Intervju med Gilad Atzmon

From: brendberg <brendberg_at_xx.xx>
Date: 01-02-04

Vidaresender eit leseverdig intervju med Gilad Atzmon

The Gilad Atzmon Interview
by nessie Tuesday January 27, 2004 at 01:32 AM

Israeli born musician Gilad Atzmon regards himself as a devoted political
artist. He supports the liberation of the Palestinian people. In his
writings on the issue, Gilad suggests a solution of one state for the many
people based on equality and democracy. In his forthcoming album: 'Exile',
Gilad & The Orient House Ensemble, the band tries to remove the unnecessary
barriers between Jewish and Arabic cultures, and to emphasize the similarity
between the two peoples that lived in perfect harmony for hundreds of years.
The new album features the great Palestinian singer Reem Kelani and The
world famous vocalist and aud player Dhafer Youssef.

nessie: Before we get into politics, tell us a little about yourself, your
home town, and your family. When were you born?

Gilad: 1963, Israel, right wing family. I would even say "far right". My
grandfather was a Commander in the Irgun (an anti-mandatory paramilitary
fascist organization). My grandfather was a devoted Jabotinsky follower, and
so was my mother as a juvenile (not anymore). I must admit that I, myself,
enjoy reading Jabotinsky. Although I disagree with his racist orientation, I
can still follow his logic, something that doesn't happen to me when I read
the so-called "left" Zionists. As a young Israeli boy we joined one of those
settlers' marches in the West Bank. It was then when both my parents and I
started to realise that something about the Zionist adventure is "slightly
immoral". Since then the more I learned about the conflict the more I
realised that I have very little to do with the Jewish state. In 1994 I
moved to London. If anything, it was the Oslo "wet fantasy" that made me
realise for the first time that peace with the Jewish state is impossible.
It would never happen.

nessie: Would you ever go back?

Gilad: I don't have any plans to go Israel, neither to visit nor to live
there. I would be delighted to come back to a civilized place. I assume
that when that happens it won't be Israel anymore - probably democratic

nessie: How would you be treated?

Gilad: As we learn from the news, yesterday an Israeli soldier opened fire
on another Israeli while in a demonstration against the emerging wall.
Identifying myself with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian struggle,
I would expect to be treated as a Palestinian. It isn't an experience one
would look for.

nessie: What brought you to London?

Gilad: I moved to London to attend postgraduate studies in Philosophy. After
Oslo I realised that there is no home to go back to. I decided to become a
self-imposed exile.

nessie: When are you going to play in San Francisco?

Gilad: Good question! Our music is available in America, and my book is
available in America. I am not so sure whether America is available in
America (at the moment). I assume that sooner or later we'll come for a
tour. We get more and more invitations. I make my living playing Afro
American music. I will have to come one day.

nessie: A lot of people seem to hate you and everyone like you. We get
threats just for publicizing you.

Gilad: It is strange that you say that a lot of people hate me. As you
might know we are playing all over the world. Here in the UK we won the BBC
Jazz Awards for the best Jazz album. This category was voted by the British
public. Yesterday I won another two Jazz Awards (again voted by the public).
We are playing night after night in sold out clubs and concert halls. I am
fully familiar with the fact that some Zionists do not like me, and they
manage to be pretty vocal about it. We have to remember that hatred is
fundamental to Zionist thought and to Zionist people. First they hated the
European Gentiles, then it was the Assimilated Jews, then the Arabs, and now
it's me. This is exactly what I am saying about Zionists. They need to
hate, but more than anything else they need to be hated. I want to believe
that if they hate me so much, they must have a good reason. I play with the
idea that I probably say something they really do not like to hear. But,
again, I might be completely wrong. It is very possible that they hate me
just because hate is the name of their game. Talking about 'hate', I am
pretty sure that the most vicious weapon against Zionists is just to love
them with all your heart. I've tried it myself. It isn't easy at all, but it

nessie: How has playing music shaped your view of humanity?

Gilad: Generally speaking, I am fascinated by German philosophy and
especially by E. Kant. Being an artist, I am searching for aesthetic
meaning. I would say that it is the artist's job to present an alternative
world view, an alternative reality or vision. Being an artist, I try to deal
with different hot topics within an aesthetic framework. As one would guess,
I do believe (like many other people) that the real "axis of evil" is the
BBS (Bush, Blair, and Sharon); hence, it is my personal duty to overwhelm
their destructive impetus with aesthetic statements. It probably sounds
pathetic or even pretentious, but I am truly convinced that it is Picasso
(Guernica) and Erich Paul Remark who tell us what war is all about. They
portray a far better image than million real-time TV snaps of blood and
human corpses. I would argue that the conflict between beauty and BBS
expansionist ugliness is the battle I would like to maintain. Not to win -
it is impossible to win - just to maintain. Just to survive this battle is a
great victory.

nessie: How did you come to decide to speak out with words as well as with

Gilad: Never decided. It just happened. I wrote my book as a joke. Never
thought to publish it. I didn't dare, thinking that anyone would find it
interesting enough. I found it six years later by a complete coincidence. I
thought that it was interesting enough. I sent it to a publisher. He loved
it and published it. It got translated and published in quite a few
languages. Since than I am a writer 'til further notice.

nessie: Since someone posted an excerpt from one of your essays here,
you've come in for a lot of abuse. So have we, just for having you here.
They call us names. They call me names. They even call my mother names. I
shrug it off. What do you have to say to people who call you a "self-hating
Jew", or a "pawn of the anti-Semites", or an "anti-Semite" yourself?

Gilad: Naming is very crucial in Jewish thought. God is called "A-Shem" in
Hebrew which means "The Name". The Jewish circumcision ceremony is named in
Hebrew "Brit Mila" which means "a covenant with the word". Jews, along their
long history, have had very many names for their many many enemies only
because their enemies define their segregated identity. In biblical times it
was "Amalek", then the "Philistines", then the indigenous habitants of
Canaan, then it was "Jesus" and his followers , then "Christianity". Then
the Zionists came and improved the model. First it was the "Assimilated
Jew", then the "Palestinians", then the "Arabs", then "Rabin", then the
"European Union", then "SF Indymedia", then you, and now it's "Gilad", a
jazz player from London, the "self-hating Jew", the "pawn of the
anti-Semites". I say names , names, and names!

I read your site and follow the Zionist verbal abuse. It is clear that those
Zionists, who stand behind those provocations, enjoy the public contempt
they manage to generate. They enjoy being ugly. We have to remember that
the Zionist identity is defined by negative dialectic, by its opposition.
In a way, both you and I are supporting some mentally psychotic creatures.
We just have to remember that the brothers of those psychotic people are
living in Palestine. They are fueled by very similar energies, and they
turn the Middle East into a ticking bomb. They have hundreds of nuclear
bombs, and they put our planet at a severe risk.

nessie: Your disparagers around here can't seem to decide whether you are a
"self-hating" Jew, or even a Jew at all. What's wrong with these people?

Gilad: Judaism is all about differentiation (avdala). Differentiation
between the sacred (Sabbath) and the "everyday", between the Jew and the Goy
(Gentile), between the chosen and the inferior, between dairy products and
meat ones, between Kosher and non-Kosher, and so on. In order to allow the
Jew to cope with his self-imposed strange reality of segregation and
prohibitions, every aspect in the Jewish daily life is supported by the
Talmudic "grand theory". Rabbinical Judaism is a system of laws that create
a form of correspondence between prohibitions and dated explanations,
explanations that are far too short to satisfy any rational mind. (J. Lacan
would say that it is the lack of satisfying explanation which portrays the
depth of genuine religious conviction)

Zionism, a secular movement, adopted this very rabbinical method. When it
gets to criticism it would be categorically classified as anti-Semitism (as
if anti-Semitism is a form of explanation). The Zionist would argue that all
Gentiles are anti-Semites. It makes life very simple unless you really need
the support of the Gentile. (For instance, when the Israeli needs the
American aid, then the Americans stop being anti-Semites and become good
Gentiles, at least temporarily).

When it comes to criticism raised by a "Jew," Zionists get into a real
problem. Because Zionism is supposed to be the "final solution" for all
Jews, wherever they are, any criticism made by a Jew must be eradicated.

As you, yourself, noticed, one popular way is to define the critical
"brother" as a "self hating" Jew. The other method is to declare that the
critical voice isn't actually a Jew or even not a Jew anymore. The later is
obvious. If one isn't a Jew, he must be a Gentile; hence, an anti-Semite.
No more explanation needed!

The former is more interesting because "self-hating" is basically a form of
psychotic mode. The Zionists actually admit that something went wrong in the
process of Jewish reproduction. A member of the community "lost his mind".
First, it saved the Zionists, themselves, from taking any criticism from a
"mad man". Second, it warns the rest of the world not to take the criticism
seriously, the man is apparently "mad".

For many years this doctrine was pretty effective. Jewish anti-Zionists
calls were successfully muted by the Zionist lobbies, but apparently this
doctrine isn't effective anymore. The western world and Europe,
especially, are far too tired of the Zionist victim blackmail. With Israeli
atrocities on the TV screen night after night, people start to realize that
the "mad," "self hating Jew" might have something crucial to say. We better
listen to him.

Haaretz published today that "nearly one in five Britons would oppose having
a Jew as Prime Minister, and one in seven believes the scale of the
Holocaust is exaggerated" ( 24.1.2004). The Zionist
conspiracy to control world opinion is proved to be counter-effective. The
British people start to show some real signs of severe fatigue. The French
and the Germans are already really tired. If anything, the world is awaiting
for the "self hating" Jews to open their mouth. Uri Avinery, Gideon Levi and
Amira Hess are far more popular in SF-IMC than in Tel Aviv.

When it comes to me, my racial identity isn't something I would like to
share with the world. I have never spoken as a Jew or in the name of any
Jewish people. I do not think it gives me any credentials. In the doomed
reality created by Israel, being a Jew becomes something to hide rather than
being proud of. I speak on behalf of myself. I speak as someone who was born
in Israel and escaped as soon as he realised what being an Israeli is
involved with. I wouldn't say that I hate myself, but I would admit that I
find it very difficult to "love" those who claim to be my brothers. I would
confess that I find some great wisdom in Judaism but, at the same time, I
have some serious problems with the symptoms of Jewish identity .

nessie: Since, by definition, a Zionist is anyone who supports the State of
Israel, the majority of Zionists are not only not Israelis, they're not even
Jewish. The majority of Israel's supporters are at least nominal
Christians. Some are very devout Christians, who support the State of Israel
for religious reasons. What do you have to say to Christian Zionists?

Gilad: Sorry. It isn't as simple as you present it. First we have to ask
ourselves again what Zionism is all about.

Zionism is the belief that Jewish people have the right to have a land and
this land is in Zion (Palestine). I do not have a problem with the idea of
Jewish people having a land, but I do have a big problem with the idea of
ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. I do have a problem with the
idea of an apartheid racist regime. I do have a problem with the idea of
confiscation of lands. Palestine is not free!! It is highly populated with
Palestinians. If Jews want to live in Palestine, they must respect the
Palestinian indigenous population and to welcome the millions of
Palestinians who were dispossessed in 1948 and later.

Now to the other part of your question. For me the question whether the
supporter of Zionism is a Jew, Christian, Buddha, or even Muslim is
completely irrelevant. We are talking here about basic and simple
understanding of the notion of human rights, something all Zionists prefer
to ignore.

nessie: The real anti-Semites say that America is Israel's puppet, that we
are ruled by "ZOG," the "Zionist Occupation Government." I say it's the
other way around, that Israel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the
Anglo-American neo-colonial empire. It is, in effect, an unsinkable
American aircraft carrier, one that differs from the carriers at sea only in
that it uses Israeli women and children for human shields. What do you say?

Gilad: (a.) I do not agree that anti-Semitism exists, and the kind of
argument you, yourself, present is a perfectly legitimate political argument
whether we agree with it or not.

(b.) The unsinkable qualities of Israel are very much in doubt. Personally
I think Israel is sinking by the minute.

(c.) And now to your question. I think that originally Israel was there to
support western colonialism (Balfour Declaration, etc.). It didn't stop
there. American administrations realised in the late '70s and '80s that the
only real danger to western globalization is Arab opposition and Islamic
resistance. Israel was there to maintain a continuous conflict in the
region. The Americans got involved in the peace process, not in order to
push for peace, but rather to maintain the conflict forever. So, in a
sense, at least historically, you are right. Israel was there to serve
American interests, but things have changed. In the last ten years we face
a shift in the balance of power. The new bond between Zionists, Republican,
and right-wing Christian groups introduced a completely new phase in the
American-Israeli relationship. I think that American people would do
themselves a great favour if they start to scrutinise the acts of their
government. Americans should ask themselves whether it is American
interests that are looked after or rather Israeli ones.

The war in Iraq is a good place to start such an intellectual exercise.

nessie: While I find political Zionism to be repugnant for all the same
reasons I find Nazism repugnant, I have no quarrel with spiritual Zionism.
I think that reverence for land, and the respect for life that goes with it,
is a good thing - a very good thing. All too many people look beneath their
feet and see, not our Mother, giver of all life, but a convenient place to
spit, and, when the occasion arises, soak with innocent blood. Am I being
unrealistic about the role of spiritual Zionism in Israel and the world

Gilad: I don't know what "spiritual Zionism" is. I think it is a myth. I
grew up on that myth. Being an old boy I realise now that those "leftists"
who taught us to "love the land" and to "respect the Other" were actually
those who committed the worst atrocities against the Palestinian people
(just to mention Ben-Gurion, Peres, and Rabin). The vast majority of Israeli
Kibbutzim are located on Palestinian confiscated lands.

nessie: I reject the "invader" analysis of aliens. I don't believe in
borders. People have a right to live wherever they can make themselves
welcome. Jews have a right to live in the Land With Two Names in peace,
unmolested by their neighbors. They just don't have the right to lord it
over others. That's how I feel. As someone more familiar with the facts on
the ground, tell me. Am I being unrealistic to believe this is possible?

Gilad: I don't know. Obviously I agree with you totally about the right of
people to live wherever they want, but, again, whether the Zionist identity
can encompass any form of peaceful thinking is a crucial question. Do you
really think that those zealot Zionists, who visit your site and try to tell
you things about your mother, can live in peace anywhere? Do you, yourself,
want to live in peace with them? Do you realise what form of abuse those
people perform when they are given a Uzi sub machine gun and let free on
Palestinian lands?

I honestly do not think that peace with the Israeli identity is possible,
but, at the same time, we have to remember that Israeli identity is very
young. Many Jews decided to reject Zionism. Many Jews have thought that
emancipation is a great opportunity to transform themselves into something
else. I want to believe that such a process can take place in Palestine. I
want to believe that one day the Palestinian Jews will understand that
"loving their neighbours" is the ONLY way forward.

nessie: To judge by the way Zionists behave on SF-IMC, one could easily come
to believe that the essence of the Zionist way is to lie, forge, and barge
in by force where they are not wanted. Is this a reasonable analysis, or
does it only apply to this one batch of computer nerds?

Gilad: Zionism, as we all know, is deeply rooted in some serious lies, but
this isn't very particular to Zionism. For instance, isn't "war against
terror" a big lie? Isn't "American democracy" a big similar lie? Wasn't
"weapons of mass destruction" a big, pathetic lie? When one is involved with
vicious immoral acts, one usually prefers to lie to oneself as well as the
other. It is more likely that soon after, one would start to take one's lies
seriously as if they are factually true. This mode of behaviour is
symptomatic in contemporary English-speaking cultures. It is the norm of
Zionism since the Nakba (the expulsion of the Palestinian in 1948). I try
to tell the American and the British people - look at Israel! If you don't
stop now, you'll soon look like the Israelis. Nothing to wish for!

nessie: Jews, like all peoples, are a mixed bunch. Some are righteous, some
are evil, and most are in between. As an anarchist, I have a special place
in my heart for anarchist Jews. Without the contribution of Jews,
anarchism, as we know it today, is barely conceivable.


Do you have any advice for modern anarchist Jews?

Gilad: First, I am afraid to tell you that you are wrong when saying that
"Jews, like all peoples". Far too many Jews regard themselves as "chosen"
people. If you are chosen, you aren't like "all peoples". You are "far
better". This very perception of being chosen is actually a distortion of
the biblical lesson (largely adopted by Zionists). According to the Bible,
Jews are chosen to carry God's moral teaching. Few Orthodox Jewish groups,
mostly non-Zionist ones, do realise the wrong interpretation of the idea of
being chosen. For them being chosen is a heavy moral burden. As we know some
Orthodox Jewish groups support the Palestinian struggle. Likewise,
Assimilated Jews naturally detach themselves from any perception of
chosen-ness. They prefer to join the human family and to adopt universal
perception of humanism. I would say that any Jewish involvement in world
affairs, whether anarchistic or within the boundaries of law, should avoid
any sense of chosen-ness. When it comes to different world affairs, one
should act as a human being rather than as a Jew. Belief should be a
personal and intimate matter.

nessie: A guy once said that art is not a mirror held up to reflect reality,
but a hammer with which to shape it. What advice do you have for
anti-Zionist artists, especially Jewish anti-Zionist artists, like my
friend, Susan Greene?


Gilad: I don't know what "anti-Zionist artist" means, but I do know what
"art" means, and I know what anti-Zionism is referring to. Personally, I am
a devoted anti-Zionist, and being an artist, my art reflects my views. I
agree that art should shape reality. It is down to the artist to criticise
and to suggest alternative perception of reality. It is down to the artist
to expose the existential hidden layers of Being. Nowadays, in the age of
vast consumerism, when art and artists are entirely controlled by industrial
"cultural" monopolies (corporate and governmental), this very artistic
approach is almost impossible. Artists are now demanded to produce
fashionable "artifact" which conforms with market value system. Beauty isn't
relevant anymore. We don't have John Coltranes but rather Norah Jones and
Kenny G.

For me being an artist is a war, a war against every convention, against any
possible symbolic order, against any given syntax.

Like before, the Jewish issue is completely irrelevant for me.

nessie: Can you recommend any good reading for those of us who wish to
educate ourselves about what is really happening in Palestine/Israel?


Original Sin - Benjamin Beit Hallahmi

51 Documents-Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis - Lenni Brenner

Jewish History, Jewish Religion - Israel Shahak

Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid - Marwan Bishara

Strangers in the House - Raja Shehadeh

The Holocaust Industry - Norman G. Finkelstein

nessie: Despite all the slander and vitriol that has been directed at you on
this site, many of our other readers would very much like to experience your
own art. How can they do that?

Gilad: My Latest album "Exile" (Enja, Just in time) and my book, "Guide to
the Perplexed" (Serpent's Tail) are available in America both "on line" and
in shops.

Another option is to get it via my site

nessie: Thank you, Gilad. We hope to hear from you again soon
Received on Sun Feb 1 19:28:37 2004

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