Gilad Atzmon is a jazz musician and composer, writer and Palestinian solidarity activist based in London, who grew up in Israel, and regards himself as a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian. He was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 9, 1963 and completed obligatory military service, where his experiences brought about a major change in his thinking. After studying jazz and composition at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, he embarked on a successful career in the music industry. In 1994, at the age of 30, he went to England and completed a Masters degree in philosophy, then decided to remain in the UK in self-imposed exile. Atzmon is now a British citizen, living with his family in London. He is an outspoken anti-Zionist, "arguing for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on equality and the Palestinian right of return.
The issue I am going to discuss today is probably the most important thing I’ve ever had to say about Israeli brutality and contemporary Jewish identity. I assume that I could have shaped my thought into a wide-ranging book or an analytical academic text but instead, I will do the very opposite, I will make it as short and as simple as possible.
In the weeks that have just passed we had been witness to an Israeli genocidal campaign against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. We had been witnessing one of the strongest armies in the world squashing women, elderly people and children. We saw blizzards of unconventional weapons bursting over schools, hospitals and refugee camps. We had seen and heard about war crimes committed before, but this time, the Israeli transgression was categorically different. It was supported by the total absolute majority of the Israeli Jewish population. The IDF military campaign in Gaza enjoyed the support of 94% of the Israeli population. 94% of the Israelis apparently approved of the air raids against civilians. The Israeli people saw the carnage on their TV screens, they heard the voices, they saw hospitals and refugee camps in flames and yet, they weren’t really moved by it all. They didn’t do much to stop their “democratically elected” ruthless leaders. Instead, some of them grabbed a seat and settled on the hills overlooking the Gaza Strip to watch their army turning Gaza into modern Hebraic coliseum of blood. Even now when the campaign seems to be over and the scale of the carnage in Gaza has been revealed, the Israelis fail to show any signs of remorse. As if this is not enough, all throughout the war, Jews around the world rallied in support of their “Jews-only state”. Such a popular support of outright war crimes is unheard of. Terrorist states do kill, yet they are slightly shy about it all. Stalin’s USSR did it in some remote Gulags, Nazi Germany executed its victims in deep forests and behind barbed wire. In the Jewish state, the Israelis slaughter defenceless women, children and the old in broad daylight, using unconventional weapons targeting schools, hospitals and refugee camps.
This level of group barbarism cries for an explanation. The task ahead can be easily defined as the quest for a realisation of Israeli collective brutality. How is it that a society has managed to lose its grip of any sense of compassion and mercy?
The Terror Within
More than anything else, the Israelis and their supportive Jewish communities are terrorised by the brutality they find in themselves. The more ruthless the Israelis are, the more frightened they become. The logic is simple. The more suffering one inflicts on the other, the more anxious one becomes of the possible potential deadly capacity around. In broad terms, the Israeli projects on the Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and Iranian the aggression which he finds in himself. Considering the fact that Israeli brutality is now proved to be with no limit and with no comparison, their anxiety is as at least as great.
Seemingly, the Israelis are fearful of themselves being the henchmen. They are engaged in a deadly battle with the terror within. But the Israeli is not alone. The Diaspora Jew who rallies in support support of a state that pours white phosphorous on civilians is caught in the exact same devastating trap. Being an enthusiastic backer of an overwhelming crime, he is horrified by the thought that the cruelty he happens to find in himself may manifest itself in others. The Diaspora Jew who supports Israel is devastated by the imaginary possibility that a brutal intent, similar to his own, may one day turn against him. This very concern is what the fear of anti-Semitism is all about. It is basically the projection of the collective Zio-centric tribal ruthlessness onto others.
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There is no Israeli - Palestinian Conflict
What we see here is a clear formation of a vicious cycle in which the Israeli and his supporters are becoming an insular fireball of vengeance that is fuelled by some explosive internal aggression. The meaning of it all is pretty revealing. Since Palestinians cannot militarily confront Israeli aggression and destructive capacity, we are entitled to argue that there is no Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All there is, is Israeli psychosis in which the Israeli is being shattered with anxiety by the reflection of his own ruthlessness. Being regarded as the Nazis of our time, the Israeli is thus doomed to seeing a Nazi in everyone. Similarly, there is no rise in anti-Semitism either. The Diaspora Zionist Jew is simply devastated by the possibility that someone out there is as ethically corrupted and merciless as he himself proved to be. In short, Israeli politics and Zionist lobbying should be seen as no less than a lethal Zio-centric collective paranoia on the verge of total psychosis.
Is there a way to redeem the Zionist of his bloody expedition? Is there a way to change the course of history, to save the Israelis and their supporters from total depravity? Probably the best way to pose this question is to ask whether there is a way to save the Israeli and the Zionist from themselves. As one may gather, I am not exactly interested in saving Israelis or Zionists, however, I do grasp that redeeming Zionists of their transgression may bring a prospect of peace to Palestine, Iraq and probably the rest of us. For those who fail to see it, Israel is just the tip of the iceberg. At the end of the day, America, Britain and the West are now subject to some similar forms of "politics of fear" that are the direct outcome of Neocon deadly interventionist ideology and practices.
The Shrink from Nazareth
Many years ago, so we are told, there was an Israelite who lived amongst his brethren in the land of Canaan. Like the contemporary Israelis, he was surrounded by hate, vengeance and fear. At a certain stage he had decided to intervene and to bring a change about, he realised that there was no other way to fight ruthlessness than to search for grace. “Turn your other cheek” was his simple suggestion. Identifying the Israelite’s psychosis as “a war against terror within”, Jesus grasped that the only way to counter violence is to look in the mirror while searching for Goodness within.
It is rather apparent that Jesus’ lesson paved the way to the formation of western universal ethics. Modern political ideologies drew their lesson from the Christian prospect. Marx’s normative search for equality can be seen as a secular rewriting of Jesus’ notion of brotherhood. And yet, not a single political ideology has managed to integrate the deepest notion of Jesus’ grace. To seek peace is primarily to search for one within. While Israelis and their Neocon twins would aim at achieving peace by means of deterrence, true peace is achieved by the search for harmony within. As a Lacanian scholar may suggest, to love your neighbour is actually to love yourself loving your neighbour. The case of the Israeli is the complete opposite. As they manage to prove time after time, they are really loving themselves hating their neighbours or in short, they simply love themselves hating in general. They hate almost everything: the neighbour, the Arab, Chavez, the German, Islam, the Goy, Pork, the Pope, the Palestinian, the Church, Jesus, Hamas, calamari and Iran. You name it, they hate it. One may have to admit that hating so much must be a very consuming project unless it gives pleasure. And indeed the Israeli “pleasure principle” could be articulated as follows: it continuously drives the Israeli to seek pleasure in hate while inflicting pain upon others.
It must be mentioned at this point that the ˜War Against Terror within” is not exactly a Jewish invention. Everyone, whether it is nations, peoples or individuals, are a potential subject to it. The consequences of American nuclear murderous slaughter in Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the American people into a terrorised collective. This collective anxiety is known as the “cold war”. America is yet to redeem itself of the fear that there maybe someone out there as merciless as America proved to be. To a certain extent, operation Shock and Awe had a very similar effect on Britain and America. It led to the creation of horrified masses easily manipulated by highly motivated elite. This exact type of politics is called “politics of fear”.
And yet, within the western discourse a correction mechanism is in place. Unlike the Jewish state that is getting radicalised by its own self feeding paranoia, in the West, evil is somehow confronted and contained eventually. The murderer is denounced and hope for peace is somehow reinstated till further notice. Not that I hold my breath for President Obama bringing any change, one thing is rather clear, Obama was voted in to bring a change. Obama is a symbol of our genuine attempt to curtail evil. In the Jewish state, not only it doesn’t happen, it can never happen. The difference between Israel and the West is rather obvious. In the West, Christian heritage is providing us with a possibility of a wish grounded on belief in universal goodness. Though, we are under the constant danger of exposure to evil, we tend to believe that goodness will eventually prevail. On the other hand, in Hebraic tribal discourse, Goodness is the property of the chosen. The Israelis do not see goodness or kindness in their neighbors, they see them as savage and as a life-threatening entity. For the Israelis, kindness is their very own property, accidentally they are also innocent and victims. Within the western universal discourse, goodness doesn’t belong to one people or a single nation, it belongs to all and to none at the same time. Within the western universal heritage, Goodness is found in each of us. It doesn’t belong to a political party or an ideology. The elevating notion of grace and a Good God is there in each of us, it is always very close to home.
What Kind Of Father Is That?
“Then when the Lord your God brings you to the land he promised your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you –“ a land with large, fine cities you did not build, houses filled with choice things you did not accumulate, hewn out cisterns you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – and you eat your fill.” (Deuteronomy: 6: 10 -11).
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations…then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)
At this point we may try to attempt and to grasp the root cause behind the severe lack of compassion within the Israeli discourse and its supportive lobbies. I believe that an elaboration on the troubled relationships between the Jews and their different Gods may throw some light on the topic. It is rather obvious that the ever growing list of Jewish “Gods”, “Idols” and “Father-figures” is slightly problematic at least as far as ethics and kindness are concerned. The very relationship between “the son” and the “non-ethical father” must be explored. The philosopher Ariella Atzmon (who happens to be my mother) defines the complexity of the false beginning as the “Fagin Syndrome”. Charles Dickens’ Fagin is a “kidsman”, an adult who recruits children and trains them as pickpockets and thieves, exchanging food and shelter for goods the children steal. Though the kids must be grateful towards their master, they must also despise him for turning them into thieves and pickpockets. The kids realise that Fagin’s goods are all stolen and his kindness is far from being genuinely honest or pure. Sooner or later the kids will turn against their master Fagin in an attempt to liberate themselves of the immoral catch.
From a father-son perspective, the Biblical Jewish God Jehovah is no different from what we might see in the Fagin syndrome. The father of Israel leads his chosen people through the desert to the promised land so they can rob and plunder its indigenous habitants. This is not exactly what one may expect of an ethical father or a “kind God”. Consequently, as much as the sons of Israel love Jehovah, they must also be slightly suspicious of him for turning them into robbers and murderers. They might even be apprehensive regarding his kindness. Thus, it shouldn’t take us by a surprise that throughout Jewish history more than just a few Jews had turned against their heavenly father.
However, bearing in mind the common secularist perception that Gods are actually invented by people, one may wonder, what leads to the invention of such an “unethical God”? What makes people follow the rules of such a God? It would be also interesting to find out what kind of alternative Gods Jews happened to pick or invent once Jehovah has been shunned.
Since emancipation, more than just a few Jews had been disassociating themselves from the traditional tribal setting and rabbinical Judaism. Many intermingled with their surrounding realities, dropped their chosen entitlement and turned into ordinary human beings. Many other Jews insisted upon dropping God yet maintaining their racially orientated tribal affiliation. They decided to base their tribal belonging on ethnic, racial, political, cultural and ideological grounds rather than the Judaic precept. Though they noticeably dropped Jehovah they insisted upon adopting a secularist view that was soon shaped into a monolithic religious-like precept. All throughout the 20th century, the two religious-like political ideologies that had been found to be most appealing by the Jewish masses were Marxism and Zionism.
Marxism can be easily portrayed as a secular universal ethical ideology. However, within the process of transformation into a Jewish tribal precept, Marxism has managed to lose any traces of humanism or universalism. As we know, early Zionist ideology and practice was largely dominated by Jewish leftists who regarded themselves as true followers of Marx. They genuinely believed that celebrating their Jewish national revival at the expense of Palestinians was a legitimate socialist endeavour.
Interestingly enough, their opponents, the anti-Zionist Bund of the East European Jewish Labour, didn’t really believe in the institutional robbery of the Palestinians, instead, they believed that taking from rich European is a great universal mitzvah on the path towards social justice.
The following are a few lines from The Bund’s anthem
We swear our stalwart hate persists,
Of those who rob and kill the poor:
The Tsar, the masters, capitalists.
Our vengeance will be swift and sure.
So swear together to live or die!
Without engaging in questions having to do with ethics or political affiliation, it is rather obvious that the Jewish Marxist anthem is overwhelmingly saturated with “hate” and “vengeance”. As much as Jews were enthusiastic about Marx, Marxism, Bolshevism and equality, the end of the story is known. Jews en masse dropped Marx a long time ago. They somehow left the revolution to some enlightened Goyim such as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. Leaders who truly internalised in the real meaning of universal equality and ethics.
Though in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, Marxism found many followers amongst European Jews, following the Holocaust, Zionism has gradually become the voice of world Jewry. Like Fagin, the Zionist Gods and Idols: Herzl, Ben Gurion, Nordau, Weizmann, promised their followers a new unethical beginning. Robbing the Palestinians was their path towards a long overdue historical justice. Zionism transformed the Old Testament from a spiritual text into a land registry. But again as in the case of Jehovah, the Zio God transformed the Jew into a thief, it promised him someone else’s property. This in itself may explain the Israeli resentment towards Zionism and Zionist ideology. Israelis prefer to see themselves as the natural dwellers of the land rather than pioneers in a non-ethical Jewish Diaspora colonial project. The Israeli Jew furnishes his political stand by means of severe ethical escapism. This may explain the fact that as much as the Israelis love their wars, they really hate to fight them. They are not willing to die for a big abstract remote ideology such as the “Jewish nation” or “Zionism”. They overwhelmingly prefer to drop white phosphorous and cluster bombs from afar.
However, along the relatively short history of modern Jewish nationalism the Zio God made friends with some other Gods and kosher idols. Back in 1917 Lord Balfour promised the Jews that they would erect their national home in Palestine. Needless to say, as in the case of Jehovah, Lord Balfour made the Jews into plunderers and robbers, he came up with an outright non-ethical promise. He promised the Jews someone else’s land. This was basically a false beginning. Evidently, it didn’t take long before the Jews turned against the British Empire. In 1947 the UN made exactly the same foolish mistake, it gave birth to the “Jews-only State” again at the expense of the Palestinians. It legitimised the robbery of Palestine in the name of the nations. Like in the case of shunned Jehovah, it didn’t take long before the Jews turned against the UN. “It doesn’t matter what the Goyim say, all that matters is what the Jews do”, said Israeli PM David Ben Gurion. Recently Israelis had managed to even shun their best subservient friends in the White House. On the eve of the last American presidential election Israeli Generals had been filmed denouncing President Bush for “damaging Israeli interests for being overwhelmingly supportive” (Ret. Brig General Shlomo Brom). The Israeli Generals basically blamed Bush for not stopping Israel from destroying its neighbours. The moral is rather clear, the Zionists and the Israelis will inevitably turn against their Gods, Idols, fathers and others who try to help them. This is the real meaning of the Fagin syndrome within the Israeli political context. They will always have to turn against their fathers.
I believe that the most interesting Jewish belief system of them all is the Holocaust Religion, which the Israeli Philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz rightly defined as the “new Jewish religion”. The most interesting aspect of the Holocaust religion is its God-figure, namely “the Jew”. The Jewish follower of that newly formed dogmatic precept believes in “the Jew”, the one who redeemed oneself. The one who “survived” the “ultimate genocidal” event. The followers believe in “the Jew”, the “innocent” victim sufferer who returned to his “promised land” and now celebrates his successful revival narrative. To a certain extent, within the Holocaust religious discourse, the Jew believes in “the Jew”, expressed as his/her powers and his/her eternal qualities. Within the newly formed religious framework, Mecca is Tel Aviv and the Holy Shrine is the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. The newly formed religion has many shrines (Museums) scattered around the world and it has many priests who spread the message around and punish its opposing elements. From a Jewish perspective, the Holocaust religion is a fully transparent expression of self love. It is where past and future merge into a meaningful present, it is when history is translated into praxis. Whether consciously or unconsciously, every person who identifies politically and ideologically (rather than religiously) as a Jew is, practically speaking, succumbing to the Holocaust religion and a follower of its father-figure “the Jew”. And yet, one may wonder, what about Kindness, is there any goodness in this newly formed ‘father-figure’? Is there any grace in this narrative of innocent victimhood that is celebrated daily at the expense of the Palestinian people?
If there is an end to history, the Holocaust religion embodies the very end of Jewish history. In the light of the Holocaust religion the “Father” and the “Son” unite at last. At least in the case of Israel and Zionism they bond into an amalgam of genocidal ideology and reality. In the light of the Holocaust religion and its epic survival ethos the Jewish State considers itself legitimated in dropping white phosphorus on women and children who they have caged in an inescapable open-air prison. Sadly enough, the crimes committed by the Jewish State are done on behalf of the Jewish people and in the name of their troubled history of persecution. The Holocaust religion brings to life what seems to be the ultimate possible form of insular brutal incarnation.
Historically Jews have shunned many Gods, they dropped Jehovah, they dumped Marx, some have never followed Zionism. But in the light of the Holocaust religion, while bearing in mind the scenes from Gaza, Jenin and Lebanon, the Jew may have to continue in the tradition and drop “the Jew”. He will have to accept that his newly formed father-figure was formed in his own shape. More concerning is the devastating fact that the new father is proved to be a call to kill. Seemingly, the new father is the ultimate evil God of them all.
I wonder how many Jews will be courageous enough to shun their esoteric newly formed father-figure. Will they be courageous enough to join the rest of humanity adopting a universal ethical discourse? Whether the Jew drops “The Jew”, only time will tell. Just to remove any doubt, I did drop my “Jew” a long time ago and I am doing fine.
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