By Gilad Atzmon
It was a few years ago that I grasped that Zionism was just one manifestation of Jewish political power in the West. But at the time, hardly anyone was either brave or stupid enough to tackle the topic.
In spite of Israel defining itself as the ‘Jewish State’, despite the fact that the warplanes that dropped their bombs on Palestinian civilians were covered in Jewish symbols, still no one was willing to openly ask exactly what Jewishness was all about.
Neither did they inquire about what it stood for. And those few who did dare to raise the question were subject to total abuse until they took cover or just faded away.
It’s also been clear for quite a while that many Palestinian solidarity activists, intellectuals and academics have been begging for recognition from mainstream Western institutions.
For obvious reasons, many of us have been fearful of open confrontation with exponents of Zionist power, whether mainstream Zionist media organisations or even those AZZ (Anti Zionist Zionists) who have managed to lodge themselves so comfortably within our ranks.
But recently things have changed and the popularity of my book ‘The Wandering Who’ (TWW) is just one example of that clear shift in consciousness.
Somehow, we have lost our fear, somehow we have found the courage to say what we know to be the truth.
I’ve been engaged with Jewish identity politics issues for over a decade now but it was back in 2003 that I realised that total and uncompromised opposition to any form Jewish of identity politics was the only way forward.
I also realised that I might be able to expose the framework of Jewish political infrastructure, not only within Israel but also within Zionist organisations, Western politics, Western media and the so-called Jewish ‘anti Zionist’ network.
And it didn’t take long to realize I was in a true win-win situation. If they managed to destroy me, it would merely prove my point about their overwhelming influence.
But if they failed to neutralize me, that could only mean that Jewish power was disintegrating – which was exactly what I set out to achieve.
Three month ago I published TWW – a compilation of my thinking and probably one of the most damning criticisms of Jewish identity politics-left, right and centre – ever. Needless to say, all hell broke loose.
Since late September, I’ve been chased and harassed by just about every possible exponent of Jewish power and advocate of Israel and Zionism. The ADL, The Jewish Chronicle,
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the crypto-Zionist ‘anti’ racist Hope not Hate, Alan Dershowitz the Zionist mouthpiece and veteran IDF concentration camp guard Jeffrey Goldberg.
Similarly, Ynet, Islamophobic Harry’s Place, The Board of Deputies of British Jews – all have worked closely together in a desperate attempt to bring down both my book and myself. But they were not alone.
As I suggest in TWW there is a clear continuum between Zionism and Jewish ‘anti’ Zionism and certain elements within the Left.
The Hasbara campaign against me was joined by the so called Jewish ‘anti’ Zionists aka AZZ and even by a few of Zionism’s Sabbath Goyim such as one Richard Seymour (for some reason convinced he is the true reincarnation of Lenin).
The Book Burners
Each morning brought a new assault. First, they mounted pressure on my publisher to pull the book. But Zero is made of sterner stuff.
Even when ten of their authors threatened to leave, Zero held firm. But this initial failure did not damp the Zionists’ enthusiasm – in fact they stepped up the campaign.
Now they tried to stop my talks and concerts, even campaigning against music festivals around the world.
Of course again they failed but again they didn’t stop. Desperately they tried to halt the distribution of the book.
In vain, they begged my growing list of endorsers to retract. But again, in each and every turn, they failed. I was rather encouraged by their relentless attempts.
The more they campaigned, the more copies were sold, the more they harassed, the more people realised how accurately the book describes the Jewish political continuum and the uglier their tactics were, the more people joined me.
The fact is, neither my publisher nor myself has spent a penny on promotion.
We left our entire promotional campaign in the safe hands of the Jewish Chronicle, Jeffrey Goldberg, AZZ and Alan Dershowitz – and they did not disappoint. So far, the book has sold thousands.
It has been read by most English-speaking Palestinian solidarity and anti war activists and within a year, the book will be available in most European languages.But best of all, the orchestrated Jewish campaign has proved beyond any doubt the accuracy of every single point made in the book about Jewish identity politics.
But, one wonders, why did they fail? Is it possible that Dershowitz and the Board of Deputies of British Jews are totally blind to the consequences of their actions?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Self-blindness is inherent to supremacist identity politics.
As Deir Yassin Remembered’s Paul Eisen recently wrote, “You are so busy being clever that you’ve forgotten to look into the eyes of the other”. And this blindness has so often had catastrophic results.
For as much as Jewish politics is fuelled by Jewish suffering, it is, at the same time, totally blind to the circumstances that has caused Jewish history to be characterized by an endless chain of shoas.
But also they failed because, quite simply, the tide has changed. We now experience an ever-growing fatigue with Jerusalemite lies and the Zionification of both our cultural life and political discourse.
We want to reinstate the spirit of Athens – those precious notions of pluralism, universalism and ethics – not the Old Testament’s interventionist ‘righteousness’ explored by different ‘ways of deception’ known to us all as ‘Hasbara’.
So, TWW spreads like a forest fire, not because it’s particularly innovative but because it discusses those matters with which each of us has been concerned for a very long time.
We say now enough is enough. We do not wish to hear again and again about antisemitism, the holocaust and the primacy of Jewish suffering – It is actually Islamophobia and the Palestinian shoa about which we all care.
My many detractors are afraid that the popularity of TWW will lead to a shift in the Palestinian solidarity discourse.
They obviously don’t get it. It’s actually the other way around. The popularity of TWW is but a manifestation of that very shift within our discourse.
So, rather than compromising, and searching desperately for that least offensive way to put it, activists and intellectuals are now competing for who can say it most ‘like it is’.
We are there to touch raw nerves. Our world is in a volatile state and if we want to save it, we’d better say what we think – we’d better call a spade a spade.
Jews are of course most welcome in our rapidly changing movement – they are precious to us and we are responsible for them too.
But let’s be clear: we need no Kosher stamp. Gate keeping is a thing of the past.
No longer will their Hasbara campaign be tolerated. So rather than try to steer us, Jews must march with us.
We are indeed in a win-win situation. And it’s all because we know that truth is on our side.
Editing: Jim W. Dean
The Wandering Who-A Study of Jewish Identity Politics Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
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, 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 Amazon.com
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