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Israel Shamir

Israel Shamir



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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 writer.

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 classics.

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 Russian.

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.

Israel Shamir

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