[News] Gilad Atzmon - Think Tribal, Speak Universal

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 13 11:57:42 EST 2006

Think Tribal, Speak Universal: Don't let the smear campaigners set the agenda


By Gilad Atzmon

Al-Jazeerah, December 13, 2006

Introduction by Peacepalestine: NEVER GIVE UP!

That is what we can all say following the insuccess of the latest of 
a slew of Zionist smear campaigns directed against Gilad Atzmon. All 
of you who have been following this blog, and the very many other 
places where Gilad's work is published have witnessed many attempts 
to publicly defame him, to accuse him of being a racist and an 
anti-Semite. All of these campaigns ultimately fail, because when one 
looks at the actual material that is available, it is crystal clear 
that Atzmon is one of the strongest voices condemning racism! Every 
time these attacks start, they fall flat once one is given the 
opportunity to evaluate for themselves whether or not this strong 
anti-Zionism can be interpreted as being anti-Semitism, it is obvious 
that the attempts to silence him, to silence anyone who dares 
criticise Israel or Zionism, are exposed for the instrumental 
propaganda that they are.

Guardian, paper that allowed an outrageous smear piece to be hosted 
on its blog, having later done the research on the actual 
accusations, decided, after many complaints from readers, to amend 
its policy, and give Gilad a space to comment the attack against him. 
It is the same piece that was printed here a few days ago, albeit 
THE AGENDA! Deception will never win in the end, no matter how 
arrogant it might seem. People can find out the truth easily enough, 
and keeping silent against lies is what they want. They want us to 
become tired and frustrated. We won't let that happen.

So, to celebrate this victory, I am proud to publish a brand new 
paper precisely about the mechanisms of the silencing of those who speak out.
Gilad, thanks for holding strong and not giving up!


I may as well be the King of The Jews. I have achieved the 
unachievable, accomplished the impossible. I have managed to unite 
them all: Right, Left and Centre. The entirety of the 
primarily-Jewish British political groups: 
Zionists the anti-Zionists, 
<http://www.jewishsocialist.org.uk/>Jewish Socialists, 
Marxists, <http://www.counterpunch.org/atzmon10232006.html>The Board 
of Deputies, Jewish Trotskyites, 
Sans Frontieres, <http://www.auphr.org/thewall/>Jews Avec Frontieres 
for the first time in history all speak in one single voice. They all 
repeat exactly the same misquotes. They all hate Gilad Atzmon.

"Pretty impressive," I think to myself, "I must be doing something 
right." Yet, I am slightly confused by my own achievement. When it 
comes down to it, I'm not the canonical enemy; I am a jazz musician 
and author. I am not a politician, nor am I a member of any party. I 
do not present or support any political agenda. I have never been 
involved in any act of violence (not even as an Israeli soldier) nor 
have I ever called for violence. I am what some may call an 
"independent critical thinker". It is my personal understanding that 
I choose to share with my readers and listeners. I express my very 
own reading into events and some speculations regarding the notion of 
identity. I write about things that I find while looking into myself. 
This is indeed very dangerous for people who try to promote some 
collective dogmatic and ethnic tribalism. It is apparently the 
individual and critical thinker who endangers any form of ideological 
dogmatism (in general) and Jewish collectivism (in particular).

Surely, the most effective way to confront a thinker is through open 
intellectual debate. But somehow, this is precisely what those who 
oppose me refuse to do. Instead, they employ various tactics aimed at 
silencing me. They are filled with hate. Because, it seems, hate is 
the name of the game.

I recently came across an interesting insight into the subject of 
hate and anti-Semitism. It goes like this:

'While in the past an 'anti-Semite' was someone who hates Jews, 
nowadays it is the other way around, an 
<http://www.masada2000.org/list-A.html>anti-Semite is someone the Jews hate.'

The politics of hate can be effective, as well as being vicious. And 
you'd think tribal Jewish activists would be the first to understand 
this. We all know that Jews have been suffering hatred and 
discrimination for centuries. Yet the 
ethnic activists seem to have learned hatred from their enemies so 
much that the secular Jewish political discourse has been totally 
shaped by it. Moreover, hate has become the main matrix of negation: 
The Israelis are set to hate the Arabs, the Zionists are there to 
hate the Goyim (in general), Jews against Zionism hate the Goyim as 
well as Israel as well as Atzmon (in particular).

But why do they hate so much? The answer is simple. Once Judaism is 
eliminated, what remains of Jewish identity is pretty threadbare. 
Once stripped of religious spirituality, all that is left of 
Jewishness is a template of negation fuelled by racial orientation 
and spiced up with some light cultural context. Sadly, I have to say 
that though very many emancipated and assimilated Jews have adopted 
universal humanist ideas, secular collective Jewish identity has 
never matured into adopting a universal humanist ideological 
standpoint or even a philosophical insight. The reasons are simple:

A. Racial or even ethnic orientation cannot form a basis for a 
universal ethical argument.
B. Chicken soup or Jewish humour (culture) does not make an 
ideological argument.

It was 
Mendelssohn, an 18th century Jewish progressive scholar, who coined 
the famous Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) insight: "Be a Jew at Home 
and a (cosmopolitan) Man on the Street". 
<http://www.whymarryjewish.com/timeline6.htm>Mendelssohn's revelation 
for the modern Jew doesn't leave much room for doubt. Rather than 
encouraging the modern Jew to genuinely assimilate into a universal 
ethos of equality, the Haskalah Jew is destined to live in a dual 
mode if not practically a state of schizophrenia. He is split between 
the solitary pleasure of a cosy, homey Jewish identity and the public 
appearance of the 'cosmopolitan man'. In fact, it is this duality of 
tribalism and universalism that is at the very heart of the 
collective secular Jewish identity.

This duality has never been properly resolved. A few attempts have 
been made to brush it off but they have all failed. Zionism for 
instance, offered to abolish the 'abnormal' condition of the 'Jewish 
Diaspora', in other words, it suggested that in a 'Jewish State' 
(intended as being for Jews Only) the differences between the 'home' 
and the 'street' would disappear. In fact, Zionism was all about the 
transforming the 'street' into the cosy Jewish 'home'. Though it 
managed to do this, there is no trace of universalism in either the 
Zionist's 'street' or in his 'home'. The state of Beit Hanoun and the 
carnage Israel left behind in Lebanon last summer doesn't leave much 
room for doubt - Israel doesn't really offer us any lessons in 
universal cosmopolitanism. Marxism, on the other hand, attempted to 
make people equal. In other words, it promised to make all 'homes' 
look the same. This idea was very appealing to many European Jews. 
Marxism was certainly successful for a while but sadly enough, 
nowadays, it is only consumerism that makes us all look homogenous 
(iPod, coca-cola, jeans). Clearly, there is not much to celebrate there either.

It is within the failure of these two competing grand ideologies that 
the matrix of negation marched triumphantly back. Clearly, the search 
for a contemporary collective secular Jewish identity is a perplexing 
endeavour. Just as in Mendelssohn's time, it aims at integrating the 
opposing categories of tribalism with universalism. But this can 
never be achieved, and this is exactly where hate politics starts to 
play its part. If you don't know who you are, just find yourself an 
enemy. In other words, 'tell me who you hate and I will tell you who you are.'

It occurred to me a while ago that if all tribal Jewish activists see 
me as a threat, surely they must perceive in me some kernel of truth. 
I realised that there must be something about my ideas that shakes 
everything they believe in. Indeed, it doesn't take a genius to 
understand what that thing is. I have managed to expose the 
Mendelssohnian clash at the very heart of contemporary Jewish secular 
identity in general, and in tribal Jewish left activism in particular.

Mendelssohn must have understood the intrinsic clash between the 
'cosmopolitan man' and the 'Jewish home'. He must have realised that 
universalism and tribalism are opposing categories. Being trained as 
a rabbi, Mendelssohn offered a pragmatic and practical solution - but 
this solution led to false and deceptive behaviour. Either you 
pretend to be a cosmopolitan while in the 'street' or you lie to your 
God at 'home'. This behavioural code, though being very pragmatic, 
happens to be non-ethical by definition. It is based on deception: 
both self-deception and deceiving the other. As we know, it was 
Mendelssohn's insight that was the cause of many Germanic Jews 
eventually converting to Christianity or just departing from any 
connection with Jewish collectivism, Jewish life or culture. True 
humanists would be apt to disengage from a non-genuine lifestyle. 
Ethically, at least, Mendelssohn's middle way between orthodoxy and 
modernity failed to provide an answer.

Surprisingly enough, the primarily-Jewish left activist falls 
straight into Mendelssohn's trap. He tries desperately to bridge the 
gap between tribal commitment and the universal call and, like 
Mendelssohn, he is doomed to failure. Indeed, in the early days of 
the Palestinian solidarity movement the primarily-Jewish peace 
activism was of immense importance. It was actually Jewish humanists 
who were the first to speak out for the Palestinians when the world 
out there was still immersed in the Zionist narrative. But things 
have now changed. Once Hamas was democratically elected, it was the 
Jewish tribal peace activist who was the first to show 
dissatisfaction on many a progessive discussion group. Obviously 
Hamas doesn't fit into the Jewish Socialist vision for the region. In 
other words, tribal Jewish humanists' support for the Palestinians is 
tilted by self-centric concerns.

I do know what Judaism stands for. I can easily follow and support 
the Torah Jews' argument against Zionism. Also, in my concerts and 
readings I meet very many Jews who put aside any tribal orientation 
to join the emerging Palestinian solidarity movement. I admire them 
and I respect their courage. Indeed, I fail to understand the Jewish 
tribal peace activism.

Monitoring tribal Jewish left activism for more than a few years, I 
have managed to expose some major categorical flaws. If the left is a 
'progressive' endeavour aiming at a universal message that goes 
beyond race and ethnicity, then applying tribal and clannish banners 
is nothing but 'reactionary' attitude. The introduction of racial 
orientation into the Socialist discourse reduces Socialism into a 
light form of marginal politics and sometimes even, a bitter 
manifestation of national socialism. This complexity is far from 
being new. Lenin was already concerned with this issue in 

However, I must admit that I am not concerned at all with the 
healthiness of the Socialist or Marxist discourse. I am engaged here 
solely in the deconstruction of a political standpoint and in 
scrutinising its rhetoric. Rather than saving the Marxist philosophy, 
I care for the people of Beit Hanoun, Jenin, Ramallah and Nablus. I 
devote my energy to support the Palestinian people who are bombed and 
starved by a State that happens to be 'the Jewish State'. My message 
is clear. A crime of immense proportions is taking place in 
Palestine. As far as the humanist argument is concerned, 
are the priority. If the crime against the Palestinians is a crime 
against humanity, we had better fight it collectively as human beings 
rather than as isolated formations of ethnically and racially 
segregated groups. The task ahead is complicated enough. Tribal 
Judeo-centric issues to do with anti-Semitism may be important to 
some. However, I maintain that they are secondary as far as Palestine 
solidarity is concerned. In other words, when you speak universal you 
may as well mean it for a change.


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