We have been meditating on the real meaning of masculinity for several weeks. Then the horror and atrocities of Hamas’s invasion of Israel transpired, and over 3000 Jews and Palestinians have died since. Profound suffering of innocent peoples ensued, including children.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is an American historian and cultural critic. She is a scholar on fascism and authoritarian leaders. Photo by HumbleWarrior. Wikimedia Commons.

In a very insightful article, Ruth Ben-Ghiat raises the question of strongmen. “The tragic Hamas attacks on Israel prompt reflections on the strongman model of leadership” she states, and then asks, “What will be the destiny of Netanyahu?” 

Last December, Ben-Ghiat tells us, “Netanyahu thought he had won the autocrat’s lottery” since he was re-elected despite charges of bribery and fraud. With a corruption trial underway, he announced a “judicial reform” to limit the Supreme Court’s authority and “clear the way for him to realize the strongman dream: becoming personally untouchable by the law”.

Rabbi Ariel clarifies the tit-for-tat action between Israel and Gaza. Video by Tikkun Global. 

“The largest protests in Israeli history” followed, and this in turn took a toll on “armed forces’ morale, focus, and combat readiness.”

Netanyahu empowered far-right extremist partners (his Minister of National Security was convicted of supporting terrorism) to “realize their fantasies of a Jewish ethno-state” and to annex the West Bank, with potential “dangerous consequences for the nation.”

She cites a French observer who believes this is why Netanyahu’s government bears “a large part of the responsibility” for creating a climate that Hamas judged propitious for an attack. She says: 

Satirists are spiritual warriors: An unknown cartoonist calls out the autocrats of the late 19th century, shown here as clowns worshipping (and wishing they could be) a circus strongman. Wikimedia Commons.

The lesson of authoritarian history is that when strongmen leaders normalize extremists, lawless and violent people are elevated to positions of extreme power, accelerating the assault on democracy and bringing unrest and instability.*

It is also a lesson regarding America’s number one strongman who, as president, urged on the January 6 events, and also gave a blank check to Netanyahu to turn his back on Palestinian rights.** And whose many backers deny the lawful election results of 2020, and are still in Congress and the media. 

Real spiritual warriors call out faux strongmen. Thank you, Ruth Ben-Ghiat.



See Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 77-104.

And Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE

Banner Image: Protests against Netanyahu in Jerusalem, August 2020. Photo by Nir Hirshman. Wikimedia Commons. 

Queries for Contemplation

Do you see a clear demarcation between authentic spiritual warriorhood, and those who seek to be “strongmen” in the eyes of others? How can society—including the media, educational system, and religion—better make that distinction real?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society

Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them. 
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science.  A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics

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7 thoughts on “Real Men vs. Strongmen, Netanyahu and his Kind”

  1. Richard E Reich-Kuykendall

    Loving God, Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries in all that we most hate, confirming them in
    their hatred and suspicion of us. Resolve our inner contradictions, which now grow beyond belief and beyond bearing. They are at once a torment and a blessing; for if you had not left us the light of conscience, we would not have to endure them. Teach us to be longsuffering in anguish and insecurity, teach us to wait and trust. Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace… grant us prudence in proportion to our power, wisdom in proportion to our science, humaneness in proportion to our wealthy and might. And bless our earnest will to help all races and peoples to travel, in friendship with us, along the road to justice, liberty and lasting peace. Amen.
    Thomas Merton

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    I recognize the pain in Rabbi Ariel’s call to prayer but also hear an out of balanced ideology that misses seventy or more years lacking a spirit of “Palestinian lives matter” compassion. It is both possible and necessary to bring even our enemies and love of them into our prayer lest we become brutish. I welcome Dr Fox’s reading of solidarity and am willing to include my name for what it may be worth ….

  3. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew, for your clarity that helps us understand the dynamics causing the horrors of this month. Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s article is valuable for that reason, as well.

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    Words of condemnation and demands have no effect on those without a conscience. Lawless power over, at all cost, is the agenda of these one’s.

    True spiritual warriors, such as the Grandfather and Grandmother whom shared their story on 60 minutes last night; remain fearlessly steadfast to the Universal Laws of love, compassion, mercy and the just is of this. They drove around military check points, empowered by a higher than human source. Actively laying their own lives on the line, they rescued two people whom had hidden under the leaves, led another to a safe place to receive medical attention needed, and continued courageously onward into the face of evil lawlessness; rescueing their son, daughter-in-law and two young grand-daughters; whom had been hiding in the safe room bunker in their home, while surrounded by Hamas terrorists on the kill.

    The demarcation between the lawless strongman and the lawfullness of the true spiritual warrior has been drawn in the sands of the bloodsoaked lands, for all to see; unfolding, evolving and emerging from this horrific war.

    Convergence with what the true spiritual warrior chooses in response to the lawlessness of the strongman, that being the Universal Law of love, compassion, mercy and the just is of this matters; whether it be courageously and fearlessly physically acted out or faithfully, fervently prayed, literally manifesting into reality, like a beacon of light, in the midst of the darkness of evil.

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    Thank you, Matthew, for courageously raising your voice in this super trying time, and for sparking conversation
    when many of us might prefer, understandably but not laudably, to stick our heads in the sand.

    I think humility is at the heart of the practice of being a nonviolent warrior for peace, justice and compassion. When we remember to be humble, (not always easy,) our incredible God, strong and gentle, can enter into our hearts and do great things through us, like God did through Mary of the Magnificat. We humans sometimes forget to be humble when we get scared, but thank God that falling into forgetfulness, fear and pride doesn’t have to be the end of the story. We can simply, bravely say “Sorry!” to God and Ze will gently and firmly put us back on our nonviolent path.
    At this time it’s very clear that really standing up for Love for all people can get us into serious trouble, possibly even lethal trouble. Thank God suffering and death, though they can be beyond horrific, as they are now for our Palestinian and Jewish siblings, will not, according to Jesus, be the end of the story for any earnest people. Life is our destiny. God’s kindom is always coming into this world, especially in our darkest hours.

  6. Avatar

    Thank you for reading that moving statement, that I wish the politicians would heed. Please, all who are in the U.S., contact your Congress people and demand that we respond diplomatically, not militarily. Even though this may seem a lost cause, it is always worth while to plant seeds and remind people that they are accountable. My skeptic’s self wonders at the timing of the attack by Hamas at a time when Netanhayu was besieged by criminal charges and the massive demonstrations against his actions to get rid of the judiciary. I am not a conspiracy person but I know that a strongman cares nothing for his people but only for holding on to power—-at any cost. My prayers are with all those who are suffering in this “war” and all the others around the world and with the brave peacemakers who put their bodies on the line for others.

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