Forward Thinking

Poem: Assad's Cataract

By Erez Bitton Translated by Tsipi Keller

Recently, blind Israeli poet Erez Bitton — who reportedly lost his sight at the age of 10 when he found a hand grenade — approached noted translator Tsipi Keller about the possibility of translating some of his work. Among the works was the poem “Assad’s Catarat.” The poem takes as its starting point the fact that Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad trained as an ophthalmologist and embarks upon an ironic examination of the concepts of vision and blindness. It is printed here with the permission of the translator.

Assad’s Cataract

You
who were destined
to be a healer
of extinguished eyes
who strove day and night
to restore damaged corneas
to remove cataracts
from dimmed lenses
to mend cracked retinas

You
who vowed to grant kids
locked in darkness
the glee of tree climbing
the rejoicing in color
in blue in yellow in orange

You
who vowed to grant the elderly
leaning on their canes at dusk
the gift of seeing again
red sunsets—

What are you doing now?
Striking down all corneas
cracking down on all retinas

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Syria Defense Belt Eyed To Defend Golan Heights

By J.J. Goldberg

Israeli news media are citing a London Sunday Times report that claims Israel is considering establishing a security zone along its border with Syria to protect itself against attacks by jihadist forces following the expected fall of the Assad regime. The zone would extend 10 miles into Syria and would have two infantry brigades and a tank battalion patrolling it.

The territory to be protected, the Golan Heights, was seized from Syria in June 1967 and has been declared an essential asset since then because it serves as a security zone to protect Israel from Syrian attacks. The new security zone is apparently intended to protect the old security zone. Israeli military sources told the Times it will be modeled after the security zone Israel maintained in south Lebanon between 1985 and 2000.

The anomalous role of the Golan has been a source of tension since the mid-1970s between Israel’s politicians and military strategists. Politicians from across the map see the heights as inseparable from Israel and promote civilian settlement there. Military planners complain that Golan civilian settlements undercut its value as a security buffer by adding a new vulnerability. This first arose during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel lost valuable time evacuating civilians before it could mount an effective counterattack against Syria’s armored advance into the Golan.

The Assad regime has kept border quiet since the 1975 Israeli-Syrian separation of forces agreement, but the civil war threatens to loosen the regime’s hold.

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