Dear friends, this is pretty much a summery of my argument against Jewish power and the corrosive impact of Jewish left. If you are interested in my work or even oppose everything I do, I urge you to watch (or read) this talk.
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The Jewish Solidarity Spin
The Nabil Test
In order to grasp the way in which contemporary solidarity terminology operates to deceive and derail the Palestinian cause, we will look at a few theoretical simulations that will help to clarify the corrosive nature that is the contemporary pro Palestinian discourse.
Nabil is a fictional 25-year-old Palestinian, 3rd generation refugee born and living in Sabra and Shatila, Lebanon. Nabil is unemployed. No prospect of a future for him. As a Palestinian refugee his chances of higher education or a decent job are non-existent. Nabil cannot even obtain a travel document. He is stranded in the camp.
Let’s try to predict the effect the Solidarity project will have on Nabil.
The ‘End of The Occupation’ will likely have no impact on Nabil’s life whatsoever. Colonialism and settler colonialism are theoretical terms that have no impact on his reality or his day to day life. Apartheid? For Nabil and many like him, it is actually an Arab country that discriminates against him and turns his life into a compete misery. BDS? Nabil has no interest, there are no Israeli products in the camps. Nabil’s interests lie in the Right Of Return. He may not necessarily want to return to his land. But he wants his rights to be recognized once and for all. He wants his children to have citizenship and enjoy the prospect of a better future.
Yusuf, another product of my imagination, is a 70-year-old Palestinian in Gaza. He has lived most of his life in Khan Younis. Unlike Nabil, Yusuf is educated. For many years Yusuf believed that he would return to his land near Be’er Sheva; by now, he has lost hope. Yusuf knows that the ‘End Of Occupation’ has nothing to do with him. Gaza is not under occupation; it is, in fact, an open-air prison. Yusuf could correctly argue that colonialism is a theoretical notion that has zero significance to him and his people. Yusuf may well think that when Palestine was subject to the British Mandate, Palestinians were better off. So as far as he is concerned, genuine colonialism might actually improve his situation. Apartheid? In the jail Yusuf dwells in, there is no Apartheid. He is locked behind walls because he is a victim of Jewish racism or Jewish exclusivism; you decide. Yusuf is not very happy with BDS, to start with it only applies to Israeli products produced in the occupied territories. BDS doesn’t address his plight as a refugee, and like many in Gaza, Yusuf may actually like Israeli Humus in tins. Yusuf knows that the besieged in Gaza are dependent on Israeli products.
But like Nabil, Yusuf understands pretty well what the Right Of Return stands for. He wants to return to Be’er Sheva. He wants his rights enforced. For Yusuf, the Right Of Return is the core of the solution to his plight.
But now let us now examine the case of Avi, a classic Israeli peace campaigner. Like my own father, Avi was born in 1938 in Tel Aviv. He has lived all his life in Israel’s biggest city. He sometimes waves his Palestinian birth certificate just to prove his true attachment to the land. Avi regards himself as a reasonable Israeli who wants to resolve the conflict and live in peace. But here’s the irony, unlike Nabil and Yusuf who were apathetic to the ‘End Of Occupation’ slogan, Avi is very enthusiastic about the call. Avi doesn’t want to rule over another nation, at least this is what he says. When you suggest to Avi that Israel is a colonial state, Avi will giggle, “If Israel is a settler state, then I want to return to my mother state, just tell me what this state is.” Like most Israelis of his generation and background Avi is happy to leave Israel for good as soon as tomorrow morning. Apartheid? Avi is not happy to see how Palestinians are treated, he wants the oppression to stop immediately. BDS? Avi supports the call with all his heart. Avi doesn’t like the settlers, he has nothing in common with them. He sees them as an obstacle on the road to ‘peace,’ he despises their messianic attitude, he feels shame at being associated with them. So far, Avi, a light Israeli patriot agrees with the entire new Palestinian solidarity terminology and for a reason.
The new Palestinian solidarity terminology is designed to appeal to Avi at the expense of Yusuf, Nabil and the vast majority of the Palestinian people. But the key difference is this: for Avi the Right of Return is a red flag; he sees it as an attempt to rob him of his ‘Jewish homeland.’ Avi’s empathy toward Palestine and Palestinians ends once the demand for their return is raised. Avi sees the Right of Return as a call for a ‘new holocaust.’ “We have suffered enough” he says, “Israel is our home.”
Have you ever wondered what is it that attracts people from all over the world to Palestine and the plight of the Palestinians? Are the Palestinians the people who suffer the most on this planet? Is the situation in Palestine more dramatic than malnutrition in Africa or the horrors in Syria and Iraq? The answer is ‘probably no,’ and yet, since the 1980s the Palestinian solidarity movement has gained momentum and grown. Why?
One possible answer is that Palestine has been a symbol of gross and global injustice for almost seven decades. As such, it provides a legitimate ideological, political and spiritual vehicle to criticize Jewish power; the Lobby, Hollywood, Jewish over-representation in finance, politics, media and so on. This explanation is consistent with the Zionist and Hasbara claim that anti-Zionism is a ‘Jewish issue.’ Seemingly, Zionists and Hasbara merchants aren’t always wrong. Indeed, healthy and genuine opposition to Israel, Zionism and the Lobby entails an understanding of Jewishness, Jewish culture and Jewish identity politics. Zionism is a Jewish nationalist movement, Israel defines itself as a Jewish State, and the Israeli Lobby is a Jewish political adventure concerned primarily with Jewish interests.
Bottom line- Israel and its crimes can only be understood fully within the context of Jewish racism, Jewish exceptionalism and Jewish culture.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian scholars such as Israel Shahak and Israel Shamir delved into issues of Jewishness and the Talmud. Their studies of Zionism and Israeli chauvinism identified an ideological and cultural continuum among Israel, Zionism, Jewish religious heritage and culture. At about the same time, Hasbara and Jewish progressive organisations apparently gathered that the Palestine solidarity movement had become a ‘big problem;’ it endangered Jewish global interests. Since then, there has been a sharp rise in support for Palestine from Jewish progressive and left circles. By 2011, Jewish organizations like JVP and Jewish media outlets such as Mondoweiss dominated the Palestinian solidarity discourse. But this Jewish pro- Palestinian enthusiasm came at a high price.
Palestine Cause vs. Jewish Solidarity
The Right Of Return is at the core of the Palestinian cause. It positions the 1948 Nakba and the suffering of refugees as the primary issue, it places Gaza into historical context and highlights the gross injustices perpetuated and sustained by Israeli politics since 1948. It clearly illuminates the racist nature of the Jewish state and its immigration laws. The Right Of Return offers a clear course of action that unites Palestinians in the region and in the Diaspora, but it evokes fear amongst Israelis, Zionists and Jewish anti- Zionists.
Jewish solidarity has been shockingly effective in subduing the call for the Right Of Return. It was gradually diluted and eventually drowned in a tsunami of duplicitous terminology designed to appeal to Jewish supporters like Avi at the expense of Palestinians like Nabil and Yusuf and their essential rights.
Let’s examine some of the solidarity movement’s current terminology.
End Of The Occupation
The call for the ‘End Of The Occupation’ was the first indication that something had gone terribly wrong. On its face, the call appears humanist and peaceful, politically pragmatic and even populist. The truth of the matter is the complete opposite. The ‘End of The Occupation’ is a legitimization of Israel through the back door – it confirms that the Jewish State within the pre-1967 green line borders is a valid and legitimate political unit. ‘End Of The Occupation’ limits the solidarity discussion to the West Bank; it is nothing short of a spit in the face to 6.000.000 Palestinian refugees and a complete dismissal of their right of return.
Another grossly misleading term promulgated by the Jewish progressive solidarity campaigners is ‘colonialism.’ The term conveys the false image that Jewish nationalism is as bad as British or Dutch colonialism but not worse. Such a delusional vision of the Zionist project may also vaguely offer the prospect of a future ‘resolution’ in some sort of a ‘post colonial’ phase. But Zionism is not colonialism nor has it ever been. Zionism is a movement with no precedent in history. Can you think of another historical moment when people ‘returned’ to an imaginary ‘homeland’ after 2000 years and asked the indigenous population to move out to make room for the former ‘residents?’ Colonialism requires a material and spiritual exchange between a ‘mother state’ and a ‘settler state.’ The Jewish State is a settler state but there is no mother state to Zionism or Israel. When prominent solidarity activists refer to Zionism as ‘colonialism’ they are either being intentionally misleading or simply displaying a unique form of ignorance that one would not expect from educated and highly motivated activists.
One may suggest that though Zionism is not a colonial apparatus, the relationships between Israel and its West Bank settlements establishes a quasi colonial correspondence between a ‘Mother,’ and a ‘Settler’ State.’ Wrong: The Jewish Settlements did not form a new state in the West Bank. What we see instead is an ideologically driven territorial expansion, a form of Judeo-centric Lebensraum philosophy and practice.
In recent years a new terminological spin popped up within the Palestinian solidarity ranks, namely; ‘settler colonialism.’ I guess that my criticism of the colonial paradigm struck a few of the so-called progressive anti-Zionist enthusiasts. They were pushed to revise their theoretical narrative. Their efforts brought forth a new ad hoc deformed dysfunctional theoretical baby. But the term ‘settler colonialism’ does not illuminate anything. It seems a desperate attempt to further conceal the truth of the Jewish National project.
Settler colonialism posits a situation in which super power ‘A’ facilitates the settlement of ethnic group ‘B’ on land ‘C.’ This action may lead to grave consequences for the indigenous population ‘D.’ But this explanation is problematic. The A-B-C-D scenario has nothing in common with Zionism, Israel or the Israeli Palestinian conflict. It was the Zionists (B) who persuaded Britain, then a super power (A), that a Jewish homeland in Palestine (C) was the way forward. In short, instead of the A-B-C-D chain of events that form ‘settler colonialism,’ when it comes to Zionism, there is a B-A-C-D chronology. It is the ethnic group ‘B’ that pushes super power ‘A’ to act in its favour. No interpretation of colonialism, settler or otherwise, provides any support to Palestinian cause nor does it further our understanding of the conflict.
Another inapt concept ascribed to Israel in a transparent attempt to divert attention from the unique and devastating reality on the ground is ‘Apartheid.’ The term suggests that Israel is only ‘just’ as bad as South Africa or the southern United States. The truth is worse. Apartheid is a racist system of exploitation but Israel doesn’t want to exploit the Palestinians, it wants them ‘gone.’ At least from an ideological perspective, Israel is a Hitlerian racially-driven, expansionist ethnic cleanser.
Tragically, this lethal exclusivism is consistent with Zionist philosophy and some radical, yet popular, interpretations of the Judaic call. The so-called ‘Jews in the movement’ are uncomfortable with a realistic rendering of Israeli politics. They much prefer Israel to be grouped with other vile regimes within a recognized historical pattern such as colonialism, apartheid, etc.
When the call for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions of Israeli goods was established in 2005 in Ramallah its first demand was for Israel to:
“End[ing] its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantl[ing] the Wall” (http://www.bdsmovement.net/call)
This call didn’t leave room for interpretation. Back in 2005, the BDS movement disputed the legitimacy of the Jewish State.
But in 2010, its primary goal was changed significantly, it now reads:
“Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall” (http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro).
There is no public record of the process that led to this change. And as if to prove its deceptive nature, the change appears only in English and has never been integrated into any of the official BDS publications in Arabic. It is likely that most Palestinians are not aware of the change made on their behalf by people who claim to be their ‘grass root’ representatives. My study suggests that the change in the BDS goal statement that de-facto legitimizes the Jewish State took place at the time the BDS became popular amongst Jewish activists and accepted funds from liberal Zionist George Soros’s Open Society Institute. You can read more about BDS, Soros money promoting BDS campaign here: http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/israelpalestine-and-the-queer-international-a-book-review-by.html
It is devastating that even the call for BDS has become an instrument to legitimise the Jewish State within its pre 1967 borders.
A Jewish Solidarity Pet
The logical conclusion of this analysis is pretty devastating. A decade of Jewish left hegemony within the pro-Palestinian movement has reduced the Palestinians and their plight into a mere ‘solidarity pet.’ The Palestinians have been instrumental in an internal Jewish political show that has led nowhere. The Palestinian cause and the Right of Return have been watered down and replaced by terminology that was set to derail the solidarity movement and has succeeded remarkably.
Like the Israeli left, the current solidarity terminology is primarily focused on the West Bank: the End of Occupation, BDS, Apartheid and Colonialism can only be understood in reference to the situation in the West Bank, because the ‘Jews in the movement,’ are primarily interested in the West Bank. This is easily understood. The Jewish world and Israeli society have no interest in Gaza or the sand around it (except for the emerging possibility of stealing the natural gas under its waters) Israelis and world Jewry do care about the West Bank. Many Israelis and Jews see the West Bank as an integral part of historic Eretz Yisrael-The Land of Israel. However, many other Israelis and Jews like Avi believe that Tel Aviv is an appropriate fulfilment of the Zionist dream. They do not care at all about the West Bank or Biblical Eretz Yisrael.
It is this internal Jewish political debate regarding the West Bank that has managed to shape the entire Palestinian solidarity discourse diverting the attention from the Palestinians and their true cause.
Though it is no surprise that people who identify politically and primarily as Jews (JVP, IJAN, JFJFP, J-big, Mondoweiss etc) are also primarily concerned with Jewish interests, it is legitimate to ask how these Jewish interests have succeeded in dominating the solidarity movement of another people. How is it possible that the Palestinian solidarity movement has been reduced into a ‘Jewish Voice’ that is almost totally dismissive of the Palestinian cause? How is it possible that it is Jewish voices that dominate the battle against the Jewish State? Would Nelson Mandela allow a bunch of recovered Afrikaners run the Anti- Apartheid struggle on his behalf? Would Malcolm X let ex KKK militants dominate the terminology of his campaign? How did it happen to the Palestinians that their solidarity discourse is attuned to the voice of the oppressor rather than the victim?
I believe that the ability to articulate these questions may suggest that deep in our hearts we know the answers.
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.”