web analytics
August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Redefining Progress


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent passionate address to the United Nations was very powerful and long overdue. Netanyahu’s words came the day after Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s most recent senseless anti-Semitic rant, in which he once again dusted off the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to accuse the Jews of holding the international community within its nefarious clutches, while also recalling the infamous 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.

[The Jews as a] small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks, and establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the U.S., to attain its racist ambitions.

Ahmadinejad’s UN diatribe took place just days after he again publicly denied the Holocaust, telling an anti-Israel rally in Tehran that “The Holocaust is a false claim, a fairy tale, used as a pretext for crimes against humanity.”

Netanyahu wasted little time getting right after Ahmadinejad. He challenged the Iranian president’s earlier Holocaust claim, and provided the General Assembly with one piece of evidence after another (including minutes from the 1942 Wannsee Conference and the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp), leaving the assembled delegates with little doubt of the atrocity that was the Holocaust.

I applaud Netanyahu for speaking so firmly on the issue. As a grandchild of survivors, whose grandmother’s left arm was permanently scarred by the infamous numerical tattoo that Netanyahu referenced, I can only begin to imagine the pain that Holocaust deniers bring to the Nazis’ victims.

That these survivors had to endure such unimaginable trauma is bad enough. That they have to hear others flippantly dismiss their life-shattering experiences as “a lie and a mythical claim” is almost too painful to bear. I thank Netanyahu for staring down the terrorist bully and calling his obscene bluff.

I also commend Netanyahu for calling out those delegates who gave Ahmadinejad an audience to spew his convoluted venom. (In addition to Israel and Canada, which had boycotted the speech entirely, only the delegations from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Argentina, Hungary, Costa Rica and Denmark left the hall during Ahmadinejad’s remarks. All others remained.)

More significantly, he challenged the very essence of the United Nations, a political entity that has failed miserably in its stated mission of fostering peace, respect and understanding among nations.

Netanyahu correctly declared that the jury was “still out” in that regard, that the UN has been far too passive in tolerating a “systematic assault on the truth,” with some members having time and again chastised victims of terror “rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons.”

Despite the many positives Netanyahu generated with his speech at the United Nations, there were some aspects of his talk that troubled me deeply.

In his eagerness to frame the current Iranian regime as savage and backward, Netanyahu contrasted 21st century “civilization” (i.e., “those who sanctify life”) with 9th century “barbarism” (“those who glorify death”). He extolled the “exponential growth” of 21st century “progress,” with its inherent freedoms and technological advances, and declared that “the past [as represented by Iran] cannot triumph over the future.”

While I share Netanyahu’s optimism about the benefits of continued social and technological advancement, I strongly question his assumed connection between this form of “progress” and the civility that it automatically engenders.

One need not look any further than the aforementioned Holocaust and its Nazi perpetrators to see the potential outgrowth of misused “advancement.”

During the early part of the 20th century there was no country in the world more culturally advanced than Germany. Germany was a world leader in the arts and sciences; German universities and centers of learning were world renowned. Nevertheless, the nation collectively bought into Hitler’s hateful message and began down a path of terror and destruction never before known to man.

Of course, death, destruction and heinous behavior during the 20th century were far from the exclusive domain of the Nazis. Never before had humanity witnessed such a bloody era. Despite achieving its greatest strides in the areas of education, technology and scientific knowhow, humanity managed to inflict more damage on itself than ever before.

Rather than “sanctifying life,” world leaders caused the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions because they failed to combine the potential of their progress with a sincere concern for humanity.

More disturbing yet were Netanyahu’s generally secular views about life and human history.

Perhaps by using secular barometers to measure how we value and enhance life, Netanyahu was simply trying to establish a common ground with the other delegates, to impress them with Israeli accomplishments they could perceive and appreciate. Certainly, the long list of Israel’s achievements in the scientific and technological domains (“leading innovations in science and technology, medicine and biology, agriculture and water, energy and the environment”) is quite impressive.

But one might hope that as the leader of the Jewish state, Netanyahu would embrace a truer and more complete understanding of how we perceive the world and our significant, divinely mandated role within it.

Maybe it is asking too much from an irreligious head of state to expect him to acknowledge there is more to life than the humanistic aspirations he expressed. Perhaps he really does believe the Jews are just another nation, willing and able to make their fair contribution to the inexorable march of history. We, however, certainly cannot support that component of his address.

Rashi’s first commentary on the Torah (Bereishis 1:1) focuses on this very point. He states that the Torah began with the account of creation for one simple reason: “So that if the nations of the world were to say to Israel, ‘you are thieves, for you conquered the lands of the seven nations,’ [Israel) will say to them, ‘The whole earth belongs to God. He created it, and He gave it to the one that he found to be proper in His eyes.’ ”

We understand that we were given our precious land for a purpose. It is not simply to serve as a place of refuge for Jews fleeing persecution or even a homeland like all others. If that were the case, there would have been no need for us to conquer a land that was already occupied by other nations.

Instead, we were given the land of Israel because God intended for us to do something special with it, to develop it into a spiritual center from which to elevate all of humanity.

Hopefully, this more elevated view will soon be shared by all Israel, from the political leadership down, so that we can proudly and collectively embark on our true mission: to bring about the final redemption and with it the long-awaited fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of a time when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.”

And with that, we will finally be able to put the political farce that is the United Nations, as well as Ahmadinejad and his odious ilk, out of their collective misery.

About the Author: Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting (ImpactfulCoaching.com). He can be reached at 212-470-6139 or at president@impactfulcoaching.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Redefining Progress”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Swiss Amb. to Iran Giulo Haas presents his credentials to Iranian Pres. Rouhani
‘US and Iranian Cartoon Doves’ Shown Defecating on Bibi by Swiss Amb to Iran
Latest Indepth Stories
Ben Cohen

Corbyn leading the Britain’s Labour Party polls, describes Hamas & Hizbullah as England’s “friends.”

PA Chairman Abbas proudly celebrating with released terrorists.

The convicted murderer was released from Israeli prison with more than two dozen other sociopaths

New Israel Fund

JCF is a donor/supporter of The New Israel Fund which supports BDS & wants IDF soldiers prosecuted

Moshe Feiglin

The ‘Peace Industry’ promotes its adherents; weak leaders, both military & political, is the result

The conundrum for US Labor Zionists: Lobbying for Iran deal while Israel’s Left lobby’s against it.

What does the Torah want from our small nation described as “they who struggle with God & with men”?

Mr. Nadler’s support for the deal is a naked political gift to a president who has defied logic in his quest to reinvent international affairs according to his ideological inclinations.

In practical terms, the proclamation surely makes a compelling argument:

BDS activists are not shy about discriminating against Israelis simply because they are Israelis –

A Federal Ct Judge ordered the PA to post JUST $10 million due to interfering letter from State Dept

Osakwe, like many other students at the CAMERA conference, described an extremely hostile campus environment when it comes to the issue of Israel.

Many people view a letter or manuscript by a chassidic rebbe or the Chofetz Chaim as intrinsically holy.

Key Iran Lobby figures had been major donors to both Biden and Kerry when they were in the Senate,

Abbas’ resignation has now sparked speculation about who will fill his place if and ‎when he leaves

More Articles from Rabbi Naphtali Hoff
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff

The Second Commonwealth ended due to causeless hatred, sinas chinam, the ultimate lack of respect in one another.

Rabbi Naphtali Hoff

Like the Avos, we are invested with the mission to inspire humanity to become nobler and greater

In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.

We must create an atmosphere of complete intolerance for such conduct, while reminding our children that we can take pride in our unique and distinctive purpose without knocking others.

In which specific respects are we to attempt to “relive” yetzias Mitzrayim?

Until recent times, every powerful nation that has ever ruled the world has been fundamentally anti-Semitic.

The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/redefining-progress/2009/10/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: