2011-09-06

The Wandering Who?

by Neil Godfrey

Following is a review of Gilad Atzmon’s book. One part of what interests me about this sort of discussion is the inevitable comparison with any other similar experiences of losing one’s old identity and finding a new one. My own experience was in losing my identity as a Christian and becoming what many would call a secular humanist. I went through more than one iteration of Christianity (fundamentalist, liberal) but failed to appreciate the extent to which one’s identity can be entombed in such a belief at any level, until I left the “other-world” idea behind entirely. (One is constantly reminded that even “liberal Christians”, for example, can sometimes be just as arrogant in their humility, just as intolerant and hostile of other views, as the fundamentalist variety. The only difference for so many is that they change their targets or their levels of self-deception. But we are all where we are at and each of us has our own journey to follow.)

The original is at Gilad Atzmon’s blog here or on the VT site here.

Gilad struggled with the conflict between his early experiences as an Israeli Zionist and his awakening as a humanist

The Wandering WHO? navigates between thought-provoking personal experiences, historical and philosophical issues

by Paul J Balles

Gilad Atzmon, scholar, prolific writer and leading jazz saxophonist has authored the book The Wandering WHO? In it he astutely explores the identity crisis he himself experienced and one faced by many Jews.

Gilad struggled with the conflict between his early experiences as an Israeli Zionist and his awakening as a humanist.

His book reveals an innate ability to switch between the qualities of a down-to-earth artist (the successful sax player and word-smith) and the knowledgeable philosopher.

Without doubt, The Wandering WHO? will awaken many readers– pleasing some and disturbing others.

The pleased will include those who have experienced similar awakenings or resolved identity crises by continuously asking questions.

The book will also find welcome readers among those who have sought honest answers to the many contentious issues involving Jewish identity, Jewish politics and Israel.

The disturbed will include those Gilad might refer to as “separatist Jews…kind of a bizarre mixture of an SS commander and a Biblical Moses.”

Gilad will also face threats and complaints from those he calls “pro-war Zionist Islamophobes.”

He will undoubtedly find rejection from those who want “to stop proud, self-hating Jews (like Atzmon) from blowing the whistle.”

The Wandering WHO? navigates between thought-provoking personal experiences, historical and philosophical issues.

In the forward, Gilad tells the most remarkable story of his Jewish upbringing and the challenging questions raised by his early experiences as an Israeli Zionist.

In the chapters that follow, Gilad remarks that “Israel is the Jewish state and Jewishness is an ethno-centric ideology driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep inherent inclination toward segregation.”

Atzmon draws a distinction between Jews as:

1. Those who follow Judaism.

2. Those who regard themselves as human beings that happen to be of Jewish origin.

3. Those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all their other traits.

“Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine, as some scholars suggest. Zionism is actually a global movement that is fuelled by a unique tribal solidarity…”

Suggests Gilad, read “Theodor Herzl to know that this is what political Zionism is all about: getting superpowers to serve the Zionist cause.”

“Jewish political discourse is always set as a form of negation,” according to Gilad, “The political Jew is always against something, or set apart from something else. This is far from being an ideal recipe for a peaceful, ethical life, driven by reconciliation and harmony.”

“Jews are often proud to define themselves as Jews. However, they will also be gravely offended if they are called a ‘Jew’ by others.

“Emancipated Jews are identified by negation – they are defined by the many things they are not.”

Gilad asserts that “The Holocaust religion is the conclusive and final stage in the Jewish dialectic; it is the end of Jewish history, for it is the deepest and most sincere form of ‘self-love’.”

Referring to himself as a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian, Gilad says, “The so-called ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ is also the one that has locked Palestine’s vast populations behind walls and barbed wire for decades.”

Gilad adds, “The Israel lobby and the Alan Dershowitzes of the world are the voices of Zionism; the third category socialists are there to stop proud, self hating Jews (like Gilad) from blowing the whistle.”

Even before the publication of his book, Gilad, his editor and publisher “have been subjected to immense and intense pressure that included harassment, intimidation, and even anonymous threats, as the demands mounted on my publisher to pull the book.”

Some of the gems of Gilad’s wisdom found in The Wandering WHO? include:

“It is not the idea of being unethical that torments Israelis and their supporters, but the idea of being ‘caught out’ as such.

“The more they (Israelis) insist on loving themselves for who they think they are, the more they loathe themselves for what they have become.

Otto Weininger helped me grasp who I am, or rather who I may be, what I do, what I try to achieve and why my detractors invest so much effort trying to stop me.

“Thanks to Weininger, I realised how wrong I was – I was not detached from the reality about which I wrote, and I never shall be. I am not looking at the Jews, or at Jewish identity, I am not looking at Israelis. I am actually looking in the mirror. With contempt, I am actually elaborating on the Jew in me.

“…the bitterest anti-Semites are to be found amongst the Jews themselves.

“Jewish lobbies in the USA and Britain openly advocate for the extension of the ‘War Against Terror’ against Iran, Islam and beyond. I would never claim that this type of warmongering is inherent to Jews as a people, yet, unfortunately, it is rather symptomatic of Jewish political thinking – left, right and centre.

“A Judeo-centric political exercise, namely self-determination, which comes at the expense of others.

“From Karl Marx through Leon Trotsky to Herbert Marcuse, a sizable fraction of the revolutionary anti-capitalist literature has been authored by Jews.

“As a young man, I myself took part in some Jewish righteous parades, ready to grab my sword and join the hunt for a Tsar, a capitalist or any other enemy who might cross my way. But then the inevitable happened: I grew up.

“Robbery and hatred is imbued in Jewish modern political ideology on both the left and the right.

“‘The Israeli’ robs in the name of ‘home-coming’, the progressive Jew in the name of ‘Marx’, and the moral interventionist murders in the name of ‘democracy’.

“Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (Pre-TSS) is a fundamental tenet of Jewish and Israeli culture.

“The people who rained Lebanon in 2006 with more than a million cluster bombs and showered Gaza with white phosphorus (2008-9) are projecting their homicidal zeal onto their victims, and even onto their future victims.

“The more hopeless and defenceless the Palestinians are, the more vicious the Israeli becomes. And yet, the more vicious the Israeli is, the more he or she is horrified by ‘terror’. In reality, the Israelis are actually horrified by their own cruelty.

“The ‘Jewish people’ is a made-up notion, consisting of an imaginary past with very little to back it up forensically, historically or textually.

“Nor has much been found in the Sinai Desert to prove the story of the legendary Egyptian exodus – apparently 3 million Hebrew men, women and children marched there for forty years without leaving a single Matzo Ball behind.

“Jews do not have a common origin, that their Semitic origins are a myth. Jews have no origin in Palestine whatsoever, and therefore their act of so-called ‘return’ must be realised as pretext for a tribal expansionist invasion.

“If  Shlomo Sand is correct, then the Jews, rather than being a race, comprise a collective of many people who have been hijacked by a national movement based on myths.

“If Jews are not a race and have nothing to do with Semitism, then ‘anti-Semitism’ is, categorically, an empty signifier. In other words, criticism of Jewish nationalism, Jewish lobbying and Jewish power can only be realised as a legitimate critique of ideology, politics and practice.

“Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a Latvian-born philosopher at the Hebrew University, was probably first to suggest that the Holocaust has become the new Jewish religion.

“This new religion is coherent enough to define its ‘antichrists’ (Holocaust deniers), and powerful enough to persecute them (through Holocaust denial and hate-speech laws).

“The Holocaust religion serves both right and left Jewish political discourse, but it appeals to the goyim as well, especially those who preach and advocate killing in the name of ‘freedom’, democracy and ‘moral interventionism’.

“That which maintains the Jewish collective identity is fear.

“To a certain extent, the Holocaust religion signals the final Jewish departure from monotheism, for every Jew is potentially a little God or Goddess. Abe Foxman is the God of anti-defamation, Alan Greenspan the God of ‘good economy’, Milton Friedman is the God of ‘free markets’, Lord (Peter) Goldsmith the God of the ‘green light’, Lord (Michael) Levy the God of fundraising, Paul Wolfowitz the God of US ‘moral interventionism’. AIPAC (the American–Israel Public Affairs Committee) is the American Olympus, where mortals elected in the US come to beg for mercy, forgiveness for being Goyim and for a bit of cash.

“To be a Jew is to see a threat in every Goy, to be on a constant alert.

“…whatever is good for the Jews is simply good.

“The Jewish population in the UK is 280,000 or 0.46 per cent. There are 650 seats in the House of Commons so, as a proportion, Jewish entitlement is only three seats. With 24 seats Jews are eight times over-represented. Which means, of course, that other groups must be under-represented, including Muslims. If Muslims, for instance, were over-represented to the same extent as the Jews (i.e. eight times) they’d have 200 seats. All hell would break loose.

“Jewish history engages with the basic question of whether a given account is ‘good for the Jews’ or not.

“The dismissal of factuality or lack of commitment to truthfulness are actually symptomatic of contemporary Jewish collective ideology and identity politic.

“In the Jewish intellectual insular world, one first decides what the historic moral is, then one invents ‘a past’ to fit.

“As long as we fail to ask questions, we will be subjected to Zionist lobbies and their plots. We will continue killing in the name of Jewish suffering. We will maintain our complicity in Western imperialist crimes.

“With millions of besieged Palestinians, Israel has given itself the reputation of a pariah state.

“How is it that, in spite of the Holocaust, Israel and Jewish lobbies invest so much energy in evoking hatred towards enemies of Israel and world Jewry?

“…envisage an horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish.

“What do modern emancipated Jews want?”

In his Epilogue, Gilad illustrates the difficulties he faced as an inquiring youth:

“I asked the emotional tour guide if she could explain the fact that so many Europeans loathed the Jews so much and in so many places at once. I was thrown out of school for a week.

“It seems I didn’t learn the necessary lesson because when we studied the middle age blood libels, I again wondered out loud how the teacher could know that these accusations of Jews making Matzo out of young Goyim’s blood were indeed empty or groundless. Once again I was sent home for a week. In my teens I spent most of my mornings at home rather than in the classroom.”

The Wandering WHO? provides a rare perspective on Jewishness, Judaism, Jewish politics, Zionism, identity crises, self-hate and self-love.

It’s a book that will awaken many. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com

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  • David Hillman
    2011-09-08 06:13:30 UTC - 06:13 | Permalink

    Well! So if I am a socialist I’m motivated by robbery and hatred. And am probably Jewish. No I’m motivated by knowing what poverty is, all the many ways it affects people and knowing that a better world is possible.
    Of course anti=semitism exists, as does Islamophobia, anti black racism, anti Irish and so on – all based on lies or pseudo-science. That race is a myth does not mean racism is.
    As a very active worker for Palestine solidarity I thank God that I have many good Jewish comrades acting with me, along with liberals, socialists, christians and Muslims. I love them all.
    Just as the Jewish workers of (many of them Communists too) did not separate their fight against the Blackshirts in the East End from their standing with Republican Spain, so those fighting racism in Britain today do not separate the struggle in Britain (preeminently now against Islamophobia) from their opposition to the racism of the colonial Apartheid state of Israel.
    I din’t want my Jewish friends to waste their time worrying about what it is to be a Jew. There is no Jewish essence – least of all an Eternal Jew based on 19th century Austrian petty beourgeois pseudo science.
    Well!

  • 2011-09-08 08:30:27 UTC - 08:30 | Permalink

    I think you are responding to this paragraph:

    “If Jews are not a race and have nothing to do with Semitism, then ‘anti-Semitism’ is, categorically, an empty signifier. In other words, criticism of Jewish nationalism, Jewish lobbying and Jewish power can only be realised as a legitimate critique of ideology, politics and practice.

    Gilad is not denying anti-semitism exists but is addressing theoretical constructs: Given that there is no ‘biological race’ of Jews and Jews are thus a social construct the ‘anti-racism’ that is mounted against them must fall into a category of being opposed to what Jewish representatives are in fact doing, not against what they are racially. But I make it more complex by trying to explain it!

    No doubt there is anti-semitism qua racism, and Gilad does and has addressed this often as well. e.g. http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/understanding-the-reasons-for-anti-semitism/

  • 2011-09-08 09:56:48 UTC - 09:56 | Permalink

    Lacking any material analysis or explanation of the subject that he explores, Jewish Identity, Atzmon wanders off on a sea of subjectivism, aided by his anti-Semitism. Unsurprisingly he accepts Zionist ideology at face value, in particular the idea that it is a national movement of Jews,

    Unsurprisingly therefore he sees Zionism, not as a reaction to anti-Semitism in Europe which saw settler-colonialism as the solution, but rather in the inherent make up and psyche of Jews themselves. Of course Atzmon’s is a superficial analysis which takes things as they are and interprets them in the light of his own prejudice and facts plucked at random. He fails to explain why, when Zionism arose, it was rejected by the vast majority of Jews up to World War II. He writes that:

    “Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine, as some scholars suggest. Zionism is actually a global movement that is fuelled by a unique tribal solidarity…”

    Well it’s not some scholars but most scholars. Zionism described itself as a colonial movement. Its first bank was the Jewish Colonial Trust. Colonialism was at the time something which was thoroughly approved of by the capitalists that Atzmon defers to. Settling someone else’s land and driving them off it were not unique to Jewish ‘tribal solidarity’ but pretty much the staple fare of colonialism. In Palestine the British established the normal machinery of colonial rule, a High Commissioner etc. and the responsibility for the Mandate was that of the Colonial Office. As was the case with all settler colonies.

    And if Zionism is the product of the genetic make-up/unique tribal solidarity of Jews, how come they didn’t make the journey in 1200 or 1500? Why during the 19th and 20th centuries, the age of colonisation? We are unlikely to find many clues here because for Atzmon it is ‘Jewishness’ that explains all, except that so-called Jewishness is entirely subjective and subject to individual whim. It has no more basis in fact than the racial theories of Hans Gunther or Himmler.

    And if Israel is not a colonial outpost, the regional gendarme of the USA, but a product of world Jewry, then the battle is or should be fought against Jews outside Israel not Israel itself, which is after all only their pawn. The absurdity of Atzmon’s thesis is self-evident. He doesn’t like what Israel has done to the Palestinians but offers no solution other than racial conflict, because whether he likes it or not, his definition of Jews is a racial one. And because he holds that Jews have certain inherent characteristics, he reserves most of his criticism for anti-Zionist Jews.

    David Hillman has dealt with the argument that because Jews are not a race one cannot be racist or anti-Semitic towards them. By this analysis the Nazis also were not anti-Semitic, hence Atzmon’s holocaust denial views and utterances. Problem is that there are no races. Race is a political construct. Therefore there is no racism. It does not exist. This book is a testament to Atzmon’s ego but explains nothing.

    • 2011-09-17 04:53:02 UTC - 04:53 | Permalink

      The fact that Zionism began to strengthen in the early 20th century would seem to indicate it was a “concept” fostered by a radically religious few but rejected by many. The few obviously saw value in their concept and manipulated society to make being a Jew in any other society “uncomfortable”, and sufficiently so as to cause more of the many to immigrate to Palestine. What did or do the radical Zionists actually get out of Zionism? Is it money, power, emotional satisfaction . . . what?

      Jews seem to be ultimately controlled by their religion rather than by what they really know is right. Which of course has led to many governments not allowing Jews to hold high-ranking positions. Jews generally are considered by many to be unwitting “sleeper-cells” waiting for the order from some higher authority than the government of their host nation, to act, against that nation. Which is why Germany segregated the Jews from the general populace (International Jewry did publicly proclaim that they’d work against Germany from within in the interests of Britain and her allies) and why America did the same to Japanese-Americans. No country can conduct a war with fifth-columnists on the loose in the country . . .

      Israel is run by Zionists to a Zionist doctrine who want to colonize all of Palestine and exclude and eliminate any non-Jew. Naturally their neighbors are wary of Israel’s future intent regarding their countries. That in itself should be sufficient reason to warrant serious restrictions and sanctions agains tIsrael’s expansion.

      • 2011-09-17 10:07:47 UTC - 10:07 | Permalink

        I find your comment most disturbing. I am a Jew, too, in the sense that I am just as human as anyone who is called a Jew. We are all one humanity. “Jews” are no more “ulitmately controlled by their religion rather than by what they really know is right” than anyone else is. That is an incredible claim: do you really believe there is a whole race of people who knowingly act against what they know is right?

        Do you really find it incomprehensible that Zionists are motivated any differently from any other sentiment common to us all? Zionism is an imperialistic-racist relic of the nineteenth century that infected the bulk of Europeans and Americans at the time. But I was wrong in my earlier comment when I went along with a comment that associated Zionism with colonialism. There is nothing colonial about the Zionist enterprise at all. It is a re-play of the cleansing of the north American and Australian continents of the “savages” who were deemed a threat to civilization then. It is a replay of what “we” (non-Jews) have “ourselves” done.

        There are many Jews who have always opposed Zionism and many heroically do so even within their own state of Israel.

        What makes Zionism particularly dangerous today is that it is coupled with a “tribal” mentality associated with a dangerously unhealthy veneration of victimhood status that excludes all other (non-Jewish) victims and that has historic roots that need to be understood and addressed in public debate: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/understanding-the-reasons-for-anti-semitism/

  • 2011-09-08 14:46:58 UTC - 14:46 | Permalink

    Does Gilad Atzmon really argue that “Zionism is the product of the genetic make-up . . . of Jews”? You actually write “genetic make-up/unique tribal solidarity of Jews” as if they are synonymous. Does Atzmon argue that “tribal solidarity” is “genetic”? If I had ever suspected as much I would never have publicized his works.

    You write of nineteenth century “colonialism” as if it were a sanitized word — a neutral tool. Pity it was the tool and channel of racism and in too many cases genocide. Zionism was born in an age of racism and imperialist ambitions and has continued to perpetuate that mentality long past its use-by date (which was really around 1914 but with a definite closure in the 1940s).

    David Hillmann appeared to misunderstand the nature of an argument about theoretical constructs as opposed to the literal realities and you appear confuse the two concepts in your last paragraph, too.

  • 2011-09-18 07:15:41 UTC - 07:15 | Permalink

    Another review: http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/william-t-hathaway-the-last-jewish-prophet.html

    I like this paragraph:

    As the poet Allen Ginsberg said, “If you want to be a prophet, you have to tell your secrets.” By being brave enough to expose himself in writing, Atzmon has become a prophet, and his prophecy, as I see it, is a completion of the Mosaic journey, but this time as a mass exodus from Jewishness and all other ethnic bondings that split humanity. After 40 centuries of wandering in the desert of chosenness and separation, Jews and Gentiles alike can finally enter the full humanness of one world family, a secular promised land free of divisive group identities.

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