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Silvia Cattori: An Interview with Gilad Atzmon - Interview with Gilad Atzmon

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Silvia Cattori: An Interview with Gilad Atzmon
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Silvia Cattori: I would like further understand your objection to those who consider Israel a colonialist State. Already in the sixties, South Africa severed institutional relations with Great Britain and had withdrawn from the Commonwealth. Thus there was no more a "motherland" outside South Africa. And yet the Black population fought the “settlers” who had installed the apartheid. In that sense, can we not consider that there is a similarity with the present struggle of the Palestinians for their rights against Jewish settlers who settled on their land, and that this struggle is, in a way, a struggle against colonialism? It is true that white South Africans did not implement murderous tactics against the natives. Is it because you’re focusing on this point and emphasising the comparison with the Nazi holocaust that you put forward the uniqueness of the Zionist project, instead of colonialism?

Gilad Atzmon: The big question I try to raise here is: why can’t we practice coherent scholarship? The issues surrounding the appropriation of the colonial paradigm is obviously just one example. We are subject to a lethal tyranny of political correctness.

You are right suggesting that some settler states drift away from their respective motherlands; however, Israel didn’t drift away from any motherland because it has never had a motherland. Zionism was never a colonial project in that sense — The colonial paradigm is a spin.

The big question to ask is; why are “the Left” and Jewish anti-Zionists desperately clinging to the colonial paradigm? And here is my answer:

1. It is safe; it makes the criticism of the Jewish state look legitimate.
2. It conveys the hope of a resolution: If Israel is indeed, just a settler state like any of the other earlier historical examples it will eventually assimilate into the region and become a “normal” state.

Where is the problem in such an approach, you might ask? Well, it is pretty obvious — this entire discourse is actually completely irrelevant to the Zionist disease. It is like treating a patient who has bowel cancer with some strong diarrhea pills — just because the symptoms are slightly similar.

Disastrously enough, this is the level of our left-intellectual discourse at the present time.

Silvia Cattori: But those within the solidarity movement, who denounce “Israeli colonialism”, criticise Israeli racist agenda and support the right to return— aren’t they saying exactly the same thing as you are saying?

Gilad Atzmon: To start with, we are indeed part of the same movement, and I guess that we are driven by the same ethical intuitions.

However, there is a clear difference between us, because by employing the “colonial paradigm” their intention is to communicate the idea that the Jewish national project is entirely reminiscent of a 19Th century national trend. This is to say that, just like most other European settler nations, the Jews happened to celebrate their “national symptoms” — it is just that they did so after everyone else.

The “colonial paradigm” is then, invoked to also support the idea that Israel is an apartheid state, and pretty much like most other earlier colonial settings. My approach is totally different, because I would argue that Israel and Zionism is a unique project in history, and the relationship between Israel and the operation of the Jewish Lobbies in the West is also totally unique in history. I would even take it further, and say that whilst the Palestinians are indeed at the fore front of a battle for humanity, the fact is that we are all subject to Zionist global politics. According to my model, the credit crunch is in fact a Zionist “punch”. The war in Iraq is a Zionist war. I would argue forcefully that Zionism has a long time ago moved from the “promised land” narrative into the “promised planet” nightmare. I also argue that it would be impossible to bring peace to the world unless we confront the true meaning of contemporary Jewish ideology.

Interestingly enough, many of those who enthusiastically support the “colonial paradigm”, were also very quick to denounce the work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on the Israeli Lobby. If Mearsheimer and Walt are correct, and I think that they are, then it is Jewish power which we have to confront.

And this is exactly what the “Jewish Left” and Jewish intelligentsia are there to prevent us from doing.

Silvia Cattori: Your views clearly oppose intellectuals such as Bernard-Henry Lévy who support Western expansionism and Israeli policies. For you Israel is the danger. Don’t you think that some people see there an element of provocation?

Gilad Atzmon: Provocation is not a bad thing. I wrote an article recently about Bernard-Henry Lévy. The man is lame beyond belief. We have more than a few “Bernard-Henri Levys” here in Britain too, Jews who portray a false image of scholarship. And as it happens, we intellectually smash them, one by one. We expose them for what they are. By the way, Norman Finkelstein did a great job with Dershowitz. We should not be scared about it all.

Also, I think that by the time people don’t have enough money to put petrol in the car let alone buy bread, they will start to look at who is to blame, and when that happens, the Israeli State and its relentless lobbies will emerge at the top of the list. I think that some people are starting to see it now, already. The change will be drastic. I guess that in retrospect, some people can look at my writing now, and admit that I was warning the Jewish lobbies for years.

Silvia Cattori: What differentiates Gilad Atzmon from those who say, "I am a Jewish anti-Zionist"; "We are Jews for peace", etc, yet always highlighting their tribal identity?

Gilad Atzmon: It is very simple: for me, the fight for peace is a fight for a universal cause. For me, to support the Palestinians is an ethical necessity. And if it is a universal cause and an ethical necessity, I do not see any reason to fight it “as a Jew”, “as a man”, or “as a jazz artist”. When I come across those who call themselves “Jews for peace” and “Jews for justice”, I stand up and say “what do you really mean by calling yourself a ‘Jew’? Are you religious?” When a Torah Jew says he identifies as a Jew I know what he refers to. When Torah Jews say “we are religious Jews and we support Palestine in the name of our faith”, I say “go ahead, you have my support”.

But when secular Jews tell me that they work for Palestine in the name of their Jewish values, I must ask them “What are your ‘Jewish secular values’”? I have studied and carefully considered the subject, and, as embarrassing as it may sound, there is no such thing as a “Jewish secular value system”.

Those who refer to such ideas are either lying, misleading others, or even misleading themselves.

Silvia Cattori: If I understood well, those who identify themselves as “anti-Zionist Jews” or “Jews for peace” believe that this makes their voice louder than others’ voice.

Gilad Atzmon: For sure, and that is a valid point. But again, I still have some reservations, because if I say “I am a Jew for peace,” and I believe that this is enough to make my voice more important than yours, what it really means is that I am still consciously celebrating my chosen-ness. And isn’t that exactly the problem we have with Zionism?

So, fundamentally, Jewish anti-Zionism is still just another manifestation of Jewish tribal supremacy. It seems peculiar that peace activists, who claim to be universalist leftists, end up operating in racially oriented cells.

Silvia Cattori: Is this consciously a way to humiliate non Jewish people?

Gilad Atzmon: That is possible; but I do not think that Jews who succumb to Jewish tribal politics are really conscious of the effect it has on others.

Silvia Cattori: Israelis who describe themselves as ex-Israelis, ex-Jews, are very rare. Are you the only one?

Gilad Atzmon: I may as well be the only one. However, I do not really talk as an ex-Jew — I talk as Gilad Atzmon. I avoid collective banners. When you read me, you read what I think. You see it for what it is, and you either agree, or you don’t agree. I do not need flags or phantasmic identities to hide behind.

Silvia Cattori: Few famous artists have had the courage to stand up openly and firmly for victims of Israeli oppression. We know that, in general, well known people are afraid to be placed on the "anti-Semitic" list. Rogers Waters has dared to break the taboo. David Gilmour, Robert Wyatt, followed. What do you say to those who are still scared?

Gilad Atzmon: I believe that the only way to liberate ourselves is to begin to talk. The only way to fight is to express ourselves openly. I have taken that risk and if I can do it, then I think that everyone can do it. I have paid a price in that my career has suffered a little, and I make less money. But I can look at myself with pride.

Silvia Cattori: To those who would argue that your political positions are, let’s say, “borderline”, what do you answer?

Gilad Atzmon: I do not actually know what “borderline” means. For years I encountered endless attempts to silence me, but they all proved to be counter effective because if anything, the repressive measures taken against me brought many more people to read my materials, and encouraged more people to think things through for themselves. I was accused by Zionists and Jewish anti-Zionists of being racist and anti Semitic, but embarrassingly enough for them, not a single anti Semitic or racist argument has ever been found in my many papers. On the contrary, there is an anti racist attitude that stands at the very core of my criticism of Jewish identity politics and Jewish ideology. I have been writing now for ten years, and for all those years, I have had a note on my web site saying “If you find something racist or anti-Semitic in my writings, let me know. I will apologise and remove it immediately”. And not a single person has ever come up with anything.

As I mentioned before, I differentiate between Jews (the people), Judaism (the religion) and Jewishness (the ideology). I am against Jewish ideology — not against Jewish people or Judaism. If this makes me into a “borderline case”, then I will have to live with it.

Silvia Cattori: Your voice helps people to understand what Israel is all about. In general, covering this subject is not easy. However, should not journalists take more responsibilities in exposing the power games that devastate the Middle East? What have been the responsibilities in this regard of Western media?

Gilad Atzmon: I will be very honest with you; Western media has failed all the way. Western media has betrayed us. It has failed to understand that Palestine is not that far from our “Western haven”. The media have failed to see that we are all Palestinians — Palestinians are at the forefront of the battle against evil, but the rest of us are fighting in exactly the same battle, and we are all confronting the same enemy. What happened in America with the credit crunch and evolved into economic turmoil is the direct outcome of global Zionist politics.

America invests its tax payers’ money maintaining the Jewish State and it launched its people into a war to “save Israel”. Consequently, we are all facing a financial disaster, and as we speak, the Arab masses are rising: they demand liberation, and they want an immediate end to the Zio-political grip. What you see now in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen is there to prepare us all, and we may well see the same thing unfolding soon in Berlin, Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona, and New York City, because we all face the same enemy.

Silvia Cattori: I wonder whether your readers understand what you refer to when talking about Zionism and global Zionism.

Gilad Atzmon: That is indeed a very crucial point. You may find it hard to believe but even Israelis do not understand what Zionism is all about. Zionism is the belief that Jews (like all other people) should be entitled to celebrate their right for a national homeland, and this homeland is Zion (Palestine). Though this idea sounds almost innocent, it is entangled with very problematical ethical issues, because Zionism has morphed into political reality in the shape of a Jewish State, built entirely at the expense of the ethnically cleansed and abused Palestinian people. Moreover, along the years, the Jewish State has been utilising some very powerful lobbies and think tanks in our Western capitals; and these bodies promote global Zionist interests such as endless confrontation with Islam and the Muslim world.

While early Zionism presented itself as a promise to redeem all the Diaspora Jews by means of settlement in the so-called “promised land”, in the last three decades Zionism has changed its spots in some regards — The Jewish State actually prefers some of the Diaspora Jews to stay exactly where they are so they can mount pressure on their respective governments for the sake of what they interpret as their Jewish interests.

The role of Jewish lobbies such as of AIPAC, J-street (USA) and Conservative Friends of Israel (UK) is far more advantageous to Israel than any wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine could be. This transformation in Zionist thought signals a shift from the local to the global, and therefore, Zionism should no longer be solely perceived as a demand for a Jewish home in the “promised land” — Rather it must be grasped as a global operation, seeking a safe haven for the Jews within the context of “promised planet.”

The Israelis and their allies know very well why they promote Islamophobia. But what is Islamophobia? What, and who, does it serve? It serves Zio-centric Capitalist interests. Islamophobia is the true face of Hasbara (Israeli propaganda). It is there to make sure that Israel’s “survival war” is actually a Western war.

This is obviously misleading, and for the sake of Western interests, shunning Israel immediately would be the right thing to do.

Silvia Cattori: When do you see the emergence of Islamophobia and what was the cause?

Gilad Atzmon: That is a good question — historically, it probably first arose in the seventies, soon after the energy crisis. I think that by 1973, we could clearly detect the first signs of modern political and institutional anti-Muslim antipathy as the Western public began to realise the strategic role of the Middle East. The shift towards a “popular anti Muslim culture” was exacerbated further by the success of Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”, and I would argue that by 9.11. 2001, the Western public was primed for an outbreak of “Muslim bashing”. I will never forget Ehud Barak being interviewed on that day, spreading bile and Islamophobic accusations on every Western media outlet. For Israeli Hasbara agitators, 9/11 was proof of the “unified ethos” shared between Israel and the (Western) Goyim.

I would like to elaborate more on your question regarding Islamophobia. I realised some time ago that the general acceptability of certain minorities can always be measured by the popularity -or unpopularity- of its “self-haters”. The growing popularity of Muslim “self-haters” in the 1970-90’s era could have suggested that a wave of anti Islamic feelings was on its way to our shore. Similarly, the antagonism towards Jewish “self-haters” in the last decade confirms the success and influence of Jewish lobbies within media and politics. I guess that the rise of my popularity certainly indicates that the tide has indeed turned. We can firmly anticipate a tidal wave of resentment towards Israel.

Silvia Cattori: What is fascinating about you is your freedom of speech. You can’t stand the truth being “half told”. Isn’t it the case?

Gilad Atzmon: I think that is a good way to put it. I have developed a severe allergy to spins and deceitful narratives. As I said before I do not claim to know the truth; however, I am pretty effective in detecting lies, ploys and diversions. Being a philosopher I am also effective in raising questions and deconstructing inconsistencies. I am puzzled by the activists around us who believe that we can beat Zionism by sketching out some phantasmic narratives of resistance. I honestly believe that truth-seeking and total openness will prevail. If you want to grasp the growing popularity of my writing, I guess that this is what it is — instead of playing political games I really try to get to the bottom of it all. I try to understand what it is that drives and fuels Zionism, Israel, Jewish lobbying, neoconservative expansionist wars and even Jewish anti Zionism.

And I guess that by now, you realise that I identify Jewish Ideology — rather than Jews or Judaism — as the crux of these precepts and political views.

Silvia Cattori: Thank you.

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