Jacob Israël de Haan

Jacob Israël de Haan

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Jacob Israël de Haan was a Dutch
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 Jewish literary writer and journalist
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

 who was assassinated in Jerusalem by the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah
Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.- Origins :...

 for his anti-Zionist political activities and contacts with Arab leaders. He is believed to be the first victim of Zionist political violence
Zionist political violence
Zionist political violence refers to acts of violence committed by Zionists in the British Mandate of Palestine for political reasons, mainly to advance the creation of Israel, a Jewish state....

. De Haan is revered as a martyr among certain sections of the Haredi Jewish community, particularly the Neturei Karta
Neturei Karta
Neturei Karta is a Haredi Jewish group formally created in Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine, in 1938, splitting off from Agudas Yisroel...

 and Edah HaChareidis.

Early life

De Haan was born in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, in Smilde, a village in the northern province of Drenthe
Drenthe is a province of the Netherlands, located in the north-east of the country. The capital city is Assen. It is bordered by Overijssel to the south, Friesland to the west, Groningen to the north, and Germany to the east.-History:Drenthe, unlike many other parts of the Netherlands, has been a...

, and grew up in Zaandam
Zaandam is a town in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. It is the main city of the municipality of Zaanstad, and received city rights in 1811...

. He was one of eighteen children and received a traditional Jewish education. His father, Yitzchak HaLevi de Haan, was poor and worked as a hazzan
A hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish cantor, a musician trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer.There are many rules relating to how a cantor should lead services, but the idea of a cantor as a paid professional does not exist in classical rabbinic sources...

  and Shochet
Shechita is the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish dietary laws...

. His sister, best known under her married name Carry van Bruggen, became an important Dutch author.

De Haan worked as a teacher and studied law between 1903 and 1909. He wrote in socialist
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 publications and various other magazines during these years. He was a friend of Frederik van Eeden
Frederik van Eeden
Frederik Willem van Eeden was a late 19th century and early 20th century Dutch writer and psychiatrist...

 and Arnold Aletrino
Arnold Aletrino
Arnold Aletrino was a Dutch criminal anthropologist and writer, who published works on homosexuality in Dutch and French...

, Dutch authors of the Tachtiger school.

In 1904, while living in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, he wrote his controversial novel Pijpelijntjes ("Lines from De Pijp"), which pretends to be a thinly veiled version of his own gay life with Aletrino in Amsterdam's "Pijp" working-class district. The homo-eroticism
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

 of the book, shocking in the early 20th century, led to his dismissal from his teaching job and social-democratic political circles. Aletrino and Johanna van Maarseveen, de Haan's fiancée, bought almost the entire print run of the book, to keep a lid on the scandal.

In 1907 he married van Maarseveen, a non-Jewish doctor, but this marriage is likely to have been platonic; they separated in 1919 but never officially divorced. A second controversial novel, Pathologieën (1908, "Pathologies") described the sorrows and joys of a sadomasochist relationship. However, this book went largely unnoticed, as did De Haan's prose sketches. He published five volumes of poems between 1914 and 1921 that brought him some acclaim.

"Precursor of Amnesty International"

In 1912 de Haan made some trips to Czarist Russia, and he visited a number of prisons there, in order to study the situation of political prisoners in Russia. He published his shocking findings in his book "In Russian prisons" (1913). He also founded a committee, together with Dutch writer Frederik van Eeden
Frederik van Eeden
Frederik Willem van Eeden was a late 19th century and early 20th century Dutch writer and psychiatrist...

 and Dutch poet Henriette Roland Holst
Henriette Roland Holst
Henriette Roland Holst Goverdine Anna van der Schalk was a Dutch poet and socialist.The poet Adriaan Roland Holst , nicknamed "the Dutch Prince of Poets", was the nephew of her husband.-Early life:...

, which aimed at collecting signatures for the sake of inducing especially Russia's then allies France and Great Britain to exert pressure on Russia for alleviating the fate of the prisoners. In a publication of Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 he was, because of these activities, described as "a precursor of Amnesty International".

Interest in Judaism and departure for Jerusalem

Around 1910, De Haan developed an interest in Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, the Land of Israel
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

 and Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

. This seems to have begun as a result of the mass imprisonment of Jews in Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

ist Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, suspected of Bolshevism
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

, and his work to free them. According to historical records, de Haan went to Russia armed with a letter of recommendation from the Queen of the Netherlands
Wilhelmina of the Netherlands
Wilhelmina was Queen regnant of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1890 to 1948. She ruled the Netherlands for fifty-eight years, longer than any other Dutch monarch. Her reign saw World War I and World War II, the economic crisis of 1933, and the decline of the Netherlands as a major colonial...

 and was able to negotiate leniency for his Jewish clients. His work for Russian Jews lasted two years and made him keenly aware of the evils of anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...


Prior to his departure for Palestine de Haan is described as being:
...In 1919, two years after the Balfour Declaration, this Poet of the Jewish Song took the next logical step and emigrated to Palestine "anxious to work at rebuilding Land, People and Language" as De Haan put it to Chaim Weitzman
Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Azriel Weizmann, , was a Zionist leader, President of the Zionist Organization, and the first President of the State of Israel. He was elected on 1 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952....

 in his application for a passport. The same letter assumed his stance with aplomb. False modesty was never one of his faults. With a mixture of the martyred doubts many Zionist emigrants had, and the pride of a well-established position, De Haan wrote: "I am not leaving Holland to improve my condition. Neither materially, nor intellectually will life in Palestine be equal to my life here. I am one of the best poets of my Generation, and the only important Jewish national poet Holland has ever had. It is difficult to give up all this."...

The Palestine De Haan entered on a bitter stormy winter day in January 1919 was above all an intricate country. Arguably it had the most confusing political conditions of that politically complicated moment when the Versailles Peace Conference was about to begin. One might call it a natural habitat for this cranky man. It was the "twice promised country," to the Arabs in the Arab Revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

 T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

 existentialized in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and to the Jews (or rather in practice the Zionists) by the Balfour Declaration calling for creation of a Jewish Homeland. De Haan arrived there as an ardent, even fanatical, Zionist. Indeed, the first secret Zionist report about him refers to his ranting anti-Arab remarks made at a party...

Life in Palestine

De Haan rapidly became more religiously committed. He was angered by Zionist refusals to cooperate with Arabs. He wrote extensively on the subject of Israel and Zionism even before he moved there in 1919, when he settled in Jerusalem, teaching at a new law school and sending articles to the Algemeen Handelsblad ("General Trade Journal"), one of the most important Dutch daily newspapers, and the De Groene Amsterdammer ("The Green Amsterdam Weekly"), a liberal weekly.

At first he aligned himself with religious Zionism
Religious Zionism
Religious Zionism is an ideology that combines Zionism and Jewish religious faith...

 and the Mizrachi
Mizrachi (Religious Zionism)
The Mizrachi is the name of the religious Zionist organization founded in 1902 in Vilnius at a world conference of religious Zionists called by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Reines. Bnei Akiva, which was founded in 1929, is the youth movement associated with Mizrachi...

 movement, but after meeting Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld
Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld
Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, also spelled Zonnenfeld, was the Chief Rabbi and co-founder of the Edah HaChareidis, Haredi Jewish community in Jerusalem, during the years of the British Mandate of Palestine. He was originally given the name "Chaim", however, the name "Yosef" was added to him while he...

 leader of the Haredi
Haredi Judaism
Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

 Jewish community, he became the political spokesman of the Haredim in Jerusalem and was elected political secretary of the Orthodox community council, Vaad Ha'ir.

In one of his poems he asks himself whether his visits to the Wailing Wall were motivated by a desire for God or for the Arab boys there.

He endeavoured to get an agreement with Arab nationalist leaders to allow unrestricted Jewish immigration into Palestine in exchange for a Jewish declaration foregoing the Balfour Declaration.
During this time it is alleged that he continued to have relationships with men, including Arabs from east Jerusalem.

The secular Zionist establishment would not allow the established Haredi community in Palestine to be represented in the Jewish Agency
Jewish Agency for Israel
The Jewish Agency for Israel , also known as the Sochnut or JAFI, served as the organization in charge of immigration and absorption of Jews from the Diaspora into the state of Israel.-History:...

 in the 1920s . In response, the Haredim founded an Agudat Israel
Agudat Israel
Agudat Yisrael began as the original political party representing the ultra-Orthodox population of Israel. It was the umbrella party for almost all ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, and before that in the British Mandate of Palestine...

 branch in Jerusalem to represent their interests in Mandate Palestine
Mandate Palestine
Mandate Palestine existed while the British Mandate for Palestine, which formally began in September 1923 and terminated in May 1948, was in effect...

. The leader of the Haredi Jews in Palestine at the time, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld chose de Haan to organize and represent the Haredi position on a diplomatic level equal to that of the secular Zionists. When Lord Northcliffe
Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe
Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe rose from childhood poverty to become a powerful British newspaper and publishing magnate, famed for buying stolid, unprofitable newspapers and transforming them to make them lively and entertaining for the mass market.His company...

, a British publisher, was about to visit the Middle East, de Haan went to Alexandria in Egypt to present the case of Palestine's Haredim before he reached Palestine:
He spoke about the tyranny of the official Zionist movement. The journalists of the Northcliffe party gleefully reported all that back home. As a result of this contact, De Haan was appointed correspondent for the Daily Express
Daily Express
The Daily Express switched from broadsheet to tabloid in 1977 and was bought by the construction company Trafalgar House in the same year. Its publishing company, Beaverbrook Newspapers, was renamed Express Newspapers...

, a one-penny paper that made much of everyday scandals. Already in Dutch circles he was the reputed volksverrader, traitor of his own people, and now his views spread throughout Great Britain and its Global Empire. Although his messages were short and few compared to his articles in the Handelsblad (the news from the Middle East in the Daily Express was more concerned with the mysteries of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt than with the intricate Palestine politics) the Zionist authorities both in Palestine and London became very worried. There was a great potential danger from these critical reports from a Jew who actually lived and worked right on this hot spot.

De Haan also met with the Hashemite leader Hussein bin Ali
Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca
Sayyid Hussein bin Ali, GCB was the Sharif of Mecca, and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917, when he proclaimed himself King of Hejaz, which received international recognition. He initiated the Arab Revolt in 1916 against the increasingly nationalistic Ottoman Empire during the course of the...

 seeking his support for the Yishuv Hayashan (the pre-Zionist Jewish community in the Holy Land), and explaining the Haredi Jewish opposition to the Zionist plans of founding a state, and supporting the establishment of an official Palestinian state in Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 within a federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...



De Haan was assassinated on 30 June 1924 in Jerusalem by members of Haganah
Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.- Origins :...

, and final responsibility was attributed to Zionists alarmed by his political activities in favour of a settlement with Arab leaders.

The 1985 publication of De Haan: The first political assassination in Palestine, by Shlomo Nakdimon and Shaul Mayzlish, revived wider interest in his assassination.

Nakdimon and Mayzlish were able to trace the assassin, Avraham Tehomi
Avraham Tehomi
Avraham T'homi was a noted Jewish militant, and a key figure in the history of the Hebrew National Military Organization and allegedly in the killing of Jacob Israël de Haan. His nickname in the Irgun was 'Gideon'....

 (1903–1990), then a businessman living in Hong Kong. Tehomi was interviewed for Israeli TV by Nakdimon and openly stated: "I have done what the Haganah decided had to be done. And nothing was done without the order of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi was a historian, Labor Zionist leader, the second and longest-serving President of Israel.-Biography:...

 (who later became the second president of Israel
President of Israel
The President of the State of Israel is the head of state of Israel. The position is largely an apolitical ceremonial figurehead role, with the real executive power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister. The current president is Shimon Peres who took office on 15 July 2007...

 1952-1963)... I have no regrets because he (de Haan) wanted to destroy our whole idea of Zionism" (Nakdimon). Tehomi denied allegations that De Haan's assassination was related to his homosexuality: "I neither heard nor knew about this", adding "why is it someone's business what he does at his home?"
According to Gert Hekma, Zionists spread a rumour he had been killed by Arabs because of his sexual relations with Arab boys.

Aftermath and commemoration

De Haan's murder is considered the first political murder in the Jewish community in Palestine. His activities were perceived as undermining the struggle for the establishment of a Jewish state, but the assassination sparked a controversy and was harshly condemned by some. Labor movement publicist Moshe Beilinson wrote:
The flag of our movement must not be tarnished. Neither by the blood of the innocent, nor by the blood of the guilty. Otherwise - our movement will be bad, because blood draws other bloods. Blood always takes revenge and if you walk down this path once, you do not know where it would lead you.

German author Arnold Zweig
Arnold Zweig
Arnold Zweig was a German writer and anti-war activist.He is best known for his World War I tetralogy.-Life and work:Zweig was born in Glogau, Silesia son of a Jewish saddler...

 published a book in 1932 based on De Haan's life called "De Vriendt kehrt heim" (English title "De Vriendt Goes Home"). The Israeli writer Haim Beer's book "Notzot" (1979, translated into English as Feathers) also has a character based on De Haan.

In Haredi circles De Haan is considered a martyr, killed by secular Jews while protecting the Jewish religion. During the 1980s, the Haredi community in Jerusalem tried to change the name of the Zupnik Garden to commemorate De Haan.


Although De Haan's fame waned after his death, his works have been published and reprinted in a fairly constant stream. Even in the nazified Netherlands De Haan's friend David Koker managed to publish his Brieven uit Jeruzalem ('Letters from Jerusalem') in a little book. In 1949, a committee was founded with the object to publish a collected edition of the poems, which duly followed in 1952. A 'Society Jacob Israël de Haan' furthered other publications: philosophical aphorisms and letters, and a memoir by his sister Mies de Haan. In the 1960s two attempts at a biography were published, and after 1970 an actual De Haan-revival brought with it a flood of publicity. Many of his publications about law and significs have been reprinted, as were his novels, and his earlier prose has been rescued from obscure magazines. Dozens of bibliophile editions honoured his poems and prose sketches. Many magazine articles and other publications about his life were published, and generated heated debates. A large volume of his correspondence (only of the period 1902-1908), published in 1994, shed a bright light on his life, but a full-scale biography has yet to be written.

Through the years, in the Netherlands there have been projects, festivals and theatre productions commemorating Jacob Israël de Haan's work and life. A line from De Haan's poem "To a Young Fisherman": "For friendship such a limitless longing...", is inscribed on one of the three sides of the Homomonument
The Homomonument is a memorial in the centre of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. It commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality...

 in Amsterdam.


  • 1900-1908 De Haan published poetry in several magazines during these years. These early poems however have never been collected in a book
  • 1914 - Libertijnsche liederen ('Libertine songs')
  • 1915 - Het Joodsche lied. Eerste boek ('Jewish song, first book')
  • 1917 - Liederen ('Songs')
  • 1919 - Een nieuw Carthago ('A new Carthage
    Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

    ', Carthage being a metaphor
    A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

     for Antwerp in this case)
  • 1921 - Het Joodsche lied. Tweede boek ('Jewish song, second book')
  • 1924 - Kwatrijnen ('Quatrains')
  • 1952 - Verzamelde gedichten ('Collected poems'); complete poetry 1909-1924 in two volumes, edited by K. Lekkerkerker
  • 1982 - Ik ben een jongen te Zaandam geweest ('I was a boy in Zaandam
    Zaandam is a town in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. It is the main city of the municipality of Zaanstad, and received city rights in 1811...

    '), anthology edited by Gerrit Komrij
    Gerrit Komrij
    Gerrit Jan Komrij is a Dutch poet, novelist, translator, critic, polemic journalist and playwright. From 2000 to 2004 he was the Dutch Dichter des Vaderlands .-Biography:...


  • 1904 - Pijpelijntjes (last reprint 2006)
  • 1904 - Kanalje ('Rabble'; reprint 1977)
  • 1907 - Ondergangen ('Perditions'; reprint 1984)
  • 1905-1910 - Nerveuze vertellingen ('Nervous Tales', published in various magazines, first collected in 1983)
  • 1907-1910 - Besliste volzinnen ('Decided Sentences', aphorism
    An aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form.The term was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates...

    s published in magazines, collected for the first time in 1954)
  • 1908 - Pathologieën. De ondergang van Johan van Vere de With ('Pathologies. The Perdition of Johan van Vere de With'; last reprint 2003)


  • 1916 - Wezen en taak der rechtskundige significa. Inaugural address
  • 1916 - Rechtskundige significa en hare toepassing op de begrippen: 'aansprakelijk, verantwoordelijk, toerekeningsvatbaar'" (dissertatie)
  • 1919 - Rechtskundige significa


  • 1913 - In Russische gevangenissen ('In Russian Prisons')
  • From Palestine De Haan sent many sketches and articles to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad
    Algemeen Handelsblad
    Algemeen Handelsblad was an influential Amsterdam-based liberal daily newspaper, founded in 1828 by J.W. van den Biesen. At the peak of its influence -- from the time of the Boer War, when it championed the Boer cause in South Africa, through World War I -- it was edited by Charles Boissevain.It...

    . These never have been completely published in book form, but there are several collections:
  • 1922 - Jeruzalem
  • 1925 - Palestina with an introduction by Carry van Bruggen
  • 1941 - Brieven uit Jeruzalem edited by David Koker ('Letters from Jerusalem')
  • 1981 - Jacob Israël de Haan - correspondent in Palestina, 1919-1924. Collected and edited by Ludy Giebels


  • 1994 - Brieven van en aan Jacob Israël de Haan 1899-1908. Edited by Rob Delvigne and Leo Ross

See also

  • Old Yishuv
    Old Yishuv
    The Old Yishuv refers to the Jewish community that lived in the Land of Israel from the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE to the First Aliyah in 1881-82, prior to the onset of Zionist immigration....

  • Edah HaChareidis
  • Haredi Judaism
    Haredi Judaism
    Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

  • History of the Jews in the Netherlands
    History of the Jews in the Netherlands
    Most history of the Jews in the Netherlands was generated between the end of the 16th century and World War II.The area now known as the Netherlands was once part of the Spanish Empire but in 1581, the northern Dutch provinces declared independence...

  • Notable Dutch Jews
  • Zionist political violence
    Zionist political violence
    Zionist political violence refers to acts of violence committed by Zionists in the British Mandate of Palestine for political reasons, mainly to advance the creation of Israel, a Jewish state....

External links