Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pixilated Presidents

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing." Mark Twain, Autobiography, 1959

George W Bush - who gave us "God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan', and I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq', and I did"* - is but the most recent example of your pixilated American president. He destroyed Iraq.

Harry S Truman (1945-1953) is another. He helped destroy Palestine:

"In May 1949, one year after [de facto] recognition [by the United States], Israel gained full membership in the United Nations. The Truman administration gave Israel a $100 million loan. De jure recognition would finally be announced on January 31, 1949, after the Israeli elections... After Israel was created, the historical and religious meaning of what he had done became more important to Truman, especially his role in the return of the Jews to Palestine. Truman shared his thoughts with [his special counsel Clark] Clifford about biblical prophecies concerning the Jews' return to Zion in the Old Testament. Clifford, who considered himself an amateur Bible student, recalled exchanging passages with the president that dealt with the subject. One of the most striking quotes Clifford found was from Deuteronomy: 'Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the Mount of Nebo, the top of Isgah that is before Jericho, and the Lord showed him all the land from Gilead unto Dan... all the land of Judah unto the western sea and the south and the plain'. As Clifford remarked in 1988, 'You can take an old biblical map and you could do quite a lot with that with the present boundaries of Israel'. That, he added, was what the Old Testament had promised to the Jewish leaders of the day. One of the president's favorites, which he often quoted, was also from Deuteronomy: 'Behold, I have given up the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land to which the Lord has sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob'. Others were from Genesis, which referred to 'an everlasting possession'...

"In the spring of 1949, Eliahu Elath [Israel's 1st ambassador to the US] accompanied Israel's Chief Rabbi, Isaac Halavi Herzog, to a meeting with Truman. Truman asked him if he knew what he had done for the refugees and to establish Israel. Herzog 'reflected for a moment and replied that when the President was still in his mother's womb... the Lord had bestowed upon him the mission of helping his Chosen People at a time of despair and aiding in the fulfillment of His promise of Return to the Holy Land'. In ancient times, Rabbi Herzog continued, 'a similar mission had once been imposed on the head of another great country, King Cyrus of Persia, who had also been given the task of helping to redeem the Jews from their dispersion and restoring them to the land of their forefathers'. At that point, Elath recalled, the Rabbi read aloud the words of Cyrus: 'The Lord God of Heaven hath... charged me to build him a House at Jerusalem, which is in Judah'. As Truman heard the Rabbi's quote, 'he rose from his chair and with great emotion, tears glistening in his eyes... turned to the Chief Rabbi and asked him if his actions for the sake of the Jewish people were indeed to be interpreted thus and the hand of the Almighty was in the matters'. The Rabbi told Truman, 'he had been given the task once fulfilled by the mighty king of Persia, and that he too, like Cyrus, would occupy a place of honor in the annals of the Jewish people'. Truman took the Rabbi's words to heart. When Eddie Jacobsen told an audience at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York that he was introducing the man who had helped create Israel, Truman quickly responded, 'Helped create Israel? I am Cyrus, I am Cyrus'. Eliahu Elath, speaking years later as the president of Hebrew University, told his audience that the Bible was Truman's 'main source of knowledge of the history of Palestine in ancient times'. Quoting Truman's farewell address as president, given on January 15, 1953, Elath singled out a passage that revealed his hopes for the Holy Land. Truman had said, 'The Tigris and the Euphrates Valley can be made to bloom as it did in the time of Babylon and Nineveh. Israel can be made into the country of milk and honey as it was in the time of Joshua'." (Safe Haven: Harry S Truman & The Founding of Israel, Allis & Ronald Radosh, 2009, pp 344-346)

What a goose!

[*The truth about God & George, Simon Freeman, timesonline, 7/10/05]

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