Well, Gilad Atzmon thinks he’s pretty close.
Writing for the Truth Seeker – which is, as far as I can tell, a far right conspiracy site which peddles articles about Jewish/Freemason/Bilderberg/Illuminati conspiracies and the 9/11 “hoax” – he has this to say:
I may as well be the King of The Jews. I have achieved the unachievable, accomplished the impossible. I have managed to unite them all: Right, Left and Centre. The entirety of the primarily-Jewish British political groups: the Zionists the anti-Zionists, Jewish Socialists, Tribal Marxists, The Board of Deputies, Jewish Trotskyites, Jews Sans Frontieres, Jews Avec Frontieres for the first time in history all speak in one single voice. They all repeat exactly the same misquotes. They all hate Gilad Atzmon.
Why do the Jews oppose poor Atzmon?
Apparently, it is because non religious Jews have a cultural identity based on hate:
They are filled with hate. Because, it seems, hate is the name of the game.
The politics of hate can be effective, as well as being vicious. And you’d think tribal Jewish activists would be the first to understand this. We all know that Jews have been suffering hatred and discrimination for centuries. Yet the Jewish ethnic activists seem to have learned hatred from their enemies so much that the secular Jewish political discourse has been totally shaped by it. Moreover, hate has become the main matrix of negation: The Israelis are set to hate the Arabs, the Zionists are there to hate the Goyim (in general), Jews against Zionism hate the Goyim as well as Israel as well as Atzmon (in particular).
But why do they hate so much? The answer is simple. Once Judaism is eliminated, what remains of Jewish identity is pretty threadbare. Once stripped of religious spirituality, all that is left of Jewishness is a template of negation fuelled by racial orientation and spiced up with some light cultural context. Sadly, I have to say that though very many emancipated and assimilated Jews have adopted universal humanist ideas, secular collective Jewish identity has never matured into adopting a universal humanist ideological standpoint or even a philosophical insight. The reasons are simple:
A. Racial or even ethnic orientation cannot form a basis for a universal ethical argument.
B. Chicken soup or Jewish humour (culture) does not make an ideological argument.
The essence of Atzmon’s argument, if you care to follow it, is that since the Enlightenment, Jews have an ethnic identity which is premised upon the duality of tribalism and universalism”: projecting the outward appearance of a “cosmopolitan man” while maintaining a “tribal” identity in the privacy of the home. Atzmon thinks that this strategy is doomed to fail. Why? Because:
this solution led to false and deceptive behaviour. Either you pretend to be a cosmopolitan while in the ‘street’ or you lie to your God at ‘home’. This behavioural code, though being very pragmatic, happens to be non-ethical by definition. It is based on deception: both self-deception and deceiving the other.
In a nutshell, the argument is that any Jewish identity, other than a Hassidic anti-Zionist religious identity, is premised on hatred and deception of non-Jews. Atzmon believes that he, in particular, is hated for speaking this truth about the true nature of the modern Jew.
There is a charitable interpretation of Atzmon’s rhetoric and politics. It is that he is chiefly using fantastical racist arguments in order to wind up anti-Zionist secular Jews, and is an attention seeker. I think there’s a little truth in that. But it would be unfair to him to discount the fact that he clearly believes what he says. This article is one more step in Atzmon’s transformation into Bobby Fischer.
The real question, however, is why supposedly left wing and progressive groups – the Socialist Workers’ Party and Counterpunch – insist on championing and promoting him.
According to Mark Elf, Counterpunch will not publish responses to Atzmon from the likes of Tony Greenstein and Roland Rance, who are personally attacked by Atzmon from their pages. If you’re interested, Greenstein and Rance’s article is published here. Their argument, contra-Atzmon, is that:
“when Jews were freed from the ghetto walls by Napoleon and discrimination gradually ended, more and more Jews assimilated to the majority communities. We welcome that. More Jews for example survived in Europe under the Nazis because they ‘married out’ i.e. to non-Jews than because of the Zionist project.”
Atzmon is condemned by the anti-Zionist secular Jews, therefore, for resurrecting “the one thing that Zionism claims has traditionally preserved the Jewish people – anti-Semitism”
My take on this, for what it is worth, is that in the modern world, people of all origins tend to cling less and less to monolithic identities: whether they are ethnic-religious-cultural, regional/national or class. Most people have a fairly multi-faceted sense of themselves. Predominantly, we are concerned with our close friends, families and workmates, who form the true center of our social nexus: at least for most of us. They take up most of our time and emotional energies.
There’s still a fair degree of cultural transmission, in all sub-cultures, from parent to child. But we don’t live in a monoculture, so – rather than “assimilating” – most people engage in a bit of “pick and mix” from the elements that appeal to them from a diverse national culture. Essentialists, conservatives, and other “class consciousness” fetishists tend to wring their hands, and either rue the passing of the golden past, or the fading of the vision of the beautiful future. But society seems to muddle along pretty well. All in all, 21st Century Britain is a good place to live.
I’m therefore slightly bemused by the argument between Atzmon and jewish-identifying revolutionary socialists. I’m somewhat more twitchy about the fact that the SWP seem to have leapt into bed with clerical fascists, and appear wholly committed to defending the worthless reputation of a crackpot racist.
Gene adds: There’s no mystery about Counterpunch.