Following my expose of the JVP campaign against the great American patriot Alison Weir, I was approached by Berta Schwartz, an American JVP activist. Berta is obviously a pseudo name. As with Ned Rozenberg, our dissident Liberal Jews are fearful of their ‘progressive’ synagogues. Expressing their thoughts in the open may lead to their social exclusion and even excommunication. While orthodox Jews are fearful of God, our Liberal Jewish are actually terrorised by their friends. Before publishing this interview Berta asked me to hide her name and disguise the location of her JVP chapter. I followed her request.
Berta Schwartz: What do you think the hypothetical Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza or the refugee camp you spoke about want and what do they want the world to do?
Gilad Atzmon: At present there are several different and sometimes contradictory Palestinian discourses of liberation, resistance and even collaboration. Hypothetically I would think that in Gaza they may want a day without drones, and the ability to move about free from fear of an Israeli sniper or missile; in the West Back they may wish to drive from A to B on a straight road. In Yarmuk they probably can’t even picture a different future. In Lod and Jaffa Palestinians demand civil rights. It is clear that Palestinians don’t necessarily agree amongst themselves on their goals. But far more interesting is that this division is sustained by Israeli policies and legislation.
Jewish domination of the Palestinian solidarity movement doesn’t help. Instead of fighting for the ‘Right of Return’ of the Palestinians that formerly united all Palestinians around a single ethos, the movement has been hobbled by convoluted terminology that is Judeo centric to the core. As I explain here, the new solidarity terminology (BDS, Colonialism, Apartheid, End of Occupation, etc.) is primarily concerned with the West Bank, because this is the only territory the liberal Jews directing the movement are interested in. In short, instead of a true solidarity movement concerned solely with Palestinian rights, the movement has devolved into an internal Jewish debate on ‘The Right to BDS’.
BS: If Palestinians put out a call for international BDS, why shouldn’t other people support this
GA: There is nothing wrong with the call to boycott or sanction Israel. My issues with the ‘BDS movement’ are simple. I differentiate between an artist and tomato. I believe in freedom of speech and I do not think that making the Palestinians into opponents of the 1st amendment is such a clever idea. As early as 2005, I predicted that BDS would become a thought policing apparatus and unfortunately, I was right. We have seen the BDS campaign against George Galloway, Norman Finkelstein, Ken O’Keefe, Silvia Cattori, Greta Berlin, Daniel Barenboim, Jacob Cohen, me, and other intellects. It has become clear that though the original principle of BDS is legitimate and may have helped the Palestinian cause, the movement is deeply corrupted. It now operates as a liberal Jewish thought policing apparatus. Norman Finkelstein was spot on describing it as a ‘cult.’
Another issue I have with BDS is that it changed its goal statement in a shameless clandestine manner. It compromised the most precious Palestinian principle - It developed into a proxy stamp for the Jewish State and I explain this transition here.
Other than that, I support all forms of sanctions and possible measures against Israel and its Jewish Lobby.
BS: Do you think BDS has any value at all? Political? Educational? Awareness? etc.?
GA: I am not an activist and not a great believer in activism. It is very clear that BDS has a tremendous ability to unite the Jews of both the so-called ‘pro’ and the ‘anti.’ It removes the debate concerning Palestine from the Palestinians and transforms it into an internal Jewish debate. Let me tell you… This is very good for the Jews. I suppose it is also good for the few Palestinians NGOs that are corrupted enough to accept money from liberal Zionist George Soros and his ilk.
BS: I read reports that Israeli officials and American Jewish organizations are fearful of the growing BDS movement and want to stop it. Do you think that is in an indication that it is a good strategy?
GA: As I say above, you are right, it proves beyond doubt that Israel and Hasbara are determined to make the ‘Right To BDS’ into its prime propaganda battle. So here we are again, instead of fighting for the ‘Palestinian’s Right of Return, we let a few Jews debate the ‘Right to BDS.’ Is that good for Palestine or is it good for the Jews? My opinion is that the BDS marched into an Israeli ambush and its leadership was and is too naive to read the map and this is not surprising. Following the continuous BDS/JVP purge against intellectuals, what remains of the solidarity movement is a beheaded activist network that lacks the brain capacity to think strategically and tactically while being critical of itself. It is a recipe for a disaster.
BS: What activist or political strategy do you think would be effective to change things in the region?
GA: My job as a thinker is to refine the question rather than providing answers or agenda for ‘activists.’ I believe that when we are brave enough to face the meaning of the Jewishness of Israel and the power of Jewish politics, only then we may be able to produce some different adequate answers. Rather than thinking ‘activism’ we better stop and make sure we understand the ‘cause’. Is that such an outrageous suggestion? However, witnessing the current BDS/JVP’s purge against Weir, Cohen, O’Keefe and myself, it is clear that our liberal Jewish ‘allies’ are in a state of despair. They can’t conceal anymore their fear of the truth.
However, I believe that the Palestinians should liberate themselves, and our role is to back them up and support their resistance. At the moment we are doing the complete opposite. We invent some infantile ‘non violent’ imaginary tactics that only serve to make us to feel better at the expense of the Palestinians.
BS: Do you think that any activist organization with Jewish in their name is doomed to do only what is good for the Jews?
GA: It depends upon what we mean by the ‘J word.’ Torah Jews see the Torah as the core of their humanist approach to the conflict. This is a legitimate call that I support and have praised through my entire career. However, the secular Jewish organizations such as IJAN, J-BIG and JVP are selling an ethno centric product. They celebrate Jewish exclusivism, their boards are purely Jewish and impervious to the notion of diversity they espouse. The Israeli Knesset, that has as its 3rd biggest party an Arab party, is far more diverse, pluralistic and tolerant than JVP or any other Jewish progressive group.
BS: What about organizations in the US Civil Rights movement like Southern Christian Leadership Council or groups like Sabeel who are Christian – didn’t/don’t they do good work?
GA: We are tapping here into a big and crucial distinction between Jewishness that is a nationalist, ethno centric and is associated with a religion (Judaism) and Christianity that is merely a belief system. As I said above, there is no problem with Torah Jews applying their belief system to the conflict and its resolution. Similarly, there is no problem with Christians doing the same. However, I do have a problem with secular Jews who build an exclusive ideology that is centred around their imaginary racial broyjerhood. What would you think of Aryan Voice of Peace, or White Solidarity with Palestine? Will such groups be kosher in your eyes?
BS: Do you think that Jews in the US saying “Not in My Name” can provide any positive political change or be used strategically in any effective way to counter the Jews and others who support the large amounts US tax money going to Israel?
GA: ‘Not in my name’ is a banal escapist approach. It basically puts the blame on everyone else. By saying not in my (Jewish) name you are conceding that the crimes in Israel are committed by the Jews and in their name. If this is what you want to achieve I can only congratulate you. I actually agree.
BS: I confess that I love Jewish food, music, literature, Yiddish, holidays, and I am so happy I have a culture as compared to so many Americans with Mc Donalds as their culture. Wouldn’t a world without cultures be just like one big Mc Donalds? Isn’t it good for people to be able to have different cultures?
GA: To start with, I respect your love for Jewish culture and food but you must accept that chicken soup is not exactly a political argument. Would you try to liberate the Palestinians with matzah balls?
I love to live in and to be a part of a multi cultural society. I certainly do not want to rob you of your culture and heritage. Perhaps the Jewish choseness you celebrate in JVP is superior to ‘the culture of `McDonalds.’ So let me ask you, if it is ok for you to love your Jewish food, music, literature, and holidays, is it also kosher for Germans, Christians or even Wasps to love their food, music, literature and holidays? Would you be willing to accept that the love of your own culture could be a universal quality or is that a ‘Jew only domain’? Can Whites love themselves? Can Dieudonne love himself being Black? I wonder, because the BDS movement excommunicated the prominent French writer Jacob Cohen for his association with Dieudonne.
I guess that by the time JVPs and liberal Jews are brave enough to address these questions they may be intellectually and morally mature to give up on Jewish exceptionalism and Join humanity for real.