THE HANDSTAND

 2ndWINTER2011 November-December


Letter from Gilad Atzmon re. his new book
Please scroll down for Gilad's Gig Data places and dates.

Heidi Vogel-The Wandering Who-Book Review

DateMonday, October 24, 2011 at 2:55AM AuthorGilad Atzmon

The following is a very interesting review by Heidi Vogel. Heidi is a great writer and an  incredible musician.  It is particularly interesting for me to be reviewed by another artist  who is also sensitive to identity politics complexities and subject to self reflection. signed Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon's "The Wandering WHO?" provides a fascinating and complex look into the many facets of this subject Atzmon calls "Jewish identity politics".

The book gives a glimpse into Atzmon's early life in Israel as an aspiring jazz musician and how he became the inspiring thinker and, as Atzmon says, "Humanist", he is today.

Atzmon details much of the history of Jewish tribal existence and it's influence on todays Jewish identity politics.

There are more layers to this book than one may realize at first glance and it becomes more powerful as one lets it unravel.

As Atzmon delves deep into the roots and causes of Zionism and modern day Jewish Identity, he explores some biblical interpretations, as well as many other writers whom Atzmon refers to in great detail.

Atzmon's ideas may be controversial to some as he appears to be and states in the book that he is a "proud self hating Jew". This fundamental "obstacle" to Atzmon achieving what some may consider to be a balanced work, may leave one feeling that the ideas he puts forth are lopsided, wherein at times there is no polar opposite given, as in debate, it may appear that Atzmon's ideas are not there to let the reader find their own answers and balance. But it only appears to be so, for as one reads on, it raises so many questions that one does start to think for oneself and understands that this is exactly what Atzmon is trying to make one do.. in his own way.

It is rather obvious here that Atzmon has almost a "side" in that one could surmise and deduce that he is pro Palestinian and that is what is portrayed. This is not necessarily off-putting however, for the reader, as it is dynamic enough to implant knowledge and let ones own thoughts expand and take flight with some of the complex issues addressed.

Atmzon's journey of self discovery in chapter 11, sheds much light and is quite touching and enlightening. Here he talks of and gives a synopsis of a book by Otto Weininger.

Weininger was an anti semite misogynist, who was apparently a Jew himself, he wrote his book and later committed suicide.

Atzmon writes:

"In my early days I believed myself to be an autonomous thinker, positing himself in a detached, Archimedean surveying position. Thanks to Weininger I realised how wrong I was - I was not detached from the reality about which I wrote, and I never shall be. I am not looking at the Jews, or at Jewish identity, I am not looking at Israelis. I am actually looking in the mirror. With contempt I am actually elaborating on the Jew in me."

At the end of the chapter Atzmon writes of Weininger:

"One may wonder how he knew so much about women. Why did he hate them so? How did he know so much about Jews and why did he hate them so? The answer can be elicited from Weininger's thoughts though not from his own words. He hated woman and Jews because he was a woman and a Jew.... This revelation probably led Weininger to kill himself, just a month after the publication of his book. Very likely, he had managed to grasp what his book was all about."

A criticism of the book, is that most of the history and stereo types refer to Western Jews; American, British, Israeli and European.

Atzmon refers to "matzo ball soup" and such stereo types. It seems to have been intentional and appears to be part of Atzmon's anti establishment views on the Western perspective of the Middle East conflict. It may seem relevant in this context to elaborate on the Jews from these European backgrounds. However in making some of these generalizations, it may appear to leave out 50% of world Jewry in terms of African and Eastern Jewry and the stereo types which they fall under and how they have become who they are and where they are today.

The views presented are intriguing, as he also takes a look into nomadic migration and it's waves into the many issues facing Jewish identity today and what has prevailed of these, politically, socially and more importantly in Zionism and war.

Atzmon's ideas regarding the Holocaust, which he explains has become a religion, are thought provoking and eye opening, it serves to challenge ones thoughts and yet again, makes one question.

A powerful book, if shocking at times. It reveals so much of the complexity of what it is to be a Jew, and who are the Jews. At times it raises more questions than answers and definitely inspires much thought.

In Gilad's final chapters, I can't help but feel that Gilad's cause becomes all the more relevant and powerful because of who he is.

I started to see why he felt so impelled to say the things he does, and to challenge in such a way. His desire to make people look.

At some points, I had felt an imbalance in the book with regards to injustices, meaning that injustices were not portrayed as coming from all humans, from all sides, Atzmon mainly highlighted the injustices perpetrated by the Jews.

However, seeing that Gilad's concern is and was only the injustice coming from his side, I realized that this book is about responsibility. It hit me, and the power of the book exceeded its apparency and expectations.

It made more sense to me rather than labelling him an anti semite. I came to realize, Atzmon is truly a Jew trying to elevate people and bring to light their downfalls, complexities, warped ideals, corrupted truths, and crimes. He truly cares.

I had thought that if I finished this book and agreed with everything Atzmon said, I would be converted into being an anti semite. I found myself carefully questioning every sentence.

However, it was quite the opposite, in the end. I came to agree with much of what was put forth to me to challenge, and I was made to question and think, and therein lies the key to enriching personal understanding as opposed to following in blindness.

As a well known Egyptian musician once said about Atzmon, when he was referred to as "Do you know that crazy Israeli Jazz sax player Atzmon? He is a pro Palestinian Israeli, now anti Israeli and writes a lot about how bad Israel and the Jews are...." His reply in a thick Egyptian accent was "Well someone has got to do it". Atzmon is that Jew.

It is clear that Atzmon is more than just passionate about the cause and as a self professed humanist, it is very clear that he has searched to bring about answers and understanding in his quest for peace.


Nahida Izzat: From Tribalism to Humanism

DateSunday, November 6, 2011 at 11:36AM AuthorGilad Atzmon

Introduction by Gilad Atzmon: The following  review makes me especially cheerful. It was written by Nahida Izzat, a Palestinian writer and a poet whom I immensely admire. Nahida produces here an Exilic Palestinian and Muslim reading  of my book. I am very flattered by this review.  

http://uprootedpalestinians.blogspot.com





The Path to Freedom

A journey from the narrowness of egotism to the splendour of Universalism

In his new book “The wondering Who”, Gilad Atzmon reflects on his transforming journey from an IDF “Israeli”, a racist tribalist, self-ghettoized Zionist, with exclusionist mentality, who was greatly influenced as a child by his “veteran Zionist terrorist” grandfather, into simply a Universalist and Humanist.


A courageous and enthralling journey that began in the most unexpected places, in one of the suburbs of occupied Jerusalem, Al Quds, and by no other tool than a musical instrument, a saxophone!

A journey that he didn’t choose initially, rather, he stumbled upon. He came to discover that in the world out there, where gentile live, raw talents, daring intelligence and breathtaking beauty not only exist but also thrive. This realization took him by surprise; it contradicted his basic supposition of his own and his people’s superiority as Jews. This revelation pressed on him by necessity to take a good look in the mirror, the inner mirror of the self.

Gilad describes how he fell in love and became fascinated with Afro-American music; it was that love that opened the door of escape for him and enabled him to flee the narrowness of the Ghetto of tribalism to the wide world of humanism. As he discovered the brilliance and the captivating beauty of the music played not by Jews, but by gentiles, moreover, most of those musicians were actually black, Atzmon explains: “… it was kind of a revelation. In my world, it was only Jews who were associated with anything good”.

An article by "progressive" Philip Weiss


Thus was the beginning of the young Gilad’s voyage.

Gilad’s long journey started as he explains by asking himself serious questions about his own identity. With all the frankness, dignity and courage, Gilad admits to himself and later to his readers, that he did not like what he saw. He was hit with the fact that he as Jew, might not be the fairest-one-of-all after all, as he was brought up to believe. What he realized is in fact other human beings, who are not Jews but gentiles, might be just as good! This was the first revelation in Gilad’s journey of self discovery.

Gilad reflects on how they learned -as young Jews – to view Palestinian as workers and providers of cheap labour, those nameless, faceless people who roam around:

We never socialised with them. We didn’t really understand who they were and what they stood for. Supremacy was brewed in our souls, we gazed at the world through racist chauvinistic binoculars. And we felt no shame about it either

The breaking point of his attachment was his visit to Ansar prison camp in South Lebanon in 1984. His IDF orchestra team was invited to visit. Gilad describes how did this journey affected him and changed him forever: "As we continued past the barbed wire I continued gazing at the inmates and arrived at an unbearable truth: I was walking on the other side, in Israeli military uniform. The place was a concentration camp. The inmates were the “Jews” and I was nothing but a “Nazi”".

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He then goes on to tell the tale of the last straw that broke the camel’s back: “while I contemplated the resonance of my uniform, trying to deal with the great sense of shame in me, we came to a large, flat ground at the centre of the camp. The officer guiding us offered more platitudes about the current war to defend our Jewish haven. While he was boring us to death with these irrelevant Hasbara (propaganda) lies, I noticed that we were surrounded by two dozen concrete blocks each around 1mē in are and 1.3m high, with small metal doors as entrances. I was horrified at the thought that my army was locking guard dogs into these boxes for the night. Putting my Israeli chutzpah into action, I confronted the officer about these horrible concrete dog cubes. He was quick to reply: “these are our solitary confinement blocks; after two days in one of these, you become a devoted Zionist!”. This was enough for me. I realized that my affair with the Israel state and with Zionism was over

Gilad then goes on to say: “it took me another ten years before I could leave Israel for good. During that time, however, I began to learn about the Israel-Palestine conflict, and to accept that I was actually living on someone else’s land. I took in the devastating fact that in 1948 the Palestinians hadn’t abandoned their homes willingly –as we were told in school- but had been brutally ethnically cleansed by my grandfather and his ilk.”


Discovering these exterior realities around him helped him to understand the atrocious role his people -including his much admired grandfather- played in creating the catastrophe of the Palestinian people.

Then came the time when young Gilad thirsted for answers and needed to dive deeper in his own self; he began to reflect upon the question of identity, and what it means to him to be defined as a Jew.

Years of observation and reflection he came to notice that those who call themselves Jews could be divided into three main categories:

  1. Those who follow Judaism.
  2. Those who regard themselves as human beings that happen to be of Jewish origin.
  3. Those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all of other traits.


Atzmon is more puzzled and concerned with people in the third category, as the first two are pretty self evident.

Gilad view is that the people in the third category are the manifestation of what early Zionists have defined and envisaged. Chaim Weizmann, a prominent early Zionist said “There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America” Gilad explains: “In just a few words, Weizmann managed to categorically define the essence of Jewish-ness. It is basically a “primary quality”. You maybe a Jew who dwells in England, a Jew who plays the violin, or even a Jew against Zionism, but above all else you are a Jew.

This definition takes me personally a few years back, when I was intrigued by the fact that some of our Jewish supporters in the solidarity movement were atheists, yet they also defined themselves as Jews. No matter how much I turned this in my head, it just didn’t make sense; how can one be an atheist Jew?

So I asked one of my Jewish friends one day: “what do you mean when you say you are Jewish? Since you reject faith and disbelieve in Judaism as a religion, and since your culture is more Western-European than it is African-Jewish or Middle-Eastern-Jewish or any other Jewish culture, you are not Jewish by race, as there is no such a thing as Jewish race or Jewish genes, there is no unified Jewish history, and even your language is English not Hebrew? So what is it that makes you still define yourself as Jewish”?

My friend was taken aback by the question, he paused for some time, then he said something I would never forget, he said: “ I don’t know, I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just something you know, something you feel inside you”!

Perhaps if my friend and other Jews who define themselves as atheist Jews, if they would allow themselves the freedom to reflect upon and to explore such question and search deep inside them as Gilad did, maybe they would understand why are we -who ask these questions, are so perplexed by their definition.
From an outsider perspective, the word atheist Jew does not correspond to any logic, common sense or rationality, unless of course, one see him/herself as exclusively different as defined by Ultra Orthodox Chabad; i.e having a distinctive Neshama "Jewish soul", or special Jewish genes, which surely is not the case of our atheist friends!


Gilad was brave enough to put himself on trial and to ask the daring questions, who am I? why am I defined as a Jew? and what does it really mean to be a Jew?

By asking these questions, one would not expect to find answers in any books of course. The answer can only be found deep within. It requires an inner journey.

Gilad pondered and wondered, he asked the questions then he pursued the answer, “The Wondering Who” is a summary of his journey; of spiritual reflection and of intellectual discovery and endeavour .

His book is a profound testimony of the resilience, strength and beauty of human spirit and the boundless aptitude of human potential.

Despite the many years of indoctrination, Gilad dared to ask questions that many of us do not dare to ask. Instead of looking outside to find explanations and answers, he looked within, he tried to identify that which might be problematic and harmful. He came to admit before the world that his own grandfather, whom he admired and who had “tremendous influence” on him as a young person, is actually a terrorist and murderer. He came to discover and then to admit that his own people whom he thought were the best in the world and whom he was taught it's only them "who were associated with any thing good", were in fact people who committed crimes of theft, terrorism and ethnic cleansing against another people.

He came to discover and admit that many of the people who call themselves Jews, who live in many countries of the world, and who blindly support an entity that engages in acts of terrorism and war crimes are also implicated.

Telling the truth can be daunting sometimes, and indeed it can expose the truth teller to all sorts of harmful attacks, however, facing the truth is far more excruciating, agonizing and life shattering experience.

It requires the embarking on an overwhelming inner journey of self discovery. If we find the courage within ourselves to take up the challenge, the outcome would be spectacular... and life would become a magnificent abode of bliss and contentment.

Through his gripping experience Gilad revealed that the change we seek and desire in order to improve our conditions begins with making the change within us. Change is possible, attainable, straightforward and available to all. It begins by being open and honest with ourselves, to allow ourselves to explore our inner core, and in particular facing that which is ugly; arrogance, ego, selfishness. . . within each and every one of us.

Through his fascinating and extraordinary journey Gilad came face to face with the Qur’anic statement of truth:

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“Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change themselves (what is within their own souls)” (Qur’an; 43:11)


Gilad realized that one cannot be a tribalist and a humanist simultaneously, so he chose humanism and universal values. He severed his ties with racism and supremacy, he departed from loyalty to the tribe, he refused to be a sayan at the expence and suffering of others. He offered his loyalty to the whole of humanity. The high values of equality, justice and humanism became his passion.

By doing so, Gilad came to affirm and to live by, yet again, another Qur'anic statement of truth:

“Ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the desires (of your hearts) (4:135)

“God commands justice, the doing of good, and kindness to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and antagonism: He advices you, that ye may be reminded.” (16-90)

One can and must love and show kindness to his kin and clan, but one should NEVER put his sentiments above JUSTICE and HUMANISM.

For his honesty and integrity, for telling the truth even when it hurts, and for siding with justice even against his own clan, Gilad was vilified by Zionists and (Jewish) anti-Zionists alike. For them, he has committed the worst sin of all, he is a mosser.

Instead of looking at his journey with curiosity and open-mindedness, instead of listening to his universal message of equality, and instead of examining his work that points at the ills within, his adversaries look at it through the eyes of vindictiveness, hatefulness and bottomless animosity.

Gilad's adversaries exhibit more understanding, rationality, courtesy and civility even when dealing with Zionists, soft and hard core.
As we know, Zionists and soft Zionist are often invited and welcomed to some of the anti-Zionists activities and events -under the pretext of reaching out to the Jewish community. As we know also, some of those Zionists who attend such events might actually be IDF members who trained to commit murder. Unlike them Gilad has no weapons except his words and saxophone, yet he -not the hard core militant British Zionists, is the one who is ostracized, chased and chastised by some self claimed "friends of Palestine".

He is portrayed as the worst “enemy of the Jewish people” rather than the one who offers his honest voice to help and heal through his experience and sincerity.
He was followed around the globe, with pickets, leaflets, deluge emails and sinister phone calls trying to discredit him, trying to prevent people from listening to him and trying to smother his voice of liberation, that calls for the tearing down of the self erected ghetto walls of mind and soul.

From an Islamic perspective, Gilad’s journey is what Muslims call the “Greater Jihad”, the inner journey that one embarks upon to examine one's purpose in life, one’s identity, one’s thoughts, one’s intentions, and one’s inner most hidden harmful characteristics. Such perpetual reflection helps us to identify and face our dark side, contain our ego, curtail our greed, and work with awareness to replace or transform such ills into a more constructive, caring, compassionate and generous qualities.

It is my personal feeling that Gilad, a Humanist of Jewish ancestry, by imposing self exile and by uprooting himself from his place of birth, through his journey of self discovery, and through the hard questioning of his identity, his morality and his intentions, had earned his redemption as an X- IDF occupier.

From my modest perspective as an exiled Palestinian and activist, Gilad had washed away his sins of being a member of IDF in the past, he has cleansed his conscience by choosing who he wants to be not by who he found himself being.

I welcome Gilad as a brother in humanity, and as a Palestinian-born visionary.

I hope and pray that his chosen exile and my forced exile would both end one day by our return back home to our beloved and liberated Palestine, and with us all those millions of refugees, and those good Jewish Palestinians like Gilad who chose to extract themselves rather than being part of a criminal and illegitimate entity.

Welcome brother Gilad, welcome brother "Jihad" to the family of humanity, and welcome a dear son of Palestine.


Nahida Izzat

Thank you
By Nahida Izzat

So, let me get this straight:
You tear my veil to free me
You jail me to rid me of my terror
You kill my beloved to liberate me
You shoot my baby to erase my misery
You starve me to show me how to vote
You threaten me to bring me to my senses
You wage war on me to help me find peace
You slay my people to teach me compassion
You humiliate me to aid me live with dignity
You insult me to illustrate freedom of speech
You crush my bones to save me from my evil
You demolish my home to elevate my morality
You uproot my tree to raise my ethical standard
You steal my resources to bring me social justice
You assassinate my leaders to bring me security
You bomb my town to train me into democracy
You destroy my history to educate me about progress
You dehumanise me to coach me into humanity
You wipe me out to push me to civilisation
You scorn my faith to bring me salvation
Thank you sir
How can I -ever- pay you back?

Nahida is a Jerusalem-born poet living in exile. Her site is: http://poetryforpalestine.spaces.live.com/, her Palestinian Mothers page is: http://palestinian.ning.com/profile/nahida


Live Concerts and talks

 

November

18  With the BlockheadsThe Boiler Room, Guildford, Surrey

19 With the Blockheads Astor Theatre, Deal, Kent

21 With the Blockheads  Ronnie Scott's, London

22 With the Blockheads,  Ronnie Scott's, London

23 With the Blockheads, Ronnie Scott's, London

24 With the Blockheads , Ronnie Scott's, London

25  With Omar Puente, Sarah Gillespie,  Nizar Al Issa & the OHE, Raise Your Banners, Bradford.

26 With the Blockheads, Cox's Yard, Stratford Upon Avon

27 Gilad Atzmon & the OHE, Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny

28 With Sarah Gillespie @ the 606, London

29 The Road to Bop* / Gilad Atzmon’s Jazz 4tet at the Lower Ground, West Hampsted. London

30 Gilad Atzmon @ Onassis Cultural Centre, Greece

December

1 Gilad Atzmon @ Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens, Greece

2 Gilad Atzmon @ Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens, Greece

The Road to Bop* / Gilad Atzmon & the OHE, The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock

4. The Road to Bop* / Gilad Atzmon & the OHE lunch time @ The  606,  London

The Road to Bop* / Gilad Atzmon & the OHE, Colchester Arts Centre, Colchester

5 A Talk/Performance with John Donaldson,  The White Rock Hotel, Hasting

The Road to Bop* / Gilad Atzmon & the OHE, Liverpool, details to follow

8 Gilad Atzmon & the OHE, Blue Train, London

9 Gilad Atzmon & the OHE, Komedia, Brighton

10 The Road to Bop* / Gilad Atzmon and Frank Harrison, The Lift, Glossop

15 The Road to Bop* / Gilad Atzmon & the OHE, Bonington Theatre, Nottingham

16 Gilad Atzmon in Pool, details soon

18-21 With the Blockheads, Bilbao, Spain

22  With the Blockheads Arts Centre, Colchester

23 With the Blockheads, Monto, Kings Cross, london

--

*The Road To Bop- Ahead of his concert, Gilad will give a talk about his first encounter with Jazz music and its impact on his ethical and philosophical stand. The talk will explore different aspects of music and their direct link with Gilad’s views on morality.

 

 

Gilad Atzmon's New Book: The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics is due on 30th September

Jewish identity is tied up with some of the most difficult and contentious issues of today. The purpose in this book is to open many of these issues up for discussion. Since Israel defines itself openly as the ‘Jewish State’, we should ask what the notions of ’Judaism’, ‘Jewishness’, ‘Jewish culture’ and ‘Jewish ideology’ stand for. Gilad examines the tribal aspects embedded in Jewish secular discourse, both Zionist and anti Zionist; the ‘holocaust religion’; the meaning of ‘history’ and ‘time’ within the Jewish political discourse; the anti-Gentile ideologies entangled within different forms of secular Jewish political discourse and even within the Jewish left. He questions what it is that leads Diaspora Jews to identify themselves with Israel and affiliate with its politics. The devastating state of our world affairs raises an immediate demand for a conceptual shift in our intellectual and philosophical attitude towards politics, identity politics and history.

 

You can now order the book on Amazon.com  or Amazon.co.uk