Gilad Atzmon interviewed by "Eleftherotypia" (Greek Sunday Paper)
Jan 11th, 2009
Gilad Atzmon: Hello Matoula, I will be playing material from my latest album Refuge. It is basically a mixture of jazz and ethnic music furnished with electronics. In the last few years I am largely interested in what I tend to define as ‘Urban Folk’.
Matoula: What do you enjoy more in music?
Gilad: Not knowing what the next bar is going to sound like.
Matoula: The same day Ron Carter is also playing in Megaron. What do you think about him?
Gilad: Ron Carter is one of my prime mentors. When I started to listen to Jazz in the late 1970s it was Carter and Miles whom I was listening to most. It is a great honor for me to share a stage with such a legend.
Matoula: You have studied philosophy – when did you decide to devote yourself to music?
Gilad: At a certain stage I realized that being an ‘academic philosopher’ i.e., teaching people other people’s texts, is a non productive way of living. I decided to play music and to read and write at my leisure. To make philosophy for the sake of philosophy, the love of wisdom and the search for meaning. I am very happy with my decision because I am now operating as a free thinker.
Matoula: How do you get in contact with all these different music styles you play?
Gilad: I try not to interfere with music and my own music in particular. Music is out there around us, all you have to do is to choose the right notes. It is not that complicated really. For instance, choosing the wrong notes seems to me far more complicated. In fact, I do not even know whether it is me who chooses the notes. This all subject matter of music and styles is pretty magical, I do not comprehend it fully. I do believe that music starts to happen when consciousness fades away. I prefer to be subject to beauty rather than a self proclaimed author of that beauty.
Matoula: These days are very difficult for the Palestinians as there is the third day of attacks. How you feel about it?
Gilad: I am devastated by it but far from being surprised. As you may know, I support any form of Palestinian resistance. As far as I am concerned, any form of Jewish political gathering is doomed to lead towards tragic consequences. Zionism was there to launch a new Jewish civilized life. Its failure is evident. The brutality performed by Israel is far beyond bestiality. As far as I can see, Israel has moved now into extermination policies.
To address your question, I fully support the Palestinian people with all my heart. I want to see one Palestine on the land stretched between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Israeli brutality should stand as proof that there is no room for a Jewish state, neither in Palestine nor anywhere else. The reason is simple, an Identity that is based on chosenness and racial supremacy (Jewish identity) risks itself and its surrounding environment.
Matoula: What can music or art do in these moments?
Gilad: Music and art as opposed to fashion is the genuine search for beauty. Beauty brings about the goodness in mankind. In the light of beauty, Israeli aggression and American barbarism may be defeated.
Matoula: Was it hard for you to leave your birthplace? How did you do it? Did your family follow you?
Gilad: It wasn’t that complicated. At the end of the day, the Jewish settlement of Palestine is a late phenomenon. The Jewish colonization is apparently totally foreign to the region. There is very little authenticity in Israeli culture. When the Israeli insists upon being authentic he eats Humus and swears in Arabic. Accordingly, like every other Israeli, I wasn’t really part of the region or the land. While Israel is a state, Palestine is a country. When I miss my ‘homeland’ i.e., the country, I go to a Palestinian or Lebanese restaurant, alternatively I can swear at my kids in a language I don’t really speak (Arabic).
Matoula: Have you any problem with being a Jew? You feel like you have denied your "Jewish identity"?
Gilad: I do not have a real problem because I’ve denounced my ‘Jewishness’ and ‘Israeliness’. I regard myself as an ex Jew and ex Israeli. I guess that I have many Jewish and Israeli traces in my behavior. My life struggle is to look into myself and to fight them one by one. However, a lot of my criticism of Jewish identity, Israel and Zionism is based on self reflection. It is the Israeli in me that I criticize and deconstruct. It is very important for me to mention that I do not have any problem with Jewish people. I am surrounded by amazingly graceful Jews. Many of them are proud self haters like myself. Others are just ordinary beautiful human beings who try to live their lives and survive the credit crunch. Yet I have a severe problem with Jewish political identity. It is a racially orientated identity and I obviously despise any form of racist politics.
Matoula: I know that you served your military service at the time of the Lebanon war in 1982. How was that experience?
Gilad: I was somehow lucky to be there. It was then when I realized that the entire Zionist narrative was a hoax based on lies and deception. In that war I launched into a journey, I started to gather my direct responsibility to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause. I realized that I had very little in common with the Jewish national project.
Matoula: Why you support the Palestinian people?
Gilad: Because it is all my direct fault. It is my direct and personal responsibility to bring Palestinians back to the land and the homes that were stolen from them by my grandfather, my father and unfortunately, myself.
Matoula: What is your ideal solution for the "never-ending" Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Gilad: I avoid the resolution discourse altogether. But I must admit that watching the Israeli brutality in the region makes it very clear to me that there is no room for any Jewish national entity in the region or anywhere else. The Jewish state has managed to prove categorically that ‘loving thy neighbors’ is far from being a Jewish collective value.
Matoula: You have always been very honest and revealing about this subject. Have you ever felt afraid?
Gilad: Interesting question, throughout the years I had been subject to numerous death threats. However, it has never been an issue. I support the Palestinian people who are slaughtered and starved. Hence, It would be pathetic to moan about my own personal fate or the dangers I may encounter. I do what I believe in, I always insist to say what I believe to be the truth at the time I say it and this is the only thing I care about.
Matoula: There are many who criticise you. As long as they keep doing that, will you continue to express your opinion?
Gilad: In fact they aren’t that many and they all somehow hold a very similar tribal perception and belong to the same camp. Somehow, they all operate in racially oriented Jewish political cells. Saying that, I think that any idea or thought should welcome criticism. Hence, I am open to critique and love to see my work deconstructed and even demolished. Anyhow, I have yet to come across any substantial argumentative criticism of my thought and writing. Instead all I see is a crude and banal attempt to silence me by spreading lies, slander and defamation.
I am happy and even proud to say that my ideas are vastly circulated and translated into very many languages including Greek. All attempts to silence me have failed so far. I believe that this won’t change as long as I manage to speak my heart and avoid any engagement with any political bodies or institutions. I have two secrets:
1. unlike most commentators on the subject, I restrict myself to critical writing and deconstruction of ethical and humanist issues. It is very easy to destroy a politician but it is probably impossible to silence a humanist!
2. I can be funny.
Matoula: Do you usually respond to the provocations or you simply just ignore them?
Gilad: I would respond to an argumentative provocation. Seemingly this has never happened. In fact there is not a single Zionist or pseudo-Zionist that would dare confront me on an open stage.
Matoula: What do you think about Barak Obama's election?
Gilad: I do not hold my breath. The man surrounded himself with some rabid Zionists. His chief of staff is Rahm Emmanuel, an ex IDF soldier and a person who is suspected to be an Israeli intelligence agent. I hope that sooner rather than later Obama wakes up.
Matoula: I have heard you talking about modern evil. What is modern evil?
Gilad: Modern evil is a sophisticated system that pushes the evil into the realm of the inexpressible. You see it all and you keep silent. You know what it is, you want to shout it out and yet something within you stops you. I will try to elaborate.
Evil is commonly interpreted as ‘profoundly immoral and wrong’. For me the ultimate manifestation of evil is the continuous abuse of the Palestinian people, people who were ethnically cleansed and are now locked, starved and bombarded in concentration camps by their cleansers. In the last four days we have been seeing 2 million starved Palestinians being subject to Israeli devastating air raids. Hundreds are dead, thousands are wounded and the world keeps quiet.
It is not just the Israelis who are guilty of such a crime. It is also world Jewry who institutionally support Israel, it is also the Wolfowitzes who made America and Britain into an Israeli mission force. But it doesn’t end there either. It is the entire Western political leadership that sees Gaza people minced into dust by IDF war machinery and yet fails to stand up for the obvious justice. It is the Western media that fills its mouth with water. It is all of us who see the Jewish state slaughtering civilians and does nothing. ‘For Evil to take place, all you need is a few good people who sit and do nothing’.
And yet modern evil takes us one step further. It is a sophisticated matrix that is very effective in silencing and dismantling the possibility of criticism. We see it all, we see the credit crunch, we see Lehman Brothers, we see the Wolfowitzes who took us to Iraq, the Greenspans who created a fantasy of financial boom at the expense of America’s lower classes, we learn about the 50 billion Dollar Swindler Bernard Madoff and we somehow fail to shout it out. We are devastated by what we see and yet we are suppressed by our fear of pronouncing the notion of Zionist power. In the name of correctness we refrain from telling the truth. In fact I myself had been proceeding carefully in circles before I managed to spit it out.
Being under the spell of a modern evil apparatus we are afraid that telling the truth would reflect badly on us. We are shattered by our own realizations. We are becoming a self-sufficient subservient censoring machine. Against our will we are becoming collaborators of Zionism. Hence we shouldn’t be surprised if the grave fate awaiting us is no different from the Palestinian one.
Seemingly, we have lost our true survival instincts for the sake of political correctness and liberal ideology. Thus, like the Palestinians we become subject to a very profound institutional crime. This is what modern evil is and I am very afraid of it. I know very well that by the time it all bursts, by the time we manage to utter it all, no one will be able to stop the tide of anger.