Hired to bless a conference, he seized the moment to curse Israel

For a progressive "rabbi" to praise Israel is as difficult as it is for CNN to praise Trump, and this one was no different. Op-ed.

Steve Apfel ,

Pretoria‎, South Africa
Pretoria‎, South Africa

Hired to bless a political conference, a progressive "rabbi" took the stage to malign Israel. The biblical story of Balaam, inverted, comes to mind. Hired to curse the Israelites sojourning in the desert, the wily wizard could do nothing but bless them. The hireling rabbi went one better than his prototype. To the glee of knaves and leeches and liars gathered there he served up both: a blessing on them and a curse on Israel.

Members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), emphatic haters of the country the Jews made, heard it directly, as it were, from the donkey’s mouth. The Land of the Chosen could take a lesson in religious freedom and tolerance from a lawless South Africa.

“It (freedom and tolerance) is a source of strength and pride to South Africans as much as it is a source of shame and distress for all Jews,” he said.The rabbi was comparing a tolerant country at peace with its neighbours to a country stuck in the minefield of a murderous neighbourhood. A hall thick with anti-Zionists erupted in delight. For testimony to how much anti-Zionism that venue held, BDS workers sold ‘Made in Palestine’ mementoes at a table during tea break.

The rabbi had picked the right audience for cursing. By edict ANC members are forbidden to ever set foot in Israel. Schooled in the belief that European colonists made use of the Holocaust to descend on Palestine and to thieve it from under the nose of the natives, delegates had to love him. The words of an Elder of Zion would have strummed on every bigoted nerve in that gathering.

As if thieving the land of born and bred Pal Arabs were not enough, the Zionist Jews were intolerant of Muslims and Christians. So the audience gathered – deliberately or stupidly matters not one iota to the outcome. Here was a cursing rabbi speaking, hobbled hatreds grasped, truth to power.

Across town the curse raised a counter storm. The Jewish community was up in arms. Orthodox, Reform and others doubted that ANC members had understood the rabbi correctly. What would they know or care about a dispute over prayer rights at the Kotel and the conversion divide between Orthodox and non-Orthodox. Could they even pin down Palestine on a map? The cause of the rabbi’s diatribe would have been lost on that gathering.

Lost or misconstrued: Israel-haters could not have been more delighted to learn that Israel makes life difficult for Christians and Muslims, and that the rabbi felt ashamed of his own country.

At the community’s push-back the rabbi actually began to sound just like hitman Balaam expostulating to his cheated client. It was not for him, he explained, to say what the Jewish community wanted him to say. His conscience "forced him" to:

To hold a mirror up to Israeli society

To speak the truth

To hold Israel accountable

To demand equality and justice

At this grand self-appointment as a firebrand prophet and watchdog, the rabbi stuck his Left foot forward. Wisdom resides on the Left. A Diaspora progressive has a moral duty to keep Israel up to the mark – to be prosecutor, judge and jury all in one. ‘Tough love,’ as Barak Obama the progressive idol called it, before revealing just how tough love for Israel can be.

“I am here to ensure that Israel is the best it can be,” the rabbi told the weekly Jewish rag. Without pausing to don a shepherd’s robe or lift a shepherd’s rod, the oracle stepped into the big shoes of Amos the prophet.

You alone have I singled out
Of all the families of the earth –
That is why I will call you to account
For all your iniquities
. (Amos 3:2)

The bile and bluster was more about trendy politics than timeless Judaic precepts. The rabbi stood at the podium looking over an assemblage of plunderers of public assets, of complicit office bearers and servile cowards. They had invited him to give the conference a nice Jewish blessing. He had the podium and the people in the palm of his hands.

And he had an immediate and devastating problem to address. South Africa was in a death spiral. Greed and criminality infected the ruling party from the top down. Yet he held his mirror to orthodox-non-orthodox divides in Israel. Why?

  • Because having ‘a go’ at Israel is a popular, an easy and a trendy thing to do?
  • Because having ‘a go’ at the rotten governing eleites who had invited him would be a whole lot more unpopular?
  • Because he was hysterical with hurt over the Israeli rabbinate’s preclusion mindset?
  • Because it would resonate in that den of Israel-haters?
  • Because he had been invited on the strength of his ties with a BDS icon?
  • Because he succumbed to a vengeful urge to hurt Israel after Israel had hurt him by backtracking on Kotel and conversion policies?

Whatever his motive force the rabbi let slip the fury of a prophet. He only wanted Israel to be the best it could be.

Well then. In his lifetime was Israel ever “the best it could be”? If so it would mark a first. The prickly truth is that when a progressive wants Israel to be the best it can be, it never is. For a progressive to praise Israel would be as difficult as for CNN to praise Donald Trump. It would cut the pro-Palestinian narrative to shreds.

Because ‘tough love’ is not love but, as Barak Obama revealed near the end of his term, it’s a mean feeling about the Jewish state.

Steve Apfel is an economist and costing specialist but most of all a prolific author of non-fiction. Steve blogs at https://wordpress.com/home/enemiesofzion.wordpress.com