Jacob Israël de Haan

Posted on October 19, 2010


Novelist, poet, journalist and political gadfly Jacob Israël de Haan was born in the Netherlands in 1881. When he was 23, he wrote the book Pijpelijntjes (Tales from the Pijp), one of the first Dutch homoerotic novels and a thinly disguised account of a relationship between de Haan and early homosexual advocate Arnold Aletrino. Aletrino, embarrassed and worried about the publication which was dedicated to him, managed to buy up all the copies along with de Haan’s future wife.

De Haan went on to become fascinated by Israel and Zionism, and in 1919 he moved to Jerusalem. There, he sent back dispatches to Dutch newspapers and taught in a newly established law school. He eventually aligned himself with the extreme Orthodox Jewish Haredi community, becoming political secretary of the Orthodox community council and eventually serving as its ambassador. The secular Zionist establishment was determined to keep the extreme religious element out of the Jewish Agency, the Jewish authority in Palestine prior to the establishment of the state of Israel. De Haan was assassinated in 1924 supposedly at the behest of Zionist authorities on account of his being a threat to the movement and his Arab sympathies – believed to be the first political assassination in Palestine related to Zionism.

De Haan was a bundle of contradictions – he seems to have been rather open about his homosexuality, yet Orthodox in his religion and critical of Zionism and the path it was taking in the 1920s. But throughout it all, he continued to write – at his death, he was preparing a collection of sensual poems for publication, Kwatrijnen (quatrains); lines from de Haan’s poem “To a Young Fisherman” are prominent on Amsterdam’s Homomonument, not far from the house he lived in where he wrote Pijpelijntjes.

Jacob Israël de Haan has a page on Wikipedia, here and an article by Ludy Giebels at exquisite corpse, here. A list of links to de Haan’s work in Dutch can be found here.