Gilad Atzmon the famous ex Israeli musician, philosopher and writer whose new book, “The Wandering Who?” has caused a fury amongst pro Israel groups, is no stranger to controversy. Last year he caused a stir when the Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested during a visit to the UK following huge pressure from the Israel lobby. Atzmon wrote: “Welcome to the United Jewish Kingdom”. The Wandering Who? is the latest exposé by a Jewish author to uncover the pernicious workings of the pro-Israel lobby. IPAC’s enormous influence across the pond is well-known. The USA is currently suffering one of its worst ever economic crises, yet Congress voted again this year to continue its annual $3 billion aid package to Israel. When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stood in Congress in May to say that Israel will never go back to the 1967 bor ders, he received 29 standing ovations and according to ABC’s Jonathan Karl, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint meeting of Congress had all the trappings of a State of the Union address by a president with sky-high approval ratings.” Instead of dealing with constituents who are facing economic disaster 81 Congress members took a free all-expenses paid holiday to Israel this year. Alison Weir, founder of “If Americans Knew” wrote: “This is an extraordinary situation. No other lobby on behalf of a foreign country comes anywhere near to controlling such wealth or taking so many of America’s elected representatives on a propaganda trip to their favourite country.” A report by Rajeev Syal in The Observer stated that Britain’s most active pro- Israeli propaganda organisation Bicom “which flies journalists to Israel on fact- finding trips and organises access to senior government figures — has received nearly £1.4m in two years from a billionaire donor whose father made a fortune manufacturing arms in Israel.” It was also revealed that the billionaire was the prominent pro-Israeli Poju Zabludowicz.
In Britain any criticism of Israel is muzzled and suppressed through howls of “anti Semitism”. The BBC has already been caught many times propagating the hasbara propaganda; when Israeli commandos attacked the Mavi Mara in international waters killing nine Turkish peace activists the BBC’s Panorama programme on the subject was slated by many for its pro-Israel approach. Atzmon’s book aptly named The Wandering Who? looks at these powerful lobbies and examines Jewish identity politics and the Jewish Diaspora’s relationship with Israel.
The book has provoked a storm and Atzmon himself has become the subject of a vicious smear campaign. Atzmon is one of a few Jewish writers such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein who breaks the norms and political taboos and ‘says it like it is`. He neither tiptoes or sugar coats the facts even though as he puts it “you will have to face an orchestrated smear campaign, you will be then called ‘anti Semite,’ a ‘new historian’ and even a ‘Holocaust denier.” It has been easy for pro Israel supporters to stifle and suppress critical discourse about Israel, however in the case of Gilad Atzmon their attempts to silence him is causing them a massive problem, as the terms used to silence most critics won’t stick on Atzmon. How can one call Atzmon who was born a Jew and brought up in Israel, served in the Israeli army, had a relative who died in the Holocaust, “anti Semitic or racist?” According to ‘The Community Security Trust` which monitors anti-Semitism in the UK and was also one of the pressure groups calling for the arrest of Sheikh Salah, the book is “utterly contemporary cultural racism.” Writing in New York Jewish Week, another critic Ben Cohen, argues that Atzmon is an anti Semite who “traffics in anti Semitic tropes – for example describing the “credit crunch as a ‘Ziopunch’, or declaring that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an accurate reflection of the global power of American Jews.” Atzmon who lives in Britain is not only famous for his music but also one of the most prominent advocates of Palestinian rights; his life philosophy stems not from any form of ‘tribalism’ but from a deep belief in humanity. His book has received critical acclaim and been endorsed by prominent academics like Professor John Falk, Professor John J Mearsheimer and Professor William A Cook. Mearsheimer has also been the subject of a smear campaign after he endorsed Atzmon’s book as ‘Essential to an understanding of Jewish identity politics and the role they play on the world stage.’ Defending his book Atzmon writes “it’s also obvious to every person who reads me that there is not a drop of racism, bigotry or anti Semitism in any of my writings. In my entire writing career I have never criticized Jews as people, ethnicity or race. Nor do I criticise Judaism. What I do is to scrutinize Jewish ideology and culture and I argue that if Israel defines itself as the ‘Jewish State’ and drops bombs on civilians from airplanes decorated with Jewish symbols, then it is our moral duty to question what this ‘Jewishness’ is all about.” He also examines the baffling question of “what it is that leads Diaspora Jews to identify themselves with Israel and affiliate with its politics.” For anyone with an interest in Palestinian rights, Atzmon’s book is an illuminating probe that sheds light on the murky workings of Zionist groups and the Machiavellian methods they use to acquire and exercise power•
The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics by Gilad Atzmon is published by Zero Books.