Israel Shamir is an internationally acclaimed radical spiritual and political thinker, Internet columnist and writer.
His comments about current affairs and their deeper meaning are published on his website and elsewhere. They are also collected in three books, Galilee Flowers, Cabbala of Power and recently published Masters of Discourse available in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Norwegian, Swedish, Italian, Hungarian etc.
A native of Novosibirsk , Siberia, he moved to Israel in 1969, served as paratrooper in the army and fought in the 1973 war. After the war, he turned to journalism and writing. In 1975, Shamir joined the BBC and moved to London . In 1977-79 he lived in Japan . After returning to Israel in 1980, Shamir wrote for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, and was the Knesset spokesman for the Israel Socialist Party (Mapam). He translated and annotated the cryptic works of S.Y. Agnon, the only Hebrew Nobel Prize winning writer, from the original Hebrew into Russian. In 2006 his mammoth annotated translation of a medieval Hebrew classic Sefer Yohassin (The Book of Lineage) was published by Zacuto Books. Shamir also translated the Odyssey, and selected chapters of Joyce’s Ulysses.
But Palestine , its sad history and enchanting landscape remained his most important subject. His views were summed up in The Pine and the Olive, the story of Palestine/Israel, published in 1988 and republished in 2004, and became a cult book among the readers. The second Palestinian Intifada turned Shamir to his highly political and poetic pieces centred on Palestine . As the battle for Palestine spilled over into Iraq , Shamir wrote more about the deeper, philosophical and theological meaning of the war. In 2004 he was received in the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and Holy Land , being baptised Adam by Archbishop Theodosius Attalla Hanna. Shamir (60) lives in Jaffa and spends much time in Moscow and Stockholm ; he is father of three sons.
This interview was conducted in 2010 with French Geopolitical site GeoPolIntel.
ONE STATE FOR TWO NATIONS AS A SOLUTION?
GPL: In France your book about the history of Palestine has recently been released by belgian publisher Oser Dire. When you published The Pine and the Olive at first, in russian, in 1987, 20 years after the annexations of 1967, did you think Jews were still able to “palestinize” themselves? What were your reasons of hope then? Wasn’t it already too late, or too illusory?
Israel Adam Shamir – The book was completed in 1986, and that is an important difference. It was before the Intifada, the times were still rather soft, integration at maximum. Then jewish youth wore kaffieh and used a lot of Arab words; interaction was daily thing, Palestinians were working everywhere: building, doing hard work, getting decent money by their standards. There were no checkpoints, a palestinian boy could go to swim in the Med, work in Tel Aviv, date a Jewish girl. A Jewish boy could go and visit villages as I did. Before intifada, there were chances for things to move towards integration. It was not even that clearly cut “Jews on top, Arabs on bottom” situation. Indeed Ashkenazi local born were on top, but Palestinians with land and education could be above Oriental Jews and above or on a par with new immigrants (Russians, Americans, etc).
So the solution was not only possible but probable! Now when I speak to Palestinians all agree that the time before intifada was the best they ever had. Why intifada occurred? Israeli legal machine (led by the present Supreme Justices) invented a device: they claimed that all non-privatised land of Palestine (and that was the lion share of lands, as privatisation was far from complete) belongs to the Jewish state and can be given to Jews. That was the signal for takeover of their lands, and it led to explosion.
Speaking of the book, I made now a new Russian edition and it goes very well in Russia. For this edition I checked hundreds of references and corrected hundreds of mistakes. I hope if and when Le Pin et l’Olivier will be reprinted in French, they will correct the text according to the latest edition.
GPL – In 2000, when the Intifada re-started, all the pro-palestinian activists interpretated your project of One State as One State under palestinian rule. Was it possible then, or at least realistic?
Shamir – Well, not exactly “under palestinian rule”. I am not for such a thing: for certain Palestinian leadership – yes, for some advantages to the native Palestinians – yes; but not for creating a state where I’d find myself limited in my rights. I am not that much of a masochist, and I believe in equality. One state is the idea of equality so the Jews in Palestine would be equal to Palestinians just as Jews in France are equal to native sons of Gallia. And such a solution was not only possible, it was realistic, and it remains so. The problem is that Jews do not tend to compromise. They tend to double their stakes in hope to win all. More force, even more force is their modus operandi. They thought they should never give one inch. Eventually checkpoints were built; and the wall, and things fell apart.
GPL – During these last 10 years, you have been doing a very big work in order to de-legitimate the jewish domination in historical Palestine. What is your balance now?
Shamir – Well, the change is great: ten years ago the One State idea was virtually forgotten, now it is on the foreground. The story of Palestine was not forgotten, was not assigned to oblivion. People learned not to be afraid of Jewish anger. Pro-palestinian and pro-peace movement began to free itself from the grip of Jewish-nationalist activists – thanks to Gilad Atzmon, Jeff Blankfort, Maria Poumier, Marcel Charbonnier, Claudio Moffa, Watt and Mearsheimer, Jeff Petras and other guys and girls who rejected Jewish supremacy and spoke openly about the Lobby, about Jewish soft power. There is much work to be done, but it is already done by so many other people!
GPL – You have been giving a vivid young-liking image of christianity, with your conversion to orthodoxy. Do you feel your christian fellows in Middle East and elsewhere did understand and value your step?
Shamir – I am less sure about it. In the Middle East, Christians are ethnic-religious communities just like Jews; they are born into their faith-oriented community. It is like colour of skin for them. They treated me very well; I have nothing to complain. In the West, the Catholic church is trying to accommodate Jews; and my message was too much for them. Still, my relations with them are good. And as for the Russian church, I enjoy their worship very much. There are problems – the world is not used to religiously oriented discourse. Many people just push delete when they see a reference to Divine.
GPL – In 2010, you seem to accept -without any joy indeed- to carry on the project of One State under israeli leadership; you explain that the palestinian minority will be able to abolish little by little the discriminatory and apartheid laws, and get material compensations for expulsions and confiscations of the “absents'” properties? Is it so?
Shamir – It is possible; such a solution would be acceptable to majority of Palestinians living in Palestine provided the time would be not too long. I am sure that some people in Palestinian diaspora would reject any solution, any solution at all – that is the thing with diasporas, whether Jewish, Armenian or Irish, they do not understand the need for compromise. But I am not sure the ruling elites of Israel would agree to go this way, or any way at all. As for me, I would support any decision that will reunite the native people and the land.
GPL – What about the nuclear israeli threat, how can it be neutralized?
Shamir – It could be neutralized at once with all other Israeli threats, together with apartheid. But I think it is waste of time to speak of nuclear disarmament in present situation. So there is another way, nuclear armament of Iran. It will create MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) and thus Israeli nuclear threat will be neutralized.
GPL – You wish a kind of resurrection of the ottoman empire, where the new israeli palestinian state would find its place naturally. What are the geopolitical parameters that lead you to think it may be doable in a short space of time?
Shamir – We are coming into the time of great changes; the area I call ‘post-Byzantine big space’ seeks to redefine itself. This area includes Russia, Balkans, Middle East, Turkey. It is in the process of freeing itself from West European and American ascendancy. Palestine is also a part of the area; with completion of decolonization the Zionist project will expire.
GPL – Do you still stake on the spiritual factor, on conversion of israeli Jews to loyalty with the land of Palestine instead of loyalty to blood logic (with its mytholoy about racial superiority, chosen people above any international law, claiming for rights without any limitation, etc)?
Shamir – Yes, absolutely. When one myth dies, another one should take its place. Myth of blood will go, myth of land will come instead.
GPL – In the Pine and the Olive, you identify yourself with the Russian immigration in Israel. Why do israeli Russians do not support you more, why do they let fanatic Lieberman represent them?
Shamir – Russian Israelis (or Israeli Russians) do have a warm spot for me. After all, I lived among them for many years. They always remember me whenever they speak of the actual Holy Land, of its villages. Even today as I write it I see in the Google search as some Russian Israeli internet communities quote texts from the Pine and the Olive and call it ‘supreme’, ‘divine’ and what not. As for Lieberman, he has a lot of financial support. I had none; when my adversaries called me ‘antisemite’ many of my erstwhile friends went into hiding. Still, « je ne regrette rien » !
GPL – It is easy to imagine how much of hidden support there is, even from very different points, for the warmonger Lieberman, so desperatly wishing to bomb Iran. In 2008, in your book Masters of Discourse, you showed how in America the pro-israeli lobby is able to unite both leftists and right wing people of the West, to raise propaganda operations, in order to prepare military attacks, at the psychological level; it works for present wars and for the coming ones. What new propaganda campaigns are you dismantling now? What is your new battlefield?
Shamir – Now I try to use the Wikileaks documents in order to achieve our goals. They show so much about the plans of the US and Israel! I think this is what should be used to its utmost! It appears that American power peaked in 1990s, and now it has begun to slowly decay. Megaleaks is not so much a cause as a symptom of decline. With any luck, people of good will around the world can work together to gracefully degrade the machinery of foreign domination. Americans have benefited least of all from the violent and intrusive politics of globalism. Heroic figures like Julian Assange lead us toward genuine local control and away from a Matrix-like network of conspiracies.