Robert L. Kern

Giving credit where credit is due – or not

Although I am on the left, I always admired Menachem Begin’s strong and proudly expressed Jewish identity. Even in Washington, DC, on a state visit to meet with President Jimmy Carter, he made it clear that he ate only kosher food and respected Shabbat.

Finding something to admire about Bibi Netanyahu is more difficult for me.

Bibi and I share a love of fine cigars. So when The NY Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren wrote that he enjoyed one of my favorites, the Partagas Serie P No. 2, I was pleased and told my friends, “Well, at least I can agree with Bibi on one thing!” Later, however, it was revealed that he favored a Cohiba that costs substantially more per stick than the Partagas. I could no longer relate.

I also could not relate to the outrageously priced bed he had installed in a plane for a trip abroad. And although I enjoy ice cream almost as much as cigars, I have never been able to eat $3,000 worth in a month. Even if he also footed the bill for his wife and security detail, it is hard to understand how you can run up a bill of nearly $40,000 a year – even if it is really excellent ice cream or gelato.

But then Bibi gave the Pope a Spanish translation of his late father’s book, “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain.” It was a brilliant move.

Although I have studied the Spanish Inquisition, and can also recite the Monty Python routines, I do not know enough about it to say that his interpretation that the Jews were persecuted, exiled, tortured, burned at the stake for being perceived as an evil race is more correct than the prevailing view that they were targeted for secretly practicing their religion after pretending to convert to Roman Catholicism. But what the book ultimately concludes is that the Jews were singled out by the Inquisition because of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, within this tome he chronicles the history of the hatred of the Jewish People from the time of the Pharoahs of Egypt to present day. Anti-Jewish attitudes and beliefs are still too widely held through the US and the rest of the world. It is so bad in Europe that a quarter of the continent’s Jewish community will not publicly acknowledge that they are Jews.

In one move, Bibi honored his father and his work, as well as handed the leader of the Roman Catholic Church a scholarly work which lays bare the ongoing hatred of the Jewish People, notably by the Church and its institution, the Inquisition – which was renamed the “Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office” in 1908 and still exists today as the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” Astoundingly, the Church continues to have a “department” dedicated to rooting out heretical Catholics!

And why not? Incredibly, the Inquisition still has its supporters!  If you go to A Column of Catholic Orientation you can find an essay by Marian T. Horvat, stating that “Recent data show that the Spanish Inquisition was both fair in its methods and just in its punishments” and concluding with, “. . . think how much good it would have done us to hear a clear assertion from the Supreme Pontiff that the Inquisition was correct in its procedures and fair in its punishments. Instead of a sniveling position of self-blame for all the evils of History, the Church should proudly affirm her militant past and the sound institutions she developed to keep herself free of heresy, error and injustice. One such institution was the Inquisition.”

You have give credit where credit is due. His gift to the Pope was perfect. And I was beginning to feel a little love for Bibi.

But then he decided not to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral, saying the cost was too great to go (after splurging on Havana cigars, ice cream and more, this is where he chose to economize?). Over the weekend, South African Foreign Ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said,  “The whole world is coming to South Africa.”  Almost the whole world.  Israel, which has fought for recognition. legitimacy and acceptance among the nations of the world, is only being represented by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Shimon Peres was advised by his doctors not to make the trip) and five Knesset members. Make no mistake, it is a snub and is being viewed by the other nations of the world  for precisely what it is. If Bibi wanted to avoid honoring a man who once declared support for the PLO he should not have sent anyone.  To send Edelstein and his entourage in his stead is like leaving the waiter a few agorot or pennies for a tip. I’m glad Israel is represented, but the Prime Minister should be there.

Even when I try to find something about Bibi to like, he reminds me why I shouldn’t.

About the Author
Robert L. Kern has served as Director of Marketing & Communications for several "American Friends," Zionist and Jewish organizations. He is a former President of the American Jewish Public Relations Society and a member of the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Press Association. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.