By Israel Shamir
In its September 2004 issue, the leftist American magazine Socialist Viewpoint published a ferocious attack entitled “Israel Shamir: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” a personal libel against me by a Roland Rance. A minor British trade union functionary, Rance is a leading member of a leftish group Jews against Zionism. Despite their name, The Jews against Zionism produce mainly complaints against “antisemitism” and indulge in apology of Judaism and Jewishness.
Rance hits below the belt (probably because he can’t reach any higher). Instead of dealing with my ideas, he launches a personal attack: “Shamir’s resume [i] reads like a work of fantasy: grandson of a rabbi, Israeli paratrooper, translated Agnon, Herzog, Joyce and the Talmud into Russian, parliamentary spokesman for Mapam, worked for the BBC. I don’t believe a word of it.”
Rance is free to believe what he wants. He may believe in Flat Earth theory and disbelieve Galileo and Copernicus. However, the Socialist Viewpoint, if the magazine wants to be considered trustworthy, can’t publish such rubbish unchecked.
* My Russian translations of Agnon and Joyce were published and re-published in Russia and abroad, see ISBN 45-85220-487-0 and ISBN 5-05-005113-4 and are available on a number of websites, see http://www.israelshamir.net/ru/agnon.htm and
http://www.israelshamir.net/ru/ulysse.htm ; my translation of Herzog was published in London by Nina Karsov in 1986 <http://hedir.openu.ac.il/kurs/pol-bibliogr.html > and republished in 2004 in Moscow < http://oz.by/books/more1010690.html >, my translation of Talmud-related texts is also available on the web http://www.israelshamir.net/talmud/indexoftalmud.html .
* As for my paratrooper’s past, you can read another vicious attack on me published by the extreme-right Maariv newspaper with title: “Israeli Paratrooper became a darling of antisemites.” Ben Dror Yamini, the author of this eight-pages-long ‘expose’ met with many people who know me, collected all the ill rumours about my modest person; but even he did not try to take away from me my hard-earned red beret.
* One telephone call to the BBC Personnel would confirm that I had a pleasure to be on their staff; the Mapam party activists remember me as their parliamentary group’s spokesman and shared it with the Israeli journalist bent on exposing me and my leftist views.
* My saintly ancestor, not a grandfather -- my irreligious grandfather, probably another “work of fantasy,” was a Deputy Head of Gosplan under Lenin, and later a professor of mathematics -- but my great-great-grandfather, was a well-known rabbi in Tiberias, and his son established a synagogue in his name in Stockholm, Sweden. The plaque is still there to be seen.
* For reasons of space and time I won’t go into debunking of his other preposterous claims taken verbatim from the right-wing Zionist sites Camera.org and Masada2000.
Rance is notoriously dishonest. He writes: “Shamir’s son was deported from Israel to Sweden,” without mentioning that I was deported for breaking an Israeli army siege and for bringing food to Palestinians locked in the Bethlehem Church of Nativity.
Rance is unfair. He writes: “Shamir forwarded an email from Birmingham University academic Sue Blackwell, including contact details [and it constituted] a serious threat to the physical safety of activists.” However, he did not hesitate to publish the address and a telephone of my Swedish family, though this act clearly endangers them. Would he like to see his address and telephone published? This is just not cricket!
Why does he play so rough? Rance’s article can be summarised in a few words:
“Shamir is not a Jew.” He writes: “Shamir is a right-wing Russian who pretends to be an Israeli Jewish leftist… I am sure he was a Christian but found it useful to pose as a Jew.” This line is upheld by the editor in his introduction to the libel: “Shamir presented himself as a Russian Jew.” A non-Jew – worse, a Christian, - does not deserve fair play, one does not have to observe the rules of engagement dealing with a Goy - according to Rance, or according to the Socialist Viewpoint, the “revolutionary Marxist magazine” edited and published by Weinstein, Weinstein, Seligman, and LeClair. The title of the libel carries the same racist message: a Russian Christian Wolf hides under a Jewish Sheep’s clothing. I resent the insinuation of subterfuge, but this racist insistence on racial character of Jewishness is equally inadmissible.
For the record: following Marx and Simone Weil, I object (and objected) to perpetuation of the Jewish identity. In an interview published in the Socialist Viewpoint in 2001, I have said: “I am against existence of a Jewish state per se. In my opinion, Jews in Palestine should become Palestinians, while Jews of France should be French.” This attitude is not exclusively Marxist: Sir Carl Popper refused to be included in the Judaic Encyclopaedia for, as he said, he “severed all ties with the Jewish religion and community.”
I willingly ceased to be a Jew when I entered the Orthodox Church of the Holy Land, but this is not the only way out: hundreds Israelis petitioned the Supreme Court of Israel demanding their ‘Jewish nationality’ being stricken out and replaced by ‘Israeli’ or ‘Palestinian.’ Two million Israeli citizens – Palestinians, Russians and Ethiopians – are not considered ‘Jews’ by the Jewish state and do not wish to. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Israelis (many of them hail from the USSR with its internationalist upbringing) are considered ‘Jews’ but nevertheless want to give up their Jewish exclusivity. They want to be Israelis, or Palestinians – but not Jews.
This is not an academic point. The Israeli soul is the scene of struggle between two forces, between two loyalties: that to the land and that to the world-wide Jewish People. The loyalty to the land can eventually form a basis for complete unity with the native Palestinian people. The loyalty to world Jewry (Am Israel) is the basis of our xenophobia, of the Wall, of the apartheid state. The Palestinians are denied equal rights in order to sustain the ‘Jewish character’ of the state. The ugliest crimes of Zionism are perpetrated in the name of the Jewish People; ‘Jewishness’ is the engine of ethnic cleansing in our country. Thus our struggle against ‘the Jewish character of the State’ is an important spiritual element in the struggle for democracy in Palestine.
But World Jewry fights back for their hold on our souls. Roland Rance is a foremost agent of Judaic influence; he wants us, Israelis, to be Jews. Indeed, as a member of the Socialist Workers' Party he stood for “replacement of the Jewish state of Israel by an Arab-Jewish democratic, secular Palestine”[ii]. His motion was rightly dismissed, for ‘Arabs’ and ‘Jews’ are not two nations. ‘Arabs’ are a linguistic and cultural group of peoples which includes Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians of all religions; the Jews are a religious caste, ‘class-people’ as Abram Leon has termed them. Roland Rance wants to perpetuate this caste; I want it undone. Roland Rance wants Israelis to remain Jews and preserve their separateness, I want them – us! - to become Palestinians of whatever religion or of no religion at all; to renounce all connection to the Jewish People abroad, to cut off ties with Abe Foxman and Morton Zuckerman, and even with Ronald Rance.
All this talk of “Not in My Name” and “Judaism is not Zionism” is quite futile. We observe empirically: the less Jewish an Israeli is, the more likely he is to befriend Palestinians. Even General Rafael Eitan, who died a few days ago, was eulogised by many Palestinian friends; and he was an Arab-fighter, but not a Jew at all by his attitudes. There is no way around it: Israelis should be de-Judaised, or de-linked from the Jewish People overseas in order to link up with the natives.
** There is a second reason for my hostility to “Jewishness” – this concept is used to frighten ordinary Americans, Brits and Europeans away from their support of equality in Palestine by attaching the antisemitism stigma to it. Indeed, my relationship with The Socialist Viewpoint soured after publication of my essay The Marxists and the Lobby[iii] where I criticised Nat Weinstein for his senseless repetition of the ‘danger of antisemitism’ mantra. As the result, if in 2001, “Socialist Viewpoint was proud to print articles by Israel Shamir of Tel Aviv[iv];” in the September 2004 issue I am described as “one, Israel Shamir.” The turnabout is explained by “Shamir’s thesis that the Jewish Lobby is primarily responsible for US imperialism’s crimes in the Middle East.” This thesis has “more than a hint of anti-Semitic nonsense,” they write. If even the “revolutionary Marxist magazine” repeats ADL-inspired dogma, what can one expect from ordinary Americans?
Recently, the aldermen of Somerville, Massachusetts decided to drop their attempt to divest from Israel. The Zionists had intimidated them into submission, and I can’t blame them – when all American media from the New York Post to the Socialist Viewpoint, when all pundits from Dershowitz to Weinstein are united in their “zero tolerance to antisemitism,” it would be political suicide to risk their wrath. Even Rabbis for Human Rights, much applauded by Ronald Rance and his kin, described divestment as an act of antisemitism.
Some good Jews have tried to gainsay the otherwise united Jewish position and claimed that divestment is not antisemitism. In a similar way, the French frondeurs or the Russian Decembrists claimed they were not against the king, but rather against his ministers. Their pussyfooting could not convince the people. The really successful revolutions – 1789 or 1917 – occurred when the people sang La Carmagnole with its reckless slogan ‘Les aristocrats à la lanterne.’ The tide of pro-Israeli support led us, in my belief, to the destruction of Palestine and Iraq and will soon lead to an attack on Iran. This tide will abate only if and when Americans and Europeans begin to dismiss accusations of antisemitism in the same way that now they shrug off charges of lese majesté (disrespect to the Crown). That is why we, friends and lovers of Palestine, must struggle – not only against occupation, but for making Jewishness irrelevant and Jewry broken up.
The break-up of Jewry will be a wonderful development for Jews, too. The vast majority will be able to become just Americans, or just Brits, or just French; a small Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community will remain with us like the Amish or other tiny observant minorities, never again to be disturbed by hatred or power struggle.
*** The third reason for my position is intra-Palestinian. Dwellers of our land can be classified by many criteria: by their height and weight, by their age or income, by their faith or land of origin. The criterion of Jewishness is the one that unites all immigrant communities in opposition to the natives. This gives huge power to the immigrant Ashkenazi elites. But if Jewishness will be as important as hair colour, we shall find ourselves in a totally different situation – the native population, plus a plethora of middling immigrant communities from different lands. Instead of Palestinians versus Jews, there will be Palestinians – and immigrants from Poland and Germany, Russia and Morocco, Yemen, and France. The natives will be able to exercise decisive influence and eventually absorb the divided immigrants.
Thus my position regarding Jews is not dictated by a whim or by religious considerations (as Rance claims) but by seeing that there is no other way to unite Palestine, to restore the native Palestinians to their natural position and to help the immigrants to strike root in the soil of the Holy Land.