MAR 2001


by Israel Shamir

Among the colorful revelers on Allenby Street, in a crowded restaurant on a merry-making Tel Aviv night, a vision came to me, a vision of an angel in battle-dress writing on a wall the three words, "Mene, Tekel Ufarsin." My Angel-to-English dictionary prompts a translation: "You were tested and you failed."

These are the darkest days for the people of Israel. They are dark because our and our fathers’ lamentations and protests against injustice have turned out to be about as genuine as a three-dollar bill.

In 1968, as a young Jewish Russian kid, I scrawled on the walls of my native Russian city, "Hands off Czechoslovakia". The beautiful deep voice of Jewish Russian poet Alexander Galitch still resonates in my ears: "Citizens, our Motherland is in danger, our tanks are on foreign soil!" Some Russian Jews demonstrated on Red Square against the invasion and were beaten up by the police. We protested against Russian tanks in Budapest and Prague and Kabul, as Russian citizens who valued honor above loyalty, humankind above kinship. At the same time Jewish American kids were demonstrating against their country’s intervention in Vietnam, and Jewish boys and girls in Europe were struggling against racism. Years passed by, and now our Jewish tanks are on foreign soil.

Our Jewish army murders civilians, demolishes houses, and imposes a siege on hungry villages. Our crimes are on a par with Russian crimes committed in Chechnya and Afghanistan, American crimes in Vietnam, and Serb crimes in Bosnia. Surely Israeli intellectuals are demonstrating en masse on our equivalent of Pennsylvania Avenue or Trafalgar Square, and American Jews are raising their voices against the American-armed killers of Palestinians, and surely Russian Jews are speaking up for the human rights of the enslaved Gentiles of the Holy Land? No fear … our literati are busy indeed, as they exalt the courage of our Jewish soldiers, venerate the steady hand of our Jewish snipers, glorify the immense humanity of the Jewish folk who could pulverize all the Gentiles of Palestine, but kindly limit ourselves to a few hundred wounded and maimed a day.

My grandfather in the Pale of Settlement railed against the restrictions on free movement of Jews in the Russian Empire. In our generation, Anatoli Sharansky became a symbol of struggle for human rights. Yet in our own country, the Gentiles are fenced into reservations and concentration camps with which, in comparison, the Pale pales.

A Palestinian cannot go to the next village without the Jewish ausweis; he is forever checked by our Checkists. He can only dream of the sea, washing the shores of his ancestral home—we don’t let Palestinians pollute the Jewish purity of our beaches.

For years, the Jews protested against discrimination in employment and education. Yet, in our own Jewish state, we created a system of total national discrimination. In our state-owned Electric company, out of thirteen thousand employees, there are six Gentiles (one twenty-fifth of one percent).

Gentiles form forty percent of the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, but only one in four has the right to vote. There are no Gentiles in the Israeli Supreme Court, in the Air Force, in the secret services. There is not even one Gentile on the board of the main Israeli oh-so-liberal newspaper, Haaretz.

In the light of these events, the complaints of the Diaspora Jews need to be revisited. We didn’t really fight for human rights, but for the rights of Jews. We struggled for freedom of movement and freedom of choice—but only for Jews. We spoke of universal suffrage, but we meant the right of Jews to vote. We do not mind invasion and occupation so long as we are doing the invading and occupying.

The sight of a child raising hands in front of a machine-gun-toting thug grieves us only if it is a Jewish child. The Gentile kid can be shot at freely.

Apparently, when Bialik wrote "The Devil did not invent a fit punishment for the murder of a child", he actually meant "a Jewish child". When the scenes of pogroms horrified him, he was horrified that the violence was directed against Jews. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with pogroms per se. Several weeks ago, the Jews of Upper Nazareth committed a pogrom of Gentiles in Nazareth, but no pogromchik was brought to justice. The Israeli Police helped out by murdering some of the pogrom victims. Still worse, the pogroms of Ramallah and Beth Jallah were committed with helicopter gunships and tanks.

Tsarist Russia, "the land of pogroms", was much hated by our grandparents, and eventually destroyed by them. Still, a hundred years of Jewish pogroms in Russia caused fewer casualties than we murder in some weeks. The most horrible pogrom of Kishinev claimed 45 dead and 600 wounded. Over the last three months, 400 Palestinians have been killed and many thousands wounded. After a pogrom in Tsarist Russia, all Russian writers and intelligentsia condemned the perpetrators. In the Jewish state, barely a few dozen gathered to demonstrate in Tel Aviv, while the Hebrew Writers Union has endorsed the pogrom of Gentiles.

In 1991, the majority of Russian Jews took a stand against communism and raised the banner of private property. Apparently, they actually meant Jewish private property, since we confiscate Gentile property with the greatest of ease.

Take a stroll through the best areas of Jerusalem, wander through Talbieh, Old Katamon, Greek and German Colonies, and admire the marvelous palaces. They belonged to Gentiles—Germans, Armenians, Greeks, British, Russians, Palestinians—Christian and Moslem. All of them were confiscated and bestowed upon Jews. Just in the last few weeks, hundreds of acres of Gentile property were confiscated and scores of Gentile houses seized or demolished.

Right before his arrest, the Russian Jewish media-lord Gusinsky came to Israel and sang his fervent support for the Jewish state. At the same time, he was demanding that the West assist him in his fight with the Russian authorities which had seized his TV station. His support of Israel proves that Mr. Gusinsky does not object to confiscations; he is just against confiscation of Jewish property. He is against Jews being arrested; the Gentiles can rot forever in the prisons of the Jewish state.

In no time at all, we have succeeded in undermining the long-term achievements of Jews in the struggle for democracy, human rights and equality. What exactly did we abhor about the German Nazis? Their racism? Our own racism is no less widespread and is potentially as virulent.

The Russian language newspaper Direct Speech, published in Jerusalem, asked hundreds of Russian Jews about their feelings towards the Palestinians. Typical answers were: "I would kill all Arabs", "All Arabs should be eliminated", "Arabs must be expelled", and "An Arab is an Arab. They all have to be eliminated". I am not sure a street poll of Berlin in 1938 would produce more damning results, as the Nazi idea of the Final Solution did not emerge until 1941.

Shall we call a spade a spade? We Jews have been fighting racism as long as it was someone else’s racism. We were against death squads and the Sonderkommando as long as they acted against us. Our own killers, our Jewish Sondercommando, are the object of our tender admiration. The Jewish state is the only place in the world possessing official death squads, that embrace a policy of assassination, and the practice of medieval torture. No cause for alarm, my dear Jewish readers, we only torture and assassinate Gentiles.

We were against ghettos while we were confined in a ghetto. Now the most liberal Israeli peace plan calls for creation of a few Gentile ghettos walled by barbed wire, surrounded by Jewish tanks and Jewish-owned factories at the fence, where the Arbeit will macht the Gentiles frei. We shall give the ghetto their independence, but not before we remove all other sources of income and sustenance.

Israelis are brainwashed from kindergarten; they are taught they belong to the Chosen People, who are Uber Alles. They are indoctrinated that the Gentiles are not fully human, and therefore they can be killed and their land expropriated at will. After all, Israel fulfilled at least one UN resolution, the one that called Zionism a form of racism.

What upsets me is that the internationalist upbringing in the Soviet Union which we Russian Jews received could not withstand the poisonous Zionist propaganda of Jewish superiority. What I regret most is the moral collapse of my own Russian community in the Holy Land.

Now, as the angel wrote his fiery words, as prophets called upon the people to repent, we still have a choice. We can choose the way of Nineveh, to repent, to return the stolen property, to give full equality to Gentiles, to stop discrimination and murder, and hope to be forgiven by God, if not for our sake, then for the sake of our cats and dogs. Or we can persist in our evil ways, as did the people of Sodom, and wait for the flood of fire and burning sulphur to rain down from the angry heavens of Palestine.

by Israel Shamir

Palestine is not a dead object, it is a live country. Palestinians are her soul. Palestine is what Palestinians are re-creating in real time, in the same way France is what the French are re-creating every day. It is a vast confusion of mind, to presume one can love France and abhor French, as France does not exist without the French. Only silly tourists from rich countries, pestered by native beggars, prefer to stay in a no-man’s-land of posh hotels. It is like loving a beautiful body but hating the character and very soul. Love to a country without its inhabitants is a form of necrophilia, making love to a corpse.

The late Russian historian Lev Gumilev described a country as a symbiosis of people and landscape. Palestine and Palestinians are inseparable, the peasants and their olives and springs of water and the mountains and the domes of the ancestral sepulchres on the hilltops need each other and grow together. The Palestinians are not an obscure mean folk. They created the Star of Ghassul, wrote the Bible, built temples of Jerusalem and Garizim, palaces of Jericho and Samaria, churches of the Holy Sepulchre and Nativity, mosques of Haram a-Sharif, harbors of Caesarea and Akka, castles of Monfort and Belvoir. They walked with Jesus, defeated Napoleon and bravely fought at Karameh. The blood of Aegean warriors, Bene Israel, David’s heroes, the first Apostles of Christ and Companions of the Prophet, Arab riders, Norman Crusaders and Turkmen chieftains blended in their unique composition. Its spark did not run out: the poetry of Mahmud Darwish, wisdom of Edward Said, perfect olive oil, the fervor of prayers and the valiant courage of intifada prove it.

Without the Palestinians, Palestine dies. Her rivers are poisoned, the sources dry out, the hills and valleys are disfigured, her fields are worked by imported workers, while her sons are imprisoned in ghettos. The idea of a separate Jewish state collapsed. During the last ten years, the mad policies of Israeli government brought here over a million Romanians, Russians, Ukrainians, Thais and Africans. Some of them claim Jewish descent: Peruvian tribes, Indians from Assam and the endless refugees from the Soviet Union moved in. Now the Jewish Agency plans to import a Lembda tribe from South Africa, in order to enforce the Jewish character of the state. People still bearing some part of the Jewish traditions are isolated in the Jewish state like the late Dr. Yeshayahu Leibovich, or imprisoned like the Moroccan Jewish Rabbi Arie Der’i.

The fantasy of Jewish gathering misfired. We must end it. Let the sons and daughters of Palestine come back and rebuild Suba and Kakun, Jaffa and Akka. Instead of consecrating the Green Line, let us erase it and live together, the children of Palestine, of the first settlers, of Maghribians and Russians.

Not Oslo only … the very idea of partition is wrong. We can follow the example of New Zealand, where the European incomers live together with the native Maori, the example of Mandela’s South Africa, the example of the Caribbean, where children of Spanish settlers, African slaves and native Amerindians blended into a beautiful new race. Let us tear up our Declarations of false Independence and write a new one, of mutual dependence and love. R


The author is one of the best-known and most respected Russian Israeli writers and journalists. He has written for Haaretz, the BBC, Pravda and has translated Agnon, Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Tel Aviv and writes a weekly column in Vesti, the biggest Russian-language paper in Israel.

Israel Shamir, POB 23714 Tel Aviv 61236


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