Bibi Wants to Bomb Amalek

Gershom Gorenberg

My new column is up at the American Prospect. Here’s part of it:

… Speaking to AIPAC, Netanyahu virtually waved his finger in Obama’s face. “Diplomacy … hasn’t worked,” he said; neither have sanctions, nor will deterrence. Netanyahu cited the proliferation risk, but his bottom line was that Iran works for Israel’s “destruction—each day, every day, relentlessly.”

The last thing I’d suggest is to dismiss Iran’s animus toward Israel. But it’s clear that Netanyahu’s evaluation of what Iran will and won’t do is based on more than intelligence reports. He’d say it’s based on history, but it’s a mythic reading of history, an understanding in which Jews are threatened by a single implacable enemy, unchanging in its essence, shifting only in its shape.

Netanyahu equated hesitation before attacking Iran to America’s refusal to bomb Auschwitz in 1944. As additional support for his case, Netanyahu cited the biblical Book of Esther, which will be read in synagogues on the holiday of Purim this week. He described Haman, the villain of that ancient story, as “a Persian anti-Semite [who] tried to annihilate the Jewish people.” In Jewish legend, I should note, Haman is understood to be from the tribe of Amalek, which tried to destroy the Israelites when they left Egypt and endlessly keeps trying. The reasoning of Netanyahu’s speech, if “reasoning” can be used in this context, is that Amalek, Haman, Hitler and the current leaders of Teheran are all the same.

The standing ovations that this story of eternal victimhood brought, from an audience living in a country where Jews enjoy the greatest acceptance in their history—an audience supporting a successful Jewish state—were surreal. But an AIPAC convention apparently draws that portion of American Jewry for which learned anxiety is more powerful than any experience of safety….

Read the rest here.

1 thought on “Bibi Wants to Bomb Amalek”

  1. GG: So Netanyahu’s actual behavior raises a question: Is his bellicosity a bluff, intended to scare Iran, pressure other countries to increase sanctions, or press the United States to attack? Or is he serious about the threat, but incompetent in preparing to carry it out? For the moment, we would need a transcript of Netanyahu’s thoughts to know.

    Perhaps all of the above. I notice that Barack made a statement today or yesterday that appears to signal that there is some realization that any military move by Israel would be nuts.

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