Peace with Realism

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Phony Jews

Sometimes the strategy of using Jewish words against Jews and/or Israel backfires. The Jewish credentials of Israel's Jewish opponents are not always what they seem. Such is the infamous case of Israel Shamir. Many anti-Israel and anti-Jewish groups still quote his writings. He has a Jewish name and possibly a Jewish upbringing, so many Palestinian supporters like to use him. Some Presbyterian ministers have even defended him to me, insisting that since he is Jewish he cannot possibly be anti-Semitic.

In fact Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders, two Presbyterian missionaries who now have positions of leadership within the Presbyterian Church, posted a particularly offensive article by Israel Shamir, "Handwriting on the Wall," on their web site. The article libels not only Israel but the Jewish people. (Excerpts from Shamir's article are quoted elsewhere on this site.) Because the article drew a lot of protest, the Sanders reluctantly removed it. Nevertheless, they continue to link to it and to defend it:

We found [Israel Shamir's] article "The Handwriting on the Wall," which we included with our February 16, 2001, update, to be prophetic words of Israeli Jewish self-criticism. His sentiments expressed in this article are in keeping with critiques expressed by other Jewish Israeli individuals and organizations (a selection of which can be found on our links page). He is an Israeli of Jewish descent - that is clear from his own origins, from the stories he tells, and the scripture and history on which he draws. As such, he is a Jew speaking to Jews.(1)

The not-so-subtle strategy at work here is that anti-Semitism can be packaged and sold successfully if it appears to come from the mouth of a Jew. This strategy has become so common that one can only conclude it is calculated.

The Sanders' choice of the words "of Jewish descent" is noteworthy and is also disingenuous. The irony is that whatever his "descent," Israel Shamir is not Jewish. He is a Christian, and the documentation of his religious identification may be found on this web site. Anyone familiar with the full corpus of Israel Shamir's writings cannot help noticing that he writes very much like a Christian, an anachronistic one from the days when Christian anti-Semitism was in full flower. He is not "a Jew speaking to Jews," as the missionaries would have it. In fact, even some Palestinian supporters have found Shamir's overt anti-Semitism embarrassing:

Shamir was rapidly and warmly accepted into the pro-Palestinian activist scene, and by Spring 2001 had embarked on a speaking tour of the United States, speaking at many public events alongside leading lights of the Palestinian scene.

As his articles kept coming, however, an increasing amount of the tone and content was observed by more than a few to fall into what could -- if this hadn't been an Israeli Jew writing it -- best be described as a classic anti-Semitic repertoire. Shamir's identity as a Jew initially enabled people to excuse this, until the whole mess began to unravel as more and more questions were asked.(2)

Some of these questions involve Shamir's religious identification, although even now those who use his writings for propaganda continue to ignore it. If similar writing from a non-Jew would be described as "classic anti-Semitic repertoire," and if Shamir is in fact not Jewish, then what does that make his writing? And what does it make those who use it to attack both Israel and Jews?

When Jewish critics of Israel sound excessively acrimonious, it may be worth asking what their relationship is to their own Jewish identity. This will become clearer as we proceed.

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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:
Peace with Realism