Shmuley’s Folly

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how partisan we all are. And yet that is exactly the case. It seems that when it comes to partisanship, logic goes out the window. Right along with common decency and even common sense.

The latest manifestation of this is now being played out in media reports and analyses. The hottest topic of discussion of late is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address a joint session of congress later this week. The lack of following protocol in by-passing the White House by both Boehner and Netanyahu is being labeled a snub. For his part President Obama decided to snub the Prime Minister back — claiming that as a matter of tradition, US Presidents had always refrained from meeting with foreign leaders just before an election.

Political pundits on both sides of the political aisle cannot not help playing up the supposed hatred between the 2 leaders. It is interesting to note that Obama supporters (who generally are Netanyahu haters) characterized this as a blow to bi-partisanship by a Prime Minister interested more in his own political fortunes than he is about the welfare of the country he leads. While the Obama haters (who generally support Netanyahu) see Obama as another Neville Chamberlain pursuing a deal that gives Iran a green light to eventually become a nuclear power. And they characterize Netanyahu as a leader using every opportunity to explain why Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an existential threat to his people.

As I have explained in the past, my own views on this tend toward the latter. I agree that getting a few standing ovations (which he will surely get) during a bipartisan address to the US congress will boost his popularity among voters in Israel. But that does not take away from what I believe to be the reality of Iran becoming a nuclear power and his mission to prevent that.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly said that Israel must be wiped off the map by all means at its disposal. This is not just an empty threat by a former Iranian President. It is the view of Iran’s supreme leader. He is the man who sets the tone for the country. It is his theological views that supersede anything any President of Iran would say or do.  He has been clear. As their ‘Gadol HaDor’ he has stated that Israel mus be destroyed as a matter of theology. If he decides that Iran should fire a nuclear tipped missile at Israel, that is what that government will do.

Israel may be a strong country and have nuclear weapons of its own. But that will not deter a religious fanatic who think that God is on his side from attacking it when they think they have the weapons to do it.

Be that as it may, I have to take issue with a most disgusting comment by an Obama hater. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has apparently taken out a full page ad  in the New York Times that among other things aid the following about the President’s national security adviser: “Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide.”

To mention genocide in the same breath as Susan Rice goes well beyond being critical about the President’s foreign policy. It is true that Ms. Rice has said that Netanyahu’s speech is destructive to the US Israel relationship. But that does not in any way indicate that she has a blind spot to genocide. Not that I agree with her. Without a doubt Nenatyahu’s speech to congress will not harm Israel in the slightest. I am 100% convinced that the bi-partisan support will remain the same. The democrats that say it will not are simply playing politics.

Can anyone in their wildest dreams see the US withdrawing support from one of its closest allies? Is there a sane person anywhere in the world that would say that Obama is will take revenge against Netanyahu by hurting Israel? Does anyone think that Obama does not mean it when he says that the US has Israel’s back? That a speech to congress will cause Israel to suffer any serious consequences? If anyone really believes that – I have a bridge to sell them.

But that does not give license to an Obama hating ‘shoot from the hip’ media hog, like Rabbi Shmuley to say reprehensible things about a woman who has shown continued support of Israel over her entire career. I am happy that all responsible Orthodox organizations have condemned it regardless of how they feel about this speech.

It is hard for me to say this about someone whose views I often agree with. Shumley is an observant Jew who usually has his head screwed on straight. Even as he loves the attention he gets… and does whatever he can to get it. This is certainly one of those times.

Shumley crossed a line here. He made a statement that he knows has no basis in fact. How much must one hate a President to smear one of his most trusted aides this way?! An aide that has never been anything but supportive of the Jewish State.

I am happy to report that the vast majority of congress will be attending the Prime Minister’s speech. Tickets for the event are now being given for standing room only. The American people want to hear what our closest ally has to say, even though many of them have bought into the negative political spin being put on it by Obama supporters – both here and in Israel.

The potential agreement with Iran is something we should all be worried about. What is being leaked about it seems to indicate that at best we will delay their inevitability of becoming a nuclear power. Israel is ‘the canary in the tunnel’ as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee put it this morning.

They are there right in the cross-hairs of Iranian Mullahs. If Israel God forbid goes, the United States will be its next target. The President knows that, and so do both houses of congress. Democrats included. It is time to put politics aside. I think the democrats in congress knows that in their heart of hearts.  That’s why most of them will be attending, despite the politics of the situation.

I am not an Obama hater. Nor am I am Obama supporter. I happen to believe that he is an honorable man that is sensitive to Israel’s needs and means what he says about the US having Israel’s back. Even though I sometimes disagree with his policies he has shown his support for Israel time and again over his time in office. Relations between the 2 countries have never been closer despite the rhetoric that relations are at a low point. Don’t believe it!

As I have said in the past I am a Netanyahu supporter. I believe that even though he is a politician and does what all politicians do (everything they can to win) he is also the leader of his nation. There is no way that he puts politics ahead of his nation’s welfare. He believes in his message. He is worried about Israel’s fate.

As Prime Minister, he has at his hand all the information Israel’s intelligence community has to offer. No one has a better view of the situation than he does. And I doubt there is a better intelligence apparatus anywhere in any democracy than there is in Israel. As Israel’s leader he has an obligation to do whatever he can to protect his people. That is how he sees addressing a joint session of congress, despite the political fallout. Which in the long run is negligible at most.

But at the same time the politics of personal destruction by a supposedly responsible Orthodox rabbi is nothing less than a Chilul HaShem. This is one of those rare times that Jewish organizations of all denominations and political persuasion are on the same page condemning his comments. Shmuley ought to show contrition and apologize immediately. Big time!

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.