Gilad Atzmon: From Esther to AIPAC
- From Esther to AIPAC
March 3, 2007
"In certain contexts, memory can be subversive; in others, memory
can shield the status quo. When individuals and communities become
vested with memory as a form of identity and specialness, then other
suffering threatens to displace the centrality of our experience.
Instead of a bridge of solidarity to others who are suffering in the
present, suffering in the past can become a badge of honour,
protecting us from the challenges that are before us. Then our
witness, originally powerful, opening questions about God and power,
becomes diluted, can be seen as fake, contrived, even wilfully so. An
industry grows up around you, honours you, and at the same time uses
your witness for other reasons. In the end a confusion results,
externally and internally, until the witness himself can no longer
differentiate between the world of interpretation he helped articulate
and the world that now speaks in his name. Is this what happened to
Wiesel, or is Finkelstein's more acerbic analysis accurate?"
Jewishness is a rather broad term. It refers to a culture with many
faces, varied distinctive groups, different beliefs, opposing
political camps, different classes and diversified ethnicity.
Nevertheless, the connection between those very many people who happen
to identify themselves as Jews is rather intriguing. In the paragraphs
that follow, I will try to further the search into the notion of
Jewishness. I will make an attempt to trace the intellectual,
spiritual and mythological collective bond that makes Jewishness into
a powerful identity.
Clearly, Jewishness is neither a racial nor an ethnic category. Though
Jewish identity is racially and ethnically orientated, the Jewish
people do not form a homogenous group. There is no racial or ethnic
continuum. Jewishness may be seen by some as a continuation of
Judaism. I would maintain that this is not necessarily the case
either. Though Jewishness borrows some fundamental Judaic elements,
Jewishness is not Judaism and it is even categorically different from
Judaism. Furthermore, as we know, more than a few of those who proudly
define themselves as Jews have very little knowledge of Judaism, many
of them are atheists, non-religious and even overtly oppose Judaism or
any other religion. Many of those Jews who happen to oppose Judaism
happen to maintain their Jewish identity and to be extremely proud
about it. This opposition to Judaism obviously includes Zionism (at
least the early version) but it also is the basis of much of Jewish
Though Jewishness is different from Judaism one may still wonder just
what constitutes Jewishness: whether it is a new form of religion an
ideology or if it is just a 'state of mind'.
If Jewishness is indeed a religion, the next questions that have to be
asked are, "what kind of religion is it? What does this religion
entail? What do its followers believe in?" If it is a religion, one
may wonder whether it is possible to divorce from it as much as it is
possible to step out of Judaism, Christianity or Islam.
If Jewishness is an ideology, then the right questions to ask are,
"what does this ideology stand for? Does it form a discourse? Is it a
monolithic discourse? Does it portray a new world order? Is it aiming
for peace or violence? Does it carry a universal message to humanity
or is it just another manifestation of some tribal precepts?"
If Jewishness is a state of mind, then the question to raise is
whether it is rational or irrational. Is it within the expressible or
rather within the inexpressible?
At this point I may suggest to consider the remote possibility that
Jewishness may be a strange hybrid, it can be all of those things at
once i.e., a religion, an ideology and a state of mind.
The Holocaust Religion
"Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the philosopher who was an observant
orthodox Jew, told me once: "The Jewish religion died 200 years ago.
Now there is nothing that unifies the Jews around the world apart from
the Holocaust." (Uri Avnery)
Philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the German born Hebrew University
professor, was probably the first to suggest that the Holocaust has
become the new Jewish religion. 'The Holocaust' is far more than
historical narrative, it indeed contains most of the essential
religious elements: it has its priests (Simon Wiesenthal, Elie Wiesel,
Deborah Lipstadt, etc.) and prophets (Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu
and those who warn about the Iranian Judeocide to come). It has its
commandments and dogmas ('never again', 'six million', etc.). It has
its rituals (memorial days, Pilgrimage to Auschwitz etc.). It
establishes an esoteric symbolic order (kapo, gas chambers, chimneys,
dust, Musselmann, etc.). It has its shrines and temples (Yad Vashem,
the Holocaust Museum and now the UN). If this is not enough, the
Holocaust religion is also maintained by a massive economic network
and global financial infrastructures (Holocaust industry a la Norman
Finkelstein). Most interestingly, the Holocaust religion is coherent
enough to define the new 'antichrists' (the Deniers) and it is
powerful enough to persecute them (Holocaust denial laws).
Critical scholars who dispute the notion of 'Holocaust religion'
suggest that though the new emerging religion retains many
characteristics of an organised religion, it doesn't establish an
external God figure to point at, to worship or to love. I myself
cannot agree less. I insist that the Holocaust religion embodies the
essence of the liberal democratic worldview. It is there to offer a
new form of worshiping. It made self loving into a dogmatic belief in
which the observant follower worships himself. In the new religion it
is 'the Jew' whom the Jews worship. It is all about 'me', the subject
of endless suffering who makes it into redemption.
However, more than a few Jewish scholars in Israel and abroad happen
to accept Leibowitz's observation. Amongst them is Marc Ellis, the
prominent Jewish theologian who suggests a revealing insight into the
dialectic of the new religion. "Holocaust theology," says Ellis,
"yields three themes that exist in dialectical tension: suffering and
empowerment, innocence and redemption, specialness and normalization."
Though Holocaust religion didn't replace Judaism, it gave Jewishness a
new meaning. It sets a modern Jewish narrative allocating the Jewish
subject within a Jewish project. It allocates the Jew a central role
within his own self-centred universe. The 'sufferer' and the
'innocent' are marching towards 'redemption' and 'empowerment'. God is
obviously out of the game, he is fired, he has failed in his historic
mission, he wasn't there to save the Jews. Within the new religion the
Jew becomes 'the Jews' new God', it is all about the Jew who redeems
The Jewish follower of the Holocaust religion idealises the condition
of his existence. He then sets a framework of a future struggle
towards recognition. For the Zionist follower of the new religion, the
implications seem to be relatively durable. He is there to 'schlep'
the entirety of world Jewry to Zion at the expense of the indigenous
Palestinian people. For the Socialist Jew, the project is slightly
more complicated. For him redemption means setting a new world order,
namely a socialist haven. A world dominated by dogmatic working class
politics in which Jews happen to be no more than just one minority
amongst many. For the humanist observant, Holocaust religion means
that Jews must locate themselves at the forefront of the struggle
against racism, oppression and evil in general. Though it sounds
promising, it happens to be problematic because of obvious reasons. In
our current world order it is Israel and America that happen to be
amongst the leading oppressive evils. Expecting Jews to be in the
forefront of humanist struggle sets Jews in a fight against their
brethren and their supportive single superpower. However, It is rather
clear that all three Holocaust churches assign the Jews a major
project with some global implications.
As we can see, the Holocaust functions as an ideological interface. It
provides its follower with a logos. On the level of consciousness, it
suggests a purely analytical vision of the past and present, yet, it
doesn't stop just there, it also defines the struggle to come. It
defines a vision of a Jewish future. Nevertheless, as a consequence it
fills the Jewish subject's unconsciousness with the ultimate anxiety:
the destruction of the 'I'.
Needless to say, a faith that stimulates the consciousness (Ideology)
and steers the unconsciousness (Spirit) is a very good recipe for a
winning religion. This structural bond of ideology and spirit is
fundamental to the Judaic tradition. The bond between the legal
clarity of the halacah (ideology) and the mysteriousness of Jehovah or
even Kabala (spirit) makes Judaism into a totality, a universe in
itself. Bolshevism, the mass movement rather than the political
theory, is built upon the same structure, the lucidity of
pseudo-scientific materialism together with the fear of the
capitalistic appetite. Neoconservative's politics of fear is again all
about locking the subject in the chasm between the alleged forensic
lucidity of WMDs and the inexpressible fright of 'terror to come'.
This very bond between consciousness and unconsciousness brings to
mind the Lacanian notion of the 'real'. The 'real' is that which
cannot be symbolized i.e., expressed in words. The real is the
'inexpressible', the inaccessible. In Zizek's words, 'the real is
impossible', 'the real is the trauma'. Nevertheless, it is this trauma
that shapes the symbolic order. It is the trauma that forms our reality.
The Holocaust religion fits nicely into the Lacanian model. Its
spiritual core is rooted deeply within the domain of the
inexpressible. Its preaching teaches us to see a threat in everything.
It is the ultimate conjunction between the ideology and the spirit
that has materialised into sheer pragmatism.
Interestingly enough, the Holocaust religion extends far beyond the
internal Jewish discourse. In fact the new religion operates as a
mission. It sets shrines in far lands. As we can see, the emerging
religion is already becoming a new world order. It is the Holocaust
that is now used as an alibi to nuke Iran. Clearly, Holocaust
religion serves the Jewish political discourse both on the right and
left but it appeals to the Goyim as well, especially those who are
engaged in merciless killing 'in the name of freedom'. To a certain
extent we are all subject to this religion, some of us are worshipers,
others are just subject to its power. Interestingly enough, those who
deny the Holocaust are themselves subject to abuse by the high priests
of this religion. Holocaust religion constitutes the Western 'Real'.
We are not allowed to touch it or to look into it. Very much like the
Israelites who are entitled to obey their God but never to question him.
The Scholars who are engaged in the study of the Holocaust religion
(theology, ideology and historicity), are engaged mainly with
structural formulations, its meanings, its rhetoric and its historical
interpretation. Some happen to search for the theological dialectic
(Marc Ellis), others formulate the commandments (Adi Ofir), some learn
its historical evolution (Lenni Brenner), other expose its financial
infrastructure (Finkelstein). Interestingly enough, most scholars who
are engaged in the subject of Holocaust religion are engaged with a
list of events that happened between 1933-1945. Most of the scholars
are themselves orthodox observants. Though they may be critical of
different aspects of the exploitation of the Holocaust, they all
accept the validity of the Nazi Judeocide and its mainstream
interpretations and implications. Most of the scholars, if not all of
them, do not challenge the Zionist narrative, namely Nazi Judeocide,
yet, more than a few are critical of the way Jewish and Zionist
institutes employ the Holocaust. Though some may dispute the numbers
(Shraga Elam), and others question the validity of memory (Ellis,
Finkelstein), no one goes as far as revisionism, not a single
Holocaust religion scholar dares engage in a dialogue with the
so-called 'deniers' to discuss their vision of the events or any other
Far more interesting is the fact that none of the Holocaust religion
scholars have spent any energy studying the role of the Holocaust
within the long-standing Jewish continuum. From this point onward, I
will maintain that Holocaust religion was well established a long time
before the Final Solution (1942), well before the Kristalnacht (1938),
well before the Nuremberg Laws (1936), well before the first
anti-Jewish law was announced by Nazi Germany, well before the
American Jewish Congress declared a financial war against Nazi Germany
(1933) and even well before Hitler was born (1889). The Holocaust
religion is probably as old as the Jews.
In a previous paper I have defined the notion of 'Pre-Traumatic Stress
Disorder' (Pre-TSD) . Within the condition of the Pre-TSD, the
stress is the outcome of a phantasmic imaginary episode set in the
future, an event that has never taken place. Unlike the Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder, in which stress is realised as the direct reaction to
an event that (may) have taken place in the past, within the state of
Pre-TSD, the stress is formed as the outcome of an imaginary potential
event. Within the Pre-TSD an illusion pre-empts the conditions in
which the fantasy of future terror is shaping the present reality.
As it seems, the dialectic of fear dominates the Jewish existence as
well as mindset far longer than we are ready to admit. Though fright
is exploited politically by Jewish ethnic leaders since the early days
of emancipation, the dialectic of fear is far older than modern Jewish
history. In fact it is the heritage of the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible)
that is there to set the Jew in a pre-traumatic state. It is the
Hebrew Bible that sets a binary framework of Innocence/Suffering and
Persecution/Empowerment. More particularly, the fear of Judeocide is
entangled with Jewish spirit, culture and literature.
I would argue here that the Holocaust religion was there to transform
the ancient Israelites into Jews.
The American anthropologist Glenn Bowman who specialised in the study
of exilic identities offers a crucial insight into the subject of fear
and its contribution to the subject of Identity politics.
"Antagonism," says Bowman, "is fundamental to process of fetishsation
underlying identity, because one tends precisely to talk about who one
is or what one is at a moment in which that being seems threatened. I
begin to call myself such and such a person, or such and such a
representative of an imagined community, at the moment something seems
to threaten to disallow the being the name I speak stands in for.
Identity terms come into usage at precisely the moment in which for
some reason one comes to feel they signifying a being or entity one
has to fight to defend." 
In short, Bowman stresses that it is the fear that crystallises the
notion of identity. However, once the fear is matured into a state of
a collective pre-traumatic stress then identity re-forms itself. When
it comes to the Jewish people, it is the Bible that is there to set
the Jews within a state of Pre-TSD. It is the Bible that initiates the
fear of Judeocide.
More and more Bible scholars are now disputing the historicity of the
Bible. Niels Lechme in 'The Canaanites and Their Land' argues that the
Bible is for the most part "written after the Babylonian Exile and
that those writings rework (and in large part invent) previous
Israelite history so that it reflects and reiterates the experiences
of those returning from the Babylonian exile."
In other words, being written by home-comers, the Bible incorporates
some hardcore exilic ideology into an historic narrative. Very much
like in the case of the early Zionist ideologist who regarded
assimilation as a death threat, "The communities which aggregated
under the leadership of the Yahwehist priesthood (at the time of the
Babylonian exile) saw assimilation and apostasy not only as social
death for themselves as Judeans but also as attempted deicide. They
resolved to maintain an absolute and exclusive commitment to Yahweh
who they were sure would lead them back to the land from which they
had been expelled. The prescribed blood purity as a means of
maintaining the borders of the national community, thus proscribed
inter-marriage with those surrounding them. They also established a
series of exclusivist rituals that set themselves off from their
neighbours, and these not only included a surrogate form of temple
worship but also a distinct calendar which ritualistically enabled
them to exist in a different time frame than the communities with
which they shared space. All of these diacritical devices served to
mark and maintain difference, but did not prevent them from trading
with and thus being able to sustain themselves amongst the Babylonians."
Looking into Bowman and Lechme's spectacular reading of the Bible and
the Judaic narrative as a manifestation of exilic and marginal
identity may explain the fact that Jewishness flourishes in exile but
rather loses its impetus once it becomes a domestic adventure. If
Jewishness is indeed centred around an émigré collective survival
ideology, than its follower will prosper in Exile. However, that which
maintains the Jewish collective identity is fear. Similar to the case
of Holocaust religion, Jewishness sets the fear of Judeocide at the
core of the Jewish psyche, yet, it also offers the spiritual,
ideological and pragmatic measures to deal with this fear.
Book of Esther
The Book of Esther is a biblical story that is the basis for the
celebration of Purim, probably the most joyous Jewish festival. The
book tells the story of an attempted Judeocide but it also tells a
story in which Jews manage to change their fate. In the book the Jews
do manage to rescue themselves and even to mete revenge.
It is set in the third year of Ahasuerus, and the ruler is a king of
Persia usually identified with Xerxes I. It is a story of a palace,
conspiracy, an attempted Judeocide and a brave and beautiful Jewish
queen (Esther) who manages to save the Jewish people at the very last
In the story, King Ahasuerus is married to Vashti, whom he repudiates
after she rejects his offer to 'visit' him during a feast. Esther was
selected from the candidates to be Ahasuerus's new wife. As the story
progresses, Ahasuerus's prime minister Haman plots to have the king
kill all the Jews without knowing that Esther is actually Jewish. In
the story, Esther together with her cousin Mordechai saves the day for
their people. At the risk of endangering her own safety, Esther warns
Ahasuerus of Haman's murderous anti-Jewish plot. Haman and his sons
are hanged on the fifty cubit gallows he had originally built for
cousin Mordecai. As it happens, Mordecai takes Haman's place, he
becomes the prime minister. Ahasuerus's edict decreeing the murder of
the Jews cannot be rescinded, so he issues another edict allowing the
Jews to take up arms and kill their enemies, which they do.
The moral of the story is rather clear. If Jews want to survive, they
better find infiltrates into the corridors of power. With Esther,
Mordechai and Purim in mind, AIPAC and the notion of 'Jewish power'
looks like an embodiment of a deep Biblical and cultural ideology.
However, here is the interesting twist. Though the story is presented
as an historic tale, the historical accuracy of the Book of Esther is
largely disputed by most modern Bible Scholars. It is largely the lack
of clear corroboration of any of the details of the story of the Book
of Esther with what is known of Persian History from classical sources
that led scholars to come to a conclusion that the story is mostly or
even totally fictional.
In other words, though the moral is clear, the attempted genocide is
fictional. Seemingly, the Book of Esther set its followers into a
collective Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It makes a fantasy of
destruction into an ideology of survival. And indeed, some read the
story as an allegory of quintessentially assimilated Jews who discover
that they are targets of anti-Semitism, but are also in a position to
save themselves and their fellow Jews.
Keeping Bowman in mind may throw some light here. The Book of Esther
is there to form the exilic identity. It is there to implant the
existential stress, it introduces the Holocaust religion. It sets the
conditions that turn the Holocaust into reality.
Interestingly enough, the Book of Esther (in the Hebrew version) is
one of only two books of the Bible that do not directly mention God
(the other is Song of Songs). In the Book of Esther it is the Jews who
believe in themselves, in their own power, in their uniqueness, in
their sophistication, in their ability to conspire, in their ability
to take over kingdoms, in their ability to save themselves. The Book
of Esther is all about empowerment and the Jews who believe in their
From Purim to Birkenau
In an article named "A Purim Lesson: Lobbying Against Genocide, Then
and Now", Dr. Rafael Medoff shares with his readers what he
regards as the lesson inherited to the Jews by the Book of Esther. If
to be more precise, it is the art of lobbying which Esther and
Mordechai are there to teach us. "The holiday of Purim" says Medoff,
"celebrates the successful effort by prominent Jews in the capitol of
ancient Persia to prevent genocide against the Jewish people." But
Medoff doesn't stop just there. This specific exercise of what some
call 'Jewish power' has been carried forward and performed by modern
emancipated Jews: "What is not well known is that a comparable
lobbying effort took place in modern times -- in Washington, D.C., at
the peak of the Holocaust."
In the article Medoff explores the similarities between Esther's
lobbying in Persia and her modern brothers lobbying within the FDR's
administration at the pick of WW2. "The Esther in 1940s Washington was
Henry Morgenthau Jr." says Medoff, "a wealthy, assimilated Jew of
German descent who (as his son later put it) was anxious to be
regarded as 'one hundred percent American.' Downplaying his
Jewishness, Morgenthau gradually rose from being FDR's friend and
adviser to his Treasury Secretary."
Clearly, Medoff spotted a modern Mordechai as well, "a young Zionist
emissary from Jerusalem, Peter Bergson (real name: Hillel Kook) who
led a series of protest campaigns to bring about U.S. rescue of Jews
from Hitler. The Bergson group's newspaper ads and public rallies
roused public awareness of the Holocaust -- particularly when it
organized over 400 rabbis to march to the front gate of the White
House just before Yom Kippur in 1943."
Medoff's reading of the Book of Esther provides us with a glaring
insight into the internal code of Jewish collective survival dynamics
in which the assimilated (Esther) and the observant (Mordechai) are
joining forces with clear Judeo centric interests in their minds.
According to Medoff the similarities are indeed shocking. "Mordechai's
pressure finally convinced Esther to go to the king; the pressure of
Morgenthau's aides finally convinced him to go to the president, armed
with a stinging 18-page report that they titled 'Report to the
Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the
Dr. Medoff is rather ready to draw his historical conclusions.
"Esther's lobbying succeeded. Ahasuerus cancelled the genocide decree
and executed Haman and his henchmen. Morgenthau's lobbying also
succeeded. A Bergson-initiated Congressional resolution calling for
U.S. rescue action quickly passed the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee -- enabling Morgenthau to tell FDR that 'you have either got
to move very fast, or the Congress of the United States will do it for
you.' Ten months before election day, the last thing FDR wanted was an
embarrassing public scandal over the refugee issue. Within days,
Roosevelt did what the Congressional resolution sought -- he issued an
executive order creating the War Refugee Board, a U.S. government
agency to rescue refugees from Hitler."
It is clear beyond doubt that Medoff sees the Book of Esther as a
general guideline for a healthy Jewish future. Medoff ends his paper
saying: "the claim that nothing could be done to help Europe's Jews
had been demolished by Jews who shook off their fears and spoke up for
their people -- in ancient Persia and in modern Washington." In other
words, Jews can do and should do for themselves. This is indeed the
moral of the Book of Esther as well as the Holocaust religion.
What Jews should do for themselves is indeed an open question.
Different Jews have different ideas. The Neocon believes in dragging
America and the West into an endless war against Islam. Emmanuel
Levinas, on the contrary, believes that Jews should actually position
themselves at the forefront of the struggle against oppression and
injustice. Indeed, Jewish empowerment is just one answer among many.
Yet, it is a very powerful not to say a dangerous one. It is
especially dangerous when the American Jewish Committee (AJC) acts as
a modern-day Mordechai and publicly engages in an extensive lobbying
effort for a war against Iran.
When analysing the work and influence of AIPAC within American
politics it is the Book of Esther that we should bear in mind. AIPAC
is more than a mere political lobby. AIPAC is a modern-day Mordechai,
the AJC is modern-day Mordechai. Both AIPAC and AJC are inherently in
line with the Hebrew Biblical school of thought. However, while the
Mordechais are relatively easy to spot, the Esthers, those who act for
Israel behind the scenes, are slightly more difficult to trace.
I believe that once we learn to look at Israeli lobbying in the
parameters that are drawn by the Book of Esther/Holocaust-religion, we
are then entitled to regard Ahmadinejad as the current Haman/Hitler
figure. The AJC is Mordechai, Bush is obviously Ahasuerus, yet Esther
can be almost anyone, from the last Necon to Cheney and beyond.
Brenner and Prinz
In the opening paragraph of this essay I ask what Jewishness stands
for. Though I accept the complexity of the notion of Jewishness, I
tend to additionally accept Leibowitz's contribution to the subject:
Holocaust is the new Jewish religion. However, within the paper I took
the liberty of extending the notion of the Holocaust. Rather than
referring merely to the Shoah, i.e., the Nazi Judeocide, I argue here
that the Holocaust is actually engraved within the Jewish discourse
and spirit. The Holocaust is the essence of the collective Jewish
Pre-Traumatic stress disorder and it predates the Shoah. To be a Jew
is to see the 'other' as a threat rather than as a brother. To be a
Jew is to be on a constant alert. To be a Jew is to internalise the
message of the Book of Esther. It is to aim towards the most
influential junctions of hegemony. To be a Jew is to collaborate with
The American Marxist historian Lenni Brenner is fascinated by the
collaboration between Zionists and Nazism. In his book Zionism In The
Age of Dictators he presents an extract from Rabbi Joachim Prinz's
book published in 1937 after Rabbi Prinz left Germany for America.
"Everyone in Germany knew that only the Zionists could responsibly
represent the Jews in dealings with the Nazi government. We all felt
sure that one day the government would arrange a round table
conference with the Jews, at which after the riots and atrocities of
the revolution had passed the new status of German Jewry could be
considered. The government announced very solemnly that there was no
country in the world which tried to solve the Jewish problem as
seriously as did Germany. Solution of the Jewish question? It was our
Zionist dream! We never denied the existence of the Jewish question!
Dissimilation? It was our own appeal! ... In a statement notable for
its pride and dignity, we called for a conference." 
Brenner then brings in extracts from a Memorandum that was sent to the
Nazi Party by the German Zionist ZVfD on 21 June 1933:
"Zionism has no illusions about the difficulty of the Jewish
condition, which consists above all in an abnormal occupational
pattern and in the fault of an intellectual and moral posture not
rooted in one's own tradition ... On the foundation of the new state,
which has established the principle of race, we wish so to fit our
community into the total structure so that for us too, in the sphere
assigned to us, fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible. ...
Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and
sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial
realities. Precisely because we do not wish to falsify these
fundamentals, because we, too, are against mixed marriage and are for
maintaining the purity of the Jewish group ... We believe in the
possibility of an honest relationship of loyalty between a
group-conscious Jewry and the German state ... "
Brenner doesn't approve either of Prinz's take nor the Zionist
initiative. Filled with loathing he says, "This document, a treason to
the Jews of Germany, was written in standard Zionist cliches:
'abnormal occupational pattern', 'rootless intellectuals greatly in
need of moral regeneration', etc. In it the German Zionists offered
calculated collaboration between Zionism and Nazism, hallowed by the
goal of a Jewish state: we shall wage no battle against thee, only
against those that would resist thee."
Brenner fails to see the obvious. Rabbi Prinz and the ZVfD were not
traitors, they were actually genuine Jews. They followed their very
Jewish cultural code. They followed the Book of Esther, they took the
role of Mordechai. They tried to find a way to collaborate with what
they correctly identified as a prominent emerging power. In 1969,
Rabbi Prinz confessed that ever "since the assassination of Walther
Rathenau in 1922, there was no doubt in our minds that the German
development would be toward an anti-Semitic totalitarian regime. When
Hitler began to arouse, and as he put it 'awaken' the German nation to
racial consciousness and racial superiority, we had no doubt that this
man would sooner or later become the leader of the German nation."
Whether Brenner or anyone else likes it or not, Rabbi Prinz proves to
be an authentic Jewish leader. He proves to possess some highly
developed survival radar mechanism that fit perfectly well with the
exilic ideology. In 1981 Lenni Brenner interviewed Rabbi Prinz. Here
is what he had to say about the collaborator Rabbi:
"(Prinz) dramatically evolved in the 44 years since he was
expelled from Germany. He told me, off tape, that he soon realized
that nothing he said there made sense in the US. He became an American
liberal. Eventually, as head of the American Jewish Congress, he was
asked to march with Martin Luther King and he did so."
Once again, Brenner fails to see the obvious. Prinz didn't change at
all. Prinz didn't evolve in those 44 years. He was and remained a
genuine authentic Jew, and an extremely clever one. A man who
internalised the essence of Jewish émigré philosophy: In Germany be a
German, and in America be American. Be flexible, fit in and adopt
relativistic ethical thinking. Prinz, being a devoted follower of
Mordechai, realised that whatever is good for the Jews is simply good.
I went back and listened to the invaluable Brenner interviews with
Rabbi Prinz that are now available on line. I was rather shocked
to find out that actually Prinz presents his position eloquently. It
is Prinz rather than Brenner who provides us a glimpse into Jewish
ideology and its interaction with the surrounding reality. It is Prinz
rather than Brenner who happens to understand the German volk and
their aspirations. Prinz presents his past moves as a proud Jew. From
his point of view, collaborating with Hitler was indeed the right
thing to do. He was following Mordechai, he was probably searching for
an Esther to come. Thus, it is only natural that Rabbi Prinz later
became the President of the Jewish American Congress. He became a
prominent American leader In spite of his 'collaboration with Hitler'.
Simply because of the obvious reason: from a Jewish ideological point
of view, he did the right thing.
Final Words About Zionism
Once we learn to look at Jewishness as an exilic culture, as the
embodiment of the 'ultimate other' we can then understand Jewishness
as a collective continuum grounded on a fantasy of horror. Jewishness
is the materialisation of politics of fear into a pragmatic agenda.
This is what Holocaust religion is all about and it is indeed as old
as the Jews. Rabbi Prinz could foresee the Holocaust. Both Prinz and
the ZVfD could anticipate a Judeocide. Thus, from a Jewish ideological
point of view they acted appropriately. They were committed to their
esoteric ethics within an esoteric cultural discourse.
Zionism was indeed a great promise, it was there to convert the Jews
into Israelites. It was going to make the Jews into people like other
peoples. Zionism was there to identify and fight the Galut (Diaspora),
the exilic characteristic of the Jewish people and their culture. But
Zionism was doomed to failure. The reason is obvious: within a culture
that is metaphysically grounded upon exilic ideology the last thing
you can expect is a successful homecoming. In order to live for its
promise Zionism had to liberate itself of the Jewish exilic ideology,
Zionism had to liberate itself of the Holocaust religion. But this is
exactly what it fails to do. Being exilic to the bone, Zionism had to
turn to antagonising the indigenous Palestinians in order to maintain
its fetish of Jewish identity.
Since Zionism failed to divorce itself from the Jewish émigré
ideology, it lost the opportunity to evolve into any form of domestic
culture. Consequently, Israeli culture and politics is a strange
amalgam of indecisiveness; a mixture of colonial empowerment together
with Galut's victim mentality. Zionism is a secular product of exilic
culture that cannot mature into authentic homegrown perception.
Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He
is the author of two novels: A Guide to the Perplexed and the recently
released My One and Only Love. Atzmon is also one of the most
accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. His recent CD, Exile, was
named the year's best jazz CD by the BBC. He now lives in London and
can be reached at: atz@...
 Marc Ellis, Marc Ellis on Finkelstein
 Marc H. Ellis, Beyond Innocence & Redemption - Confronting The
Holocaust And Israeli Power, Creating a Moral Future for the Jewish
People (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990).
 Glenn Bowman-Migrant Labour: Constructing Homeland in the Exilic
Imagination, Antrhropological Theory II:4. December 2002 pp 447-468.
Painting: Azor master (ca. 1430), Esther before Ahasuerus, Koninklijke
Bibliotheek, The Hague
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