Introduction by Gilad Atzmon:
In February 2016 a friend encouraged me to pay attention to a new Jewish dissident voice, Jonathan Ofir, an Israeli musician who didn’t agree with Zionism. I watched Ofir’s statement , I detected a positive humanist inclination, I could see a glimpse of ethical thinking but I could also easily notice the usual duplicity but was hoping to be wrong. Since, at the time, Ofir seemed to me a novice in the ‘anti Zionist business’ I let him enjoy the benefit of a doubt. I approached Ofir and asked to interview him. Ofir, initially reacted in a friendly and positive manner, he was happy to engage immediately in a phone interview but I actually insisted upon a written one, just to remove any possibility of me changing his words or taking them out of context. Ofir, once again agreed to a written exchange. However, this changed once he received the questions below. Within a short while I learned from him that he had to decline. “This would be my first interview politically, and it’s not the focus I want to get into,” were Ofir’s exact words.
I never published this story. Ofir seemed to me an intelligent boy. I wanted to believe that time would make him into a truth teller, one who could point at the dark forces that fuel the Zionist project, organised Jewry and the controlled opposition.
I was obviously wrong. Ofir was quick to become a JVP merchant, a dedicated Jewish gatekeeper. I recently read a disgusting private exchange between Ofir and a peace activist where Ofir used the most abusive crypto Zionist tactics and argumentation (antisemitism, holocaust denial you name it.) I have since then witnessed Ofir disseminating the usual kosher progressive mantra. I am not impressed
I think that time is ripe for the rest of us to know what questions Jonathan Ofir would prefer to avoid. And if offir has a drop of integrity in his system he may want to answers these questions at least to himself.
11 February 2016
I am in full support of your statement … however,,, some issues need elaboration andI would be very happy if you could address the following questions.
1. Your decision to present your moving appeal in English is a significant choice. Rather than talking to Israelis you talk about Israel. I went through a similar transition, rather than talking to Jews I made a decision to talk about Jews.
What led to your decision?
2. I am slightly confused by your attitude to Zionism:
a. You seem to argue that Judaism and Zionism are distinct entities; is this really the case? Is there a clear dichotomy? Where does Judaism end and Zionism starts? After all, rabbinical Jews are atthe forefront of the racist crimes against Palestinians.
b. I understand that some rabbinical communities are opposed to Israeli and Zionistcrimes, but they are certainly small in number and have limited influence, don’t you agree?
c. Like you, I grew up in Israel. My experience was that Zionism was not a driving forcein our upbringing. It was an archaic idiom referring to some Diaspora figures that made it into streets names in Tel Aviv (Herzl, Pinsker, Zobotinsky etc.). We joined the IDF because we were Jews not because we wereZionists. Do you really believe that Zionism, that oldpromise to bring the Diaspora Jews to Zion, has once again become a driving force in Israel?
d. You say, “We were brainwashed to think that Zionism is our saviour.” Were we really? (by the way, I am not saying you are wrong, I am curious to know why you say what you say, I accept that Israeli society may have changed)
e. You say our soldiers died “primarily for Zionism?” Maybe you want to define more clearly what Zionism is and what Zionism has meant for you.
f. As you know, Israel is not a country it is a state, Palestine is the country. Soldiers die for ‘Medinat Israel’, the State of Israel. Some rabbinical Jews prefer to talk about Eretz Yisrael -the country of Israel. For them Eretz Yisrael is a holy Jewish continuum and they are willing to fight and die for it. Whether we like it or not, they are Judaically driven rather than Zionistically motivated. Is there a clear dichotomy between ‘the religion’ and ‘the political’ there?
3. Do you really believe that the Jews or the Israelis can “stop it now”?
Have Jews ever stopped themselves voluntarily?
5. “A state is not people” you say. “A state is a regime, a paradigm of governance.”
Is Germany, France or Turkey just a paradigm of governance? Do we deny the existence of the Germans, French and Turks? Assuming that Palestine becomes a state, will we then deny the existence of the Palestinian people? Accordingly, what kind of people are the Jews, especially given that most of them are not physically connected to a land (the land of Israel) ?
6. You rightly say “I refuse to be a part of this “we” if that means some ethnic-religious-national mishmash superiority.” Yet how could the Jews celebrate their Jewish collectivism while avoiding exclusivity or choseness?
7. You seem to defend Judaism in light of the tie between Judaism and Zionism and I am slightly confused: are you an observant Jew? If not, why do you feel the need to defend Judaism?
8. Obviously, I agree with you that Israel and Zionism are engaged in horrendous crimes.
But as far as I can tell, Jewish Bolsheviks were engaged in crimes of an even greater scale. According to Yuri Slezkin, Jews were “Stalin’s willing executioners”. Neocons, a Jewish American political school have inflicted greater disasters than Israel or Zionism.
Is it possible that Zionism is just one symptom of a disastrous Jewish political continuum?
Can you imagine a peace loving Jewish political existence?
Can you point at such a body in Jewish history?