Flowers of Galilee The Collected Essays of Israel Shamir by Israel Shamir (Tempe, Arizona: Dandelion Books, 2004. 304 pages.)

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Karin M. Friedemann

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Abstract

Flowers of Galilee breaks new ground in modern political discourse. This
book recommends a democratic one-state solution in all of historical
Palestine and the return of the Palestinians to rebuild their villages. The
beautiful front cover painting by Suleiman Mansour of Jerusalem lovingly
depicts a Palestinian family, children seated on a donkey, walking past a hill
covered with olive trees. Similarly, Israel Shamir’s essays portray the peaceful,
pastoral landscape of the Holy Land and the humanity of its inhabitants,
juxtaposed against the ugliness and inhumanity of Jewish racism.
These thought-provoking essays, written in Jaffa during the al-Aqsa
Intifada in 2001-02, call for Jews to leave their sense of exclusivity and
plead for human equality. The author, a Russian immigrant to Israel in 1969,
followed his meditations to their inevitable conclusion, renounced Judaism,
and was baptized in the Palestinian Orthodox Christian Church of
Jerusalem. A brilliant storyteller with a vast knowledge of history, he discusses
current events and their global implications with brutal honesty and
tenderness. His clear insights and lyrical use of language to illustrate social,
religious, and political complexities make him the Khalil Gibran of our time.
An important chapter, “The Last Action Heroes,” memorializes the
Spring 2002 siege of Bethlehem. The Israeli army surrounded 40 monks
and priests and 200 Palestinians seeking refuge in the Church of Nativity.
For a month, “people starved ... Stench of corpses and of infected wounds
filled the old church” (p. 63). The UN did nothing, but a few International
Solidarity Movement activists from America and Europe, including the
author’s son, broke the siege. One group distracted the soldiers while the
others rushed into the church’s gates, brought food and water, and helped
negotiate a surrender.
Shamir deconstructs the legal fictions of the state of Israel and the elusive
Palestinian state: “Israelis who would like to live in peace with their
Palestinian neighbors ... cannot counteract the raw muscle of the American
Jewish leadership” (p.179). He further dissects the Jewish Holocaust cult
and other Zionist public relations tactics. He exposes the two-state solution
as a political bluff, calls on the world to cut off aid to Israel, and admonishes
the Muslim world for indulging in usury ...

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