The Poets against the Jews

The world of the arts is largely a progressive one, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that it has been beset by anti-Zionist fervor since October 7. Contemporary English-language poets may no longer put much stock in the works of such distinguished predecessors as Chaucer, T.S. Eliot, or Ezra Pound, but many of them seem to share their attitudes toward Jews. Maxim D. Shrayer writes:

American poets, specifically, have been at the vanguard of local and national efforts to isolate friends and supporters of Israel. Organized anti-Israel protests also occurred at the conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) in Kansas City, an annual gathering especially important for independent and literary publishers and literary magazines. According to a detailed report by the writer Sarah Einstein, “a few days ahead of the conference, [Radius of Arab American Writers] sent out a letter to all panel organizers (except those who were obviously Jewish or whose panel had a Jewish theme).” Panel organizers and moderators were “urged” to “acknowledge the ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

Quite a number of America’s literary publishers and literary magazines are run by writers openly opposed to Israel and increasingly disinterested in Jewish poetic creativity; the fact that they may have Jewish editors on staff, or as part of their historical patrimony or matrimony makes them even less willing, or able, to publish work by Jewish writers. . . . A literary agent in the UK recently claimed that “Half of British publishers are refusing to take books by authors who are identifiably Jewish.” How long will it be before U.S. publishers follow the British trend?

Shrayer, who grew up in the Soviet Union, feels he has seen all this before:

As a teenager, I saw poets forget our Moscow phone number after my father, David Shrayer-Petrov, was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers for our family’s attempt to emigrate and branded a “Zionist writer.” I remember picking up a copy of a daily Soviet newspaper in 1980 and reading a poem by a gifted Russian nationalist, in which he called my father a “werewolf” (oboroten) and a “son of a bitch.”

Yet Shrayer is also hopeful that these very circumstances could spark an American Jewish poetic revival.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish literature, Poetry, Refuseniks

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship