UPDATE: On Wednesday, in an interview with JTA, Riskin took back his statement comparing Obama to Haman and said, “Let me make it very clear: Haman is not, God forbid, President Obama. Haman is Iran.”
In his seven years as president, Barack Obama has had plenty of unflattering comparisons thrown his way.
Detractors of the Democrat have likened him to such notorious figures as Nixon, Hitler and Machiavelli. There are even a series of conspiracy theory videos on YouTube claiming that Obama is not just like Osama bin Laden but actually is bin Laden.
Over the weekend Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement Efrat, added to the list in a speech he gave in Jerusalem, comparing Obama to Haman, the arch-villain of the Purim story whose genocidal plots are thwarted. Fleshing out the analogy, Riskin added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is Mordechai, one of the story’s heroes.
Riskin’s hyperbolic comparison/analogy left me wondering whether the former spiritual leader of the modern Orthodox Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York actually believes a president who hosts regular Passover seders and Hanukkah parties is anti-Semitic, let alone genocidal. But it also made me wonder:
– If Obama is Haman and Netanyahu is Mordechai, then who are the equivalent of Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus?
– Why, less than a week before Passover, is Riskin referencing the Book of Esther and not the Haggadah? Why not compare Obama to Pharaoh and Netanyahu to Moses?
– What biblical analogies will be used next to express distaste for the president and support for right-wing Israeli policy? Perhaps Obama is Cain and Netanyahu is Abel. Or Obama (and the rest of the world) is a floodable sinner, Netanyahu is Noah and Israel is the ark. (Not sure who are the animals in this scenario.) Or Obama is Isaac, Netanyahu is Jacob and Iran is the the preferred son Esau, whose birthright/nuclear deal Netanyahu will steal with the intervention of Rebecca/John Boehner. Some rabbi could even do a yearlong exploration of Obama and what role he plays in each week’s Torah portion.
One piece of advice for Riskin: When Hanukkah comes, don’t compare Obama to Antiochus, the Greek emperor who desecrated the Temple and ordered Jews to assimilate. Gerald Flurry, pastor general of the Philadelphia Church of God, beat you to it in his 2013 booklet “America Under Attack.”