Lord Byron and Zion

Those campus protesters may share something with the British Romantic poet Lord Byron, who died 200 years ago last Friday. Yet the same poet was claimed as an inspiration by several great Zionist leaders. Martin Kramer explains: 

Byron may well be considered the secular saint of all Western enthusiasts for various foreign “liberation” struggles. He fit the description of such types offered by the Tory statesman George Canning in 1821: “a steady patriot of the world alone, the friend of every country but his own.” Today, every American and European campus teems with would-be Byrons, though slogans have supplanted cantos in their repertoire.

But in the minds of his Zionist admirers, Byron would have supported their movement had he lived a few decades longer:

The most famous exponent of this view was Nahum Sokolow, a Zionist thinker and diplomat, whose overlooked contribution to securing the Balfour Declaration I’ve assessed elsewhere. In Sokolow’s two-volume History of Zionism (1919), he devotes a section to Byron within his discussion of non-Jewish supporters of Jewish national redemption. Sokolow made the case for Byron as a proto-Zionist by quoting his Hebrew Melodies, a collection published in 1815. Byron wrote these poems at the behest of the Jewish composer and musician Isaac Nathan, who wanted to set (supposedly) ancient Jewish music to contemporary verse.

The poem “Oh, Weep for Those!,” lamenting that the Jews have no home, was translated dozens of times into Hebrew and Yiddish. Jewish settlers as early as the First Aliyah sang it to their own improvised tune.

Read more at Sandbox

More about: History of Zionism, Lord Byron, Nahum Sokolow, Poetry

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict