One feels uncomfortable, as an anti-Zionist Jew defending someone such as Eli Wiesel. It is my firm belief that Mr. Wiesel has used an immense tragedy, the Nazi holocaust against the Jews of Europe during the Third Reich of Adolph Hitler, for his own purposes, and has indeed made a tidy living off of the dead bodies of six million Jews. I myself, refer to Elie Wiesel, therefore as an “eater of the dead”( the title of the book by Michael Crichton on which the film The Thirteenth Warrior is based) , for he has gained sustenance, making speeches at somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 per performance (and it is a wonderful performance) speaking about the need for the people of the world to use a tragedy such as this one, to learn from, in order to bring about world peace. The Pope of Rome routinely says such things from his Vatican balcony for free. I have heard many noble rabbis say similar things from their congregational pulpits for nothing more than the wages paid to them by their congregants. Mr. Wiesel has been immensely successful in his endeavor, of making people remember the genocide against Jews and others, carried out by mad men and mad women.
Aside from his personal enrichment, Mr. Weisel has an agenda which is (a) to not let the world forget this tragedy so as not to repeat it and (b) to frighten people, mostly Jews into buying into the notion that Jews need as a religious corpus, a state of their own. While doing so, Mr. Wiesel on occasion says something about some tragedy occurring to another group of people; perhaps the Kosovars, or the Cambodians, or even the Congolese; to point out that the Nazi genocide against Jews and others was not sui generis. He does however glaringly overlook the tragedy known as the Nakba, which has befallen the Palestinians, the native inhabitants of what is now the State of Israel, as well as the territories conquered in the War of 1967.
Yet inspite of this, Mr. Wiesel, who should rightly be criticized for certain endeavors, should not be belittled for the mere fact that he is a Jew; and that he is a Jew who did suffer and survive The Death Camps. Yet this is exactly what Israel Shamir does in his article “Rape of Dulcinea” (http://22.214.171.124/shamir3.html )
Shamir begins this article with a feigning sympathy towards Mr. Wiesel, calling his words in an article “Jerusalem in My Heart”( NYTimes 1/25/01), “touching” and “painting a beautiful portrait of the Jewish people, yearning for Jerusalem, loving and praying for it over the centuries and cherishing its name from generation to generation”.
Unfortunately, inspite of this florid language as well as that which follows in his article, Mr. Shamir contributes absolutely nothing to the debate over the status of the Holy City, except for personal diatribes and anti-Semitic slurs. While many have recently been taken in by his facile tongue, at least on paper; his writings, because they have been embraced by so many Jews in what is commonly known as “the peace camp”; as well as Christians, Moslems, Arabs and particularly Palestinians, ought rightly to be examined with much more critical scrutiny than has been done up to this point.
Certainly the choir does not need to be told the history of what has already transpired.
More importantly the choir, especially non-Jews do not need to have their prejudices reinforced in such a way that it is detrimental to their true and just cause. One needs to take pains to point out that neither Judaism nor Jews are their enemies. Thus for someone who purports, and I emphasize the word “purports” to be a Jew to make inflammatory and disparaging remarks towards Jews as Jews, or towards the religion of Judaism; only serves to deligitimize the debate over what political Zionism, a 19th century utopian philosophy has wrought on not only the Palestinians, but on Jews themselves.
Any legitimate critic of The State of Israel, focuses on the actions of that modern state, created in 1948, as a result of a series of serendipitous circumstances, which are unlikely to be repeated again. That there are many Jews who find within the religion of Judaism itself, undeniable reasons to be against the creation of this country as “The Jewish State” is undeniable. That there are other Jews, more secular in nature, who otherwise act according to the highest principles of Judaism, whether or not they realize it is also undeniable. The same is true for critics of this country who are not Jews. Legitimate critics are scrupulous in not attacking anyones religion while rendering trenchent caveats at a country which appears to have devolved into something akin to “the Tar Baby” of the Uncle Remus tales. No matter how many try to disentangle themselves from its ineluctible grip, the more that do in fact become stuck in the mire.
Moreover, it is no longer considered appropriate as was once common, in the salons of the literati of the 19th century and even the earlier part of the 20th century to make trenchent observations of a disparaging nature, against the pretenses of someone who has been readily embraced for his rather tenuous literary talents by a mass audience. At this risk however, of being accused of spitting forth sour grapes, I will embrace this endeavor. My reason for doing so is to have those who are more impressed by literary pretentions than by substance, to be careful of that which they are embracing, for like the Tar baby, they may find themselves inadvertently stuck.
Even at the level of his literary analogies in this piece, to Don Quixote, Mr. Shamir does not quite get it right. He compares the current claim over the ownership of Jerusalem, unilaterally annexed by the state of Israel after the war of 1967, to the fictional figure of the heroine Dulcinea del Toboso, the love of Don Quixote, who even in that work of fiction, is a figment of the man of La Manchas imagination. Dulcinea does not in fact exist, but is an ideal that Don Quixote imagines in his heart and in his mind. The Jerusalem of God, that the Jews that Mr. Shamir refers to is similar to this Dulcinea, in that it is an ideal, a representation of the possible in the way that humans interact with one another. A representation of what these same Jews refer to by the name Zion, the hill at ground zero where the commandments of God were placed in an Ark of the Covenant, as embedded in stone for eternity. The covenant was this, for a deal was struck, a very hard one. “Keep these commandments I give you as a proper way to conduct your life.” In return, those present at Sinai ( we were all at Sinai ) replied “we will do and we will listen.” The only way to reach that eschatological promised “land” was to do what was righteous in order to bring about Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world. Thus when these poor Jews in the ghettos of Western Europe, and the provincial shtetls of the Pale of Settlement prayed, “If I forget thee O! Jersualem (Zion), let my right hand forget its cunning”, they were making a statement that if they fell away from righteousness, the means to live in the temporal sphere was simply not worth the effort.
In reality, Dulcinea del Toboso, the unobtainable ideal, was a woman by the name of Aldonza Lorenzo. One would think someone whose “well thumbed volume of Don Quixote” would know that, but no mention of this is made. Ms. Lorenzo is really a peasant woman from the town of El Toboso, whom Don Quixote has seen only three or four times in his life, and who has no idea that she is the object of such admiration. Not only that, but she is in the real world not outside of time, and she is in fact, stout, brawny with a loud voice and a slight moustache. Aldonza is the temporal Jerusalem here, to Mr. Shamirs Dulcinea.
Jerusalem, although in many ways unique as a city, still has the self-same temporal municipal problems that Boston, Baltimore, New York, London, Moscow or even Tel Aviv encounter. The criminologist wonders who exactly here has been raped and by whom, in Mr. Shamirs literary flight of fancy.
Moreover, still on the literary level, Mr. Shamir compares himself to Sancho Panza, Don Quixotes squire and companion, labeled by some the most humorous character in all of fiction: “I find myself in the embarassing position of Sancho Pansa (sic)”. He compares Elie Wiesel to the Don: “I have to enform my master, Don Wiesel Quixote that his Dulicinea is well.” Here is the problem. From the polemic that ensues, Mr. Shamir is neither humorous nor benign but in fact rather cunning. Moreover Elie Wiesel has been a roaring success, irrespective of how one views his actions. He has not tilted at windmills, rather he has convinced millions of people that because of what the Nazis did do to the Jews of Europe, that ergo, Zionism is valid as a working philosophical mechanism to run a country by. Mr. Shamir is decidedly NOT Sancho, Mr. Wiesel is NOT Don Quixote, Jerusalem, the city, is in fact Aldonza, while the Jerusalem of the heart remains Dulcinea.
Perhaps Mr. Shamir had only seen the musical, or read an oxidizing copy of Classic Comics #3 from the early 1950s.
However it all goes downhill for Mr. Shamir from here with regard to veracity. He admonishes his assumed errant Knight, “Elie, the Jerusalem that you write of so movingly IS NOT NOW AND HAS NEVER BEEN DESOLATE (caps mine for emphasis)”
According to Naomi Shepherd, the author of The Zealous Intruders From Napoleon to the Dawn of Zionism publ. Harper & Row 1987 (Ms. Shepherd is also the author of the excellent Ploughing Sand, British Rule in Palestine 1917-1948, publ. John Murray, London 1999 which is an excellent companion to Tom Segevs recent work, One Palestine, Complete);
” Palestine, at the end of the 18th century, had been almost terra incognita. It had no political frontiers, but the shifting historical tidelines of biblical, Roman and medieval conquest. In political terms it was merely a part of the Ottoman province of Syria, administered by the governors of Acre and DamascusPalestine was not even familiar as a place of pilgrimage.”
It was never uninhabited, and it did have four main “cities”, but it was not Alexandria, Damascus, Constantinople, or even Beirut.
Moreover to state as Shamir does, “that she has lived happily across the centuries in the embrace of another people, the Palestinians of Jerusalem who have taken good care of her”, implies that Jews, and there were always SOME Jews there, who chose that land in which to live, did not consider themselves to also be Palestinians, which in fact they did.
As a matter of fact, whether Christian, Muslim or Jew, all of those of any of those religions, or those of any other creed or no creed who lived in Jerusalem for whatever reason, were Jerusalemites. Shamir either falls into the trap, or laid the trap himself, of confusing Zionists with Jews, and Palestinians with those whom we currently think of as Palestinians. At one time, all who lived in Palestine were Palestinians. I myself was once excoriated for referring to a well known Jewish musical composer now living abroad as an “Israeli expatriate”. He fired off an e-mail to me stating, “Bill, I am not an Israeli expatriate, I am a Jew of Palestinian origin..”
Moreover, historically both the entire area of what had been commonly referred to as Palestine, including Jerusalem had many masters down through the ages. Those residuals left behind after successive waves of conquests, ALL became Palestinians, whether at any one juncture the area was well defined or ill-defined. One does not even have to go back as far as Biblical times, which do begin to become a matter for conjecture. History is quite clear that Jerusalem was ruled successively by The Babylonian Empire 586-550 bce, The Persian Empire 550-333bce, The Empire of Alexander the Great 323 bce, The Ptolemaic Empire 270bce, as well as The Romans, The Arabs, The Ottoman Turks, The Crusaders and The British.
The longest single overlordship was that of Rome (677 years) followed by the Arabs (447 years), the Ottoman Turks (401 years) The Crusaders(192 years), The British under The Mandate (31 years) and of course the current State of Israel (west Jerusalem since 1948, west and east Jerusalem since 1967 53 years).
With regard to all religious structures in Jerusalem/al-Quds, it should be noted that each separate religion has jurisdiction over their own holy places. Thus the Waqf has jurisdiction over the “magnificent piece of jewelry, the Golden Dome of Haram al Sharif”, which is the possession of all the followers of the faith of Islam in the world. Just as one must separate the spiritual from the temporal and the sacred from the profane, one must separate the contention of civil administration from that of clerical administration.
Mr. Shamir appears to want to cloud this issue, by stating that “the Palestinians have taken good care of her”. Two things need to be clarified on these counts. The first is that although The State of Israel claims Jerusalem as its temporal capital, a contention that is NOT recognized by any other country in the world, save two rather small states; Jewish people (and I deliberately leave out the definite article) have as a religious congregation, every right on the spiritual and sacred level to claim Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of the Jewish people”. By the same token Christians may justly claim Jerusalem as “the birthplace of Christianity”, as it was the site of the brief ministry of Jesus. Likewise, Muslims the world over may revere Al-Quds, the Holy, and the Dome of the Rock which dominates the Jerusalem skyline as the third holiest site in Islam, after Makkah and Madinah. Yet when Shamir, confuses this, as he claims Mr. Wiesel does, and states that “the Palestinians have taken good care of her”, and thus Mr. Wiesel ought not tilt at windmills; he is obfuscating the sacred, and profaning the legitimate religious imperatives of all of those who belong to the three Abrahamic religions. Jews, acting as a spiritual community have every much the right to their holy places as do the Christians and the Muslims. When the sacred and the profane are mixed, one produces the witchs brew of this condemnatory article, which cries rape when there is no rape. There is no rape because Dulcinea only exists in the mind of the beholder and it is left to the beholder to ascertain that which gives them comfort in their quest for spirituality. Buses, sewers, traffic lights, restaurants, and all the other markers of municipalities are no more and no less than mundane testaments to urban civilization.
Later on in his essay, Mr. Shamir speaks of the resolution of the deed being based on the Tenth Commandment of the Decalogue, which states that one “should not covet that which is ones neighbors” I see no religion coveting in this city anything which rightly belongs to another. Thus except for a very small minority of religious fanatics, Jews the world over do not covet the Haram al Sharif. As a matter of fact, those who are truly devout, are not permitted to even ascend to that area; the reason being NOT that it is now a Muslim holy site, but that they might inadvertently step on the place known by Jews as “the holy of holies”, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and was forbidden entrance upon pain of death, except once per year by the High Priest of the Temple.
Yet Mr. Shamir speaks of rape, and the invocation of the names of King Solomon and the prophet Jeremiah, as accessories to that “forcible entry” into Dulcinea. Apparently, Muslims have no quabble with King Solomon, of whom when they say his name, append the respectful “peace be upon him” afterwards.
Moreover, the prophet Jeremiah, unlike that small minority of zealots among Jews who claim exclusivity, and seek the destruction of the Noble Sanctuary and the rebuilding of a third temple, was, with perhaps the exception of Micah, the most universalist of the Nevim. In fact, from the outset, The LORD commands Jeremiah to be a universalist, speaking out against the transgressions of the temporal overlords of The City:
If there is any indictment against the philosophy of political Zionism it is this above passage from the Holy Book, spoken here by God to one of his appointed prophets.
God then gives the responsibility to Jeremiah to preach against these transgressions:
It is quite clear from this one of many passages in just this vein, that if Mr. Wiesel invokes Jeremiah to justify a temporal claim, and that Mr. Shamir admonishes him by denegrating that same prophet, then both are wrong, and both commit profanities.
Moreover, although the Moslem people, acknowledge and revere Solomon as a beloved of God, Mr. Shamir, apparently an archeological expert as well as a polyglot and a tour guide of the holy city; sees fit to denegrate a site acknowledged as holy to Jews for he declares that the sacred Temple of religious conviction never existed. He states:
” As EVERY archeologist will tell you, KING SOLOMON AND HIS TEMPLE, belong to THE FANTASY REALM.”
Yet even Thomas L. Thompson, a leading member of the new group of archeologists who do not seek to confirm the archeological veracity of the Bible through its myths but through external sources, is not so dismissive. While fully realizing that the biblical narrative should be treated as mythological allegory (as should other holy texts) meant to point out some eternal human truths; he still acknowledges that historically a temple of some sort may historically have existed, if not in the magnificent form described in that text, but certainly as a central place of worship. In THE MYTHIC PAST, publ. Basic Books 1999; Thompson states with regard to the Saul-David-Solomon saga that;
(beginning on p. 94 ff) “The plot turns to the theme of God as Israels kingonly God can be Israels king. Saul is Yahwehs chosen messiah,a heros hero..becomes the sourge of the Philistines who now play the (earlier) Canaanites role as archtype of Israels enemies. The God of this story does not want a king who does what he thinks is right. He wants a king who will do what he, Yahweh, the true king, sees as good. Goodness is not what lies intrinsic in actions, Good is what God sees to be right. WHAT IS ASTOUNDING IN THIS PRESENTATION IS NOT MERELY THE PERSONAL ARBITRARY, CRUEL OR CONTROLLING PERSONALITY OF THE DEITY. It is rather that the author is aware of Yahwehs action as despotic. In this way, he drives home the uncompromising nature of THE RELIGIOUS DEMAND OF OBEDIENCE.”
This same demand for obedience is inherent in the word “Islam” which means literally “submission”(to the will of Allah God), and Mr. Shamir appears to be in all of his writings, more cognizant of the legitimacy of Islam (as in a later article Mamilla Pool) than he is of the same legitimacy of Judaism.
“The story of Saul(and) the story of Abrahamare both variations on the theme of pietys commitment to divine will. THEY SHOCK TO DRAW THEIR THEME. They preach to their audiences: Walk in Gods will. Abraham passes his test, demonstrating UNSHAKABLE CONFIDENCE THAT GOD WILL PROVIDE. Saul fails his for lack of that quality. IN ANY REAL WORLD, SAUL WOULD BE A GREAT MAN, we do not have enough soldiers like him. AND ABRAHAM WOULD BE OSTRACIZED. In the world of the story, however, Saul fails and Abrham succeeds! Saul fails the only test he was ever given: to be Yahwehs servant.”
“Davids is a cue-name, the divine epithet beloved (Hebreww: dwd), which marks the role he plays..as Yahwehs beloved he is the eponymous founder of the dynasty, THROUGH WHOM YAHWEH IS TO BE ETERNALLY KING, the one whose son (Solomon) WILL BUILD THE ONCE HOMELESS YAHWEH A HOUSE IN JERUSALEM. It is there that Yahweh will live and rule over Israel forever, At least that was the plan. Thye story offeres the reader an invitation to reflect on Gods plans, to remember his regert and the destruction of all that he had made in the flood.
“Solomons story, repeats the patternGod gives Solomon divine wisdom and understandinghe plays the role of philosopher-king, ruler of a great kingdom..world renowned, fabulously rich, the lover of women, HE BUILDS YAHWEH A HOME AND THE KINGDOM IS AT PEACE. THIS TIME IT IS FOREVER.
However fabulous the story is, (it is a cautionary tale, for) just as the narratiave reiterates the promise that GOD WILL LIVE IN HIS HOUSE IN JERUSALEM FOREVER, so these promises of expectation (as are the promises in the earlier texts within the Bible) ALSO RECUR WITH A WARNING Do not disobey [my messenger]; for he will not forgive your sin, MY name is in him. The promise (made to all patriarchs, as well as) to David and Solomon, HOWEVER ETERNAL.IS CONDITIONALif the king does not obey, or if his successors do not and take other gods for their own, THEN ISRAEL WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE LAND. THE ETERNAL TEMPLE WILL LIE IN RUINS. The promise to David does not bind Yahweh. Its permanence depends wholly on the arbitrary and, yes, despotic will of Davids patron.”
Thus Thompson sees the collapsing paradigm of the bible as history, and as woefully misinterpreted by prior archeologists: “The Bible almost never isintentionally historical.” Yet it is still of remarkable value. Moreover, Thompson points out that these “kings” may have been little more than the tribal memories of past chieftains, blown out of proportion for obvious reasons of tribal cohesiveness, as well as cautionary tales to be remembered orally. A temple of sorts obviously existed, but not in the blueprint dimensions which the modern visitor has been presented with. There was a central place of worship, and it MAY be in the vicinity of where the Bible states, or it may be nearby, but it did not come out of whole cloth.
The entire difference between Thompson and Shamir, is that Thompson as a hardnosed biblical historian and archeologist, deconstructs the narrative, while seeking the historical reality; but fully acknowledges the spiritual realm in which the narrative intends to be.
Shamir denegrates both. He states to Elie Wiesel in a mocking manner, “Elie, you want to play more games? Ill tell you some. THE JEWS ARE NOT EVEN MENTIONED IN THE JEWISH BIBLE.this ethonym appears the first and only time in the Bible in the Persian story of the very late Book of Esther. This SELF-IDENTIFICATION OF THE JEWS with the tribes of Israel and with the heroes of the Bible is as valid as the story of Rome being founded by the Trojan prince, Aeneus.”
Well, Mr. Shamir may be a polyglot, but his Biblical knowledge comes up wanting. The sacred writings of The Hebrews known by the acronym TANAKH (Torah-Nevim-Kethuvim, or in English equivalent, The Five Books of Moses[Genesis,Exodus,Leviticus,Numbers, Deuteronomy] The Prophets The Writings ) does not mention Jews because “Jews” as a separate unit, did not yet exist in the narrative, except as a group of one of the twelve tribes, the tribe of JUDAH, which is of course mentioned, and from which the word JEW is taken.
“Moreover”, he seems to proudly exclaim to Mr. Wiesel, as some elementary school student who thinks he has had some kind of epiphany, “Moreover, and not that it matters,
BUT THE NAME OF JERUSALEM IS NOT MENTIONED EVEN ONCE IN THE JEWISH HOLY BOOK (sic), the TORAH(sic)”
Well of course it isnt mentioned in the Torah. The Torah, the sections of which are described above, ends chronologically with Moses giving further instructions to the people Israel, the Hebrew people, yet being prevented by God from entering “the promised land”.
” And when Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them” Take to heart all the wrods with which I have warned you this day. Enjoin them upon your children, that they may observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching” Deuteronomy 32:45-6
Moses knows he is not to himself enter for God tells him,
“You shall die on the mountain that you are about to ascend (mount Nebo), and shall be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on mount Hor and was gathered to his kin.” Deuteronomy 32:50
“You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it.” Deuteronomy 32:52
Jerusalem is not mentioned in “The Jewish Bible” of which the Torah is only one of three parts,but is INDEED mentioned later on in the sections of the Nevim (The Prophets) beginning with I Kings and extending through the eighth book of Nevim, JEREMIAH and later on in which the Hebrew people are denegrated by their own prophets for their transgressions in the 15th book, the book of Micah.
Moreover, the prophet Micah is far more trenchant, and far more germaine within the tradition of Judaism, in excoriating the people, than Mr. Shamir could ever hope to be. AND HE CERTAINLY DOES MENTION JERUSALEM.
“The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morashtite, who prophesied concerning Samaria and JERUSALEM in the reigns of kings” Micah 1:1
“All this is for the transgression of Jacob,
AND FOR THE SINS OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL,
What is the transgression of Jacob
And what the shrines (note emendatin yields “sins”) of Judah
BUT JERUSALEM?” Micah 1:5
Micah continues in that vein of excoriation, but the astute reader gets the idea.
Mr. Shamir is never derogatory of the sacred writings of the Muslims. Would he tell his Muslim readers that the Prophet Mohammeds night journey on a winged stead is also a flight of fancy? No, I dont in my heart, believe he would. This mocking which continues, is a repeated theme in his other articles, in which a denegration of Jews as Jews is woven throughout. In his attempt, and his efforts to point out the transgressions which the philosophy of political Zionism has wraught against both the native inhabitants of Palestine, and indeed against Jews, prior to any modern assault on the land; Mr. Shamir, for reasons known only to himself; finds it necessary to denegrate one of the three Abrahamic religions, while always showing nothing but respect for the two offspring of that parent religion.
“The humble East European folk of YIDS,..claim of desceent from these legends was as valid as the claims of Thomas Harys ambitious farmer girl Tess. (Here he references Tess of the Dubervilles but leaves out mention of this.).
It should further be mentioned that on the spiritual level, Jerusalem has not been “raped”. The old city is still there as the Old City. On the temporal level, a municipality has expanded around it, in the same way that Paris expanded around the original Isle de la Cite, also preserved; or that Montreal expanded around The Old Montreal;or Moscow around The Kremlin, or Beijing around The Forbidden City. Urbanization is the way of modern man. None of these great cities have been raped, and as Jerusalem, the past has been left intact as a tontine.
In this cleverly constructed diatribe against Elie Wiesel, as the personification of the “whining Jews”, in which the very real experience of the Nazi holocaust against the Jews of Europe is demeaned, in which Judaism itself as a religion is attacked, in which a clever misinterpretation or misunderstanding for lack of knowledge of the holy books is used in an attempt to invalidate an entire religious body as a transposition to criticism of a modern state beset with innumerable and very real wordly problems; the cautious reader would do far better to heed the words of the prophet Micah above, than to listen to a false one who is adept at crying , Rape!