To this day, whenever I think about one Jewish radio listener's comment I took during the late '90s, I get a terrific laugh. It happened during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first stint as the head of Israel's government. I was trying to explain to my WBT radio show listeners why, as a Jew, I was so opposed to his policies.
After living in the South for as long as I have, I've learned that most people assume all Jews think alike, and that there's no dissension when it comes to opinions about Israel. That's not the least bit true, and I was, as I still am today, vocal that not everything Israel's government chooses to do is sacrosanct and automatically endowed with God's approval.
The caller, though, was outraged at my straying from the "party line," and told me: "Jerry, you are so despicable that I demand that you immediately renounce publicly any identification as a Jew, and then go have your foreskin surgically reattached."
Ah, how comforting it must be to have so much confidence in an ancient book or an elected official without having to do any real thinking for yourself.
That listener came to mind last week, when House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress (an invitation that usually comes from the president, by the way). Because Israelis head to the polls on March 17, Netanyahu jumped at the opportunity to show what an important man he was to the people back home.
Netanyahu claims he knows how to keep Iran in check, but that's a pile of crap. In fact, Obama's accomplished a near miracle in working with major powers like Russia and China to push forward a deal that would limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing severe economic sanctions. Of course, nothing's ever set in stone, but Netanyahu hasn't presented any alternative to what Obama has in the works.
In fact, Netanyahu's leadership and the right-wing fanatics in Israel who follow him have done nearly as much to hinder peace in the Middle East as the fanatics on the other side. Continuing to insist on building settlements on the West Bank because they believe God gave them that land, just as the Palestinians believe Allah gave it to them, is like sticking a needle in your opponent's eye. That's the kind of great strategy Netanyahu and his pals have deployed now for the last four decades or so, and it's one of the reasons why I consider religious fanatics to be the greatest threat to the future of humanity.
Since we're talking about organized religious groups who use their doctrine to intimidate politicians into taking certain actions, I have to also address City Council's failure to pass the nondiscrimination ordinance. The proposal, which failed 6-5, would have protected LGBT citizens from discrimination while taking taxicabs and frequenting businesses. The most contentious part of the proposal, however, was that it would have given transgenders the right to choose whichever bathroom they felt most comfortable in.
Conservative Christians came out in droves to the public hearing to oppose the ordinance. It's difficult to pinpoint which evangelical leader had the most influence, but let me be clear: Just because First Baptist Church pastor Mark Harris and street preacher Flip Benham condemned the proposal does not mean their opposition came stamped with the seal of God.
Frankly, I believe some council members were intimidated by the other Christians in that chamber, who taunted that council would be held accountable by God and betraying their faith if they voted yes to extending these protections to the LGBT community. Break with the party line? Hell, no! Not in Christian Charlotte!
Any religion or movement in which one fallible human being's beliefs are cemented into laws or rules that become unarguable doctrine — when anyone who dares to challenge those ideologies is a heretic — is dangerous. There is no human being, dead or alive, who's that smart. People who do question what their "group" automatically teaches may not be just right — they might be doing us all a huge favor.
It's why I'm comfortable telling you that Netanyahu is as likely to be the beginning of the end for Israel, while others are standing up cheering him like he's some kind of savior. In fact, I consider it my duty to make sure you know that not all Jews support him — not by a long shot. And you can't allow yourself to be brainwashed just because some right-wing religious fanatic says he knows what's right.
And for that listener from long ago who will undoubtedly take offense to this writing: My foreskin is still strangely missing.