For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



Russia Hesitates

By Israel Shamir, from Moscow[1]


Israel and the US, the terrible Siamese twins conjoined by their Jewish communities, are on the warpath. The usually knowledgeable Uzi Mahanaimi wrote in the Sunday Times that the plans have been laid out, and preparations are being completed for the resumption of the war on Syria and Iran temporarily stopped by the Hezbullah fighters in the mountains of Southern Lebanon. President Bush hopes to improve his sagging popularity by the war, says Alex Cockburn. A condemnation of Iran by the Security Council  is all he needs before the attack at dawn. Until now, such resolutions were produced after a short period of haggling. Now there is a chance Russia will use its veto, and then the US plans would be shelved and the assault on Iran cancelled.


Before 1990, such a vote would be certain. In those days of the much-maligned Soviet Union, the Russians advanced many causes of which we still enjoy the fruits: together with their Cuban allies they stopped the apartheid tanks in Angola and brought about Mandela’s release and the creation of a more egalitarian South Africa. The Russians supported European trade unions and Communist parties, preventing the onslaught of privatisation, outsourcing and globalisation. If you had it better before 1990, and you probably did, it was due to this Russian influence. The Russians supplied the enemies of the Empire with their cheap and good weapons, and they blocked the Empire’s attempts to legitimise its aggressions via UN resolutions. Their planes and their ground-to-air missiles helped the Vietnamese and the Koreans to win the war. Their influence and abilities were limited: the Russians never could compete on an equal footing with the immense power of the West harnessed by Washington. But they could spike the wheels of the American Juggernaut, and so they did. The Empire hated them and wished them dead, and many Western intellectuals supported this wish.


My friend,  Russian maverick poet Edward Limonov, wrote a short story in the 1980s: what would happen if Russia were to disappear altogether from the face of Earth? The US would intervene all over the world on massive scale, and capitalism and imperialism would regain ground lost since 1917 with a vengeance, he prophesied; and so it has happened: Panama, Nicaragua, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan were invaded. The rich grew richer, the middle class shrank, freedoms were undone on the pretext of a "War on Terror." 


The Western Left contributed a lot to this unhappy development, for Soviet Russia was undone by double perfidy. In the end, their elites betrayed their masses and privatised the wealth created by the Soviet people. But before that, we, the Western Left, had internalized the Evil Empire cliché and repeated every slogan manufactured by the enemy. We chanted Let My People Go, and demanded an extra privilege for Jews, the right to emigrate. We did not care that the Palestinians had no right to return to their homes, while the Russian Jews wanted to move into settlements in occupied Palestine. We supported Russian dissidents, though they hated all we stood for and considered Pinochet ‘a soft leftist’. We accused Russians of their long-gone Gulag, and brought in Abu Ghraib. We condemned Russians too much, and contributed to their feeling of isolation, and to the second, fatal betrayal by their elites.


We, good and sincere people, were misled and tricked by the media machine into an outburst of condemnation against our only mighty ally. The Western Left did not survive the collapse: it went into self-destruct mode, and what remains is represented by the likes of Tony Blair. All over the Western world, the elites celebrate their unlimited wealth and luxury, while ordinary people are worse and worse off. Not only industrial workers: unless you are a CEO you live worse than you did, and your chances to improve your lot are worse than they ever were.


But luckily Russia did not disappear forever, though it was a close call. Boris Yeltsin sold its resources to his cronies and to Western companies, shelled the Parliament and transferred media and oil into the hands of Jewish oligarchs. Yeltsin installed Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB officer and would-be Pinochet, with orders to keep the stolen property in the hands of thieves and the country in the Western grip. Now it appears that the enemies of Russia miscalculated with this man. Instead of doing a Pinochet on behalf of the oligarchs, Putin broke the oligarchs’ grip; he exiled and jailed some crooked tycoons, and restored a semblance of law and order in the country. He returned the main TV channels to the people. My wealthy Jewish acquaintances in Russia tell me that money does not rule in the country anymore. One can buy comforts, but not the power.


The oil revenues began to flow into the country, not only to private coffers in Swiss banks. This revitalised the economy. The infrastructure ruined by Gorbachev and Yeltsin is being restored and improved; housing is being built in vast amounts; the once-degraded army is receiving new hardware; main streets shine with bright new shops; new and repaired highways with millions of cars connect villages and cities. The Chechen war is over; that republic has been reintegrated into Russia, and its dwellers enjoy full civil rights. Russian ballet again captures eyes and hearts. After the total collapse of the film industry in the 1990s, Russians are again making many movies, even blockbusters with mass appeal (like The Night Guard) as well as “festival art”. Obsessive, guilt-ridden lamentation has given way to new prose and poetry. Thousands of churches have been refurbished and their onion domes gilded; all the churches are full on Sundays. Historically a country of Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam, Russia preserves this tradition, and here the Christians and Muslims live in relative harmony despite the efforts of pro-American forces to inject Islamophobia into Russian hearts. The state TV, taken away from Jewish oligarchs and freed from PC tyranny, shows a lot of footage of the venerable grey-bearded Patriarch (the Russian Pope) and the nimble karate-fighter of a President enforcing the faith-and-authority tradition of Russia.


A mammoth 1500-page-long novel by the Russian painter Maxim Kantor, The Drawing Textbook , le dernier cri of Russian literature, has been received by many readers as a proclamation of volte-face: Russia’s ideological subservience to the Mammonite West is over! Kantor does not stop at condemning comprador capitalists: they were preceded by comprador intellectuals. Kantor defends Christ from the humanist assaults: Christianity was betrayed by humanists, in his view. Kantor is not fond of the new Russian regime: he regrets that Russia gave up its socialism, and considers 20 years of capitalist development as a flop: “barracks’ socialism was replaced by barracks’ capitalism”. With this book, a modern War and Peace, Russia’s re-invention is officially on the way, and this great country with its great people may yet turn the tide of history.


It is doubtful whether Russia will turn leftwards anytime soon. But the international activism of adventure-seeking Americans is not acceptable to any independent Russian state. Russians are not happy with the American military bases surrounding Russia, with the aggressive push of NATO, or with politically motivated limitations on Russian companies. The Russians feel that they were cheated 20 years ago, when the West proclaimed its desire to reach full peace and harmony, and to respect the independence of nations. Believing this bull, the Russian troops left East Europe, but American troops still lounge in Germany, Italy, Japan; they advanced into Poland and this summer tried to land in Crimea, next to the Russian fleet's home base. The Russians left Vietnam, but the Americans still occupy Okinawa.


Russia’s leaders feel unsafe: since the Soviet Union’s demise, leaders of independent sovereign states – Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Milosevic - have been snatched and imprisoned for denying the will of Washington. Neither is Russian wealth safe: Russia, like many nations, is obliged to keep its savings in the bottomless pit of the American economy, but nobody can collect on these investments yet. Norway invested all its oil income in the US stock market, and lost all of it; Swedish pension funds went the same way. If this is the case with the best friends of the US, what will happen to its enemies? Iran, Iraq, Palestine lost all their savings by decisions of the US administration. Moreover, its legal system allows the US to sue foreign states for unlimited amounts. Thus, the families of victims of the Lockerbie crash received from besieged Libya a cool ten million dollars per passenger, although the American courts authorise ten thousand times smaller sums for the victims of American bombings – if indeed they receive anything at all.


Russia feels unsafe, for the US has invaded other sovereign countries more often and with greater impunity than Hitler ever did. This feeling is shared by a less vocal China. “The great issue that divides the U.N. is no longer Communism versus capitalism, as it once was; it is sovereignty”, preached the New York Times.  Its scribe,  James Traub, lists many countries that “abuse their citizens under protection of sovereignty”. In vain will you look there for the name of Israel, though the Jews killed  over a thousand people in Lebanon, and over 200 civilians last month in Gaza alone. 


The  great divisive issue of our times is actually somewhat different: whether the US and Israel are the only sovereign countries, while others have a limited "demo" version. Why does Israel get away with aggression (and now with its sea and air blockade of a sovereign UN member state, Lebanon) while peaceful Iran must be censured? Why has Israel been able to reject all pertinent UN resolutions and yet never had sanctions applied against it, while Iran is about to be bombed? Are non-Jews less valuable than Jews? The case of Iran provides a good opportunity for Russia and China to present a case for sovereignty and non-interference. 


Some of better Soviet policies were embedded in the Christian ethos of Russia, and the tradition of helping the downtrodden and the weak, of resisting aggressor is one of them. Post-Soviet Russia inherited these traditions. But in this case practical need coincides with the call of compassion. Unless President Putin views with equanimity the possibility of being snatched and brought to some American kangaroo court himself, he may want to contemplate stopping this orgy of invasions. Iran is a case of one invasion too far. Iran is a sovereign country; it did not break international law. Its decision to enrich uranium is fully within its rights according to the NPT. Whether they worship Allah or Jehovah is entirely their internal affair. And by applying its right of veto, Russia would signal that interference in internal affairs of sovereign states will not be tolerated and legitimised in the UN. Russia won’t be alone – China, equally unhappy with US interference, may support it with its own veto.


The alternative is too much to consider: even if the UN resolution doesn't refer to sanctions, the US is famous for its cavalier way of interpreting UN text. Any condemnation (even a soft one) will be used as carte blanche for nuking Iran and taking it over; then the US chain of military bases will run continuously around the south flank of Russia and China, through Turkey, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan. "Rebellious" Ahmadinejad will be brought to Tel Aviv in iron chains, while the US takes over the oil resources of Iran, and by using Iran and Iraq oil, undermines the Russian position in the world economy. Afterwards, under this or some other pretext, they may confiscate Russia’s assets, threaten Putin with Ahmadinejad’s fate and return Russia to its miserable position of Yeltsin’s days. Thus, using their veto in the Security Council would be a very prudent and wise step for both Russia and China, especially if it were accompanied by granting Iran full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.


The results of a Russian veto would be greater than just postponement of the US assault on Iran: it would send a strong signal that the end of Pax Americana is nigh. The “Old” Europe may take it as a cue and regain its independence, even demanding to remove those vestiges of WWII,  US military bases, from Europe. The “New” Europe may understand it is out of step, and curtail its pro-American and anti-Russian partisanship. Japan could demand an end to the occupation of Okinawa. The Law of Nations will rule the world again, instead of the will of the Pentagon.


And then the time for a new American independence drive will come, independence of America from its Jewish Lobby. Such a drive took place in the revolutionary Russia of the 1920s, when Russian Communists argued about whether they should go for world revolution, as Trotsky demanded, or for creating socialism in their own country, as proposed by Stalin and Bukharin. If their militant activism is rejected,  Americans may discard their neo-Trotskyites, both Republicans and Democrats keen on spreading their “world democratic revolution”, in favour of isolationists who prefer building to spreading. Supporters of spreading – from George W. Bush to Hilary Clinton – are great friends of Israel. The bipartisan support of Israel within the US political elites means also their subservience to the Jewish Lobby. Rejection of the Lobby may become the single slogan of a new American revolution, of a new American political party of independence and non-interference on the way to creating a United States the world can live with.


Language editing: Ken Freeland and Roger Tucker


[1] [A Russian version of this article was published in the]