Introduction by Gilad Atzmon:
On 30th November 2010 Abunimah wrote to me:
“What you describe as ‘Jewish’ might perhaps be more accurately described as ‘Zionist,’ – and then we might find grounds for a lot of agreement.”
It doesn’t take a genius to grasp meaning of the quote above. Abunimah advised me to misinform my readers and my listeners in return for possible ‘political support’. He wanted me to buy into the same Jewish progressive mantra that diverts the attention from that critical Jewish ideology and culture that drives the Jewish State and its powerful Lobby. It’s all pretty clear but one question still comes to mind – why would a Palestinian invest so much time and energy into protecting the Jewish state from such an essential and crucial criticism?
Yesterday, desperate to appease his Zionist detractors and Left Jewish supporters, Abunimah published the entire exchange between us on the Electronic Intifada in the hope that someone out there might interpret his words as he wishes them to be interpreted. It didn’t happen, in fact, he achieved the opposite and only proved I was telling the truth.
I was very glad to read my words on Electronic Intifada since this is the first time that this pro-Palestinian site aired any criticism of Jewish identity politics and in retrospect, reading my words made me very proud. I saw a principled and persistent argument based on an informed analysis of the situation in Israel, Palestine and beyond. And, I like to think that it is precisely this aspect of my work that unites Dershowitz, Blumenthal, Foxman and Abunimah into a united anti Atzmon task force.
But there is one crucial difference between Abunimah and my Zionist detractors. My Zionist opponents do indeed try to silence me, occasionally they send me death treats and Dershowitz particularly has used every trick in the book in a desperate attempt to discredit me – but never has he asked me to lie. Never has he asked me to deceive (though he’s pretty good at it himself.)
The real question is: Why am I and Ali Abunimah in conflict? Are we not fighting for the same cause? And also, why does Abunimah want me to lie? Why does Abunimah himself lie? People lie for a reason so when Abunimah lies, does he do it for the Palestinian people in Gaza or in Jenin? Does he lie for the refugees in Sabra and Shatila? Or is he lying to soothe his paymasters in NY? I have my answers but, for the time being, I’ll let you judge for yourself.
Here is the full email exchange between myself Gilad Atzmon and Ali Abunimah copied from Electronic Intifada. If you are able to interpret Abunimah’s message differently, please do let me know..
From: Gilad Atzmon to Ali Abunimah.
December 1, 2010 at 9:18 pm
I realised today that you were upset by my short talk in Stuttgart.
It is important for me to mention that I referred to Jewish identity and Jewish Ideology rather than to Jewish people. In my entire career I have never referred to Jewish people, Jewish ethnicity or race!!!
However, since Israel presents itself as ‘the Jewish state’, we must be entitled to elaborate on Jewish identity, Jewish ideology and Jewish politics.
I understand your concerns, I know exactly where you come from and I also appreciate your immense contribution to the discourse. However, as an artist and a writer i am somehow compelled to share my truth with others. I am sure that your realise that it is Jewish ideology and culture that stops Israelis from jumping on the OS [one state] wagon. Even the Jewish left stops short of doing so.
I somehow pretty sure that you know it yourself.
With great respect
From: Ali Abunimah to Gilad Atzmon
November 30, 2010 at 5:16 pm
Dear Gilad, I appreciate your note. However I did not hear it quite like that and I am not sure that others did and my fear is that what you said can lead not to enlightenment, but to encouraging discrimination of deepening prejudices. I doubt that is your intent, but it is what could be the result. What you describe as “Jewish” might perhaps be more accurately described as “Zionist,” – and then we might find grounds for a lot of agreement – but that is a longer discussion perhaps we’ll have a chance to have in person another time. Of course you have the right to speak your mind, and you always do!
From: Gilad Atzmon to Ali Abunimah
November 30, 2010 at 7:11 pm
Dear Ali thanks so much for taking the time… i will be very short. In my I writing differentiate between Jews (the people), Judaism (the religion) and Jewishness (the ideology). I ve never ever spoken about Jews (the people), I hardly speak about Judaism but restrict myself to a certain interpretation of it , yet, i am very critical of Jewish ideology, politics and identity.
In Germany, i spoke about Jewish Ideology and culture. Didn’t say a word about Jews, Jewish people, Jewish ethnicity or Jewish race. I just do not do it.
It is unfortunately a fact that Universalism and reconciliation are foreign to Jewish ideology for Jewish Ideology is tribal and defined by negation.
I do not agree that Jewishness (ideology) is ‘Zionism’. Zionism is indeed one manifestation of ‘Jewishness’. I won’t exhaust you with it, I am about to publish a book about it.
However, as you know, Zionism is not a living discourse in Israel. Zionism is a diaspora discourse. Both Ilan (Pappe) myself and a few other millions were not educated as Zionists ( Jews awaiting transformation) but as Sabras (the ‘success fruits’ of Zionism). We were the post revolutionary entities. Hence the attack on ‘Zionism’ can hardly touch Israelis (and in fact it doesn’t).
I believe that this understanding is crucial for the success of our project. I believe that we must understand what we are up against.
I was very excited to hear both you and Ilan. You are both incredible in what you are doing. However, I understand now that you probably do not approve my approach tactically.
You may be right about it, but as you know, i operate totally alone. I am not part of any movement. I am totally independent. I perform every night, I make each of my concerts into a rally for Palestine and the right of return. I take full responsibility for everything I say. And i also pay the price when there is a price to pay 🙂
I hope to meet once, not before too long, and elaborate on these issues. I believe that they are crucial
Peace and tx for your attention
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.”