John Kerry, Modern-Day Haman?

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Secretary of State John Kerry and Haman / GettyImages/

First he was described as “obsessive” and “messianic” by Israel’s defense minister Moshe Yaalon. Then he was accused by Israel’s intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz of “holding a gun to Israel’s head”. And now, Secretary of State John Kerry faces a new barrage of criticism coming from the holy land. This time from a group of rabbis going all biblical on his peace plan.

A letter signed by five Israeli rabbis, all known for their hard-line opposition to any compromise with the Palestinians, compares Obama’s top diplomat to two of Israel’s worst enemies in history. “If you continue on this destructive path, you will ensure your everlasting disgrace in Jewish history for bringing calamity upon the Jewish people — like Nebuchadnezzar and Titus who destroyed, respectively, the first and second great Temples and the entire Holy City of Jerusalem, and who, by heavenly punishment, brought eventual disaster upon themselves, too,” the open letter to Kerry states.

Nebuchadnezzar ruled the Babylonian empire in the 6th century B.C. and led the siege of Jerusalem and the subsequent destruction of the first temple in 587 B.C., bringing about the exile of the Jewish people from their land. Titus was the first century Roman emperor who destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D.

The letterhead carries the name of the Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel, a relatively unknown organization. But some of the rabbis who signed it are considered big names in Israel’s religious right.

Two of them were affiliated with political activists who worked with the late Meir Kahana: Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo, who was one of the leading rabbinical voices opposing Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and who in the past was a supporter of a political party consisting of Kahana followers, and Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who now heads the Temple Institute and in the past ran for the Knesset as a member of Kahana’s Kach party. Other signatories are Rabbi Gedalya Axelrod, the former head of Haifa’s rabbinical court, a civil service position; Ben Tziyon Grossman, a Chabad Rabbi from Migdal Haemek; and Rabbi Yigal Pizam, also from Chabad.

And just in case the historical references provided to Kerry by these rabbis were not enough, the letter goes on to tie the expected unveiling of his new peace framework with the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim. Kerry, not surprisingly, will play the role of Haman — the Persian vizier who hatched a plan to kill all the Jews — in the rabbis’ modern-day story of Esther. And if Kerry missed this lesson in Sunday school, the rabbis’ letter provides him with a reminder about Haman’s fate: “Tellingly, he and his sons eventually were hung on the very same gallows he had prepared for Mordechai, the Jew.”

Written by

Nathan Guttman

Nathan Guttman

Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman

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John Kerry, Modern-Day Haman?

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