For some time now, I have been trying to get in touch with Ali Abunimah to ask him to explain his denunciation of Gilad Atzmon. I am used to Palestinian activists, Arab or non-Arab, attacking each other over this or that political or doctrinal difference, but this attack is worse than most.
Abunimah has been in the forefront of the anti-Zionist movement for years, and over that time has built a considerable reputation. His website, electronicintifada.net, is still an outstanding source for non-zionist (read: uncensored) news about the Occupation. Consequently, his denunciation of Atzmon was guaranteed to be influential and reach a large audience, thereby maximizing the potential damage to Atzmon’s reputation and scholarship.
The effect of the attack, though, has been suitably ironic. Rather than harm Atzmon’s reputation, Abunimah has elevated it beyond anything Atzmon could have done by himself. Outpourings of support have come from prominent activists like Kim Petersen, Alison Weir, Kevin Barrett, Mark Glenn, and Prof. Norton Mezvinsky. If Abunimah wanted to limit the reach of Atzmon’s arguments, he should have kept quiet and just let the hasbarats do what they do best.
What puzzles me is the manner of the attack less than the attack itself. For instance, why did Abunimah denounce Atzmon so maliciously, and did he seriously think he could escape condemnation? I wanted to put these and other questions to this champion of Palestine, but in the absence of co-operation I have had to come up with my own answers.
VILIFYING GILAD ATZMON
1. Smear and Run
I can understand that Abunimah might dissent from Atzmon in whole or in part, but to denigrate him categorically and mount a campaign to disavow him is evidence of personal animus, not scholarly disagreement. For example, after making passing reference to Atzmon’s new book, The Wandering Who, Abunimah gets personal:
“With this letter, we call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination. We do so as Palestinian organizers and activists, working across continents, campaigns, and ideological positions.”
The implication here is that Gilad Atzmon is not a Palestinian solidarity activist or an ally of the Palestinian people. In fact, Abunimah deems him to be an enemy of Palestine and tries to excommunicate Atzmon from the community of Palestinian activists. How is this constructive?! Whether or not Abunimah wants to admit it, Atzmon and he are on the same side, but such dogmatic hostility suggests strongly that the motive for the attack goes deeper than a squabble over activist orthodoxy.
2. The Attack
The next paragraph outlines Abunimah’s “case” against Atzmon followed by Atzmon’s comments (italics):
1. “Atzmon’s politics rest on one main overriding assertion that serves as springboard for vicious attacks on anyone who disagrees with his obsession with ‘Jewishness’.”
“It is a complete misrepresentation of my thoughts. Also was Freud obsessed with unconsciousness? Was Einstein obsessed with relativity?”
Abunimah provides no evidence to substantiate either the claim of vicious attacks or obsession. Could one argue that Abunimah is obsessed with Palestine?
2. “He claims that all Jewish politics is ‘tribal,’ ”…
No. I refer only to third category Jewish politics; hence, I do not talk about all Jewish politics.
In The Wandering Who, which Abunimah has not read, Atzmon divides “Jews” into three categories:
• Those who follow Judaism;
• Those who regard themselves as human beings that happen to be Jewish; and
• Those who put their “Jewishness” above all other traits.
The idea of political tribalism clearly does not apply to the first two categories, so Abunimah’s charge against Atzmon is without merit.
3. “…and essentially, Zionist. Zionism, to Atzmon, is not a settler-colonial project,…”
It is a settler project but not colonial for there is no Jewish mother state.
“but a trans-historical “Jewish” one, part and parcel of defining one’s self [sic] as a Jew. Therefore, he claims, one cannot self-describe as a Jew and also do work in solidarity with Palestine, because to identify as a Jew is to be a Zionist.”
This is complete nonsense!
In fact, the positions Abunimah attributes to Atzmon do not appear anywhere in the pages of The Wandering Who. Moreover, they are obviously ridiculous, given Atzmon’s careful distinction among Jews. Even a cursory read of Atzmon’s book could have prevented Abunimah from conflating “Jew” with “Jewishness”, but that implies that Abunimah was interested in depicting Atzmon fairly, but the end of the paragraph proves otherwise:
“We could not disagree more. Indeed, we believe Atzmon’s argument is itself Zionist because it agrees with the ideology of Zionism and Israel that the only way to be a Jew is to be a Zionist.”
3. Jewish sensitivities come first
Abunimah, like a lot of Palestinian activists, subscribes to the cult of Jewish victimhood, thereby allowing zionists to define the boundaries of acceptable discourse. One would expect a Palestinian activist like Abunimah to be less concerned with upsetting Jews than with exposing the role that Judaism and Jewish chauvinism play in the persecution of Palestinians. This is precisely what Atzmon does in The Wandering Who, but instead of embracing Atzmon’s candour and honesty, Abunimah sets himself up as “Judge, Jewry and Executioner” against Atzmon:
“We reaffirm that there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust; nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities. Challenging Zionism, including the illegitimate power of institutions that support the oppression of Palestinians, and the illegitimate use of Jewish identities to protect and legitimize oppression, must never become an attack on Jewish identities, nor the demeaning and denial of Jewish histories in all their diversity.”
Because Israel claims to be a Jewish state, and admits that it persecutes Palestinians as a matter of national policy, it is expected, even necessary, for all things Jewish to come in for criticism. This is especially true of the Holocaust®, the founding myth of the zionist entity.
For example, the number “six million” in connection with mass violence against Jews predates the Holocaust® by a quarter century. On Oct. 31, 1919, the American Hebrew published “The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop,” a blithering screed by former New York Governor Martin H Glynn that began: “From across the sea, six million men and women call to us for help, and eight hundred thousand little children cry for bread.” The number “six million” is repeated four times! Further instances of this number appear in the New York Times (July 20, 1921, p.2; Feb. 17, 1945, p.8; Jan. 9, 1938 p. 12; and Jan. 8, 1945, p.17).
Does Abunimah believe that anyone who denies the absolute, dogmatic facticity of “six million” is a Holocaust® denier? If he does, that makes him a zionist, not Atzmon.
Finally, of the 10 paragraphs, only three actually mention Atzmon by name. The majority of the atttack is devoted to Marxist-sounding slogans, boasts of the morality of the Palestinian cause, and congratulatory backslapping for anti-Atzmon activists. This imbalance leads me to conclude that the attack wasn’t really about Atzmon at all; rather, it seems that Abunimah wanted to boost his own image at Atzmon’s expense. This view explains why he put no effort into being accurate.
Why Abunimah would jeopardize his reputation so recklessly is unclear, but in the absence of a definitive response from him, I have to conclude that he felt personally and politically threatened.
Unlike Abunimah, Atzmon does not buy into the cult of Jewish victimhood or allow “Jewish sensitivities” to limit the boundaries of acceptable political discourse. Abunimah accepts Jews, Jewish history and Jewish culture as given and treats themwith kid gloves, but in Atzmon’s hands they are shorn of all moral privilege and subjected to searing, honest criticism. The Wandering Who is an unsparing psychological analysis of the Jewish mind and the sociopathic zionist state. It is essentially a rebuke to the inhibitory “reasonableness” that makes official Palestinian positions more like collaboration than liberation.
Abunimah went berserk on Atzmon because he saw in him the kind of honesty that, as a representative of Palestinian officialdom, he is unable or unwilling to articulate.
Concerning the new world order and power over human understanding
When we are born, the picture in our eye is upside down. We soon turn it around so that it is in keeping with the laws of gravity, probably for purely practical reasons. However, although seeing, we do not all see the same things. Our senses help us to distinguish between various material and spiritual things. Our language gives them names, describes and explains their context, to ourselves and to each other. Religions, ideologies, philosophy, the arts and sciences, all can be seen as tokens of our endeavours to understand life itself and the world that lies beyond the limitations of our senses, understanding and experience.
What makes people perceive life and the world differently, not just the nuances but the whole picture, despite “reality” being the same? The answer to that question is the key to governing and controlling human understanding, at the same time the key to its liberation.
Our personal pictures, and their variations, can be transformed into one picture common to all. When a group of people gaze at a statue from different angles and tell each other what they have seen, a picture is created that is “truer” than that created by just one person who walks around the statue, looking at it from all directions. The personal apprehensions of what a statue “is” gives width and depth to the understanding of it – assuming that “pre-understanding” of the statue is moderately heterogeneous. If homogeneous, it will instead reinforce one of several possible “pre-understandings”. From this we can deduce that collective knowledge has greater potential than personal, both from a negative and a positive aspect.
Thus we have two fundamental rules for anyone wanting to control our thoughts.
- Create collective knowledge about the perspective you wish a group to adopt, by enlightening them on this perspective while withholding ones that challenge it. In some contexts this is called propaganda or indoctrination.
- Isolate those persons or groups that represent competing perspectives and limit their chances of communicating with others. In some contexts this is called harassment or violation of the right to freedom of expression and opinion.
A closer look soon reveals that in all societies where the production of knowledge and ideology is not balanced between the interests of different perspectives, there are certain elements of indoctrination and a lack of freedom of expression. Likewise, for those who own the means of producing knowledge and ideology, the possibility to control people’s minds is greater than for those who own nothing of the sort. Groups of perspectives can be contained within larger areas. Scientific paradigms, religions and ideologies are manifestations of such comprehensive areas that arise from the need to avoid contradictions and maintain a certain right of interpretation, even though they have aspects in common with their competitors. Dissidents are those who stray outside the greater areas of knowledge predominant in society. Boarder crossers are those who seek knowledge within several competing areas.
Thus far, it is about production and control of human understanding within areas that limit the mind. When conflicts arise, for example between different ideologies that represent interests that use them for their cause, the need to also control human understanding increases. The expression, “Your terrorist is my freedom fighter”, is a clear example of this.
Control can be “voluntary” through so-called self censure, used by journalists who do not wish to risk their careers, or enforced as when those who wish to question aspects of what is known as The Holocaust are forbidden to voice their opinions. Two great thinkers have each written a classic about these questions. One concerns humans’ voluntary subordination, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, the other subordination by force, “1984” by George Orwell.
To achieve maximum effect, these methods are often combined. This is done by so-called false flag operations, which means that a regime attacks its own people, disguised as the enemy, in today’s world known as “terrorists”, when no other state can be relied upon. Hereby fear is created among the people who then find it easier to accept a “counter attack” which is made out to be “defence”. Restrictions of human rights are used to uncover new “terrorists”. Bugging telephones is not good, but who wants a bomb in the underground or a plane that crashes on your parliament? False flag operations have become the most successful weapon in ruling and dividing, as in Iraq. Most of the bomb attacks aimed at the civilians of various religious groups, have been undertaken by the occupying power and their coalition partners’ security forces, in order to create hate between the groups.
Because the same interests that started the neo-colonial wars own the media, human thought can be controlled in this way. The cruel irony of false flag operations that are aimed at ones own groups/people, or those claimed to be liberated by occupation, as in Iraq, is that the more horrific these acts of terror become, the easier it is to blame “terrorists” – the enemy.
Continuing this logic – also those who uncover these false flags are portrayed as guilty of spreading conspiracy theories, implying that they are “nutters”, because no right-minded person could believe that, for example, the government he or she has elected would secretly devise such hellish plans and take action against its own people. This would be, in fact, the same as declaring oneself in a state of incapacity, or at least owning up to having been naïve or easily lead, something to be ashamed of. This way of helping people to avoid feeling shame, is probably one of the most forceful methods to control behaviour and understanding in use historically, because it solves fundamental identity issues, pride and self respect being the most sought after. The “J” taboo linked to “The Holocaust” and the notoriously libellous “anti-Semite” are today the most powerful examples of efforts to control thought and suppress opinions. The accusation of being a “Holocaust denier” today, has the same implication as being called an atheist used to have.
Where will it all end? Overpopulation, environmental pollution, ruthless exploitation of limited natural resources, famine, epidemics, massacres of innocent civilians, genocide, with or without weapons of mass destruction…the list is long. And we all know how long. What has happened? Is not colonialism a thing of the past, and was not peace after World War II the start of a new world where the UN, and international human rights, was a stronghold for peace and prosperity for the people of the world? What happened? Is the world upside down? How long will it go on? Is what we now are witnessing the collapse of western civilisation?
Sweden – oops – is presently at war with Afghanistan, although there has hardly been a public debate and the Swedish people have really never had a say in the matter. It is called a peacekeeping mission and is lead by the US. Nowadays, even the UN is misused to motivate occupation and war against poor third world countries under the pretext of the west teaching them the meaning of democracy, reminiscent of “The White Man’s Burden”.
Our western welfare societies are involved in the severest economic crisis the world has ever known, and we have not seen the last of it. Economists and journalists speak as though it is an accident related to a natural catastrophe and nobody who listens understands what is going on. Do they themselves, are they just idiots, or are they simply performing a menial task for the hand that feeds them? Why can nobody tell us that the dollar, latter-day world currency, is printed by the bank of America, The Federal Reserve, literally on air, and subsequently loaned to banks all over the world? A parasite economy, built on debts that create dependency and huge opportunities for control. Why do they not tell us that this bank, that for so long has been the pillar of world economy, is privately owned (!), contrary to the American constitution (!) and that its owners are primarily banks in Europe, and the names of these banks? Who sits on the board of the Federal Reserve and how did they get there? Why is there no investigation and discussion about where the money, now ubiquitously “missing”, has gone? Much can still be found on the internet, anyone can search for the truth.
Are we heading for a third world war, or has it perhaps already begun? Will it, like the previous two, be funded by the power elite at the centre of which sit the owners of the banks on Wall Street and the Federal Reserve? Will money go to both sides in this war too? Has the power elite in fact created the economic crisis itself in order to lay its hands on the “missing” money? Are they just stupid people, losing their bets or backing a winner in a fool’s game? Or are they, in fact, themselves victims of the incompatible laws of an economic system where the money itself is the root of all evil?
Why do we never discuss where, when and how the crucial decisions that rule our world are made? I am sure the “experts” know that they are made in bodies such as the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group and the Council for Foreign Relations, all of which have a common nucleus of persons adjacent to the power elite of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve? Groups that are manned and controlled, as are the central banks, completely outside the people’s formal right to power in a so called democratic system. Or why is there no scrutiny of secret societies such as Skulls and Bones, Freemasons and others, which seem to embrace all powerful people? Are they merely childish pastimes for upper-class gentlemen who crave more than just the golf club, or do they play an important part in the societal power game by creating unswerving loyalties in return for perks?
I am far from having all the answers myself, but through my search for the truth I have come to realise that I can ask significant questions – or so I believe. And I have learned that the closer you get to the truth about power, the more you get called an “anti-Semite”, a “Holocaust denier” and are accused of spreading conspiracy theories, and this is the reason for my conclusion that more such people are needed if we are going to put the world to rights.
I know and you know that most of what goes on is foul play, the higher up you get, the fouler. But what can you and I do about it? And how do we cope with it along with having our hands full with our own lives, taking care of our families, doing the best we can here and now. Life is short and for living.
Research concerning the injustices of the world, and how gloomy the future looks, gives most of us a guilty conscience if we ransack our hearts. We know we are living on borrowed time and that our prosperity, to some extent, is stolen from people in the third world. We consume the future and vote for politicians who merely administrate the so-called growth, while others make the conclusive decisions. Our disdain of politicians hides our own responsibility. We elected them ourselves. We transfer our own guilt to politicians, or to “the system”. I believe that humanism is not possible without personal responsibility for how we live our own lives and how this affects others in both worlds – large and small.
It is about the future of our own children and grandchildren. We cope with guilt in different ways. We can transfer it to others. We can buy ourselves free by giving money to charitable causes, usually with diffuse effects. We can shut out the reality that causes our guilt. We can choose to live our own lives exclusively and imagine that the world outside does not exist. We can accept that the world is upside down. It might work for a while, but is worrying in the long run I think. Especially when we ponder the meaning of life, or what we do or have done with our lives, what we wish for and what it means to be a human, happiness and love…
Guilt and awareness carry responsibilities. I believe one is a prerequisite for the other in our western world. I believe that it is by exchanging guilt for responsibility that we develop solidarity as world citizens and become humanitarians. As humanitarians, we support non-westerners’ fight against occupation or wars of aggression, even though we neither understand nor sympathise with their life style, religion or culture. We support them out of empathy and love, we make no demands, but allow those defending themselves to choose their own methods – we do not moralise. We must, however, change the direction of our own lives so that Big Brother cannot set “ The White Man” against the non-westerner.
More and more people are receiving wake-up calls. These are my thoughts:
Keep the family together. Help one another. Find others who have woken up. Exchange services as much as possible. Avoid borrowing money from ordinary banks. Vote only in local elections and start local parties. Make contact with non-westerners both at home and away. Create twin towns for the exchange of services and culture outside the west. Stop buying daily newspapers and start local pamphlets. Reclaim the countryside. Increase your own and your relatives’ self sufficiency. Start small cooperatives for the supply of food and for banking where only members are owners. Use your survival instincts and make yourself as independent of authorities and banks as possible, and of anything else that you cannot influence. Fashion your life so that it is more difficult for authorities to watch and control you. Think things and do things that you imagine Big Brother will not approve of.
If we create a collective movement that heads away from the economic and administrative systems that the power elite relies on to get rich on others’ labour, or to create money from thin air, or to plunder the environment, start wars, divide and rule and all the other things that threaten the planet and its people, then they will lose their power. Because they depend on us, even though they see us merely as canon fodder, working beasts and obedient servants. And they will do everything it takes to gain control of our minds, as this is the only way they can continue to exist. But if enough people have become aware, they will not succeed.
Together we can change the world around, so that the organism we are part of – the physical and spiritual world – can exist in harmony and love a while longer.
Naive? Hardly, but necessary. Unique? Not at all, I am sure many of us have harboured such thoughts for quite a while. What is needed now is that we speak more together. We do not panic, or scream and shout, nor do we use force against other people. We merely liberate our minds and change the direction of our lives in every way – together.
Will these thoughts come together in a global context and be the next step in human development, or is it too late?
What will decide, Chance, Big Brother or You?
The choice is yours.
When we were young there was hope in the air. There was good reason to look ahead. Some of us enrolled at university, but we also knew that if life did not shine on us, there were plenty of factories that offered enough jobs to those who were willing to toil. Yet it seems our children are not so lucky. Not much is awaiting them. The Western economy is on the brink of collapse.
When we were young, there were two ideologies around. In a cold manner, they bitterly chewing away at each other. One ideology maintained that equality and justice were the means towards liberation, whilst the other contended that celebrating one’s symptoms was actually the true meaning of human liberty. But it seems that these two ideologies have had very little impact on our life. In practice, we were all celebrating our symptoms – we were buying, selling, eating and drinking, but we somehow also enjoyed believing that ‘equality was a good thing’. Eventually these grand ideologies faded away and, not only do we not have ideologies anymore, we are not even capable of thinking ideologically. In the post ideological era, which we now inhabit, we kill millions in the name of ‘liberation’, we rain down depleted uranium shells on crowded cities whilst promising to export ‘liberal democracy,’ and we export Western ‘justice’ in Coca Cola cans.
When we were young, we reserved some respect for our political system. We somehow accepted that liberal democracy reflected our true values and beliefs. Fundamentally, we believed that it was a well-meaning idea and the best of all options. Hence we believed that at least theoretically, our democratically elected representatives were largely a true reflection of our desires.
We were not stupid but we were somewhat naïve. Being the sons and daughters of the Enlightenment, we were submerged in self-love. We were rich and spoiled. Yet, clearly, we failed to notice that our most elementary freedoms were being gradually diminished until the ‘freedom to consume’ was the only freedom left. We were basically free to buy and spend, to borrow and then to spend again and, without realising it, we were being reduced to a nation of shoppers with the political system existing solely to facilitate consumption, on a constantly growing grand scale.
When we were young, we read about liberation, and political struggles. We learned about heroic people who stood up against evil by fighting tyrants, Tsars, capitalists, communists, fascists and racists. Yet why is it so difficult now for us to identify precisely who is to be blame for the current global crisis, to identify who is to take responsibility for the collapse of our free markets and our own sense of values, ethics and justice? Is it a single person that we should blame? Is it Margaret Thatcher, George Bush, Tony Blair or Milton Friedman? Is it a party or rather is it an ideology? Is it the banks, Alan Greenspan or Goldman Sachs? Is it Wall Street or the City of London? Is it America? Or is it ‘just us,’ humanity as a whole, that we should blame?
It is reasonable to argue that the gigantic hole in global finance commonly known as the credit crunch is actually a gigantic amplification of the hole in each of our pockets. The greedy capitalist system known as ‘banking’ and ‘global expansionist markets’ can be understood as a vast manifestation of our own personal greed, as explored through relentless consumption. Hard capitalism is a ‘continuum state’ of greed between the personal and the entire system.
Liberal democracy is commonly realised as a natural political extension of individual liberties. It is only natural then, that some of the worse aspects of our society and political system are actually deeply rooted in each and every one of us. The relentless appetite that we find at the heart of the capitalist system is a multiplied mirror image of our own bottomless inclination towards consumption.
Any profound criticism of the liberal system at this stage then, should entail some harsh self-criticism. Each and every one of us is an autonomous and ‘self-sufficient credit crunch.’ Just like the banks, we have also been spending money we did not have. And it seems our societies and ourselves are now clearly subjected to a similar malaise. We have been celebrating our symptoms collectively and blindly for too long.
We sometime envy the Arabs and their Spring. They have grasped who their enemy is (Western puppets rulers) and what their salvation is (Islam). Tragically, we understand that we are spiraling down into an inevitable long and dark winter. We know that politics and ideologies have failed us. We accept that we are dwelling in a post-political and post-ideological era, and yet we fail to understand what this may entail. The world, as we know it, is changing rapidly. Our so-called ‘liberties’ have turned against us and we dread the meaning of it all.
And yet we do not posses a means of understanding the condition we are subject to, simply because such conditions are merely an amplification of ourselves and our most precious beliefs. We fail to admit or decide where the ‘self’ ends and the ‘West’ begins. We do not know where London’s AL Tahrir square is. We cannot decide whether we really want to be liberated and we do not seem capable of even identifying who the enemy is.
The Western subject, as well as Western society, is submerged in self-love. Somehow we cannot understand how it is that a system that was created to explore our human liberties, can fail.
I suggest that a partial remedy for our malaise might be acceptance of a certain level of uncanniness, an acceptance that reason has its limits, and that ‘being in the world’ may be slightly mysterious after all. However, it seems as if it may take a while before we are brave enough to admit to ourselves that this is indeed the case.