Writer and journalist Israel Shamir is one of the most committed Israeli personalities against the Jewish definition of the State of Israel and the system of apartheid it has created. His detractors present this former spokesperson of MAPAM (the Socialist Party of Israel) and former translator of president Herzog, as a “Self-hating Jew” whereas his supporters believe he is “one of the greatest Israeli intellectuals.” Israel Shamir answers Silvia Cattori’s questions about the defamation campaign against him and the ways of fighting racism in the state of Israel.
Silvia Cattori : What do you have to say to those who accuse you of spreading the idea of a “plot in favour of the Jewish domination of the world”?
Israel Shamir : What to say is not important because people only listen to what they want to listen to! All my books prove there’s no “conspiracy” or “plot”, but politicians favouring Jews. On the other hand, certain interests are more powerful than many conspirators. The aristocracy makes no conspiracy, they’re happy with having common interests. Reality is the main interest of the group. There’s no “conspiracy”.
Silvia Cattori : You are also being criticised for having granted interviews to magazines linked to the extreme right. What can you say about this? What do you think of the extreme right?
Israel Shamir : I speak to everybody, not only to my closest friends. And I do it because I want to influence people with different views and I want them to come closer to my viewpoints. I see no reasons to boycott a journal or a magazine. I wrote for Haaretz, an Israeli paper of large circulation, and I did it in “the proper way” even when this journal publishes articles written by Israeli extremist Nazis. In spite of the fact that the New York Times supports the war against Iraq, I would write for it. I believe there’s no reason to reject any media outlet.
Silvia Cattori : When you write about the opposition between the left and the right as being obsolete, that it’s important to gather all available forces to fight against the common enemy (that is, the United States and Israel), don’t you fear that evil alliances may be formed?
Israel Shamir : I am not afraid of communicating: with the left or the right, because we have other things in common. The left/right opposition is useful for a one-dimension universe, but we live in a three-dimension world. Therefore, those elements that may be separated on a line might be pretty close in another dimension. The world is not one-dimensional. If you have studied geometry you can understand what I mean. When it’s about knowing who our friends or enemies are, we must go beyond the left/right issue. We must take into account the position with regard to the sky and the Earth or, in a more trivial level, with regard to the United States and Israel, globalization and our roots. A right-wing alterglobalist is much more closer to my heart than a sectarian and globalist Left-winger.
Silvia Cattori : You have published articles in which you have analyzed the outcome of the 2002 presidential elections and the 2005 referendum in France as the result of the excesses of Zionism. This opinion is surprising for most French. What makes you believe that the situation in Palestine can influence elections in France?
Israel Shamir : Zionism is a problem that not only affects Palestine. This problem becomes evident in the submission to the United States, in the predominant influence of the pro-Zionist voices within the French media, for instance. The Euro-Palestinian list failed because it limited itself to the Palestinian problem. If this list had demanded the elimination of Zionism in France, which would have meant the rupture with NATO and the United States; if the representatives of this list had made a call to completely destroy the Zionist programme, they would have gotten a huge amount of votes.
Silvia Cattori : Is it true, as your detractors say, that you question the existence of the Nazi extermination camps, the magnitude of the Jewish genocide?
Israel Shamir : I don’t know anything about this controversy on negationism. I don’t even understand why the French discuss so much about WWII when it ended a long time ago. But, since you asked the question, I’ll answer it. What I actually question is the discourse based on the holocaust, not the facts. Facts get a meaning as soon as they are included in a speech. The based-on-the-holocaust discourse is linked to the idea that a Jew’s life or death is more important than that of a goy. For me, the holocaust was not worse than other war crimes such as Hiroshima, Dresden or the besieged Leningrad. The holocaust was one of the horrible things that took place between 1939 and 1945. I reject any religious and historical meaning of the holocaust. For me, it’s an ideological construction that competes with some other equalitarian discourses about the war.
Silvia Cattori : The paradox is that accusations are not only made by extreme rightwing Jewish institutions, but also by left wing militants.
Israel Shamir : It’s obvious that, as can be proved, our enemy infiltrates everywhere. Infiltration is a sort of a political game, it’s a classic tactic. Maoists infiltrated the structures of the social democracy and we know they succeeded. The “Jewish leadership” [extremist formation] has been so successful in infiltrating the Likud that Sharon has lost the support of the majority. With regard to the left, infiltration has been massive. But the same things happen with the right. Infiltration is as old as the world.
Silvia Cattori : Then, the fact that Amnesty International remained silent from year 2000 up to 2004, when Israel launched unprecedented military operations against civilians means this organization was being influenced too?
Israel Shamir : Amnesty International is nothing but another ideological weapon in the hands of our enemies. If you take a look at the lists of political prisoners, you’ll find no prisoners in Israeli jails. On my web site you can find some interesting articles about this fact under the title “Down with Human Rights”. Amnesty International refused to recognize Vanunu as a political prisoner although he is a conscientious objector! They [Amnesty International] are so infiltrated that nothing could be done to save them. Francis Boyle, an exceptional man, a friend of Palestine, an international jurist, has written about this. He’s the one you should talk to about this problem with Amnesty International.
Silvia Cattori : Let’s talk about the resistance of the Palestinian people. Hamas is presented in the West as a terrorist movement whose project, as stated in its statutes, is to “kill all Jews”. What’s your opinion?
Israel Shamir : Hamas does not want to massacre “all Jews”. That’s a fabrication of the enemy! I have never read or met anybody who has written or even thought that way. However, we must be aware of the fact that words can, sometimes, go beyond people’s thoughts. Voltaire wrote that mankind wouldn’t be happy until the moment the last king was hung with the intestine of the last priest. So, is that a reason to be afraid of Voltaire and refuse to adopt him? To kill all priests is not better than killing all Jews! Voltaire didn’t want to kill everybody. Sometimes people exaggerate to call attention. You can’t believe all that’s said!
Silvia Cattori : The idea of the boycott against Israel, especially in the academic field, was successful in Europe. Do you think the boycott – that was effective against the apartheid in South Africa – might also be effective against the apartheid that Israel imposes upon Arabs?
Israel Shamir : I do not say it does not. But it is also essential to boycott the people who support Israel in France as well. It is important to fight those people who influence politics and information, like Alain Finkielkraut, Roger Cukierman and Alexandre Adler. That is the top priority here, in France, since they enjoy a great support by Israel, influence on the opinion, and therefore, on the political choices of the [French] government. If you are not able to marginalize this kind of “messengers” who, in the media or within governments, have the means to ensure that all you do is useless, you will not be on the proper line. In the case of South Africa the boycott was effective because the South African regime did not have external support! The fight has to be waged within every country, not elsewhere. Alain Finkielkraut, Alexandre Adler, Bernard Kouchner, Bernard-Henri Lévy and company, are making France yield to the United States, so that it becomes a colonized country.
Silvia Cattori : So, do you think that neither the solidarity movements nor negotiations will work out as long as the media-political world in the West remains under the influence of those who collaborate, in one way or another, with the Israeli occupants and its U.S. ally?
Israel Shamir : You should know that there is a real problem within the solidarity movements. There are people who control and stem the well-intentioned militants in order to lead them to false debates, thus weakening the movements that are fighting in Israel.
Silvia Cattori : If I understood well, you are stating that Palestinians will continue sinking as long as those who defend their cause do not fight the pro-Israeli who work, in their respective countries and different levels, with the purpose of hindering any initiative that runs contrary to Israel’s interests?
Israel Shamir : It is useful for youngsters to go to Palestine because they would be able to see good and courageous people, to get familiar with an unknown reality and talk about it with no fear on their return. That could also help foreign youths to break taboos. But that is no a panacea. Actually, everyone has to fight there, where he or she lives. But obviously, we have to be aware of the interconnections among these issues as well.
Silvia Cattori : Is it because of your job as a writer that you devote yourself to the resistance against the colonial war of your own country?
Israel Shamir : In the hands of a soldier, any weapon aims at the enemy, and I am a weapon. The sword does not care about the soldier; it is designed to provide the soldier’s arm with the greatest effectiveness in order to hit the enemy. Palestinians are very capable of planting olives. They do not need my assistance to do that. Of course, helping them would be very nice and very good for my soul (and also to give me some peace of mind), but they need much more than the weapon to fight. In their hands, I am that weapon!
Silvia Cattori : Militants like Uri Avnery or Michel Warshawsky, for example, are not attacked as yourself by the people from your own side.
Israel Shamir : My enemies are not the “soft Zionists” or zionoides. But, for me, those people are a waste of time. They want to have a clear conscience by doing philanthropy. All I want is to win, to dismantle the apartheid, to have a state with equal opportunities in the Holy Land and to show the people a way that would enable them to move on to the right direction.
Silvia Cattori : But, aren’t you saying the same things they say, with other words?
Israel Shamir : We have not decided the same thing. They criticize Israel’s policy, but justify the existence of the state of Israel just as it is built. They state that Jewish people from all over the world have the right to come to Israel, although at the same time they support agreements that, in fact, deny that right to the Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their land and want to go back to their land in Israel/Palestine. That is simple racial discrimination!
Silvia Cattori : When you make a statement in favour of a state in which Israelis and Palestinians can live together while the side of the “moderates” backs the solution of “two peoples, two states”, is it not totally utopian?
Israel Shamir : In France, the Jewish had equal rights 200 years ago! At that time, that seemed totally utopian! To say that “defeating Israel is totally utopian” is racism!
Silvia Cattori : What changes could be expected when it is known that most Israelis collaborate with the oppression policy of their government?
Israel Shamir : What matters is to see things clearly, to know what is needed, to maintain -as much as possible- good relations with the others, to remain –apart from the trends- united against the enemy. Only then, there will be a good chance to win. In England, until the 1920’s, the country was led by people trained in only one school: Eton. How many people could have gone to Eton? Not thousands. However, they were able to have full control of England.
Silvia Cattori : During the annual dinner of the CCJO (Consultative Council of Jewish Organizations in France), its president criticized France’s foreign policy before eighteen ministers, without having any reaction by those officials. How do you explain so much submission?
Israel Shamir : This is my explanation: French elites, as all European elites, are convinced of the existence of a huge Jewish power. And it is this belief that has created such a power. It’s also obvious the best thing would be that someone –you or somebody else- could say to those who belong to the elite: “You know, Jews are not in power. It is not true that they rule the world”.
Silvia Cattori : Are you optimist with regard to a possible peace in Palestine?
Israel Shamir : Regarding Palestine, I’m completely pessimist. But in the long term I’m optimist for I’m convinced Palestinians will succeed, although nothing good could be expected from the Abu Mazen regime: I believe all those little steps are meaningless.
Silvia Cattori : What could be suggested to those who want to act in favour of the rights of the Palestinian people without wasting their time in vain actions?
Israel Shamir : In every country, wherever we might be, we have to succeed in displacing the representatives of our enemies. Whatever their position might be, we must prevent them from acting easily.
Silvia Cattori : To be precise, who are these “representatives of our enemies”?
Israel Shamir : In Switzerland or in France, their representatives are those who support the manoeuvres of the United States and Israel. Sharon, obviously, helps gather people: to speak (bad) of Sharon is ok. But Shimon Peres is not better than Ariel Sharon. In your own countries, you have to support all those who fight honestly against compromises favouring the United States, Israel and neo-liberalism. Take action so that the United States finds itself as much isolated as possible. And, in my humble opinion, you should try to establish relations with the positive forces of the Middle East, and with Russia too. This country, that was the friend of all honest peoples, is nowadays at a difficult crossroads. Russia is very important. Ties must be established with Russia.
Silvia Cattori : But, how to make ties with all these dispersed forces?
Israel Shamir : That’s why I’m here. We’re like butterflies, we go from one flower to another and we bring the glad tidings. The spirit is not dead. People are still alive! Wonderful weapons were made in Russia to overcome the enemy: some good books to be translated and spread. Not only our generation, but the generation before ours that was inspired by what happened in Russia. And yet, Russians can still be a driving force. We must help this driving force. Conscience and opinion forces need help. You never know. Maybe they can take us out of this situation and we can go on.
Interview made in July 2005 by Silvia Cattori.