The Wandering Who: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics Author by Gilad Atzmon A transformative story told with unflinching integrity that all (especially Jews) who care about real peace, as well as their own identity, should not only read, but reflect upon and discuss widely.
The Wandering Who: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics
In London, in what I often define as my ‘self-imposed exile’, I grasped that Israel and Zionism were just parts of the wider Jewish problem.
The Right to Elaborate
Israel is the Jewish state, at least this is what it claims to be. Israel is largely supported by world Jewry institutionally, final-daily and spiritually. Zionism and Israel have become the symbolic identifiers of the contemporary Jew. And yet, in spite of Israel being the Jewish State, in spite of its vast support by Jewish lobbies around the world, hardly any commentator is copra-genus enough to wonder what the word Jew stands for. This question, it seems, is still taboo within Western discourse.
In this book I will try to untangle the knot. I will present a harsh criticism of Jewish politics and identity. Yet, it is crucial to mention at this early stage that there will be not a single reference to Jews as ethnicity or race. In my writing, I differentiate between Jews (the people), Judaism (the religion), and Jewish-sens (the ideology). This book doesn’t deal with Jews as a people or ethnicity. If anything, my studies of the issue suggest that Jews do not form any kind of racial continuum. In short, those who are searching for blood or race-related interpretation of Zionism will have to look for it in someone else’s work.
In my work, I also refrain from criticizing Judaism, the religion. Instead I confront different interpretations of the Judaic code. I deal with Jewish Ideology, Jewish identity politics, and the Jewish political discourse. I ask what being a Jew entails. I am searching for the metaphysical, spiritual and socio-political connotations. I launch my journey raising a relatively simple question. Who are the Jews? Or alternatively what do people mean when they call themselves Jews? As far as self-perception is concerned, 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-sens over and above all of their other traits.
The first two categories may denote a harmless and innocent group of people.
We tend to assume that religious people are generally inspired by their beliefs and are expected to abide by some sort of a higher spiritual and ethical value system. Accordingly, Judaism can be grasped as an ethical belief system. Judaism was the symbolic identifier of the Jews for at least two millennia. It is pretty lucid and coherent. In spite of the fact that currently more and more crimes are committed in the name of the Torah, Judaism as a world religion can be vindicated by suggesting that Jewish nationalist Messianic is merely an interpretation.
The second category is also pretty innocent. One cannot choose one’s origin. Ethical minds would agree that people must be respected and treated equally, regardless of their origin or their racial and ethnic background.
The third category is problematic. Its definition may sound inflammatory to some. And yet, bizarrely enough, it was the formulation given on the eve of the 20th century by Chaim Weizmann, a prominent early Zionist figure and later the first Israeli President: ‘There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America. In just a few words, Weizmann managed to categorically define the essence of Jewish-sens. It is basically a ‘primary quality’. You may be 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. And this is exactly the idea conveyed by the third category.
It is about viewing Jewish-ness as the key element and the fundamental characteristic of one’s being. Any other quality is secondary. This is exactly the message the early Zionists were interested in promulgating. For Weizmann, Jewish-ness was a unique quality that stopped the Jew from assimilating or disappearing into the crowd. The Jew would always remain an alien.
This line of thinking was apparent in most early Zionist writings. Jabotinsky took it even further. He was adamant that assimilation was impossible due to biological conditioning. Here is what he had to say about the German Jew: ‘A Jew brought up among Germans may assume German customs, German words. He may be wholly imbued with that German fluid but the nucleus of his spiritual structure will always remain Jewish, because his blood, his body, his physical racial type are Jewish.’ (Vladimir Jabotinsky, ‘A Letter on Autonomy’, 1904).
These racist ideas predate Nazism. Jabotinsky wasn’t alone, even the Jewish Marxist Ber Borochov, who refers the Jewish condition to historical and material circumstances, suggested a remedy that was particular to Jewish people, i.e. Jewish Nationalism. An ideology in which Jews would practice some proletarian activity, namely production, yet maintain their national and cultural symptoms.
Borochov sets Jews apart from the international proletarian revolution. Why does he do this? Because Jews are uniquely Jewish or at least the Zionists tend to believe they are.
The Zionist is first and foremost a Jew. He can’t be just an ordinary British citizen who happens to be of a Jewish descent. He is rather a Jew who dwells in Britain. He is a Jew who speaks English, he is a Jew who receives his health services from the NHS, he is a Jew who happens to drive on the left side of the road. Though he is British by birth he is also the ‘ultimate other’ by choice.
Hebrew names are names that have a Hebrew language origin, classically from the Hebrew Bible. They are mostly used by Jews and Christians, but many are also adapted to the Islamic world, particularly if a Hebrew name is mentioned in the Qur’an. There are some Jewish Boy Names list available here
This third category of Jew doesn’t have to move to Palestine. Dwelling in Zion is merely one possibility offered by the Zionist philosophy. In order to become a proper Zionist you don’t have to wander. Sometimes it is actually better if you stay exactly where you are.
Let us read what Victor Ostrovsky, a deserter ex-Mossad agent, is telling us about Jewish brotherhood. ‘The next day Ran S. delivered a lecture on the sayanim, a unique and important part of the Mossad’s operation. Sayanim (assistants) – must be 100 percent Jewish. They live abroad, and though they are not Israeli citizens, many are reached through their relatives in Israel. An Israeli with a relative in England, for example, might be asked to write a letter telling the person bearing the letter that he repre-sents an organization whose main goal is to help save Jewish people in the Diaspora. Could the British relative help in any way? .There are thousands of sayanim around the world. In London alone, there are about 2,000 who are active, and another 5,000 on the list. They fulfill many different roles. A car sayan, for example, running a rental agency, could help the Mossad rent a car without having to complete the usual documentation. An apartment sayan would find accommodation without raising suspicions, a bank sayan could get you money if you needed it in the middle of the night, a doctor sayan would treat a bullet wound without reporting it to the police, and so on. The idea is to have a pool of people available when needed who can provide services but will keep quiet about them out of loyalty to the cause. They are paid only costs.
Sayanim belong to the third category. They are people who regard themselves primarily as Jews. The sayan is a person who would betray the nation of which he is a citizen out of devotion to a notion of a clannish brotherhood. While in its early days, Zionism presents itself as an attempt to bring the world Jewry to Zion, in the last three decades it has become clear to the Zionist leadership that Israel would actually benefit from world Jewry, and especially the Jewish elite, staying exactly where they are. Paul Wolfowitz, Rahm Emmanuel, Lord Levy? and David Aaronovitch8 have proved far more effective for the Zionist cause by staying where they are.
Identity vs. Identifying
The Right to Elaborate
Credit Crunch or Zio Punch?
Zionism and Other Marginal Thoughts
The Sabra, the Settler and the Diaspora Jew
Fag-in vs Einstein
Think Tribal, Speak Universal
The Dialectic of Negation
Unconsciousness is the Discourse of the Goyim
One Hundred Years of Jewish Solitude
Jewish Unconsciousness is the Discourse of the Goyim
The Righteous Jew
Sex and Anti-Semitic
Eretz Yisrael vs. Galut
The Right to Self-Determination: A Fake Exercise in Universalism
Milton Friedman Revisited
Historicity & Factuality vs. Fantasy & Phantasm
The Wandering Who?
From Purim to AIPAC
The Book of Esther
Connecting the Dots
Donations, Think Tanks and Media Outlets
Truth, History and Integrity
Being in Time