Always the Smart Thing, Read the Book, Not the Reviews, Even This One
By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor
As editor of an American based military publication, reviewing a book on “Jewish identity” is new territory. The author, Gilad Atzmon, has an international reputation as someone who continually takes Israel to task, rebukes the mainstream media but lives and works as a musician. I ended up with him as a columnist because I wanted former members of Israel’s military groups who are outspoken on staff.
The issue at hand is Atzmon’s book, “The Wandering Who.” First of all, I am biased. Though I didn’t edit this book, I am Atzmon’s editor for his other articles, that and his confidant and friend.
Why read the book? Unlike many things, it is delightfully short, I am always thankful for that. What I see is something of the “Seinfeld” in it, not so much the comedian, Atzmon’s irony will always fall short of Jerry Seinfeld, but the TV comedy show itself, a critique, intended or not, on Jewish identity. Atzmon clearly touches the “Seinfeld” message, touching on “Jewish identity” with more seriousness. There is also controversy, how identity can lead to something far darker.
The question about the book is whether it is going to provide needed insights and asks the hard questions with honesty and courage. Few books have been opposed as this one has. Is this because Atzmon hates Jewish people or that he threatens “interests” that he says profit from dehumanizing the Jewish people.
A simpler way of looking at it is, that, after reading this, will you respect Gilad Atzmon or like him as I do, whether you agree with his conclusions or not, or take the view of some, that he is involved in a vicious “Antisemitic” plot? In some ways, I think it is more important to understand how and why those whose well paid living it is to call others “Antisemites” do what they do. The more you know, the less likely you are to invite any of them to tea.
This is one of the reasons “The Wandering Who” is such a dangerous book.
There have been attempts by powerful groups within the media to suppress this book, accusation of it being “Antisemitic,” have begun to flow, each review written even worse than the last. Atzmon touches a series of “third rail” issues, does so in a book that will shake up a few people, mostly Jews, mostly Americans.
There will be few surprises for Jews growing up in Israel. I come from a mixed family in America, having grown up in Detroit in the 50s and 60s. The community there, Jews, Germans, Pole and Hungarians, the world of “all white” industrial America, a country of prosperity, hope and injustice, was also one of dialog. Jews attacked Jews, everyone complained about Catholics and behind the politics, how some could be so stupid as to support “tool of the rich” Eisenhower was an identity issue of its own, the socialist movement that grew in America after the First World War.
When I hear rhetoric about Obama and “socialism,” I remember the talks from then, Jews and Germans, industrial workers and business owners, dialog we no longer hear. The subject? Fixing the world, seeking justice, wanting a better life for people, that dialog, the continual dialog was the “identity politics” of the time, much of it was “Jewish identity,” and, despite the use of that fearful term, “socialism,” it was pure America.
This was every Sunday, cigarettes, overflowing ash trays, coffee cups, the living room in our small home in a Detroit suburb better characterized a “Hooverville,” a collection of shacks and small farms that had been engulfed by industrial sprawl.
Atzmon is someone of that period, a time and place he never knew, he wasn’t even alive then. This is what he reminds me of, I see those days when “truth” wasn’t delivered by television but rather lived, learned on the streets, in the work place and not at the hands of a corporation that hired actors to inform the public.
Our “truth” today is Orwellian. Atzmon’s issue is that “Jews” should know better because their traditions come from learning the hard truth of the streets, the work place and worse, in some cases so much worse. Atzmon and I share more than this. I edit a publication, Veterans Today, which has, to say it mildly, “gotten out of hand.” It’s broad, worldwide circulation has been, not only a surprise, but in some ways, intimidating.
Veterans Today has drawn writers from around the world, it has a covert focus, leaking intelligence, publishing analysis on world issues and taking a strong stand domestically on issues of treatment of war veterans and the misuse of our military. Our tough views on Israel’s current government we see as “defense related.” We believe American lives pay for political excesses of an ultra-nationalist regime in Tel Aviv and its apartheid policies.
We live in a separate reality from any other news source. We aren’t commercial, we have access to the highest levels of military and government and simply say the things “insiders” know are true. We hide things nobody else would imagine leaking, “hidden in plain sight” as it were, and we get away with it because we speak for a community, military, intelligence professionals, many at the highest levels, who are simply sick of seeing how dangerous and purposefully misinformed public has become.
You don’t understand? If you haven’t looked at the Republican candidates for president and wondered why Obama is laughing himself to death…..
Then again, there is Obama. Is he OK because most Americans are still eating, it could be worse, or should he be judged because of his failure to confront the 8 year national “suicide attempt” under the last Bush administration? How can you judge, there is no place to get information, not with a media that mixes biased reporting with wild conspiracy theory and fear mongering.
This is what has made Atzmon dangerous. “This?” The supposition made, that Israel isn’t about a “homeland for the Jewish people” but rather using that and trading off the holocaust to create a very unjust world, one continually at war, one destined for social upheaval, one increasingly unjust and one driven there with full cooperation of people of “Jewish identity” who are proving to be just as stupid as everyone else.
Then there is the “Antisemite” part. If a Jew in Israel or London is as poorly informed as a filling station attendant in Murphysboro, Tennessee, is it that much more serious because Jews are, for reasons not at issue, largely in control of both financial and media organizations that Atzmon says are at the root of what he sees as the decline of civilization into a century of barbarity?
Toward this end, how Gilad Atzmon began his path, growing up in Israel is a key component. As an American, I have been programmed to think of all Palestinians as terrorists. Having traveled the region, I now know that the media that put that idea before me, a hundred TV shows, biased news was a hateful and criminal effort. Working in the media, I am privately told that I had to be lied to all of my life to “help keep Israel safe.”
As a realist, I can see how insane that all is and was, how orchestrating racial hatred through systematic lies is one of the most reprehensible acts possible. Atzmon says this is at the center of “Jewish identity” practices and I agree. I see this injustice as a serious one but not the only one.
That was the education I got as a child, an education partially at the hands of that other “Jewish identity” politics, the one that seems to have gone away, a time when being Jewish politically meant you were part of a world movement for justice and humanity.
I was not raised to see Jews as the center of things, all good or all bad, as uniquely responsible.
I live in a country filled with people who are not Jews who would gladly practice any barbaric act, including those Atzmon points out that Israel perpetrates against its Palestinian population, and do so with glee. What acts, you might say? You see or hear nothing of this, to the contrary, you are continually told Israel’s are victims of vast and mysterious terror organizations. If this sounds like a TV show more than news, you are beginning to understand.
Once you learn the efforts made to sell this message, the “branding” and “game theory” involved, the response by some to Atzmon’s revelations is more understandable.
Americans love executing criminals. The problem there seems to be the indifference as to whether the “criminals” are actually criminals, as long as they are black. Over recent years, an examination of America’s criminal justice system, some using new sciences such as the easy and inexpensive availability of DNA evidence, has shown America’s “death rows” and prisons to be filled with the innocent.
This and a thousand other ills have been overlooked somehow, a population that, we are told, has lost its way, its moral center. I blame religious extremism and television but that’s me. I think Americans have been taught to accept injustice and to take pleasure in exercising their medulla more than their frontal lobes, to hate and blame, directed by a constant influx of lies. In a world addicted to drugs, from the illegal narcotics to the pharmaceutical “wonders” meant to save us all from the unpleasantness of taking responsibility for the world we have created for ourselves, dissemination of information is a form of drug delivery.
Atzmon will say the orchestration of those lies, of that path to inhumanity, was much a part of his upbringing in Israel, where fear and hate turned a generation bred for humanity and the arts into potential concentration camp guards.
Those of us who know the truth of Gaza and the real apartheid Israel also know the truth of what Atzmon writes. Those who want that truth withheld, and there are so many reasons to do that, mostly tied to the profitability of war and injustice, will attack this review as they have others.
See, I like Gildad Atzmon. To me he is like a child any parent would be proud of. He has a conscience. Having a child without one, something far more common than most suspect, is more than a failure. We have gone further than any other generation in history. We are capable of living a life in a world but seeing another. Media is that powerful.
A favorite film from long ago, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1946, was “The Best Years of Our Lives.” It is the story of an American soldier returning from the Second World War. His son walks up to him, “Pop (this was 1940′s vernacular for “father”) you must have seen alot.”
His father, played by actor Frederick March, replies, “I saw nothing but what was ten feet in front of me. You know more of the war than I do, much more.”
In a life that can be leaving an air conditioned house for an air conditioned car for an air conditioned store and then reversing the order, occasionally varying “store” for “restaurant” and adding “gas station” once a week, reality is seldom any more than the “10 feet in front of you” described by Frederic March.
Reality, such as it is anymore, is the mythology of interpretation, Orwellian for sure, based on our trust in those who own and control this reality to value truth above all things.
But we all know that not to be true…..
The Anti-Defamation League will put a page on the internet calling me an “Antisemite” for writing this. White supremacist websites will attack me for sounding too “Jewish.”
I will still recommend Atzmon’s book, mostly to Jewish friends who are trying so hard to understand the world around them.
A year ago, Atzmon’s message made him an outcast inside Israel. Today, in Israel as across the Arab world as well, everything is being challenged. Not everyone in Israel thinks like Atzmon. But, unlike a year ago, hundreds of thousands are protesting, asking questions and seeking answers. This is a generation that knows loss but doesn’t understand what they lost.
America has one much like it.
For them, for the young Israeli’s who want their history back, who want to know why mom and dad allowed them to be lied to for so long, Atzmon’s book may be the right thing. Best of all, it is human, it contains no message of hate and Atzmon can write.
For me, all I ask for is to be attacked for writing this. That will be the affirmation of my own humanity, proof of my own worth. Unless attacked by those who are genuinely evil, I feel empty. Gilad Atzmon and I share this. We welcome even more “onboard.”