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Between the Shtetl and the Big City

One Hundred Years of Jewish Solitude

by GILAD ATZMON

“The emancipated Jew is insecure in his relations with his fellow-beings, timid with strangers, suspicious even toward the secret feeling of his friends. His best powers are exhausted in the suppression, or at least in the difficult concealment of his own real character.”
Max Nordau, Speech at the First Zionist Congress August 29, 1897
Zionism is no longer a young movement.  It has been almost one hundred and ten years since the 1st Zionist Congress was held and nearly ninety years have passed since the Balfour Declaration (1917) was issued. It’s been just under six decades since the formation of the Jewish State and the mass ethnic cleansing of the vast majority of the indigenous Palestinian population took place. Not only isn’t Zionism young anymore, it is far from being a unified ideological movement. In fact, it is almost impossible to determine these very basic elements: where Zionism is aiming, where the Zionist headquarters are located; is it in Olmert’s office in Jerusalem or rather Wall Street NYC? Is there a linear ideological continuum between the Israeli vision of Middle East interests and the architects behind the New American Century project? Is there continuum between the crime carried out against the Palestinian people in Gaza in the name of the war on terror and the crime against the Iraqi people committed in the name of ‘liberation’?
In a previous paper of mine (The "third category" and the Palestine solidarity movement, Jewish identity, Zionism and Palestine), I suggested that it is quite possible to grasp the subject of Zionism in terms of a network operation in which each of its elements contributes towards the maintenance of the entire system. Within the Zionist network there is no need for a lucid system of hegemony. In such a network, each element is complying with its role. And indeed the success of Zionism is there to reveal that the whole happens to be far greater than its parts.  

Throughout the years Zionism has become a pretty efficient system that serves what may be defined as primary Jewish interests. Within the Zionist framework: the Israelis colonize Palestine, the Jewish Diaspora is there to mobilize lobbies by recruiting international support. The Neocons transform the USA army into an Israeli mission force fighting the last pockets of Arab resistance. Interestingly enough, anti-Zionists of Jewish descent (and this may even include proud self-haters such as myself) are there to portray an image of ideological plurality as well as ethical concern within the Jewish world. Moreover, within the image of such a network even the so-called ‘enemies of the Jewish people’ have a clear role. Ahmadinejad is the current ‘Hitler’ and the rest of the ‘Islamofascists’ are there to finish the ‘Nazi Judeocide’. In other words, the Zionist vision is there to offer a fairly conclusive insight into the issue of contemporary Jewish identity as well as Jewish affairs.

Though traditionally we tend to associate Zionism with a particular Jewish national aspiration as well as a Jewish call for the return to Zion (Palestine), this is not necessarily the only viable historical or philosophical interpretation of the Zionist endeavour.  I would suggest here that it makes far more sense to regard Zionism as a tribal Jewish preservation project. In other words, Zionism could be easily interpreted as a Jewish global movement which has as its aim the prevention of assimilation. Accordingly, Zionism should be seen as an amalgam of different philosophies specializing in different forms of disengagement.  Such an interpretation will broaden our scope of criticism and may throw some new light over: the significant power of Global Zionism, the general support of world Jewry for the Israeli State. We may as well realize for the first time the role of those sporadic Jewish voices who happen to oppose Zionism. Such a terminological shift into the notion of Zionism will emphasize an ideological continuum between Herzl’s take on assimilation and  the late Sharon’s ‘unilateral  disengagement’.   We may gain a deeper understanding of the ideology that motivates the 3rd category network. Once we realise what Zionism is, we may as well be able to understand for the first time just who opposes Zionism for real.

The Tribal, The Universal And The Jewish Socialist

Jews like anyone else are more than entitled to dump God, to leave their faith and to divorce from religion. Yet, dropping God is neither a philosophical argument nor a kind of ethical reasoning. To abandon religion doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a humanist and secularization doesn’t imply universalism. Not only is killing the concept of God not a philosophy, it is not even an argument. It is mere practice.   In fact, to replace God with an anthropocentric moral argument is what universalism is all about.

Historically, it was Spinoza who launched the modernist attack on Judaic Biblical orthodoxy. Spinoza’s goal was to replace the God of Abraham with reason. While Pre-WW2 Jewish intellectuals such as Franz Rosenzweig, Herman Cohen, Leo Strauss, Gershon Scholem and still others were trying to engage Spinoza’s chasm by applying philosophical argumentation, post-war Jewish philosophical confrontation with modernity has been declined and practically replaced by a shallow form of identity politics and Zionist praxis.
A truly interesting text was published recently by the London Jewish Chronicle.  It is a brief glimpse into the political and philosophical mantra of a Jewish socialist as well as anti-Zionist couple who have rejected religion. In spite of the fact that they are proud they have dumped God, they still hold a Seder, they have circumcised their twin sons and they gave them a ‘faith-free’ Bar Mitzvah. To a certain extent, it is a dialogue between the voice of the mainstream ‘Jewish community’ (the JC) and the so-called  ‘Jewish dissident voice’. This is the story of journalist Julia Bard (56) and teacher David Rosenberg (48), both founding members of Britain Jewish Socialists. It is a vibrating peep into the strange and inconsistent world of the Jewish tribal left. However, I may as well admit that it was Bard who opened my eyes and led me towards a terminological shift that presents Zionism in a new light.

According to the JC: “Julia Bard and David Rosenberg are committed Jews. They feel passionately about Jewish history, they have a strong Jewish element to their social lives and their children have inherited a love of Hebrew and Yiddish culture….David and Julia do not belong to a synagogue, do not believe in God and are antagonistic towards Zionism. They feel strongly that these factors should not exclude them from full acceptance as part of the mainstream Jewish community."  

Like many modern assimilated Jews, David and Julia insist upon reducing Jewishness into a form of a tribal orientation spiced up with some cultural aspects. They love Yiddish and they love Jewish History. Very much like modern assimilated Jews they probably regard the Bible as an exoteric historical text rather than an esoteric spiritual guideline. Surely, this isn’t a crime.

More astonishingly, although David and Julia do not like God that much, in spite of the fact that they are not that impressed with Judaism either, they still very much want to be part of the Jewish community.  I wonder why. What is it that they need from the Jewish community? Why don’t they just ‘get on’ with the socialist agenda and join the human family as ordinary people? What is the origin of their affinity towards tribalism?  Many people around the world do not believe in God, many millions of Westerners leave their faith, yet, they do not insist upon calling themselves Catholics, Hindus, Protestants, Jews or Muslims. They just depart into new life in a multi-cultural as well as multi-faith society.

Julia believes in multi-culturalism, hence she answers:

 “I wanted to remain Jewish…. I want to prove that there is a way of being Jewish that doesn’t involve saying prayers to a God you don’t believe in.”

Apparently, Julia like many other emancipated Jews is searching for an authentic identity. She is looking for her individual secular voice while maintaining her ties with her Jewish heritage. Again this is not a crime, however, I wonder why she can’t just regard herself as a Jew or even a secular Jew without appealing for the  ‘acceptance’ of the ‘Jewish community’? For instance, I regard myself a ‘Hebrew Speaking Palestinian’, I do not seek anyone’s approval to do so.  I also regard myself as a ‘proud self-hating Jew’ and again, I do not need the approval of anyone. Julia, on the other hand, needs approval. Julia expects theJewish community to accept her in spite of the fact that she clearly rejects God and the faith of Judaism.  I wonder whether she would expect the Marxist community to accept her in case she dumps Marx? 

Julia suggests an answer, she says: " I understand my Jewish identity as an ethnic identity…"

It seems as if we are starting to get somewhere. The magic word ‘identity’, has been introduced into the discourse. Yet, one may ask what Julia means when she refers to ‘ethnic identity’? Is it ‘again’ the famous chicken soup or is it Gefilte Fish this time?  Surely, no one is going to stop Julia, David or anyone else from eating kosher chicken soup with lokshen in Blooms. Is ‘Jewish ethnic identity’ a form of belonging to Jewish history and heritage? Again, I am pretty sure that no one is going to stop Julia and David from cheering themselves up while reading chapters of Jewish history, an endless chain of catastrophes. In fact no one is going to stop Julia and David from celebrating any of their symptoms.  Nevertheless, Julia and David want a bit more than mere celebration, they clearly want recognition.

Again I find myself slightly bewildered. Recognition is something you may aim to achieve, nevertheless, it isn’t something you can ever demand. Among my sins I play Jazz on the saxophone. I indeed want to be widely recognized as a leading saxophonist, yet I would never consider insisting in a Jazz magazine that the Jazz community should accept me or acknowledge my contribution.  My ‘acceptance’ as a Jazz artist is obviously subject to my achievement and contribution to the art form. Julia insists upon being recognised as a Jew without suggesting or specifying what her exact contribution to the Jewish discourse is.

Seemingly, it is identity rather than deep reasoning which the JC and Bard are concerned with.  Yet, it is obvious that Bard tends to believe that one’s identity reflects upon one’s authenticity. In fact, Bard is totally wrong. It is the other way around. Identity and identity politics alienate one from one’s reality, not to say authenticity. As explored in a previous work of mine, that which is called by multi-culturalists Identity is in fact nothing but Identification. Searching for Identity is not a genuine search into the notion of one’s authentic self. Identity politics aim at setting measures of Identification, it sets categories of belonging, it demands recognition and it opposes any form of authenticity or real self. It prefers gathering and grouping rather than meditation on the self. In fact, people who possess a genuine notion of a real self do not crave the acceptance of any community, neither Jewish nor any other. People with real self are recognised for who they are rather than accepted for what they claim to be.  

It is rather apparent that Bard is interested in extending the notion of Jewish community so that she could easily fit in. Indeed, reading Bard’s texts make it clear beyond doubt that she sees herself as part of the ‘Jewish community’. Though her identity/identification complex is rather dialectical, Julia sees herself as an integral part of London’s Jewish tribal collective identity.  In other words, she identifies with the struggle for recognition within the Jewish community.  

Regarding herself as a progressive Jew, Bard believes that “Jewish future rests on the community being inclusive rather than exclusive.“[1]. Being part of an ethnic collective, Julia is truly concerned with issues having to do with assimilation and preservation of the Jewish people. Yet, unlike the rabbinical institutes, she welcomes a hybridization of a Jewish collective rather than a rigid racial uniformity.  “Those people who are bleating on about the Jewish community shrinking base it on a false assumption — that Judaism remains unchanging and that you can’t be Jewish without being religious[2].” 

Yet, there is a far greater concern raised here by Bard. Seemingly, a liberated Jew is disturbed by the fact that the Jewish community is ‘shrinking’. One may wonder why a liberated being as well as a ‘socialist’ is concerned with issues to do with assimilation and the disintegration of a regressive tribal community. Apparently, engaging with the notion of Jewish Socialism may provide the answer. Jewish Socialism, like Judaism, is a unique esoteric form of knowledge that is primarily concerned with Jewish community and Jewishness in general. This is what I found on the ‘Who We Are’ page on the Jewish Socialist’s Group’s web page: “We (Jewish Socialists’ Groups) unite on issues we recognise as crucial for the future of the Jewish community.” Seemingly, Julia Bard and her Jewish comrades are part of the Jewish community and the subjects they are mostly concerned with are issues having to do with the future of Jewish tribalism.

I assume that at this stage, the ordinary Marxist may wonder, how is it that Julia Bard, David Rosenberg and their comrades repeat very much the same line of thought expressed by ultra-Zionist Golda Meir in the 1970’s: “To me,” says Golda, “being Jewish means and has always meant being proud to be part of a people that has maintained its distinct identity for more than 2,000 years, with all the pain and torment that has been inflicted upon it.” (Golda Meir, My Life). Like Bard, Golda Meir is concerned with identity politics. Like Bard, Meir is a club member. Like Bard, Meir is fully concerned with assimilation which she regarded as the greatest threat to the Jewish future.

My own answer is rather simple. Julia Bard and Golda Meir are two different sides of the Zionist coin. Yet, one difference is rather apparent.  While Meir was an authentic hawk, she spoke tribal and thought tribal, Bard and friends speak universal but they clearly think tribal.

Zionism, a Philosophical Revisionism

A few weeks ago, Michael Rosen, a celebrity in the UK Jewish socialist circle as well as a very established poet who operates in the Jewish Blogosphere under the name Isakofsky, expressed some very clear concerns which concern assimilation.  Here are Rosen/Isakofsky’s words:

“…..If you say, you welcome assimilation, you’re in effect saying that you welcome the disappearance of Jewry. Not a great position to take up, I’d’ve thought. And if the assimilation is the only way to survive racism/genocide etc, then it’s existentially wrong too. It congratulates the silent and the invisible. There is also a problem with the notion of assimilation in itself. It assumes that moving towards the dominant culture is desirable too. Of course it’s what plenty of Jews did…”

Very much like Julia Bard, David Rosenberg and Golda Meir, Rosen is rather concerned with the ‘disappearance of Jewry’. Seemingly, Rosen is far more radical than Bard. Very much like Meir, he rejects any ideological reasoning that may justify assimilation. May I suggest at this point that neither Bard, Rosenberg, Rosen or Meir are innovative here. In fact, they all explore the original Zionist fundamental instinct. Zionism was formed as a political practice aimed at confronting assimilation and the disintegration of the Jewish identity. Already in 1897 Max Nordau and Herzl raised very similar concerns to those expressed by Meir, Rosen and Bard.

If we take the necessary step and re-define Zionism as a modern form of Jewish activism which aims at halting assimilation, we can then re-asses the entire Jewish tribal political activity as an internal debate within a diverse Zionist political movement. We should then regard the colonizing of Palestine as not more than just one single face of Zionism.  In fact, Jewish Socialism fits very nicely into the Zionist project. Being an integral part of the Zionist network, it is concerned with the future of the Jewish secular tribe, it is there to collect the lost souls amongst the Jewish leftists and it brings them back to Blooms.

The shift towards presenting Zionism in a new terminology invites us to regard Zionism as global Jewish tribal political activism. The Israeli Lobby, the Dershowitzes of the world, the Harry’s Places of the net, the David Hirshes of the Goldsmith Colleges, are there to globally spread the voice of Israel, the colonial endeavor.  The 3rd category socialists, on the other hand, are there to stop proud self-hating Jews from blowing the whistle. The Jewish Socialists are there to prevent you from reading the words you are engaged with right now.

Seemingly, Jewish Socialists protest against the Jewish State. They clearly denounce Israeli occupation and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. God bless them for that.  Yet, very much like the Jewish State, they themselves engage in Jewish tribal activity which aims at halting assimilation and enforcing monolithic collective thought.  Moreover, Bard, Rosenberg and comrades may as well believe in ‘One Palestine’. God bless them for that as well. However, they want this  ‘One Palestine’ to be ‘secular and democratic’. Not that I am against democracy or secularity, seemingly Palestinians in the occupied territories may have something else in mind: they have voted Hamas, not exactly the most secular movement around (though democratically elected). As it seems, the British Jewish Socialists do not see the need to provide an ideological explanation. Seemingly, they do not take the Palestinian vote very seriously, once confronted, they would insist that the Palestinians didn’t really vote Hamas, they were just ‘protesting’ against the PLO.

At this stage it is rather crucial to raise the issue of intentionality. Are they, Bard, Rosen and comrades, fully aware of their Zionist role? Do they really consciously act on behalf of an abstract tribal network, namely Zionism? If to be honest, I really do not think so. I genuinely do not believe that they are consciously aware of the grand tribal project they serve with such great enthusiasm. At the same time, most Israelis including IDF soldiers at road blocks in the occupied territories and even pilots who throw bombs on highly populated neighbourhoods in Gaza are not fully aware of the large scope of the Zionist project that they serve. This is exactly why Zionism, a successful project, a global monster with no head but with a lot of body, is a victorious political agenda. It sets the modern framework of conclusive Jewish tribalism by incorporating all elements into a magnetic power. Moreover, it transforms its opposition into a productive force. Zionism is indeed not that easy to fight.

The Case of Israel

Michael Rosen’s mother told him not to kvetsch, greps at the table or chup his soup. His father told him he was meshugge. His mother told him not to be a shlump. His brother said, "Don’t flick tukhes with the shmatte!" Michael emerged from all this with a smile on his face.”
(Extract from a blurb advertising Michael Rosen’s appearance at Jewish Book Week 2007)

Pretty much out of the blue, Ariel Sharon, a man who spent the best part of his life killing the enemies of Israel, a man who made war-mongering into an art form, a man who wouldn’t miss a chance to punish Israel’s neighbors, changed his spots. In his very last days, Sharon became a ‘shalom lover’, a Zionist dove, so to say.  The Hebraic master of blood politics suddenly introduced a peace initiative known as the ‘unilateral disengagement’. 

In the past I have explored the fact that Israeli shalom doesn’t necessarily translate into peace.  Shalom in its current Hebraic connotation refers merely to the precise conditions that are needed to guarantee the security of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad. Sharon, the old as well as tired belligerent soldier realized that the best strategy to secure the future of the Jews Only State was to withdraw the relatively scarce number of Jewish settlers from the primarily Palestinian-populated area, and to advocate a moderate version of Jewish national expansionism.

Expectedly, Sharon’s initiative was totally rejected by the hawks of his rightwing Likud Party. Sharon didn’t waste time, he left what was his political home for more than three decades and formed Kadima, a new political party that signed for an immediate unilateral evacuation of  part of the occupied territories. The Israelis reacted immediately, within hours after Kadima’s inauguration, all Israel’s polls concurred that the old man had come up with an ingenious political move. The vast majority of the Israelis saluted the old General, they stood behind him. Literally speaking, his rivals disappeared.

Liberal democracy fulfils its promise once the voter’s will is reflected in the State’s political affairs. In Israel it happened. Late Sharon had managed to pluck the right string. He provided the Israelis with the exact goods, he had managed to invoke the Jewish nostalgic yearning for the Ghetto. He promised to erect a monumental barrier that would leave the Goyim (Palestinians) out.

Seemingly, it was Sharon, who understood Max Nordau’s genuine Zionist insight better than any contemporary Hebraic leader. This was quite different from Peres who spread the images of ‘New Middle East’ in which Israelis were supposed to intermingle with their Arab neighbors in the name of Western capitalism. It was unlike Netanyahu who still believes in Greater Israel and Iron Wall confrontational philosophy. It was unlike Bennie Alon, the Messianic settler who believes that Jews should celebrate their Biblical rights on the entire land of Palestine and beyond. Sharon, like Max Nordau, realised that Zionism is all about reviving Jewish solitude, Zionism is all about the re-invention of a metaphysical shtetl. Zionism should be grasped as the re-reading of the Ghetto narrative in glamorous, positive terms.  The Ghetto, says Nordau,  “was for the Jew of the past not a prison, but a refuge. …In the Ghetto, the Jew had his own world; it was to him the sure refuge which had for him the spiritual and moral value of a parental home.” 

Sharon couldn’t agree more. He has managed to envisage what ‘Jewish craving’ was all about. It is the yearning for the tribal parental condition of the Jewish home. He has managed to internalise Nordau’s message: Zionism is all about the abolition of the ‘other’, the re-creation of the condition in which Jews can celebrate their symptoms, where they can love themselves for who they are. Or at least for who they think they are.

Sharon invoked the promise of a barrier between the Jews (Israelis) and the Goyim (Sea of Arabs) and by doing so, he happened to express the Israelis’ deepest will. Yet, there was a serious dialectical chasm opening up. As much as Zionism promises to replace intermingling/assimilation with a newly-made framework of detachment and isolation, it is as well a promise to raise an enlightened humanist Jew who is entirely different from his Diaspora brother. As much as the Zionist Jew wants to be protected by walls and by deterring their neighbors with a huge nuclear arsenal, he also wants to be a ‘citizen of the world’. To be equal, to be a man like other men, to be a nation like other nations. The Israeli wants to fly cheaply with Ryanair, he wants to eat Hummus in Amman and to land in London early enough on Boxing Day not to miss Oxford Street’s Christmas sales. In short, the Israeli wants the impossible. Not bad for a young national identity!

Zionism as a movement is a dialectical struggle between the Tribal praxis which aims towards insularity and the Universal promise of openness. Zionism is an ongoing debate between Jerusalem and Athens. It tries to promise both but it is doomed to failure because Tribalism and Universalism are opposing categories.  Similarly, those Jews who happened to be subject to Zionism’s schizophrenic ideology happen to find themselves bouncing between two conflicting promises. As much as they insist upon loving themselves for who they think they are, they happen to hate themselves for what they happen to be. This may be seen by some as the ultimate tragedy; the totality of metaphysical limbo. Nevertheless, it can as well be a powerful position to be in: the emerging of an innovative totality of creation and recreation.

As it happens, Sharon didn’t make it to the polls. He became a vegetable soon after he launched his new party.  Ehud Olmert took his place. A few weeks later, Olmert won the election, though not as greatly as Sharon would have done. He formed a centrist national unity Government with the Labour Party. He set the necessary political atmosphere in order to implement Sharon’s unilateral agenda. But then the inevitable happened. As soon as a relatively minor incident took place at the Israeli northern border, Olmert, with the support of his shalom-seeking ‘centrist unity government’, unleashed Israeli military might to flatten the entire Lebanese infrastructure. It is crucial to mention at this stage that Olmert’s aggression against Lebanon is actually the natural continuation of Sharon’s unilateral Shalom initiative. The Lebanon war is the embodiment of Sharon’s Ghetto philosophy. Indeed, the newly emerging notion of Jewish Ghetto is more of a hostile fortress, with enough nuclear firepower to turn our planet into dust.

Once the hostility commenced, the Israelis, the people who just a few months earlier were blessing Sharon for his ‘peace’ initiative, now succumbed to the usual heroic spirit of flames and death. As soon as the war started, the Israelis rallied en mass in support of their Government and this, of course, includes the ‘Israeli intellectual left’.

Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom wrote (http://www.counterpunch.org/avnery09082006.html):

 “…an impressive line-up of writers supported it (the war). Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, who regularly appear as a political trio, were united again in their support of the government and used all their considerable verbal talents to justify the war. They were not satisfied with that: some days after the beginning of the war, the three published a joint ad in the papers, expressing their enthusiastic backing for the operation.”

As we all know, The Israeli campaign in Lebanon was far from a great success, in fact it was total disaster. The Israeli army failed to bring victory. Northern Israel was rained upon with Hezbollah’s rockets. Israeli cities north of Hadera turned into ghost towns. It didn’t take long before

Oz, Yehoshua and Grossman  changed their minds.
“…some days before the end of the war”, teases Avnery, “they (the Hebraic literature icons) published a second tripartite ad, this time calling for its termination. At the same time, Meretz and Peace Now also changed course. But not one of them apologized or showed remorse for their prior support for the killing and devastation. Their new position was: the war was indeed very good, but now the time has come to put an end to it.”

Not only had the Israeli Left changed its mind, the entire Israeli public turned against its leadership. Olmert’s popularity slammed sharply. Peretz’s political career became a subject matter for Historians only. IDF generals were mocked in public media.  The rather frequent change in Israeli mood is again the outcome of the Zionist collective neurosis.  Zionists love themselves for who they think they are, nevertheless they happen to hate themselves for who they happen to be.

What Zionists think of themselves is not very interesting. Far more interesting is the gulf between ‘who they think they are’ and ‘what they happen to be’. It is duality between the  ‘self image’ and the ‘public image’, the chasm between the consciousness (who one thinks one is) and the unconsciousness (what one happens to be). I would here draw attention to Jacques Lacan, the French revolutionary psychoanalyst. Unconsciousness, says Lacan, is the ‘discourse of the other’. The discourse of the other is very much the male fear of impotence. Rather than the anxiety of being caught malfunctioning, it is the unbearable threat that the fiasco may become public knowledge which is the real terror.

At the time of the Lebanese war, the Israelis’ ‘discourse of the other’ was no other than: CNN, Sky, BBC 24, George Galloway and the West in general. It is the discourse of universality. It started to look like the expanding resentment of those who are not willing to accept Israeli brutality anymore. Israeli barbarity became public knowledge. And indeed, the gulf between the self-confident Israeli image and the total contempt of the other is exactly where the neurosis of Yehoshua, Oz, Grossman and the vast majority of Israelis was coming into play.

I tend to believe that the recorded sudden change in the Israeli collective mental mood is nothing but the outcome of the Israeli natural tendency to resolve the schizophrenic mode inherently entangled within Zionism. It is the outcome of the outburst of the conflict between the tribal and the universal that matures into a state of a colossal and complete phobia.  Oz, Yehoshua and Grossman were practically bouncing between the tribal and the universal, between the ‘insularity’ of Jerusalem and the ‘openness’ of Athens, between the Shtetl and the big city.  As it seems, within the Zionist universe the intimacy with tribal isolation is hostile towards the impetus towards humanity and vice versa.

The pattern is rather clear:

The more Israelis want to secure themselves by clinging to isolation, the more death they happen to spread around themselves,

But then, the more death they spread, the less they feel that they resemble the rest of humanity.
The less they feel resemblance to the rest of humanity, the more they hate their leaders that set them into such a chaotic state.

Israel is a democracy, moreover, it is a proud Western liberal democracy, some say, that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is indeed a democracy that votes death and ethnic cleansing. Beyond doubt, Olmert’s reprisal in Lebanon reflected the wishes of the vast majority of Israelis, at least at the beginning of the war.  Thus, the conclusion is clear. The emerging Israeli dissatisfaction with Olmert, Peretz and the IDF reveals a severe conflict within the Israeli collective psyche. The Israelis hate Olmert because it is themselves that they can’t really stand anymore. The Israelis hate themselves, they hate their doomed situation.  They hate the fact that they may have lost the Ghetto for good, and yet, they failed to join the community of Nations. They have never become people like all people. The more they insist upon loving themselves for who the think they are, the more they hate themselves for what they have become.

But then, is the case of the Jewish tribal anti-Zionist Bard or Rosen any different? Aren’t they falling exactly into the same trap? Don’t they love themselves for being enlightened socialists but at the same time aren’t they sinking into neurosis upon realising that being Jewish tribal petit bourgeoisies, they have never managed to join the true human family, i.e. the working class.  

Rosen’s mother “told him not to burp (greps) at the table…. His brother said,‘Don’t slap my ass (tukhes) with the rag (shmatte)!’…  Michael emerged from all this with a smileon his face,”says the brochure of the Jewish Book Review. Rosen may be going to celebrate his Jewish humor at the Jewish Book Review family corner. He will be surrounded by the most racist, belligerent rightwing authors around. Nevertheless, he may be slightly embarrassed when his old Oxford classmates happen to learn about the level of family humor the legendary children’s poet is currently engaged with. This is Rosen cornered between Athens and Jerusalem. 

Epilogue 

Seemingly, three escape routes are left for the Zionist and this includes every form of Jewish political tribalism.  One entails total segregation: transforming the Zionist Ghetto into a windowless monad. This form of Zionism eliminates the notion of the other.  Such a solution is reflected clearly in Sharon’s disengagement as well as in Rosen anti-assimilationist approach.  The second option is obviously returning to orthodoxy. The numbers of Israelis who happen to leave behind the secular Hebraic culture and re-embrace Judaic orthodoxy reveal that such a solution is a common practice, rather than a remote philosophical option. The third option is obviously a flight from Jewishness, Judaism and any other form of Judaic tribalism. It means, leaving chosenness behind. This is probably the only form of real Jewish resistance to Zionism.

Nordau, no doubt a clever man, could identify the new Marrano, those who split from Judaism with a real conviction, as the greatest danger for tribal Jewish future. Like the other anti-assimilationists, the ‘Socialist’ Michael Rosen and war-monger Golda Meir, Nordau was very explicit about it.  “Many try to save themselves by flight from Judaism,” says Nordau with contempt that resembles Michel Rosen’s dissatisfaction with assimilation. “There is also a problem with the notion of assimilation in itself. It assumes that moving towards the dominant culture is desirable too. Of course it’s what plenty of Jews did (I know the descendants of an Austrian Jewish Baron, made into an aristocrat, I think for designing Vienna! and we all know about Rothschild…)”,  yet, Nordau continues. “But racial anti-Semitism denies the power of change by baptism, and this mode of salvation does not seem to have much prospect…. In this way there arises a new Marrano, who is worse than the old. The latter had an idealistic direction — a secret desire for truth or a heartbreaking distress of conscience, and they often sought for pardon and purification through Martyrdom.” (Max Nordau, Speech at the First Zionist Congress August 29, 1897)

Yes indeed, Nordau realised already in 1897 that the  ‘Idealist’ new Marrano, those who genuinely crave for truth and even manage to find it out of the Jewish shtetl are the ultimate danger. Nevertheless, Nordau was acting in a world that was inflamed with Darwinism and biological determinism. In Nordau’s world it made was some sense to say, “you Yidd, don’t you even consider evading your ‘fate’ because the Goyim will find you, they can smell your blood.”  But as Julia Bard will confirm, we are now living in a multi-cultural society. Biological determinism is behind us. People are free to escape their so-called fate. Nowadays, hardly anyone thinks in blood categories except of course Zionists, the Israelis, the Jewish socialists and even the progressive Bard who is happy to include mixed marriages in the tribal community.

To be a Zionist is to prevent assimilation, to be a Zionist is to engage in some form of Jewish political tribalism. Zionism indeed colonizes Palestine but its branches are far-reaching. Zionism is not a local movement supported by some enthusiastic lobbies around the world. Zionism is a global network. It is a clannish political apparatus that systematically endangers our planet for the sake of a miniature ethnic group. This very group is not the Jews per se, it is actually the Jewish political tribe. Zionism is there to shape and re-shape the notion of the Ghetto, to form and re-form the dialectic of chosenness, to balance the emerging tension between insularity and openness and yet to include most of the Jews. Zionism is a global network with no head, it is a spirit and spirit cannot be defeated. Yet, spirit can be revealed and spiritual supremacy must be exposed.

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@onetel.net.uk

[1] Women Against Fundamentalism and the Jewish community Journal no.4 1992/1993. pp.3-5

[2] However, as far as Judaism is concerned, Julia is not exactly a scholar: Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism is a non-reformist religion. In Judaism there is no room for a single change or even minor modification. Judaism is a sealed list of 613 commandments  (Mitzvas) that must be followed strictly. From a Judaic (i.e. religious) point of view, to depart from Judaism is in practice to form a new Church. If Julia would be slightly more knowledgeable   about Judaism she would instead articulate her point in a scholarly manner saying:  “While Judaism remains unchanged, you can still be Jewish without being a religious Jew.” Judaism and Jewishness are different categories. While Judaism is an unchanged religious core, Jewishness is a dynamic category in a continuous flux.  Indeed, this is the case of Zionism. Zionism is Jewish, it is a dynamic continuation of Jewishness:  it is racist, exclusive, supremacist and self centred, yet it is not Judaic. It has very little to do with Judaism. It may be messianic in a territorial sense  yet it lacks the Judaic divinity.  In fact, Zionism opposes Judaism.