Israel Shamir, recently published the following article in response to
Uri Avneri, of the Peace Block, who has long championed the notion that
the Israeli/Palestinian conflict can be resolved on the basis of "Two
Nations Two States". To his credit, Avneri has long advocated
the removal of all Jewish settlements. However, Aveneri is quite adamant
about only allowing a small number of refugees into Israel, in order to
sustain the Jewish character of the state. Shamirs original article
was published in Russian under the title "The Future is Now".
This English version has been authorized for publication Israel Shamir.
Last September, just a few weeks before the eruption of the second Palestinian
intifadah, I wandered over to Cinemateque square in the upscale area of
Tel Aviv. In the cool breeze of late afternoon, a few dozen retirees with
their families were having a nice outing. The old ladies knitted, while
kids drew flags on big sheets of paper. This peaceful gathering was the
commemoration by the Israeli peace camp of the seventh anniversary of the
Oslo accords. The keynote speaker was Uri Avneri.
This handsome man with a noble head of white hair invoked, as he always
does, his vision of two states coexisting in the Holy Land, an independent
Palestine next to the Jewish state. Every word sounded right, but it was
as stimulating as yesterdays news and as entertaining as a rerun
of an old TV serial. Not surprisingly, there were no young activists, as
the traditional peace camp no longer attracts new dynamic blood. Mr. Avneri
is recycling the same tired speech over the Net these days, focusing on
the latest Israeli bogeyman, the return of the Palestinian refugees.
Please dont misunderstand me, Uri Avneri is a man of good intentions,
a brave supporter of Palestinian rights, an activist doing more than his
share and an efficient organizer. Its just that his political agenda
is deader than a dodo bird.
Let us face the hard facts on the ground: the idea of two states in Palestine
is, and always has been, a con job. After being partitioned for only 19
years, Palestine has been united for 33 years. No Israeli or Palestinian
under the age of 40 even remembers the "partition years" from
1948-1967. It is a period of time that Mr. Avneri latches onto as some
kind of Paradise Lost. No Israeli politician, including the late lamented
Mr. Rabin, has ever seriously considered relinquishing any part of historical
Palestine. The endless negotiations have been a sideshow designed to mollify
the public. Thirty years ago, Arik Einstein was assuring us that "The
talks will be resumed soon." They are still singing the same old song.
In the meantime, behind the smoke screen of a temporary military
occupation, the hard-nosed Israeli leadership has confiscated Palestinian
fields and houses to make room for Jewish settlements and imprisoned and
killed thousands of Palestinians. A succession of leftist and rightist
Israeli regimes perpetuated this legal fiction in order to deny the civic
rights of the conquered population. It was a brilliant idea, worthy of
the Jewish genius: to carry on the negotiations forever, while giving only
lip service to the idea of two states.
Honesty forces me to vigorously proclaim to both my Palestinian and Israeli
friends: you were duped. They played a cruel game with you, teasing you
with the empty promises like the stale old "tale of two states"
narrated by Mr. Avneri.
There has always been only two paths for the Palestinians to emerge from
serfdom. One is to beat Israel. The second one is to join it. The third
way, of a new partition, is just an illusion; a juicy carrot tied in front
of the donkey.
If I were into conspiracy theories, I could well imagine that these good
people of the Israeli peace movement intentionally supplied the left leg
to our shaky apartheid structure. By continually repainting the [old armistice]
Green Line, they have endorsed the non-citizen status of the Palestinians
in their own land. By calling the lands "occupied territories",
they exempted themselves from having to battle against the exclusion of
the Palestinians from the countrys political life. By combating the
annexation of the territories, they have assisted in legitimizing the joke
of independent Palestinian Bantustans.
But the idea of such a conspiracy is just too mind-boggling. I do not
think Mr. Avneri and the peace camp received their briefings in the offices
of the Shabak. They were just too keen to believe that the Israeli generals
would conclude a fair peace with the Palestinians.
Even a kid watching James Bond movies eventually understands that the
hero wont be eaten by crocodiles and wont die in the flames.
There is even less reason to expect that an Israeli government would sign
a just peace with the Palestinians. They will always find an exit strategy
out of the "peace process".
Exactly what sort of peace might Israel offer? In an article
published in that popular keeper of the Zionist faith, the New York Times,
(15.12.2000), a good American Jew named Richard Bernstein recommended to
President-elect Bush a recent book by another pundit of that ilk, Robert
Kaplan. He discloses the real Israeli peace plan:
"For decades I have heard that there would be either a Greater
Israel, or a Palestinian state. It turns out there will be both: a Palestinian
mini-state, without control over its skies or main highways, situated within
a dynamic Israel that will continue to attract workers from across the
border, making it the stabilizing force of Greater Syria."
We should offer thanks to Bernstein and Kaplan for clarifying that Israel
and its American Zionist allies intend to keep the Palestinians forever
locked in the reservations, competing for work in the Jewish state with
their brethren from Jordan and Syria. That is the peace that Israeli doves
have been cooing about.
Should it work, perhaps the US could adopt the idea, granting independence
to the Afro-Hispanic US population with a capital in the South Bronx. The
new state would consist of five hundred enclaves circled by superhighways
and miles of reinforced concrete walls, and would contain all of the US's
non-whites. If that is peace, I choose war.
The more I think about it, the less inclined I become to giving the Israeli
peace camp the benefit of doubt as to their bona fides. Too often, they
keep using that pesky phrase, the Jewish state. Its easy
enough to understand why. Consider that Mr. Avneri and his comrades came
of age in the years of the crude biological racism that was part and parcel
of the ideologies promoted by Weininger, Nordau, Chamberlain and Hitler.
They actually believe that a person belongs to a nation by a virtue of
blood. For them, a Jew is always and forever a Jew, thus the notion of
two states for two nations. So the peace movement is, first
and foremost, still about creating a "Jewish state". The second
of these two states, the remnants of Palestine, is just an incidental byproduct
of the process of creating the coveted "Jewish State".
Sorry if this hurts anyones feelings, but the notion of a
Jew is a fiction, a phantom created by Nazi ideologues and perpetuated
by Zionist mythology. The real Jewish people of the Pale and ghetto are
long gone. They have disappeared. They have been assimilated in America,
Russia, France and elsewhere. Today we are something quite different
Americans, Russians and Palestinians of Jewish origin. Whatever our grandfathers
had in the way of a national culture, we have lost. A Cohen from San Francisco
is no more a member of the Jewish tribe, than a Jones from Atlanta is a
Welshman, or a Mazzoni from New York is a Sicilian. The small, religious
Jewish residual minority of Bne Brak and Brooklyn has no need for the Zionist
state. They do not even consider Israel "Jewish".
This phantom of a Jew survives on an external life-supporting machine.
This Zionist fantasy is perpetuated by a strange and formidable coalition
of American Jews burning with nostalgia for the lost Jewish life, functionaries
of the Jewish organizations, Shoah businessmen, the machinery pumping cash
out of Germany, charity collectors, Jewish Mafiosi seeking a safe haven,
right-wing Christian nutcases, believers in the Elders of Zion and pragmatic
military industrial salesmen.
While their joint forces failed to resurrect the Jewish people of old,
they did manage to create an international Zionist super-Mafia, a materialized
world plot, like in the Umberto Eco novel. However, this monster has nothing
to do with the real people in Israel, where the word Jew has
Mr. Avneri, have you visited Maalot or Ophakim lately? In those towns
you hardly encounter anyone that you would consider to be a 'Jew.
If you speak Ukrainian or Amharic, you might get by. The fact is we do
not have two nations, but rather, a variety of communities. The Moroccans
of Ramle, the Russians of Ashdod, the software wiz kids of Hertzliya Pituah,
the millionaires of Caesarea, the settlers of Tapuah, the scholars of Mea
Shearim, the Ethiopians of Ophakim. These wildly diverse communities constitute
a Jewish nation only in the imagination of the Zionist establishment, the
pre-48 settlers and their aging children. The first Israel
has good reason for clinging onto this flight of fantasy, as this minority
still monopolizes power over the other communities and retains all its
No outsider has ever succeeded in getting anywhere close to the Israeli
power center. There is hardly a Russian (20% of voters), or a Moroccan
(30% of voters) in an independent position of power and influence in Israel.
When an Oriental Jew was elected to a ceremonial post of President, the
first Israel went into mourning.
An unfortunate problem for the dominant elite is that they have run out
of talent and ideas. They have insisted on extreme exclusivity and their
adoration of the military is akin to idolatry. The farce of general Sharon
battling for power with his second-in-command general Barak, with the ancient
murderer of Kana, Shimon Peres as a Great White Hope, is surely adequate
proof of the bankruptcy of The First Israel. The Zionist idea
has collapsed; only blood and war keeps the Golem in motion.
Behind the smoke of racist illusions, we already live in a united Palestine.
The Green line exists only in our minds. It is in everyones common
interest to abolish it completely and establish equality before the law
for everybody in all of Palestine (Israel), from the Jordan River to the
Mediterranean Sea. Then we can enjoy one law for both the native son of
the land and the newcomer, as the Bible commands us. One law for a kibbutznik
from Afikim, and for a fellah from Yatta.
It could have happened years ago, if the Israeli left had not nurtured
the illusions of partition. Jerusalem is the good case to consider. The
Palestinian population of the city one third of United Jerusalem
is entitled to participate in the municipal elections and can send
their deputies to the City Council. But they accepted the silly advise
of the Israeli peace camp and their Palestinian friends and boycotted the
elections in order to sustain the Green Line. It was a ruinous decision
and one they should rethink. Remember that Israel would not have demolished
houses in Jerusalem, the Palestinians of the East Jerusalem would liveed
better had they participated in the elections. They may and they should
Without the Green Line, the horrors of occupation would have ended long
ago, in the same fashion that the military rule in the Palestinian Galilee
was ended in 1966. The 40% of the Knesset elected by the Palestinians would
have been able to cancel all discriminatory laws including the Law of Absentee
Property and the present Law of Citizenship.
In a representative state, the return of Palestinian refugees does not
have to be traumatic. If the refugees from Deheishe were to return to Sataf
and Suba, it would be a short 10 mile relocation. By allowing the peasants
of Deir Yassin to return to their ancient homes, we would be atoning for
their suffering. The peasants of Sheich Munis will have to settle for hefty
compensation, at the expense of Tel Aviv University, which is built on
their land. Maybe they will use their compensation to build new houses
next to the university, or just buy flats in Ramat Aviv Gimel. We can borrow
a leaf from the Polish book of law: Poland restored the property to Jewish
refugees, but did not permit the expulsion of the current tenants.
The removal of the Green line will actually be good for all of us, even
for the settlers. They should be able to remain and live like equals in
our commonwealth. Without the army to enforce their superiority, they will
have to either mend their evil ways and become good neighbors, or go back
So how do we get to the Promised Land? We're already there! We already
one state. Historical Palestine is unified. Stop the empty rhetoric of
occupation and two states. We need no tricks, no creative solutions,
just the good old universal suffrage, the "One Man -One Vote".
We demanded it for our grandfathers in Eastern Europe. They received it
from the Gentiles 150 years ago; it is the right time to pass this most
basic of rights to the Palestinian natives of this land.
"It is useless for a drowning man to implore
the moneylender to "Give me your hand!" He has never
given, and he never will. Instead, shout: "Take my hand!"
and he will clutch at it".
This was the advise of the Sufi sage, Haji Nasr ad-Din. The Israeli establishment
will never give anything. The Palestinians and their Jewish allies have
to say, "Lets just Take it!" and demand that the Holy Land never
be divided again.
Israel Shamir, is one of best-known and most respected
Russian Israeli writers and journalists. He wrote for Haaretz, BBC, Pravda
and translated Agnon, Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Tel Aviv
and writes a weekly column in the Vesti, the biggest Russian-language paper
in Israel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org