Amalek's Arsenal

My op-ed on Netanyahu -- and how Obama might want to interpret Netanyahu -- is in the Times today. Here's a brief excerpt:

To understand why Mr. Netanyahu sees Iran as a new Amalek, it is essential to understand two aspects of his intellectual and emotional development: The scholarship of his father, and the martyrdom of his older brother.

His father, Benzion Netanyahu, 99, is a pre-eminent historian of Spanish Jewry. "The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th-Century Spain," his most notable book, toppled previously held understandings of the Inquisition's birth.

Over more than 1,300 pages, Benzion Netanyahu argued that Spanish hatred of Jews was not merely theologically motivated but based in race hatred (the Spanish pursued the principle of limpieza de sangre, or the purity of blood) that reached back to the ancient world.

The elder Netanyahu also argued that efforts by the Jews of Spain to accommodate their adversaries were futile, in part because the charges against them were devoid of logic or fact, and, perhaps most important, because the written or spoken expression of Jew hatred (his preferred term for anti-Semitism) inevitably led to physical persecution. "What emerges from our survey," he wrote, "is that the Spanish Inquisition was by no means the result of a fortuitous concourse of circumstances and events. It was the product of a movement that called for its creation and labored for decades to bring it about."