A group of Ultra-Nationalist rabbis wrote an open letter to John Kerry on Sunday comparing him to the Purim holiday villain Haman and accusing him of making “a declaration of war against the Creator and Ruler of the universe.”
The group, calling themselves Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel, wrote the letter over Kerry’s efforts over the negotiation process and warned if he doesn’t knock it off his fate will be divine punishment. They claimed to represent “hundreds of other Rabbis in Israel and around the world.”
The letter has gotten a lot of press. Yesterday two of the largest Orthodox Jewish organizations in the US, the Rabbinical Council of America(RCA) and the Orthodox Union(OU) issued a joint statement saying the letter contained “extreme and offensive rhetoric” and didn’t represent them.
Here are portions of the rabbis’ letter from Jerusalem Post:
“Your incessant efforts to expropriate integral parts of ourHoly Land and hand them over to Abbas’s terrorist gang, amount to a declaration of war against the Creator and Ruler of the universe! For G-d awarded the entire Land of Israel to our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in order that they bequeath it, as an everlasting inheritance, to their descendants, the Jewish people, until the end of all time,” the letter reads.
….“If you continue on this destructive path, you will ensure your everlasting disgrace in Jewish history for bringing calamity upon the Jewish people,” continued the rabbis, comparing Kerry to Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar II and Roman commander and future emperor Titus, the two enemies of the ancient Jewish kingdoms who destroyed the temples in Jerusalem and Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel along with them.
“By the power of our Holy Torah, we admonish you to cease immediately all efforts to achieve these disastrous agreements – in order to avoid severe heavenly punishment for everyone involved,” they threatened.
The letter was signed by Rabbi Wolpo, along with four other rabbis including Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the founder and chairman of the Temple Institute; Rabbi Yigal Pizam, the dean of a yeshiva and a leader of the Chabad community in the Haifa neighborhood of Kiryat Shmuel; Rabbi Gedalya Axelrod, the emeritus head of the Haifa Rabbinic Court; and Rabbi Ben Tziyon Grossman from the town of Migdal Ha’emek.
Israel National News provided more detail:
The letter closed with a reference to the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim, in which the Book of Esther records Haman’s genocidal plots against the Jewish people were turned against him and he was “hung on the very same gallows he had prepared for Mordechai, the Jew.”
Employing the language of scripture, the rabbis warned “conspire a planand it will be frustrated; talk the talk and it will not be fulfilled, for G-d is with us” (Isaiah 9:5).
I peeked around the mainstream media to see if Kerry had responded to the rabbis’ open letter and found nothing. But check out what Adam noticed from the State Dept’s Daily Press Briefing yesterday:
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the attempts by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, Justice Minister Livni and other Israeli officials to tamp down some of the invective rhetoric coming from other Israeli officials, which now – and spiritual leaders as well? I just saw something about a group of very Orthodox rabbis saying that the Secretary declared war on God, and using words like, well —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke with the Secretary about this particular issue – not your exact question, but this morning – and where he stands at this point is he’s not going to spend a lot of time worrying about words people are using against him. His greatest concern about this is the impact they have or they could have on the process, that the words aren’t an attack on him, they’re actually an attack on the peace process itself. He knows that trying to create peace isn’t a favor – and this is something he conveyed this morning – isn’t a favor we’re doing, and it’s very much his view, for the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s something that people in Israel and – the Israeli people and the Palestinians very much want. So while he has a tough skin and he’s been through a lot more difficult circumstances than having personal verbal attacks thrown at him, he is – he wants the focus to be on these tough issues.
QUESTION: Right, but considering – if, in fact, he does believe – and I’m sure he probably does – that these are not really – these are attacks more against the peace process —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and he is the messenger of the —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — of that peace process, are you satisfied with the attempts that have been made, apparently been made, by the prime minister and the justice minister, to rein – and the president of Israel also to try to rein in this – I don’t even know what you call it —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — rein in this clearly inflammatory rhetoric?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see what happens over the coming days and weeks, Matt. I think the challenge here is that it’s hard to evaluate until you have a circumstance. Obviously, the events of the last weekend, I think I’ve spoken pretty extensively to those and the Secretary’s view on that. But we have a long way to go in this process, and I think his view is that some of this is a sign that the heat is on and we’re getting down to the difficult issues. So it’s hard for me to evaluate whether we’re satisfied or not. I think the question is whether his record and his words will continue to be mischaracterized.
QUESTION: Well, maybe satisfied is the wrong word to use —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — but are you – do you think that – are you seeing the rhetoric being toned down now or not?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the comments this weekend were more heated than the comments over the last couple of days, but there continue to be concerning comments made.
MS. PSAKI: And I think what would be a successful outcome would be for parties to focus their efforts on grappling with these tough issues and taking on these tough issues, and that’s what he thinks the focus should be on.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary watch —
QUESTION: Just – could I just ask —
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Can I just ask —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — you said that the Secretary believes that these aren’t an attack necessarily on him but attack on the peace process. Does he fear that it could – this invective could damage the peace process and the efforts to bridge the gaps? Could it drive the sides further apart?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that process it ongoing even at the same time. And I talked about this a little bit earlier this week, but even on Sunday, he was meeting with Justice Minister Livni and Yitzhak Molho while some of these comments were being made. And certainly his hope is that the focus will be on what the lasting peace will bring to the Israeli and Palestinian people. And that’s what people will talk about. So —
QUESTION: But you have an atmosphere which is already very tense. I mean, issues which haven’t been decided or agreed on for the last 60 years. If you’ve got this kind of poisonous atmosphere that’s being injected into the process, doesn’t that make his job more difficult?
MS. PSAKI: Well, any rhetoric is – any damaging rhetoric or rhetoric that is inaccurate and as critical as this is is never helpful. But I think the larger point here is this process is not about Secretary John Kerry. This process is about what the future for the Israeli and the Palestinian people and the prospects of peace and security and prosperity. And that’s what he thinks people need – should be – need to be reminded of, in addition to the fact that these kind of attacks are unacceptable, and they not only distort his record but they distract from the real issues at hand.
Haaretz explains in The cursing of Ariel Sharon, these kinds of warnings have been issued against politicians and journalists in the past:
Over the years it was used (or claimed to have been used after various figures met untimely deaths) against politicians and journalists who angered the ultra-Orthodox, and architects and archaeologists who were accused of having disturbed ancient graves. In the 1990s, it became the preserve of the most extreme fringe of the settler camp when the kabbalist texts were uttered against Yitzhak Rabin, for the sin of signing the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Some believers were quick to connect this with Rabin’s assassination a month later, while others accused those who participated in the curse of contributing to the incitement that drove Yigal Amir.
In other words, not routine, but not unusual either. The Times of Israel quotes from the joint statement issued by the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union, Orthodox groups bash comparison of Kerry to Haman:
“These rabbis… seem to arrogate to themselves unusual insight into the desires of the Almighty,” the statement read.
“We, the leadership of the RCA and the OU, repudiate this letter and the rhetoric they have deployed. While the people of Israel and Jews around the world may properly possess serious concerns about proposals Secretary Kerry is putting forth, such concerns must only be expressed with civility and on the substance of the issues, not degenerating into personal venom and threats.”