Remembering the Great Israeli Poet Haim Gouri

Haim Gouri, who died on Wednesday at the age of ninety-four, was a member of the first generation of 20th-century Hebrew poets native to the land of Israel. In 1948, while serving in the Palmach, his unit was involved in the intense fighting for Sha’ar Ha-Gai (Bab el-Wad in Arabic), a key point along the road linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The battle inspired one of Gouri’s best known poems, often sung on Israel’s Day of Remembrance, of which a new translation by Vivian Eden has just been published. It opens thus:

Here I’m passing by. I stand beside the rock,
A black asphalt highway, mountain ridges, stones.
Evening darkens slowly and a sea breeze blows.
Over Beit Mahsir, the first starlight glows.

Bab el-wad,
Remember our names for all time.
Where convoys to the city broke through
Our dead lie sprawled by the roadside.
The iron skeleton, like my comrade, is mute.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew poetry, Israeli literature, Israeli War of Independence, Translation

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.

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