Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and the risks of taking sides: Lessons from Mein Kampf, the Balfour Declaration & Jewish History

The Jewish people lived modest lives for thousands of years in the current Exile. For generations, Jews refused to take sides in issues around the world. The leaders of Jewish communities around the world preferred to be isolated from the mainstream society in order to focus on traditional matters. On the blind side, Jews enlisted and fought in different conflicts in Europe over the years. Their role was hardly recognized in an emphatic sense. The turnaround came when the British issued the Balfour Declaration towards the end of the First World War

The Balfour Declaration had two elements that were unprecedented in terms of scope. First of all, it laid the foundation for the public acknowledgement of Jewish contribution to a military effort by a major superpower. Secondly, it came with a promise that unified Jews around the world, setting the circumstantial premise for accusations in generations to come.

At that time, the Balfour Declaration was not even a speech. It was a voiceless typewritten document that was signed by a leading statesman of Britain. However, in most debates concerning international politics, the Balfour Declaration plays one subtle role or the other in its background.

On the brighter side, the Balfour Declaration acknowledged that the Jews have a historical connection to the Land of Israel. Also, it gave the impetus for numerous Jewish groups to mobilize and prepare for the mass return to the Land of Israel. In spite of this, the Balfour Declaration came at a huge cost to all involved. The people who paid the highest price for the Balfour Declaration were the Jewish people who were murdered by the Nazis in the Second World War for their alleged role in helping the British against the Germans in World War I.

Mein Kampf was published about a decade after the Balfour Declaration and it gave circumstantial credence to the propaganda that Jews were responsible for Germany’s loss to Germany. The people of the most advanced nation fell for this remote and false story because they knew Jews had a spiritual and historic connection to the Land of Israel and they had to blame someone for their loss – the Jew was the most convenient person for that. What is of relevance though, is the fact that the Jewish people can be conveniently tagged as a single group of people when the Land of Israel is mentioned. In addition to this, the Jewish people can be scandalized easily since there is never a shortage of people who hate them enough to believe things about Jews without questions.

Israeli Prime Minister sets out to address the US Congress on the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program. This is a very essential and important matter because Iran is and will always nurse the ambition of becoming a global superpower. And in this day and age, aerial power and control of weapons of mass destruction is the main symbol of global dominance. It is absolutely wrong and irresponsible for the US President to go ahead and ease sanctions on Iran without a commitment to desist from uranium enrichment.

On the other hand, there are other variables of relevance that must be noted. First of all, there are patterns in Jewish history that makes it a complicated subject for Jews to take sides openly in any conflict. Secondly, Israel risks creating new enemies that might be far more dangerous than Iran if care and diligence is not taken. And this has to do with many variables including the obvious rift between the Presidency and Congress in the US, growing global Anti-Semitism and the changing political profile of the United States.

Modification of the American Political Profile

A lot of things have changed in the United States in the past two decades. Minorities feel they have been treated unfairly by the mainstream society and they tend to question some of the policies and actions of their government. Thus, there are many groups today that are involved in challenging America’s traditional position of supporting Israel in all matters and in all situations.

Secondly, a left-wing ideology is spreading through average households in America. Most families have young members who negate the mainstream position either for fun or for socio-political adjustment or improvement. One of the most important things this divergent view causes is an anti-Israel feeling. This is seen as “fashionable” to such persons and the support of the underdog is always a way of achieving equality in society. Thus, such persons are happy to ignore relevant facts as a means of challenging mainstream positions.

This therefore forms the first fundamental pillar – the United States’ political arena is not what it used to be. The position of viewing America as an unconditional ally must be reviewed.

A Disrespected and Sidelined US President

US President Barack Obama has come with so many changes and modifications. A lot of his policies are non-traditional. And they have challenged the founding principles of the United States. Naturally, people will view such changes in a society as confrontational and many people have reacted with a lot of angry words.

No one in living memory can remember a president whose personality has been attacked at a level similar to Barack Obama. Perhaps the closest might be George W. Bush who enraged a lot of people by invading Iraq on what they believed to be fabricated information. In spite of this, Bush’s condemnation was based solely on the invasion. Thus, his action as a president was attacked. Not his person. Obama has been called names. And his discontent shows in his face.

In addition to all this, the Democratic loss to the Republicans in the mid-term elections has added more to the tension in US politics. It has been the norm to block everything that the President proposes in Congress. Obviously, Obama finds this insulting and as a minority, it is possible he is reading deeper meanings to all this.

Despite all these matters, Obama still has some executive powers. And that is going to last for the next 18 months unless something significant happens. Within this time, it is not really about things Obama will do, but things Obama will not do. There are many loopholes in global politics that Obama can abuse for just a few months that could potentially end up worse for Israel and the rest of the world than a nuclear Iran. The more the rift between Congress and the Presidency is heightened, the higher the chance for this to happen.

Congress and its Dynamics

The Republicans won their domination of Congress. That is impressive. However, many of the Republicans in Congress are professional politicians. They have the necessary skills to win elections. However, the population of Americans who want free things view the current members of Congress as people whose decisions are contrary to their progress. Thus, Congress might not be seen as important and vital to them. Therefore, it will not be the safest gamble to invest in the Republican Party in a time like this. The Republicans may hold on to power, but the question is – for how long? Will the anti-Israel lobby of America dominate the government some day? These are important questions that ought to be answered before Netanyahu considers his speech.

The Bigger Picture and the Implications

This is a time of heightened tensions in American politics. Netanyahu shares ideological views with the Republican Party members who control Congress. The Iranian problem is serious and must be countered. Netanyahu is right to go to the ends of the earth to create awareness of the situation and stop any deal that will encourage the Iranian nuclear program. In spite of these well-intentioned pointers, there is another risky side of the situation that must be evaluated.

There is a growing anti-Israel sentiment in the United States. If possible, Israel must not undertake or be seen to undertake acts that can be considered by these Anti-Israeli groups in America. That is the only way Israel can avoid being drawn to a conflict that can have a far-reaching effect on the balance of power in the United States. America also has a president who feels disrespected by Congress. This sentiment of discontent draws the battle lines for the US. The numerous acts of Congress that Obama has presented as acts of sabotage show that a rift is growing. And if Netanyahu goes ahead to sideline Obama and shows respect to Congress, there will be an all-out power struggle and for the first time, a recognized political party might take an official position that is against Israel. There is no guarantee that such a political party will be kept from ruling the United States. Thus, the address to Congress by Binyamin Netanyahu presents a high risk in an issue that has high stakes.

The majority of people who support Netanyahu’s address to Congress state that it is just a speech. However, it must be pointed out that it was a speech that marked the US entry into the Second World War. It was a speech by Churchill that drew the parameters for the Cold War. Based on the growing trend of global Anti-Semitism and the growing anti-Israeli sentiments in the United States, it might not be wise for the Israeli Prime Minister to be seen taking sides in a conflict situation. This could cause irreparable damage and create enemies that might be more difficult to control than a nuclear Iran.


The Anti-Israel lobby in America has its own features and nature. These people do not always take a decision on basis of the harsh realities on the ground, but on what they think of a case and how it will influence the perfect world they envisage. They are not organized yet, but a provoked president and an act that is seen to be against such individuals and their ideologies could divide America permanently on Israel. This division might be difficult to fix in this generation.

The structure of the Jewish nation and Jewish communities around the world is distinct. Just as the logic of the Balfour Declaration was misinterpreted in the Mein Kampf, anti-Israeli groups in America could abuse this situation and the consequences could be far reaching. PM Netanyahu is a matured politician and he could take this time to review the situation critically and evaluate his options and make the right choices. What is certain is that a wrong choice in this matter, could have far-reaching consequences on the future of the Jewish State and the Jewish People.

Netanyahu must take note of the matters at stake in this situation. Millions of Jewish lives, including the unborn could be hinged to what Netanyahu says or does not say in the next few days. In my view, a direct meeting or communication with Barack Obama followed by an address to Congress could be much more appropriate than talking to one side. Talking to Congress will definitely win Netanyahu this election, but are we ready for an America that is officially and permanently divided on Israel?

About the Author
Sam Oystein is a partner in a global research entity. His background is in academia research and he is studying numerous elements of traditional Judaism.
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