Israel Shamir – March 14, 2007
Spring has come to our Northern retreat: The snow has melted and uncovered meadows that somehow managed to stay pale-green; thick ice on the lake has broken up and crawled up on the shore like so many white crocodiles; now a warm wind blows and the sun shines as if it means business. The Spring has come to conclude the gorgeous winter: our soul needs darkness as well as light, and here at latitude 60°N, a snowball-throw from the Arctic Circle, where I am spending a few months far away from the relentless Mediterranean sunshine, darkness has been provided in heaps as generous as the mounds of ice cream in a child’s dream. God knows, I have longed for darkness and seclusion – for cold, dark low skies, with plenty of prickly stars – for snow-bound fields and snow-embroidered pines – for low-lying sun, for the laze of late mornings, for short days and long evenings, for live fire in the fireplace, for skates on the ice and skis on the slope – and it has been given in full. And now radiance pours into our world, promising the resurrection of Light from Light, Lumen de Lumine, Öþò åê öùôüò.
This is the time for good news. In London, Palestinian Solidarity dismissed a motion by Jewish activists to ban Deir Yassin Remembered, the most dynamic and non-apologetic of Palestinophile bodies, because of (among other sins) their association with me. On Saturday March 10th at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Annual General Meeting, two motions were proposed by Tony Greenstein and Roland Rance, both extremely long and explicit, demanding from friends of Palestine that they make the “fight against antisemitism and Holocaust denial” their main agenda. Chutzpah is an understatement for such impudence. These guys are so dishonest that I was not at all astonished when Greenstein was outed as a credit card fraudster. Greenstein had besmirched DYR, DYR Chairman Prof Dan McGowan, the British Director of DYR, Paul Eisen and our friend Gilad Atzmon in the Guardian in a piece called The seamy side of solidarity, and had attacked me in a long text called Anti-Semitism is no response to Zionism. They tried to stop DYR, though DYR provides scholarships to Palestinian children, brings awareness to masses and commemorates Palestinian struggle and suffering. They were answered by Paul Eisen, Ramzy Baroud and Gilad.
Both motions were voted down by an astounding absolute majority - 95%, reported Mary Rizzo’s blog. The British friends of Palestine decided in favor of freedom of thought and in favor of pluralism, and rejected the Procrustean bed of narrow social analysis forced by the Jewish activists. If accepted, the motion would have delegitimized not only Gilad or Paul Eisen or myself, but Michael Neumann and Jimmy Carter and Walt and Mearsheimer as well. Anybody referring to the Israel Lobby would have been deemed an antisemite and banned. It would have made obligatory belief in the Jewish antizionist myth of creation: only Imperialism is guilty, while Jewish Lobby is an invention of antisemites, a view beautifully deconstructed by M. Ahmad. Preoccupation with holocaust would have become a duty for any friend of Palestine. But those who wish Palestine to be free, want to be free themselves: free to read, write and say whatever is their wont. And so to protect this sweet freedom they rejected the Jewish diktat.
This is a small thing compared to the wonders of nature, or even compared with some major fights people have elsewhere; but do not pooh-pooh it -- this was an important battle and a great victory, albeit on our turf. As Churchill once said, it is not the beginning of the end, but it is the end of beginning. For many long years, they’ve gotten whatever they wanted. Right-wing Jews attacked Ken Livingstone and Jimmy Carter for their “antisemitism,” while left-wing Jews attacked my friends and me for the same reason and with the same viciousness. One could not mouth the word “Jew” without worshipful admiration and still retain one’s place in society.
Scared by this onslaught, timid allies would opt out, partake in the ostracism themselves, stop answering letters, join in condemnation. Websites, let alone printed media, wouldn’t publish my essays, conference organizers would disinvite. Like the leather-coated Commissars of the dreaded Cheka, Jewish activists would barge into any discussion enforcing their one and only true discourse, and folks would stand at attention. Only the strongest in spirit, the most determined and the most freedom-loving withstood their swarm assault. Is the London vote a harbinger of change? Could it be that the long winter of our discontent is finally over?
It is possible, for this is the prevailing wind from the East. Despite its own wonderful civilization and creature comforts, the West has always taken its better and more profound ideas from the East, be it Christianity from Palestine or Socialism from Russia. And now Russia offers Volya, unlimited and untranslatable Russian freedom, as its antidote to the war on liberties otherwise known as the “war on terror.” Russia is unbelievably free, or rather full of volya: one may smoke in a restaurant or in a pub, one does not have to brace a seatbelt, even parking is free if available. More importantly, one may say and write and publish practically anything at all. Beside all the freedoms available in the West, Russians may be gays or sneer at gays, bewail the holocaust or regret it was over too soon, be feminists or bait them, love Israel or call for its speedy dissolution. Yes, every liberal and Jewish-owned newspaper in the West bemoans the lack of freedom in Russia under the ‘bloody KGB dictator Putin’ (or in Venezuela under the bloody dictator Chavez, or in Cuba under the bloody dictator Castro – whoever they do not like is always a bloody dictator, isn't he?), but Russians are free from political correctness and Jew-worship, that annoying features of the post-war West.
Recently a group of Russian writers visited Israel and met there with their readers: there are more than a million Russian-speaking Israelis. The readers did not beat around the bush and demanded from the authors that they swear allegiance to the ruling ideology: condemn Iran, glorify Israel, this fortress of democracy in the Middle East, denounce the Russian supply of weapons to Arabs, and slam Russian antisemitism. Jews usually feel like creditors, and easily come up with demands.
A Western visitor would deliver the goods, though he would probably complain to his spouse afterwards. Denial of omnipresent and eternal antisemitism is not better than denial of the holocaust. But Russia is free, and when readers asked the Russian writer Maria Arbatova to tell them how she suffers from antisemitism and how dreadful life in Russia is under Putin’s dictatorship, she demurred.
Forget it, she said. Moscow today is like the Paris of the 1960s: we have more events in a day than you have in a month. Today, glorious Moscow is a world center. As for you, we are tired of you, and the Arabs are tired of you and of your demands. This failed Western project has outlived its usefulness. If my children were to even think of moving to Israel, I’d tell them: over my dead body! Russia never had antisemitism. I never experienced it in the whole of my fifty years of life. You say Jews could not find a job? It happened once to my Jewish mother that she was rejected, but she immediately found another, better job by using her family connections.
This was the answer a prominent Russian liberal writer gave to the Israeli readers. Far from being a Russian nationalist, the leading feminist writer Maria Arbatova’s grandfather was an important Jewish leader, and her great-grandfather was a founder of the Zionist movement in Tsarist Russia. But her reply was universal and paradigmatic. In the West, Tony Jutt and Harold Pinter could say that -- maybe Philip Weiss. Others are still scared. But the words that the German bishops mouthed and then repented can be easily said in free Russia, by descendents of Jews, or by anybody. The mystic charm of Jews has worn off in Russia, where Political Correctness is unheard of, and where the churches are full and people bless each other with “Christ is Risen”. Instead of scaring and offending Jews, as American multicultural theory would have it, so many of my Moscow friends consider themselves ‘just Russians’ despite having a Jewish parent or two, and with an intermarriage rate of about 80% Russian Jewry is a thing of the past. Many of them had been misled by Zionist propaganda, but they had enough time to recognise it and regret their haste.
Israel did much to disabuse them: Even very wealthy Russian Jews found themselves less than welcome in their “historical homeland”: The oligarch Gusinsky is under police investigation, and whenever he comes from his Spanish home he is taken straight to police HQ; one of the richest Russian Jews, Gaidamak, had his bank account sequestered. Less prominent Russians were mistreated and exploited by established Israeli old-timers and their progeny, just as exiles from Morocco were mistreated and exploited some forty years ago. Hardly any of them carved out a career worth mentioning. The eternal war proposed and advanced by Israeli leaders has little appeal for them; Hizbullah missiles taught them that Israel is not immune and invulnerable anymore, and a forthcoming Israeli offensive against Syria or Iran may cause many casualties among Israeli civilians. Corrupt even by Middle Eastern standards, prejudiced to the point of jaundice, Israel is probably the least attractive place for the upward-mobile and dynamic.
As the result, tens of thousands of Russian Israelis trek back to Russia and find their real country and their real home there in their native land. The Zionist idea had romantic appeal, but such things do not last. In the 1970s, I met in Tanzania with some American Blacks who moved to Africa on a wave of romantic search for their roots. The experience rarely lasted more than five years tops. During that time, they came to recognise that they are Americans for better or for worse, while Africans are organized into many nations and tribes, none of which they could fit into. You can’t “come back” after two hundred, let alone two thousand, years.
Russian scientist Dan Axelrod from St Petersburg told me of his Israeli relatives who would dearly love to return to that city and buy back the apartments they sold some ten years ago, in Yeltsin’s days. The only thing that stops them is the sad fact that these apartments’ value has increased tenfold since then. Axelrod has no worries of this sort: this son of Jewish parents is a regular church-goer, observes strict Orthodox Lent, is married to a Russian woman, baptised their children and loves his country Russia. It seems Russia has found an answer to the Jewish Question: neither by German fury nor American submission, but through assimilation in Christian love. This Russian model is the only one that can work, and it will eventually work in Palestine, too.
This is an additional reason why Putin’s Russia is much hated and much denigrated in the official zionist-controlled Western mainstream, and this is why she is loved by friends of Palestine. A Swedish friend of mine and of Palestine, Stefan L., wrote to me: “You're absolutely right about Putin. That he is a hostage of the oligarchs is one thing, but when he for one reason or another speaks the truth - we love him, the little rat-faced spy with a Kalashnikov accent. And every time we are reminded of Yeltsin’s existence we swear him eternal loyalty.”
Last updated 16/03/2007