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Mar-14-2012 18:20printcomments

Washington Report -To Disavow or Debate Gilad Atzmon?

"The fact that some activists shy away from asking those questions doesn’t mean that the rest of us also should behave cowardly." - Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon
Gilad Atzmon Courtesy: utopiason3.blogspot.com

(WASHINGTON DC) - Last night Ali Abunimah and other respected Palestinian writers and activists signed a statement calling for “The Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon,” who is winding up his U.S. tour with events in Washington, DC today and tomorrow. The Washington Report is convinced that Atzmon’s interview tonight by Prof. Norton Mezvinsky couldn’t come at a better time. Please read Abunimah’s statement and Atzmon’s response below. Then come to tonight’s discussion and decide for yourself whether to shun Atzmon or engage him in debate. For those who want to further explore the renowned jazz musician’s ideas and music, copies of Atzmon’s latest book, The Wandering Who?, as well as his three CDs, will be available for purchase.

Wednesday, March 14, 6:30-8:30 PM Gilad Atzmon is interviewed by Prof. Norton Mezvinsky, (Connecticut State University Professor of History Emeritus) at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20001 (free, open to public, light dinner)

Thursday, March 15, 5-6:30 PM DC Peace House, 1233 12th St. NW, Washington DC 20005


A Response to Ali Abunimah & Co.

by Gilad Atzmon

Ali Abunimah & Co tend to present themselves as advocates of “One Democratic State in Palestine.” This leaves me puzzled: what kind of democracy do they have in mind, exactly? For by calling for my “disavowal,” they prove beyond a doubt that they cannot tolerate even some elementary cultural criticism—criticism that is endorsed and praised by some of the most respected thinkers within our movement and beyond.

In fact, I am pretty delighted with the outraged reactions to my thoughts. I guess it enables us to map the discourse and its boundaries—and means that those boundaries are now official. Not only has my latest book, The Wandering Who?, rocked the boat, but it also has managed to unite Alan Dershowitz and Abe Foxman with Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal. That is pretty encouraging: it means that peace may prevail after all.

However, I also have some bad news for my would-be silencers, Palestinian and Jewish alike. I do not have any plans to slow down or drift away. I am a jazz musician and an independent thinker. I am basically a free agent—I say what I think and think what I say. The popularity of my writing among Palestinians, solidarity activists and truth seekers is the direct outcome of my sincere approach to the subject matter.

Whether my detractors accept it or not, the strength of my arguments is grounded on the transparent truthful nature of my premises. Until now, not one of my opponents has been able to point out a single discrepancy within my argument or the facts I cite. For instance, I contend that since Israel defines itself as the Jewish State—its tanks and planes decorated with Jewish symbols—it is our duty to ask: Who are the Jews? What is Judaism? And what is Jewishness all about?

The fact that some activists shy away from asking those questions doesn’t mean that the rest of us also should behave cowardly.

In case my detractors—be they Zionists, Anti-Zionist Zionists or Palestinians—fail to realize it, Palestine is not alone anymore, and is no longer an isolated, remote discourse. Even as I write, AIPAC is publicly and relentlessly pushing America into a new global conflict. In Britain, 80 percent of Tory MPs are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel. What we are witnessing here is a clear Zionist shift from the discourse of a “promised land” to one of a “promised planet.” I’m convinced that calling a spade a spade could actually save the world, including Americans, Brits, Iranians and Palestinians. But it also can save the Jews from the grave potential consequences inflicted on them by the Jewish lobbies.

Sadly, Ali Abunimah has misrepresented my thoughts. Clearly there is no racism, anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial in my writing. As determined as my detractors are to find it, they have failed to identify a single bit of evidence of such tendencies in my work. Ali Abunimah says on my behalf that “one cannot self-describe as a Jew and also do work in solidarity with Palestine, because to identify as a Jew is to be a Zionist.” What a ludicrous interpretation of my writing, in which I go out of my way to define the issue in categorical terms. What I am obviously opposing is Jewish racial exclusivity. If Israel is in the wrong for being a Jews-only State, I argue, then its Jewish critics better fight it using an inclusive, universalist ideology and practice.

I am indeed critical of Jewish identity politics, Jewish culture and Jewish ideology. I am also critical of the Jewish cultural attitude toward history. I am critical of Jewishness and any form of Jewish exclusive political activism. And yet, I wonder, why should any person who seeks justice and peace object to my approach? Is Jewish culture or identity politics beyond criticism? Are Jews chosen after all.

I am sorry to disappoint my Palestinian and Jewish opposition league, but it seems as if their terminology is faulty and misleading: Zionism is not colonialism, for colonialism is defined as a material exchange between a Mother State and a Settler State. The fact that there is no Jewish Mother State suggests that Zionism doesn’t fit the colonial model.

Nor is Israel an Apartheid State, for Apartheid is defined by the exploitation of the indigenous residents. Yet the Jewish State prefers that the Palestinians simply and completely disappear. In other words, we are dealing here with a unique racially driven expansionist philosophy not very different from the Nazis’ Lebensraum.

Israel is not Zionism, and vice versa. Israel is the outcome of the Zionist project. If Zionism is a promise to establish a “Jewish National Home in Palestine,” Israel is its post-revolutionary product. Indeed, Israelis are barely familiar with Zionist thought and ideology. From their perspective, anti-Zionist ranting is a remote Diaspora discourse.

Shalom does not mean peace, reconciliation or harmony. Its accurate English translation is “security for the Jews.” Israeli culture lacks a clear notion of “peace” as we know it—i.e., harmony and reconciliation.

I suggest that my detractors spend some time and think this through, so they can understand that the issues involving this conflict and its resolution go far beyond mere political discourse.

I would like to take this opportunity to advise my opponents that their campaign is counterproductive. Those who are interested in my ideas realize that we are living in a post-political and post-ideological era. Like myself, they are interested in an ethical argument. They are not “party members,” and they are not taking “orders” from any sectarian group or ideology. Instead they listen to their hearts. Those pro-Palestinian organizations sponsoring my current U.S. book tour realize very well that my work galvanizes a demarcation line between truth and its enemies.

In spite of the relentless slander campaign against my writing, it has not achieved a thing except to expose a rigorous intellectual intolerance in our midst. If my opposition is concerned with my thoughts, it will have to learn to debate. Before we can proceed, I guess, my detractors may have to actually read my book and decide exactly what they are against.

The_Wandering_Who
Gilad Atzmon’s New Book: The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.




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Gonzaga March 19, 2012 9:56 pm (Pacific time)

Found the article at last. Here you write: I'm picking on the way you and others try to change the subject by misusing the word antisemitic at every juncture when the only REAL subject is the Zionist persecution of Palestinians in their native homeland. _______________ That is not true with respect to The Wandering Who. The words are what they are. Calling the Jewish God evil is not the same thing as calling Zionism wrong. Referencing Jacob Schiff as Mr. Atzmon does is not the same thing as calling Zionism wrong. You then write: It is about apartheid, it is about 'Jewish Only' roads and laws for Jews and different laws for Arabs. Gilad and I and this large unified group that actively supports Palestinians through journalism, music and activism, know this whole thing is a ruse, a distraction, and that what you are saying is overly specific and out of context. ______________ There is nothing overly specific about saying a discourse on Esther is a diatribe against Jews. You must address these questions instead of claiming they are besides the point. Thus far you have not done so. There followed the following discourse: Me: What evidence do you have that Alan Greenspan saved the economy to permit Paul Wolfowitz to wage war? Since Mr. Atzmon claims it is in the open, you can show us that. Tim King: Why are you straying off in this direction when the whole thing is over the character assault article? I'm sorry, but my role is not to sit here and systematically answer questions like this, I could take the time to take it all apart, but there is no reason to. ______________ If you can take me apart do so. Show everyone the evidence that Alan Greenspan did what he did to enable Paul Wolfowitz to do what he did. This would include some sort of memorandum or recorded conversation indicating the real reason for Alan Greenspan's action. Barring that your argument is defeated. The book is Jew baiting unless you show it to be otherwise. Thus far, you have not. I still do not understand your use of a "anti semantic". Are you implying Mr. Atzmon did not in fact say what I said he said? Let us go to the text, shall we?


Anti-sematntic? March 19, 2012 8:39 pm (Pacific time)



Calling the Jewish God an evil God is not being against the Jewish religion to you? Fascinating. If one were to say Mohammed is evil, would that be Islamophobic to you? If one said Jesus Christ was evil, would that be anti-Christian to you? There is no such word as antisemantic or anti semantic. What word did you intend to use?

 Tim King: Come on I'm playing with you by using the word anti-semantic, You should have been able to figure that out, but don't leave any stone unturned right?   I'm picking on the way you and others try to change the subject by misusing the word antisemitic at every juncture when the only REAL subject is the Zionist persecution of Palestinians in their native homeland.  It is about apartheid, it is about 'Jewish Only' roads and laws for Jews and different laws for Arabs.  Gilad and I and this large unified group that actively supports Palestinians through journalism, music and activism, know this whole thing is a ruse, a distraction, and that what you are saying is overly specific and out of context.  

Also, answer two questions. It is not at all besides the point. Mr. Atzmon attacks Judaism at all points, except for a quotation from Rashi that he pretty clearly robbed from a movie. Do you believe that the charges of power lust, treachery, etc., that Mr. Atzmon implies were justifiably leveled against Jews as a result of Esther were in fact justifiably levelled?

 Tim King: Again, semantics, Gilad attacks the results of militant, right-sing Zionism which is a philosophy unlike that of Judaism. 

What evidence do you have that Alan Greenspan saved the economy to permit Paul Wolfowitz to wage war? Since Mr. Atzmon claims it is in the open, you can show us that.

Tim King: Why are you straying off in this direction when the whole thing is over the character assault article?  I'm sorry, but my role is not to sit here and systematically answer questions like this, I  could take the time to take it all apart, but there is no reason to.    


Addressing Mr. Atzmon March 19, 2012 7:21 pm (Pacific time)

not you in particular Mr. King. To call the Jewish God evil, as he does in his "essay" on the Pentateuch, is to call the Jewish religion evil. Now people can similarly call Islam evil or Christianity evil. What they cannot do is to say they are not criticizing Islam or Christianity and then say Jesus Christ or Mohammed is evil. Since Mr. Atzmon did just that, saying he was not criticizing Judaism and proceeding to call the Jewish God evil and the book of Esther a guide to lobbying, all one can say is that he is a lying hypocrit.

Tim King: Well that is the complete opposite of how we see it, it is also untrue and all a sidetracking game of semantics, and we all need to be antisemantic when it comes to this subject; clarity is everything and word games are battle schemes.   I was telling a friend yesterday about an article defending Gilad this week from Rich Siegel.  It was a case of a Jew defending a former Jew who defends Palestinians, while people claiming to be Palestinians attack him for being antisemitic.  Now isn't that just a little bit ridiculous?  I admit that some people being drug down this road are not doing it specifically to benefit Zionist Israel, or out of fear from being threatened or because they were bribed; some are actually deceived into believing that because of a word or some paragraph in a book, that they should abandon and actually turn against one of the strongest voices in this cause.  I have been in touch with many people in Palestine and all reassure me that they love and value Gilad and that he is who they have faith in, not any of the mostly American-Palestinians listed on the paper by Ali.  


Gonzaga March 19, 2012 5:21 pm (Pacific time)

Why don't you ever debate people? All you do is post where they can censor serious challenges to your work.

Editor: Gonzaga, I am not sure who you are addressing?  My policy as editor, is that when people post false information in comments, I either counter it in bold, or delete it.  The truth is that I spend far too much time countering comments and there is no real value in giving real credence to false allegations, viewpoints, etc. 


Jafar M. Ramini March 17, 2012 8:30 am (Pacific time)

Dear all, This hyper-sensitive and potentially explosive issue merits much more than a knee jerk reaction, which is why I have refrained until this moment from making any comments. I know Gilad Atzmon, I have read much of his writings, he gifted me his book, 'The Wandering Who?' which I have put aside to take with me on my forthcoming flight to Australia so I can read it uninterrupted. I like Gilad, I love his music and I am very partial to his quirky personality. All in all, in my opinion, Gilad, as a package, is a decent, well-meaning human being who should not be isolated or scorned simply because some of his writings and sayings are not always to our taste. I too had an opportunity, albeit fleetingly, to meet Ali Abunimeh here in London and he afforded me the courtesy of enquiring about my well being when my email account was hacked into last year. I read Ali Abunimeh extensively and I was listening to his latest key-note speech at Harvard only last week. I have a lot of time and respect for Ali, another decent human being,which makes one more reason why I did not react immediately. What made me change my mind was this very well thought out and well written, informative piece by Rich Siegel, whom I know through Facebook and, of course, his music. I, as a Palestinian, who has been working all his life to direct the spotlight on the plight of my people and my country through writings, debates and speeches, have always welcomed any meaningful debate which keeps Palestine and Palestinians on the front page. I have always maintained that if ever we are to achieve peace in Palestine we very much need the unencumbered by religious doctrines or ideologies on our side. There is no need for us Palestinians to say that we are not 'anti-Semitic' for the simple reason that we are Semites ourselves. There is no reason for us, the Palestinians, to say that we like or dislike Jews. What we should emphatically say, and should not be distracted from by squabbles and arguments, is that we are anti Zionist, anti occupation, anti racist and anti apartheid. All these labels point in one direction only, we are anti Israel in its current form as a Jewish state. May I humbly suggest that Ali and his co-signatories have a private or civilised public debate with Gilad and Rich and any other like-minded Jews who want to see an end to our suffering and a clear path to lasting, durable and viable peace in Palestine.


Stephen March 14, 2012 8:19 pm (Pacific time)

The story says it all. The folks from the mid-east want to spread their hatred among the rest of the world. I have no need to hear about the Jews nor the Palistinians. They have been fighting among themselve for two thousand years and will continue fighting for the remainder on my lifetime. Please take your hatred away.

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