By Gilad Atzmon
I just came across a JVP press release (Jewish Voice for Peace) reporting a massive advertising campaign to counter the AIPAC Annual Conference in Washington. Apparently, from today 100 billboards will be stationed in DC Metro bearing a simple but important message.
“AIPAC Does Not Speak for Me”.
AIPAC is certainly a danger to world peace and yes, it is a positive development that a Jewish organization should confront its impact on American foreign policy.
But still, JVP’s tactics are problematic. If anything, they reveal the deep confusion inherent in Jewish politics in general, and Jewish progressive thinking in particular.
On the one hand, JVP’s campaign is simple and transparent: it states “AIPAC does not speak for me. Most Jewish Americans are pro-peace. AIPAC is not.” But on the other hand, JVP falls short in offering any universal or ethical solution to the conflict in the Middle East.
“According to a recent poll by pollster Jim Gerstein” reads the JVP’s press release, “82% of Jewish Americans support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
So, if I understand it correctly, 82% of Jewish Americans support a solution that dismisses the most essential and elementary Palestinian right to return to their land, in effect supporting the existence of a Jewish State in historic Palestine, at the expense of the Palestinians and their rights. In other words, the so-called ‘good peace-seeking Jews’ ,who are the vast majority of Jewish Americans (according to JVP), support an utterly non-ethical solution.
But the reference to Gerstein’s statistics is even more embarrassing. Are we interested in what the Dutch think about the solution of the conflict in Ireland? Do we care if Indians approve the Italian recent polls? No, we don’t but, for some reason, we are desperate to find out what ‘Jewish Americans’ think of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The reason for this is obvious – Israel defines itself as the Jewish State and many Jewish Americans see Israel as their homeland and obviously, they care about their homeland and its politics. In that respect, Zionism should be seen as a success story – a trap into which JVP is foolish enough to fall. By referring to Gerstein’s statistics, JVP actually confirms that Jews are bonded spiritually and politically with their Jewish state and so are subject to an intense conflict of identity.
Chaim Weizmann, the legendary Zionist and the first Israeli President, somehow knew of all those JVPs to come. Already in the early days of Zionism, he observed the Jewish political inclination towards marginalism; he wrote “there are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America.” Whether Weizmann was correct or not is open to discussion, but clearly, JVP accepts Weizmann’s observation. JVP refers to the American Jews as ‘Jewish Americans’. It regards Jewishness as a primary political quality and it refers to Jews as a distinctive marginal ethno-centric group.
Interestingly, the ‘anti’ Zionist JVP is actually the embodiment of Weizmann’s Zionist wet dream. It may not agree with AIPAC on some side issues to do with settlements, occupation and Israeli policies, but it agrees on the fundamentals – “there are no American Jews, but only Jews living in America.” And as if this is not enough, JVP, like AIPAC supports the existence of a Jews only State in Palestine.
I guess that from Weizmann’s perspective JVP is Zionist to the bone. It openly promotes the two state solution because, like AIPAC, it is primarily concerned with Jewish tribal interests rather than human rights, ethics, or universal thinking.
JVP, like any other Jews-only ‘progressive’ organisation, may speak universal but it still thinks tribal.
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.”