More followup on the death of Yitzhak Shamir, the rightwinger and former prime minister and terrorist dead at 96.
There is a terrible statement in Haaretz: Netanyahu’s eulogy to Shamir in which he praises him for the racist declaration: “the sea is the same sea and the Arabs are the same Arabs.” Shamir made the remark in 1991 ahead of the Madrid talks, the beginning of the peace process which he did not believe in, and which Netanyahu also does not believe in. Haaretz:
At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Shamir was correct in his famous statement that “the sea is the same sea and the Arabs are the same Arabs.”
Shamir’s remark was seen as implying that the Arabs had not changed their animosity towards Israel and a desire to throw the Jews into the sea. “With respect to his statements about [Israel's] neighbors, about the distinction between the sea and the land, it’s possible that [although] these remarks … unleashed a torrent of criticism at the time, even contempt, today there are of course many more people who understand that this man saw and understood basic and genuine things,” Netanyahu said.
Shutafut-Sharakah, an umbrella advocacy group involved in Jewish-Arab civil rights issues, said in response to Netanyahu’s comments that the prime minister was making use of the mourning over Shamir’s death to incite against Arabs. “We regret that for Netanyahu, the term ‘Arabs’ includes the embodiment of a demonic people rather than people who live in the country and are entitled not only to equal rights but also protection from incitement.”
Yesterday I focused on Shamir’s giving the order to kill Swedish envoy Folke Bernadotte in 1948. Larry Derfner wrote about this in the Jerusalem Post in 2010 (thanks to Hostage):
After electing Begin prime minister, we elected Yitzhak Shamir, who had been one of the leadership trio of Lehi (the Hebrew acronym for “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”). Lehi went Etzel [Irgun, once led by Menachem Begin] one better – not only did it kill for Israeli statehood, it killed after statehood, too. On September 17, 1948, Lehi men in Jerusalem shot to death Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN’s envoy to the Middle East (who, as a Swedish diplomat during World War II, had saved many thousands of Jews from the Nazi death camps).
At Lehi’s 70th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem last month, National Union MK Arye Eldad (whose father, Yisrael, had been one of Shamir’s partners in the leadership) said from the podium: “Count Bernadotte wanted to internationalize Jerusalem. In response, Lehi killed him. With his death, the concept of taking Jerusalem away from the Jewish people died with him.”
Hooray. And after Yitzhak Shamir dies, there will be highways, neighborhoods, hospitals and schools named after him, too.
Finally, there is a great photo up at the Times site of Barbra Streisand canoodling with Yitzhak Shamir in his office in 1984.
If you want to understand American Jewish attitudes, this picture is helpful. Streisand is a liberal in domestic politics. Here she is aligned with a rightwinger who described Arabs as “grasshoppers.” File this one in the same place as Erica Jong’s chapter title from Fear of Flying: “Arabs and other animals.” And young American Jews, we have much to be proud of in our tradition, including Barbra Streisand and Erica Jong’s leadership as feminists; but it is time we interrogated the racism inside our community.