For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



Is the Intifada over?
(Reading Chaucer in the Holy Land)
By Israel Shamir

"The Palestinian Intifada is over, and the Palestinians have lost"- - thus proclaimed the Jewish American columnist Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post (June 18, 2004). Armed resistance has dwindled; there are no attacks on Israeli civilians; the Palestinians have been brought to their knees, thanks to the assassination of Palestinian leadership and to the Wall that has locked the unruly natives in their ghettos, wrote the Zionist stalwart. Is it true? Is the resistance over, and has the Holy Land been surrendered to the victor? Well, up to a point:


This immigrants-versus-natives confrontation over the sweet land of Palestine reminds me the Knight's Tale, this first fruit of Chaucer,

Palestine can't be separated from the larger context: the battle for Palestine began in Jerusalem and Gaza, but now it rages in Falujah and Kerbala, notwithstanding the appointment of a CIA agent as a ruler of 'independent Iraq'; before coming back to Jerusalem, the war against Judeo-American domination probably will spread to Teheran, Damascus and even European capitals. But the Intifada in Palestine unsurprisingly ran out of steam.

The military might of the Jewish state knows no rivals in the Middle East and beyond. Armed to the teeth, equipped with the latest American weaponry and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, it is probably able to take on any army on earth. Every Israeli man and woman serves in the Army, and his or her military exploits are the necessary requirement for any career, from minister to hairdresser. This militarised settler society easily overpowered the thoroughly disarmed native population.

The usual weapon of a Palestinian is a stone picked up on his hillside; their famed 'suicide-bombers' were rather manifestation of their indomitable spirit than a threat to Israel; hardly more than a nuisance from military point of view. Ordinary road accidents kill more Israelis than the Palestinians. None had military training; cordoned off from the outer world, a Palestinian could not obtain arms save those bootlegged by the renegade settlers; no wonder he could not defeat the steely rows of tanks and air-to-ground laser-guided missiles.

Moreover, the Jews have a powerful secret weapon at their disposal - their readiness to ruin the land. Their well-planned artesian wells killed the springs of water and turned the Holy Land into parched desert. This week I walked along the watercourse of Ghor (Arugot, in Hebrew), formerly a perennial stream. Home to mountain goat and leopard, this spring dried up, as the nearby kibbutz of Ein Gedi bored a shaft, laid a pipe and caught the water to bottle and sell in Tel Aviv. The gentle slopes of Samaria are disfigured by new roads to new Jewish suburbs. In the North of Gaza strip, a green land of fragrant orchards is turned into black wilderness of Mordor with smouldering stubs of burned trees. In the ruined land, the settlers prevail over the natives.

And still Krauthammer's declaration of victory is premature. This immigrants-versus-natives confrontation over the sweet land of Palestine reminds me the Knight's Tale, this first fruit of Chaucer, that tells of two brothers, Arcite and Palamon, madly in love with King's daughter Emely, 'fresh as May with blossoms born anew, all mild and reverent, her body washed with water from a well'.

In order to win her hand, Arcite appealed to the God of War, and Palamon pled to the Goddess of Love. In the decisive tournament, Mars-inspired Arcite defeated the love-stricken Palamon, but he was not destined to wed the fair maiden: after his military victory, he collapsed and suddenly died. The God of War could deliver victory, but only the Goddess of Love could deliver the maiden. The gentle King gave his daughter to the defeated Knight, and 'with all bliss and joyous melody this Palamon hath wedded Emely', concludes Chaucer. Thus the English bard prophesied an event unexpected by the hard-nosed Krauthammer: people who love their land will have her, even if military victory will be had by their adversaries.

For the land should be loved as Emely was loved by Palamon, as woman is loved by man; and such a love is beyond the abilities of most Jews. Some of them see in Palestine a symbol of God's promise to the people of Israel or a pledge of Messianic days, but such symbolic love is doomed to fail. Likewise, my French socialist friend married a Russian girl, for she symbolised Communism and Dostoyevsky, but their marriage broke down under the heavy load of symbolism.

My English politician friend has married to obscure his sexual preferences; he was tired to explain the voters why he did not marry. Likewise, many Jews were tempted to embrace Zionism as they were tired of explaining why they have no land of their own. But tiredness is a poor basis for marriage, and a real woman and a real land weren't made to provide an excuse.

The worst of all are Krauthammers, the American Jews who believe that a land they did not plough and did not seed can belong to them for they have the deed, like a summer cottage they rarely visit - they know no love, but an impotent sultan's jealousy to his bought-and-paid-for slave girl.

The settlers proved their lack of true love at their withdrawal from Sinai in 1980s. Leaving these places after a short sojourn, they smashed everything they could lay their hands on, dynamited every house and bulldozed every garden and vineyard planted by native and imported hands. And now, discussing withdrawal from Gaza, the settlers swear they will obliterate all signs of life on their lands before surrendering them to the hated natives. This is not the way to deal with a loved land: a poet spread his tenderness towards his beloved like a carpet under her feet as she forsook him, and wished her to be happy with her new man, 'loved as much as he loved her'.

Indeed, Palestinians never damaged their homes and gardens they were forced to leave, and beautiful old Arab houses and gardens in Talbieh and Ain Karim bear witness to their masters' love to the end. Not only their faith in eventual return kept them back from torching their trees and burning their houses down before fleeing to the refugee camps of Lebanon and Gaza - but their selfless love for the land and trees.

The Holy Land is a common project by Our Lord God and by her people. He created her, and they attended to her, built her terraces, dug around olives, and worshipped her Lord on her high places. Just as the defeated Palamon won his fair Emely, the vanquished will inherit the land; while victorious in battle will perish unless they surrender to the Goddess of Love, love to the land and her people.