One Great Hebrew Writer Memorializes Another

One of the most gifted Hebrew novelists of the beginning of the last century—and perhaps the most unsettling—Yosef Ḥayyim Brenner brought new life to the literary scene in the Land of Israel when he settled there in 1909. His murder during the 1921 Arab riots in Jaffa brought an abrupt end to his career. Forty years later, his friend and one of his few peers, the novelist S.Y. Agnon, saw fit to eulogize him in an Israeli journal. Jeffrey Saks offers a translation of Agnon’s reminiscence, which concludes with a talmudic citation:

I will say no more of Brenner, except that when they found his body he was clutching a bundle of pages from the book he had just written, with pages strewn around his body drenched in his blood. Blood is the soul of man. He wrote his books with his soul; his blood sanctified his writing. It is said of [the 2nd-century sage] Rabbi Ḥaninah ben Tradyon that he expounded upon the Torah with his pupils gathered about him while clutching a scroll of the law to his bosom, [despite the Roman decree against Torah study]. They caught him and asked why he had taught Torah. He replied, “It is the command of the Lord my God.”

They brought him to be sentenced, and wrapped him in his Torah scroll, and encircled him with bundles of branches, and they set fire to it. And they brought tufts of wool and soaked them in water, and placed them on his heart, so that his soul should not quickly depart his body, but that he would die slowly and painfully. His daughter said to him: “Father, must I see you like this?” He said to her: “If I alone were being burned, it would be difficult for me, but now that I am aflame along with a Torah scroll, He who will seek retribution for the disgrace accorded to the Torah will also seek retribution for the disgrace accorded to me.”

Heaven forfend that I compare our modern Hebrew literature to the Torah itself. Yet, a man sanctified his life through his death and his death through his life, and was slaughtered in the Land of Israel for being a Jew among the Jews of the Land. It is fitting to say of him, “He who will seek retribution for the disgrace accorded to us will also seek retribution for the disgrace accorded to him.”

Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

More about: Hebrew literature, Martyrdom, S. Y. Agnon, Yosef Hayyim Brenner, Zionism

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority