Gilad Atzmon (Hebrew: גלעד עצמון, born June 9, 1963) is a jazz musician, author and anti-Zionist activist who was born in Israel and currently lives in London.Next week I am going to be traveling between Istanbul, Athens and Nicosia. I will be giving concerts and talks in support of the coming Free Gaza flotilla. In the last few days, I gave many interviews to Greek papers. Here is one. I guess that it sums up many of my thoughts about Israel, Zionism, Jewish identity, Palestine, Gaza and the Free Gaza mission.
"Anti-Semite is an empty signifier, no one actually can be an Anti-Semite and this includes me of course. In short, you are either a racist - which I am not - or have an ideological disagreement with Zionism... which I have."He was born a secular Israeli Jew in Tel Aviv, and trained at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. His service in the Israeli military convinced him Israel had become a militarized state controlled by religious extremists. In 1994, Atzmon emigrated from Israel to London, where he studied philosophy. Atzmon is an anti-Zionist who critiques Jewish identity issues and supports the Palestinian Right of Return as well as the establishment of a single state in Israel/Palestine. He is a signatory to the "Palestinians are the Priority Petition" which states “full and unconditional support of the Palestinian people is a condition sine qua non for activists to adopt.
Q. Where were you born and where did you spend your early years?
GA: I was born in Israel in 1963. It took me many years before I realized that the place I was born in was in fact occupied Palestine.
Q. Musician, author, activist, philosopher – which of these identities suits you most?
GA: I am a Jazz musician. In ideal terms I would love to see myself as a person who reinvents himself on a daily basis. This is obviously a wet fantasy, a task almost impossible to achieve. But it is something to aspire to. I am academically trained as a philosopher and believe that German philosophy sets the right framework for an articulate, ideological, ethical and universal thinking. I am also an author yet I do not regard myself as an activist. I have never understood what activism stands for. I may as well mention that I am not interested in politics but rather in meaning and implications of political activity and political thinking.
Q: Why do you oppose your Jewish and Israeli identity?
GA: I do not oppose Jewish or Israeli identity. I oppose any possible form of Jewish politics and indeed any identity politics. The reason is simple. Since Jewish identity is racially orientated, every permutation of Jewish politics is racist to the bone and I am obviously against racism. In fact, Israel and Zionism was originally an attempt to rescue the Jew from racist politics and racial political orientation. Zionism invented the Jewish nation. (or: Jews as a nation). Early Zionists attempted to present the Jews as a people amongst other people instead of a distinct race. This idea looked fine on paper, yet, the reality of the Jewish state proves that Israel is the most radical form of Jewish chauvinism. The Israeli legal system is totally discriminatory toward non Jews. Israeli policies are no different form Nazi racial laws.
Q: What was it that hurt you so much as to state publicly that you fight the Israeli in you? Don’t you feel that this is a harsh statement to make? A statement that shows anger?
Q: Don’t Israelis or Jews have the right for a national homeland, a safe homeland that is?
GA: Strictly speaking the answer is NO. If the Jews ever had a right for a national home, they lost this right a long time ago. As we know Zionism celebrated the Jewish national revival at the expense of the Palestinian people.
Would you allow a bunch of Italian lunatics to invade your home in Athens just because they are convinced that your dwelling was once part of the Roman Empire? They could claim that your home was a property of their Roman forefathers. Clearly, Italians wouldn’t get away with it, but Zionists did, at least for a while.
There is no right for a racist state that celebrates its tribal symptoms at the expense of others. There is no room for Israel amongst the nations.
Q: What concessions have to be made for Palestinians to live free and prosper?
GA: Pretty simple. Israel must become a state of its citizens. At the moment a Jew in Brooklyn enjoys more rights in Palestine than a Palestinian who was born on the land.
Q: Why should Israelis cut down on armaments? Is it not the case that the increase in military equipment is due to their sentiment of insecurity, as they are surrounded by Arabs?
GA: It doesn’t matter anymore whether Israel cuts down on armaments. Israel’s defeat is inevitable. In 2006 the entire Israeli military was humiliated by a small paramilitary organization namely the Hezbollah. In 2009 Israel didn’t achieve any of its military objectives in spite of the massive deployment of IDF units and the collective punishment of civilians by using extreme military measures against civilians including WMDs. The Israelis employ more and more force, they entangle themselves in more and more colossal war crimes, the legitimacy of the Jewish State is a matter for historians. The doomed fate of Israel is written on the wall.
Q: Do you believe that Jewish people still feel unwanted, even though so many decades have passed since the Holocaust?
GA: It is hard for me to talk about Jewish people, for I do not know all Jews. However, Jewish politicians always emphasize the fear of anti Semitism. All forms of Jewish politics present different methods of raising barriers between Jews and others, Zionism is there to separate the Jew from the Goy, the Bund (Jewish socialists) is also there to separate the Jew from the working class, the Jewish left is there to set a tribe of chosen people amongst peace lovers.
Q: Could Israelis and Palestinians live in peace?
GA: Not in a million years. The notion of peace and reconciliation are foreign to the Israeli ideology, politics and Identity. When an Israeli says Shalom, they do not mean peace, they actually mean ‘security for the Jews’. This self-centric mode was identified by Christ 2000 years ago. Love your neighbour and turn the other cheek was Jesus’ lesson. Israel on the other hand seeks collective gratification through revenge. According to the Jerusalem post 94% of Israeli Jews supported the 2009 IDF air raids against Palestinian civilians. There is no way to describe the fact above other than as an extreme form of lethal tribal barbarism.
For Israelis to live in peace, a metamorphic shift of consciousness is needed instead of a political shift.
Q: In what way can the “Ship to Gaza” help resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict?
GA: It is not there to resolve the conflict. It is there to first of all: Bring necessary aid to the people of Gaza. Secondly: It is there to raise media and public awareness of the ongoing colossal Israeli war crimes against humanity.
I would add that since the Palestinians are at the forefront of the war against modern evil. The Free Gaza is not just a humanitarian effort, it is actually a call from humanity, it is there to remind us all what humanism stands for.
Q: You are the founder of the “Orient House Ensemble”. What is it mainly about?
GA: Initially I wanted to Palestinise some Jewish tunes. I naively believed that if we play Israeli and Jewish tunes about homecoming implementing Arabic scales, Jews and Israelis may open their heart to the Palestinian cause. In fact some Jews and Israelis have followed our line of thinking. However, many people in the UK and around the world realized what we tried to achieve. Our message wasn’t a break through in Israel but we found many attentive ears around the world. We are playing together for almost 10 years. We do not have any plans to stop.
Q: How can the Greek people stand up against the imminent new reality?
GA: I travel all over the world and I can reassure you that the Greeks are at the very forefront of supporting Palestine. To oppose Israel is an ethical priority. All we have to do is to say what we believe and not to shy away from saying it loudly and proudly.
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