By Gilad Atzmon
In the Palestinian Solidarity Movement we really love celebrities – those famous, rather special people who write great books, play musical instruments (drums included) or even just think great thoughts. We like those people to stand up for Palestine and denounce ‘Zionism’, ‘Israeli Colonialism’ and ‘Apartheid.’ We love them – as long as they don’t say what they really think.
Here’s the problem. Celebrities are often famous and successful because they’re clever and independent. Unlike our progressive, dysfunctional activists, who in most cases lives on income support and repeat our ‘party line’, the celebrity is a confident, career-oriented, self-sufficient subject and, because of their capacity to make autonomous decisions, he or she is assertive and thriving . In short, the activist and the celebrity are made of very different stuff – so a collision is inevitable.
Time after time it happens to us in the Palestinian Solidarity Movement. We manage to pull in a great human being, we tell them what to say and they comply. For a while, they call to boycott Israel and, like parrots, they repeat our slogans. But then, against all odds, these damn, self-centred stars start to speak their minds.
Roger Waters is obviously such a celebrity. For the last two years we were so proud of our Pink Floyd comrade rallying for Palestine. For a while, he repeated our slogans, denouncing colonialism and Israeli Apartheid. But then, the inevitable happened. For no obvious reason he told the truth. In an interview on Counterpunch he equated Israel with Nazi Germany and, speaking about Jewish power, he even mentioned the ‘J word’.
Within hours, all hell broke loose. Every Jewish media outlet, including The Guardian unleashed its venom in order to bring Roger to his knees. Rabbis, Holocaust memory merchants and even artists were recruited to join the choir. But guess what? Not one single Palestinian activist stood up for Waters. Neither Electronic Intifada nor Jewish progressive Mondoweiss supported the legendary bassist. Their silence was deafening. The progressive, Cohen Blumenthal also didn’t show any support for the truth teller. Is this a coincidence?
Our sycophantic Solidarity Movement dropped Roger Waters like a stone as we’ve done so many times before because, in our little progressive ghetto, we love celebrities – but not when speak their minds or tell the truth.
The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics and controlled opposition – available on Amazon.com & 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.”