More or less, i would say…

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

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Atzmon, a hard leftist, describes himself as a proud self-hating Jew and admits that his ideas derive from a notorious anti-Semite.

He denies that the Holocaust is historically proven, but believes that Jews may well have killed Christian children to use their blood to bake Passover Matzah. And he thinks it’s “rational” to burn down synagogues.

Finkelstein believes in an international Jewish conspiracy that includes Steven Spielberg, Leon Uris, Eli Wiesel and Andrew Lloyd Webber! Some of the Soviet Union’s leading anti-Semitic propagandists were Jews.


By Gilad Atzmon

Ynet reviewed today the work of Dr. Adam Ferziger, an expert in the study of modern Jewish denominations. The Israeli academic contends that due to assimilation “the absolute majority of American Jewry won’t be Jews anymore”.According to Dr. Ferziger, Americans are just not anti-Semitic enough to maintain traditional Jewish identity. Jews have integrated so well “that most Americans don’t see being a Jew as a negative thing, but actually consider it an advantage”.

Seemingly, without being hated Jews are “getting lost”.

Ferziger continues, “Anti-Semitic phenomena are rare, especially in the upper class of the American population, and at the end of the day its open arms were what determined the assimilation trend and helped speed it up”. The take-home message is pretty clear. Jews cannot sustain their identity unless confronted by indignation in their surrounding environment. In short, it is anti-Semitism that sustains Jewish existence.

The Christmas tree is, apparently, also a significant threat, according to Ferziger. “Surveys conducted in recent years revealed a growth in the number of Jewish families that put up a Christmas tree in their home and mark Christmas as a sort of American holiday…. Yet they do not feel a contradiction between being Jewish and using holiday symbols which they see as more universal than religious”. I guess that universalism in general poses a critical threat to the tribally oriented mind.

But the Jewish genius once again found a solution. Instead of fighting assimilation, the American Jewish establishment actually adopted a “flexible accommodation”:  “In most Reform and Conservative communities there is an acceptance of the reality of mixed marriages, and there is a desire to find solutions… In as early as 1983, the Reform recognized children as Jewish, and they are wanted in the synagogue. But the innovation is that after a great internal conflict in many places, it was decided that the non-Jewish parent would also be invited to be a full-fledged member of the community” .

The conclusion is obvious. The Jewish community in America is actually expanding and rapidly. “The prevalent perception in America is that synagogue membership is a sort of  “Jewish citizenship”. You pay taxes, visit the synagogue several times a year, and use its services when there’s a bar mitzvah or a wedding”.

The contemporary American Jewish leadership has managed to extend the notion of Jewish ethnocentrism – “the synagogue affiliation is a Jewish-American statement that you belong to the Jewish collective”. And indeed, “recent studies have proved explicitly that an affiliation with a synagogue holds significant power”.

Rather than disappearing, what we see in practice, actually, is a surge of Jewish collectivism and power.

It may be true that traditional Jewish blood-related tradition is in decline in the USA, but Jewish spiritual collectivism is far from being defeated. It is actually expanding rapidly. Once they find a Jewish partner, every goy can join the Chosen as long as their synagogue tax duties are paid.

This commodification and privatization of Judaism is hardly surprising. However, the thought that all these new Jews will have to be hated in order to maintain their newly acquired exceptionalist “religious” identity may entail some gross violence ahead.




How come Gilad's on the S.H.I.T. list and I'm not?!
How come Gilad’s on the S.H.I.T. list and I’m not?!
The Palestinians are second-class citizens in their own homeland.
I’m starting to understand how they feel.
If I were Jewish, I would dominate the media, largely control the US Congress, and completely own Hollywood. If I were Jewish, nobody could criticize me – or my tribal settler colony in Occupied Palestine – without being labeled anti-Semitic and forced to wear a “never work in this town again” yellow star.
If I were Jewish, I could make sure that anybody who questions MY holocaust gets locked up the second they set foot in Europe, while I remain free to question all the other holocausts. I could extort my share of the billions of dollars generated by the “no business like Shoah business” – one of the most lucrative rackets on earth, so beautifully described in Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry.
If I were Jewish, I would be a member of a group that earns – on the average – nearly twice the annual income of non-Jewish Americans.
But most importantly of all, if I were Jewish, I could join the hundreds of brave and brilliant people on Masada2000′s S.H.I.T. listof the “Self-Hating and Israel-Threatening.” The generous folks at Masada2000 have kindly compiled a list of incredibly cool people who have the vision to see through the toxic smog of Zionist BS that we breathe every day, and the guts to stand up and speak out.
One small catch: To be a S.H.I.T. list honoree, you have to be Jewish.
JEEEEZ! That’s SO unfair! If there is one career path in which goys should be allowed to compete with Jews on a level playing field, it’s the profession of being an “anti-Semitic Israel hater”! When even THAT field is taken over by the doyens of Jewish superiority, us goys might as well throw in the towel.
So I’m officially throwing in the towel. All you neo-Nazi storm-troopers who have been sending me hate emails and calling me a crypto-Jew because I don’t like Hitler and have nothing against Jewish people are really going to have a field day.
Rather than be locked out of the S.H.I.T. list due to my ethnicity, I have begun the process of applying for Jewish ethnic status. Here is my letter to Masada2000, emailed to them at:
Dear S.H.I.T. listers,
I heard about your S.H.I.T. list when someone emailed me the entry about my friend Gilad Atzmon, who is a musical and philosophical genius and a force of nature.
So I started looking over your list, and discovered that it is an honor roll of brave and brilliant people who have questioned the lies of Zionism.
Since I have done some Zionist-lie-questioning myself, I scrolled down to the B’s to see whether I had made the grade. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that there were other Barretts on the list, but I was not among them!
Upon further perusal, I realized you have to be Jewish to make the list. So my question is: Could I “convert” ethnically rather than religiously? I’m pretty comfortable with my Islamic faith, and have no interest in converting to the Jewish religion. But since at least half of today’s “Jews” are not religious, but still consider themselves Jewish, perhaps I could join them by changing my ethnicity from Irish-American to Jewish? I do eat bagels fairly often, and use words like “chutzpah” and “putz” occasionally, especially when referring to Larry Silverstein. Is there some kind of ceremony in which a Rabbi could hand me a bagel smeared with lox, cream cheese, and thin-slice onion, and maybe a kosher pickle for good measure, and I could take a big bite out of it and be pronounced ethnically Jewish?
I would also be happy to take an exam explaining such nuances of Jewish ethnic culture as the difference between “schlemiel” and “schlimazel.”  (Correct answer: The Zionists who botched the 9/11 false-flag op were schlemiels, while the Americans who failed to notice and lost their country are schlimazels.)
By the way, I also enjoy matzo ball soup, though I always feel kind of sorry for the matzos.
Anyway, please let me know how to go about ethnic conversion so I can become eligible for your S.H.I.T. list.
Kevin Barrett
PS If I convert to the Jewish ethnicity but not the religion, will I automatically become a citizen of Israel? And would that work for the Palestinian Muslims and Christians? Biting a bagel would be a small price for them to pay for first-class citizen status in their own homeland.
Disclaimer: If Lou Reed can sing about wanting to be black, I assume it’s OK for me to write about applying for Jewish ethnic status.


memorial lamp

In the light of the darkness in Gaza, here is a collection of Jewish Light Bulb Jokes
Q: How many Orthodox Jews does it take to change a light bulb?
A: What is a light bulb?Q: How many secular assimilated Jews does it take to change a light bulb?
A: My grandmother, who lived in a Shtetl changed lightbulbs. Today, we get a Goy to do it.

Q: How many Israelis does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: 26: 18 to surround the building,  6 to storm the room and kill the terrorists, one to forcibly expel the old bulb, and another one to screw the new one in and forever.

Q: How many progressive Jews does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Vhy, we don’t need any! we’ll form Jewish Voices for Light Bulbs (JVLB) and use it to keep the rest of humanity forever in the dark.

Q: How many Reform Jews does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Change it? Who wants to change it? We just want to improve it!

Q: How many Lubabavitchers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, it never died.

Q: How many Marxist Jews does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, after the revolution the proletariat will do it for us.

Q: What does it take for a Jewish mother to change a light bulb?
A: Never mind, I’ll sit in the dark.Q: What does it take for a Talmudic Jew to change a light bulb
A: First you’ll have to tell me why changing a light bulb is good for the Jews.

Q How many solidarity Jews does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, they will plea  George Soros’ Open Society Institute  to pay an Electronic Palestinian to denounce  the old one and endorse the new one.

Q: How many Hasbara Jews does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Wrong question, the real question is why the Arabs want to throw us into the sea?

Q: How many Gazans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Who needs a light bulb?Q: How many self hating Jews does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Forget about the light bulb, Every Self Hater, is himself/herself a light bulb

dcstreettechnology added on VT
Q: How many Zionist does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Zero,  they just screw the world around the light bulb!
The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics – available on

Mearsheimer responds to Goldberg’s latest smear


Just a few minutes ago, I saw this piece expressing unequivocal support from Professor John J.  Mearsheimer clearly one of the most distinguished scholars in our discourse and beyond.

For years I have been subjected to smear campaigns. I obviously survived them all because those who read me grasped the humanist intent in my work. In the following article, professor  Mearsheimer exposes the banality and crudeness of the Zionist tactics. He shows how Goldberg & Co forge sentences, take words out of context and attribute misleading meanings.

I am afraid to advise my detractors that I am not alone at all. The Tide Has Changed.

Ever since John Mearsheimer and I began writing about the Israel lobby, some of our critics have leveled various personal charges against us. These attacks rarely addressed the substance of what we wrote — a tacit concession that both facts and logic were on our side — but instead accused us of being anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists. They used these false charges to try to discredit and/or marginalize us, and to distract people from the important issues of U.S. Middle East policy that we had raised.

The latest example of this tactic is a recent blog post from Jeffrey Goldberg, where he accused my co-author of endorsing a book by an alleged Holocaust denier and Nazi sympathizer. Goldberg has well-established record of making things up about us, and this latest episode is consistent with his usual approach. I asked Professor Mearsheimer if he wanted to respond to Goldberg’s sally, and he sent the following reply.

John Mearsheimer writes:

In a certain sense, it is hard not to be impressed by the energy and imagination that Jeffrey Goldberg devotes to smearing Steve Walt and me. Although he clearly disagrees with our views about U.S.-Israel relations and the role of the Israel lobby, he does not bother to engage what we actually wrote in any meaningful way. Indeed, given what he writes about us, I am not even sure he has read our book or related articles. Instead of challenging the arguments and evidence that we presented, his modus operandi is to misrepresent and distort our views, in a transparent attempt to portray us as rabid anti-Semites.

His latest effort along these lines comes in a recent blog post, where he seizes on a dust jacket blurb I wrote for a new book by Gilad Atzmon titled The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics. Here is what I said in my blurb:

Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike. 

 The book, as my blurb makes clear, is an extended meditation on Jewish identity in the Diaspora and how it relates to the Holocaust, Israel, and Zionism. There is no question that the book is provocative, both in terms of its central argument and the overly hot language that Atzmon sometimes uses. But it is also filled with interesting insights that make the reader think long and hard about an important subject. Of course, I do not agree with everything that he says in the book — what blurber does? — but I found it thought provoking and likely to be of considerable interest to Jews and non-Jews, which is what I said in my brief comment.

Goldberg maintains that Atzmon is a categorically reprehensible person, and accuses him of being a Holocaust denier and an apologist for Hitler. These are two of the most devastating charges that can be leveled against anyone. According to Goldberg, the mere fact that I blurbed Atzmon’s book is decisive evidence that I share Atzmon’s supposedly odious views. This indictment of me is captured in the title of Goldberg’s piece: “John Mearsheimer Endorses a Hitler Apologist and Holocaust Revisionist.”

This charge is so ludicrous that it is hard to know where to start my response. But let me begin by noting that I have taught countless University of Chicago students over the years about the Holocaust and about Hitler’s role in it. Nobody who has been in my classes would ever accuse me of being sympathetic to Holocaust deniers or making excuses for what Hitler did to European Jews. Not surprisingly, those loathsome charges have never been leveled against me until Goldberg did so last week.

Equally important, Gilad Atzmon is neither a Holocaust denier nor an apologist for Hitler. Consider the following excerpt from The Wandering Who?

As much as I was a sceptic youngster, I was also horrified by the Holocaust. In the 1970s Holocaust survivors were part of our social landscape. They were our neighbours, we met them in our family gatherings, in the classroom, in politics, in the corner shop. The dark numbers tattooed on their white arms never faded away. It always had a chilling effect. . . . It was actually the internalization of the meaning of the Holocaust that transformed me into a strong opponent of Israel and Jewish-ness. It is the Holocaust that eventually made me a devoted supporter of Palestinian rights, resistance and the Palestinian right of return” (pp. 185-186).

It seems unequivocally clear to me from those sentences that Atzmon firmly believes that the Holocaust occurred and was a horrific tragedy. I cannot find evidence in his book or in his other writings that indicate he “traffics in Holocaust denial.”

The real issue for Atzmon — and this is reflected in the excerpt from his blog post that Goldberg quotes from — is how the Holocaust is interpreted and used by the Jewish establishment. Atzmon has three complaints. He believes that it is used to justify Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians and to fend off criticism of Israel. This is an argument made by many other writers, including former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg, historian Peter Novick, and political scientist Norman Finkelstein. Atzmon also rejects the claim that the Holocaust is exceptional, which is a position that other respected scholars have held. There have been other genocides in world history, after all, and this whole issue was actively debated in the negotiations that led to the building of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Whatever one thinks of Atzmon’s position on this subject, it is hardly beyond the pale.

Finally, Atzmon is angry about the fact that it is difficult to raise certain questions about the causes and the conduct of the Holocaust without being personally attacked. These are all defensible if controversial positions to hold, which is not to say one has to agree with any of them. But in no way is he questioning that the Holocaust happened or denying its importance. In fact, his view is clear from one of Atzmon’s sentences that Goldberg quotes: “We should strip the holocaust of its Judeo-centric exceptional status and treat it as an historical chapter that belongs to a certain time and place.” Note that Atzmon is talking about “the holocaust” in a way that makes it clear he has no doubts about its occurrence, and the passage from The Wandering Who? cited above makes it clear that he has no doubts about its importance or its tragic dimensions; he merely believes it should be seen in a different way. Again, one need not agree with Atzmon to recognize that Goldberg has badly misrepresented his position.

There is also no evidence that I could find in The Wandering Who? to support Goldberg’s claim that Atzmon is an apologist for Hitler or that he believes “Jews persecuted Hitler” and in so doing helped trigger the Holocaust. There is actually little discussion of Hitler in Atzmon’s book, and the only discussion of interactions between Hitler and the Jews concerns the efforts of German Zionists to work out a modus vivendi with the Nazis. (pp. 162-165) This is why Goldberg is forced to go to one of Atzmon’s blog posts to make the case that he is an apologist for Hitler.

Before I examine the substance of that charge, there is an important issue that needs to be addressed directly. Goldberg’s indictment of Atzmon does not rely on anything that he wrote in The Wandering Who? Indeed, Goldberg’s blog post is silent on whether he has actually read the book. If he did read it, he apparently could not find any evidence to support his indictment of Atzmon. Instead, he relied exclusively on evidence culled from Atzmon’s own blog postings. That is why Goldberg’s assault on me steers clear of criticizing Atzmon’s book, which is what I blurbed. In short, he falsely accuses me of lending support to a Holocaust denier and defender of Hitler on the basis of writings that I did not read and did not comment upon.

This tactic puts me in a difficult position. I was asked to review Atzmon’s book and see whether I would be willing to blurb it. This is something I do frequently, and in every case I focus on the book at hand and not on the personality of the author or their other writings. In other words, I did not read any of Atzmon’s blog postings before I wrote my blurb. And just for the record, I have not met him and did not communicate with him before I was asked to review The Wandering Who? I read only the book and wrote a blurb that deals with it alone.

Goldberg, however, has shifted the focus onto what Atzmon has written on his blog. I discuss a couple of examples below, but I will not defend his blog output in detail for two reasons. First, I do not know what Atzmon may have said in all of his past blog posts and other writings or in the various talks that he has given over the years. Second, what he says in those places is not relevant to what I did, which was simply to read and react to his book.

Let me now turn to the specific claim that Atzmon is an “apologist for Hitler.” Again, I am somewhat reluctant to do this, because this charge forces me to defend what Atzmon said in one of his blog posts. But given the prominence of the charge in Goldberg’s indictment of Atzmon (and me), I cannot let it pass.

Plus, I see that Walter Russell Mead, who is also fond of smearing Steve Walt and me, has put this charge up in bright lights on his own blog. Picking up on Goldberg’s original post, Mead describes Atzmon’s argument this way: “poor Adolf Hitler’s actions against German Jews only came after US Jews called a boycott on German goods following Hitler’s appointment as German Chancellor. Gosh — if it weren’t for those pushy, aggressive Jews and their annoying boycotts, the Holocaust might not have happened!”

It is hard to imagine any sane person making such an argument, and Atzmon never does. Goldberg refers to a blog post that Atzmon wrote on March 25, 2010, written in response to news at the time that AIPAC had “decided to mount pressure” on President Obama. After describing what was happening with Obama, Atzmon notes that this kind of behavior is hardly unprecedented. In his words, “Jewish lobbies certainly do not hold back when it comes to pressuring states, world leaders and even superpowers.” There is no question that this statement is accurate and not even all that controversial; Tom Friedman said as much in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago.

In the second half of this post, Atzmon says that AIPAC’s behavior reminds him of the March 1933 Jewish boycott of German goods, which preceded Hitler’s decision on March 28, 1933 to boycott Jewish stores and goods. His basic point is that the Jewish boycott had negative consequences, which it did. In Atzmon’s narrative — and this is a very important theme in his book — Jews are not simply passive victims of other people’s actions. On the contrary, he believes Jews have considerable agency and their actions are not always wise. One can agree or disagree with his views about the wisdom of the Jewish boycott — and I happen to think he’s wrong about it — but he is not arguing that the Jews were “persecuting Hitler” and that this alleged “persecution” led to the Holocaust. In fact, he says nothing about the Holocaust in his post and he certainly does not justify in any way the murder of six million Jews.

Let me make one additional point about Goldberg’s mining of Atzmon’s blog posts. Goldberg ends his attack on me with the following quotation from a Feb. 19 blog post by Atzmon: “I believe that from [a] certain ideological perspective, Israel is actually far worse than Nazi Germany.” That quotation certainly makes Atzmon look like he has lost his mind and that nothing he has written could be trusted. But Goldberg has misrepresented what Atzmon really said, which is one of his standard tactics. Specifically, he quotes only part of a sentence from Atzmon’s blog post; but when you look at the entire sentence, you see that Atzmon is making a different, and far more nuanced point. The entire sentence reads: “Indeed, I believe that from [a] certain ideological perspective, Israel is actually far worse than Nazi Germany, for unlike Nazi Germany, Israel is a democracy and that implies that Israeli citizens are complicit in Israeli atrocities.” This is not an argument I would make, but what Atzmon is saying is quite different from the way Goldberg portrays it.

Finally, let me address the charge that Atzmon himself is an anti-Semite and a self-hating Jew. The implication of this accusation, of course, is that I must be an anti-Semite too (I can’t be a self-hating Jew) because I agreed to blurb Atzmon’s book. I do not believe that Atzmon is an anti-Semite, although that charge is thrown around so carelessly these days that it has regrettably lost much of its meaning. If one believes that anyone who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite, then Atzmon clearly fits in that category. But that definition is foolish — no country is perfect or above criticism-and not worth taking seriously.

The more important and interesting issue is whether Atzmon is a self-hating Jew. Here the answer is unequivocally yes. He openly describes himself in this way and he sees himself as part of a long dissident tradition that includes famous figures such as Marx and Spinoza. What is going on here?
The key to understanding Atzmon is that he rejects the claim that Jews are the “Chosen People.” His main target, as he makes clear at the start of the book, is not with Judaism per se or with people who “happen to be of Jewish origin.” Rather, his problem is with “those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all of their other traits.” Or to use other words of his: “I will present a harsh criticism of Jewish politics and identity … This book doesn’t deal with Jews as a people or ethnicity.” (pp. 15-16)
In other words, Atzmon is a universalist who does not like the particularism that characterizes Zionism and which has a rich tradition among Jews and any number of other groups. He is the kind of person who intensely dislikes nationalism of any sort. Princeton professor Richard Falk captures this point nicely in his own blurb for the book, where he writes: “Atzmon has written an absorbing and moving account of his journey from hard-core Israeli nationalist to a de-Zionized patriot of humanity.”

Atzmon’s basic point is that Jews often talk in universalistic terms, but many of them think and act in particularistic terms. One might say they talk like liberals but act like nationalists. Atzmon will have none of this, which is why he labels himself a self-hating Jew. He fervently believes that Jews are not the “Chosen People” and that they should not privilege their “Jewish-ness” over their other human traits. Moreover, he believes that one must choose between Athens and Jerusalem, as they “can never be blended together into a lucid and coherent worldview.” (p. 86) One can argue that his perspective is dead wrong, or maintain that it is a lovely idea in principle but just not the way the real world works. But it is hardly an illegitimate or ignoble way of thinking about humanity.

To take this matter a step further, Atzmon’s book is really all about Jewish identity. He notes that “the disappearance of the ghetto and its maternal qualities” in the wake of the French Revolution caused “an identity crisis within the largely assimilated Jewish society.” (p. 104) He believes that this crisis, about which there is an extensive literature, is still at the center of Jewish life today. In effect,
Atzmon is telling the story of how he wrestled with his own identity over time and what he thinks is wrong with how most Jews self-identify today. It is in this context that he discusses what he calls the “Holocaust religion,” Zionism, and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Again, to be perfectly clear, he has no animus toward Judaism as a religion or with individuals who are Jewish by birth. Rather, his target is the tribalism that he believes is common to most Jews, and I might add, to most other peoples as well. Atzmon focuses on Jews for the obvious reason that he is Jewish and is trying to make sense of his own identity.

In sum, Goldberg’s charge that Atzman is a Holocaust denier or an apologist for Hitler is baseless. Nor is Atzmon an anti-Semite. He has controversial views for sure and he sometimes employs overly provocative language. But there is no question in my mind that he has written a fascinating book that, as I said in my blurb, “should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.” Regarding Goldberg’s insinuation that I have any sympathy for Holocaust denial and am an anti-Semite, it is just another attempt in his longstanding effort to smear Steve Walt and me.

Reader Comments (1)

Thanks Gilad for at last publiching this book. I must admit that I have been waiting some years for it to come. The first time I met your writings (on the webb) was I think in 2003, when I was making research on the roots of Zionism, writing on my first article on the subject about Moses Hess and Karl Marx. I was then a member of a jewish peacegroup in Sweden, and most of us were marxists from 68 or some younger leftish. A few of us also recognized us as anti-zionists.

At that time I thought that the best way to confront the politics of Israel and Zionism would be “from within”, because it would develop the debate inside the jewish group and at the same time get more credibility to the arguments outside the jewish group. But I was wrong. In a big debate at the university of Stockholm, I claimed that when it comes to the borders of Israel, I personally would not mind if they are the UN participation plan, the 67 line, the river Jordan, the river Eufrat or for that case the whole world, if only all inhabitants will have the same rights.

That statement became the end of my membership in the jewish peacegroup, and the beginning of my travel from jewish tribalism (and maxism) to humanism. (And later to be an official “anti-semite”, “Holocaust denier” and “conspiracy-theorist”).

At that time I thought I was alone with my identity problems. Sweden is a small country. When I realized I was not alone, I got the energy to start writing, which I almost never had done before (I simply and humbly want to thank you Gilad for that, and I guess I am not alone in this). But at the same time I felt there was something more than just leaving the jewish tribal thinking, as it includes so many tabous and unspeakable matters that have a grip on the open discurse of today. Tribal thinking is by no means only jewish, but it just happens to be the case that jewish ideology today is “on the top of the foodchain”, when gipsy tribal ideologi is not. At this point I realized what it is all about: The liberation of human thoughts. I remember that was one of the first comment I wrote to you, So let this be a comment to the readers of your book. It is not just about “The wandering who?”, it is about the liberation of human thinking, and I want to beleave that it is in this way the book will be remembered by genreations to come.

How Shlomo Sand Ceased to be a Jew – or Did He?

By Gilad Atzmon

Sand’s latest book, How I Ceased To Be A Jew, (translated from Hebrew) is a tragic testimony made by a morally awakened Israeli Jew who comes to realise that his spiritual, cultural and political existence is contaminated with Judeo-centric exclusivism and is fuelled by ethno-centric racism. Shlomo Sand decides to stop being a Jew – but has he succeeded?

Sand, as we all know, is a wonderful writer; witty, innovative, poetic and fluent, his voice is personal, at times funny, occasionally sarcastic and always genuinely pessimistic.

Sand’s writing is scholarly, deep, reflective and imaginative; however, his scholarship is pretty much limited to French liberal thinking and early post-modernist theory. The outcome is disappointing at times. How I Ceased To Be A Jew is a ‘politically correct’ text, saturated with endless caveats inserted to disassociate the author from any possible affiliation with anyone who may be viewed as an opponent of Jewish power, critical of Jewish identity politics or a challenger of the mainstream historicity of the Holocaust.

“I don’t write for anti-Semites, I regard them as totally ignorant or people who suffer from an incurable disease,” (p. 21) writes the author who claims to be humanist, universalist and far removed from Jewish exclusivism.* It all sounds very Jewish to me. When it comes to the Holocaust, Sand uses the same tactic and somehow manages to lose all wit and scholarly fashion. The Nazis are “beasts”, their rise to power metaphorically described as a “beast awakening from its lair.” I would expect a leading historian and ex-Jew to have moved on beyond these kinds of banal clichés.


Sand writes about identity politics and is certainly sensitive to the complexities of this subject. He argues forcefully that nationalism is an ‘invention’, yet, for some reason he attributes some forensic qualities to identity and the politics involved. Perhaps Sand fails to realise that identity politics is actually a form of identification – it is there to replace authenticity. For example, Zionism was born as an attempt to replace Judaic authentic orientation with an imaginary sense of national belonging – Israeli identity is a collection of signifiers set to make the Jew believe that he or she has a past, present and future. Identity is basically a set of symbolic identifiers that evoke a sense of collectivism. If you pierce your right ear, you become a club member, if you sport a kaffiyeh you become a solidarity activist, if you manage to utter a few Israeli sound-bites you may become a Zionist. All these identities lack any authentic depth.

Little Britain, a BBC comedy show, provides us with an invaluable insight into this. Daffyd Thomas (The Only Gay in the Village) exhibits a wide range of gay symbolic identifiers without ever once being engaged in a single homosexual intercourse. So Daffyd, while identifying as gay – politically, socially and culturally – saves himself of the elementary authentic experience as a homosexual.

Sand understands that Jewish identity politics is hollow, but he may fail to grasp that all identity politics are hollow. On the contrary, nationalism, which he clearly despises — the bond with one’s soil, heritage, culture, language, landscape, poetry is actually a cathartic experience. Though nationalism may well be an invention as Sand and others insist, it is still an intrinsically authentic fulfilling experience. As we all know, patriotic national feelings are often suicidal – and there’s a reason for this – because just sometimes it manages to integrate man, soil and sacrifice into a state of spiritual unification.

On a lighter note, reading Sand’s poetic writing in Hebrew is for me, an ex-Jew and ex-Israeli, a truly authentic experience that brings me closer to my roots, my forgotten homeland and its fading landscape, my mother tongue or shall I simply say my Being. The medium that connect me to Sand’s prose is not ‘identity’ or politics but rather the Israeliness, that concrete nationalist discourse that matured into Hebraic poetry, patriotism, ideology, jargon, a dream and a tragedy to follow. Somehow I believe that Sand himself understands this point as he refers to those exact kind of feelings in the end of the book. I also believe that Sand’s pessimistic inclination is rooted in his realisation of himself being robbed of that Israeliness which was once to him a home.

Sand realises that the Zionist journey has come to an end and that ‘Israeli secularism’ is doomed. From an ethical and universal perspective Israel is at a dead end. Yet, he still fails to grasp that Israel is only part of the problem. More and more thinkers are now regarding Israel as a mere symptom of Jewish identity politics. More and more, commentators are becoming aware of a tribal ideological and spiritual continuum between Israel, Zionism, the so-called Jewish anti Zionists and the Left in general. It is no longer a secret that, like Zionists, Jewish ‘anti Zionists’ invest most of their political energy chasing the so-called ‘anti Semites’ – those who analyze Israeli and Zionist politics within the context of Jewish culture and philosophy.

Nevertheless, moral awakening is a slow journey rather than a swift gestalt switch and it is interesting how Sand’s encounters with Jewish anti-Zionists led him to adopt a similar criticism to the ones I express in The Wandering Who.

“There are a few who define themselves as secular Jews, they attempt to protest, either collectively or alone, against (Israeli) segregation and occupation. Rightly, they grasp that these policies threaten to bring along Judeo-phobia that may identify all Jews as a separate race and confuse between Jews and Zionists.” However, Sand continues, “their wish to be a part of a Jewish ethnic identity while not being able to fill it with positive cultural content, makes their tactic, in the best case, short lived that lacks weight and political future, and in the worse case, support indirectly the sense of (Judeo) tribalism.” (p. 145)

Sand clearly detects here an element of intellectual dishonesty inherent to the Jewish ‘Left’ in general and anti-Zionists in particular. He continues, “if those who consider themselves Jewish anti Zionists, in spite of the fact that they’ve never been in Israel, are unfamiliar with the (Hebrew) language and foreign to the (Israeli) culture, insist upon the right to criticise Israel, shouldn’t the pro-Zionists enjoy a (similar) unique privilege in determining the future of Israel?” (p. 146). Sand is obviously correct here, yet his point could be pushed even further: if the Jewish anti-Zionists enjoy a privilege due to their ‘unique’ ethnic origin, they actually affirm that Israel is the Jewish State and in fact their own very State. When a bunch of righteous Jews criticise the Jewish State ‘as Jews’ and in the name of their Jewishness, they paradoxically assert that Israel is indeed the Jewish State while simultaneously asserting their own choseness and privilege as Jews.

It is unsurprising that Sand is impressed with the contribution of Jewish progressive and radical thinkers. He presents a list of Jewish thinkers who “made an effort to drift away from (Jewish) egocentric ethical legacy in an attempt to adopt a universal morality” (p. 114). Sand mentions names such as Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Lion Blum, Noam Chomsky and a few others. “As distant these people and others were from religious heritage, as close was their affinity to humanist perception and the strong will to change the living conditions of all people rather than their own.” (p. 115).

Unlike Sand, I am less convinced of the pure universalist motivation behind these progressive Tikkun Olam (fixing the world) heroes. Unlike Sand, I am convinced that the ‘progressive’ is but a secular extension of Jewish tribal ‘chosesness’. After all, if you are a ‘progressive’, someone else must be a ‘reactionary’. In other words, progressiveness is in itself a non-universal intolerant discourse.

Drifting away from Jewishness towards true and genuine universalism can be realised as the emergence of a unique critical sensitivity towards every possible aspect of Jewish tribal operation. Such an act involves a certain amount of self-loathing rather than merely ‘despising’ the ‘Jews around you’. Sand is not there yet. Instead of hating himself, he actually perfects his argument against his Jewish neighbours. In practice, he is still engaged in an internal tribal debate.

Jewish identity politics is an emerging critical topic and I take some credit for such a development. Two years ago, my The Wandering Who was published, which opened a Pandora box. I unleashed a critical assault on identity politics in general and also exposed the deceitful nature that is intrinsic to Jewish-Left thinking. Following the publication of the book, all hell broke loose, Zionists, together with their Jewish anti-Zionist siblings joined forces in a desperate attempt to stop the book and to censor my thoughts — but they failed — the book became a best seller, translated into many languages and endorsed by some of the most important humanists and academics around. Most importantly, it made Jews and their politics (not just Israel or Zionism) subject to intellectual and philosophical scrutiny.

A few months ago, Judith Butler attempted to rescue Jewish humanism and progressive identity. But her text, Parting Ways – Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, was pretty problematic and intellectually dishonest. Consequently it received no serious attention. If anything, it conveys a clear lack of humanist as well universalist thinking at the heart of the Jewish Left discourse. Sand’s new book is another attempt to deal with the topic, but unlike Butler, Sand deserves our full attention. Sand is a man in transition (a quality I myself modestly share with him). Sand is honest, a superb writer, closely familiar with Jewish historicity and, though he may be slightly mistaken on some issues, his text provides us with a unique glimpse into the authentic journey of a pessimistic yet poetic Jewish soul in search of meaning.

The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics, available on  &

*Exclusivism, intolerance, negative dialectic, righteousness, tribal inclination etc’. This topic is central to my new book. I will elaborate in depth in the near future.
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