Rant Number 463 9 November 2011
It is official. Sarkozy thinks Netanyahu is a menteur, a liar. So he told wretched US President Obama, whom, we learn, Bibi ill-treats daily. Ah, Barack, poor Barack, what would your giant predecessors, the Washingtons, the Wilsons, the Roosevelts think, in seeing a mighty American President so meanly handled? Sigh... Hope Michelle and your little girls coddle you a bit when you get back home at night – being bullied by nasty, big Bibi is awful, isn’t it?
Liar. Awkward appellation. Especially coming from someone like the shifty-looking French mini-leader, le petit Napoleon. One who does indeed look like ‘someone you would never trust’, as my gone-to-ground friend Ruth once said. (Ruth! What have I done to you?) Does it take a liar to know another liar? Is the pot calling the kettle black? But the priest is being naive – politicians lying? Sancta simplicitas! Amazing it got noticed.
More novel news issues from Israeli paper Haaretz. To gauge their import, flash back to a third actor in the play, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. The same who, while speaking from the UN podium, prayed for and invoked the coming of Imam al-Mahdi. As the jargon goes ‘a messianic figure’. A formidable redeemer who comes to usher in a new world, an era of peace, justice...and judgment. Not only did the Western media pillory Ahmadinejad as a religious nutter, a dangerous fanatic unworthy of being a ‘serious’ politician – they also, shock and horror, shrieked achtung! Iran’s nuclear programme – God forbid! – in the hands of a messianic bloke? No way. Iran’s got to be stopped! Bibi shrieks that out to all, including his much abused poodle, Barack Obama.
But it is funny. It turns out in Haaretz that Bibi is in the same league. A messianic loony. A follower of another messiah – not J.C., obviously. ‘Great Rabbi of Lubavitch’ Bibi called him, during his own speech at the UN. The founder of a thriving, contemporary movement of messianic Jews. Hasidic chaps a.k.a. Chabad. This Rebbe’s followers apparently think he is still alive (like the Hidden Imam?) or that he will soon come back from the dead – like J.C.? Huh! This resurrection thing won’t go away, will it?
Yes, it is serious. Because Israel is not seeking to acquire WMDs – it already has them. Well, unofficially, but as many as 200 nuclear warheads, it seems. Thermonuclear weapons in the megaton range, neutron bombs, even ‘suitcase bombs’ – ya Allah! Don’t like the thought of the last one. You take an express train to Inverness and in the suitcase next to you...no, don’t want to think about it.
Plenty of Israeli nukes, anyway. And the man at the helm of this nuclear-armed nation is a messianic politician! Makes you a tad nervous, does it not? Especially when Israel menacingly rattles its nuclear sabre towards its enemy and even the supposedly ‘dovish’ President Shimon Peres warns Iran: ‘We are ready to strike’!
The Hebrew word mashiah, from which ‘messianic’ derives, means one who is anointed. Specially chosen and honoured by God. The Old Testament does not restrict it to Jews. The Prophet Isaiah addresses King Cyrus, who liberated the Jews from Babylonian captivity, as ‘my messiah’. A good precedent for the Iranian President. When I met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran two years ago I begged him to imitate the great Persian Cyrus in being friendly to the Jews and the Jewish state. Don’t have a clue whether the interpreter conveyed my meaning. But Christ told me to have a go and I did it. Honestly, not only theologically right – also wise Realpolitik. Pity Mahmoud took no heed. Chi del suo mal e’ causa...
Messianic visions are not necessarily catastrophic or bad. Isaiah speaks of a delightful future time when ‘the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid’ (11:6). Blissful. Unfortunately a few verses later the prophet goes on to prophesy a plundering of and a lording over Israel’s foes. Rats! That is the problem with much OT – nationalism. As Tolstoy said of Gandhi, it spoils everything. When Jesus Christ, the only and eternal Messiah, eventually came he brought a genuinely universal, purified version of messianism. A relief!
To be fair, Rabbi Schneerson allowed for non-Jews to have a place alongside the Chosen People at the End. And his teaching contains stimulating mystical insights. Such as the mysterious, shapeless shape of God. But his views about Palestinians were not good. It was sinful to give up a single yard of ‘Jewish land’, he declared – by which he meant not only the Arab land in the West Bank but, according to Haaretz, also ‘territory on the other side of the Suez Canal’. His arguments were religious. That’s OK. You don’t expect an Orthodox Rabbi to argue non-religiously. A bit more peculiar when Netanyahu uses similar lines. Like his own name being found on a relic going back to early Biblical times. His title-deeds to Palestine, presumably. I wonder: how many Greek artefacts are there in Turkey? With Greek names on them? Are the Turks going to shove over to make room for the old, genuine owners? Well, that’s a thought – an outlet for Greece’s troubles, perhaps.
Time to nail my colours to the mast. The priest is messianic all right. He does believe in the Second Coming of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He eagerly awaits his arrival. But Jesus comes to mankind not just at the End but all the time, in many ways. He walks the streets of cities like London, New York, Tel Aviv, Mecca, but also the country lanes, the villages, the woods, wherever men live. And he is generally unknown. Yet he walks amongst us. Begging to be known, to be recognised, to be let in. As in that stupendous painting by Holman Hunt, hanging in St Paul’s Cathedral, The Light of the World. He stands at the door and knocks. If you hear his voice and open the door, he will come in and sups with you...
Messianic expectations. Don’t snigger. The Messiah is waiting. He seeks you. He is expecting you.