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Disavowal: '...a mental act that consists in rejecting the reality of a perception'Dr. William A. Cook Salem-News.com
How can a critique of Zionism’s strategies “legitimize” what it claims to be?
(LAVERNE, CA) - “For me to be Jewish is, above all, to be preoccupied with overcoming injustice and thirsting for justice in the world, and that means being respectful toward other peoples regardless of their nationality or religion, and empathetic in the face of human suffering whoever and wherever victimization is encountered” (Gilad Atzmon, “On Jewish Identity,” 1/15/2011).
Strange that the US Palestinian Community Network, in an article titled “Granting No Quarter: a Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon,” by Ali Abunimah would seek to silence the voice of a man who, as the quote that opens this article attests to all the world in his new book The Wandering Who, that he stands for “justice, human dignity, equality and social and economic rights,” the very principles that the US PCN proclaims in that very article: “…we stand with all and any movements that call for justice, human dignity, equality, and social, economic, cultural and political rights.” Perhaps Mr. Abunimah failed to read Mr. Atzmon’s book. Perhaps he failed to see the contradiction he penned. Perhaps he felt forced to respond to outside pressures that necessitated he “reject the reality of the perception” expressed by Mr. Atzmon and propose “disavowal,” an action that Nahida suggests might be related “to the Talmudic concept of excommunication in which "the Talmud forbids coming within six feet of a person who has been excommunicated"? (from “Disavow with no mercy,” Nahida exiled).
Strange also, is it not, that this imposition of an action on the members of the PCN reflects a Medieval form of punishment or, perhaps, a tribalistic one, a concept (a perception perhaps) that Mr. Atzmon suggests is a tool of the Zionists’ strategy to control the masses, a perception that the PCN abhors in its condemnation of Atzmon.
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”. He claims that all Jewish politics is “tribal,” and essentially, Zionist. Zionism, to Atzmon, is not a settler-colonial project, but a trans-historical “Jewish” one, part and parcel of defining one’s self 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. We could not disagree more (PCN, Ali Abunimah).
Had Mr. Abunimah read Atzmon’s book he would have realized that this is not what Atzmon’s work claims. Atzmon begins by narrowing his subject:
Atzmon distinguishes among those who follow the Judaic religion; those who regard themselves as a human being who happens to be of Jewish origin; and those who put their Jewishness over and above all other traits. Chaim Weizman, the first Israeli President and a Zionist, identified being a Jew as a ‘primary quality’ above citizenship, occupation, head of household, indeed “Jewishness becomes the key element and fundamental characteristic of one’s being.” Vladimir Jabotinsky wrote “…the nucleus of his spiritual structure will always remain Jewish, because his blood, his body, his physical racial type are Jewish” (“A Letter on Autonomy,” 1904). It is this identifying principle that Atzmon sees as corrosive, not only to Judaism, but to the safety and security of the Jewish people, their friends and their neighbors. “…probably then and there I left Chosen-ness behind to become an ordinary human being” (6). (A Review of the Wandering Who, Cook).
Does Atzmon’s analysis that focuses on the Zionist strategies to enforce its goals translate now into anti-Semitism? When did Zionism become a synonym for Jew? Is it not “an international political movement that originally supported the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine (Eretz-Yisra'el) and continues primarily in support for the modern state of Israel.” (New World Encyclopedia). When did it become anti-Semitic to analyze a political party? Indeed, Atzmon’s criticism of Zionism focuses on its corrosiveness to Judaism itself, a concern that has been present in Jewish history since the inception of Zionism:
Throughout its history the Zionist movement has faced hostility from both within and without as well as considerable (sic) ambivalence among Jews with regard to the centrality of the Jewish State. …In the Jewish world, the ultra-Orthodox and the Reform movement have opposed Zionism as challenging tradition and assimilationism, respectively. …In recent years the Reform movement joined the Zionist Organization and has actively endorsed immigration to Israel. In Israel itself, the term "post-Zionism" has become popular in certain circles seeking to suggest that the movement is obsolete and at the same time to "demythologize" its achievements. (Encyclopedia of Judaism).
The PCN attacks Atzmon because in their view he appears “to reaffirm and legitimize Zionism” by “adopting anti-Semitic or racist language.” That conclusion is based on a misreading of his views as we have established above. How can a critique of Zionism’s strategies “legitimize” what it claims to be? Does it not do the opposite? By elucidating the coercive strategies used by the Zionists to control those opposed to its goals, does he not add insight as to how Zionism helps maintain and further the “imperialism and colonialism” PCN finds as the causes of the destruction of the Palestinian homeland, “expelling its people, and sustaining the systems and ideologies of oppression, apartheid and occupation.” In short, shouldn’t PCN embrace Atzmon as a man willing to place his own life in danger in his effort to aid the Palestinian cause?
Atzmon’s analysis reveals strategies used by the Zionists to control their population. He points specifically to the Zionist lobbies that tell the assimilated Jew “You will never escape who you are so why not be proud of it and work with us.” Indeed, this very assertion undermines a moral foundation as it forces the American Jew to succumb to that “primary quality” of Jewish-ness above loyalty to his nation. “First they are Jews and only then are they humanists” (35). Zionism, as Atzmon notes, has used Jewish ‘separatism’ and its resulting ‘insecurity in relations with his fellow beings’ to coerce obedience and commitment. This tactic has been characteristic of the Zionist power since the Mandate period.
This is not anti-Semitism; it is historical analysis based on personal experience that unveils a political movement that has as its principle goal the creation of Greater Israel, the full colonization of the lands of Palestine bereft of its indigenous peoples, a perception that PCN should give serious thought to as should we all.
William A. Cook is Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California where he served for 13 years as Vice President for Academic Affairs before assuming his faculty position in 2001. Prior to coming to California, he served as a Dean of Faculty, Chair of Department of English and faculty member at institutions large and small, public and private in four eastern states. He is an activist and a writer for numerous Internet publications including Counterpunch, Salem-News.com, Pacific Free Press in British Columbia, Dissident Voice and Information Clearing House, serving as senior editor for MWC News out of Canada, and contributing editor at the Palestine Chronicle, the Atlantic Free Press in the Netherlands, and the World Prout Assembly, his polemics against the Bush administration and the atrocities caused by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert in Israel, now our 51st state, have been spread around the Internet world and translated into French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Italian. Cook also serves on the Board of the People’s Media Project, interviews on radio and TV in South Africa, Canada, Iran and the United States and contributed for five years yearly predictions to the Hong Kong Economic News. This volume follows his Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, Hope Destroyed, Justice Denied: The Rape of Palestine and continues his scourge against the hypocrisy, deceit, and destructive policies that have characterized American mid-east policy and its destructive alliance with the Zionist forces that have turned Israel into an apartheid state determined to destroy the Palestinian people.
In addition to his polemics, he writes plays (The Unreasoning Mask, co-authored with his wife, D’Arcy, and The Agony of Colin Powell), satires (see “Advancing the Civilized State: Inch by Bloody Inch” in The Rape), and poetry (Psalms for the 21st Century). His most recent fictional work creates a morality tale based upon real life figures that haunt our lives, The Chronicles of Nefaria He can be reached at email@example.com or www.drwilliamacook.com..
The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction is a collection of voices from around the world that establishes in both theoretical and graphic terms the slow, methodical genocide taking place in Palestine beginning in the 1940s, as revealed in the Introduction. From Dr. Francis A. Boyle’s detailed legal case against the state of Israel, to Uri Avnery’s “Slow Motion Ethnic Cleansing,” to Richard Falk’s “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” to Ilan Pappe’s “Genocide in Gaza,” these voices decry in startling, vivid, and forceful language the calculated atrocities taking place, the inhumane conditions inflicted on the people, and the silence that exists despite the crimes, nothing short of state-sponsored genocide against the Palestinians.
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