New Book: Hever, Suddenly the Sight of War

Hever, Hannan. Suddenly, the Sight of War. Violence and Nationalism in Hebrew Poetry in the 1940s. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016.


Suddenly, the Sight of War is a genealogy of Hebrew poetry written in pre-state Israel between the beginning of World War II and the War of Independence in 1948. In it, renowned literary scholar Hannan Hever sheds light on how the views and poetic practices of poets changed as they became aware of the extreme violence in Europe toward the Jews.

In dealing with the difficult topics of the Shoah, Natan Alterman’s 1944 publication of The Poems of the Ten Plagues proved pivotal. His work inspired the next generation of poets like Haim Guri, as well as detractors like Amir Gilboa. Suddenly, the Sight of War also explores the relations between the poetry of the struggle for national independence and the genre of war-reportage, uniquely prevalent at the time. Hever concludes his genealogy with a focus on the feminine reaction to the War of Independence showing how women writers such as Lea Goldberg and Yocheved Bat-Miryam subverted war poetry at the end of the 1940s. Through the work of these remarkable poets, we learn how a culture transcended seemingly unspeakable violence.


Table of Contents

Part I: Hebrew Symbolist Poetry During World War II
1. “The Real Has Become a Symbol”
2. The Dispute over War Poetry
3. Criticism of Nationalism Violence
4. Reading Nationalist Poetry Critically
5. Nationalism Anthologized
6. The Living-Dead in Joy of the Poor
7. Revence on a Nationalist Scale
8. Leah Goldberg Writes War Poetry
9. The Duality of the Symbolist Woman Poet
10. The Living-Dead and the Female Body
11. Amir Gilboa: Boy Poet

Part II: Historical Analogy and National Allegory During the Holocaust
12. A Surprising Moral Judgment
13. The Uncommon Stance of a Major Poet
14. Critical Reception
15. A Postnationalist Reading
16. A Symbol, Not an Allegory
17. Allegory in The Poems of the Plagues of Egypt versus Symbolism in Joy of the Poor
18. Allegory as a Nonhegemonic Stance
19. Alterman and the Memory of the Holocaust
20. The Father-Son Strategy
21. Blind Vengeance
22. Breaking the Cycle of Crime and Punishment
23. History of the Defeated

Part III: Symbols of Death in the National War for Independence
26. Return of the Hegemonic Symbol
27. The Living-Dead in the Independence War
28. Amir Gilboa and the Subversion of the Symbol
29. Gilboa versus the Metaphor of the Living-Dead
30. Poets as Reporters
31. Sorrow Petrified into Symbols
32. Hegemonic Strategies
33. From Reportage to Lyric
34. Women Write of Fallen Soldiers as Flesh and Blood
35. In the Service of National Subjectivity
36. Women and the Metaphor of the Living-Dead
37. Criticism of the Living-Dead Metaphor
38. The Authority and Power of Women
39. Popular versus Canonical Mourning
40. The Secrets and Power of Women



HANNAN HEVER is the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature at Yale University. He is the author of several books, including Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon.




New Article: Loeffler, The Invisibility of American Jewish Politics

Loeffler, James. “Nationalism without a Nation?: On the Invisibility of American Jewish Politics.” Jewish Quarterly Review 105.3 (2015): 367-98.




In this article, I launch a wholesale reexamination of the under-studied subject of American Jewish nationalism. With the focus on the road to Israeli statehood, scholars have ignored the complex, contradictory patterns of nationalist identification that marked American Zionist politics in the first half of the twentieth century. I explore this thesis through a re-reading of two key historical episodes: the American Jewish Congress movement of 1914–1920 and the American Jewish Conference, 1943–1949. In the process, I discuss the relationship between liberalism and nationalism in American Jewish political thought; the political conflicts between Jewish nationalism and anti-nationalism; and the nomenclature of Jewish nationhood in the United States. Ultimately, I conclude that the consensus position of American Jewish support for Israel after 1948 emerged only after statist Zionism had been separated from a more capacious form of American Jewish nationalism that existed before 1948. This helps us understand the origins and rise to significance of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), with implications for the current moment of American Jewish politics.



New Article: Cox, Britain and the Origin of Israeli Special Operations

Cox, Stephen Russell. “Britain and the Origin of Israeli Special Operations: SOE and PALMACH during the Second World War.” Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict 8.1 (2015): 60-78.





This article explores the British influence on the origins of Israeli Special Operations and elite units before and during the Second World War. Specifically, it brings to light the roles Captain (later Major-General) Orde Wingate and the British Special Operations Executive played in the creation of the Special Night Squads and the PALMACH, respectively. It concludes with an examination of the consequences of this military and philosophical influence for the British in Palestine and for the creation of the state of Israel. The primary source material for this article comes principally from Wingate’s personal papers at the Imperial War Museum and the SOE’s declassified documents in the National Archives, both in London.


New Article: Yehudai, Jewish Repatriation from Palestine to Europe, 1945–48

Yehudai, Ori. “Displaced in the National Home: Jewish Repatriation from Palestine to Europe, 1945–48.” Jewish Social Studies 20.2 (2014): 69-110.





At the end of World War II, thousands of European Jews who had found refuge in Palestine during the war sought to return to their countries of origin through a repatriation program launched by the Middle East office of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). Their repatriation was a source of conflict between the Zionist leadership in Palestine and UNRRA. The former accused the latter of encouraging Jewish return to Europe, whereas UNRRA officials accused Zionists in the Yishuv of trying to prevent repatriation and of ostracizing those opting to return. The controversy derived from conflicting ideological and political considerations regarding the role of Jewish refugees in postwar reconstruction. Yet the positions of the quarreling parties were disconnected from those of repatriation applicants, who were determined to rebuild their lives outside Palestine but conceived of postwar reconstruction mainly in material and personal rather than ideological and political terms.

New Article: Bunyan, The Jewish Brigade and the Establishment of the Jewish State

Bunyan, James. “To What Extent Did the Jewish Brigade Contribute to the Establishment of the Jewish State?” Middle Eastern Studies 51.1 (2015): 28-48.





Whilst the desperation of key international Zionist leaders, such as Chaim Weizmann, to field a fighting force against the Nazis consisting entirely of Palestinian Jews is evident in their correspondence, it is difficult to ascertain just how significant the practical contribution of the Jewish Brigade was to the Zionist project. The political effect of activities such as facilitating illegal immigration and, post-war, quietly training Jewish underground forces in Palestine cannot by their very nature be evaluated. Yet perhaps the Brigade’s most important contribution to the embryonic state of Israel was the huge leap in political and cultural strength that boasting such a force represented.

Cite: Jütte,German Rabbis in Eretz Yisrael, 1933-1948

Jütte, Robert. "Not Welcomed with Open Arms. German Rabbis in Eretz Yisrael, 1933-1948." Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 57 (2012): 105-117.



Without the emigrant rabbis who returned to Germany, many Jewish congregations in the young Federal Republic would have been hard put to find pastoral care for their members even though their numbers were still small at that time. The rabbis who returned to Germany from Israel, of all places, most of whom cherished scientific ambitions, found themselves accused on two counts, firstly for having turned their backs on the Jewish state and its restoration, and secondly for contributing to making Jews feel more at home again in Germany. That there were even Zionists among them rendered the whole situation even more controversial. Many aspects of the history of the remigration of rabbis are therefore still waiting to be written.

Cite: Schaffer, The Jewish Soldier in British War Service, 1899–1945

Schaffer, Gavin. “Unmasking the ‘Muscle Jew’: the Jewish Soldier in British War Service, 1899–1945.” Patterns of Prejudice 46.3-4 (2012): 375-396.





Constructions of Jews in twentieth-century Europe have been riddled throughout with inconsistencies and contradictions. However, some themes have been surprisingly persistent, none more so than constructions of Jews as weak, effeminate and cowardly. Schaffer looks at one significant set of responses to such characterizations, specifically at the rise of the ‘muscle Jew’ in Jewish and non-Jewish thinking. After the term was coined by Max Nordau at the turn of the twentieth century, the idea of the ‘muscle Jew’ came to represent a dominant current of Jewish identity reformulation. More recently, a series of scholars have come to understand the idea as a manifestation of Zionist ideology, a statement of a nationalist desire for Jewish reinvention in the face of endemic European antisemitism. By using the example of British Jewish service in the Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War, Schaffer argues rather that the idea of the ‘muscle Jew’ can be better understood as a reflection of Jewish desire for European integration, an attempt to present Jewish soldiers as equal to their non-Jewish equivalents. Moreover, he contends that the ‘muscle Jew’ needs to be understood as an idea rooted in the longue durée of Jewish history, one that represents only one strand of Jewish self-imagining.

Cite: Jones, Secret Intelligence Service and the Jewish Agency 1939-45

Jones, Clive. “Good Friends in Low Places? The British Secret Intelligence Service and the Jewish Agency 1939-45.” Middle Eastern Studies 48.3 (2012): 413-428.



This article explores intelligence collaboration between British Intelligence and the Jewish Agency during the Second World War. Most accounts of this period highlight the functional nature of this collaboration, accounts that inevitably have come to be viewed through the prism of the Holocaust, and with it the prevailing sense that Britain offered `too little too late to help’ in using its clandestine assets to help rescue the remnants of European Jewry. By focusing however on collaboration primarily between the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Jewish Agency, this article argues that intelligence liaison and collaboration at an operational level was closer and less conditioned by adherence to stated British government policy than hitherto suggested.

Reviews: Baumel-Schwartz, Perfect Heroes

Baumel-Schwartz, Judith Tydor. Perfect Heroes. The World War II Parachutists and the Making of Israeli Collective Memory. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.







Shapira, Anita. “Review.” American Historical Review 116.3 (2011): 908.

Rodman, David. “Review.” Israel Affairs 17.4 (2011): 657-658.