Gilad Atzmon: What Are They Afraid of?



UK Zionist network, together with half a dozen Sayanim* within the Jewish Palestinian solidarity network, seem to be strongly united this week.

Acting as a joint effort, they are trying to stifle freedom of speech: they seem to be horrified by the idea that a panel of intellectuals, journalists and an artist plan to explore the intriguing bond between Israel, Zionism and ‘Jewishness’, and thus far they have harassed panelists, threatened an academic institute and have spread lies, smears and defamation.

And yet in doing so they have unwittingly provided us with a tremendous glimpse into a contemporary Jewish secular tribal operation.

And what is at the root of their hysteria? For some peculiar reason, both Zionists and UK Jewish so-called ‘anti Zionists’, insist that discussing ‘Jewishness’ is a taboo which should never be explored, certainly not in public, and definitely never outside of the ghetto.

But isn’t it all just more than a little suspicious? After all, please consider that the Jewish ‘anti Zionists’ operate politically under a Jewish banner; they also clearly carry their Jewish identity with pride; and, like the ‘Jews only state’, they also run a ‘Jews only club’ — yet they want to try to stop us from questioning what this club actually stands for. They want to take it further and even try to stop us from discussing and grasping what the Jewishness of Israel is all about.

Why are they so concerned about others questioning their ideology, an identity which they themselves are clearly and openly so proud of?

Is it that we are not allowed to question ideologies and political precepts?  Should we, then, also have stopped Max Weber from looking into the role of Protestantism in the context of the rise of capitalism?  And if Israel proudly defines itself as the Jewish State, then are we not entitled to also wonder what its Jewishness actually means?

And shouldn’t we also be entitled to refer the exact same questions to the UK Jewish ‘anti Zionists’?

It seems clear to me that we do have that right to know.

A few years ago I invented a spoof character. His name was Artie Fishel. Artie was a satirical, fictional Jewish American musician, a rabid Zionist, convinced that jazz was Jewish.  He believed that jazz music also had nothing to do with America or Africa. He wanted it back, and thus founded ‘Artie Fishel & The Promised Band’.

Artie Fishel was obviously a parody of the Zionist enterprise: if we can take Palestine from the Arabs, then surely we can take jazz from the Americans.

To listen to Artie click here

The Jewish ‘anti Zionists’ here in the UK were the first to oppose the project. The first night on the road, we played in Nottingham. As the gig finished, a ‘Jewish progressive’ promoter (who was and still is a friend of mine)  approached us. She stood there with tears in her eyes : “Everything you say is so true; but why do you have to share it with the Goyim,” she said, in a broken voice.

She wasn’t amused by the satirical Artie.

We realised that we must have touched a sensitive nerve.

Lipstick-Artie Fishel and the Promised Band

Jewish humour is based on self mockery; yet it is very clear to Jews where the boundaries of mockery are. Jewish comedians know where to stop. To a certain extent Jewish humour is a very sophisticated form of ‘discourse management.’ It is there to define the template of self-reflection. In some regards, it openly admits to a certain level of Jewish cultural essentialism; but it insists that such a phenomena is nothing but charming.

Sadly enough though, I  myself do not really find the Jewish State a ‘charming concept’: I cannot see what is so charming about a society that collectively supports carpet bombardment of civilians**.

I also fail to see what is so charming about relentless Jewish lobbying.  And when I look at the reality of Jewish political dissidence  here in the UK; and when I read about Jewish campaigners harassing a fellow Palestinian academic or solidarity activists ( in the ‘name of Palestine’ no less ) it really begins to make me feel sick.

I often ask myself : what is it that they are so  afraid of ? Why are they so desperate to stop us from looking into the meaning of their flag?

I can think of two possible answers:

1.  It could be that they may not even know themselves what  their ‘Jewishness’ stands for — but they are certainly  clever enough to grasp that they had better not find out: they clearly realise that the concept may turn out to be a ‘Pandora box’. Such an answer is consistent with  Judaic teaching, for in Judaism, observance is primary; comprehension is secondary. In other words, Judaism demands blind acceptance.

2.  It could also be that they know very well what ‘Jewishness’ means, yet they know how sinister it may look for the outsider. Hence they use different tactics, just to stop the rest of us from looking into it. If that is the case, such an answer might mean that their apparent attempt to stifle a debate may be inherent to their conception of ‘Jewishness’.

Yet, considering the crimes that are committed by the Jewish state, and considering the measures that are taken by some elements within the Jewish ‘anti Zionist’ network, the time is clearly overdue for us to look into the true meaning of Jewish ideology — what does it stand for; what does it preach; what does it promise, and essentially, what does it insist to take away from us (namely, freedom of speech and expression)?

But here is the good news : it is apparent that many Jews, and even Jewish spiritual leaders are now breaking away from the Jewish ‘left’ in order to find a  meaningful path into true universal empathy as equal and ordinary human beings. I know that is the case, because they ask to meet me. I know, because they talk to me. I know, because they ask questions, rather than repeating ready-made answers.

And most of all I know because I myself left the ghetto many years ago and I see them trying to do the same.

Panel Event: Zionism, Jewishness and Israel

Time:    Tuesday, May 3 · 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Location: University Of Westminster – Cavendish Campus

A panel discussion examining Israeli Criminality in the wake of the Goldstone Retract.

Alan Hart, Gilad Atzmon and others

* Sayanim- Diaspora Jews subservient to Israeli interests. Ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky describes how Sayanim function in “By Way Of Deception”. ‘They are usually reached through relatives in Israel… They perform many different roles. A car Sayan, for example, running a rental car agency, could help the Mossad rent a car without having to complete the usual documentation. An apartment Sayan would find accommodation without raising suspicions, a bank Sayan could fund someone in the middle of the night if needs be, a doctor Sayan would treat a bullet wound without reporting it to the police.’

** At the time of Operation Cast Lead (2008-9), Israeli polls showed that  94 per cent of Israel’s Jewish population backed the war and IDF tactics.



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Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born British jazz saxophonist, novelist, political activist and writer. Atzmon's album Exile was BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. Playing over 100 dates a year,[4] he has been called "surely the hardest-gigging man in British jazz." His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore the music of the Middle East and political themes. He has described himself as a "devoted political artist." He supports the Palestinian right of return and the one-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity, and Judaism, as well as his controversial views on The Holocaust and Jewish history have led to allegations of antisemitism from both Zionists and anti-Zionists. A profile in The Guardian in 2009 which described Atzmon as "one of London's finest saxophonists" stated: "It is Atzmon's blunt anti-Zionism rather than his music that has given him an international profile, particularly in the Arab world, where his essays are widely read." His new book The Wandering Who? is now availble at