind way, as our Prime Minister was, we come together to call those responsible to account.
Even if we are not supporters of the current Prime Minister of Israel, a personal attack on him demeans us all. Criticize his policies, his politics, his programs, but do it in a civil and respectful way. It is therefore absolutely vital that the official or officials who used this hateful, base, disgusting language, no matter what their rank in the Obama administration, be identified and dismissed from their posts. It is heartening that most Jewish organizations have taken a stand on this hateful episode, some stronger than others. But this is most certainly not “behind us.” For all the reasons outlined above, this is not just about Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama and their “feud.” This is about truth and respect, the very foundation of any relationship.
Finally, we Jews can take much solace in the fact that this debacle occurred as we were reading the Torah portion of Lech Lecha last week. In it G-d, after directing Abraham to leave his home and travel to the Land of Canaan —the future Land of Israel — promises him, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you” (Genesis 12:3).