The Aug. 19 news article “Suspect allegedly hunted for an Arab to kill” quoted a famous Hebrew poem out of context. The effect was to suggest that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contributed to the atmosphere in which an Arab youth was killed by calling for revenge after the murders of three Jewish teenagers. In fact, by citing the poem, the prime minister was warning against retaliation.
The Post reported that Netanyahu said on his Twitter account, “Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created. Neither has the vengeance for the blood of 3 pure youths who were on their way home to their parents.” It did not tell readers that the first sentence paraphrases a line from Chaim Nahman Bialik’s poem “In the City of Slaughter,” a powerful lamentation of the 1903 Kishinev pogrom in which 49 Russian Jews were massacred and more than 500 wounded.
The relevant stanza reads in part: “And cursed be the man who says: Avenge! No such revenge — revenge for the blood of a little child — has yet been devised by Satan. Let the blood pierce through the abyss! Let the blood seep down into the depths of darkness . . . and breach all the rotting foundations of the earth.”
Bialik was crying out for divine, not human, retribution. In paraphrasing Bialik in what the paper noted “was an emotionally charged moment in Israel,” Netanyahu was cautioning against anyone presuming to take the law into his or her hands.
Eric Rozenman, Washington
The writer is Washington director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.