October 17, 2021

Prominent American-Israeli rabbi compares Obama to Haman

Prominent American-Israeli rabbi compares Obama to Haman

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a prominent American-Israeli Orthodox rabbi, has compared US President Barack Obama to Haman, the villain of the Purim story.

Riskin, the longtime chief rabbi of Efrat, a West Bank settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc, made the comparison during a speech at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue on Saturday night, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“The president of the United States is lashing out at Israel just like Haman lashed out at the Jews,” he said. “I’m not making a political statement. I’m making a Jewish statement.”

Riskin also compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Mordechai, who along with niece Esther is the hero of the Purim story.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, a day after the Israeli general elections, March 18, 2015. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, a day after the Israeli general elections, March 18, 2015. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The crowd booed an audience member who shouted that Riskin was being disrespectful to Obama.

“I am being disrespectful because the president of the United States was disrespectful to my prime minister, to my country, to my future and to the future of the world,” Riskin said.

Riskin led the Lincoln Square Synagogue, a modern Orthodox congregation on the Upper West Side of New York, for 20 years before making aliyah in 1983.

US President Barack Obama, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Chris Jackson/Getty Images North America)
US President Barack Obama, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Chris Jackson/Getty Images North America)

Ties between Washington and Jerusalem have sunk to new lows in recent weeks over disagreements between Netanyahu and Obama regarding negotiations with Iran and peace efforts with the Palestinians.

House Speaker John Boehner controversially invited Netanyahu to address Congress earlier this month, where the prime minister urged lawmakers to thwart a nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, which is backed firmly by Obama. The visit, which was not coordinated with administration officials, was said to greatly anger the White House, as Netanyahu was perceived by critics to be publicly undermining the president.

Netanyahu was also castigated by the Obama administration for saying, on the eve of Israel’s March 17 elections, that he would not allow a Palestinian state on his watch, drawing an American threat to reevaluate its approach to the peace process.

Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther, by Rembrandt
Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther, by Rembrandt

The White House rejected Netanyahu’s post-election clarification, in which he said he was not opposed to establishing a Palestinian state in principle, just not under current circumstances. He said he still supported a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but that the region was increasingly dangerous and that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was refusing to come to terms with Israel as a Jewish state.

The PM also apologized for Election Day remarks about Arab Israelis voting “in droves” — for which he was criticized at home and abroad, notably by Obama — saying he never meant to harm the feelings of the minority community.

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