A Newly Translated Work of Poetry Pays Homage to the Murdered Jews of Crete

A collection of poems by Iossif Ventouras, the only surviving Jewish man born in Crete, has recently been published in English as Tanais. It gets its name from one of the poems in the volume, which in turn is named for an ancient Greek colony in what is now Russia—and a ship whose fate was bound up with that of Cretan Jewry. Mark Glanville explains in his review:

In early June [1941], the Nazis filled the holds of the ship with about 900 prisoners bound for Auschwitz, among them Cretan partisans, Italian prisoners of war, and the entire Jewish community of Crete, which comprised 299 souls, 88 of them children. On June 9, the Tanais was torpedoed by the British submarine Vivid, killing all but a handful of passengers. This was the end of the Cretan Jewish community, which had thrived on the island for more than 2,000 years. (Jews are said to have served as guards at the palace of Knossos, where King Minos had Daedalus build the labyrinth with his son the Minotaur at its center.)

This event looms large in Ventouras’s work, and Glanville deems “Tanais” and another poem in the volume, “Kyklonia” (“cyclone”), “two of the most important and devastating poems written in the wake of the Holocaust.” He compares their resonances, and opening verses:

Ventouras is a true heir to two ancient traditions, Jerusalem and Athens. In “Kyklonia,” he writes:

Question: what is your name?

Answer: My Jewish name, or . . . ? My Greek name is . . .’

The poem opens with an epigraph from Jeremiah (1:13): “I see a bubbling pot/ and its spout is facing north,” which the poet adopts as a description of the German invasion of Greece and Crete. Ventouras’s other great Holocaust poem, “Tanais,” opens with . . . the words of the sorceress Circe from Book Ten of the Odyssey. And Odysseus will go down to Hades to encounter the spirits of those he has fought alongside at Troy.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Greece, Holocaust, Poetry

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy