On Foolish Comparisons between King David and Contemporary Politicians

June 20 2017

Some of President Trump’s apologists of a religious inclination have defended his character and private behavior by invoking the biblical David, much as apologists for Bill Clinton did two decades ago. Thus, referring to David’s adulterous liaison with Bathsheba, and his subsequent decision to send her husband to the front lines so that he would be killed, one such apologist recently claimed that “God himself chose morally compromised individuals to accomplish some greater good.” This argument, writes Meir Soloveichik, betrays a woeful misunderstanding (or deliberate manipulation) of the book of Samuel:

The [ancient] rabbis observe that David’s predecessor, Saul, lost the kingship when he failed to fulfill God’s command to destroy the egregiously evil nation of Amalek, whereas David committed more severe sins and yet remained king. The answer, the rabbis suggest, lies not in the sin itself but in the response. Saul, when confronted by the prophet Samuel, offers obfuscations and defensiveness. David, meanwhile, is similarly confronted by the prophet Nathan. [But] David’s immediate response is clear and complete contrition: “I have sinned against the Lord.” David’s penitence, Jewish tradition suggests, sets him apart from Saul. . . .

[A] study of the book of Samuel and of the Psalms reveals how utterly incomparable David is to anyone alive today. . . . [F]or David, . . . intimacy with the divine was central to his existence, and the books of Samuel and Psalms are an eternal testament to this fact. This is why simple comparisons between David and ourselves, as tempting as they are, must be resisted. . . .

We need to understand David better because we can use his life to comprehend what we are missing, and how utterly unlike our lives are to his own. For even the most religious among us have lost the profound faith and intimacy with God that David had. It is therefore incorrect to assume that because of David’s flaws it would have been, as Amos Oz has written, “fitting for him to reign in Tel Aviv.” . . . David’s complex humanity inspires comparison with modern figures, but his faith, contrition, and repentance—which lie at the heart of his story and success—defy any such engagement. And so, to those who seek comparisons with modern leaders from the Bible, the best rule may be: leave King David out of it.

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More about: Bill Clinton, Book of Samuel, Donald Trump, King David, Psalms, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics

Hizballah Prepares for War, and UN Peacekeepers Do Nothing

Dec. 10 2018

According to last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2373, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—the peacekeeping force created after the Second Lebanon War to keep both Israel and Hizballah out of southern Lebanon—is authorized “to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” If anything ought to rouse UNIFIL to action, writes Elliott Abrams, it should be the IDF’s recent discovery and destruction of tunnels dug by Hizballah to move troops into the Galilee:

The existence of these tunnels, dug from precisely the area of southern Lebanon that UNIFIL is meant to patrol, means that this area is indeed “utilized for hostile activities.” What, then, is the meaning of [UNIFIL’s statement in] response that it “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”? The meaning is that UNIFIL will likely do nothing.

UNIFIL is not supposed to be merely a means of communication, or the Security Council would have bought cell phones instead of paying for a military force. Moreover, there are no “appropriate authorities” in Lebanon; if there were, Hizballah would never have been able to dig its tunnels.

The tunnels are hardly the only brazen Hizballah violation of the Security Council resolutions undertaken right under UNIFIL’s nose. Consider this: Hizballah is blocking roads in southern Lebanon to smooth the path of missiles it is moving into the area. . . . Then there is the village of Gila, just north of the Israeli border, where there is a Hizballah headquarters and according to the Israelis about twenty warehouses with weapons, combat positions, lookout points, and dozens of underground positions. All this was built in an area supposedly patrolled by UNIFIL. . . .

This is a test of UNIFIL and its new commander, [Stefan Del Col, who took over in August]. “Communicating” to “appropriate authorities” is a euphemism for doing nothing at all. Hizballah is preparing for war. UNIFIL is supposed to get in its way. If it cannot hinder Hizballah’s war preparations in any way, and is even ignorant of them, UNIFIL is a waste of time and money.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, United Nations