A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, April 30, 2012

Benzion Netanyahu (1910-2012), Father of Bibi, dies at 102

Those who know Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu have long said that by far the greatest influence on his life was his father, Benzion Netanyahu. A corollary to that statement that is sometimes heard is the assertion that the younger Netanyahu might be more amenable to political compromise if not for the fact that he would not do anything his father disapproved of while the elder Netanyahu was alive. Whether that is true is unclear and has been untestable until now.

Benzion Netanyahu died today at the venerable age of 102.  He died early in the day and was buried in Jerusalem in the afternoon in conformity with Jewish tradition. The Prime Minister gave the eulogy.

The elder Netanyahu was a well-known historian who spent much of his career at Cornell University. Born Benzion Mileikowsky in Warsaw in 1910,he took the name Netanyahu with his parents on going to Palestine in 1920. Benzion went to the United States in 1940 to work with Revisionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, and after the death of Jabotinsky reresented the New Zionist (Revisionist) movement in the United States.

He took a Ph.D. in the US and during his academic career, culminating at Cornell, he edited encyclopedias in both Hebrew and English. His enormous historical masterwork, The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain, was published in 1995. It reflects his lifelong preoccupation with persecution of the Jewish people.

Obituaries and appreciations by The New York Times here; Haaretz here (and the father's influence on the son here), and The Jerusalem Post here.

I plan to comment on the growing criticism of Bibi Netanyahu's Iran policies from military, security and political figures in Israel shortly, but this news took precedence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, however, the proposed law that enables men to marry 14 year old girls is real.