Israel’s National Bill and the Jewish Solidarity Spin
By Gilad Atzmon
Last Thursday the Israeli Knesset adopted Israel’s National Bill. The law specifies that self-determination is "exclusive" to the Jewish people. It endorses the establishment of Jews-only settlements as a part of Israel’s national interests. The National Bill demotes Arabic from an official national language to "special” status. Israel’s national symbols include the Israeli flag, the menorah, Jewish holidays, the Hatikva national anthem, the Hebrew calendar and Israel's Independence Day.
The new National Bill legislates what has been an active policy of segregation and discrimination by Israeli authorities since Israel’s inception. As many critics of the bill noted, the bill reveals that in the Jewish State Jews and goyim are not equal citizens.
It is crucial to point out that the bill doesn’t define Israel as ‘the Judaic State.” It repeatedly refers to Israel as the state of the ‘Jewish People.’ In Hebrew, the law is named the ‘Nation Bill.’ The law refers to the ‘Jewish State’ and the ‘Jewish folk.’ It provides an invaluable glimpse into the true meaning of Jewishness particularly as perceived by Israeli Jews.
In 2011, I published The Wandering Who? The basic premise of the book was definitional. I argued that if Israel defines itself as the Jewish State, in order to understand that term, we have to ask: who are the Jews? What is Judaism? What is Jewishness? And then we could proceed to try to figure out how these terms relate to each other. How do they affect the world in which we live, Israeli politics, Jewish pressure groups and so on.
As I expected, not a single Israeli or Zionist opposed the principles of my study. Israelis and Zionists do accept that Israel is the Jewish State. They are intimately familiar with the discourse of Jewishness (יהודיות) and the meaning of the term. However, despite the fact that my study was praised and endorsed by some of the most respected academics and humanists, Jewish Palestinian solidarity activists were desperate to silence me and erase my work. Just a few weeks after the book came out, Palestinian blogger Ali Abunimah managed to gather another 20 Palestinians to call for my ‘disavowal.’ Clearly Abunimah didn’t want or approve of my attempt to focus on the core ideology and culture that drives Israeli supremacy, discrimination and brutality inflicted on his own people. A few years later, Jewish ‘anti’ Zionist Tony Greenstein was foolish enough to reveal that it was he who had actually “engineered” Ali Abunimah’s call for my ‘disavowal.’
To learn about the Abunimah/Atzmon dispute watch this video:
Jewishness, as I argue in The Wandering Who?, is a wide ranging array of ideas that celebrate different variations on choseness - a radical sense of tribal exceptionalism. Zionism, for instance, made its followers feel special – because unlike their Diaspora brethren, the Zionist promised to transform the Jews into ‘people like all other people.’ In so doing, the Zionists vowed to become ordinary people, yet ‘chosen’ in comparison with the Diaspora Jews. Zionism failed completely. It quickly evolved into a Jewish supremacist criminal entity. Jewish anti Zionist institutions were invented to form a satellite opposition to Zionism. The Jewish anti Zionists are there to show that ‘not all Jews are Zionists.’ By their lights, the anti -Zionists are the real chosen people. They are so chosen that ordinary goyim aren’t racially qualified and so can’t really join their league. If this observation upsets you, try to count the non-Jews on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
Jewish anti Zionism is, as practiced, a political discipline that is there to police the Palestinian solidarity discourse by thwarting any focus on the basic tenets that drive Zionism, Israeli policy and the Jewish lobby around the world. Jewish anti Zionism acts to eliminate any reference to the ‘J-word.’
In 2012, the Jewish pro-Palestinian site Mondoweiss changed its comment policy to bar any discussion of Jewish culture in the context of Israeli politics. “From here on out, the Mondoweiss comment section will no longer serve as a forum to pillory Jewish culture and religion as the driving factors in Israeli and US policy” editors Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz openly declared.
JVP, probably the largest pro-Palestinian Jewish activist network, has dedicated much of its time and energy to silencing those who dare to look at Israel’s actions in terms of Jewishness, Jewish culture and Jewish politics. In its performance of the Talmudic Herem practice, JVP has excommunicated 'transgressors,' including some of the greatest spokespersons for Palestine such as Alison Weir and Greta Berlin.
And now there is a dilemma. In 2018 the Jewishness of the Jewish State is no longer a product of “Gilad Atzmon’s imagination.” It is a cardinal Israeli law approved by the Knesset. Will Ali Abunimah and the Jewish Solidarity network come to their senses? Will they be brave enough to admit leading their followers astray for decades? Will they have the courage to self-reflect and address the fundamentals that fuel the oppression of the Palestinian people?
I somehow doubt it. I do not believe that the institutional Jewish solidarity is an authentic movement. More likely, it is there to make sure that the boundaries of solidarity with the oppressed (Palestinians) are shaped by the sensitivities of the oppressor (Antisemitsm, Holocaust etc.).
To learn more about Jewishness and Jewish ID Politics visit Gilad's on-line bookshop