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In memoriam Israel Shahak - In memoriam Israel Shahak

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In memoriam Israel Shahak
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In which way did the Israeli society deal with this religious right-wing phenomenon after the killing of Rabin?

They did not deal at all with this phenomenon. This is one of the greatest treasonous acts in Israeli history. They attributed the murder till this very day to the right-wing as they defined it, that is anyone beyond the right wing of the Labour party, especially to Likud, to Netanyahu. They don´t focus on the group that actually educated Yigal Amir (Rabin`s murderer L.W.), namely the National Religious Party. It was not Likud that calles for the killing of the Prime Minister, but religious groups. So by spreading the blame, Labour increased substantially the danger. In this you have a very good German parallel, namely the behaviour of the Communist Party before the rise of Nazism in 1933. Instead to concentrate on Nazism, they fought the Social Democrats. The Israeli right-wing as a whole is not to blame for Rabin´s assassination but the national messianic education and the National Religious Party is.

You belong to the most severe critics of Zionism. So then, do you like the so-called post-Zionists?

No. I am anti-Zionist pure and simple.

Aren`t the post-Zionists also anti-Zionists?

It is a vage movement. I am saying that even the first Zionist were also members of an evil movement because they actually bought land in Palestine with the intention that it will belongs only to Jews. They actually proclaimed at the very beginning of the 20th century the principle of purely Jewish labor, requiring Jewish employers to hire only Jews and no others. This is plain racism to me.

Don´t the post-Zionist call Zionist historical mythy into question?

This is true also about Zionism. We have a very positive movement of the “New Historians” who question the entire discourse on Jewish history, not only the last hundred years. This is a common phenomenon to great part of Israeli society and not limited to post-Zionism. There a very much dedicated Zionists who do the same. Benny Morris for example is a dedicated Zionist who wrote books which changed history of certain periods.

According to Moshe Zimmermann, Professor of European History at the Hebrew University, classical Zionism came to an end with the assassination of Rabin and the original enemies of classical Zionism, the ethnocentric version of Zionism, took over, and these are the real post-Zionists. What do you think of his thesis?

This is news for me. He must have argued it in German and not in Hebrew. Now that I hear it from you, I disagree with it. I think classical Zionism is continuing. It has strong Jewish enemies, namely the non-messianic religious parties. One of my points in favour of Shas against national religious parties is that Shas says openly “we are opposing Zionism” because Zionism is contrary to Jewish religion in its original form. They are very firm in their opposition to Zionism. Their position is used to slander and to attack them.

Let us switch to the German-Israeli relationship. Should this kind of relationship be normal like the relationship between France and Israel or is there something special to it?

There is nothing special to it, except for those who are Holocaust survivors. For them, the relations will not be special but maybe individual. I know people who dislike German culture. I not only like it but know it quite well. Between the two states, the relationship should be normal because Nazism is fundamentally not an anti-Jewish but universal and human phenomenon. The number of human beings, including Germans, who were killed because the Nazis were in power, is far greater than the number of killed Jews. Nazism can happen everywhere and anywhere including if Messianics will rule Israel. So the best way to prevent the recurrence of Nazism in any place on earth is to have normal relations with Germany.

How far in depth, should the Holocaust keep on influencing our bilateral relationship?

The memory of the Holocaust must be kept but it is a universal memory. Actually Israeli Jewish memories of Holocaust are centered on Poland. When they want to commemorate the Holocaust most Jews go to Poland simply because out of the six million Jews who were killed three million were Polish Jews and also others were brought to Poland to be killed.

What do you think of the German debate on building a holocaust monument?

If people want to built it, they should built it. Monuments are not important, nor are flags. Symbols are not important. To worship of symbols is the first step in becomingfanatical. It´s not an important question. The important matter for me is to dissociate Nazism from being a specific German issue and from German past. Nazism is not either connected with the Jewish past. It is part of a new movement, which in fact rejects Christian Europe. I always will continue to quote the following difference: Whatever Christianity or Islam did to Judaism they respected two principles: the first is that a Jew who converts to Christianity or Islam is immediately a brother. He can became an archbishop. This is a completely different attitude from the attitude of Nazis who not only exterminated converted Jews but stipulated that a Jew cannot change. The second principle is that all the other forms antisemitism, except the modern one, who begun in late 19th century and from which Nazim emerged, did not strive for the extermination of Jews but for their discrimination.

In Germany, a person who is critical on Israeli politics can get into deep trouble. Is it legitimate to differentiate between the Holocaust on the one hand and the policy of the Israeli government towards the Palestinians on the other? In Germany, there are always tendencies to justify the oppression of the Palestinians by invoking Holocaust. Should this not be seperated?

I believe, like my friend Noam Chomsky, in unlimited freedom of expression. States should not make laws against opinions, including those which I hate most. I think everything should be open to criticism and if you make one exception others will follow. It is totally legitimate to criticise Israel. Secondly, the Holocaust argument goes for me into a completely opposite direction. The Holocaust was possible only because the Germans did not now about the holocaust. Or as a matter of fact, not only the Germans but most of the world did not know the truth. The Nazis tried to hide the mass murder of mental patients and so on. The moment the Catholic and the Protestant clergy knew about the Holocaust, they protested and Hitler had to retreat on this point. It means that the greater defence against Nazism against all other atrocities is the right to know and the right to speak out. Our chief interest is not the commemoration of the Holocaust but the prevention of other Holocausts. You can prevent mass killings of people who are alive. Our best weapon against such dangers is to allow freedom of criticism about everything, including Israel.

Let us switch to the Oslo agreement. Do you think that this agreement could lead to a sovereign Palestinian state?

If you ask about how it will be called, yes, it may be called a Palestinian state in the way the Transkei was called a sovereign state of Transkei because among the benefits of the Netanyahu government is that he is more slavish to United States than any Israeli Prime Minister. When Bill Clinton will have reemerged from his scandals and decide to put a pressure on Israel and demand that we will recognize something called a Palestinian state Netanyahu would be first to agree. If the president of the United States will give Netanyahu an order, the order will be obeyed. The president of the United States values Israel as a tool of America´s policy much more that he values Palestinians or all the Arab countries put together. The reason is that Israel is strong and rich. Israel`s GDP is 16,900 US-Dollars. It is even more than Greece, Portugal, and Spain. Israel has a very powerful military. In Israel, by law, a government can begin a war without permission of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament L. W.). Israel represent itself as guardian of stability in Middle East on behalf of the West. Can Arafat guarantee the stability of Middle East? What he can guarantee is the stability in his Palestinian enclaves. Obviously, an imperial power will consider Israel more valuble. Israel is extremely important for the geopolitical influence of the United States in the region. These two facts are more important than the Jewish or Israel lobby. It is very very improbable that America will put any real pressure on Israel. Whatever will be established by Arafat (in terms of a Palestinian state L.W), it will be a Transkei (a former South African bantustan stateL.W.)..

Do you think that the US needs Israel for the enforcement of its imperial (hegmonic) goals in the Middle East?

Yes, because the Israeli army is prepared, if necessary, to invade Saudi Arabia in order to defend the Saudi royal family. The Israeli army would be the quickest to achieve this goal. We cannot expect either the American Congress or the German Bundestag (Lower House of German Parliament L.W.) to approve sending troops only to suppress an internal revolution in Saudi Arabia. The Golf war was possible only because Saddam Hussein conquered a U. N. member state and and did not form a puppet government after conquest. He just declared the annexation of Kuwait. He did not behave in the style of the Soviet Union or the United States when they invade other countries. Imagine that the Soviet Union in 1956 would have annexed Hungary. If an internal revolution threathening crucial imperial interest in Arab countries will break out, it´s the Israeli army which will intervene.

Do you think that Arafat and his men are just a bunch of corrupt politicians living at the expense of their people?

Yes. Obviously, Arafat was not corrupt in 1965 and it can be debated when he actually became corrupt. I would put it from the time he ruled half of Lebanon in coalition with other powers. But what you said confirms to what he is now.

If this corruption and bad government continue, could it happen that there will be another popular uprising against Arafat? Or could the Palestinian people this time, together with the PNA, rise up against Israel?

I think that a popular uprising against Arafat will come. At the beginning, it will be a quasi chaotic uprising like the first Intifada. The intifada was not directed but it spread by simple imitation. I think that the same will happen to Arafat. Arafat`s regime is much stronger and much more cleverer that our regime of secret services in the territories. It has modern intelligence equipment and computers it received from America. One thing that in my opinion prevents revolutions on a global scale is the use of the computers in intelligence. Arafat has installed a computer system that collects personal data from almost everybody. Such form of total control was unknown 30 years ago. After all, he is a Palestinian dictator. And his people, gangsters as they are, are Palestinian gangsters. They cannot be substituted even by Italian gangster from the United States. Our Shabak (Israel´s national intelligence service L.W.) was not only evil but also incedibly stupid. They think they know all about Palestinians, wheras in fact, they really don´t know. Arafat is a clever gangster. He knows his own people very well and he knows also how to rule them. He is a despot; he is an oppressor, but he is a clever despot.

Next year, Israel will turn 50. What do you wish for your country?

A de-Zionisation, the removal of Apartheid and discrimination. For many years I have been saying that Israel is an Apartheid country that discriminates against non-Jews. The first thing I wish for Israel is that the official discrimination of all non-Jews cease. I am not a utopian. I mean legal discrimination and official oppression. I think that this would be good basis for a “cold peace” in the Middle East. I don´t expect a “warm peace” in the region based on love. I wish for a “cold peace” like, let us say, exists between Greece and Macedonia. They don´t like each other but they don´t make war. The first condition for this peace is de-Zionisation of Israel. Otherwise, a succession of wars is inevitable. I am also in favour of reducing the gap between rich and poor. The gap between rich and poor in Israel proper is much greater than in Germany. The formal legal discrimination between groups of people reminds me of the causes that brought the Holocaust. The first step of the Nazis was not to exterminate or anything of that kind but firing all officials who were Jews or converted Jews. Until that moment, they were German or Prussian patriots.

As a German, I can not go along with your views about the Holocaust. For me, it was a unique crime against European Jewry. For German ears it´s very provocative.

I am a moderat pessimist and I think that Ruanda, Cambodia, and Bosnia have shown that Holocaust can happen. It is only the existence of civilized imperial powers which prevent a Holocaust. If there will be no imperial power feeling responsible for the world, Holocaust is possible again.

Professor Shahak, Thank you very much for the interview.


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