On Foolish Comparisons between King David and Contemporary Politicians

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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Read more at Commentary

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

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf