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.
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”.
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
available on a number of websites, see http://www.israelshamir.net/ru/agnon.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.
is notoriously dishonest. He writes: “Shamir’s son was
deported from Israel to Sweden”, without mentioning that he was
deported for breaking an Israeli army siege and for bringing food
to Palestinians locked in the Bethlehem Church of Nativity.
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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?
the aldermen of Somerville, Ma 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.
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.
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
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.
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.