Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gilad Atzmon: "Ethics and morality are far more crucial than some UN decision"

It is a huge pleasure for me to share with you the transcript of a Q&A by email which I did recently with Gilad Atzmon. I first discovered Gilad the jazz musician years ago when I myself was still playing jazz guitar (btw - I recently reviewed his latest album here), and only later did I learn of his political activism. Having since read as much of his writings as I could find, I now consider him to be one of the most intelligent, well-informed and insightful political activists ever. What I most love and respect in Gilad are his absolute commitment to the truth and his equally forceful determination to speak that truth to power; I can only begin to imagine the vitriolic hatred which Gilad elicits from the Zionist crazies which he relentlessly denounces.

I am deeply grateful to Gilad for taking the time for this Q&A even though he is very busy.

The Saker
VS: Two leading intellectuals have recently made strong arguments for the so-called "right to exist" of Israel. Norman Finkestein's argument is simple, yet powerful. He says the international community, via the UN General Assembly and the World Court, has already decided what the solution of the conflict should be: two states in the 1967 borders, side by side, with refugees either back or compensated. He points to the fact that all the countries in the world agree on that except the Israel, the USA, and some small south Pacific Islands. He does not claim that this is the best solution, but he says that this is the only doable one. He therefore dismisses the "One State" solution as unachievable.

GA: In general, I am trying to avoid any discussion to do with discourse resolution. I avoid it for a few reasons. I do not live in the region and it is not down to me to decide for the Palestinian what country, political setting or resolution they should follow. However, I may use the opportunity to suggest that the Two State Solution doesn't address the Palestinian cause. It is impractical for the Israelis will never let refugees into their shtetle state. But most importantly, the right of return or the right to live on your land is not a subject to international community decisions or laws. It is actually a moral right. And as far as I am concerned as an individual, ethics and morality are far more crucial than some UN decisions that are made by Zionised politicians and corrupted diplomats.

VS: Shlomo Sand has recently stated that "even the child born of a rape has the right to live. Yes, 1948 was a rape, and that rape gave birth to Israel, but that is now a reality which cannot be dismissed".

GA: It is hard to avoid the fact that the "rape child" is living on a "stolen land', It is impossible to deny the fact that the "child" is now more than sixty years old and yet, he is still driven by murderous zeal. The "child"’ is yet to come to term with his original sin. In fact the "rape child" has transformed into a rapist father and then grandfather.

VS: I notice two fundamental features of these arguments. Both Finkestein and Sand fundamentally accept the authority of the United Nations to create a Jewish state in Palestine and both Finkestein and Sand seem to believe that the fundamental nature of that state has no bearing on the topic of the legitimacy of its existence. However, the creation of a state - any state - in Palestine without the consultation of the local people seems to me to violate the principle of the right of self determination.

GA: You are absolutely right. However, I am not that fascinated about the "right of self determination" for this right was exploited by the Jewish national project for more than a century, For some reason the national Jew believes that he is entitled to self determine himself on the expense of others.

VS: The principle of international law which states that no territory can legitimately be acquired by war would indicate that only the 1948 borders of Israel would have a legal basis and even here this basis would be tenuous because these borders were eventually agreed to with Arab neighbors and not with any body representing the Palestinians.

GA: Were they? After 60 years of Israeli barbarism and total failure of international community and of the international law to support the Palestinian, I just do not hold my breath any more. I believe that Palestinian will liberate themselves. Israel is living on borrowed time. I would invest my intellectual effort supporting Palestinian resistance.

VS: The other thing which bothers me is that in discussing the solution to the Middle-East conflict (somewhat of a misnomer), neither Finkestein nor Sand look at the nature of the self-declared "Jewish state". They seem to be talking about a state like Belgium or Spain. But Israel is qualitatively different. It is the last openly racist state on the planet, it is built on a mythology which many (such as Garaudy or Sands) have debunked.

GA: It is not just racist, it is also nationalist and expansionist, murderous and most concerning, democratic. Every Israeli is basically liable to the crimes committed by his state.

VS: Israel is also the Ueber-terrorist state of the planet which is conducing a slow-motion genocide against the Palestinians and it is a state which has comprehensively rejected any kind of abidance by the rules of international law or even basic civilized behavior. Whether looked at from a legal or a moral point of view, the existence of a racist state like Israel is a monstrosity, a disgrace for all of mankind. So even if a child born of a rape has the right to exist, does that still mean that when this child turns into an adult self-worshiping mass-murderer it's existence is still a "right"? It is obvious that the only people who have a right to decide what solution is, or is not, acceptable to this conflict are the Palestinians themselves. But without prejudging of what they might decide, what is your opinion of the arguments presented by Finkelstein and Sand and what do you make of the so-called "right to exist" issue?

GA: I assume that everyone in the region has the right to decide. However, the Israelis have lost the battle. They cannot dictate a solution. I would agree that every nation should enjoy the right to exist. However this right cannot be celebrated on the expense of other nations or people.

VS: you say that "the Israelis have lost the battle". Why? Are they not being successful in their slow-motion genocide of the Palestinians?

GA: Indeed, the Israelis do realize that implementing genocidal measures is counter effective. Israel does realize that its Hasbara project is falling apart due to its unacceptable tactics. Some of its ministers and military official are under real threat of being arrested. If anything, the Palestinian movement and the Hamas included bought a lot of legitimacy during and after operation Cast Lead.

VS: The USA under Obama supports Israel as much as Bush did, even though the rhetoric is somewhat different.

GA: I am not so sure about it.. Monitoring Israeli press and other sources I get a different impression. Israel seems to be rather hesitant with Obama administration. However, Obama is irrelevant to the topic. He was elected by the American people to lead their nation rather than to liberate the Palestinian people. Palestinian people will liberate themselves, with Obama or without him. If Obama manage to pull out American soldiers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan this would be a major step forward.

VS: To make things worse, Israel is now openly threatening Iran with war. And you yourself admit that these polices do have the support of a majority the Israeli public opinion. Where do you see the signs of the defeat of Israel and what kind of scenario do you envision for this defeat to become indisputable?

GA: I see the wall as an Israeli acknowledgment that Israel is a fearful entity. Israel accepts that time is running out. This itself leads to total panic. They do not have any long term solution within their disposal. 

VS: speaking of the Israeli public opinion I want to ask you a simple question: what is wrong with them?!

GA: Let me say it clearly, something is wrong, what is it? I do not know. I spend much of my energy exposing the symptoms. What is the disease exactly, I do not know for sure but I guess that it is something between supremacy, chosenness and self loving.

VS: Surely the Israelis are "people like everybody else",

GA: In fact it is not that clear. The Zionists indoctrination may as well make them into a very dangerous collective, far more dangerous than anything we are familiar with.

VS: Yet they clearly support genocide, gross human rights violations, systematic violations of the laws of war, a racist ideology ("Jewish state"). What are the roots of all this evil?

GA: It must have something to do with their secular interpretation of the Bible and endorsement of the Holocaust religion as their main precept.

VS: How can people who emigrated to Israel from all over the world and who were presumably educated in very diverse circumstances all come together and unite a racist, self-worshiping and utterly inhuman ideology?!

GA: You probably hit the nail here, once you are a Zionist it doesn’t matter where you come from. You become a vengeance driven possessed human being. You do not even have to be Jewish. As we know, many of the Russian new immigrants to Israel were very quick to endorse the most militant right wing Ideas in spite of the fact that many of them were not Jewish at all.

VS: Rabbi Yeshaiahu Karelitz once said that "the secular-Jewish cart is empty" and Shlomo Sand, who quotes him, also agrees with him. Do you agree with that?

GA: For sure, but the secular and nationalist do manage to fill the empty box with a lot of phantasmic and imaginary content. As you probably know I insist that Jewish Marxist and Jewish anti Zionism are not different categorically from Zionism. They are both tribally orientated rather than universally driven.

VS: In your opinion, what cultural, national traits or ethos do Jews have in common which distinguishes them from non-Jews?

GA: Suffering, they are in love with the tail of suffering. This is probably why Israeli scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz suggested that Holocaust religion is the new Jewish religion. However this is where the Jewish tragedy forms. The Holocaust religion lacks goodness, mercy or kindness. It offers redemption through vengeance and self love.

VS: Considering that most self-identified Jews are not religious, how could rabbinical Judaism define or determine their identity?

GA: It doesn't. Secular Jews are defined by negation. Rather than by what they are, they are defined by what they aren't. While the observant Jew is defined by his belief system. He follows the Halacha law, he observes the Sabbath and so on, the secular Jew is defined by a set of negations. He is not a religious Jew, yet he is not a Goy, he is neither American, English or French. The emancipated secular Jew is not defined by positive qualities but rather by some different sets of negations.

VS: Then what is the positive content of the Jewish self-awareness and how does it translate into the desire to either live in a racist and genocidal state or to support such a state from afar?

GA: Positive content is a relative notion. I assume that Jewish nationalism left right and center can be realized as futile craving for authenticity.

VS: Last question: you say that the Palestinians will liberate themselves - how do you see that happening? Do you believe that like the South African Whites, the Israeli Jews will come to realize that their racist regime is immoral and "switch sides" or do you think that, like in Algeria, the colonizers will have to leave on a boat?

GA: No, I do not believe that Israelis will ever come to acknowledge their immorality. Self mirroring is foreign to the Jewish philosophy and identity both religious and secular. I believe that Israel will be defeated into submission by facts on the ground. They are turning into a minority. Time is Israel’s biggest enemy. The only one who can save the Israelis of a rapid demographic disaster are the orthodox Jewish communities. Seemingly the Israeli resent their orthodox brothers more than the Palestinians. Israel is an isolated entity in a region that is becoming more and more unforgiving . Israel is entangled with its neighbors. At a certain stage it won’t be able to maintain its security by heavy policing. This will be the end of it.