by Gilad Atzmon
During the second half of the 20th century many Jewish intellectuals, activists, and artists positioned themselves at the forefront of Western advocacy of immigration and multiculturalism. Occasionally we were also expected to believe that immigration, tolerance, pluralism, and multiculturalism are intrinsic to Jewish culture and thought.
But as the West became gradually aware of the scale of Israeli racism and intolerance towards migrant communities, more than just a few intellectuals were courageous enough to point out a clear discrepancy between the progressive ideas Jews claim to represent and what their Jewish State happens to be. There aren’t many countries that are more anti-immigration than Israel. The Jewish State is also very selective when it comes to multiculturalism. Israel happily integrated humus and falafel into its cuisine. It even let a few juicy Arab swear words into its emerging Hebraic dialect but it has been far less enthusiastic about Palestinian mourning their own plight and the Nakba in particular.
However, the Jewish passion for immigration is clearly fading away these days. It is not a secret that the mass immigration of Muslims and Arabs made many Western Jews feel uncomfortable, to say the least. In recent years we have been monitoring a rapid surge of Jewish involvement in anti-immigration political and intellectual activity.
Some so-called ‘progressive’ Jews fight the veil in the name of ‘feminism,’ others insist on eradicating Islamic symbolic identifiers in the name of ‘secularism.’
I guess that even Jewish ‘progressive tolerance’ has its limits, especially when it comes to Muslims. However, Zionists are actually slightly more consistent in that regard: they openly ally themselves with ultra-nationalist groups such as the hawkish EDL.
Anti-Islam positions are often promoted by Hasbara, interventionist, and neocon outlets such as Harry’s Place. The xenophobic message is also disseminated via literature, academia, and general media. Here in Britain, journalist celebrity Melanie Phillips published her notorious Londonistan.
Jewish past support of pro-immigration and multiculturalism is easy to explain.
For obvious reasons, many Jews prefer to live in multi-ethnic and fragmented societies, being one minority amongst many. Identity politics, pro-immigration, and multiculturalism are there to dismantle the cohesive national and patriotic bond in favor of a manifold complex structure consisting of a fragile and dynamic exchange between a manifold of minority groups.
Jews are often threatened by the possibility that indigenous lower-middle and working classes may follow their nationalistic and patriotic inclinations and turn against them. In that regard, a radical demographic boost of the working class with a varied mixture of foreign ethnicities is regarded by progressive Jews as a necessary preventative measure against anti-semitism.
But here is an interesting development. Last week Spiegel published an intriguing interview with Alain Finkielkraut, a French so-called philosopher and also a Jew and son of immigrants. Finkielkraut is no longer threatened by ‘the lower middle classes.’ Quite the opposite, he actually pretends to be their ally and he even makes himself their ambassador: “the French that one no longer dares to call Français de souche (ethnic French) are already moving out of the Parisian suburbs and farther into the countryside.
They have experienced that in some neighborhoods they are the minority in their own country. They are not afraid of the others, but rather of becoming the others themselves.” In other words, the ethnic French are now “otherized” together with the Jews by a tidal wave of Islamic tsunami.
It doesn’t take Finkielkraut long before he points directly at the ‘enemy within.’ “Many Muslims in Europe are re-Islamizing themselves. A woman who wears the veil effectively announces that a relationship with a non-Muslim is out of the question for her.”
I guess that Finkielkraut finds it unacceptable that Muslims do not buy into the Mendelsohnian Jewish ‘assimilation’ paradigm — be a Goy in the street and a Jew in your dwelling — the façade of pretending to blend into the masses, yet adhering to tribal and exclusive supremacy in a clandestine fashion.
Muslims, so it seems, are not collectively buying into this duplicity mode. Seemingly, they are not shy about their love for Allah. They are actually proud of their symbolic identifiers. These facts alone indeed have managed to challenge the notion of left and progressive tolerance. And it isn’t exactly a secret — the Left has failed in this tolerance test.
Left and Islam
Finkielkraut may not be a sophisticated mind, but he is not a complete idiot either. He rightly points to the deceitful nature of the contemporary progressive and Left call. “The left,” he says, “wanted to resolve the problem of immigration as a social issue, and proclaimed that the riots in the suburbs were a kind of class struggle. We were told that these youths were protesting against unemployment, inequality, and the impossibility of social advancement.
In reality, we saw an eruption of hostility toward French society.” The Jewish thinker then voices his exact and very particular concern — “social inequality does not explain anti-Semitism.”
Finkielkraut is indeed partially correct, and the ‘Left’ is indeed wrong, deluded, and misleading. Yet, in a symptomatic attempt to conceal the truth, Finkielkraut diverts the attention from the vast French institutional political support of Israel, its racist policies, and the impact of the Jewish lobby in France. Accordingly, it may as well be possible that anti-Jewish sentiments within migrant communities in France are provoked by the French pro-Israeli attitude. In other words, we are dealing here with a clear rational sense of ‘inequality’ that is ethnically and politically driven (rather than merely materially).
After all, France is actively and enthusiastically engaged in the destruction of more than just one Arab State. The ultra-Zionist Bernard Henri Levy was the leading advocate for the intervention in Libya. In the last few weeks, France went out of its way in its attempts to jeopardize a UN deal with Iran. Thus, it is only natural that some Muslims find it hard to accept the unbalanced French pro-Israeli policy. Would Parisian Jews support France if it decided to bomb an Israeli Government headquarters in Tel Aviv as a response to Israeli crimes against humanity? In short, it is more than likely that what Finkielkraut describes as anti-Semitism is actually a direct reaction to Jewish power.
Yet, the French Left cannot deal with such a development for the obvious reason that the Left is in itself an instrument of such power – it is there to suppress the discussion on issues to do with Jewish political hegemony and influence.
Civilization: Jewish and Left Perspectives
Finkielkraut continues, “the left does not want to accept that there is a clash of civilizations.” Finkielkraut is correct, for a change, but for the wrong reasons. The Left cannot accept the notion of such a ‘clash’ because the Left, similarly to Jewish identity political discourse, lacks a lucid understanding of the notion of ‘civilization’.
This point needs a bit of elaboration. Zionism, according to its early mentors, was set to ‘civilize’ the Jew by means of ‘nationalization’. Early Zionists contended that the diasporic Jewish existence was actually ‘uncivilized’. Interestingly enough, in spite of the Zionist dream, Hebrew doesn’t offer its users a word for ‘civilization’ and this is not exactly a coincidence. When Palestinian Israeli MK Azmi Bishara suggested civilizing the Jewish State and transforming it into a ‘State of its Citizens’ he became Israel’s ‘No 1 enemy.’ He had to run for his life.
Similarly, the Left is also dotted with a clear animosity towards the traditional notion of civilization. The progressive commitment to social change is driven by an attempt to undermine the ‘bourgeois’ (reactionary) order. In retrospect, it was the ’68 Students Revolution and its long list of mentors from Antonio Gramsci to the Frankfurt School that eventually succeeded to devastate the West and cleansing it of its most precious traditional assets. Targeting ‘hegemony’ as the ‘enemy of the people, the new Left systematically uprooted every aspect of Western philosophical and categorical thinking, destabilizing every cultural, spiritual, intellectual, and political domain.
In the name of liberation, the Left and the progressive have managed to eradicate a sense of authenticity and belonging. Typically we, the indoctrinated post-revolutionary subjects, often refer to ourselves as ‘as a [something]’, (as a Jew, as a black, as a lesbian, as an Arab, as a Gay, etc). Instead of thinking authentically and exploring creatively the deep dynamic meaning of the ‘I’, we deliver our thoughts by means of projections driven by sets of collective identifications. Our sense of ‘selfhood’ has been hijacked by a contemporaneous, phenomenological, post-modernist, and vain relativism.
But in fact phenomenology, relativism and post-modernism are rootless, they are actually the complete opposite of civilization or rootedness. They are flaky, they are contextually and hermeneutically detached and they are also soil-less.
I guess that the Left’s imperviousness to the notion of civilization may explain why the Left has failed systematically in its attempt to bond with the working classes. Marx, I believe, failed to grasp that the working class is also an expression of rootedness. It is defined by heritage, patriotism, nationalism, spirit, culture, devotion, dialect, cuisine, defiance, or shall we say civilization. The working class is also defined by the negation of other classes’ cultures and civilizations.
The Left’s failure to grasp this dialectical mode of thinking that extends far beyond (dialectical) materialism also explains the Left’s incapacity to bond with Muslims, Europe’s current working class. This is indeed tragic yet far from being a coincidence.
Nevertheless, when the French ‘philosopher’ Finkielkraut was asked to define ‘French civilization’ he had nothing to offer. He referred initially to French ‘fiery’ lovemaking. The Spiegel interviewer wasn’t impressed. Then in order to rescue his case Finkielkraut continued and quoted a ‘friend’; “we, French, created women, literature, and cuisine.
No one can take that from us.” Embarrassingly yet symptomatic, the ‘defender’ of French civilization himself has a very limited understanding of the true meaning of France nor can he grasp its civilization. Finkielkraut happily reduces France to a banal material symbolism consisting of Brigitte Bardot, baguettes, and Balzac, but it is hard to imagine what kind of ‘Muslim Jihadist’ would insist to bring such ‘France’ down. On the contrary, if French contemporary civilization is shaped by the powerful Jewish Lobby Crif, Bernard Henri Levy’s interventionist megalomania, and tribal philosophy a la Finkielkraut, it is actually easy to grasp why some French Muslims are irritated by their republic and its state of affairs.
The Post-Political Condition
There is nothing in Finkielkraut that differentiates him from far right-wing ideologists except of course his intellectual lameness and theoretical lacking. Yet, for some peculiar reason, Finkielkraut doesn’t like to be associated with those who promote the politics he actually preaches.
When asked by Spiegel “how do you view the political rise of Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Front party?” Finkielkraut replied, “This disturbs me, of course. But the National Front would not be continuously on the rise if it had not discarded the old issues of the extreme right.
Nowadays the National Front focuses on secularism and the republic.” I guess that Finkielkraut finds it difficult to admit to himself that he is a hard-core Right-winger, it simply doesn’t fit nicely into his Jewish assimilationist image. However, this ideological discrepancy doesn’t mature into cognitive dissonance. It instead manifests itself as a disingenuous spin.
Notably, Spiegel didn’t fall into the trap. It obviously notices that the ‘new French philosopher’ is obviously a right-wing hawk: “That sounds as if you could imagine voting for the party.” To which Finkielkraut replies, “No, I would never do that because this party appeals to people’s base instincts and hatred. And these are easy to kindle among its supporters. We can’t leave these issues to the National Front. It would also be up to the left, the party of the people, to take seriously the suffering and anxiety of ordinary people.”
Typically, the man who presents himself as the ‘defender’ of French Civilization, the one who voices the plight of the ‘lower middle class is apparently repulsed by French people’s ‘base instinct’. Like many ‘progressives’, Finkielkraut is actually dismissive of the working class inclinations and their way of thinking. Finkielkraut prefers instead to transform the Left into an Islamophobic, national socialist front. Finkielkraut probably realizes very well that the Left is no longer an ideological standpoint — it is detached from any form of universal or ethical thinking. It is only dedicated to its political survival and its paymasters.
Sadly enough, Finkielkraut’s pragmatism may prove to be successful. In the ‘Liberal’ West in which we are living in, Left and Right have become merely political instruments that facilitate similar policies whether it is perpetrating Zionist interventionist wars or enabling our further enslavement to bankers and big monopolies. From a popular perspective, ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are means of identification (instead of theoretical, analytical or political dynamic instruments). This political, intellectual, and ideological paralysis is indeed symptomatic to the current post-political era.
With Jewish Lobby groups such as the Crif, AIPAC, and CFI dominating the Western political discussion and its outcome, democracy is just a façade. But far more disturbing is the fact that in contemporary France, a uniquely lame mind such as Finkielkraut’s is considered a ‘philosopher’. In that regard, I would actually argue that Finkielkraut is himself the ultimate emblem of the collapse of Western Civilization or at least evidence of the eradication of the French one.
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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