The Wandering Who? Reading Group invited the author of the book we are studying, Gilad Atzmon, to attend our gathering on Monday 28th May.
We all agree that it is Atzmon’s swashbuckling personality which enables him to say things which others would shy away from. But there was some difference of opinion about both his style of debate and his views.
On the one hand he was seen as someone who thought on his feet, and needed to because of the malevolent forces out to get him. One member of the group liked his style and found his focus on power particularly useful at a time of false, complacent and moralistic political discourse.
On the other hand there was some worry about Atzmon’s intensive naval gazing on Jewish identity coupled with a lack of concrete proposals on how to delegitimize Israel. Also Atzmon’s style of delivery made it difficult to challenge him on particular points, and at least one member of the group had questions about Chapters 6 and 7 which didn’t get to be put.
Atzmon’s dismissal of Chomsky as simply an accessory to Jewish Power, even if this was one aspect of the man, seemed too sweeping for some. Neither were we unanimous in rejecting the boycotting of Israeli sponsored cultural events. Although Atzmon made it clear he supports most forms of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) we were left unsure of his exact position.
Much of the power of Atzmon’s rhetoric comes from his interest in philosophy and psychology. However, the use of technical language from these disciplines, such as praxis, matrix of negation, dialectic, organimus, projection and so on seemed to some of us to add little to the argument.
Nevertheless a fruitful discussion took place in the second half of our meeting about the use of ‘the Holocaust’ to validate academics, the responsibility members of a collective have for actions by that collective, the probable Israeli involvement in Syria as a preparation for a war on Iran, and the simplistic Western tendency to classify the leaders of non-Western countries as either with us or against us.
The critical note sounded in some of this report does not detract from our interest in The Wandering Who? and our intention to continue to study this brave book. We are very grateful to Gilad Atzmon for coming down from London to meet with us.