Israel Shamir is a leading Russian-Israeli intellectual, writer,
translator and journalist.
Shamir was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia, a grandson of a professor of
mathematics and a descendant of a Rabbi from Tiberias, Palestine. He
studied at the prestigious School of the Academy of Sciences, and read
Math and Law at Novosibirsk University. In 1969, He moved to Israel,
served as paratrooper in the army and fought in the 1973 war. After the
army, he resumed his study of Law at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but
abandoned the legal profession in pursuit of a career as a journalist and
He got his first taste of journalism with Israel Radio. As a freelance,
his varied assignments included covering Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the
last stages of the war in South East Asia. In 1975, Shamir joined the BBC
and moved to London. In 1977-79 he wrote for Maariv and other papers from
Japan. While in Tokyo, he wrote ‘Travels With My Son’, his first
novel. He also managed to find time to translate a number of Japanese
After returning to Israel in 1980, Shamir wrote for the Israeli daily
newspaper Haaretz and Al Hamishmar newspapers and worked in the Knesset as
the spokesman for the Israel Socialist Party (Mapam). He translated the
works of SY Agnon, the only Hebrew Nobel Prize winning writer, from the
original Hebrew to Russian. His work was published and reprinted many
times in both Israel and in Russia. He also translated selected chapters
of Joyce’s Ulysses, which were well received by publishers in Moscow,
Tel Aviv, New York and Austin, Texas. Another of his translations, the
Israeli-Arab Wars by President Herzog, was published in London.
His most popular work, the Pine and the Olive, the story of
Palestine/Israel, was published in 1988. Its cover carried a painting by
the Ramallah painter, Nabil Anani. As the first Palestinian Intifada
began, Shamir had left Israel for Russia, where he covered the eventful
years 1989-1993. While in Moscow, he reported for Haaretz, but was sacked
for publishing an article calling to the return the Palestinian refugees
and the rebuilding of their ruined villages. He wrote for various Russian
newspapers and magazines, including Pravda and Zavtra weekly. In 1993, he
returned to Israel and settled in Jaffa. He wrote for Russian newspapers
both in Israel and Russia and contributed to various literary magazines.
During this period, he also worked on a new translation of the Odyssey,
which was published in 2000 in St. Petersburg, Russia. His next big
project was translating a Hebrew medieval Talmudic manuscript into
In response to the second Palestinian uprising in thirteen years,
Shamir has temporarily abandoned his literary occupation and resumed his
work as a journalist. In the midst of all the endless talk of a "Two
State solution", Shamir, along with Edward Said, has become a leading
champion of the ‘One Man, One Vote, One State’ solution in all of
Palestine/Israel. His most recent essays have been circulating widely on
the Internet and are now posted on many prominent media sites. With every
new article, Shamir is establishing himself as a journalist whose work
speaks to the aspirations of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. His
most recent works include Acid Test, Rape of Dulcinea, Galilee Flowers,
Joseph Revisited and Kid Sister.
Shamir (50) lives in Jaffa, he is father of two sons.
Why I Support The Return of Palestinians
Palestine is not a dead object, it is a living country. Palestinians
are her soul. Palestine is what Palestinians are re-creating in real time,
in the same way that France is what the French create and re-create every
day. It is a vast confusion of mind, to presume one can love France and
abhor French, as what kind of France would exist without the French soul.
Only silly tourists from rich countries, pestered by beggars, prefer to
stay in reclusive posh hotels where they can enjoy the country without
encountering the natives. It is like loving a beautiful lady but
hating her character and her very essence. To love a country and wish away
her inhabitants is the kind of romance that can only appeal to those who
have a passion for necrophilia.
The late Russian thinker Lev Gumilev described a country as a symbiosis
of people and landscape. Palestine and Palestinians are inseparable, the
peasants and their olives and springs of water and the mountains and the
domes of the ancestral sepulchres on the hill-tops need each other and
have grown to complement each other.
The Palestinians are not an obscure mean folk. They created the Star of
Ghassul, wrote the Bible, built the temples of Jerusalem and Garizim, the
palaces of Jericho and Samaria, the churches of the Holy Sepulchre and
Nativity, the mosques of Haram a-Sharif, the harbours of Caesarea and Akka,
the castles of Monfort and Belvoir. They walked with Jesus, defeated
Napoleon and bravely fought at Karameh. In their veins, the blood of
Aegean warriors, Bene Israel, David's heroes, the first Apostles of Christ
and Companions of the Prophet, of Arab riders, Norman Crusaders and
Turkmen chieftains blended in the unique composition. Its spark did not
run out: the poetry of Mahmud Darwish, the wisdom of Edward Said, the
perfect olive oil, the fervour of prayers and the valiant courage of
intifada prove it.
Without the Palestinians, Palestine dies. Her rivers run poisoned
water, the sources dry out, the hills and valleys are disfigured, her
fields are worked by imported Chinese, while her sons are imprisoned
in ghetto. The idea of a separate Jewish state collapsed. During last
ten years, the mad policies of Israeli government imported over a
million of Romanians, Russians, Ukrainians, Thai and African laborers.
Some of them claim Jewish descent: Peruvian tribes, Indians from Assam and
the endless refugees from the Soviet Union moved in. Now the Jewish
Agency plans to import a Lembda tribe from the South Africa, in order
to ensure the Jewish character of the state. Paradoxically, those who
still bear some part of the Jewish traditions are isolated in the Jewish
state, as late Dr Yeshayahu Leibovich or imprisoned as the Moroccan Jewish
Rabbi Arie Der'i.
The fantasy of the Jewish ingathering has collided with the reality. We
must end the delusion. Let the sons and daughters of Palestine come
back and rebuild Suba and Kakun, Jaffa and Akka. Instead of consecrating
the Green Line, let us erase it and live together, the children of
Palestine, of first settlers, of Moroccans and Russians.
We should live in one state, not only because of the blatant failure of
Oslo. The very idea of partition is wrong. We can follow the example of
New Zealand, where the European incomers live together with the native
Maori, the example of Mandela's South Africa, the example of Caribbean,
where children of Spanish settlers, African slaves and native Amerindians
blended into the beautiful new race. Let us tear up our Declarations
of false Independence and write a new one, of mutual dependence and love.