An investigation of Jewish identity politics and Jewish contemporary ideology using both popular culture and scholarly texts. Jewish identity is tied up with some of the most difficult and contentious issues of today. The purpose in this book is to open many of these issues up for discussion. Since Israel defines itself openly as the Jewish State, ...Read MoreAn investigation of Jewish identity politics and Jewish contemporary ideology using both popular culture and scholarly texts. Jewish identity is tied up with some of the most difficult and contentious issues of today. The purpose in this book is to open many of these issues up for discussion. Since Israel defines itself openly as the Jewish State, we should ask what the notions of Judaism, Jewishness, Jewish culture and Jewish ideology stand for. Gilad examines the tribal aspects embedded in Jewish secular discourse, both Zionist and anti Zionist; the holocaust religion; the meaning of history and time within the Jewish political discourse; the anti-Gentile ideologies entangled within different forms of secular Jewish political discourse and even within the Jewish left. He questions what it is that leads Diaspora Jews to identify themselves with Israel and affiliate with its politics. The devastating state of our world affairs raises an immediate demand for a conceptual shift in our intellectual and philosophical attitude towards politics, identity politics and history."Read Less
Good. Pages are clean and binding is tight. Cover has some arching outward at the edges and a small stain at the bottom of the book. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 202 p. Audience: General/trade.
Book Review: The Wandering Who? by Gilad Atzmon. 2011. Zero Books, Hants, UK.
This book describes the experience of an Israeli Jew who, while in the IDF, sees Israel as on the wrong side. Atzmon presents his understanding of Zionism, contemporary "Jewishness" and Jewish Identity politics. His is an excellent complement to Shlomo Sand's 2009 book "The Invention of the Jewish People". Atzmon's personal account, alongside Sand's scholarly history, should give a reader a broad understanding of contemporary Israel as it relates to the rest of the world.
It was at the Ansar Internment Camp in 1984 that Atzmon, seeing PLO prisoners, realized "the inmates were the 'Jews', and I was nothing but a 'Nazi' ". He subsequently moved to England and has since sought to deepen is understanding of contemporary "Jewishness", which he differentiates from Judaism the religion. While the religion interprets Jewish "Chosen-ness" as a biblical order to serve as models of ethical behavior, Atzmon writes that the secular Jewish approach is "a crude, ethno-centric, blood-oriented chauvinism". Jewishness, he writes, is a "mind-set ... an ideology driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep inherent inclination toward segregation." It sees a threat in every "goy".
The separatist orientation of "Jewish Identity" has led to what Atzmon terms a "schizophrenic ideology", because so many Jews attempt to be, and to depict themselves as, citizens of the world. But the deep conflict between the tribal orientation so central to secular Jewishness, on the one hand, and inclusiveness, on the other hand, makes it impossible to form a "universal humanist ideology". Accordingly, although Israel is promoted as a democracy, it is a "racially-selective" one.
Zionism is a global effort that has turned the Holy Land into a "Jewish bunker". It has thus far been successful because, Atzmon writes, it has "no head but a lot of hands". And here he spotlights the "Sayanim" (assistants), thousands of Diaspora Jews to be found in Jewish communities throughout the world, ready to serve covertly the Zionist cause. A Sayan "would betray the nation of which he is a citizen out of devotion to a nation of clannish brotherhood".
Political Zionism focuses on getting superpowers to serve the Zionist cause, and this is why Israeli control of American foreign policy is a growing concern in the US. This Zionist project has been successful due largely to the "Wolfowitz Doctrine" and the Project for a New American Century that incorporate a strategy for "merging American and Zionist interests into a unified practice." Atzmon writes that the US and British have been made into a "Zionist mission force", and at one point he wonders "How did America allow itself [to] be enslaved by ideologies inherently associated with foreign interests?"
While the early Zionist campaign for recognition involved contempt for Diaspora Jews, its ideology, rightist and separatist, has over time permeated the larger Jewish world -- "the Zionification of World Jewry" in Atzmon's words. Thus Zionised, Diaspora Jews become influenced by Zionist politics within the countries in which they live and thereby are "intrinsically associated with a bigoted, ethnocentric ideology and an endless list of crimes against humanity."
Central to Jewish political identity is a lack of interest in history (Aside: This claim links to Shlomo Sand's revelation that departments of Jewish history may be separate from departments of history at Israeli universities). Atzmon states that the Bible has been "hijacked" by Zionism, stripped of religious meaning, and portrayed as an historical document - a history he considers invented and "phantasmic" - in order to serve political ends and to justify a "tribal expansionist invasion ..... in the name of home-coming". There is a sly humor to Atzmon's writing, as when he cites the fictitious Exodus story -- millions wandering in the desert for decades without leaving "a single Mazza ball behind."
Those who see a Jewish "conspiracy" are wrong, according to Atzmon, simply because the Zionist offensive is out in the open for all to see. As an example, he cites Israel-American billionaire Haim Saban, who overtly declared in an interview in The New Yorker his three ways to be influential in American politics: political donations, establishment of think tanks, and control of media.
Atzmon argues that the Holocaust is the true religion of Jews now, with its commandments, dogmas, rituals, museums and a worldwide financial support system. He considers it a particularly "sinister" religion in that it is free to kill, to loot and to ethnically cleanse in the name of Jewish suffering. "It has made vengeance into an acceptable Western value", he writes. At the same time it is unique in that it is protected by laws that make it closed to "critical discourse".
Despite his harsh interpretation of Zionism and its impact on contemporary "Jewishness", Atzmon appears hopeful in many respects. A musician, he once played for the Israeli Air Force Orchestra and reports that Orchestra members hated the military. He also writes that native Israeli Jews tend not to be zealous Zionists to the same degree as much of the world of Diaspora Jews. And like Sand, he points to the fact that emigration is outpacing immigration. In sum, he states flatly, "Israel's days are numbered". W. Willis (Madison, WS)
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