Thursday, March 05, 2015

Sidra Does Esther - and Netanyahu

Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi identifies herself as Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Guggenheim Fellow. She's the wife of far-out Leftist Bernard Avishai who republished her and termed the Netanyahu speech as "conceived as a political stunt". She has written for the radical Tikkun, attacked Elie Weisel in the Int'l Herald Tribune and lied there or was woefully ignorant about Muslims residing in West Jerusalem.  I seem to recall some controversy about her first work but as I cannot now find the proper reference, I'll skip that.

She now has published an op-ed in - of course, Haaretz - which analyzes the Biblical reference of Binyamin Netanyahu to the Book of Esther and claims

By invoking Purim, Netanyahu calls for a preemptive strike on Iran
The Israeli prime minister conveniently ignores the first eight chapters of the Book of Esther, recruiting only the revenge tragedy part to justify his agenda.

She introduces her literary deconstruction so:

The Netanyahu approach ignores the first part of the Purim narrative, which is a comedy, and reflects only on the second part, a revenge tragedy, recruiting the popular version of the story to justify his militant position against Iran...Parody, masque, commedia dell‘arte: what this text reflects in its early chapters is the comic impulse...[of the Jews who lived in the Babylonian, Persian and even the Hellenistic diaspora]...the Book of Esther is a fantasy...

Then, she gets angry:

...comedy has turned into revenge tragedy, an explosion of blood-curdling violence — not by Persians against innocent Jews, but by Jews against innocent Persians. granted permission to preemptively slaughter all who have received the order to kill the Jews. There is no textual hint that these Persians ever took up arms – “no one dared to stand up against them, out of the fear that they instilled” [9:2]. Yet the Jews go ahead and slaughter 500 innocent people in the satrapies that belong to the King. Then sweet Esther, the beguiling descendant of Babylonian exiles, wife of the clueless Ahasverus – whom little girls will emulate in gauzy costumes for centuries to come – asks for, and is granted, another day of slaughter: in the capital city of Shushan alone, 300 people are slaughtered, and in the surrounding satrapies 75,000 are slaughtered 
Like, this is so wrong. 

First of all, she could have written that Bibi should send a female agent into someone's bed. That would have been at least commensurate with spy literature.

Secondly, there actually was excellent diplomacy until the taking up of arms. 

Third, the killing was indeed of "enemies".  Here's Chapter. 9. verses 5-6,

And the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and with slaughter and destruction, and did what they would unto them that hated them. And in Shushan the castle the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.
Fourth, a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear capabilities isn't really a bad idea.

Fifth, Secretary of State Kerry is, reportedly, willing to promise a nuclear umbrella so maybe he is willing to kill some innocents.

Six, to borrow a phrase from the Obama White House, does she present a viable alternative?



After a night's rest and after a fourth reading of the Meggilah (here in Shiloh, as we are in doubt whether indeed a wall existed around the site of the Tel at the time of Joshua bin Nun, we celebrate two days - imagine how perverted our little girls must be), besides the throwaway reference to the King's sanctioning of the defensive attack on the enemies of the Jews, there are other aspects I think needs be stressed.

The obvious one is that no one had smartphones or Internet connection then and sending messages around on horseback was a communcations system that would assure that Jews would be killed if any Jew simply depended on some called either Esther or Hadassah told them they could safely walk the streets. That the Persians were afraid does not mean they weren't intending to kill the Jews and Ezrahi should know that fear is a great motivator to kill.

Moreover, the Hebrew text uses two terms "enemies" (אויבים) but also "haters" (שונאים) [see verse 1, 5 & 16 in that chapter 9].  That is an irrational and emotional state that cannot and, at that time, would not dissipate overnight and they'd probably disbelieve the retraction order.  These persons were surely proper targets.  Incidentally, the Leket Tov comments that the phrase that the Jews congregated in their cities indicated many had fled to the hills and distant villages from fear and I presume that they knew their neighbors better than Ezrahi (and Netanyahu knows the Iranians better than her, as well).

All in all, this is a corruption of the text and I will not pass judgment whether the story is historically true.



Thor said...

It seems like Israeli Jews who do not agree with the Zionist (i.e. far right) Jews are branded far left Jews. Is there no way for Israeli Jews who object to the land annexing scheeme to be portrayed as anything but traitors?

Thor said...

I've noticed that anarchist Jews and any other political brand of Jews, except Right wing Jews seem to be out of favor in at least this blog. I guess a Jew is not the same as a Jew, and I think that is a good thing.

Thor said...

Erm, I think Israel could get on famously with her neighbours if she only tried. Please try.

TakesYouThere said...

Anonymous said...

dekoven may be wrong about the definition of comedy vs tragedy. If the good guys in the story, any story, kill their enemies then that is a happy ending. And that is comedy as understood by some [comedy as not something necessarily amusing in the sense of laugh-producing but as pleasing because the good guys win]