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Ariel Sharon and Juan Gelman: Two responses to the legacy of the ghetto

Israel/Palestine
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Juan Gelman

Juan Gelman

In January, two elderly contemporaries died whose paths never crossed but who nevertheless inhabited the same inherited history, an inheritance to which they responded in instructively contrasting ways.

Ariel Sharon (b. Ariel Scheinermann, 1928 in Kfar Malul, d. 2014, Tel HaShomer), Israeli general and politician, was lionized by some but excoriated by many more for raining down fire and destruction upon the Palestinian people and upon the urban and rural areas of neighboring Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria.

Juan Gelman (b. 1930 Buenos Aires, d. 2014, Mexico City), Argentinean poet and journalist, was persecuted by his country’s military dictatorship for his progressive politics and was admired the world over as much for his dignity and probity as for his poignantly beautiful poetry.

Sharon and Gelman grew up at opposite ends of the Earth, but as the children of immigrant Russian-speaking Jews to Palestine and Argentina respectively, both of them were inheritors of the manifold tragedies of the pogroms and the ghetto.

Ariel Sharon, 1981

Ariel Sharon, 1981

Sharon sought to shake off the pain and humiliation of that past by building a militaristic ethnocracy atop the ruins of a conquered and demonized society. In contrast, as an Argentinean and as a Jew, Gelman transmuted that same legacy of suffering into a universalist struggle for decency and justice.

In pursuit of his overarching goal of crushing a people whom he could only conceive of as an implacable enemy, Sharon availed himself of tanks and gunships, commando raids and airstrikes, bulldozers and bullets. His frequent provocations, incursions, and invasions left entire landscapes in flames and legions of families bereaved and displaced.

Gelman’s 20 year old son Marcelo and 21 year old and pregnant daughter-in-law Claudia were torn away from life by the forces that plunged his country into a waking nightmare of cruelty and suffering. In the public sphere, Gelman’s response to that orchestrated chaos and pain was to insist–as father, grandfather, journalist, and citizen–on the imperative of bringing to justice the criminals who tortured, murdered, and disappeared his loved ones and the loved ones of many thousands of his co-nationals.

In the more private realm of his poetry, Gelman probed every corner of his grieving soul and of his country’s militarized streets and shattered homes. (1) From multiple places of exile (Rome, Madrid, Calella de la Costa, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, and finally, Mexico City), his poems gave tenacious voice not just to his almost unspeakable personal grief but also to the wellsprings of unsuspected resilience that he found deep within himself, within poetic and prophetic voices from the past–including those of medieval Islam and of Al-Andalus’s Hebrew-language poets (2)–and within the ever-widening circles of commitment and solidarity he shared with fellow writers and activists in many places.

Gelman occupies the sort of place in the realm of Spanish-language letters and Latin American counter-hegemonic politics that Mahmoud Darwish–“The Voice of Palestine”–enjoys in the Arabic-speaking world, and he does so for analogous reasons. Both poets cultivated a strikingly original oeuvre that appealed equally to poetry purists and to people on the street, sometimes directly from the page, sometimes via the medium of musicians who adapted their verse to song. Moreover, both men articulated through their verse the progressive aspirations of their peoples, for emancipation and independence in the case of the Palestinians, and for democratization and the fulfillment of their country’s promise in the case of the Argentinians.

But poetry was only one forum through which Gelman engaged the public sphere. In his capacity as a regular contributor to Argentina’s leftwing daily, Página 12, he frequently wrote about many of the burning issues of the day, especially the ravages of neoliberalism across the globe. Moreover, Gelman also assiduously authored columns in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice, eschewing as he did so liberal pieties about there always being “two sides” to an issue. While The New York Times’ reporting on the occupation and on kindred subjects is often enmeshed in cobwebs of obfuscation or shot through with substantive omissions, Pagina 12’s readership could rely on Gelman for hard-hitting and fact-laden critiques of Israeli policy and practice towards the Palestinians. They could also count on him for detailed descriptions of the cruelties and humiliations of daily life under occupation of the sort that American readers are typically spared by most mainstream outlets. (3)

Beneath the seemingly dispassionate reportorial tone of Gelman’s journalism, one can detect a keen outrage at the crimes that the Israeli state regularly perpetrates as well as at the fact that it commits them while claiming to act in the best interests of the Jewish people, crimes that Gelman did not hesitate to characterize as “genocidal.” (4) On occasion, Gelman expressed his indignation in explicit terms. As, for instance, when he reflected on the bitter irony of finding himself detained and interrogated without charges at Tel Aviv airport along with his wife from 1:30 to 5:00 a.m. while he was on his way to pay his last respects to a sister who had fled to Israel during the time of the juntas and who was to be buried at 10:00 that morning. “And how is it possible,” he asked plaintively, “that those who are now laying siege to an entire people are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who like my mother, her siblings, and their rabbi father suffered the Tsarist encirclement in the ghettoes, and of those who later, like my cousins, were confined to Nazi concentration camps?” (5)

Gelman could also have observed–as did his co-national Nora Strejilevich in her searing testimonial narrative of disappearance and survival (6)–that the same state that was responsible for displacing, dispossessing, occupying, and besieging the Palestinians sold arms to the ruthless and notoriously anti-Semitic dictatorship that murdered his son and daughter-in-law and that gave away his prison-born baby grand-daughter to a Uruguayan policeman and his wife. Typically, however, his journalistic procedure was to patiently let the accumulation of facts speak for itself and to append a wry comment at the very end of his column, as when he commented apropos the 2008/2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, “In reality, the lead in Operation Cast Lead was cast long ago and its objective is to expel the Palestinians from their land. The four million who have been dispossessed since 1948 are no longer enough for Tel Aviv.” (7) Or as when he observed of Ariel Sharon, “Sharon is a systematic man and he systematically refuses to return those [occupied] lands to their legitimate owners.” (8)

One wonders what kind of obituary notice Gelman might have written on Sharon had he outlived his age-mate. It would obviously have been a far cry from the kind of euphemistic accolades penned by the likes of Abe Foxman or Alan Dershowitz. Foxman un-ironically celebrated Sharon’s role as head of an Israeli military-civilian delegation to Auschwitz: “to see him bring back the strength of Israel to that place of destruction–to see him there and hear his voice and confidence in the Jewish people remains indelible.” (9) As for Dershowitz, his un-ironic assessment of a man whose name was a byword for expansionist militarism and who fell into a coma while mired in corruption charges was that “Sharon was a personification of both the Israeli character and the ethos that has made the Israeli military one of the best in the world.” (10)

Gelman would obviously have had no truck with such execrable eulogies. But he didn’t just reject the Israeli hard-right’s politicide against the Palestinian people that as Baruch Kimmerling argued was Sharon’s overarching project and that continues to animate his mentees in Israel’s settler-colonialist movement. (11) He also rejected the notion of pre-1948 diasporic history as a single unbroken story of anti-Semitic persecution to which Israeli liberals like David Grossman subscribe. In his recent book, Max Blumenthal records Grossman as saying “For two thousand years we have been kept out, we have been excluded. And so for our whole history we were outsiders. Because of Zionism, we finally have the chance to be insiders.” (12) Blumenthal adds that few American Jews of his generation think of themselves as Israelis like Grossman do, that is, as belonging to the Diaspora. Instead, he notes, they think of themselves as American Jews.

Although Gelman esteemed the ethical values that emerged from the most progressive of the Diaspora’s traditions, as well as their cultural achievements, in terms of national belonging he identified strongly with his native Argentina. (13) He makes this clear in his reflection on the brusque treatment to which he and his wife were subjected at Tel Aviv airport after an unidentified man on their flight to Israel singled them out to security officials. In recounting how he shook himself free from the rough grip of another unidentified Israeli security official, Gelman observes, “I’m an Argentinian citizen and I won’t stand for that sort of behavior on the part of any uniformed official; no doubt because I was subjected to a traumatic experience by the men in uniform.” (14)

Gelman spoke as a man who suffered the depredations of the most anti-Semitic regime in modern Latin American history. But for this man forced into exile from a country he loved deeply, Argentina was hardly reducible to its dictatorships and to those sectors of Argentinian society that were complicit with the military. It was also a land of working-class immigrants like his parents, and it was the home of the tango, a musical form that emerged from immigrant milieus in the port of Buenos Aires and that Gelman melded with written poetry in his book Gotán. As Eduardo Galeano notes alluding to one of Gelman’s best-known poems, “Juan Gelman does not imitate the tango, he contains it. He sings like nobody else, better than anybody else, to the city of his birth–a city ‘that resembles the word never.'” (15) Above all, it was a country that in the late 20th and early 21st centuries was transformed by the brave struggles for justice waged by civil society in its efforts to undo the Armed Forces’ brutal militarization of everyday life, struggles in which Gelman himself played a signal role.

In a different though analogous vein, such militarization also characterizes the Jewish Garrison State, as does racism of a kind that in a response to Bernard Henri-Levy’s imputations of anti-Semitism to critics of Israel, including the BDS movement, author and BDS signatory Susan Abulhawa has called “the new anti-Semitism” against the indigenous people of Palestine. (16) No other public figure in Israel has embodied the sinister confluence of militarism and racism–as well as the corruption and other forms of dysfunction they spawn–as prominently as Ariel Sharon did. As corrupt and corpulent as he was self-satisfied and belligerent, Sharon leaves behind a noxious heritage of trauma and triumphalism that needlessly compound and dishonor the tragic history to which he was heir. As Raja Shehadeh observed in The New Yorker, “Sharon was always a pioneer. He went further than most in his crimes against Palestinian civilians, and further than others in his deception; he showed Israeli leaders that they could retain the tactics of war while calling them efforts for peace and this is his most corrosive legacy.” (17)

The gaunt but always dignified Gelman–whose gentle eyes peered at the world from a careworn face etched with lines of sorrow–was a legatee of the same painful past as his bellicose contemporary, as he recalled in the conclusion of his essay on his harassment at the hands of the Israeli security services when he ruefully remarked that this treatment was particularly painful for him as a Jew whose father had read Sholem Aleichem’s Yiddish-language stories about shtetl life to him when he was a child. (18) And whereas Sharon translated that harrowing heritage into the construction of a bristling and expansionist ghetto, Gelman transfigured it into the cultivation of sharable beauty and into what his co-national the novelist Julio Cortázar referred to as the “unthinkable tenderness” that was the affective and ethical hallmark of his poetry (19), or as Eduardo Galeano put it, “a celebration of life from the exact center of death.” (20)

It’s a measure of the distance between the two contemporaries that if Galeano’s phrasing were to be inverted it would capture the disturbing nature of Sharon’s bequest: unnecessary wars and apartheid walls of separation that are as visually hideous as they are ethically repellent. The unrepentant soldier’s life makes plain the agony and strife that an unrelenting quest for ethno-national supremacy leaves in its destructive wake. (21) In contrast, and like his younger Palestinian contemporary Mahmoud Darwish, the modest and soft-spoken Gelman bequeaths us poetic speech acts and a political practice that enlarge and enrich our sense of what human beings can achieve when they cultivate their best natures and when they act not as avenging angels of death but as agents of redemption and righteousness instead.

A child of children of the ghetto, whose mother’s older sister was murdered by rampaging Cossacks, the father of a son who was disappeared and assassinated for his social activism by the shock troops of a murderous military regime, Gelman preached neither vengeance nor coercion in response to those crimes, much less the systematic pursuit by a rogue nuclear power of “terrorismo de estado” (“state terror”), occupation, ethnic cleansing, and land theft. Instead, his politics and his poetry embodied a spirit that, as the following lines from “Esperan” (“They wait”) make clear, resembles nothing so much as the Palestinian virtue and praxis of steadfast and principled endurance and resistance in the face of oppression, or “sumud”:

nosotros vamos a empezar otra vez/

otra vez vamos a empezar/

otra vez vamos a empezar nosotros

contra la gran derrota de la mundo/

compañeritos que no terminan/o

arden en la memoria como fuegos/

otra vez/ otra vez/ otra vez

we’re going to take up again

the struggle/again we’re going to begin

again we’re going to begin all of us

against the great defeat of the world/

little compañeros who never end/ or

who burn like fire in the memory

again/ and again/ and again (22)

Notes

(1) For a range of Gelman’s poems in English translation, see Unthinkable Tenderness: Selected Poems of Juan Gelman. Trans. Joan Lindgren. Berkeley: U of California P, 1997. Aside from the quotations from Unthinkable Tenderness, all translations from the Spanish in this essay are my own.

(2) Gelman’s Com/posiciones (Barcelona: Edicions del Mall, 1986) are versions of poems by Salomón ibn Gabirol, Abu Nawas, Samuel HaNagid, and others. For English-language translations of some of these poems (“Com/positions”), see Lindgren, pp.149-160.

(3) In late October 2013, Gelman joined twenty other Latin American authors, journalists, academics, and former diplomats–including several Jewish ones–in addressing an open letter to the organizers of Guadalajara’s prestigious annual Book Fair for inviting an Israeli delegation, including the President Shimon Peres. The letter noted the origins of the state of State of Israel in a politics of violent confrontation with the indigenous population of Palestine, denounced the state’s ethnicist, confessional, and fundamentalist character “despite its formal Western democratic trappings,” and called for the abandonment of “the colonial and expansionist character of Zionist ideology,” as well as for an end to settlement construction and to the occupation. The signatories also called for Mexico to recognize a Palestinian state, for round tables to be organized on the conflict, and for an invitation to be extended to Palestine at the next fair, one that would guarantee the presence of Palestinian writers, filmmakers, musicians, and painters. “Intelectuales solicitan incluir mesas Israel-Palestina en FIL.” (“Intellectuals request the inclusion of round tables on Palestine-Israel at Guadalajara’s International Book Fair. http://www.lajornadajalisco.com.mx/2013/10/27/intelectuales-solicitan-incluir-mesas-israel-palestina-en-fil/.)

(4) “Cuando detuvieron a Juan Gelman en Israel.” (“When Juan Gelman was detained in Israel.”) http://www.taringa.net/comunidades/x-palestina/5074989/Cuando-detuvieron-a-Juan-Gelman-en-Israel.html

(5) Ibid.

(6) A Single Numberless Death. Trans. Cristina de la Torre. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002.

(7) “Sharon, Barak, Gaza.” http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/contratapa/13-230670-2013-10-06.html

(8) “Precios.” (“Costs.”) http://www.pagina12.com.ar/imprimir/diario/contratapa/13-2458-2002-03-03.html

(9) “Arik Sharon told me: ‘I am Israel’s most defamed political leader.'” http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.567764

(10) “Sharon Never Let the Past Rule the Future.” http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.567953

(11) Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians. Verso: New York, 2003, pp. 3-4.

(12) Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. New York: Nation Books, 2013, p.276.

(13) Gelman composed an entire collection of poetry in medieval Judeo-Spanish, Dibaxu (Beneath), which he learned for that purpose. Buenos Aires: Seix Barral, 1994.

(14) “Cuando detuvieron a Juan Gelman en Israel.” (“When Juan Gelman was detained in Israel.”) http://www.taringa.net/comunidades/x-palestina/5074989/Cuando-detuvieron-a-Juan-Gelman-en-Israel.html

(15) Eduardo Galeano, “Foreword” in Unthinkable Tenderness: Selected Poems of Juan Gelman. Trans. Joan Lindgren. Berkeley: U of California P, 1997,

(16) “The anti-Semitism to come? Hardly.” December 22, 2010. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-abulhawa/bernardhenri-levy-a-new-k_b_799651.html

(17) “Sharon’s Corrosive Legacy.” Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/01/ariel-sharons-corrosive-legacy.html?printable=true&currentPage=all

(18) “Cuando detuvieron a Juan Gelman en Israel.” (“When Juan Gelman was detained in Israel.”) http://www.taringa.net/comunidades/x-palestina/5074989/Cuando-detuvieron-a-Juan-Gelman-en-Israel.html

(19) “He is a man whose family has been severed from him, who has seen his most beloved friends disappeared or killed, yet nobody has been able to kill in Juan the will to subvert the sum of this horror into an affirmative counterstrike, a creator of new life. Perhaps the most admirable element of his poetry is the unthinkable tenderness he shows where paroxysms of rejection and denouncement would be justified, or his calling upon so many shadows for once voice to lull and comfort, a permanent caress of words on unknown tombs.” “Foreword, by Julio Cortázar (1981)” in Unthinkable Tenderness: Selected Poems of Juan Gelman. Trans. Joan Lindgren. Berkeley: U of California P, 1997, p. 5.

(20) Eduardo Galeano, “Foreword” in Unthinkable Tenderness: Selected Poems of Juan Gelman. Trans. Joan Lindgren. Berkeley: U of California P, 1997, p. xi

(21) See Max Blumenthal’s detailed account of Sharon’s Legacy, “How Ariel Sharon Shaped Israel’s Destiny.” Available at: http://www.thenation.com/article/177883/how-ariel-sharon-shaped-israels-destiny

(22) “They wait.” In Unthinkable Tenderness: Selected Poems of Juan Gelman. Trans. Joan Lindgren. Berkeley: U of California P, 1997, p. 45.

David Alvarez
About David Álvarez

David Álvarez teaches contemporary world literature in translation--including Juan Gelman's poetry and Suad Amiry's Sharon and My Mother-in-Law--for the English Department at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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36 Responses

  1. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 24, 2014, 10:53 am

    “Sharon sought to shake off the pain and humiliation of that past by building a militaristic ethnocracy atop the ruins of a conquered and demonized society. In contrast, as an Argentinean and as a Jew, Gelman transmuted that same legacy of suffering into a universalist struggle for decency and justice.”

    This argument is truly absurd. These are two very different situations (not to mention that Argentina is basically a colony built on the ruins of conquered and demonized society.)

    And it’s really a pretty offensive analogy. Poetry would not have saved Jews from the gas chambers and the ovens. A refuge, and the ability to defend themselves would have. Poets like Gelman benefit, immeasurably, from military types like Sharon.

    I’m curious as to whether you favor Darwish’s approach or, say, Marwan Barghouti’s or Yasir Arafat’s or Sheikh Yassin’s. Are you willing to argue that the Palestinians should forswear violence and nationalism in favor of universalistic poetry as a political program?

  2. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 24, 2014, 10:55 am

    Gelman was a Mensch. Sharon was a Cossack.

    The status of Sharon is a measure of how lost Judaism is today.

    • SQ Debris
      SQ Debris
      March 25, 2014, 4:31 pm

      Gelman was Jewish. Sharon was zionist. These are fundamentally incompatible cosmologies.

  3. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 24, 2014, 11:59 am

    Sharon’s legacy

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.581556#

    “The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva is scheduled to vote on five anti-Israel resolutions later this week, one of which includes a call to boycott and divest from West Bank settlements.

    The draft of this particular resolution, which is being submitted by the Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, is especially worrisome to Israeli officials because for the first time it includes wording that seems directly derived from recent boycott, divestment and sanction campaigns. Because Foreign Ministry work sanctions have paralyzed Israel’s diplomatic activity, no steps were taken to try to soften the wording of the resolutions or block them.

    A senior Israeli official said that the resolution is making officials in the Prime Minister’s Office very nervous. Though the resolution is not binding, its passage is liable to encourage efforts to boycott Israeli and foreign companies that operate in the settlements.

    After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aides realized that no one at the Foreign Ministry planned to address the issue, they considered dispatching deputy National Security Council chairman Eran Lerman to Geneva to try to convince the United States and members of the European Union to help soften the resolution. In the end it was decided not to send Lerman because the PM’s aides concluded that he would be unlikely to wield much influence. Lerman is not accredited to the UN institutions in Geneva, which means he cannot attend UNHRC debates or even enter the UN compound. He would have been forced to meet Western diplomats in their offices or in local cafes.”

    Ya salaam
    يا سلام‎

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nlzrBWh0H8

    Dontcha just love it ?

    • hophmi
      hophmi
      March 24, 2014, 1:27 pm

      Sure, it’s great. The UNHRC spends half its time on Israel, and millions die in Africa. You must love it.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        March 24, 2014, 1:53 pm

        How many people has Israel killed in the last 60 years, Hoph? Compared to, say, Bulgaria ?

        Or are we on relativity?
        If so, what’s 6 million compared to Stalin ?

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 24, 2014, 7:05 pm

        Seafoid obfuscates as usual. We’re talking about the UNHRC, where human rights violators like Iran and Saudi Arabia judge democratic states like Israel. Have a nice day.

      • eljay
        eljay
        March 24, 2014, 2:03 pm

        >> The UNHRC spends half its time on Israel, and millions die in Africa. You must love it.

        Your supremacist “Jewish State” clearly loves it, too, because it shows no sign that it is prepared to:
        – get out of Palestine and back to within its / Partition borders;
        – honour its obligations under international law; or
        – enter into sincere negotiations for a just and mutually-beneficial peace.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 24, 2014, 4:08 pm

        @eljay

        enter into sincere negotiations for a just and mutually-beneficial peace.

        What’s mutually beneficial about the peace you are proposing? I have yet to hear how benefits to Israel worth losing 1/5 of their country, and a good chunk of that 1/5th being the stuff they moved there for in the first place. So what are the benefits?

      • eljay
        eljay
        March 24, 2014, 8:17 pm

        >> I have yet to hear how benefits to Israel worth losing 1/5 of their country …

        I’ve never suggested that Israel should lose any part of its legitimate, Partitions-border territory.

      • eljay
        eljay
        March 24, 2014, 8:51 pm

        >> What’s mutually beneficial about the peace you are proposing?

        I haven’t proposed a just and mutually-beneficial peace. That needs to be sincerely negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel – because it is and wishes to remain a supremacist state and because it wishes to keep much (most?) of what it has stolen – is not prepared to sincerely negotiate such a peace.

      • talknic
        talknic
        March 24, 2014, 2:27 pm
      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 24, 2014, 7:18 pm

        Nearly half the country-specific resolutions are about Israel. I don’t know what you think you’re proving by citing search engine results.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Human_Rights_Council#Israel

      • talknic
        talknic
        March 25, 2014, 5:55 pm

        @hophmi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Human_Rights_Council#Israel The first entry [50] breaks one of Wikipedia’s basic editorial policies. Citing self published works is not considered a Reliable Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources#Questionable_and_self-published_sources

        “Nearly half the country-specific resolutions are about Israel”

        Look at it this way hophmi, if someone continues to not pay their electricity bill, the power company will keep pestering them with reminders. Who is to blame? The defaulting customer or the power company?

        The vast majority of UN/UNSC resolutions against Israel are reminders because Israel first ignored its legal obligations.

        For example: Had Israel not ignored International Law, the UN Charter & relevant Geneva Conventions, UNSC res 252 would not have been necessary. Had Israel not ignored UNSC res 252, there would not be EIGHT reminders http://wp.me/pDB7k-XU

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        March 24, 2014, 3:29 pm

        The problem is that Israel (with US encouragement and parallel actions) is eviscerating international law to the point that it’s worthless for use on any other problem.

        Solve this issue and the IL mechanism can be repaired to solve others. The moral authority can be regenerated and applied through a newly reinvigorated and shared system of IL.

        Let this problem fester and all the other problems fester right along with it. It is, and will continue to be a free-for-all.

        Yeah, it’s that important.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 24, 2014, 4:12 pm

        @ritzl

        The problem is that Israel (with US encouragement and parallel actions) is eviscerating international law to the point that it’s worthless for use on any other problem.

        There are other countries that ignore huge chunks of IL. But let’s ignore that. There was a system of international law that held up quite well for centuries has been expanded upon and mostly has done well in the post WWII era. There have been some extensions like 4th Geneva that have proven completely unworkable in every single conflict since they were passed.

        Consider that maybe the problem with IL isn’t Israel but that much of post-WWII IL was poorly considered and needs to be rethought. A return to many of the better ideas of 19th century International law which sought to regulate but had realistic and achievable aims.

      • justicewillprevail
        justicewillprevail
        March 24, 2014, 7:33 pm

        Ah yes, the 19th Century, when colonialism like the israel project was the accepted norm, and indigenous peoples were considered irrelevant to the extraction of their resources and the occupation of their land. How convenient for you. And all that terrible post WWII stuff, designed to prevent any more holocausts, grant rights to people under siege and occupation, and bring war criminals to court. How inconvenient for you.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        March 24, 2014, 9:37 pm

        “Consider that maybe the problem with IL isn’t Israel but that much of post-WWII IL was poorly considered and needs to be rethought. A return to many of the better ideas of 19th century International law which sought to regulate but had realistic and achievable aims.”

        The Jewish prison.
        In order to save Israel, destroy the basis of international law that Jews need for a future that is more than likely to be chaotic.

        19th century international law didn’t stop the pogroms.

      • eljay
        eljay
        March 24, 2014, 9:39 pm

        >> There are other countries that ignore huge chunks of IL. But let’s ignore that.

        No, let’s not – that would be stupid. Let’s instead hold all countries – including the oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel – accountable for their actions under international law.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        March 25, 2014, 10:21 am

        To reiterate, Israel’s lawlessness and the US support of that lawlessness (and our own lawlessness) makes IL less relevant to anything. IOW, completely ignorable. Everywhere.

        So it doesn’t matter that other countries violate IL/IHL. That’s a given, and should be corrected. The point is that that can’t be corrected while we use the UNSC to veto IL/IHL, which in the case of settlements happened to coincide, verbatim, with our own long-standing, publicly-stated policy.

        Add to that the massive amount of coercive effort we use to make sure Israel does NOT have to comply with IL/IHL and you invite bad people to laugh in your face (unless, of course, those people are deemed to be “bad” by Israel, but that’s a whole nuther story). With so much effort going into supporting Israel’s unaccountability machine, there’s no time or attention left to work the other issues.

        So ignorability AND very tired enforcement machinery, all a result of the effort to support little, black-hole-of-IL, Israel and to hell with the rest of the world.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        March 25, 2014, 10:52 am

        @JeffB- The whole centering point of post-WWII IL/IHL was/is “Never Again.” You want to go back to the way it was? Amazing.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 24, 2014, 7:18 pm

        “The problem is that Israel (with US encouragement and parallel actions) is eviscerating international law to the point that it’s worthless for use on any other problem.”

        Oh please. You’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        March 25, 2014, 10:48 am

        @hophmi- Vetoing long-held, publicly-stated, IL/IHL-consistent policy in the UNSC in support of Israeli settlements is by definition “looking through the wrong end of the telescope.”

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 26, 2014, 11:47 am

        “The vast majority of UN/UNSC resolutions against Israel are reminders because Israel first ignored its legal obligation”

        As usual, you’re ducking the question.

        The vast majority of the resolutions are against Israel because there is a concerted effort by the Arab League and others to keep it on the agenda, and to keep their own human rights violations off of the agenda.

        Look talknic, I get it. You’re a pro-Palestinian propagandist. But I don’t know why you’re against the UN addressing any human rights violation that is not connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A lot of people die because of this campaign to focus on Israel, and they have nothing to do with the conflict. They’re ignored, because the Arab states muscle the UN into obsessing over Israel.

      • just
        just
        March 24, 2014, 8:01 pm

        And Israel sends the desperate and fleeing Africans back to their home countries or to Uganda — the rest languish in detention…………but it’ll pay to have the right folks make aliyah.

        ah, well.

      • Donald
        Donald
        March 25, 2014, 6:00 pm

        “The UNHRC spends half its time on Israel, and millions die in Africa. You must love it.”

        Several times in the past few years someone has said something like this about the UNHRC and I google the UNHRC and look at their front page. Today is the first time I’ve ever seen the Israel/Palestine issue on the front page, along with other issues. I don’t doubt that they have condemned Israel many times, but to hear hophmi and the other hasbarists talk, it’s just about all they ever do. In fact, there is a vast amount of info there on a great many topics.

        link

      • Donald
        Donald
        March 25, 2014, 6:10 pm

        I was just doing some quick browsing at the UN human rights website. Team hasbara honestly seems to think all they do is talk about Israel. It’s insane. There’s material on all sorts of issues there. There’s a major study on Syria and another on North Korea. I did some random browsing and found all sorts of things, but one report listed the country mandates that have been established in a footnote. They are as follows–

        They are: Afghanistan (in operation since 1984), Iran (1984), Iraq (1991), the for- mer Yugoslavia (1992), Myanmar (1992), Cambodia (1993), Equatorial Guinea (1993), the Palestinian Occupied Territories (1993), Somalia (1993), Sudan (1993), Democratic Republic of the Congo (1994), Burundi (1995), Haiti (1995) and Rwanda (1997).

        So yeah, Palestine is on the list, along with a lot of other places. Including some places in Africa.

        I really think that hophmi and others are so used to the claim that the UN only focuses on Israel it never occurs to them to go over there and find out what else they do.

        Here is a link to what they have on Syria–

        commission on Syria

        It strikes me that the hasbara types only pay attention to what the UN says about Israel because that’s really the only thing they care about. The UN can write reports on Syria, North Korea, etc.. and it doesn’t matter, because they also criticize Israel.

      • Donald
        Donald
        March 25, 2014, 6:16 pm

        Oh look–a report on the Central African Republic from just a couple months ago. At the UN. Is the Central African Republic a special UN name for Israel? Hmm.

        link

        But I bet they really downplay it. Let’s see. Here’s a quote–

        “The convening of the special session today reflects the imperative urgency of addressing the situation in the Central African Republic. We reiterate our grave concern at the egregious human rights violations and abuses committed by ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka, against Muslim and Christian civilians respectively, and the harm and suffering these have brought to the civilian population in the country for many months. While the ongoing reconciliation initiatives are commendable, violence along religious lines, which has increasingly polarized the communities, continues to affect especially the most vulnerable groups of the population as national authorities are still absent.

        Large-scale human rights violations and abuses have been reported. They include summary executions, disappearances, widespread looting, property burning, mutilation of adults and children, attacks on hospitals, sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, forcible displacement, and destruction of mosques and churches. Because of the violence, access to education has been hampered as schools have been closed for many months.

        We reiterate our serious concern at the high number of the internally displaced persons and refugees. Displaced persons continue to be attacked and are the target of human rights violations and abuses. They have become extremely frustrated at the delays and obstacles to humanitarian responses; some of them have been living in dire conditions in the bush and rural areas. Last week there were approximately 886,000 internally displaced persons in the Central African Republic including 512,000 in Bangui alone. The current lack of birth registration system within the sites where internally displaced persons live will have a serious impact on the future of the children. Given the volatile situation in the Central African Republic in the event of family separation, reunifying children with their families will become a momentous task.”

        Gosh, that can’t be. It sounds critical.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 26, 2014, 11:49 am

        Again, Donald, no one says that they focus on no one else. But the UNHRC in particular obsesses over Israel; I don’t think that can be denied, and that means that real human rights problems around the world go relatively unnoticed.

    • puppies
      puppies
      March 24, 2014, 2:45 pm

      @seafoid – No, I don’t love it. The sanctions must touch the author of the so-called settlements.
      Possibly an all-encompassing boycott of the Zionist entity would attract more support among the public than this limp comedy, forcing the governments to consider BDS of anything Israel.

  4. bintbiba
    bintbiba
    March 24, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Juan Gelman — Rest in Peace .

  5. puppies
    puppies
    March 24, 2014, 2:11 pm

    Reference 4 – report of his detention at Tel-Aviv airport for having talked to his wife in the plane.
    Enraging.

  6. adele
    adele
    March 24, 2014, 3:17 pm

    The spirit and verse of Juan Gelman will always overshadow the deeds of warriors. It is individuals of his caliber that give me faith, each and every day. This was beautiful to read and will be savored and re-read long after.

    • just
      just
      March 24, 2014, 7:54 pm

      Ditto.

      Many thanks for the article, David Álvarez . I never read Mr. Gelman’s poems, I will now. Your students are very fortunate to have you. I think you have done his legacy a great and deserved honor.

      Simply beautiful. A good soul, quite obviously. Thanks for the introduction.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    March 24, 2014, 4:04 pm

    RE: “Juan Gelman (b. 1930 Buenos Aires, d. 2014, Mexico City), Argentinean poet and journalist, was persecuted by his country’s military dictatorship for his progressive politics and was admired the world over as much for his dignity and probity as for his poignantly beautiful poetry.” ~ David Álvarez

    MY COMMENT: I can’t help but be reminded of the great Jacobo Timerman*.

    * SEE: “A Great Hero is Gone”, By Molly Ivins, 11/15/99

    [EXCERPTS] One of the great heroes is gone. Jacobo Timerman, the Argentine journalist and great warrior for human rights, has died. . .
    . . . I would call Timerman a fearless man, but he wasn’t fearless. He was brave.
    His book “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number” — the account of his 30-month imprisonment and torture by the Argentine military in the late 1970s — is one of the most poignant testimonies ever written by a political prisoner and will remain a classic of world literature. In it, he never poses as a hero but instead writes frankly about the terror and loneliness he experienced, weeping silently in his cell as his captors passed and spat the word “Jew!” at him. . .
    . . . Jacobo Timerman was born in 1923 in Bar, Ukraine, in a Jewish family that fled the pogroms when he was 5 and settled in the Jewish quarter of Buenos Aires. . .
    . . . As a teen-ager, he became a passionate Zionist, but he was never a man of party. He had studied engineering, but in 1950 he joined a Buenos Aires newspaper and soon became a respected political reporter. . .
    . . . In 1976, a military junta overthrew President Isabel Peron and began the infamous “dirty war” against the leftist terrorists called Montoneros and anyone else who opposed the junta. Timerman often received death threats from both the right and the left; he sometimes published defiant responses on his front page. The Montoneros bombed his home; the junta finally had him arrested. . .
    . . . The junta finally illegally stripped Timerman of his citizenship, took all his property and deported him to Israel. Timerman arrived shortly before Israel’s war against Lebanon, which culminated in the hideous massacres of civilians at Sabra and Shatila. Of course, Timerman spoke out against the atrocities and wrote a scathing book, “The Longest War.” He also wrote, with his usual piercing vigor, against the Israeli torture of Palestinians.
    Naturally, this made Timerman, the lifelong Zionist, highly unpopular in Israel. He left the country . . .

    ENTIRE EULOGY – http://www.albionmonitor.com/9911a/copyright/mi-timerman.html

    * ALSO SEE – http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2008/12/30/lebanon-1982-gaza-2008/

  8. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    March 24, 2014, 8:07 pm

    what next? another brilliant comparison between Jewish giants?

    How about Finklestein vs. Horowitz?

    Or if their too alive, Teitlebaun vs. Sassoon

    Einstein vs Oppenheimer

    Meir v. Lazurus

    Neruda v. Lorca

    Marquez vs. Dayan ……you bds culties could just go on and on and on making up stuff that justifies your false righteousness, hypocrisy and overt bigotry. It reminds me of the ‘scholarly’ psuedo-masters Abbas obtained from Russia on how the holocaust did not really occur during ww2. great work.

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