Erez Bitton and the North African Poetic Awakening

After the Yom Kippur war, the blind poet Erez Bitton began writing poetry that explicitly reflected his experiences as an Algerian-born Jew living in Israel. His work, produced at a time when Mizraḥim (Jews from Muslim lands) still faced much prejudice, opened the door for a generation of Mizraḥi poets and artists. Matti Friedman writes:

Until then, Hebrew poems and songs were about the inner lives of the new Israelis who were part of the civilization of the West, or about the beauty of Israel’s hills and valleys. They weren’t about the tenements of Ashkelon, [inhabited largely by Mizraḥi immigrants], or about where the people in those tenements had lived before. Bitton still isn’t exactly sure what the 1973 war had to do with the change in his writing, but he started mixing Arabic with his Hebrew. He used the names for the spices of his childhood home in Oran, Algeria, like lebzar, and the names of musical instruments, like the drums called tamtam and the stringed rababa. . . .

In the early 1980s, [Bitton] began writing about his desire for an Israel that could see itself as a Mediterranean society. . . . [H]e was invited regularly to speak in places like Spain and France. In the 1990s, the years of the peace process, he established fragile links with Muslim writers in North Africa. Most of these connections ended when the peace talks did. In recent years, as Europeans have turned against Israel in earnest, invitations to speak at conferences about the Mediterranean vision have dried up. If he were an Israeli who hated Israel he would be invited more, he told me, but he isn’t.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Algeria, Arts & Culture, Erez Bitton, Hebrew poetry, Israeli literature, Mizrahi Jewry

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy