What It Means to be Israeli: Reflections on Identity From an Israeli Peace Activist

By Miko Peled
Source

SÃO PAULO — (Opinion) To clarify the conditions of Israeli society and Israeli attitudes towards peace and justice, it is important to identify what it means to be “Israeli.” That was the premise of a recent speech I gave at a conference titled “Oslo at 25 – An Elusive Peace,” recently held at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

My role was to speak about “initiatives from within Israeli society in favor of peace and justice for the region.” The conference included a wide array of speakers from around the world, all experts on the different aspects of the Middle East. I was asked to speak on one of the panels along with Dr. Azzam Tamimi, Afif Safia, and Professor Alvaro Vasconcelos. The panel was chaired by Professor Arlene Clemesha of the University of São Paulo.

What is Israeli Identity?

In my book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, I try to describe what an Israeli is and Palestine is, and I do this through the journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Palestine being a small country, no journey within it can be very long. However, the journey of an Israeli into Palestine is that of one who ventures out of the safe sphere of the privileged occupier, where the roads are well paved and the water flows freely, to that of the occupied, the oppressed, the “other,” where reality is vastly different.

9781682570012_edited.jpg

Zionists will argue that it was in fact anti-Semitism that brought about the need for the creation of a new identity for Jewish people, the Israeli identity, which is aggressive and bold. But was this really an improvement in the conditions of Jewish people? Members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community feel very differently.

While some argue that the Holocaust and the anti-Semitism prevalent in Europe throughout the centuries are the justification for the existence of the state of Israel, the fact is that most Jewish people who escaped anti-Semitism sought refuge elsewhere. Only a small fraction of Israelis today have family members who survived the Holocaust.

In a conversation I had with Rabbi Dovid Feldman from New York, I mentioned to him that as Israelis we look down at the rather pale, frail appearance of the Ultra-Orthodox community. “You have no idea how hard we work to maintain this look,” he replied. He went on to say that the Zionist version of a “strong” Jew is antithetical to Judaism.

More than one member of this community has told me, “Israel is no place for a Jew.” In a conversation with Rabbi Elhanan Beck, who moved from Jerusalem to London, Beck told me:

I’ve lived in the U.K. for 36 years and, even with my obvious Jewish look (long beard and traditional clothes), I have never experienced anti-Semitism. Furthermore, neither I or my children have ever seen a soldier; I do not know what a British soldier looks like. In Jerusalem, children see soldiers and guns all around them. So how is Israel a safer or better place for Jews?”

No ethnic or religious identity

There is an unproven claim — more of a myth — that all Jewish people today are descendants of the children of Israel or the ancient Hebrews who lived in Palestine several thousand years ago. Even though this story is perpetuated, the fact is that not a single Jewish person alive today can trace their ancestry to the ancient Hebrews, nor can they show where their ancestral home or land was located, nor do they possess as much as a key to that home. So Israelis are not natives of the land.

In addition to that, Jewish people are ethnically different from one another. The ethnic differences between Yemeni Jews and Polish Jews are evident in every aspect of their existence. Those non-Europeans who ended up in Israel faced very different realities owing to the racist tendencies that were prevalent among the ruling Israelis of European descent. Even today, when racism is less obvious, the ethnic and cultural differences are still obvious.

Whether or not Israelis, who are by and large a secular society, are really Jewish is another question. According to the strict interpretation of Jewish law — which completely and without compromise rejects secularism and Zionism — the so-called Jewish identity of the Israeli people is put in question: Jewish law prohibits Jews from sovereignty in the Holy Land, and sovereignty in the Holy Land is what Israelis are all about. Furthermore, if one does not follow Jewish law, the meaning of one’s Jewish identity is in question.

It, therefore, can come as no surprise that growing up as an Israeli one learns to hate Arabs and to hate orthodox non-Zionist Jews. A great number of the larger Orthodox communities, as in the state of  New York, for example, are survivors of the Holocaust and are strictly anti-Zionist. Clearly, Israelis cannot identify with them.

So if Israelis are not natives of the land on which they live, and their Jewish identity is in question, who are they?

A New Creation

“Israeli-ness” is a new creation, a new political and social entity that in many ways is similar to the white society in South Africa and the Americas. Israeli society was built on a racist, settler-colonial ideology, and it too is guilty of genocide and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population.

Zionism, the ideological foundation of Israel and of “Israeli-ness,” is incompatible with justice and equality with the indigenous people of Palestine — and therefore is incompatible with what we might see as Peace. Zionist ideological claims to the “Land of Israel” are absolute and, as has been made clear over seven decades of Zionist control of Palestine, will not compromise.

What few attempts Israel has made to negotiate “peace” with the Palestinians should be viewed as tactics to serve the larger strategy of controlling the land, the people and the resources. The Oslo Agreement is no different from the massacres of Deir Yassin or Kfar Kassem that were intended to create a mass exodus of Palestinians and allow for more land to be taken by the Zionist state. Oslo was no different from the Israeli massacres in the refugee camps in Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, or the recurring attacks on Gaza, or any other attacks on Palestinians that are in fact too many to count.

In a recent interview, I was asked whether it is fair to say that one should not blame the Israeli people but rather the government. Had the state of Israel not been a democracy for Jews, that claim would have some truth to it. But the Israeli governments represent Israeli society. Israelis live in a democracy, they vote in high numbers and they’ve elected and re-elected leaders who have executed brutal attacks against the Palestinian people over the past seven decades.

Israeli attitudes towards peace and justice can be clearly viewed by observing the policies that consecutive Israeli governments have executed towards Palestinians. Ongoing violence and injustice with no end in sight, until such a day that Zionism and its racist ideology are brought down and replaced by an inclusive democracy that provides complete equal rights to all who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

 

Advertisements

Gilad Atzmon on Sunday Wire Discussing the last Synagogue Shooting

October 29, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

I was interviewed yesterday by Patrick Henningsen/Sunday Wire about the recent synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I offered my view of this tragic event and also allowed myself to offer an alternative view of the current dystopia. Unlike most liberals and so called ‘progressives,’ I see the constant rise in mass shooting events around the globe as a symptom of a radical shift in our human landscape. We are rapidly drifting away from empathy and tolerance. In the discussion I suggested that we better look at the root of that shift and identify the disease instead of focusing on the symptoms.

The interview starts at around 22:30 and is about one hour long,

Related Articles

Smear and Shekels

October 04, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

smear and shaekels .jpg

By Gilad Atzmon

Haaretz reveals today that Canary Mission a Hasbara defamation outlet that was established to  “spread fear among undergraduate activists, posting more than a thousand political dossiers on student supporters of Palestinian rights,” is funded by one of the largest Jewish charities in the U.S.

According to Haaretz; the Forward, an American Jewish outlet,  “has definitively identified a major donor to Canary Mission. It is a foundation controlled by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, a major Jewish charity with an annual budget of over $100 million.” We could have guessed the funding was from such an organisation. We somehow knew that it wasn’t the Iranian government or Hamas who sent shekels to the Zionist smear factory.  Haaretz continues, “for three years, a website called Canary Mission has spread fear among undergraduate activists, posting more than a thousand political dossiers on student supporters of Palestinian rights. The dossiers are meant to harm students’ job prospects, and have been used in interrogations by Israeli security officials.”

Canary Mission is indeed a nasty operation and far from unique. We have seen similar efforts within the Jewish institutional universe for some time. It might be reasonable to opine that smear has become a new Jewish industry. Consistent with the rules of economics, many new Jewish bodies have entered the profitable business, and these outlets have competed mercilessly with each other for donations and funds.

This is precisely a variation on the battle we have seen in Britain in the last few years. Almost every British Jewish institution joined the ‘Corbyn defamation’ contest, competing over who could toss the most dirt on the Labour party and its leader. The outcome was magnificent. Last week at Labour’s annual conference, the party unanimously expressed its firm opposition to Israel and took the Palestinian’s side.

Badmouthing is not really a ‘Zionist symptom.’ Unfortunately, it is a Jewish political obsession. In between its fund raisers, it seems that Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) invests a lot of energy in smearing some of the more dedicated truth tellers. Mondoweiss, another Jewish outlet, practices this game as well.

I, myself, have been subjected to hundreds of such smear campaigns by so called ‘anti’ Zionist Jews who were desperate to stop the circulation of my work on Jewish ID politics. But these frantic efforts only served to support my thesis that the issues to do with Israel and Palestine extend far beyond the Zionist/anti debate. We had better dig into the meaning of Jewishness and its contemporary political implications.

Once again the question is, why do self-identified Jewish activists use these ugly tactics? Why do they insist upon smearing and terrorising instead of engaging in a proper scholarly and/or political debate?

Choseness is one possible answer. People who are convinced of their own exceptional nature often lack an understanding of the ‘other.’ This deficiency may well interfere with the ability to evolve a code of universal ethics.

The other answer may have something to do with the battle for funds. As we learned from Haaretz, the Canary Mission is funded by one of the richest Jewish American funds. Badmouthing has value. ‘You defame, we send money.’  Unfortunately this holds for Zionists and ‘anti’ alike.

Crucially, in this battle, Jews often oppose each other.  Haaretz writes that the Canary Mission “has been controversial since it appeared in mid-2015, drawing comparisons to a McCarthyite blacklist.” And it seems that some Zionist Jews eventually gathered that the Canary smear factory gives Jews a bad name.

Tilly Shames, who runs the campus Hillel at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, told the Forward that  “the tactics of the organisation are troubling, both from a moral standpoint, but have also proven to be ineffective and counterproductive,”

Shames said that Canary Mission’s publication of dossiers on students on her campus had led to greater support for the targeted students and their beliefs, and had spread mistrust of pro-Israel students, who were suspected of spying for Canary Mission.

This dynamic can be explained. My study of Jewish controlled opposition postulates that self-identified Jewish activists always attempt to dominate both poles of any debate that is relevant to Jewish interests. Once it was accepted that Palestine was becoming a ‘Jewish problem,’ a number of Jewish bodies became increasingly involved in steering the Palestinian solidarity movement. We then saw that they diluted the call for the Palestinian Right of Return and replaced it with watery notions that, de facto, legitimise Israel.

When it was evident that the Neocon school was, in practice, a Ziocon war machine, we saw bodies on the Jewish Left steer the anti-war call. When some British Jews realised that the Jewish campaign against Corbyn might backfire, they were astonishingly quick to form Jews for Jeremy that rapidly evolved into Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL). The battle over the next British PM became an internal Jewish debate. The rule is simple: every public dispute that is somehow relevant to Jewish interests will quickly become an exclusive internal Jewish debate.

Hillel activists see that Canary Mission is starting to backfire. Together with Forward and Haaretz, they have quickly positioned themselves at the forefront of the opposition.

From Bibi to Herzl

September 20, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

Zionism vowed to make the Jews people like all other people. Israel promised to be the fulfilment of the Zionist aspiration. But the reality on the ground proved otherwise. It didn’t take long before Israel became ‘The Jewish State’ – a state like no other. In this talk, I present a new outlook of the Zionist project and its collapse. I can now throw new light on the most peculiar anomalies in Zionist history, such as labour Zionist brutality towards indigenous Palestinians in ’48, the rise in the prominence of the holocaust in Israel after ’67 and the current manufactured antisemitism hysteria.

I do apologise for the quality of the sound, we work hard to improve it.

Transcending ‘Chosenness’: Journey of an ‘ex-Jew’

September 11, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

40474_GILAAD_1536594598559.jpg

GA: TRT published yesterday this extensive interview. Those who struggle with my ideas or fail to understand where I come from, may want to read this article. It clarifies where I stand on most relevant issues.

Transcending ‘Chosenness’: Journey of an ‘ex-Jew’

An interview By Nafees Mahmud

How a former Israeli citizen Gilad Atzmon left Israel and how becoming a musician helped him understand Palestinian suffering.

 

LONDON — If you are despised by both conservative Zionists and liberal anti-Zionists, it can only mean one thing: you are Gilad Atzmon.

Born in Israel in 1963 into a Zionist household, he saw his birthplace as the Jewish promised land and says he was expected to serve and cement the Israeli ideology of Jewish supremacy.

However, at age 17, he was mesmerised by the sounds of African American jazz musician Charlie Parker. As a passionate Israeli, this challenged what he’d believed up until that point: only Jews produce greatness.

Serving as a paramedic and musician in the Israeli military during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, he witnessed the immense suffering of Arabs.

At this point, he says, he began to view life “from an ethical, rather than a Zionist point of view.”

Years later he moved to Britain to study philosophy and launched his career as a jazz musician. Today, he attempts to enlighten and unite people through his art.

Yet his work as a writer examining Jewish identity has seen him described as a peddler of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He argues that this is an attempt to censor honest analysis of, and reflection upon, Jewishness’ immense impact on mass culture, politics and global economics through the likes of The Frankfurt School and Milton Friedman.

As Israel increasingly meets international criticism and boycott, Atzmon believes his former homeland can only be seriously challenged for its injustices, if it is understood in the wider context of Jewish identity politics – a context he is trying to remove himself from. TRT World spoke to him to find out why.

 

TRT WORLD: As a musician, how do you feel about Lana Del Ray and many others cancelling their performances at the Meteor Festival in Israel following pleas from the BDS campaign?

Gilad Atzmon: It’s a beautiful thing.

I don’t support BDS mounting pressure on artists, but I think it is well appreciated when artists refuse to perform in states where there are so many crimes against humanity. I myself decided to boycott Israel a long time before the BDS movement was born. Since 1996, I haven’t visited my home country.

There have been major stories in the news this year regarding Israel. One of the most significant was the Jewish nation-state bill. What do you make of that?

GA: It confirms what we’ve known for more than a while: Israel is the Jewish state and everything that is happening in Israel should be understood within the context of its Jewishness. It confirms what I’ve been saying for many years. We must dig into the notions of Jews, Jewishness and Judaism to understand the difference between these three and the relationship between them.

Break that down for us.

GA: I make a clear differentiation between Jews, the people, which I regard as an innocent category; Jewishness, the ideology; and Judaism, the religion.

I argue that both Jews and Judaism are innocent categories. The fact you are born a Jew doesn’t make you a war criminal or a supremacist. Also, Judaism is a relatively innocent notion. We know the only genuine Jewish collective who really operate actively for Palestine are Torah Jews, Orthodox Jews.

When it comes to Jewishness, this is complicated.  I had a debate about this with a supremacist Jew yesterday and his argument was there is no such thing as Jewishness – it changes along the years. I couldn’t agree more, elasticity is inherent to Jewishness.  One thing that remains constant is the exceptionalism. Jewishness is different explorations of the notion of “chosenness.

” Some Jews feel they are chosen because they are elected by God, some Jews feel they are chosen because they are Bolsheviks, and a week later they can feel chosen because they are supporting a free market – like Milton Friedman. They can feel chosen because they are religious, and they can feel chosen because they are secular. It is this exceptionalism that is the core of “chosenness,” that is racially driven, that I believe is the common ground for all Jewish cultures.

This is why I have never in my life referred to Jews biologically, nor as a race, nor ethnicity. But I believe supremacy is something that is essential to Jewishness. This is why instead of talking about “Jews” I talk about the people who identify “politically” as Jews.

Gilad Atzmon (Tali Atzmon/)

You’ve made a 180 degree turn from what Israel represents, but tell us about your childhood during which you say you were heavily influenced by your Zionist grandfather.

GA: I don’t think you can talk in my case about 180, 45 or even 360 degree turns. I see my role as a philosopher, and as a philosopher, my job is to refine questions rather than subscribe to or recycle slogans. I’m working now on Zionism, and I find – this is interesting – you’ll be the first one I explore this idea with. I grew up in a society that saw itself as a revolutionary society. I was subject to an ultranationalist upbringing driven by complete contempt towards the diaspora Jew, something I didn’t understand because I was growing up in Israel and I didn’t know any diaspora Jews. But the diaspora Jews were seen by us as a bunch of capitalists, unsocial abusers of the universe, and we were born to become ordinary people – workers. My father was a hard-working man, my mother was a hard-working woman and I was raised to be a hard-working Israeli.

Unlike the diaspora Jews who went like lambs to the slaughter in Auschwitz, we were raised to fight and, accordingly, I was happy and looking forward to dying in a war. This was my upbringing. Let me tell you: when the war came, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to die for Israel. I started to understand that something wasn’t right.

Now, I never understood what the problem was with the diaspora Jews. All I knew was that when you immigrate to Israel, we called it aliyah. Aliyah means ascending. If you leave Israel and become a diaspora Jew, it is called yerida descending. So here, you already see within Zionism an internal concept of “chosenness;” so the Israelis are the “uber-chosen.”  What I do understand, nowadays, looking at the shift that happened in Israel after 1967, Israel gradually stopped seeing itself as the Israeli state and more and more as the Jewish state. The dichotomy between “us” the special emancipated Israelites and the diaspora Jews started to disappear.

As we became a Jewish state, we started to adopt more and more Jewish symptoms. We became victims, we started to cry about the Holocaust. When I was young, we looked at the Holocaust with contempt. We looked at the Jews who went like lambs to the slaughter with contempt. If you don’t believe me, read Tom Sergev: The Seventh Million. It’s about the million who survived the Holocaust, how badly they were treated in Israel. There are films about it. My parents tell me, and you can hear it from a lot of people, that they were not allowed to play with or bring home young survivors of the Holocaust. They were looked upon by the Israelis at the time as sub-humans. There is a film about it: Aviya’s Summer.

What I understood recently is that I was initially very enthusiastic about this Israeli revolution. I agreed with it.

I just wanted to be an ordinary human being. But as Israel was transforming into a Jewish state, I had to leave the country.

What were you taught at school about the creation of Israel?

GA: We were misled. We were told the Palestinians left willingly. I didn’t hear the word nakba until the late nineties. However, when I was in Lebanon in 1982, I started to see all the refugee camps. I started to dig into it and I realised the scale of the ethnic cleansing.

Can you share some of the things you saw?

GA: I don’t like to talk about it. But when I saw the Israeli army in Lebanon, I understood that we were not as righteous as we claim to be and this was the beginning of my transition in the early 1980s. My journey really started there.

What was the tipping point that made you leave?

GA: Very simple – the Oslo Agreement of 1993. Until that point, there was a common belief that we, the Israelis, wanted peace. When I look at the peace deal that was imposed on the Palestinians, I realised by then the Palestinians were the ones expelled from the country that I believed to be mine. I understood then that we don’t mean peace, that what Israel means by peace is security for the Jews.

This is why I am not hopeful. You will not hear me talking about resolution. Israel will be defeated into a solution by the facts on the ground.

How did music change you? It’s part of your journey away from Israel, isn’t it?

GA: It was the first time I understood that I can join a discourse that is universal – aiming at beauty – rather than being a part of an ultranationalist tribal ethos. If jazz was the music of the oppressed, I gladly joined the oppressed and learned their language and I made it into quite a successful career.

How does being a jazz musician aid your philosophical work?

GA: In my thirties, I tried to integrate Arabic music into my jazz. By then I could pretty much play any kind of music, but I realised how difficult it is for me to play Arabic music which is surprising because I grew up with Umm Kulthum, the Egyptian singer, all around me.

I found it really difficult. But then I realised that in Arab music it’s all about the primacy of the ear, as opposed to Western musical education where they put you in front of notes and you have to learn to translate the primacy of the eye. The West is obsessed with the primacy of the eye but humanity is all about the primacy of the ear.  Primacy of the ear is where ethics starts. We have to listen to each other. I made a huge effort to listen to the Palestinians and understand their plight. If you were a Jewish journalist you would say: “What about listening to the Jews?” I say listening to the Jews is not necessary because you get it all over – from the media to the Holocaust museums. But Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Libya is the holocaust that is most relevant for us now.

Tell us about some of the thinkers, philosophers and activists who have influenced you?

GA: I am disgusted by most forms of activism and I think activists have very little to contribute to our understanding. This is why they achieve nothing.  They are part of the controlled opposition. I ended up learning German philosophy. I started with Immanuel Kant and what I took from him is the ability to refine questions. Then Hegel, Nietzsche and most important, Heidegger who is the ultimate master in refining questions, and this is what I do. By refining questions, I can see the answers are flexible. They are changing as the questions are shifting.

Heidegger was about “being,” right?

GA: Obviously, but being is the goal. How do you reach the understanding of “being,” if ever? Through questioning. What is “being?” What is that thing that is unique, most fundamental to us human beings? What he called dasein. This “Being,” with a capital B, that we can never touch.

So, what were you told “Being” was when you were growing up in Israel?

GA: I guess that being an Israeli meant, at the early stage of my upbringing, being forceful, being determined, fighting for what you believe in and the willingness to sacrifice for that goal. Believe it or not, in that sense, I am 100 percent Israeli and I had to leave Israel because Israel was not Israel anymore. It stopped being Israeli. It became Jewish, and Jewishness is celebrating victimhood which is something that I would never do. I prefer to die than be a victim.

How do you describe yourself now?

GA: I aim at a universal understanding of humanism. To be a universal humanist is a challenge for everyone, it’s a task rather than a state of being. It is being inspired by the ability to see yourself as an ordinary creature. To remove yourself from any sense of privilege.

Universal humanism is not the human rights declaration, not a set of commandments. It’s an organic thing that is changing all the time and is finding itself to be more and more inclusive, and this is why you can only aspire to become one and work on it twenty-four seven rather than declare yourself to be one.

Is universal humanism not part of the cultural Marxist doctrine, which you find impedes human flourishing?

GA: On paper, yes. But in reality, definitely not. The new left, cultural Marxists – the Frankfurt School – are all people in the open who define who is in and who is out.  They invented no platforming. How can people who adhere to no platforming be universalists?

Aren’t you still seeing the world from a Jewish perspective despite trying to move beyond this?

GA: I hope not, you know. Some people would argue they see some Jewish traits in my thinking, and I accept that. The one thing that I would admit to you is that the one thing I learnt from Otto Weininger – he’s one of the people who inspired me – is that in art, self-realisation is the realisation of the world. So while a scientist looks at the world and tells us something about the world, artists close their eyes and write a poem, and through this poem we understand the world, or through a symphony – and this is the most important thing. So when I look at myself, I occasionally deconstruct the Jew that is left in me. It’s not a privilege, it’s an instrument towards developing a better understanding and a better world.

This interview has been edited for clarity

Julia Salazar and Jewish Privilege

September 04, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

A few years ago in Portland, a pro Palestinian activist told me that he was a bit uneasy. A recent study of Portland’s demography had found that the number of Jews in the city had doubled overnight. This concerned my activist friend for the obvious reasons. Jewish migration is often attached to political and cultural transitions. He asked me, as an expert on Jewish affairs, what is it that brings so many Jews to his northern American city.  I thought about it for maybe 30 seconds and, even without examining the evidence, I offered a possible answer. “It is certainly easy to imagine that many Jews migrated to your city, but it is more likely that what happened is that many more people, Jews and gentiles, have chosen to identify themselves as Jews.”

Jewish identification in the 21st century is an obvious privilege, some might claim, the ultimate political privilege. As we know, Judeo-centric exceptionalist politics are protected from criticism by different legal and cultural instruments such as the bogus IHRA definition of antisemitism and the tyranny of correctness. If you are a Jew, you are perceived as a well-connected character, probably slightly more ‘sophisticated’ than the average American. Whether we like to admit it or not, a young law school graduate, may benefit from appearing to be Jewish as he interviews for his first job at a NY law firm.

Last year in San Diego, an astute Palestinian- American friend, loudly joked during the Q&A following my talk: “I really don’t understand my people. All we have to do is to convert en mass into Judaism and then make Aliya and take our land back.”

It is hardly a secret. In the world in which we live, the ultimate political privilege is reserved for Jewish ID politics. The Jewish Identitarian ethos goes far beyond Jewish political orientation. It is the piece that unites the Jewish right and left. The Zionists claim the right to live ‘in peace’ on someone else’s land. The so-called ‘anti’ Zionists insist that their Jewishness places them in the very special position to “kosher” the entire pro Palestinian movement.

N.Y. State Senate hopeful Julia Salazar is just 27 years old, but she has clearly grasped the universe around her. She wants to be elected and she understands that being a Jew is the quickest path to her goal. The Brooklyn candidate stated that her Jewishness is based largely on “family lore,” but to her great surprise, the Jews weren’t happy to take her in. Haaretz quickly pointed out that Salazar doesn’t belong to the chosen people.  A Jewish ex-friend told the Israeli paper Salazar had “admitted she couldn’t go on Birthright trip because she wasn’t Jewish.”

Apparently the ‘ex friend’ told the Israeli paper that “As someone who values and cherished my Jewish identity, I’m incensed at the idea of another person fabricating a similar identity for political gain, for the purposes of recognition and to get ahead in life.”  The message here is unambiguous although hardly news. Jewish identity is an exclusive tribal setting that is racially defined. Unless Salazar can show her mother’s Jewish racial purity, she is basically out of the Jewish club and can’t be a beneficiary of the Jewish privilege.

The Zionist outrage around Salazar is to be expected. For whatever political reasons, Salazar who runs in Brooklyn, decided to adopt the Jewish pro BDS position. In the eyes of Israel firsters she committed two crimes: she ‘pretends’ to be a Jew and then, if this were not enough, she actually pretends to be a ‘self hating’ one.

The good news for humanity, however, is that Salazar, like many others, can read the political transition in the west. She probably sees how popular Corbyn is in Britain despite the relentless and duplicitous campaign against him. Salazar may understand that many people see Israel as the ultimate evil.  She may even believe that Trump won the election because he was “dog whistling” by pointing at Soros, the Fed, Goldman Sachs, etc.  But it goes further. Salazar is living in NYC and she may well sense or even share her neighbours’ renewed anger every year when the list of “NYC 100 Worst Landlords” is published. Perhaps Salazar believes that the only chance to survive in American politics in the current climate is to become a Jew. To oppose Israel as a Jew, to oppose NYC slumlords as a Jew, to oppose AIPAC as a Jew. Perhaps Salazar believes that the only way to emancipate America from what may seem to some as Jewish hegemony, is to become a Jew. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Here is the bad news for Salazar, it is not going to work. The Jews have rejected the young Latina. Apparently she isn’t racially qualified.

The Jewishpress writes today. “There are, at least, three reasons why many of us (Jews) find her vaguely annoying. These are:1) Her apparently untrue claims to be Jewish. 2) Her antisemitic anti-Zionism. 3) Her anti-democratic socialism.”

But it isn’t only the Zionists who reject the young Latin Jewish candidate, the so-called ‘Jewish Progressives’ do not really want her either.  The Jewish ‘progressive’ Forward isn’t pleased with Salazar either. Mijal Bitton writes “… the Salazar dustup revealed a fundamental and seldom explored paradox in the liberal discourse on identity: the tension between essential and exclusive identity politics predicated on group experiences on the one hand, and notions of identity that validate choice and malleability in how individuals self-identify on the other.”

Not surprisingly, Bitton, like most Identitarians, doesn’t understand the crux of ID politics. The so called ‘paradox’ she refers to is actually inherent in the dialectic tension that forms the core of the Identitarian discourse.

Identitarianism doesn’t reveal ‘what people are,’ instead it tells what people ‘identify as.’ John identifying himself ‘as a gay’ doesn’t necessarily mean that John is a homosexual. It only reveals that John likes to see himself and to be seen by others ‘as gay.’ This essential understanding of the misleading nature of the Identitarianism was explored by the comic ‘Daffyd Thomas – The only Gay in the village.’ Thomas identifies as ‘a gay.’ He adopts gay symbolic identifiers, he speaks as one, he demands the attention and the privilege of one, but at the same time he is totally removed from the sexuality that has traditionally been the crux of ‘being’ gay.

In an attempt to resolve Salazar’s Jewish identity complex, Bitton argues that Salazar’s defenders have two arguments: “The first defends her on the grounds that she represents a hybrid identity distinctly Latin/Sephardi/non-white, and as such inaccessible and misunderstood by her white, Ashkenazi, American critics. The second defends her on the grounds that Jewish identity, like Salazar’s, is malleable and does not fit into one mold.”

Both arguments can be summed into a single intellectually duplicitous doctrine that is set to block criticism of any given Identitarian discourse. It attributes blindness to the Other.  But isn’t this exactly what Jewish institutions are doing routinely? Just a month ago, in a letter to the Labour Party ruling Body, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote “It is astonishing that the Labour Party presumes that it is more qualified than…the Jewish community to define antisemitism.” Essentially, the Chief Rabbi is complaining that a bunch of Goyim in the Labour party see themselves as qualified to decide what antisemitsm is for the Labour party.

So, while the British Chief Rabbi claims that ‘antisemitsm’ is a Jew -protected discourse, Bitton complains that Salazar’s identity as Latina, Sephardi, or as a Jew of Color, intrudes on protected property; “it can only be understood, and interrogated, by the small number of those born into similar identities.”

In fact, Salazar has been copying Rabbi Mirvis’ tactics. This doesn’t only confirm that she is a Jew, it may qualify her to become Brooklyn’s chief Rabbi.

Bitton says of Salazar defenders that, “According to them, Salazar’s minority group identity confers upon her certain inalienable rights of representation inaccessible to others, but she can also legitimately choose to be Jewish in her own individual way.”

This may seem a contradiction to some. But this is exactly the primary rule of Jewish ID politics. Jewish identification is largely a racially exclusive club. But those who manage to fit in are totally free to choose their own way; they can be orthodox, conservative, reform, secular, atheist, self loving, self hating, Zionists, anti or even AZZ (anti Zionist Zionists). The members of the Jewish Identitarian club are welcome to select any combination of the above while knowing that any criticism from an outsider can be dismissed as a form of ‘antisemitsm.’ But candidate Salazar can’t take part in this Identitarian exercise. Why? Because she isn’t racially qualified.

Whether Bitton understands it or not, her futile attempt to deconstruct Salazar reveals that the Jewish Identitarian concept is, in practice, an exercise in Jewish racial classification. There is no difference between Salazar’s identitarian choice and JVP or other Jewish progressive schools of thought. None of the Jewish progressive schools is asked to clear its contradictions. The JVPs are not asked to source the so called ‘Jewish values’ that stand at the core of their ‘Jewish activism.’ The only difference is that Salazar isn’t racially Jewish. Her mother’s blood is not of the right kind. She is, accordingly, rejected.

Bitton herself seems to grasp that her attempt at deconstruction of Salazar achieves little.  Bitton ends her Forward article by admitting that “Salazar’s story demands that we (Jews, presumably) explore the way in which we approach identity. Is it malleable, individual and pro-choice, or it is essential, exclusive and inherited? And if it can be both, then those who choose a selective approach to identity must demonstrate moral consistency in their rhetoric.”

I guess that the answer is really simple. Jewish identity is both malleable and racially exclusive. It is elastic enough to fit different Jewish tribal interests. Salazar, I believe, would face no problem from whatsoever in becoming a ‘Jew’ if she were a supporter of Israel and an enemy of BDS. Israeli patriots are noticeably racially tolerant of Goyim who support the Jewish national project as many Russians immigrants to Israeli could happily attest.

books forsale .png

 

To understand ID politics and Jewish ID politics in particular read

The Wandering Who? & Being in Time

 

Is it Zionism or Jewishness? You decide

July 30, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

Greenstein vs. Atzmon – a radio debate moderated by Tony Gosling

In the early 2000s I realised that if Israel defines itself as the Jewish State, we must first ask who are the Jews, what is Zionism, what is Jewishness and how these notions relate to each other and affect Israeli politics, Jewish political lobbying, Jewish pressure groups and so on.

No one in Israel has ever criticized my argument. Israelis are naturally intimately familiar with the above notions. Israelis know that Jewishness and Jewish culture are at the core of Israeli politics. But the Jewish so-called  ‘anti’ Zionists were rather upset by my observation. It interfered with their delusional and largely deceptive dichotomies between Jews and Zionists, Zionism and Judaism, Israel and the Diaspora etc. Rather than saying that Jews and Zionism are opposites (Jewish anti Zionists) or that they are identical (messianic Zionism), I have been arguing that we are dealing with a complex continuum that can only be realised within the context of Jewishness and Jewish ID politics. Israel is what it is because Jewishness is driven by choseness – a Judeo-centric expetionalist doctrine.

Since 2005 Tony Greenstein has been my arch anti Zionist nemesis. He worked day and night trying to stop my concerts, my talks. He contacted venues and festivals and the many humanists who praised and endorsed my work. I offered Tony many times to share a platform with me so we could discuss that which we disagree upon. It never happened. Even when Tony was willing to do it, his ‘comrades,’ according to him, begged him not to do so.

Things clearly changed recently for Tony.  He was expelled from the Labour Party. He was a victim of the Zionist witch-hunt. He was accused of anti semitsm and had a chance to taste his own poison. Tony didn’t have any excuse. He had to face the man he vowed to eradicate yet failed.

In this radio program moderated by the great Tony Gosling, Tony Greenstein and myself debate what I believe to be the most crucial question  to do with Israel and Zionism. Is it Zionism or actually Jewish ideology that drives the barbarism of the state that calls itself  “the Jewish State”?

 

%d bloggers like this: