It may dismay readers of this blog to know that the Boxing Rabbi occasionally gets hit, and hard. There is an adage in boxing that “the punch that puts you down is the one you don’t see” and I have found that to be true. The few times that I have been hurt while sparring it was from a punch that I never saw coming.
I was one of the few who publicly said that I considered Mr Netanyahu’s effort to undermine Mr Obama’s foreign policy by speaking to Congress bad form, not done, “past nisht” as they say in Yiddish, even maybe harmful to the American-Israel partnership. I said this even though in many ways I consider Israel to be my true “home”, and the defense of Israel the most important community project of the Jewish people in our time. I say this even though my wife comes from a prominent Zionist family, founders of the State. What I never saw coming was the advance reframing of the speech by Mr Netanyahu’s people, working alongside American counterparts. In this reframing, it is 1938, Obama is Neville Chamberlain, and Netanyahu is Churchill. Everywhere I went yesterday, and in almost every essay I read, people spoke of Mr Netanyahu as Churchill reborn, and expressed deep admiration for his courage and plain spoken willingness to defend the Jewish people from all harm. From that perspective, Mr Netanyahu’s speech was a stunning success. Those Jews who opposed the speech, were at best naive and foolish, at worst; well, one of my friends who opposed the speech was labeled a member of the “Judenrat”-Jews who collaborated with Nazis.
So be it. I’ve taken worse punches, and always managed to get up again, sometimes with a really bad headache. But before the American political class seeks to turn Congress into the Knesset, remember that the Knesset is a messy place, often filled with shouting, name-calling, and occasional fisticuffs. Just the other day an Arab member of the Knesset, a woman, was assaulted by a supporter of a right wing political party, just for showing up to a panel discussion. Israeli politics is even more complicated than American politics, and that is saying a lot. In lionizing Mr Netanyahu and in embracing his view as the true path we are taking an enormous chance-choosing, as it were, to follow the lead of an Israeli political party leader facing a close re-election at home. I pray, I truly and sincerely pray, for the sake of Israel and for the sake of the Jewish people, that it is the right choice.