Tag Archives: Gilad Atzmon

The Wandering Who?

Gilad-Atzmon-The-Wandering-WHOFollowing 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: read more »

Understanding the Reasons for Anti-Semitism

Gilad Atzmon recommends a number of books that address underlying causes of hostility against Jews. One is The Jewish Century by Yuri Slezkine. Of Slezkine’s theory of ethnic identity the Wikipedia article explains:

Slezkine characterizes the Jews (alongside such groups as the Armenians, overseas Chinese, and Gypsies) as a Mercurian people “specializ[ing] exclusively in providing services to the surrounding food-producing societies,” which he characterizes as Apollonian. With the exception of the Gypsies, these “Mercurian peoples” have all enjoyed great economic success relative to the average among their hosts, and have all, without exception, attracted hostility and resentment. Slezkine develops this thesis by arguing that the Jews, the most successful of these Mercurian peoples, have increasingly influenced the course and nature of Western societies, particularly during the early and middle periods of Soviet Communism.

My gut reaction to reading a theory dividing people into Mercurians and Apollonians was that this is surely rubbishy oversimplification. But then I read a sample of the book . . . .

Mercurians

The publisher of this book makes a key sample chapter available online and I find the concepts most interesting. It appears that Slezkine has been able to understand anti-semitism much more broadly than any thesis that seeks biology or religion as an explanation. I have bolded some of the key sections for easier skimming.

There was nothing particularly unusual about the social and economic position of the Jews in medieval and early modern Europe. Many agrarian and pastoral societies contained groups of permanent strangers who performed tasks that the natives were unable or unwilling to perform. Death, trade, magic, wilderness, money, disease, and internal violence were often handled by people who claimed–or were assigned to–different gods, tongues, and origins. . . . .

All these groups were nonprimary producers specializing in the delivery of goods and services to the surrounding agricultural or pastoral populations. Their principal resource base was human, not natural, and their expertise was in “foreign” affairs. They were the descendants–or predecessors–of Hermes (Mercury), the god of all those who did not herd animals, till the soil, or live by the sword; the patron of rule breakers, border crossers, and go-betweens; the protector of people who lived by their wit, craft, and art. read more »

The Zionist Dream, from delusion to vindictiveness

Gilad Atzmon’s analysis of the Zionism strikes harmonious chords with other analyses of the psychology of fundamentalist Christianity, in particular with the latter’s self identity being grounded in a sense of natural worthlessness (consequence of sin) and in their belief that they can only become “whole” through fantasies that view others as inferior or worthless or evil. Compare the founding “ideals” of Zionism which include a desire to become “ordinary humans”, as if their self identity does not otherwise permit them them to see themselves as such.

Gilad Atzmon – the Wikipedia article

Gilad Atzmon’s website (including other articles)

From Delusion to Vindictiveness

Interpreting the Zionist Dream

By Gilad Atzmon

Early Zionism was indeed a cheerful dream, it was all about the transformation of the ‘Jew’ into a ‘civilised, respectful and authentic human being’. The founders of Zionism were inspired by the notions of ‘people like any other people’ and ‘nation amongst nations’. Reading early Zionists such as Nordau, Borochov and Gordon provides us with some very contemptuous references to Jewish character and identity that would make Nazi ideology look mildly liberal.

However, one is advised to take a short break for a second and to contemplate critically over the above Zionist dream. One may wonder what kind of people dream of ‘becoming human beings’. Can anyone imagine a French, English or Chinese man or woman who dreams of becoming an ordinary ‘human’? We can easily think of oppressed human beings who demand to be treated as humans (Palestinians, Civil Rights movements, anti Apartheid and so on). Yet, the Zionist dream is rather different. It is not just about the desire for recognition or equality, it is not just about being treated appropriately, it is also a dream of ‘self-transformation’. In fact, it is all about a miraculous metamorphosis from a morbid ‘abnormal’ state of being into an acceptable decent human form.

Within the context of a fictional fable we can easily imagine a cow that fantasises to become a dairy farmer, a pig who ‘dies to’ become a Kosher schnitzel, a snake who aspires to take over the Labour party and then to launch a new Zionist illegal war. And yet, it is pretty unusual to think of people who have managed to develop an aspiration to become ‘ordinary humans’.

An intelligible way to explain or interpret that very unusual dream is probably to assume that those who succumb to the Zionist dream are those who happen to believe that, as far as their natural state of being is concerned, they are indeed remotely human. One would rightly assume that those who dream to become humans must be convinced that humanity is somehow not exactly a characteristic that they happen to possess.

Yesterday during a talk at Librairie Résistances, Paris (a fund raising event for Gaza) I was asked for my interpretation of Israeli ‘evolving barbarism’, how is it possible that 84% of the Israelis supported the IDF genocidal crime in Gaza last December. “In order to understand how these Israeli murderous practices emerged” I said, “all we have to do is to trace back and reread the early Zionist ideologists.” We can easily learn from Zionist thinkers about their ‘dream’ and their vision of their fellow brothers. They, the founders of modern Jewish nationalism happened to admit somehow that something was totally corrupted within the Jewish identity, culture and character. However, they genuinely believed that it was amendable.

Zionism was there to bring about a new Jew, a civilised productive human being. It was indeed a very wet and epic dream. As an Israeli youngster I myself succumbed to this dream. I tended to believe that Israel was ‘my’ historic land, I regarded the Biblical protagonists as my direct ancestors. I was sure that, at least in the case of the so called ‘first Israelis’, the ideological transplant operation was a great success. We, the young Israeli natives tended to believe that we were all nothing less than a success story of ‘modified-civilised-humanist-secular-beings’.

Needless to say that the history of Palestine, the Palestinians and the Nakba was totally hidden from us. We didn’t see the Palestinians around us either, we were hardly aware of their suffering not to say their cause. We were in fact totally blind. We tended also to believe that our army was the ‘most humanist army around’. We grew up with the ‘1967 Victorious Diary’, a legendary chunky photo album every Israeli held in a prominent location on his book shelve. There in that glossy propaganda book an Israeli soldier was giving his water to an Egyptian prisoner. We regarded him as a symbol of our people’s endorsement of universal humanism. We were obviously not aware of the horrendous fact that the Sinai Desert was actually a slaughter field for hundreds of Egyptian POWs. Why didn’t we know? This in itself is a very good question. Our fathers who fought in this war must have known something but they kept quiet. Our parents who witnessed the 1948 convoys of Palestinians refugees should have known something about the Nakba but they somehow kept quiet. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t just our parents, we followed the exact same pattern. Once we ourselves matured into IDF soldiers, we did exactly the same, we turned a blind eye (1982 in Lebanon). And this has never changed. The Israeli moral awakening has never happened. By now I allow myself to argue that it won’t happen. The Zionist dream is just too comfortable. After more than one hundred years of moral phantasmic delusion the Israelis are deeply stuck in an ethical coma.

The Zionist dream of a ‘humanist metamorphosis’ has never matured into reality or practice. Quite the opposite, Israelis and Zionists have learned to see themselves through a phantasmic illusionary prism. Rather than being transformed into humanists for real, they have become ‘leading humanists’ in their own extreme judeo-centric dream.

Freud taught us that the dream is there to prolong the sleep: a siren, a baby cry and a dripping tap that takes place in the outside would be incorporated into the dream so we can keep snoozing. The ‘Israeli humanist dream’ operates in a similar manner, it is there to prolong the Zionist snore, it is there to keep Jews aloof to the crimes that are committed by their state, and in their names. The disturbances that come from the ‘outside world’ such as the Goldstone report or Ahmadinejad’s valid criticisms are incorporated into their dream as ‘white noise’ motivated by ‘pathological antisemitism’. Though in reality the Jewish state is barbarian with no comparison, in their dream, it is nothing but ‘business as usual’.

The daily reality of Israeli barbarism in Palestine should bring us back to elaborate over the Zionist dream of transformation. In spite of the great promise, the Jewish state has failed to become a ‘nation like other nations’. Similarly, the Zionist people are not exactly ‘people like other people’ for no other people approve genocide collectively.

The Jewish state that was supposed to be a celebration of identity transformation became instead the ultimate embodiment of the morbid symptoms Zionism was there to heal. Israel has already managed to surround itself by gigantic ghetto walls, it spits fire and WMD on its indigenous population. It locks millions in concentration camps and starves them. As bizarre as it may be, only in the face of Israeli colossal barbarism, can one adequately understand the full meaning of the irony of the Zionist dream of humanist metamorphosis.

Zionism was doomed to fail: it is a blood related project, it is racially orientated and it is supremacist to the bone. The Zionist dream has become a true devastating nightmare for real: the Golem* Jewish State wakes up every morning to commit more and more crimes in the name of the Jewish people. With an arsenal of hundreds of nuclear bombs and motivated by a phantasmic Holocaust religion that preaches nothing but vengeance, there is no greater danger to humanity, humanism and our civilization than Israel and its lobbies around the world.

All I have to say is beware!

*Golem – a Yiddish Frankenstein

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