Uri Tzvi Greenberg’s Poetic Call to Arms

Widely the recognized as one of Israel’s great poets at the time of its founding, Uri Zvi Greenberg (1896-1981) produced verse in both Hebrew and Yiddish. Greenberg gradually moved during the 1920s and 30s from a commitment to Labor Zionism to the Revisionist Zionism of Vladimir Jabotinsky, even serving in the first Knesset as a representative of the party that would later become Likud. In the wake of the Arab riots of 1929, which left 133 dead, Greenberg wrote the short poem “Sicarii II,” which took its name from a group of radical anti-Roman zealots from the Jewish Revolt of the 1st century CE. Yisrael Medad comments on its meaning:

Greenberg’s poetry became more responsive to Arab hostility—and British obsequiousness to that hostility—to Zionism’s goals of reconstituting the Jewish national home, a goal that had been guaranteed by the League of Nations in 1922. . . . In this poem Greenberg places an immediate emergency—the pogroms of August 1929—in a familiar religious and historical frame of reference. Layers of history are invoked to mobilize and encourage, and to suggest the value of reviving old patterns of response to contemporary threats. He is enlisting recruits for a new Hebrew renaissance, which will correct the past mistakes of the Jewish people.

Greenberg employs phrases or terms straight out of talmudic and rabbinic sources or prayers such as . . . Psalm 44:23: “for Thy sake are we killed all the day; we are compared to sheep for the slaughter.” [Likewise his invocation of a] pillar of fire recalls the trek of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt. The Sicarii were the extremist faction during the siege of the Second Temple who used short swords, hence their name, [which is Latin for “dagger-men”]. The events of 2,000 years are made available as resources for Jews in Palestine.

Greenberg’s choice of “heroic fighting Jews” is eclectic yet subversively inclusive. . . . He adds those who died in pogroms, Inquisition torture chambers, and autos-de-fé. Yet Greenberg’s twist is to turn this lachrymose history around by returning to the Sicarii to create a new myth.

Greenberg is using his poetic genius to sharpen awareness of the need for a recalibration of the policies required to assure the success of the Zionist enterprise in the Land of Israel. This territory is not a “land of the Exile,” a corner of the Dispersion. It is the territory of recall of the heroic deeds of the Hebrew nation, of David the guerrilla warrior, his “mighty men,” of the Zealots, Bar Kokhba, and the Sicarii.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Hebrew poetry, Israeli literature, Uri Zvi Greenberg

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden