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Gilad Atzmon: Think Tribal, Speak Universal

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    THINK TRIBAL, SPEAK UNIVERSAL by Gilad Atzmon December 12, 2006 http://www.aljazeerah.info I may as well be the King of The Jews. I have achieved the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2006
      by Gilad Atzmon
      December 12, 2006

      I may as well be the King of The Jews. I have achieved the
      unachievable, accomplished the impossible. I have managed to unite
      them all: Right, Left and Centre. The entirety of the primarily-
      Jewish British political groups: the Zionists the anti-Zionists,
      Jewish Socialists, Tribal Marxists, The Board of Deputies, Jewish
      Trotskyites, Jews Sans Frontieres, Jews Avec Frontieres for the
      first time in history all speak in one single voice. They all repeat
      exactly the same misquotes. They all hate Gilad Atzmon.

      "Pretty impressive," I think to myself, "I must be doing something
      right." Yet, I am slightly confused by my own achievement. When it
      comes down to it, I'm not the canonical enemy; I am a jazz musician
      and author. I am not a politician, nor am I a member of any party. I
      do not present or support any political agenda. I have never been
      involved in any act of violence (not even as an Israeli soldier) nor
      have I ever called for violence. I am what some may call
      an "independent critical thinker". It is my personal understanding
      that I choose to share with my readers and listeners. I express my
      very own reading into events and some speculations regarding the
      notion of identity. I write about things that I find while looking
      into myself. This is indeed very dangerous for people who try to
      promote some collective dogmatic and ethnic tribalism. It is
      apparently the individual and critical thinker who endangers any
      form of ideological dogmatism (in general) and Jewish collectivism
      (in particular).

      Surely, the most effective way to confront a thinker is through open
      intellectual debate. But somehow, this is precisely what those who
      oppose me refuse to do. Instead, they employ various tactics aimed
      at silencing me. They are filled with hate. Because, it seems, hate
      is the name of the game.

      I recently came across an interesting insight into the subject of
      hate and anti-Semitism. It goes like this:

      `While in the past an 'anti-Semite' was someone who hates Jews,
      nowadays it is the other way around, an anti-Semite is someone the
      Jews hate.'

      The politics of hate can be effective, as well as being vicious. And
      you'd think tribal Jewish activists would be the first to understand
      this. We all know that Jews have been suffering hatred and
      discrimination for centuries. Yet the Jewish ethnic activists seem
      to have learned hatred from their enemies so much that the secular
      Jewish political discourse has been totally shaped by it. Moreover,
      hate has become the main matrix of negation: The Israelis are set to
      hate the Arabs, the Zionists are there to hate the Goyim (in
      general), Jews against Zionism hate the Goyim as well as Israel as
      well as Atzmon (in particular).

      But why do they hate so much? The answer is simple. Once Judaism is
      eliminated, what remains of Jewish identity is pretty threadbare.
      Once stripped of religious spirituality, all that is left of
      Jewishness is a template of negation fuelled by racial orientation
      and spiced up with some light cultural context. Sadly, I have to say
      that though very many emancipated and assimilated Jews have adopted
      universal humanist ideas, secular collective Jewish identity has
      never matured into adopting a universal humanist ideological
      standpoint or even a philosophical insight. The reasons are simple:

      A. Racial or even ethnic orientation cannot form a basis for a
      universal ethical argument.
      B. Chicken soup or Jewish humour (culture) does not make an
      ideological argument.

      It was Moses Mendelssohn, an 18th century Jewish progressive
      scholar, who coined the famous Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment)
      insight: "Be a Jew at Home and a (cosmopolitan) Man on the Street".
      Mendelssohn's revelation for the modern Jew doesn't leave much room
      for doubt. Rather than encouraging the modern Jew to genuinely
      assimilate into a universal ethos of equality, the Haskalah Jew is
      destined to live in a dual mode if not practically a state of
      schizophrenia. He is split between the solitary pleasure of a cosy,
      homey Jewish identity and the public appearance of the `cosmopolitan
      man'. In fact, it is this duality of tribalism and universalism that
      is at the very heart of the collective secular Jewish identity.

      This duality has never been properly resolved. A few attempts have
      been made to brush it off but they have all failed. Zionism for
      instance, offered to abolish the `abnormal' condition of the `Jewish
      Diaspora', in other words, it suggested that in a `Jewish State'
      (intended as being for Jews Only) the differences between the `home'
      and the `street' would disappear. In fact, Zionism was all about the
      transforming the `street' into the cosy Jewish `home'. Though it
      managed to do this, there is no trace of universalism in either the
      Zionist's `street' or in his `home'. The state of Beit Hanoun and
      the carnage Israel left behind in Lebanon last summer doesn't leave
      much room for doubt - Israel doesn't really offer us any lessons in
      universal cosmopolitanism. Marxism, on the other hand, attempted to
      make people equal. In other words, it promised to make all `homes'
      look the same. This idea was very appealing to many European Jews.
      Marxism was certainly successful for a while but sadly enough,
      nowadays, it is only consumerism that makes us all look homogenous
      (iPod, coca-cola, jeans). Clearly, there is not much to celebrate
      there either.

      It is within the failure of these two competing grand ideologies
      that the matrix of negation marched triumphantly back. Clearly, the
      search for a contemporary collective secular Jewish identity is a
      perplexing endeavour. Just as in Mendelssohn's time, it aims at
      integrating the opposing categories of tribalism with universalism.
      But this can never be achieved, and this is exactly where hate
      politics starts to play its part. If you don't know who you are,
      just find yourself an enemy. In other words, `tell me who you hate
      and I will tell you who you are.'

      It occurred to me a while ago that if all tribal Jewish activists
      see me as a threat, surely they must perceive in me some kernel of
      truth. I realised that there must be something about my ideas that
      shakes everything they believe in. Indeed, it doesn't take a genius
      to understand what that thing is. I have managed to expose the
      Mendelssohnian clash at the very heart of contemporary Jewish
      secular identity in general, and in tribal Jewish left activism in

      Mendelssohn must have understood the intrinsic clash between
      the `cosmopolitan man' and the `Jewish home'. He must have realised
      that universalism and tribalism are opposing categories. Being
      trained as a rabbi, Mendelssohn offered a pragmatic and practical
      solution - but this solution led to false and deceptive behaviour.
      Either you pretend to be a cosmopolitan while in the `street' or you
      lie to your God at `home'. This behavioural code, though being very
      pragmatic, happens to be non-ethical by definition. It is based on
      deception: both self-deception and deceiving the other. As we know,
      it was Mendelssohn's insight that was the cause of many Germanic
      Jews eventually converting to Christianity or just departing from
      any connection with Jewish collectivism, Jewish life or culture.
      True humanists would be apt to disengage from a non-genuine
      lifestyle. Ethically, at least, Mendelssohn's middle way between
      orthodoxy and modernity failed to provide an answer.

      Surprisingly enough, the primarily-Jewish left activist falls
      straight into Mendelssohn's trap. He tries desperately to bridge the
      gap between tribal commitment and the universal call and, like
      Mendelssohn, he is doomed to failure. Indeed, in the early days of
      the Palestinian solidarity movement the primarily-Jewish peace
      activism was of immense importance. It was actually Jewish humanists
      who were the first to speak out for the Palestinians when the world
      out there was still immersed in the Zionist narrative. But things
      have now changed. Once Hamas was democratically elected, it was the
      Jewish tribal peace activist who was the first to show
      dissatisfaction on many a progessive discussion group. Obviously
      Hamas doesn't fit into the Jewish Socialist vision for the region.
      In other words, tribal Jewish humanists' support for the
      Palestinians is tilted by self-centric concerns.

      I do know what Judaism stands for. I can easily follow and support
      the Torah Jews' argument against Zionism. Also, in my concerts and
      readings I meet very many Jews who put aside any tribal orientation
      to join the emerging Palestinian solidarity movement. I admire them
      and I respect their courage. Indeed, I fail to understand the Jewish
      tribal peace activism.

      Monitoring tribal Jewish left activism for more than a few years, I
      have managed to expose some major categorical flaws. If the left is
      a `progressive' endeavour aiming at a universal message that goes
      beyond race and ethnicity, then applying tribal and clannish banners
      is nothing but `reactionary' attitude. The introduction of racial
      orientation into the Socialist discourse reduces Socialism into a
      light form of marginal politics and sometimes even, a bitter
      manifestation of national socialism. This complexity is far from
      being new. Lenin was already concerned with this issue in 1903.

      However, I must admit that I am not concerned at all with the
      healthiness of the Socialist or Marxist discourse. I am engaged here
      solely in the deconstruction of a political standpoint and in
      scrutinising its rhetoric. Rather than saving the Marxist
      philosophy, I care for the people of Beit Hanoun, Jenin, Ramallah
      and Nablus. I devote my energy to support the Palestinian people who
      are bombed and starved by a State that happens to be `the Jewish
      State'. My message is clear. A crime of immense proportions is
      taking place in Palestine. As far as the humanist argument is
      concerned, Palestinians are the priority. If the crime against the
      Palestinians is a crime against humanity, we had better fight it
      collectively as human beings rather than as isolated formations of
      ethnically and racially segregated groups. The task ahead is
      complicated enough. Tribal Judeo-centric issues to do with anti-
      Semitism may be important to some. However, I maintain that they are
      secondary as far as Palestine solidarity is concerned. In other
      words, when you speak universal you may as well mean it for a change.



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