By Larry Gordon
The White House held its annual Seder once again this year, but this time the president was not in attendance. That absence is contrasted with the active role that Barack Obama played in these Seders for the last eight years. The media reported that this year there was only one Jewish member of the administration at the event—David Shulkin, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
So not only was the president absent, but, contrary to many expectations, so were his many Jewish aides and cabinet members, including his noted Jewish daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. The concept of a White House Seder hosted by the president was initiated by Mr. Obama in 2009. According to news reports, the Seder featured holiday-themed foods, the reading of the Haggadah, and the relevance of those ancient words to the news of the day.
A Seder in the White House is a nice symbolic thing but, frankly, credit is due to Mr. Trump for not attending. After all, he is not Jewish and is a busy man with no need to preside over a Jewish ritual event, regardless of what the motivation might be. Likely, he has no patience for this thing.
I always had this sense that the Obama Seder in the White House was something like, “Hey, look at me, I’m not Jewish and know little about the Bible or Jewish history, but I can have a Seder, too.” All of a sudden, the four cups of wine at the White House Seder became an indulgence, and instead of exclusively being symbolic of the solidification of the relationship between G‑d and the Jewish nation that He took out of Egypt, the wine became emblematic of other “liberation” movements in the world.
Mr. Obama spent much of his eight years in office—when he wasn’t bogged down in his failed policies on numerous fronts—focused on Israel. He had vain attempts to get Israel to concede land to the Palestinian Authority. His Seder played a part in his goal to diminish the association between Jews and Israel as a way of convincing the world that this idea about Jewish specialness or closeness was no longer relevant to events recorded in the Bible or the history books.
If you randomly search for Obama’s Seder comments, you consistently find that he drifts away from the uniquely Jewish experience that it was and still is today into a sea of references to other people and other historical circumstances. His favorite subject at the Seder always seemed to lead him back to talking about African-Americans and the history of slavery in America. In one message that I perused from 2013, Mr. Obama seemed to use the entire Seder setup as a prop to get to his main point: the “centuries of slavery . . . and finding freedom that is central to the universal human experience and its salvation.”
There you have it. The Jews in Egypt, the oppressive regime of Pharaoh, the unmentioned miracles wrought by Hashem—it seems they’re all incidental to the only true and real purpose, according to Obama, which is the combination of the true historical slaves—African-Americans—and the yearning “to be a free people in your own homeland,” which refers to the Palestinians.
That is why it was a good thing that Donald Trump did not attend the White House Seder this year. It might be a nice gesture, but the way the Obamas did it, it was borderline condescending and, like almost everything else he said, it contained significant amounts of doublespeak and was somewhat misleading.
Donald Trump has no patience to sit there for two hours with a Haggadah listening to someone’s child ask the four questions while the press leans in to sniff out hints of contradictions or mistakes in format to report to the world. He’s a smart man and knows it’s not for him and he doesn’t belong there.
Trump certainly had better things to do, like meeting with world leaders or golfing at Mar-a-Lago, which were far more important for him than breaking matzos with Jewish cabinet secretaries who probably could not be there anyway because they were attending a family Seder elsewhere.
President Trump—contrary to what the mainstream media would like you to believe—was not discarding a White House tradition at Passover by not attending the Seder there. If anything, it was an improvement on the Seders of the last eight years where we now know what the real agenda was to begin with—say one thing but mean another.
And The Terrorist
Marwan Barghouti will, I hope, spend the rest of his life in an Israeli prison where he has been holed up since 2004. Barghouti was convicted of a series of murders of Jews in Israel as he ran the terrorist arm of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group that planned and executed dozens of terror attacks. Now Barghouti, who believes that he will one day be released from prison and will be the next leader of the Palestinian Authority, authored a piece in the Sunday New York Times explaining why over 1,000 Arab “security prisoners,” murderers like himself and other criminals, are mounting a hunger strike in order to receive better prison conditions from Israeli authorities.
But the issue this week is not the substance of Barghouti’s argument. The point of contention and discussion was the Times’ editorialists referring to Barghouti as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” The description caused immediate outrage as the Times, true to form, sought to whitewash the facts as to why Barghouti has been imprisoned for the last 13 years and will hopefully never be released under any circumstances.
The outrage forced the Times editor to issue the following response on Tuesday of this week: “This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. There were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.”
So that is who Palestinian “leader” Marwan Barghouti is, and now we know once again how the people behind New York Times editorials think. Here we have a convicted terrorist given generous editorial space in “the paper of record,” with his true identity and the reasons for his imprisonment—the murder of Jews—completely shielded.
It’s nice to see that not everyone in the chain of command at the Times has the same agenda and that there is some integrity left at the Gray Lady. Our compliments to Times public editor Liz Spayd for pointing out the misleading characterization of who Barghouti is and why he was jailed after trial in Israel. It is shocking, but then again not surprising, that the Times tried to pull this off.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.