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May 14, 2015

Bialik and Bibi on “Revenge”

After Palestinian kidnappers murdered three Israeli teens last June, Benjamin Netanyahu quoted a verse by the well-known Jewish poet Hayim Biyalik. The quote — “Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created,” Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Twitter, before adding that the same applies to the three murdered youths — was circulated widely, mostly by critics of Israel who cast the reference as a clear call for Israelis to take revenge on Palestinians.

But as CAMERA has pointed out in a letter in the Washington Post and in a recent article about The New York Times’ misrepresentation of the Bialik poem, those critics are wrong. The opposite is true.

In “On the Slaughter,” the poem cited by Netanyahu, Bialik “rejects human revenge and envisions a natural revenge that will take place by itself,” explains poet and professor Hamutal Bar-Yosef, who is described in Haaretz as “a leading figure in the field of Hebrew literature.”

That’s hardly only an ivory tower interpretation. Menachem Begin, the founder of Netanyahu’s Likud Party and someone Netanyahu has described as a “role model,” also referenced the poem in a 1979 speech:

... as far as children are concerned, we always remember the famous verse of our great poet, Bialik: “Revenge like this, the revenge for the blood of a child, Satan himself did not yet create it.” Nobody can take revenge for the blood of a little child. Nobody. We don't want to retaliate — we want peace for our people, security for our people, and for our children.

Begin’s speech was about about the need for Israel to militarily fight terrorism — the very same context as Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bialik citation. It was delivered before a well-known Israeli professor, Benzion Netanyahu, the current prime minister’s father. And it was later republished in a 1981 book edited by none other than Benjamin Netanyahu.

Nobody can convincingly argue, then, that Benjamin Netanyahu did not understand Bialik’s words. Nor can anyone credibly say Netanyahu’s reference to Bialik’s poem was a call for Israelis to pursue vengeance on their own. Those suggesting otherwise, including Haaretz, The Forward, and The New York Times, owe readers a clarification.


* And a clarification of our own: This post initially stated, incorrectly, that Begin's speech was delivered before both Benjamin Netanyahu's brother and father. Only his father was there.

Posted by GI at May 14, 2015 05:10 PM

Comments

This article is not clearly written.

You begin by quoting Netanyahu.. you then say But [as if to contradict what Netanyahu said], and you say as was pointed out here/there, that the opposite is true

So you appear to contradict Netanyahu.

Then at the end, in the final paragraph, you show that you are criticising Haaretz, The Forward and the New York Times. And that you agree with Netanyahu's interpretation/presentation of Bialik.

The way you write it..
The first paragraph quotes Netayahu

The second paragraph says "But....the opposite is true" so appears to suggest that you contradict him

Then you quote Bialik to say he doesn't want revenge.. (suggesting maybe you think Netanyahu does)

All this confusion stems from the the bizarre phrasing you use in the second paragraph, where you follow what Netanyahu said with. "But...the opposite is true".

It'd have been better to give the quote, state what it means. Show how Haaretz, the NYT, The Forward, have misrepresented it. Then say "But.. the opposite of what Haaretz,NYT, The Forward state, is true".

Posted by: Ralph at May 15, 2015 08:59 AM

"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord and one only has to look at Germany now compared to before 1914 or even pre 1933 advent of little Adolph to power to see how Germany has come down in the World. Similarly for Russia which for a formidably well endowed country and people has never managed to make the mix gel and stand. In the words of Prof Dawkins the geneticist,"the Arabs did great things in the Middle Ages;" but what have they done since? Nowt! and what have they done since independence despite their oil royalties? Sport and fritter away their money in wars and corruption...!

Posted by: Frank Adam at May 22, 2015 06:49 AM

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