An introduction by Gilad Atzmon
The campaign against me and my work fell apart a while ago. I assume that my Jewish detractors came to realise that I enjoy their attention and use it to affirm my criticism of their tribal and exclusivist identity politics.
But yesterday I had a nostalgic moment reading Max Blumenthal dissing me publicly. When Blumenthal was asked about Israeli critics he ended up talking about the vile ‘anti Semites’, ‘neo Fascists’ and the ‘racists’ in the movements. Interestingly enough, he failed to remember any name but one – Gilad Atzmon.
Atzmon is a “pure anti Semite who believes that all of the problems of Israel flow not from colonialism but from Judaism.” said Blumenthal.
Apparently, not buying into the clumsy ‘colonial paradigm’ makes me into a ‘neo Fascist’, ‘anti Semite’ and a ‘racist’.
It is obviously clear that Blumenthal didn’t read a single word by me. I naively believe that if someone insists to criticise my work, he or she better spend some time to read me first. It is an established fact that Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah also called for my disavowal while admitting to Prof. Norton Mezvinsky that he has never read a single word by me. Tragically enough, the fear of intellectual exchange and open discourse is endemic within the Jewish progressive ghetto but also within some quarters of the solidarity movement.
However, those who are even mildly familiar with my thoughts know that Blumenthal reacts out of hysteria rather than knowledge. My scholarship is not concerned with Judaism (the religion) nor am I referring to Jews (the people). I am critical of Jewish Identity politics and Jewish ideology. I elaborate on Jewish-ness and Jewish culture as opposed to Judaism. Race, genetics or biology have never been part of my study. If anything, I am critical largely of Jewish secular politics and culture rather than the Jewish religion.
I am indeed critical of the ‘colonial paradigm’ which Blumenthal adheres to. Colonialism is defined traditionally as a material exchange between a settler state and a mother state. Israel is clearly a settler state, however, it is far from being clear what is its ‘mother state’. Is it the USA, Britain or actually the Jewish people? In fact I argue adamantly that the colonial paradigm is there to divert the attention from the embarrassing fact that the Jewish State being racially driven, nationalist and expansionist is actually closer in its political nature to Nazi Germany rather than to South Africa. I guess that Max Blumenthal, who operates within Jews-only political cells doesn’t like this equation. Yet, such an argument doesn’t make me into a neo Fascist or an anti-Semite. If anything, it secures my status as an out-spoken observant mind.
Unlike Blumenthal and his comrades, I also believe that if Israel defines itself as the Jewish State, we are more than entitled to verify what its Jewishness stands for. Does this make me into a racist? I guess that the huge lists of scholars and humanists who decided to endorse my work didn’t think so.
But I also believe that since Max Blumenthal identifies politically as a secular Jew who operates within Jews-only political cells (and even signs on ‘Jewish letters’, as he himself admits below), is actually a legitimate case study of Jewish tribal political operation.
Sooner or later Blumenthal and his comrades will have to make an effort and tell us what their ‘Jewishness’ stands for. Is it a love of chicken soup they share, or is it something more profound?
Being an expert on the matter and an avid reader of Jewish history, I know pretty well why Blumenthal is tormented by my work. Jewish hegemony within radical movements always backfired. My work indeed exposes an intrinsic dishonest element within the Jewish Left in general and Jewish anti Zionism in particular. I guess that the vastly growing popularity of the descriptive abbreviation AZZ (Anti Zionist Zionists), only suggests that Blumenthal & Co have a good reason to panic. In The Wandering Who I give this very panic a name – Pre Traumatic Stress Disorder (Pre – TSD).
I would like to take this opportunity and advise Blumenthal that killing the messenger is not going to rescue his cause: it would only attribute him the characteristics of just another Judas and he has himself to blame for it.
The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics in general and Jewish Left in particular, available on Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk
MAX BLUMENTHAL: There’s a minority among–I wouldn’t call them critics of Israel, but there are anti-Semites out there who happen to be neofascists and racists, who are building connections with a larger movement of Islamophobes, and who are sort of preternaturally or viscerally Islamophobic. They’re just–and racist and afraid of the other. And Jews, of course, have been otherized, European Jews have been otherized for centuries. So, they’re–you know. And, you know, I’ve covered white supremacists, white nationalism, neo-Nazis. I’ve interviewed, you know, leaders and rank-and-file. And I remember I interviewed–I forget his name now, but I spoke to the publisher of the Institute for Historical Review, which is the leading publisher of historical revisionism or Holocaust denial, and I said, why do you–what do you have against the Jews? He said, you know, essentially, in a nutshell what he told me is that they’re responsible for liberalism. So this kind of anti-Semitism flows from il-liberalism or anti-liberalism. And a lot of the Jews who are attracted to Palestine Solidarity come from liberal backgrounds and are very, you know, tolerant. Many of them are queers. Many of them are, you know, anarchists. Many are standard liberals or leftists. But they’re all people who would actually be hated by these kind of figures, these anti-Semites. And so what we’ve been witnessing in the Palestine solidarity movement–and I’ve been an active part of this–from Palestinians and from, you know, Jewish supporters of Palestine Solidarity is an effort to completely clean the movement out of these kind of people. And one person–I think one of the leading anti-Semitic critics of Israel–you couldn’t even call him a critic of Israel. He’s an ex-Israeli who pretends to be an anti-Zionist but is actually just a pure anti-Semite and who believes that all of the problems of Israel flow not from colonialism but from Judaism, is Gilad Atzmon. And I signed a Jewish letter denouncing him and basically telling him to get lost. There’s been a Palestinian letter organized by Ali Abunimah and, you know, a who’s who of Palestine solidarity activists who say anti-Semitic freaks, get the hell away from us; we don’t want any part of you. And there have been other efforts to castigate people who have advanced anti-Semitic critiques of Israel and of Jews in general. So, I mean, that’s how I would respond is just judge the Palestine solidarity movement, which is an organized movement advancing, I think, a principled form of anti-Zionism, judge them by what they’re doing. And they don’t need pressure from pro-Israel groups. They don’t need to be shamed to do this. This is how they feel and this is how I feel. It’s just we’re genuinely disgusted by any form of racism. It’s why we’re disgusted by the Israeli government and by the structure of Israeli apartheid.
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.”