Erez Biton, The Blind Bard of Lod

Born in Algeria to Moroccan Jewish parents, Erez Biton came to Israel as a child, grew up in the town of Lod near Israel’s main airport, and lost his sight at age ten when he stumbled on an explosive most likely left behind by Arab infiltrators. The boy grew up to become modern Israel’s first great Mizrahi poet. Mitch Ginsburg describes his work:

Biton’s first two books of poetry, released in 1976 and 1979, were a radical departure from the norm. In his debut collection, “Minhah Marokayit” (Moroccan Offering), he wrote of shopping on Dizengoff Street in central Tel Aviv, of the polite, fashionable Hebrew necessary there, how it is unsheathed upon demand, and of his return, toward darkness, to the periphery, and “to the other Hebrew.” He wrote of Moroccan weddings and of winter mornings “against broken blinds”; he spiced his poetry with his mother tongue, Arabic, and wrote often of Jews and Arabs living their lives together in Morocco.

The most evocative and jolting poem for its time was called “Zohra El Fassia”—the tale of a Jewish Moroccan singer about whom “It is said that when she sang / Soldiers drew knives / To push through the crowds / And touch the hem of her dress / Kiss her fingertips / Express their thanks with a rial coin.” Biton met her when he was a social worker in Ashkelon, . . . and his depiction of her home and her predicament . . . captured a sentiment about the losses of [Mizrahi] Jewry that was not yet acceptable in mainstream Israeli society.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Algeria, Erez Biton, Hebrew poetry, Israeli literature, Mizrahi Jewry, Moroccan Jewry


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security