Aharon Shabtai, the story of a damned poem by Najwan Darwish

From Jerusalem I love You (thanks Adib and Jeff)
An “Israeli” poet warbling outside the flock By: Najwan Darwish
occupied Jerusalem
Saturday 23 September 2006
“In the name of the beautiful books I read/

in the name of the kisses I kissed/
May the army be defeated.”


“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.”

“He does not form a movement in the “Israeli” political culture, which is overwhelmed by a colonialist and racist character, even in the leftist’s speech, which covers a great deal of falsification. He is not only a unique phenomenon, but he could be an exception that proves the Zionist rule…”

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 many years in the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv. He is now working hard to quit “Israel” because of the oppression he and his wife, Tanya 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
“Action is the life of all and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing.” -Gerrard Winstanley

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