A recent open letter, “Granting no quarter: a call for the disavowal of the racism and anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon“, apparently written by the Palestinian-American academic, Ali Abunimah, has come as a shock to many people, including yours truly. Not only have the Zionists colonized Palestine and subjected them to a permanent campaign of genocide, but as anyone who has been paying attention knows, they have colonized the Western democracies, turning them into obedient puppets. Now it appears that they have also colonized the Palestine solidarity movement.
by Roger Tucker
I would like to take a critical look at the language used by Abunimah and company and some of the notions underlying their terminology.
I will start with the title itself, which begins with the curious phrase “Granting no quarter”. The phrase is familiar to anyone who has read books or seen films based on British naval warfare set in the 18th or early 19th centuries – this is as extreme as it gets. This from a group of mostly Palestinian supporters of the Palestinian struggle against Israel in opposition to another such supporter. That is sufficiently mind-boggling in itself, but Ali Abunimah, and I would assume at least some of his fellow signatories, are also supporters of “One democratic state – the one-state solution – as the solution to the basic conflict in the Middle East, as is Atzmon. Some fundamental and portentous difference, beyond a mere dispute about strategy or tactics, must be responsible for such a total and uncompromising attack on a seemingly close ally. It allows for no debate, no compromise – no quarter offered or accepted.
Some observers have implied that Abunimah and company have actually gone over to the enemy, or may have been Zionist agents from day one, and that the Jewish members of these solidarity groups are acting as their handlers. For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume that is not so, that they are perfectly sincere in considering themselves loyal to the Palestinian cause as they conceive it. Looking at the signatories of the letter we find some successful academics, Abunimah and Massad being the most prominent. They have prospered as unofficially sanctioned spokesmen for the Palestinian cause in the US and have no incentive to rock the boat. If they presented any perceived danger to tribal Jewry, they would likely find themselves on the street, as has happened to a number of academics, many of them Jewish, who have dared to challenge the predominant Jewish narrative. This points to a simple motivation based on economic and professional self-interest, but I believe there’s more to it than that.
Race is a classification system used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by heritable phenotypic characteristics, geographic ancestry, physical appearance and ethnicity.
So begins the Wikipedia page on the subject. Race is a broad brush that covers just about any typology that attempts to divide humanity into distinct groups according to such criteria. All such attempts have very fuzzy edges.
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term “racism” is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature [i.e, which harms particular groups of people].
The accusation of racism has typically been a characteristic of leftist critiques of systems that practice discrimination against members of relatively powerless minorities. The accusation of racism against Zionist Jews is a curious exception. This particular group is far from being powerless. More to the point, there has been an obvious racist component within Jewish culture from the very beginning. Just take a look at the Old Testament, let alone the blatant contempt for the goyim (non-Jews) found in the Talmud. The dehumanization of “the Other” is a very old and characteristically Jewish pattern. For tribal Jews and their allies, the shabbas goyim, to bandy about the term “racism” is hypocrisy of the highest order. (“The term shabbos goy refers to a non-Jew who performs duties that Jewish law forbids a Jew from performing on the Sabbath.” – Wikipedia) What I am getting at is that Ali Abunimah and company are arguably shabbas goyim, non-Jewish elements of the currently dominant political force in the Western world that James Petras refers to as the Zionist power configuration.
This term is the most powerful weapon in the tribal Jewish verbal armoury. To be labelled anti-Semitic is akin to having been labelled a heretic by the Holy Roman Inquisition. It might not invite torture and burning at the stake, but they will set about ruining your life. It is purportedly a special case of racism, whereby the Jewish people are cast as the eternal victims of racial prejudice. I defer to a Jewish thinker on this subject:
If this hostility, even aversion, had only been shown towards the Jews at one period and in one country, it would be easy to unravel the limited causes of this anger, but this race has been on the contrary an object of hatred to all the peoples among whom it has established itself. It must be therefore, since the enemies of the Jews belonged to the most diverse races, since they lived in countries very distant from each other, since they were ruled by very different laws, governed by opposite principles, since they had neither the same morals, nor the same customs, since they were animated by unlike dispositions which did not permit them to judge of anything in the same way, it must be therefore that the general cause of anti-Semitism has always resided in Israel [i.e. kingdom of the Jews] itself and not in those who have fought against Israel (Statement regarding the expulsions of Jews, by noted Jewish author Bernard Lazare in “L’antisémitisme, son histoire et ses causes”, published in 1894)
As a number of people have pointed out, there is another problem with the use of the word anti-Semitism. “Semite” is a linguistic term denoting peoples who speak Semitic languages. Israelis are not semites in spite of the fact that they speak Hebrew (it iss an adopted language of far too recent a vintage). The Zionists who created Israel and still run it are descended from the Khazars, linguistically a “Turko-finnic” people. The vast majority of Semites speak Arabic as their native language, making tribal Jewry, particularly the Israelis, the only people in the world who are truly “anti-Semitic” – and they are virulently anti-Semitic.
Abunimah invokes this term, specifically “settler-colonialism”, as characterizing the nature of the Zionist invasion of Palestine. They claim that Atzmon rejects this characterization. Actually, all he does is point out that settler-colonialism has traditionally referred to efforts of European powers to install a permanent presence of their nationals in countries they wish to control. In all such cases, except Israel, there is a mother country that the settlers can rely on to finance and support their efforts. This is different from the case of the Jewish state, in which that role has been played by world Jewry in the diaspora. It is a non-issue, really, except that once again Abunimah is misusing language to make his argument.
Race, as we mentioned above, is a clumsy, inaccurate and misleading way of looking at the distinguishing characteristics of people that we attempt to lump together in identifiable groups. There is a much better way of separating out what Atzmon calls “collectives”. This is by looking at characteristic ways of thinking, speaking and behaving, which together pretty much determine who we are. These distinctions are cultural. And this is where the already shaky limb that Abunimah is clinging to breaks and he tumbles into complete nonsense.
Abunimah does not mention culture in his letter, but take a look at this, Abunimah attacking Atzmon at the Stuttgart “One State Conference” in December 2010. He says “Jewish culture doesn’t explain anything at all”. This remark is not only absurd – it would be like saying slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War, or that the playing of the pipes has nothing to do with their Celtic origin, or that the French drink wine merely as a matter of personal choice, etc. (one could make a parlour game out of this) – he is so intent on demonizing Atzmon that he abandons any shred of intellectual integrity. Perhaps he secretly believes in “intelligent design”?
The notion of race is based on genetic differences which determine our physical being. Genetic evolution in the human race more or less ceased some 5,000 years ago. Culture, on the other hand, is memetic. Memes are patterns that we inherit from our environment, starting when we are children with our families and continuing as we get older to the notions, norms and attitudes prevalent in our societies. Culture is by far the most significant causal factor in how we manifest in the world. What makes memetic (cultural) evolution possible and far more rapid than through genetic mutations is that we have the ability to change our minds based on new information, or seeing things in a new way. To do so requires curiosity, an open mind and considerable humbleness. This is what the word “freedom” means in its fullest sense. Many people become rigid and inflexible in their views, including far too many academics. As Eric Hoffer, the great longshoreman philosopher put it in his book The True Believer, “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
This term, frequently used by Atzmon, is the crux of the matter. If you will indulge me, click on “Us versus them: on the meaning of fascism”. It is about identity politics and how this phenomenon tends to evolve into fascism. Atzmon is absolutely correct in making it central to his investigation. He stresses that it is intellectually dishonest to attempt to discuss Zionism and Israel without reference to “Jewishness”. Zionism was a specifically Jewish endeavour to create a Jewish state. What could be more obvious? If you leave out the “Jewish” part there isn’t much left, is there? The point is too obvious to belabour, but Abunimah attempts to do just that. Atzmon, in the grand tradition of intellectual inquiry, has committed himself to trying to understand the whole complex picture, which centres around the question of what “Jewish” and “Jewishness” mean. Abunimah cries foul and invokes the taboo that has been the mainstay of Zionist propaganda from day one. You can’t talk about “Jews”. You can’t talk about “Jewishness”. Otherwise you are “racist”, “anti-Semitic”. A circular, absurd argument. I guess it might upset somebody, most likely “The Wandering Guess Who”. (There is a very intriguing piece – “Forget the money, follow the sacredness”, published in an unlikely source – a recent issue of the New York Times. The author has some very intiguing things to say about tribal identities.)
I am Jewish, Atzmon is Jewish (whether he likes it or not – sorry, Gilad, but it’s a friendly dig), and so are many of his supporters. I don’t want anyone telling me that I can’t look at what that means. It is one of my fondest hopes that a great many Jews honestly consider the question “who am I?”. As long as the answer is “I’m a Jew, first and foremost” , then we are in for a lot more trouble. If the answer is “I’m first of all a human being and the rest is secondary”, then there will be grounds for optimism. If enough Jews have the courage to look in the mirror and ask this fundamental question, we could easily solve the most pressing problem facing the world today, because, like it or not, tribal Jewry currently holds all the cards. Without at least the tacit support of most Jews they wouldn’t be able to play their game any longer.?
We are now going to address what I believe to be the primary motivations behind Abunimah’s extraordinary attack on Atzmon. A number of political fashions arose out of postmodernism, such as multiculturalism, radical feminism and gay and lesbian activism, for example. In all cases, these fashions endorse various flavours of identity politics. These particular ideas were actually pioneered within the 1960s counter-culture, but the postmodernist academics turned them upside down. Instead of being inspired by a sense of our common humanity, we were inundated by all sorts of identity politics, all with narratives that, under the new dispensation, could not be challenged without confronting the enforcement arm of the new orthodoxy – political correctness. All of this grew out of the Marxist culture that had previously been the fashion on the left, but needed a new intellectual basis after the reaction to the horrors of Stalinism and Maoism, and eventually the fall of the Soviet Union. Ergo, postmodernism and its progeny provided continuity and a new lease on life.?
In keeping with the tradition of Marxism-Leninism, the neo-Marxists needed to instil monolithic party discipline. After all, there can be only one vanguard of the proletariat. The new ideology of identity politics developed the strategy of political correctness to enforce its monopoly over discourse. This is not confined to the groves of academe – the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and similar Zionist institutions actively enforce the orthodoxy. And, just as an aside, Jews continued to make up a large proportion of both the party leadership and the party faithful, just as Bolshevism was largely a Jewish project. Although the thought police concern themselves with decrying any perceived denigration of a number of tribal groups, by other academics particularly, there is no question that the one and only sacred cow is the Jewish tribe. Casting aspersions on black people, gays or women, for example, will get you a serious dressing down, but any reference to Jews or Jewishness that is not flattering might well cost you your livelihood, or worse.
To sum up, the attacks on Gilad Atzmon – and Ken O’Keefe – reveal an organized attempt to silence independent voices within the Palestinian support community. Many moons ago I was in the US Army. As it was peacetime, the only enemy in sight was the army itself. We fought to a draw. There are many of us who don’t like to take orders, least of all from the political correctness thought police.
The attack by Abunimah and company are akin to an attempted political coup, much like the successful efforts of the Bolsheviks (which means “majority”, although they were a small minority – quite Orwellian, actually) against the Mensheviks. But it isn’t going to work, because Atzmon and O’Keefe aren’t interested in power or being part of an organized movement. They are truly independent people taking a personal stand against a great evil, and they take their stand on behalf of all of the suffering mankind, not just the Palestinians. Their efforts are prompted by the plight of the Palestinians, but like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela, they serve an even higher purpose, that of justice, wisdom, compassion and peace.
I would leave it there, but I want to make an appeal to Ali Abunimah and company to reconsider their views on this matter. When I got involved in one-state advocacy more than 10 years ago, I realized that we needed to operate under a big tent. After all, we are a small, relatively powerless group of people, up against the most powerful and ruthless fascist endeavour in history. At the very least, we need to accommodate one another even if some people have some views that rub us the wrong way. So, I would like to invite Ali Abunimah, Joseph Massad, my friend Haidar Eid and all the others to leave their guns at the door and rejoin the rest of us involved in the greatest struggle of our time.
- Permission to examine “Jewishness,” by Rich Siegel | deLiberation
- Atzmon-Palestinian Infighting Reveals Underbelly of Gutless Duplicity, by Gordon Duff | Veterans Today
- I’m So Glad We’ve Got Gilad, by Francis Clark-Lowe | deLiberation
- Why Hate Gilad Atzmon: “He’s WRONG!” (Or Is He?), by Kevin Barrett | Veterans Today
- Ali Abunimah and his Solidarity Career, by Paul Eisen | deLiberation
- Ali Abunimah attacking Gilad Atzmon at the Stuttgart One State conference (Dec 2010)
- Disavow with no mercy? Not in my name!, by Nahida the Exiled Palestinian, by Nahida | The Exiled Palestinian
- Faint Heartedness, Political Correctness, and Peculiar Timing: The Attacks on Gilad Atzmon, by Richard Edmondson | Left-wing Christian
- Abunimah Boycotting and Censoring Gilad Atzmon? by Debbie Menon | My Catbird Seat
- More on the Atzmon Controversy, by Noel Ignatiev | PMP
- Engaging Gilad Atzmon: Interview by Prof. Norton Mezvinsky | YouTube
- Ali Baghdadi’s (Arab Journal, Chicago) responds to Abunimah & Co | Uprooted Palestinians
- A Call for the Disavowal of Splittism, by Kim Petersen | Dissident Voice
- Don’t Shun Gilad Atzmon, by Michael Rabb | CU-Divest
- “Disavowal” of Gilad Atzmon? The Truth be damned! by William A. Cook | Veterans Today
- Cynthia McKinney Interviews Gilad Atzmon about Israel, Zionism, and Jewish Identity Politics | YouTube
- Thought Police within the so-called ‘Palestine Solidarity Movement’, by Ken O’Keefe
- Ken O’Keefe Lecture at Middlesex University: Israeli Apartheid Week – February 23, 2012