Solomon ibn Gabirol’s Poetic Genius

Dec. 29 2016

Having lived in Muslim Spain from roughly 1021 to 1058, Solomon ibn Gabirol had the benefits of an extensive Jewish education, exposure to Arabic poetry, and knowledge of ancient philosophy and science, mostly through Arabic translations of Greek works. Although he was not the first great Hebrew poet to adapt the forms and styles Arabic verse, he was among the most skillful; he was also a sophisticated philosopher and theologian, although many of his prose works have not survived. Raymond Scheindlin writes:

Ibn Gabirol came along about 80 years after the introduction of the new Hebrew poetry, at a time when it was no longer in the experimental stage but had a significant body of tradition behind it. Samuel the Nagid (993–1056), about 30 years older than Ibn Gabirol, became one of the most memorable figures of medieval Jewish Spain through his voluminous and very personal body of poetry, in which he publicized his own brilliant public career, propagandized for his points of view, complimented friends, lamented deaths, and celebrated the pleasures enjoyed by himself and his aristocratic friends. It is this personal voice that was taken up by Ibn Gabirol and developed in a more somber, sometimes even bitter, key. . . .

Myriads of poets had written that love or sorrow had kept them up all night watching the stars, but only Ibn Gabirol would write, “but when I gaze at them all through the night, /
it seems as if my eyes are loops and they are hooks,” translating the emotional discomfort that keeps him awake into an almost unbearably concrete physical image. . . .

Other poets of the age wrote poetry in which they boast about their accomplishments and complain about their troubles, but, except when writing in a humorous vein, they never present themselves in a negative light. Ibn Gabirol’s personal poetry overturns this convention of positive self-presentation. He presents himself as a sickly, lonely, misunderstood, and miserable outsider; as a man of intellect and ambition that have not brought him due recognition; as a man seething with contempt for his fellow poets and his countrymen. He boasts of his vituperative powers, “My tongue is sharp as any court scribe’s pen / to praise a friend, to crush an enemy.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hebrew literature, Hebrew poetry, History & Ideas, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Spain

Hamas Won’t Compromise with the Palestinian Authority, and Gazans Won’t Overthrow Hamas

July 24 2017

Since the terrorist organization Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, much of Israeli strategy toward it has stemmed from the belief that, if sufficient pressure is applied, the territory’s residents will rise up against it. Yaakov Amidror argues this is unlikely to happen, and he also doubts that improved living conditions for ordinary Gazans would deter Hamas from terrorism or war:

The hardships experienced by the Strip’s residents, no matter how terrible, will not drive them to stage a coup to topple Hamas. The organization is entrenched in Gaza and is notorious for its brutality toward any sign of dissidence, and the Palestinians know there is no viable alternative waiting for an opportunity to [take over].

[Therefore], it is time everyone got used to the idea that Hamas is not about to relinquish its dominant position in the Gaza Strip, let alone concede to the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas. . . . [Yet the] assumption is also baseless that if Gaza experiences economic stability and prosperity, Hamas would refrain from provoking hostilities. This misconception is based on the theory that Hamas operates by governmental norms and prioritizes the needs and welfare of its citizens. This logic does not apply to Hamas. . . .

[Hamas’s] priorities are to bolster its military power and cement its iron grip. This is why all the supplies Israel allows into Gaza on a daily basis to facilitate normal life have little chance of reaching the people. Hamas first and foremost takes care of its leaders and makes sure it has what it needs to sustain its terror-tunnel-digging enterprise and its weapon-production efforts. It then sees to the needs of its members, and then—and only then—what little is left is diverted to rehabilitation efforts that benefit the population.

This is why the argument that Israel is responsible for Gaza’s inability to recover from its plight is baseless. Hamas is the one that determines the priorities by which to allocate resources in the enclave, and the more construction materials that enter Gaza, the easier and faster it is for Hamas to restore its military capabilities. Should Israel sacrifice its own security on the altar of Gazans’ living conditions? I don’t think so.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security