The Right of Return
by Israel Shamir

Palestine is not a dead object, it is a live country. Palestinians are her soul. Palestine is what Palestinians are re-creating in real time, in the same way as France is what the French are re-creating every day. It is a vast confusion of mind, to presume one can love France and abhor French, as France does not exist without French. Only silly tourists from rich countries, pestered by native beggars, prefer to stay in no-man's land of posh hotels. It is like loving a beautiful lady but hating her character and her very soul. Love to a country without its inhabitants is a form of necrophilia, making love to a corpse. 

 The late Russian historian 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 grow together. The Palestinians are not an obscure mean folk. They created the Star of Ghassul, wrote the Bible, built temples of Jerusalem and Garizim, palaces of Jericho and Samaria, churches of the Holy Sepulchre and Nativity, mosques of Haram a-Sharif, harbours of Caesarea and Akka, castles of Monfort and Belvoir, walked with Jesus, defeated Napoleon and bravely fought at Karameh. 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 their unique composition. Its spark did not run out: the poetry of Mahmud Darwish, wisdom of Edward Said, perfect olive oil, the fervour of prayers and the valiant courage of intifada prove it. 

Without the Palestinians, Palestine dies. Her rivers are poisoned, the sources dry out, the hills and valleys 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 brought here over a million of Romanians, Russians, Ukrainians, Thai and Africans. 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 enforce the Jewish character of the state. 

People still bearing 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 Jewish gathering misfired. We must end it. 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 Maghribians and Russians. Not Oslo only, the very idea of partition was 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 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.

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