Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, February 2015
I Was Born in Israel Many Years Before I Realized Israel Was Palestine
Gilad Atzmon Interviewed By Mehmet GurhanAl-Jazeerah, CCUN, February 20, 2015
Gilad Atzmon, the Palestinian
I was born in Israel and it was many years before I realized that Israel was Palestine. I was relatively patriotic. I was looking forward to serving in the army and then I grasped that there was little truth in the Jewish historical narrative. I then gathered that I was living on someone else’s land. At the same time I discovered the saxophone. By the age of 30, I left Israel and never went back.
Q: There is some kind of rebellion in your music; how do you explain this?
A: My music can be very soft and reflective. Sometimes it is very funny and occasionally it is furious. There are too many reasons to be angry. I’m far from happy when I see Israel flattening Gaza. I’m furious when I find out 80 percent of British conservative MPs are ‘friends of Israel.’ I’m angry when I find out the Jewish lobby is pushing America into another World War and instead of becoming violent, sometimes I use music as a channel to express my anger.
Q: What type of music is close to your music in the world?
A: It’s very simple. I’m a jazz artist, a Bebop player. But I’m inspired by near east music whether it is Arabic, Turkish or Greek. I find my own way to fuse the Arabic Mawwal with John Coltrane…
Q: What do you think of the social and political state of Turkey?
A: Listen, I’m really against any forms of interventionism, so I’m definitely not the right person to judge the situation here. I can only talk about my impression, and it’s not an academic observation. I’m touring all over the world and I see a lot of sadness. I see impoverished countries, people with no work, with no prospect of production. I see youngsters who are third generation poor and in their deserted main street they don’t eat their own food anymore, they instead eat McDonalds, Burger King, Coca Cola, Starbucks. And I’m here in Turkey and see a lot of people on the streets, and I see fish from your sea, and tomatoes from your fields, and I see a lot of people working in the restaurants that have Turkish names and don’t even offer a menu in English, and it makes me happy for you. You have managed to maintain your authenticity and culture. This is a great victory. You are so lucky that Islamophobic Europeans didn’t accept you in the EU. Your country is now a superpower.
Q: You were born in Israel but you are against Israeli occupation and its politics. You are living in the West, how do you cope?
A: Let me tell you something and it is crucial. In my entire career, I have never been subject to abuse by the British government, never been subject to abuse by the American government. Although the infamous Alan Dershowitz, who is now implicated in a huge sex scandal with minors, labelled me ‘as the number one enemy of the Jewish people,’ I’ve never been subject to direct abuse by the Israeli government. Even the NSA doesn’t harass me. The only people who stalk me continuously are the Jewish left and the Guardian newspaper. I can say that it’s not a problem but I came to the realization that the biggest enemy of our elementary freedoms are the progressives and I’ll explain why.
In the West and maybe in Turkey as well, we have issues with political correctness. What is political correctness? Political correctness is politics that doesn’t allow political opposition. But this is clearly the definition we associate with dictatorship. But political correctness is far worse than dictatorship. Why? Because in the case of dictatorship you experience an opposition to a regime that is distinct from you, but in the case of political correctness it is you who silence yourself. Political Correctness is a form of self-censorship. The Jewish left and the progressives made us into a collective of impotents. Our task is to move on and to erect our resistance against this cancerous ideology.
Q: Can we separate Judaism from Zionism?
A: No. Israel isn’t called the ‘Zionist State,’ it defines itself as the ‘Jewish State.’ The parties in the government are called “Israel Our Home” and the “Jewish Home” not the “Zionist Home”*. Now the Israeli cabinet has approved the National Bill that defines Israel as the Jewish state not the Zionist state. Zionism from an Israeli perspective died in 1948. Zionism was a promise to erect a Jewish state in Zion (Palestine). Once, Israel was established, Zionism was finished with its role. The only people who maintain the Zionist nonsense are the Jewish left because they want to differentiate between Jewishness and Zionism. This is why they call Israel colonialism. But Israel is not colonialism. Colonialism is a clear exchange between a mother state and a settler state. Israel is a settler state, yet there is no Jewish mother state. This is why they call it apartheid. Israel in not apartheid: Apartheid is a racist system of exploitation. But Israel doesn’t want to exploit the Palestinians, it wants them gone. Israel is a Hitlerian ethnic cleansing model. The Left uses the terms ‘Colonialism’, ‘Zionism’, and ‘Apartheid’ in an attempt to divert attention from the ‘J’ word. For solidarity with Palestine to be meaningful, we have to de-Judify our terminology. Not to kick out the Jews, but to prevent Jewish interests from defining the boundaries of the discussion.
Q: Can we see Israel and Palestine as two states?
Q: Will the Palestinians be able to return to their county?
A: This is what they are fighting for. And any person who doesn’t accept the right of return is not a genuine supporter.
Q: What do you think about what Ahmadinejad said about the Holocaust?
A: I agree 100 percent with everything Ahmadinejad said about the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad basically said that Holocaust must be treated as a historical chapter. At the moment it is treated as a religion. And if it is a religion I want to maintain my right to be an atheist. In contemporary Judified reality it is OK not to believe in God but if you don’t believe in Auschwitz you will be penalised and severely. I don’t accept it.
Q: What does the US gain from supporting Israel?
A: We cannot think of America as an independent entity anymore. America’s political system is a Jewish occupied zone. America, Britain, France, [and generally] the West woke up one morning to realize that there was a loop hole in their legal system that facilitated the ability of invasive foreign lobbies such as AIPAC, CFI, CRIF to interfere with their foreign affairs. America has sacrificed its foreign interests on the Jewish alter. It is a disaster. But history teaches us that this Jewish political impunity always comes to an end in a totally tragic circumstance.
Q: Do you agree that a Holocaust is happening in Gaza?
A: I don’t know what the Holocaust is anymore. I’m like Ahmadinejad in that regard. When I was a kid they taught me that the Nazis made soap out of Jews. And then I grew up and realized it was all a fantasy. They taught me that the Arabs were going to throw us into the sea. And when I was mature enough to learn the history on my own I realized that it was actually the Jews who threw Palestinians into the sea. Then I realized that Jews (like everyone else) tend to project their cultural symptoms on others. The Jews are fearful of the Palestinians because the Jews witness their army engaged in murderous activity. They must believe the Palestinians are as murderous as the IDF happens to be.
I don’t want to talk in terms of the Holocaust because it is too Jewish. I don’t want to compare Israel with Nazism because Israel is bad enough. From some perspectives Israel is worse than Nazism (Israel is a Jewish democracy it implies a collective responsibility). When I compare Israel with Nazism I reaffirm the Holocaust religion and sustain the primacy of Jewish suffering. We have to establish a new discourse where Israelis are the worst enemy of humanity and the Palestinians are the ultimate sufferers. Auschwitz was indeed bad, but not as bad as Gaza.
Q: Iran is not after nuclear arms the whole world knows that. How do you explain the fuss around the Iranian nuclear project?
A: I have no problem with Iranian nuclear arms. I want Iran to have a bomb. Just One Iranian bomb will bring peace to the region. Because all this mess in the Middle Ease caused by Israel and America is because they know they can kill with impunity and endlessly. And my problem with the Shias is that they are too nice. They really don’t want to bomb anyone. An atomic bomb is Haram they say.
Q: What is your opinion about Iran’s role in the Middle East?
A: Iran is the most beautiful political power. It supports the Palestinians. It supports the resistance. Iran has developed very strong industry. This country that was a client state of America 34 years ago now produces submarines, airplanes, drones, very strong computers. It is beautiful.
Q: Obama is the first black president of America but statistics show scores of black people are shot dead every year. How do you analyze this contradiction?
A: We like to think in terms of racial division because this is the heritage of the left, but it is wrong. In the west and in the last 50 years there has been a collapse of manufacturing partially because of automation, machinery, and computerization but also because Milton Friedman taught us that is better to be a service economy. The meaning of it in America, Britain, France, etc. is that we don’t need working people. The people who used to be working class are now workless class, 8and they are doomed to poverty with no hope, they are called under-class. As things stand, existing jobs demand very high cognitive ability (very high I.Q.) such as engineers, financiers, bankers, PRs. This group of privileged people is what I call the ‘cognitive elite,’ and they are few in number. We live in a society where we witness the under-class growing rapidly and a small cognitive elite maintaining its power. Obama is well within the cognitive elite and not because he is black, but because he is clever and he clearly found his way to the top. When it comes to the under-class we realize that there are a lot of immigrants including many Hispanics and Blacks. They are the primary sufferers of the new cruel, merciless division not between the rich and the poor but between the able and the less able. It is very devastating. This is why Turkey is so important. You manage your economy and currency in a manner that facilitates manufacturing.
Read the interview in Turkish on 7sabah.
*The Zionist Home party was formed a month after this interview was conducted.
Anti-Semitism Gilad Atzmon and Nottingham Jazz
I have always considered music a universal language; perhaps the only form of communication that can unite us regardless of creed, race, religion or even species – life connects with the beauty and passion of musical expression. I was therefore recently very disturbed that, a small number of Nottingham residents succeeded in lobbying Gedling Borough Council to cancel a concert by a popular, critically acclaimed saxophonist who is also an Israeli critic of Jewish Identity Politics and identity in general.
When I heard that just 13 people had managed to cancel the musical performance of Gilad Atzmon, whose band has previously played The Bonington Arts Theatre 9 times to packed houses, without any complaint from audiences or residents, Jewish or Gentile, I balked at what this could mean for freedom of speech, jazz and music in general.
Gilad is critical of ‘Jewish Power’. He is not alone. Following last summer’s latest military assault on Gaza by Israel, supported politically and financially by the US and her allies, there has been a profound awakening in the western public’s consciousness that all is not well and good in Palestine and that ‘we’ are complicit in the continued bloodshed and heartache.
Although not directly relevant to Gilad’s music, this campaign against him highlights the subsequent increase in people being labelled as anti-Semitic. In the wake of operation Protective Edge (which killed around 2200 Gazans and 71 Israelis) I know many people critical of Israel, Zionism and ‘Jewish Power’ globally, have been accused of being anti-Semitic or ‘self-hating Jews’. The desired result of these accusations is to silence discourse and in this case it went so far as to silence instrumental music.
So is Gilad anti-Semitic, and did Gedling Borough Council have any legal right to cancel his musical performance when he has never had any formal charges relating to anti-Semitism brought against him?
When I meet him he readily admits to being an “arrogant c*nt” but denies being anti-Semitic. He points out that his latest book, The Wandering Who (within which the complainers site ‘anti-Semitic’ statements) has so far been published within 12 countries, including some who have laws against Holocaust denial. It has received numerous endorsements from leading scholars and eminent global political figures including; Professor Richard Falk (United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Palestine), Professor John J. Mearsheimer, Greta Berlin (Co-Founder, the Free Gaza movement), Professor William A. Cook, Professor Norton Mezvinsky (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 2012) the list goes on and on…
Although one of the complainants, Dave Rio emailed and called my attention to an online document wherein 24 Palestinian solidarity activists denounce Atzmon, it rather put me in mind of the adage that ‘you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time’. Whose list of accreditors/condemners is more worthy or correct? That is a subjective argument and would still not prove Atzmon is an anti-Semite. We can only know that his book’s endorsements are by people who have definitely read the work in full.
As Gilad told me, Jews are generally very easily offended. If his observations and statements are offensive to some, does that mean those few should get to choose for others what they hear – even if those others just wanted to hear jazz music and likely had no interest in politics? Dave stated to me that “I would not tolerate anyone who made comparable remarks about black people or Muslims playing in Nottingham.” But who is he or the other 12 signatories to ‘tolerate’ or not? This is a level of presumed moral authority that I’m not sure can be legitimised – they always had the option to boycott the concert themselves.
Gilad has previously questioned the definition of anti-Semitism; “You are either a racist, which I am not, or have an ideological disagreement with Zionism, which I have.” He has also defended himself from being labelled an anti-Semite with the witticism “while in the past an ‘anti-Semite’ was someone who hated Jews, nowadays it is the other way around, an anti-Semite is someone the Jews hate.”
Following the cancellation of his concert at the Bonington on the 15th January (which went ahead at The Five Ways pub), Gilad arranged to come back for a talk, where his accusers could discuss with him their concerns at the Canalhouse, Canal Street, Nottingham on the 2nd February. I popped there before my gig nearby only to find the whole pub in darkness – it turns out that someone had tipped off the venue and police that the meet could cause trouble and that the safety of the public and staff might be at risk, so they completely closed as a precaution! Jaw dropping levels of panic! The talk was moved last minute to the Salutation where around 35 people gathered, none of which were the mysterious 13. It was calm, ordered and professional consisting mostly of local academics and jazz lovers. Goodness knows why the venue or police thought it would become violent?
This level of fear surrounding criticism of Israel and Jewish Power to me is the most frightening aspect of this saga. With new steps being introduced to outlaw anti-Semitism in Canada and elsewhere, the Orwellian thought police are now a reality – but ironically we were actively encouraged to criticise and mock Muslims post Charlie Hebdo by world leaders who marched in Paris on 11th January? Many have spotted this screaming hypocrisy.
Another irony here is that in trying to destroy Gilad’s music career, the actions of these 13 individuals and Gedling Borough Council have created an enormous amount of publicity for him and his work! Gigs and talks across the country are now flooding his diary – his band joked that he probably orchestrated the whole thing, but he professes not to be that clever…
Joking aside, I found out recently how unjust and upsetting it is to have your music attacked because of your opinions. In a small way I experienced this by being outspoken about the detrimental effect of the NET tram construction, which has wreaked havoc on residents and cost many businesses tens of thousands of pounds (including my family’s firm, which did not qualify for compensation). Compounding this misery, it recently became public that local Councillors have been involved in using fake identities to ‘flood the press’ with positive PR. Aliases and pseudonyms on the Nottingham Post website that had previously only commented on articles about the tram, trolling those who do not adhere to the ‘positive’ light rail narrative, quickly moved across to attack me professionally under the article about my appointment as the new jazz columnist.
However, this new age of poison pen letters merely compels us to continue exposing injustice locally, nationally and internationally; an attack on our music because of our opinions will only succeed in making us more outspoken. I can only surmise that the nearer the target one gets the more flak you receive and that jazz music has a history of attracting rebels.
By Jeanie Barton
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