Skip to comments.Bibió Son of Benzion - The Netanyahu legacy
Posted on 08/05/2012 6:59:23 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
Much of the reporting about Mitt Romneys trip to Israel has focused on his statement that Israels success is linked to its political and economic culture. Yet the most significant geopolitical event during his journey was the statement by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a joint news conference with Romney, that the current American administrations policies have not swayed Irans nuclear ambition one iota. Adding to the significance of this event was the date on which it took place, and the importance of that date not only to the Jewish people in general, but to Netanyahus family in particular.
Mitt Romneys visit to Israel coincided with the observance by Jews worldwide of Tisha Bav, the annual Jewish day of mourning. The ninth day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar is the date when, according to tradition, the first and second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed by the enemies of the Jews. Over one thousand years later, the expulsion of Jews from Spain, another catastrophic event, took place on or around this date. According to Isaac Abravanel, one of the greatest biblical exegetes in Jewish history who served in the Spanish royal court until the expulsion, King Ferdinand had no idea that the chosen deadline for the Jews to leave fell on a day so rife with meaning to Jews. It was Providence, he suggests, that forever united the destruction of Jerusalem with the demise of one of the most intellectually illustrious communities of the Diaspora.
This is significant because Abrav-anel, the Jewish expulsion, and the persecution of Jews by the Spanish Inquisition were the particular expertise of Benzion Netanyahu, the prime ministers father, who died this year at the age of 102.
Benzion Netanyahu was a remarkable man. Long before Benjamin became prime minister, the Netanyahus were one of Israels famous families, as a result of the heroic death of Benzions eldest child, Yonatan, leading the otherwise triumphant Entebbe raid of 1976. But Benzion Netanyahu was already a major Zionist figure in his own right. Born in Warsaw and raised in Palestine under the British mandate, Benzion moved to New York to serve as the personal secretary to Zeev Jabotinsky, the intellectual forefather of Israels Likud party. According to the historian Rafael Medoff, Netanyahu cultivated relationships with former President Herbert Hoover and other leading GOP figures and urged them to include a pro-Zionist plank in the 1944 GOP platform. As Seth Lipsky noted in the Wall Street Journal, Benjamin Netanyahu was standing on his fathers shoulders when, in 1996 and 2011, he addressed joint meetings of Congress and won roars of approval from both sides of the aisle.
Benzion Netanyahu remained in the United States for several years and pursued a doctorate in Jewish history, writing his dissertation on Isaac Abravanel. This was later published with the title Don Isaac Abravanel: Statesman and Philosopher. In his book on Abravanel, and in his later work The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain, Benzion Netanyahu asks why the announcement of the expulsion edict came as such a shock to Spains Jews. After all, the Inquisition was already persecuting and torturing conversos, Jews who had converted to Christianity before the threatened expulsion, and who were accused by the church of covert Jewish observance. Yet the Jews, including the great Abravanel, did not read the signs of the times. When the expulsion edict was eventually announced, it was, for Spanish Jewry, like a thunderbolt out of the clear sky, tumbling, at last, the walls of illusions behind which the Jews of Spain had lived. Why, Netanyahu asks, did Jews not sense the vicious hatred that was festering, and why did they not take the Inquisitions anti-Semitic activity more seriously?
Netanyahu suggests that the Jews of Spain incorrectly assumed that the Inquisition was concerned solely with the religious beliefs of those who identified as Christians. But the way the Inquisition spoke about Jews should have alerted the Jewish community to the churchs ultimate aims. The Inquisition spoke of the polluting blood of the Jews of Spain, and of the sinister Jewish character from which Spanish Christians must be protected. Yet the Jews chose to see the Inquisition as motivated only by a crusading Christian fervor, and not by a deeper, almost racial, hatred of the Jewish people. The most peculiar aspect of the years leading up to the expulsion, writes Netanyahu, is the fact that the Inquisition, instead of serving as a warning, contributed to a deceptive sense of peace.
For Benzion Netanayahu, Spanish Jewrys complacency, and their embrace of a convenient narrative, reveals mans natural reluctance to draw radical conclusions which imply uprooting oneself from a comfortable spot. Just as German Jews failed to foresee Hitlers rise to power at any time during the period preceding that rise, so the Jews of Spain failed to notice, even a few years before the expulsion, the mountainous wave which was approaching to overwhelm them. The failure by one of the greatest communities in Jewish Diaspora history to sense this threat was nothing short of proverbial.
Now, the son of this scholar leads the Jewish state and must decide how seriously to take the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric of Iranian leaders, as they seek the ability to build a weapon of which the ancient and medieval enemies of Jerusalem and of the Jews could only have dreamed.
As it happens, Benjamin Netanyahu has written with reverence of his fathers scholarship, and of its underlying lesson. The Tisha Bav expulsion from Spain, as he sees it, is an eternal warning to Jews that one of the great threats to their wellbeing is their own complacency. Several months ago, he chose to close his eulogy at his fathers funeral by referring to the latters academic work:
>>>>Your books clearly show that you were not only endowed with an ability to see the shape of the future, but also to uncover the secrets of the past, and of course there is a connection between the two. Many times, you told me that he who cannot understand the past, cannot understand the future, and he who cannot understand the present, how can he discover what the future will hold?
You always told me that a necessary component for any living bodyand a nation is a living bodyis the ability to identify a danger in time, a quality that was lost to our people in exile; that is what you said. You taught me, Father, to look at reality head on, to understand what it holds and to come to the necessary conclusions.<<<<
It was this Tisha Bav, the first without his father, that Netanyahu stood with Mitt Romney and warned his nation, and the world, that after centuries of persecution Jews had learned to take anti-Semites at their word. How Netanyahu will choose to deal with the Iranian threat is unclear. Yet one thing is certain: He will have his father and his fathers lifework in mind as he makes his choice.
Meir Y. Soloveichik is director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and associate rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan.
So when the prestigious Morgan Library and Museum in New York decided to stage an exhibition entitled Churchill: The Power of Words, which would include the cream of the America-related items in the Churchill Archives at Churchill College, Cambridge, they knew that it would be popular.
What has astounded them and me, despite my being a special curator of the exhibition is quite what a stir has been created in Midtown. The crowds have exceeded all expectations, with record numbers visiting the exhibition, even in the normally quiet summer months. More than 30,000 people in the first six weeks at least 50 per cent higher than the librarys initial expectations.....
....Among the exhibits are the notes for the speech that Churchill made in the House of Commons on September 11 1940, two days after the start of the Blitz, in which he said that Adolf Hitler hopes by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorise and cow the people of this mighty imperial city Little does he know the spirit of the British nation.
Americans who see these notes, full of annotations and alterations made by Churchill himself, have been powerfully struck by the conjunction of that particular date in the iconic year 1940 and the message that Churchill was conveying about the use of terror tactics against a great city.
It is rare that a few sheets of paper from an archive that were typed out seven decades ago can evoke such strong emotions from normally hard-bitten New Yorkers, but it is happening here day after day. I must admit that I feel a catch in my throat whenever I see those notes, knowing that they contain one of the most eloquent roars of defiance that valour ever directed against evil.......... America's enduring love for Winnie and his words
I think the Jewish people should take heed of the rising anti-Semitism coming from Western Europe (mainly from the Musliim immigrants) and America (from Leftists and Democrats). However, this time the Hebrews have their own nation, and I’m sure they have a contingency to protect and save Jews worldwide.
And Christians should also take heed of the rising anti-Christian rhetoric and actions.......
...the current American administration's policies have not swayed Iran's nuclear ambition "one iota."
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