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Gilad struggled with the conflict between his early experiences as an Israeli Zionist and his awakening as a humanist

by Paul J Balles / My Catbird Seat

The Wandering WHO? navigates between thought-provoking personal experiences, historical and philosophical issues.

Gilad Atzmon, scholar, prolific writer and leading jazz saxophonist has authored the book The Wandering WHO? In it he astutely explores the identity crisis he himself experienced and one faced by many Jews.

Gilad struggled with the conflict between his early experiences as an Israeli Zionist and his awakening as a humanist.

His book reveals an innate ability to switch between the qualities of a down-to-earth artist (the successful sax player and word-smith) and the knowledgeable philosopher.

Without doubt, The Wandering WHO? will awaken many readers– pleasing some and disturbing others.

The pleased will include those who have experienced similar awakenings or resolved identity crises by continuously asking questions.

The book will also find welcome readers among those who have sought honest answers to the many contentious issues involving Jewish identity, Jewish politics and Israel.

The disturbed will include those Gilad might refer to as “separatist Jews…kind of a bizarre mixture of an SS commander and a Biblical Moses.”

Gilad will also face threats and complaints from those he calls “pro-war Zionist Islamophobes.”

He will undoubtedly find rejection from those who want “to stop proud, self-hating Jews (like Atzmon) from blowing the whistle.”

The Wandering WHO? navigates between thought-provoking personal experiences, historical and philosophical issues.

In the forward, Gilad tells the most remarkable story of his Jewish upbringing and the challenging questions raised by his early experiences as an Israeli Zionist.

In the forward, Gilad tells the most remarkable story of his Jewish upbringing and the challenging questions raised by his early experiences as an Israeli Zionist.

In the chapters that follow, Gilad remarks that “Israel is the Jewish state and Jewishness is an ethno-centric ideology driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep inherent inclination toward segregation.”

Atzmon draws a distinction between Jews as:

  • Those who follow Judaism.
  • Those who regard themselves as human beings that happen to be of Jewish origin.
  • Those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all their other traits.

“Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine, as some scholars suggest. Zionism is actually a global movement that is fuelled by a unique tribal solidarity…”

Suggests Gilad, read “Theodor Herzl to know that this is what political Zionism is all about: getting superpowers to serve the Zionist cause.”

“Jewish political discourse is always set as a form of negation,” according to Gilad, “The political Jew is always against something, or set apart from something else. This is far from being an ideal recipe for a peaceful, ethical life, driven by reconciliation and harmony.”

“Jews are often proud to define themselves as Jews. However, they will also be gravely offended if they are called a ‘Jew’ by others.

“Emancipated Jews are identified by negation – they are defined by the many things they are not.”

Gilad asserts that “The Holocaust religion is the conclusive and final stage in the Jewish dialectic; it is the end of Jewish history, for it is the deepest and most sincere form of ‘self-love’.”

Referring to himself as a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian, Gilad says, “The so-called ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ is also the one that has locked Palestine’s vast populations behind walls and barbed wire for decades.”

Gilad adds, “The Israel lobby and the Alan Dershowitzes of the world are the voices of Zionism; the third category socialists are there to stop proud, self hating Jews (like Gilad) from blowing the whistle.”

Even before the publication of his book, Gilad, his editor and publisher “have been subjected to immense and intense pressure that included harassment, intimidation, and even anonymous threats, as the demands mounted on my publisher to pull the book.”

Some of the gems of Gilad’s wisdom found in The Wandering WHO? include:

“It is not the idea of being unethical that torments Israelis and their supporters, but the idea of being ‘caught out’ as such.

“The more they (Israelis) insist on loving themselves for who they think they are, the more they loathe themselves for what they have become.

Otto Weininger helped me grasp who I am, or rather who I may be, what I do, what I try to achieve and why my detractors invest so much effort trying to stop me.

“Thanks to Weininger, I realised how wrong I was – I was not detached from the reality about which I wrote, and I never shall be. I am not looking at the Jews, or at Jewish identity, I am not looking at Israelis. I am actually looking in the mirror. With contempt, I am actually elaborating on the Jew in me.

“…the bitterest anti-Semites are to be found amongst the Jews themselves.

“Jewish lobbies in the USA and Britain openly advocate for the extension of the ‘War Against Terror’ against Iran, Islam and beyond. I would never claim that this type of warmongering is inherent to Jews as a people, yet, unfortunately, it is rather symptomatic of Jewish political thinking – left, right and centre.

“A Judeo-centric political exercise, namely self-determination, which comes at the expense of others.

“From Karl Marx through Leon Trotsky to Herbert Marcuse, a sizable fraction of the revolutionary anti-capitalist literature has been authored by Jews.

“As a young man, I myself took part in some Jewish righteous parades, ready to grab my sword and join the hunt for a Tsar, a capitalist or any other enemy who might cross my way. But then the inevitable happened: I grew up.

“Robbery and hatred is imbued in Jewish modern political ideology on both the left and the right.

“‘The Israeli’ robs in the name of ‘home-coming’, the progressive Jew in the name of ‘Marx’, and the moral interventionist murders in the name of ‘democracy’.

“Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (Pre-TSS) is a fundamental tenet of Jewish and Israeli culture.

“The people who rained Lebanon in 2006 with more than a million cluster bombs and showered Gaza with white phosphorus (2008-9) are projecting their homicidal zeal onto their victims, and even onto their future victims.

“The more hopeless and defenceless the Palestinians are, the more vicious the Israeli becomes. And yet, the more vicious the Israeli is, the more he or she is horrified by ‘terror’. In reality, the Israelis are actually horrified by their own cruelty.

“The ‘Jewish people’ is a made-up notion, consisting of an imaginary past with very little to back it up forensically, historically or textually.

“Nor has much been found in the Sinai Desert to prove the story of the legendary Egyptian exodus – apparently 3 million Hebrew men, women and children marched there for forty years without leaving a single Matzo Ball behind.

“Jews do not have a common origin, that their Semitic origins are a myth. Jews have no origin in Palestine whatsoever, and therefore their act of so-called ‘return’ must be realised as pretext for a tribal expansionist invasion.

“If  Shlomo Sand is correct, then the Jews, rather than being a race, comprise a collective of many people who have been hijacked by a national movement based on myths.

“If Jews are not a race and have nothing to do with Semitism, then ‘anti-Semitism’ is, categorically, an empty signifier. In other words, criticism of Jewish nationalism, Jewish lobbying and Jewish power can only be realised as a legitimate critique of ideology, politics and practice.

“Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a Latvian-born philosopher at the Hebrew University, was probably first to suggest that the Holocaust has become the new Jewish religion.

“This new religion is coherent enough to define its ‘antichrists’ (Holocaust deniers), and powerful enough to persecute them (through Holocaust denial and hate-speech laws).

“The Holocaust religion serves both right and left Jewish political discourse, but it appeals to the goyim as well, especially those who preach and advocate killing in the name of ‘freedom’, democracy and ‘moral interventionism’.

“That which maintains the Jewish collective identity is fear.

“To a certain extent, the Holocaust religion signals the final Jewish departure from monotheism, for every Jew is potentially a little God or Goddess. Abe Foxman is the God of anti-defamation, Alan Greenspan the God of ‘good economy’, Milton Friedman is the God of ‘free markets’, Lord (Peter) Goldsmith the God of the ‘green light’, Lord (Michael) Levy the God of fundraising, Paul Wolfowitz the God of US ‘moral interventionism’. AIPAC (the American–Israel Public Affairs Committee) is the American Olympus, where mortals elected in the US come to beg for mercy, forgiveness for being Goyim and for a bit of cash.

“To be a Jew is to see a threat in every Goy, to be on a constant alert.

“…whatever is good for the Jews is simply good.

“The Jewish population in the UK is 280,000 or 0.46 per cent. There are 650 seats in the House of Commons so, as a proportion, Jewish entitlement is only three seats. With 24 seats Jews are eight times over-represented. Which means, of course, that other groups must be under-represented, including Muslims. If Muslims, for instance, were over-represented to the same extent as the Jews (i.e. eight times) they’d have 200 seats. All hell would break loose.

“Jewish history engages with the basic question of whether a given account is ‘good for the Jews’ or not.

“The dismissal of factuality or lack of commitment to truthfulness are actually symptomatic of contemporary Jewish collective ideology and identity politic.

“In the Jewish intellectual insular world, one first decides what the historic moral is, then one invents ‘a past’ to fit.

“As long as we fail to ask questions, we will be subjected to Zionist lobbies and their plots. We will continue killing in the name of Jewish suffering. We will maintain our complicity in Western imperialist crimes.

“With millions of besieged Palestinians, Israel has given itself the reputation of a pariah state.

“How is it that, in spite of the Holocaust, Israel and Jewish lobbies invest so much energy in evoking hatred towards enemies of Israel and world Jewry?

“…envisage an horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish.

“What do modern emancipated Jews want?”

In his Epilogue, Gilad illustrates the difficulties he faced as an inquiring youth:

“I asked the emotional tour guide if she could explain the fact that so many Europeans loathed the Jews so much and in so many places at once. I was thrown out of school for a week.

“It seems I didn’t learn the necessary lesson because when we studied the middle age blood libels, I again wondered out loud how the teacher could know that these accusations of Jews making Matzo out of young Goyim’s blood were indeed empty or groundless. Once again I was sent home for a week. In my teens I spent most of my mornings at home rather than in the classroom.”

The Wandering WHO? provides a rare perspective on Jewishness, Judaism, Jewish politics, Zionism, identity crises, self-hate and self-love.

It’s a book that will awaken many. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon: www.amazon.com


Dr.Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. He’s a weekly Op-Ed columnist for the GULF DAILY NEWS . Dr. Balles is also Editorial Consultant for Red House Marketing and a regular contributor to Bahrain This Month.

2 Comments

  1. richard cardulla on the 04. Sep, 2011 remarked #

    Thanks for the book review, the author has put it all together about the place the world finds itself in.

  2. Debbie on the 04. Sep, 2011 remarked #

    Excellent review. Gilad is spot on on all respects! As was Henry Ford who, when charged with anti-Semitism by referring to the Protocols, said, “Forgeries or not, they sure describe history as it is happening!”

    As for dealing with Dershowitz and his ilk in America, there is a Federal crime in the US called “treason,” which is defined as “giving aid and support to the enemy.” All it requires is that the enemy be defined and identified.

    In recent years there are people taking names, along with dates and places, and their ass-kicking day in court will come sooner rather than later.

    This is America, where they can be depended upon to do the right thing, after having tried all else and failed!

    Thank you for writing this review Paul. I cannot wait to receive my copy of Gilad’s book, it has received endorsements from most of my favorite people listed below, Good for him.

    Endorsements:

    ‘Gilad Atzmon has written an absorbing and moving account of his journey from hard core Israeli nationalist to a de-Zionized patriot of humanity and passionate advocate of justice for the Palestinian people. It is a transformative story told with unflinching integrity that all (especially Jews) who care about real peace, as well as their own identity, should not only read, but reflect upon and discuss widely.’
    Professor Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University, author of over 20 books, and UN Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestinian Territories.

    ‘Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.’
    John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago

    ‘Gilad Atzmon’s book, The Wandering Who? is as witty and thought provoking as its title. But it is also an important book, presenting conclusions about Jews, Jewishness and Judaism which some will find shocking but which are essential to an understanding of Jewish identity politics and the role they play on the world stage.’
    Karl Sabbagh is a journalist, television producer and the author of several books including A Rum Affair, Power Into Art, Dr Riemann’s Zeros and Palestine: A Personal History. He is currently the publisher of Hesperus Press

    ‘Gilad Atzmon‘s The Wandering Who? is a series of brilliant illuminations and critical reflections on Jewish ethnocentrism and the hypocrisy of those who speak in the name of universal values and act tribal. Relying on autobiographical and existential experiences, as well as intimate observations of everyday life, both informed by profound psychological insights, Atzmon does what many critics of Israel fail to do; he uncovers the links between Jewish identity politics in the Diaspora with their ardent support for the oppressive policies of the Israeli state.

    Atzmon provides deep insights into “neo-ghetto” politics. He has the courage – so profoundly lacking among western intellectuals – to speak truth to the power of highly placed and affluent Zionists who shape the agendas of war and peace in the English-speaking world. With wit and imagination, Atzmon’s passionate confrontation with neo-conservative power grabbers and liberal yea sayers sets this book apart for its original understanding of the dangers of closed minds with hands on the levers of power.

    This book is more than a “study of Jewish identity politics” insofar as we are dealing with a matrix of power that affects all who cherish self-determination and personal freedom in the face of imperial and colonial dictates.’

    Professor James Petras, Bartle Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, author of more than 62 books including The Power of Israel in the United States.

    ‘Atzmon’s insight into the organism created by the Zionist movement is explosive. The Wandering Who? tears the veil off of Israel’s apparent civility, its apparent friendship with the United States, and its expressed solicitude for Western powers, exposing beneath the assassin ready to slay any and all that interfere with its tribal focused ends.’

    Professor William A. Cook, Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California, and author of The Rape Of Palestine.

    ‘The Wandering Who? features Gilad Atzmon at his delightful and insightful best: engaging, provocative and persuasive.’

    Jeff Gates, author of Guilt By Association: How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War

    ‘The Wandering Who? is a pioneering work that deserves to be read and Gilad Atzmon is brave to write this book!’

    Dr. Samir Abed-Rabbo, author and Professor Emeritus in the field of international law. He is director of the Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Brattleboro, Vermont and the former Dean of The Jerusalem School for Law and Diplomacy.

    “…assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim.”

    I have often wondered why Israeli foreign policy, particularly toward Palestine, seems to be deliberately counter-productive in nature, and in many cases almost destructive of their stated objectives of “creating a home for the ‘homeless’ Jewish people.

    Could prof. John J. Mearsheimer have struck a sensitive chord here, and touched upon a deliberate program designed and intended to create yet another “holocaust,” or pogroms, in order to unite the mensch more strongly, and bring them even into a tighter circle of Kosher wagons in support of Eretz Israel?

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