What Israeli and Canadian War Songs Have in Common

Feb. 28 2017

Israeli war songs, and even army slang, tend to be filled with horticultural imagery. Noting something similar in the way Canadians have memorialized World War I, Matti Friedman finds something universal:

[The Yom Kippur War] was behind one of [Israel’s] best-known memorial songs, written by a woman from a kibbutz called Beit Hashittah. Dorit Zameret wrote “The Wheat Sprouts Again” after the 1973 conflict consumed eleven men from her tiny community in the space of three weeks, a blow like the one suffered by those Newfoundland hamlets that lost all their young men on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916.

“The Wheat Sprouts Again” talks about the resilience of nature, which the author finds amazing and not entirely welcome. . . . This [sort of] language isn’t limited to Israeli songs. When I was drafted [into the IDF] at the age of nineteen and found myself serving as an infantryman in a small guerrilla war in south Lebanon, I discovered that the army’s radio code for casualties was “flowers.” Dead soldiers were “cyclamens.” . . .

The language I encountered here seemed unique. But just a few years before, [as a Canadian teenager], I’d been standing in a school cafeteria, the gray skies of a Toronto November out the window, reciting these lines, which I still know by heart, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row . . .”.

World War I poetry, at least the British variety, is full of flowers. . . . Outside Israel, the use of floral euphemisms to mask the worst we inflict upon each other seems to have faded, though echoes remain. To honor dead soldiers Canadians wear a pin shaped not like a dead soldier, but like a poppy. Here in Israel, the old pastoral language remains very much in use. It suggests a universal response to a universal kind of heartbreak—the absence of some young person that will persist long after the war, and the reasons for it, have faded.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Huffington Post

More about: Canada, Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Poetry, War, World War I

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times