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June 30: Jacob Israel de Haan

June 30, 2014

640px-Jacob_Israel_de_HaanJacob Israel de Haan, a gay Dutch poet and journalist, was assassinated at age 42 by a member of the Haganah on this date in 1924, five years after he had settled in Palestine. De Haan was opposed to Zionist nationalism and became an international spokesman for Orthodox Jewish sects that shared his opposition on religious grounds and sought, instead, the establishment of a multinational federation of Jews and Arabs. Towards this aim, de Haan conducted many meetings with Arab leaders, seeking to broaden their acceptance of Jewish emigration in exchange for renunciation of the Balfour Declaration. “De Haan studied law and worked as a teacher in Amsterdam,” writes David B. Green in Ha’aretz, “when in 1904 he published his first book, Lines from De Pijp, a thinly disguised autobiographical novel about a supposed relationship with the scholar Arnold Aletrino, to whom he also dedicated the work.” As a result of this homoerotic book, “De Haan was dismissed from his teaching position and from a newspaper column he wrote for children.” Despite his homosexuality, de Haan is considered a hero and a martyr in haredi circles in Jerusalem; during the 1980s, they unsuccessfully sought to rename the Zupnik Garden to honor him. He is also an honored literary figure in the Netherlands and has a line from one of his poems engraved on one of the three sides of the Homomonument in Amsterdam. To see a video about his life, look below.

“I have done what the Haganah decided had to be done. And nothing was done without the order of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (the second president of Israel 1952-1963)... I have no regrets because he (de Haan) wanted to destroy our whole idea of Zionism.” —Avraham Tehomi, the confessed assassin

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