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Gilad Atzmon: Guilt and Responsibility

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  • ummyakoub
    An open letter to the German People about Guilt and responsibility From Gilad Atzmon www.gilad.co.uk For the last five weeks I have been touring your country
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 16, 2003
      An open letter to the German People about Guilt and responsibility
      From Gilad Atzmon

      For the last five weeks I have been touring your country to promote
      my new album and book. As an Israeli dissident (exile), a devoted
      anti Zionist and an enthusiastic supporter of the Palestinian
      struggle, I found myself repeatedly engaged in discussions with many
      young people who face a growing moral dilemma to do with the
      traditional German support of Israel. I would like here to stress the
      need for a necessary revision of your attitude towards the Jewish
      state and Zionism in general.

      Feeling guilty for not feeling guilty.
      Two weeks ago, a very young journalist, nearly half my age, shared
      with me her deep sense of guilt. In a most sincere manner she opened
      her heart and told me that she would never overcome the shame and
      guilt she inherited from her `parent's and grandparent's generation'.
      It was only then that I realised that I myself do not feel guilty for
      my own grandfather's crimes. My grandfather was a Jewish right wing
      militant. A high commander in the Irgun, a fascist paramilitary
      Jewish terrorist organisation. It was my grandfather's terrorist
      organization that was responsible for the Dier Yasin massacre, the
      murderous slaughter of an entire Palestinian village, an atrocity
      that led the vast majority of the Palestinian population to flee from
      their homeland. It was my grandfather's Irgun who invaded Jafo, the
      beautiful Palestinian town on the Mediterranean shore. It is with
      shame that I admit that my grandfather and his friends were war
      criminals but at the same time I must say that I myself do not feel
      guilty for their conduct. I honestly believe that one should be
      accountable for one's own crimes.

      It was that interview two weeks ago with the young journalist which
      helped me to understand the obvious: the German people should never
      feel guilty for their grand parents and grand-grandparents
      transgressions. But the situation could be different. Too many of you
      are preoccupied with a form of guilt that could never be authentic or
      genuine. It is a `state of feeling guilty for not feeling guilty'.
      Naturally, the young amongst you find it impossible to identify
      themselves with crimes that were committed in a distant war by people
      that they have never met. Moreover, this form of shame is leading
      many of you towards a devious and well orchestrated double bind:
      Following official guidelines (formulated by post war German
      governments together with Jewish and Zionist organisations), you
      are supposed to feel guilty for your past and to support Israel
      blindly. At the same time, the growing scale of atrocities committed
      by the `Jewish State', brings many of you to a necessary and fully
      legitimate rejection of Israeli policy. Paradoxically, the more
      atrocities committed by Israel, the less you feel for the `Jewish
      state'; the less you feel for the `Jewish state', the more you feel
      guilty for not feeling guilty for your own past. Quite an absurd
      situation The growing scale of Israeli atrocities make you feel more
      and more guilty for not feeling guilty. This is a vicious circle and
      I would like to suggest that you find your way out.

      Guilt and Responsibility.
      I do know what guilt is all about. I myself feel very guilty for my
      own misdoing. When the time came, I was neither clever enough nor
      brave enough to refuse to serve in the Israeli army. I myself was
      part of the war machine that inflicts so much pain on so many
      innocent people. For many years after I completed my compulsory duty
      in the IDF, I shared my personal shame with anyone who would listen.
      But then finally I realised that guilt and shame are far from
      productive mental states. They are a form of righteousness that can
      never bring real change into the world. It can never make anything
      better. I understood that guilt should be transformed into

      Following Emanuel Levinas, who based his search for ethical conduct
      on Talmud, I understood that responsibility is `responsibility to the
      Other'. I realised that I myself should be responsible to the
      Palestinian people. Rather than feeling righteously guilty about
      Palestinian misery, I myself should take responsibility for stopping
      my ex patriots from distributing pain and misery. I am responsible
      for bringing the Zionist affair to an end.

      Responsibility, Germany and the Palestinian people.
      It is clear that the Palestinian people are `Hitler's very last
      victims'. Without Hitler and the holocaust, Zionists would never have
      gained the United Nations support that was needed for the completion
      of their expansionist colonial adventure. Without Hitler and the
      holocaust the world would never have turned a blind eye to the
      colossal crimes committed by Israel for so many years. I would even
      go so far as to say that the Zionists themselves would never have
      dared to expel the Palestinian people from their homeland, if they
      were not so confident about their new status as the `world's ultimate
      victim' - a status that was achieved thanks to Hitler's extermination

      Therefore, I would like to suggest to you my dear German reader, that
      if you do feel guilty for the atrocities committed by the mad
      Austrian mustachio and his followers, your guilt should be
      transformed into a form of responsibility towards the Palestinians.
      The Palestinians are the last people to suffer the horror of the Nazi
      insanity. For them WW2 is not yet over.

      Antisemitism – a dated concept
      Too many German journalists I have met recently were overwhelmingly
      concerned that any criticism of Israeli affairs would be
      interpreted as an antisemitic act. I am here to announce as loudly as
      I can: there is no antisemitism any more. As a result of the
      formation of the Jewish state (1948), antisemitism ceased to exist. I
      am not trying to say here that Jewish interests are not getting
      mutilated and vandalized. I am not saying that Synagogues aren't
      being attacked; that Jewish graves are not brutally smashed up. I am
      trying to say that these acts, that are in no way legitimate, should
      be seen as political reactions rather than racially motivated acts.
      If Israel is the state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people
      themselves do not stand up collectively against the crimes that are
      committed on their behalf, then every Jewish person, Jewish symbol
      and Jewish object becomes an Israeli interest and a potential
      terrorist target. It is up to the Jewish people to take a stand
      against their Jewish state and to disassociate themselves from their
      zealous national movement.

      If for instance, we woke up tomorrow morning and found out that
      another American embassy in Africa had been blown to pieces, no one
      would suggest that it was a `racially motivated anti American
      attack'. We would be naturally inclined to view the incident as
      an `act of terror' against `American interests'. Our political
      analysts would probably tell us that it was a form of retaliation
      against `American colonialism', `expansionism', `support of Zionism'
      etc. Since Zionists want Israel to be seen as `a nation among
      nations' we should not treat them as a unique case. We should treat
      them as the Americans and the British who have already realised that
      their different interests around the world are under severe threat.
      If being a Jew is a national category rather than a religious one, we
      should be consistent and regard any act against Jews as a political
      reaction rather than an irrational racist attack. In other words: the
      success of Zionism drains away any possibility of antisemitism.

      Holocaust Denial
      Those among my German listeners who try to shake my argument that
      antisemitism has gone usually raise the issue of `holocaust denial'.
      For years I have argued that `holocaust denial' is not a very
      interesting issue because the notion of `holocaust denial' is far too
      wide. In actual, anyone who tries to oppose the official Zionist
      interpretation instantly becomes a `holocaust denier'. It is true
      that for quite a while the Zionists were pretty successful. They
      managed to stop the world from studying the events of the WW2. Few
      people in Germany or in Israel or anywhere else know about the
      extensive collaboration between the Zionists and the Nazis from 33
      right up to the end of the war. But then again, I am not an historian
      and the question whether there were 6 million Jews who died in the
      holocaust or rather 3 and a half million is not really my own major
      concern. For me the act of killing is a catastrophe and `state
      organised serial killing' is an unbearable colossal catastrophe.
      Accordingly, the form of holocaust denial that really bothers me is
      the denial of the on-going Palestinian holocaust. This holocaust is
      documented and covered daily by our western televisions and press
      media. The turning of Palestinian residential cities into
      concentration camps; the deliberate starvation of the Palestinian
      population; the cutting of medical aid; the wall that shreds the holy
      land into isolated cantons and Bantustans; the continuous bombardment
      of civilians by the IAF - is all known to us all. This holocaust
      is committed by the Jewish state and, somehow, largely ignored. This
      is the most serious form of holocaust denial.

      My dear German reader, if I haven't manage to convince you that you
      are truly innocent and free of any guilt as far as your `collective
      past' is concerned, you are probably one of those supremely moral
      people with an astonishingly well developed ethical awareness. If
      this is the case, if you are so concerned with your own people's
      past, you are probably exactly the right one to talk to the Israeli
      people and to try to help them comprehend their murderous present.

      I realise now that you, the German people, who are so concerned with
      your past, may be the only people on earth to help the Israelis and
      to redeem them from their vicious present and deadly future.



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