Op-Ed: The American Presidential Elections
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedThe writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law "Pininei Halacha" and a popular weekly column "Revivim" in the Besheva newspaper. His books "The Laws of Prayer" "The Laws of Passover" and "Nation, Land, Army" are presently being translated into English. Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be viewed at: www.yhb.org.il/1
Two years ago, towards the mid-term elections to the Congress and the Senate, I responded to a question posed by immigrants from the United States, asking whether it was worthwhile for them to make an effort to participate in the elections, in order to strengthen candidates who support Israel, and oppose the policies of President Barack Obama. The main question was, whether it was moral for Jews who immigrated to Israel to participate in the United States elections with Israel’s interests in mind?
I replied that, seeing as all Americans citizens have the right to vote, no matter where they live, and that this is the practice of Americans throughout the world, why should the rights of Jews who immigrated to Israel be any different? It is a well-known fact that Jews contributed greatly to the arts, sciences, economy, and defense of America, and many of the immigrants from the U.S. still pay taxes on properties they own there, so why should their rights be any less than other American nationals?
Moreover, as believers in God, we have no doubt that the support given to Jewish refugees and to the State of Israel by America, is one of the principal merits of this great country, and it can be said that the verse we read in this week’s Torah portion (Genesis 12:3), “I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you”, has been realized in the American nation. How wonderful it would be if this merit were to continue standing at America’s side!
There was another reason I was asked to respond to the American elections. Israeli readers of this column are presumably unaware [this is taken from the Hebrew version, ed.] that it is translated into English every week, appears on the Arutz Sheva web-site, and is distributed through various channels to thousands of subscribers. A number of them asked me to discuss the approaching elections, in order to encourage supporters of Israel to make an effort to vote.
In recent years, several American citizens – both Jewish and Gentile – have visited our community ‘Har Bracha’ in Samaria, amongst them, groups of religious Gentiles (Christian lover’s of Israel), who come to volunteer for the annual grape harvest.
As they toil in the fields, the prophecies in the Tanach (Bible) concerning the return of Israel to its land are constantly in their minds. They are filled with excitement over the realization of these prophecies, and wish to contribute, as best they can, to the building of the Land, thereby fulfilling with their very bodies the verse in Isaiah: “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen and your vinedressers” (Isaiah 61:5).
Not only ordinary citizens feel this way. On one visit, five U.S. Congressmen arrived. At the reception in their honor, I said: “It is a great honor for us that distinguished people such as you, representatives of the sole global superpower, who champion the values of justice, truth, goodwill, work and prosperity, have come to visit our small community in Samaria. And we thank you greatly for doing so.”
One Congressman emotionally replied on behalf of the group, saying: “In truth, this visit is a tremendous honor for us. And your community, Rabbi, is not a small one, but rather, large and extremely important, for you have been privileged to build and settle the Holy Land of Israel, thereby fulfilling through your very lives the visions of the Prophets. It is a tremendous privilege for us to see this with our own eyes, and it is our honor, as the representatives of the American people, to support you to the best of our ability.” At the end of the visit, they asked us to pray for their success in their public endeavors.
Thus, having been exposed to the mood of a variety of communities within American society, I thought it would be appropriate to respond to the request, and once again, write about the American elections from an Israeli perspective.
A Black American President
When Barak Obama was elected President, along with many others, I felt a spirit of joy. For hundreds of years, merchants and mercenaries went hunting for people in Africa to kidnap from the bosom of their families, in order to sell them to plantation owners in the Southern and Northern regions of America, thus, turning them and their offspring into eternal slaves.
And now, at this moment in history, a black American, married to a woman descended from slaves, was voted by the majority of citizens of the global superpower – both white and black people alike – to the highest office. Tears filled my eyes when I saw a picture of black Americans standing upright and proud on the sidewalks leading to the White House, accompanying the new President, Barack Obama, into his senior position, with their fixed gaze.
What a beautiful example the United States proved for the entire world! What a wonderful victory of human spirit, overcoming all obstacles, and demonstrating that the Creator had indeed granted brilliant virtues and talents to all nations and races!
True, friends warned that he was hostile to the State of Israel. Nonetheless, there was hope that a person like himself could also understand the Jewish nation, which had granted the world the message of freedom and the foundations of morality, and agree that after two thousand years of exile and suffering, time had come for the world to help the Jewish nation return to its land, as God said to His servants, the Prophets.
Regretfully, it has become clear that Barack Obama is perhaps the most hostile President that Israel has ever faced.
The splendid ideas remain; the dream has not been shattered. But in reality, Barak Obama’s implementation has been appalling.
'They Have Raised Their Hand against Jerusalem and the Land of Israel'
Instead of assisting the Jewish nation to build the Land of Israel for the splendor of the entire world, President Obama began pressuring to freeze construction in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem. However, the prophet Zechariah said: "The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. The saying of the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him; Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the peoples round about" – in other words, anyone who passes the threshold of Jerusalem in order to harm her, will be punished.
"And on that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples: all that burden themselves with it (attempt to transfer her sovereignty to another nation) shall be grievously hurt." "On that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem… and it shall come to pass on that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem" – for they harmed and murdered those who defended Jerusalem (Zechariah, Chapter 12).
And Zechariah furthered prophesized (Chap.14): "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations who came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And whoever does not come up of all the families of the earth to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, upon them shall be no rain (i.e., economic blessing)…"
And lo and behold, precisely on Chag HaSukkot (the Feast of Booths) when the construction freeze ended, instead of recognizing Israel’s tremendous sacrifice, and demand the Arabs compromise, President Obama and his team of ministers and advisors crudely continued demanding that the Government of Israel freeze building in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, thereby bringing a curse upon their country and people.
And indeed, this is exactly what happened. America’s interests in the Middle East and the entire world were damaged.
Therefore, it is fitting for any American citizen who believes in God and His prophets, to vote for Mitt Romney for president, and also to vote for Senator’s and Congressmen – whether Republican or Democrat – who are true friends of Israel, people who believe that the entire Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish nation, as God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Democratic Party’s Mistake
The basic mistake of Western policy towards the Arab and Muslim world lies in the superficial notion that if only the various nations were to be informed about the wonders of the democratic system and the values associated with it, they would instantly be inspired, and peace would come to the world. However, Muslim countries are politically, socially, and nationally in a similar situation today as were European countries three centuries ago. The countries and their borders are still unresolved, and the guidelines of modernity have yet to be determined.
Healthy Democracy is built Gradually
Even assuming that the democratic system is appropriate for Islamic nations, there still remains a long process that must occur before they can benefit from a healthy democracy. We have come across two examples with regards to the development of the democratic system – France, and England. In France, an attempt was made to change over to democracy instantaneously by way of revolution. The results were horrible bloodshed, and a chain of upheavals that lasted over sixty years. In the middle of it all, Napoleon rose to power and dragged all of Europe into war. Thus, in an agonizing process lasting more than a hundred years,
France finally reached a feasible, democratic government. In contrast, England progressed gradually from a dictatorial, monarchial rule towards the direction democracy. True, there were conflicts and struggles along the way, but the gradual process greatly tempered the disputes, and thus, England arrived at a democratic system with a lot less distress and bloodshed, while at the same time, its citizens continued to enjoy economic prosperity throughout the gradual process.
The Mistake of Western Policy towards the Arab World
It appears that the West is currently trying to introduce the French method to various countries. And identical to the aftermath of the French Revolution, the outcome has been violence, chaos, bloodshed, and anger from the Muslim community at large, who feel that the Western countries are trying to impose upon them a culture of lawlessness and permissiveness. And often, the consequences are more serious, resulting in the rise of the most extreme and dangerous forces, as happened in Russia and Germany – countries who also jumped into democracy too quickly, and as a result, deteriorated into brutal, dictatorial regimes.
For that reason, President Carter erred when he did not support the Shah of Iran against his insurgents. And Barack Obama erred when he did not support Mubarak against his rebels, or at the very least, refrain from adopting a position. Likewise, he erred in Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya. Perhaps preventing these revolutions was impossible, this simply being a cyclical process in which every few decades a revolution occurs. However, the intervention of the West in the name of ‘democracy’ as it were, is a dangerous mistake which leads to the rise of militant Islam, threatens the world, and harms the welfare of the citizens under their control.
America’s Moral Mission
Indeed, America has an ethical mission in the world, but the objective should be for the welfare of the people, and not for the sake of democracy. Therefore, moderate pressure should be applied to increase human rights, but it is forbidden to shock the government and the country’s lifestyle, and harm cultural traditions in order to impose democracy.
Great responsibility rests upon every citizen of the remaining global superpower – the United States of America. And as the Bible teaches us, the attitude taken towards the Jewish nation is the key and standard for measuring moral positions. Consequently, there is room to determine one’s view of the President, Senator’s, and Congressmen, according to their attitude towards Israel – to back those who support Israel’s return to its land, and oppose the Arabs who want to steal the land from us and revert it back to wilderness.
May it be His will that the positive forces in America triumph, and the merit which stood for America as a result of its assistance to the State of Israel, will continue to stand by her side, bringing prosperity and wellbeing to all its citizens.