Bibi’s Vengeance

A reader writes:

That quote from Netanyahu about god avenging etc. – that isn’t something he came up with; it is a standard religious thing to say whenever someone is murdered by an enemy (השם יקום דמו if you can read Hebrew; הי״ד , the acronym, is often simply added to the notice of such a death). Normally and through most of Jewish history, this was interpreted to mean simply that god will settle the score with the killer. The more sinister interpretation is obvious, but it is also quite a new idea, historically speaking, and it is only taken up on the very far right by supporters of the late racist hate-monger Meir Kahane. (To give you some idea of how far out they are from the mainstream, parties that advocate his teachings are outlawed.)

Another Jewish reader:

There’s a worse quote from Netanyahu. He quoted national poet Cham Bialik, as saying “such vengeance, the vengeance of the blood of a little child, is yet to be invented by the Devil.”

But he quoted out of context. Bialik, writing after the Kishinev pogrom, actually wrote (in his “On the Slaughter, Al Ha’Schita): “And damned be he who calls for vengeance!/Such Vengeance, the vengeance of a little child/is yet to be invented by the Devil.” In the Hebrew, it goes like this:

וְאָרוּר הָאוֹמֵר: נְקֹם!

נְקָמָה כָזֹאת, נִקְמַת דַּם יֶלֶד קָטָן

עוֹד לֹא-בָרָא הַשָּׂטָן –

This is one of most famous bits of poetry in Hebrew; it is taught to schoolchildren all over the country. By inverting the quote, by laying the emphasis on vengeance instead of its denouncement, Netanyahu was dog-whistling to his extreme right-wing crowd. He does so often; the Israel left has been calling him “inciter in chief” since the 1990s. Not something mentioned often in Republican circles, I’d bet.