Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Subversive poetry – Israeli sympathetic to the Palestinian cause

An Israeli poet warbling outside the flock
By: Najwan Darwish – occupied Jerusalem Translated by: Adib S. Kawar

23 September 2006

In time of war
I side with the villages
with the mosques
in this war
I side with the Shiite family
with Sour (Tyre)
with the mother
with the grandfather
with the eight kids in the mini van
with the white silken headscarf

In the name of the beautiful books I read
In the name of the kisses I kissed
May the army be defeated

Aharon Shabtai who is considered one of the greatest poets in Hebrew, could not publish his latest poem against the war on Lebanon in any “Israeli” paper. He wrote this poem during the first week of the war. It is in the form of a prayer and supplication raised so that the occupation army may lose the war. The “Israeli” poet that warbles outside his flock condemned the last atrocity on Lebanon and declared in a press conference: “I wish that the army would lose the war; then and only then will we be wiser, more human, compassionate, and able to live with other peoples.

“This failure shall wash out the dirty military spot that stains our hearts.”

Shabtai was born in Tel Aviv in 1939, and studied Greek culture and philosophy in the Hebrew University in occupied Jerusalem, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne. He taught Greek drama for long years in the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv. He is now working hard to quit “Israel” because of the oppression he and his wife, Tania Reinhardt, professor of linguistics in the Tel Aviv University, political thinker and supporter of academic divestment of Israeli universities, are exposed to.

Shabtai has published 17 volumes of poems, in addition to his translations of Greek drama to Hebrew (about 25 pieces). He exceeds other Hebrew poets such as Natan Zakh and Yitzhak Laor who are considered to be leftists, in his political stances, criticism of the Zionist entity, and condemnations of its crimes. He even criticizes these colleagues of his, considering them and their like, because their political stances – “usually lack credibility,” and he accuses them of incapability of turning words into deeds. It is correct to say about Aharon Shabtai that he is warbling outside his flock – thus he does not form a movement in the “Israeli” political culture, which is overwhelmed by a colonialist and racist character, even in the leftists’ speech, which covers up a great deal of falsification. He is not only a unique phenomenon: but he could be an exception that proves the Zionist rule… But besides his political stances, it is inevitable that the literary value of his work is ignored. Aharon Shabatai is a poet of a special character. His poetry is characterized by vitality and lively senses… The substance of his poetic world is personal in its basis; it reflects a lot of his daily life, expressions, and materia ls, even when he deals with a historical subject.During the last few years, most of Shabatai’s work has been about his favorite subject: “Israeli” shame. He has repeated quite often, through his poetic and political activity, that he tries to protect his humanity “within a culture in which the level of racism is continuously on the rise”. He does not hesitate to dub “Israeli” generals and politicians as Nazis. He severely criticizes himself when remembering his past life, when he was living as an “ordinary citizen,” not comprehending the magnanimity of his state’s crimes, “I was blind” he says with anger and regret that usually accompanies the complex of guilt.

Haaretz daily refused to publish Shabtai’s poem about the last assault, while it already had published his direct political and pungent poems in its cultural supplement, which at the time aroused a severe campaign instigated by extremist “Israelis”. But this time, the repressive environment awaits the publishing of its Arabic translation before publishing it in any “Israeli” paper: “In the name of the beautiful books I read/in the name of the kisses I kissed/May the army be defeated.”

The poet writes about the cruelty of the “Israeli” war machine, the machine that had never harvested except the innocent and unarmed civilians in Lebanon. He sided with peace and the victim: “In time of war/I side with the villages/with the mosques/in this war/I side with the Shiite family/with Sour (Tyre)/with the mother/with the grandfather/with the eight kids in the mini van/with the white silken headscarf”.

Translated by: Adib S. Kawar

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This entry was posted on 28 September, 2006 by in Empire, War and Terror, Hegemon-watch, Israel, Israel Watch, Palestine, Poetry, Political Economy.

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"