Speaking with Will
journalism is more akin to warfare than a search for
truth. I have been misquoted so many times that it’s a
wonder I speak to anyone at all. “Don’t speak to
strangers” is what they told us in kindergarten, and I’m
sure I’d be better off if I followed that advice.
Journalists turn my instructive metaphors into hateful
headlines. One time I told a Russian interviewer that,
“It is possible to extinguish the Jew within”. I
thought it was a poetic way to describe overcoming our
inner fears and anti-social behaviours; hostile bloggers
preferred to “translate” it as “Shamir calls for the
killing of Jews”.
I recently received a letter from the
young American journalist Will Yakowicz. He wrote that
speaking with me and creating my literary portrait would
be like a dream come true for him. I was myself once an
eager young cub reporter, and his stated desire did not
strike me as too unusual. Whether it is good for me or
not, I always look for opportunities to answer my
critics and support my comrades. Will flew from New York
to Moscow and we had our interview; I answered all his
questions even though they became increasingly combative
as the interview progressed. In order to avoid any
possible misinterpretations, I am publishing the entire
unedited conversation as recorded by Dictaphone:
and the following partial and loose transcript:
It is a fantastic opportunity to speak to a famous
writer… You are one of the most important journalists
this year; you are a champion of freedom of speech… Why
were you chosen to do what you are doing for Wikileaks?
We are not chosen; we are choosing to do what we do...
Here it is an exciting story, every journalist would do
You present Assange as a hero.
In the modern world, we have no heroes. The last hero
was the hero of Richard Aldington’s book Death of a
Hero; now we feel it is pathetic. I presented Julian
Assange as a comic strip figure (like modern Superman)
so people would be able to relate to him. Especially
since my own acquaintance with Julian was so very short
Why did he introduce you as Adam?
This is the name I was given in Church, and I often use
it. On the cover of my books it says: Israel Adam Shamir.
You’ve been to Belarus. How did you like the Belarusian
I’ve been invited as an observer to the Belarus
presidential elections, went to a few voting stations,
it seemed to be all right. In the evening there were
disturbances; I also saw it. I personally have no doubt
that he won fairly.
What do you like in Moscow?
It is my first winter in the cold climate for many years
and I enjoy it as recollections of my childhood come
back: frost, skies, skating, snow…
You wrote that destruction of al Aqsa Mosque would bring
to the end of the world. How far from are we now?
It is difficult for me to relate to it now. That was
part of my writing long time ago, when I lived in the
Holy Land and experienced this feeling daily. Now I
write about something different, and the thing you speak
of remained as a bleak memory.
Still do you believe the world will end soon?
No. People always prophesy the end of the world; they
always do it. I translated a Jewish Renaissance man
Abraham Zacuto; he prophesied the end of the world – in
1515. He died in 1515.
So it was the end of his world?
Exactly. I think when people prophesy the end of the
world they feel their end is approaching. Much of it is
connected to age; when one feels one’s end is coming one
interprets it as the end of the world.
Now do you feel the end is coming?
And where will you go when you die?
If I shall be a good boy, I’ll go back to creator, to
God. Imagine a bonfire; you pick a burning log out, walk
with it and then you return the log into bonfire. This
is our life. We are taken out of the great fire of God,
and eventually we return to this bonfire.
Usually Hell is described as fire; but you think Fire is
a better way to describe God?
This is just a metaphor.
What is love for you?
Joseph Brodsky in his Great Elegy for John Donne
said that earthly
love is but a
love celestial is an
do you go to the church often?
what do you like about Orthodox churches?
they are most similar to Jerusalem Temple of old; they
also have the same structure of Inner Sanctum, of a
place for priests and a place for laity. So they are
quite archaic but also very much alive. There are many
churches with archaic rites in Jerusalem, but the
Russian church is particularly vibrant.
have you ever seen an angel?
not sure. Angels are a figure of speech; we do not see
them as our ancestors did.
are we trained not to see angels?
you put it well.
and what is hatred?
this is something I never experienced.
but so many people smear you?
I think they have practical reasons. I do not believe
they do it out of hatred. We tend to judge people by
our own measure; if one is mercantile, he believes that
others are mercantile. That is what Talmud says:
Posel bemumo posel. Provided I never experience
hatred, it is difficult for me to believe that others
experience hatred to me.
Can one be provoked to hatred? You’ve seen settlers in
the West Bank doing awful things…
One can be annoyed, but hatred is a very strong emotion,
and I never felt it.
You compared the IDF soldiers with Nazis.
Not out of hatred; not even out of anger, because if one
writes angrily, people will not read it. I do not write
angrily because it is counterproductive. Anger is a very
rare feeling I would indulge myself in for this reason.
I’ve been to the West Bank and I interviewed some
murderous settlers. Do you think Jews have a reservoir
People can be trained to hate, by speaking endlessly of
your suffering, by repeating forever how you and your
relatives were mistreated.
When I was there [in the West Bank] I saw the
settlers are very hostile to Palestinians.
Yes, this is very silly. You know my mother is a
settler. Very ideological, she can speak forever about
how awful is everybody to them. I tried many times to
convince her. They should try to live together in peace
with their neighbours.
it must be hard for her to read your stuff, as she is a
yes she does not like it.
my mother does not like what I write
We are not obliged to write in a way to please our
mothers. The Japanese say the bond between a child and
parent is a one generation bond; the bond of husband and
wife is two generations bond; the bond of master and
disciple survives three generations. It is reasonable
for we choose our spouses and even more so we choose and
persevere with choosing our masters, but we do not
choose our mothers.
How did you choose your wife?
I was married twice, and both times I realised
immediately from the first sight that is what I want.
Where did you meet your current wife?
Is she an Israeli?
Yes. That was almost twenty years ago. I was married to
my first wife for fifteen years since I was thirty.
What is happiness?
negatively speaking, it is the absence of anxiety.
Happiness is something you experience after a good
church service. Peace of mind.
Are you happy now?
And right now?
That would be very odd! Happiness is a sublime moment;
it is not something we should wish for twenty hours a
day. Angels are always happy. Read Anatole France, he
wrote a lot about angels, all his books delightful.
If you could be a supernatural being what would you be?
Bodhisattva; that is one who declined to become a Buddha
in order to remain on earth and help other people to
reach enlightenment. A man is given a chance to become a
Buddha, to leave this life of vanity, but Bodhisattva
refuses because he feels that there are things to be
done here. I do not say I am, I say that is what I’d
like to be. One should help people to come to life.
44:30 Here the interview becomes
more controversial and tense
You said in interview to Mohammed Omer that
anti-Semitism is an article of Jewish faith; Jews
believe that Jews and Gentiles must hate each other. Can
How do the Jews explain hatred of Gentiles? By their
envy. They say that everybody is envious of Jews, and
for this reason they hate. It is an article of Jewish
faith that everybody should be envious of Jews because
Jews are close to God. I hardly ever met a person who
would be envious of Jews. That is why I do not believe
in existence of anti-Semitism. I’ve met people who were
described as anti-Semites; some of them would hate the
concept, the idea of Jews but hardly anybody would hate
Jews as persons.
Do you think Hitler hated Jews, or Jews hated Hitler?
Hitler perceived the Jews as an idea opposing the Aryan
idea. He followed the concepts of Weininger; Otto
Weininger, an Austrian Jew from Vienna, an elder
contemporary of Hitler, a young man who committed
suicide. Hitler followed his idea of paradigmatic
struggling figures of Jew and Aryan.
People label you as anti-Semite, and you said that if
one is not called anti-Semite, something must be wrong.
Sometimes I speak in paradoxes so the people would pay
attention. One should make people listen to you. The
meaning is: if you are never called an anti-Semite it
means you never spoke against some awful things, for
instance against Bernie Madoff, because if you would,
you would be called ‘antisemite’. Anyway this accusation
does not mean much for Jews; you’ve been to Israel, you
know people call each other ‘antisemite’ easily.
So anti-Semite is an empty word?
Yes, for us in Israel it is.
If somebody would tell you “I hate Jews and I wish that
Hitler killed all of them”, what would you say?
I’ve heard it more than once from Sephardi Jews in
Israel; they say that when they meet an Ashkenazi Jew
sometimes. I never felt strong about that. I understand
they feel mistreated by Ashkenazi Jews, so they say:
“Pity you did not burn in Auschwitz”.
What an awful thing to say!
One understands that a person speaks emotionally because
he is upset.
Don’t you think people should be held accountable for
what they say?
People do say things… we do not know whether they mean
what they say.
What would you say to a person who says: Israel, it’s
too bad that your family did not die?
I’d reply: that’s your bad luck.
Won’t you be hurt?
Not really. I experienced these things many times,
perhaps 5 or 10 times, and I did not even felt annoyed.
You say Auschwitz, but by your definition Auschwitz was
a Red Cross internment camp? [This is one of the
accusations levelled at Shamir by the holocaust expert
Davis whose expertise was paid for by John Sweeney of
the BBC show Panorama. The comment is based on Shamir’s
critique of his good friend Gilad Atzmon’s
remark on why the allies did not bomb Auschwitz.
said that Auschwitz was considered an internment
camp “attended by the Red Cross” and that is why it was
So what is your definition of Auschwitz?
I have absolutely no interest in that. And no definition
of my own. I’ve said something entirely different: that
Auschwitz was perceived as internment camp.
Perceived by whom?
By everybody: by Jews in Palestine, by the allies, by
the Russians, by the Americans. When the first rumours
of mass annihilation came to Palestine they were
strongly refuted by the Jewish authorities. They wrote
in newspapers: life is bad as it is, war is bad as it
is, and some people bring such horrible stories… The
Jewish authorities were strongly against this sort of
rumour. Surely Auschwitz was perceived as a deportation
camp, not a resort, quite an awful place to be sure.
“Concentration camp” was used before, by the Brits in
Anglo-Boer War in the beginning of 20th
century; there the expression was minted.
But Auschwitz as a place for extermination of Jews?
This idea came to being only after the war.
So it was just a rumour?
No, I did not say that at all. What I said is “when the
rumours came etc”. I’ll make myself clear. I am not all
that much interested in what happened in reality. I am
interested in perceptions. What I am dealing with is
perceptions. So the perception [of Auschwitz]
during the war was of a quite awful deportation camp,
where people were kept, forced to hard labour. Only
after the war a different perception was formed: that of
mass annihilation, mass murder. But is not a universal,
or even a known perception during the war.
So it is not a fact that there was mass annihilation?
I did not say that, and I did not intend to say that;
what I say is something different, about the
But which perception is true?
I am not interested in this question; it is outside of
my sphere of interests.
So it does not matter for you?
There are so many debates of this sort: how many
Armenians were killed and when and where, or how many
Ukrainians were killed by Holodomor, I am not interested
in this sort of stuff.
[persists]: But can you comment at all whether
these things happened?
I have no knowledge about it at all. Unless one wants to
just repeat what others say one should learn the subject
and I am not interested. I am not interested because I
reject the idea. Why people speak of that: because they
think it is important. That it has salvific value of it;
that it brings geula, salvation. But I do not
think so. Death does not bring salvation. For this
reason I am not possibly interested.
You said you should reject the story of Holocaust [Will
is probably referring to an
article in which I say: “As for the accusation of
‘Holocaust denial’, my family lost too many of its sons
and daughters for me to deny the facts of Jewish
tragedy, but I do deny its religious salvific
significance implied in the very term ‘Holocaust’; I do
deny its metaphysical uniqueness, I do deny the morbid
cult of Holocaust and I think every God-fearing man, a
Jew, a Christian or a Muslim should reject it as Abraham
rejected and smashed idols. I deny that it is good to
remember or immortalize such traumatic events, and I
wrote many articles against modern obsession with
massacres, be it Jewish holocaust of 1940s, Armenian
massacre of 1915, Ukrainian “holodomor”, Polish Katyn,
Khmer Rouge etc. Poles, Armenians, Ukrainians understood
me, so did Jews – otherwise I would be charged with the
crime of factual denial which is known to the Israeli
That is right.
So you do not deny Holocaust?
That’s right, I do not.
You have a witty way of spelling Holocaust as
Hollow-Cost, in your book
Masters of Discourse.
I doubt I did; I do not remember it. This pun is not
One does not have to be high class all the time.
Yes, but one should try not to go down too far.
Do you consider yourself Siberian, Swedish, or what?
This is a difficult question for me.
One of your names is “Joran Jermas”. This is the name on
your Swedish passport. Where does it come from?
When I came under attack I was worried to lose my
freedom of movement, of being stopped or bothered when
checking into a hotel. So it was a question of
anonymity. If I were to write under an assumed name from
beginning, it would be easier; but as I used my real
name, I had to assume another name for anonymity.
So what is your real name?
So what about Israel Shamirer. People say this is
your birth name.
No idea where they get it. People provide me with so
Once you described Jews as virus in human form.
I never did. This was an
invention of the Jerusalem Post. They repeated it
many times. People accused me of all sort of things.
Smear jobs. Why do you think you are targeted?
I say complicated things; so it would be easier if I’d
say something else. So they misrepresent what I say.
People are probably unhappy with what I say, so they add
to make their case. Why can’t they say truth? I say and
write enough things, but they still misquote or invent.
So what are you trying to say?
I say a lot, thousands of words. Tens of thousands.
What is your attitude to life?
I am very grateful to the Lord for what he gave me; for
bad times so I’d appreciate good times; and for good
times because they provided respite. Grateful for the
world that was created for me. In Talmud, a disciple of
Rabbi Akiba came to the Temple Mount and blessed the
Lord for creating multitudes of people for him to
worship with. He was a madman; but this feeling we
experience that all was done for us: snow, throngs of
people, forest – all that was created for me. Such a
feeling causes a lot of gratitude.
[afterwards – some small talk
about skating, fishing, New Jersey, until 1:14]
Do you know whom I met in Brooklyn? I’ve met Norm
Finkelstein. You say he is one of your best friends.
Oh no, an acquaintance.
He said not very nice things about you. He said you are
sleazy, that you invented your personal history, and
that is just a tip of an iceberg.
I’m not too disappointed. He is doing very good job,
Finkelstein does. He was very disappointed with me. He
used to say that the Intifada has made one good thing:
it brought Israel Shamir forth. He was keen; he thought
I am doing wonderful things. But when I did not stop
where he would like me to stop, he did not like it. He
did not want me to criticize Jewish culture, Jewish
faith; that I’d embrace Christ – that was very foreign
for him, being a secular man. I did not promise him to
do what he wants. Anyway I am fond of him: he is doing a
very good job. I always stop people who criticize him.
It is not necessary that everybody will follow my path,
that they will reject what I reject and accept what I
accept. So I am very positive about Norman Finkelstein.
He is a wonderful guy; he is very fast on the draw. Very
quick reaction. We appeared together in front of a huge
multitude, thousand people, in the Columbia University
in 2001. A lot of people. I had difficulty to reply as
fast as he did. He impressed me. There was a Jewish guy,
dressed Jewish way, he asked me: “Are you Jewish?” I
must admit I did not know what to answer. This is a
complicated question. Now I am surely not a Jew…
but your parents are Jewish, so you must to be Jewish
My parents are Jewish, but I am not. It is a question of
choice, and I chose. But then I was in the middle of
transition, so I could not answer neither Yes nor No.
Norman stepped it and answered wittily for me; smoothing
it over. So my memory of Norman is very positive; he is
smart, and his logic is great.
[Shamir explains a conjecture that
the past is being constantly re-written by our
present-day actions. If it is re-written, it can be
re-done, as well.]
How far along are we with the Protocols of the Elders of
This is complicated matter. The Protocols describe the
world spiritually impoverished, the world where Spirit
is being destroyed. The Jewish part there is not
decisive, what is decisive that’s destruction of spirit.
And that is what many people feel that Spirit is
destroyed. This is the concept of Kali Yuga. [Shamir
spells and explains what it is] This is the same as
the Protocols. One can imagine that there are some
groups of people (the Protocols say it is Jews) who lead
Is it for real?
The process of spiritual impoverishment is real.
And are Jews behind it?
No, not as the paramount force. Though some ideas of
Jewish theology fit into it. We should try to understand
why people connect Jews with the Kali Yuga process of
decay. The Jews believe that non-Jews have no direct
access to God. Only Jews have access to God, and
non-Jews should only approach God via Jews. If a non-Jew
has religion or learns the Bible or tries to access God,
it is called in the Talmud a “theft of Israel’s
legacy”. This theft is a crime; so from Jewish point of
view, practically any spiritual involvement of a Gentile
is a crime. Here it fits the Kali Yuga paradigm.
However, Kali Yuga decay or de-spiritualization of the
world is not a process controlled by humans (though it
is certainly influenced by them).
So what about the Elders of Zion?
Elders of Zion is a figure of speech.
So when you write about the Elders of Zion, you mean
just a figure of speech?
In my writings I did not go as far as I did just now; I
just described the concept and summed up what others
wrote. It is a complicated subject; orally one can
explain it, but in writing: people can’t ask additional
questions, so they end up misunderstanding. I wrote much
more simple things; one long piece or two short pieces.
One, explaining how people saw it, notably how
Solzhenitsyn saw it; for he insightfully wrote about the
Elders. [Shamir spells out Solzhenitsyn and explains
who he was]. Solzhenitsyn saw the thought behind the
Protocols not as a domination drive but as a process of
You write about American Goyim being brainwashed by
Jewish media lords. Can you explain? Do you think I am
brainwashed goy? [Actually until this moment, I was
certain that the young man is of Jewish origin. Here he
says he is not. But it does not matter; what I say to a
Jew is what I say to a non-Jew].
How could I know about you personally? Do not turn it
into something so personal.
But what do they want to achieve by their brainwashing
They want to induce you with thought that Jews are
The Jews are not special? Are they like everybody else,
Jews are not special; they are like everybody else. They
want to induce you with thought that everything about
Jews is special; whether it is State of Israel, or
Holocaust. In my view, it is not so.
Do you want to say that Jews and Gentiles are the same?
My view is a bit more complicated. I do not think that
Jews is a separate self-evident category like zebra. You
see a zebra; you know it is zebra. With Jews it is not
like that. A Jew is one who willingly says: “I belong to
this group”. It is a question of choice.
Is it good or bad to be a Jew?
I think it is a wrong choice. It would be better for an
American to be an American like all his neighbors,
instead of claiming that he is special, a Jew. It is
better for people to be a part of the community they
live in. If they would have separate culture, like for
instance Assyrians in Moscow; they live separately among
themselves. But Jews haven’t got this separate culture
anymore, not in Russia or in the US.
What about the West Bank? The Jewish settlements like
one your mother lives in - isn’t it Jewish separate
Not really. It is a separate colonial setup. Technically
they are Jewish, but actually they are a colonial
enterprise, and that is why there are quite a lot of
non-Jews in the settlements, there are Russians, French.
My mother is frequently upset they celebrate Christmas.
The settlements could be moved to Rhodesia or to Wild
West of 19th century. Some of the settlers go
there for economical advantages, because they want to
live in nice countryside, some are attracted by the
scenery, and some go for some crazy reasons. I do not
know the settlers all that much; I saw them from
outside, from Palestinian point of view. They are
possessed by feeling they are so special, so they
establish no-go zones for natives around the
Do you say you are not a Russian representative for
That’s right. I am not. I am a journalist accredited
I spoke to Kristinn [Hraffson, the Wikileaks
spokesman] and he said that you are their Russian
So he said.
[AFTER 1:45 – small talk].
Why did you decide to write about me?
You are one of the most important journalists of our
age. Are you a freedom fighter, a crusader of truth?
No, just a writer.
Anyway you do not work for Jewish media lords. Do you
think I do work for Jewish media lords?
I do not know. You published too little to know; you are
still very young to know.
If one says to you ‘the state of Israel’ what do you
I’ll think of the country first, of its landscape, of
its people. “The state of Israel” is a present political
setup, it was not the setup some 60 years ago, and it
may not last. It is transient feature.
You said the Jews will thrive under Islamic state…
I say: there may be Islamic state, and it will not be
tragedy, but it is not that I am a supporter of such a
solution. In Israel, we have SHAS party, the party of
religious Oriental Jews. This party is very similar to
Hamas; I think they can become affiliated to each other
– if and when there will be one man – one vote system in
the land. Then Hamas plus Shas could become a leading
force, but there are other forces - secular, liberal,
socialist. We should not decide for people. But I do not
Does Israel seek world domination?
Israel as spiritual super-being wants to be the Church
of the world.
Israel should not exist, in your view?
The state of Israel should be transformed into a state
where everybody (people who claim they are Jews and
those who do not) has equal rights.
It was reported that you asked for cables about Jews.
Why did you? Did you get any?
Yes, I’ve a lot of cables concerning Jews.
What do the cables say?
I intend to write about it; I’ve had no time yet.
There is a cable from Moscow saying there is no
anti-Semitism in Russia. [This cable was published by
Komsomolskaya Pravda and by Counterpunch].
If I had the black hat and curls, you think I’d be able
to walk the streets of Moscow unmolested?
So many people do.
Give me another example?
Demands for restitution of Jewish property. The US
ambassadors in many countries fight for it.
Is it right?
It is too late, and it will cause too much trouble.
Likewise, regarding restitution of Palestinian property;
in some cases it can be done, but not totally.
What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear
the word “Jews”?
“Not again”. I am very tired of hearing this word.
Edited by Paul Bennett