Gilad Atzmon

jazz artist-world music-live dates-author-thoughts-Jewish Identity-Politics-Athens & Jerusalem-The Wandering Who?

Welcome to Gilad Atzmon's webpage. This site provides information about Gilad's musical and intellectual activity.  

The Hamas Victory Gilad Atzmon, Where to now, Palestine? Some reflections by Gilad Atzmon

The consequences of today’s Hamas victory aren’t yet clear, however the election results have revealed beyond doubt some fundamental information about Palestine and the Arab world:

*Democracy = Islam.
Once again the West and especially the Anglo-Americans must acknowledge the obvious fact: democracy in the Arab world means Islam. Unless one is severely Islamophobic this shouldn’t raise a problem. But apparently, we have too many Islam haters both in the left and in the right who happen to be horrified by the success of Islam among the masses. Anyhow, yesterday’s election in Palestine should serve as the last warning for those who now insist upon ‘democratising’ Syria.

*‘One Democratic and Secular Palestine’ - may be a dated concept and had better be dropped right away.

The overwhelmingly repeated leftist call for ‘one democratic and secular Palestine’, has apparently very little to do with the Palestinian reality. Apparently, the majority of the Palestinian people in Palestine prefer to live in an Islamic state rather than in a secular and democratic one, with democracy not meaning ‘voice of the people’, but rather a limited and restricted Western definition of it. It is now evident that the call for a secular Palestinian state was there to serve the interests of some left-wing Zionist schools a la Yossi Beilin who outrageously denounced the Hamas just days before the election. Surprisingly enough, this very call against the Hamas and in favour of a democratic secular state is rather popular amongst different factions of Jewish Anti-Zionist and Palestinian solidarity groups. Let’s all face it; the Palestinian people have chosen to live in a Muslim state rather than in a secular one. If we are as democratic as we claim to be, it is down to us to respect and welcome the Palestinian people’s choice. I would suggest that to support Palestine is to support the Palestinian people and their right of return regardless of their political, theological or cultural choices.

However, we have to remember that almost half of the Palestinian people voted for the Fatah movement, in other words, very many Palestinians may prefer to live in a secular state.

It is necessary to add as well that the vote today represents the choice of the Palestinian people who live in Palestine. It is rather possible that an election that would include Diaspora Palestinians in the region and overseas might well lead to different results altogether. Dealing with the Palestinian cause, we must take such a possibility into consideration. At the end of the day, the majority of Palestinians live outside of Palestine, they were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and ever since then.

* The Left discourse has lost its relevancy; it desperately craves an immediate face-lift.

For more than a while it is rather clear that left ideology struggles to find its way within the emerging battle between the West and the Near East. The parameters of the so-called ‘cultural clash’ are so cleverly set that the ‘rational’ and ‘atheist’ leftist is always doomed to find oneself closer to Donald Rumsfeld than to a Muslim cleric. As long as left ideology is entangled with rational and anti-religious thinking parameters, it will be a struggle for it to ally itself with today’s oppressed, i.e. Arabs. If the European left insists upon maintaining its relevance, it must reassess its worldviews regarding rationality, religion and especially Islam. If the left insists upon maintaining its relevancy it must re-evaluate the entire idea of working class politics. Apparently, the oppressed Iraqis have very little in common with the 19th century European working class. The left must engage in a new terminology of ethnicity and cultural differentiation. Rather than imposing our beliefs upon others, we better learn to understand what others believe in. A scrutiny of the notions of Jihad and Shahid are no doubt a good place to start.

*While the Israeli street is showing some real signs of mental fatigue, the Palestinians happen to be as resilient as ever.

As it happens, the Israelis are now drifting en mass towards Kadima, the new political agenda founded two months ago by the gravely ill Sharon. In fact, there is nothing new or innovative about Kadima, it was created to re-launch the old left Zionist fantasy of a Jewish, racist, national state with an overwhelmingly Jewish majority and dominance. Apparently, The Israelis love this option. They love the idea of the resurrection of the East European ghetto, right in the heart of the Middle East. Seemingly, the Fatah was willing to negotiate with this Israeli agenda. Rationally speaking, it is impossible to blame them. The Fatah did realise a while ago that it is quite impossible to militarily defeat American-backed Israeli might. Moreover, it is crucial to mention that almost half of the Palestinian people in Palestine agree with the Fatah. They just couldn’t bear the Israeli occupation anymore. The Hamas, on the other hand, said NO to Israel and as we happen to learn this morning, the majority of the Palestinian people followed the Hamas. They said NO to Zionist segregation, they said NO to Israeli occupation, they said NO to shredding Palestine into Bantustans. Moreover, they say NO to the idea of a Jewish state in the midst of Palestine. They say NO to the idea of a political settlement imposed by America. They say YES to an Islamic Palestine. In short, while the Israelis are showing some clear signs of defeatism, the majority of the Palestinians insist upon claiming their legitimate rights. I have no doubt that justice for the Palestinian people will prevail.

Whether the Hamas has the power to move things forward for the Palestinians in the short term is hard to say. Moreover, the Hamas is a large movement with more than just a single voice. For instance, for more than a while I am aware of some leaders within the Hamas who believe that the two state solution may guarantee separation from the Israelis and their Western liberal lifestyle. In other words, even within the Hamas there are those who believe in two state solution, though for very different reasons. However, it will be interesting to watch what a pragmatic Hamas’s agenda is going to be.

Today more than any other day, it is rather clear that supporting Palestine and the Palestinian people must be grounded on listening to the many voices of Palestine. Rather than imposing our worldviews on the Palestinian people, we better let the Palestinians be. We should listen to them and try to find our way within their complicated cause.

Gilad Atzmon - Western Cultural Colonialism and the Palestinian choice

In these days immediately following the landslide victory of Hamas, many people had been caught unprepared to face such an outcome. It has been the object of debate and discussion, and following it on the "internet world" really could be a full-time job. Gilad had told me about an internet debate concerning the article he published above This is the response of Gilad Atzmon to the “Open Letter by Elias Davidsson”.

Dear Friends,
I am sorry to disappoint you. I am not going to write a detailed rebuttal to Mr. Davidsson’s open letter. I would offer three reasons. First: I can’t see how the Palestinian cause would benefit from such a debate. Second: I don’t really have the time for that kind of nonsense. I perform every night in front of hundreds of people and engaging with one unhappy Davidsson is for me a total waste of time. Third: It isn’t nice to say it but Mr. Davidsson isn’t exactly a match. Reading his ‘open letter’ suggests that the good man is a conservative modernist who is deeply engaged in some dated vocabulary to do with ‘universal values’.

If Elias Davidsson were just slightly more educated he would probably grasp that the notion of universal humanism isn’t applicable to the Islamic and Judaic subject. Universalism and thinking in universal terms is the fruit of Western philosophy and enlightenment. It is intrinsically linked with the notion of the ‘subject’. Within Judaism and Islam the human is subject to God. He is a follower rather than a free thinker. This differentiation dismantles any possibility of cross-cultural terminological reduction between west and east. In other words, talking about Universal values is in itself a form of Western cultural colonialism. Davidsson wants to be a colonialist, who am I to stop him?

Needless to say, I do not believe in the notion of universal values. In fact, I don’t even know what ‘universal human rights’ are. Furthermore, I tend to be very suspicious of those who claim to know. Just because I open the newspapers from time to time, I know very well that Blair and Bush kill in the name of ‘universal humanism’. Those who follow my writings know pretty well that I am a devoted follower of Martin Heidegger. I believe that beings are shaped by language. In other words, for me, universal discourse and discourse of universality are nothing but meaningless. Moreover, I believe that those who try to impose discourse of universality on others are either ignorant or hegemony seekers.

As I said, I do not have any plans to address Elias Davidsson’s open letter. Instead, I will ask Mr. Davidson to send me or anyone else a bibliographic reference to his open letter following Sheik Yassin’s disgraceful assassination. If Davidsson is so outraged by me, surely the murder of Sheik Yassin must have moved him at least as much. In case he failed to issue such a letter at the time he may as well send me or anyone else his published comment or condolences for the Palestinian people following the brutal murder of Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantissi. I may press on and ask where were the Elias Davidssons and the gatekeepers of universalist values when the entire leadership of the Hamas was serially liquidated in broad daylight.

Let me say it, somehow they kept quiet. They were very, very quiet. Why did they keep quiet? Because they don’t like the Hamas. Being silent at such a grave time, they basically approved the Israeli controlled assassination policy. Somehow, Davidsson and those like him have very little respect for religious parties, politics inspired by religious tenets and religion in general. Indeed they love the Palestinian people, but only as long as they remind them of themselves i.e., ‘European middleclass atheist Jews ’. If it wasn’t clear until last Wednesday, now it is obvious. The Palestinians aren’t exactly middleclass atheist Jews. This is something Mr. Davidsson finds hard to digest and unfortunately, I can’t help him.

It is that very fact that made me so reluctant to have any contact with any of those ethnic Jewish campaigners. Needless to say, they all had tried to flirt with me and with my music for a very long time. But rather soon I understood that their agenda was totally hypocritical. It wasn’t Palestine that they cared about; it was the maintenance of their own rational atheist ideology at the expense of the Palestinian people.

Dear friends. For more than a while I know that the Palestinian street is drifting towards Islam. I may say it, unlike Davidsson and his ilk, I am not afraid of Islam. In fact I love Islam and love being in a Muslim environment. Moreover, I can see that democracy in the Arab world may lead to Islam while Islam isn’t necessarily committed to maintaining democracy. And how to say it, I am far from being bothered by it because if this is indeed the choice of the masses, it is good enough for me. If this isn’t enough, I am far from being enthusiastic about Democracy anymore. It is within the current phase of western democracy where bloodthirsty war criminals such as Blair, Bush and Sharon were re-elected.

I am not an expert on Islam but I know enough to say that Jews were living under the protection of Islam for hundreds of years. We all know very well that one of the principles of Islam is committed to protecting the foreigner. If I would have to choose between living in an Islamic Palestine or a Jewish one, I would be going for the Islamic one without a single doubt. Moreover, if I have to choose between ‘Jewish democracy’ and Islam I go for the latter.

I may admit that I was pretty concerned before posting my last piece. Most of my Palestinian friends are secular Muslims and Christians. Many of them are affiliated to the Fatah. They are all rather concerned with the latest development in their homeland. As I mentioned in my piece, the vote doesn’t express the will of Exile Palestinians. Anyhow, I understand my Palestinian friends very well. I grew up in Israel, a country that slowly but surely is shifting towards religious fundamentalism. I know what fundamentalism is all about and I know very well that I wouldn’t survive a single day in a Talmudic environment. I understand how difficult it may be for my Palestinian friends who became accustomed to western liberal life. I am aware of it all, and yet, those who dwell in occupied Palestine had their say, they went to the poll and gave all us a major lesson. They presented us with the most heroic spirit of resistance. They told the West, and Israel, and the EU, and the Arab world, and the Davidssons and the other gatekeepers, “you can all bugger off. We know what we want. We are tired of your phoney kindness. We are exhausted of your hypocritical willingness to help. We are sick of your solidarity. We don’t want you to tell us what we are and what we should be. Don’t liberate us and don’t save our women. We will take care of it all from now on. Leave us alone.”

So many times I found myself disappointed and frustrated in this endless struggle against Zionism and its backing world Jewry. So many times I had to pay a heavy price for saying what I believe. This time, for the first time in my life, I do feel a change in the air. The Palestinians are going to win with me or without me. They are going to win because they have nothing to lose. They are going to win because they deserve it.

Sorry my dearest friends, within this change in the air a rebuttal of Davidsson’s 19th century ideology is pathetically meaningless. I have only one duty. I have to travel from town to town and to congratulate the Palestinian people from the stage. This is what I am going to do today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. I did it in Istanbul for the last 4 days. As you probably can guess, everybody was over the moon. And I tell you why, because the rebellion spirit of the Palestinian resistance is a spirit people can empathise with. You know why? Because the Palestinians are in the forefront of the war against evil.

To read the letter from Elias Davidsson, please visit

Gilad Atzmon - Kant, Hamas and Human Rights

Editor's note: In the past few days, there has been a very lively debate here and elsewhere concerning the way that people are reacting to the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections. While the Hamas has been vilified almost completely for many years, it has been apparent to many people that this was the trend of the Palestinian people in Palestine for the democratic expression of their will. See this article for a recent discussion of it. It hasn’t been easy for many to come to terms with this result, which is basically outside of the reality most of us know. Add to that, there is an aggressive mediatic and political campaign to demand things out of Hamas (to recognise Israel, even though Israel has never recognised Palestine) in order to receive funds which had been allotted and which are necessary for ordinary administration and for the very survival of the PA.

Expressing support for the Palestinian people, expressing praise for the way they ran a fair election despite terrible restrictions and great international pressure is something important. Our support for them now has to be even greater than before, as they face severe challenges just for exercising their will in a democratic vote.

Gilad Atzmon wrote a piece published here which expresses his views that the people have chosen, and that this demonstrates the resiliency of them, despite all threats, and their clear determination to stand up on their own feet and to say NO to the plans Israel and the so-called “international community” has for them. It was a piece full of love for the Palestinian people, the kind of love that is unconditional. One of my closest and most beloved friends, the divine Umkahlil said it all once, “I love Gilad Atzmon because he loves the Palestinians. He has never said, I’ll love you if you do this or that, be this way or that. He doesn’t ask a thing of us, and he instead gives to us, shares his time with us and for our cause. He is a true brother.” I think she speaks for a lot of Palestinians.

But generally, it is Jewish people who engage with Gilad. They probably see him as a spokesman for them, or a representative, and they want to be represented fairly. Engaging people is great, but it has to be unconditional. In this context, Elias Davidsson had written his “open letter to Gilad Atzmon”, where he analyses one aspect of the paper. Its focus was on rights. Gilad wrote a comment inspired by it, which has been translated and reprinted widely. Following that, many people have commented, some of the comments scholarly and interesting material to the debate, publicly in this site, on other sites in which it appears (Bella Ciao in French), and privately. It was in response to this that Gilad wrote the piece that follows.

Gilad Atzmon
The conflict between the Declaration of Human Rights and Islam or Judaism is a matter of authority rather than mere content. Most religions are ethically orientated to a certain extent. Most religions convey insights that seem to look like universal moral codes. We shouldn't as well forget that Judaism and Islam were morally orientated a few years earlier than the 1948 Universal Human Rights Declaration. Yet, the big question is: what do we ground our morality on? The question is whether we find our ethical instincts within ourselves being 'free subjects' or do we follow a readymade, fully formed ethical code. Moreover, if we are indeed free subjects, how do we cross the lines between the personal and the universal? The modernist answer is: "Rationality".

Kant suggests that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he defined as the “Categorical Imperative”: "Always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law."

Immorality, according to Kant, involves a violation of the categorical imperative and is thereby irrational. The categorical Imperative is an unconditional command upon which all of morality is dependent on.

Kant’s form of thinking presents better than anyone else’s the modernist anthropocentric revolution. It locates the human subject and rationality in the very centre of any possible human affair. To a degree, the ‘Declaration of Universal Human Rights’ is just a pragmatic implementation of Kant’s categorical imperative. It is a powerful celebration of rationality. Each of the articles appears as a maxim of a universal law. And yet, following Heidegger’s Hermeneutics we are doomed to raise some deep questions.

While following Kant, morality becomes a calculative apparatus, the decision not to drive over an old woman just because I am in a hurry is not exactly the result of a clear rational procedure. This is exactly where the problem with modernism is. It interferes with one’s authenticity. The decision not to drive over other people isn’t the outcome of a rational calculation; it is an authentic behaviour that cannot be reduced into any logical parameters (by the way, Kant was aware of the problem and differentiated between morality and ethics). Why can’t it be reduced? Because I just automatically slow my car and let the elder woman pass before I am engaged in any calculative procedure. It is my Being with capital B that slows the car. On the other hand, every rational reduction is linguistically dependent, and language is prior to man. Language is there before man comes to the world. Language predates any form of rational calculative manner. And language entails the way we perceive the world.

But it isn’t only language, it may as well be cultural impositions. While the first article of the declaration states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

I have noticed that many people who claim to speak in the name of their belonging to the Jewish community, as Anti-Zionist Jews, Marxist Jews, leftist Jews, Jews for Justice and so forth, have taken to task what I’d written about the nature of rights considered “universal”. But I ask them to stop and think, to reflect upon how far they are willing to go to be truly universal starting with themselves, and I use just one example, a very basic one that stands at the core of identification with belonging to the Jewish faith.

The Jewish people happen to follow an ancient barbarian tradition of chopping off their male infant’s foreskin at the tender age of eight days. Even the Bundist Jewish Anti-Zionists who regard themselves at the avant-garde of world working class engage in the barbarian ritual. Someone should correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I can understand it, circumcision prohibits the Jewish infant from being an equal man. He is no doubt different, he becomes a part of a clan, either chosen or inferior (this is a matter of taste and belief). Most importantly, he is different. This cannibalistic act would have beyond doubts implications on the evolution of the rationality of the Jewish boy. Cleverly, the Jews call that circumcision "Brit Mila": a 'Covenant with the Word'. When the Jewish kinder is just eight days old, he enters a lifetime bond with the language of his ancestors. His rationality is tilted forever. Some would run into wild supremacist lifestyle such as Zionism, others would adopt a non-realistic form of atheist rational universalism. Yet being universalist and secular and modernised does not stop them from circumcising their newborn male babies. You ask yourself why? I do as well. I think that to be irrational is authentic at times. And as it seems, Jews like everyone else, like to be authentic and irrational, the question is why they refuse to admit it. Don't they want to be like everyone else?

 

Powered by Squarespace. Background image by Tali Atzmon .