The magical and yet extremely subtle gift that Gilad Atzmon offers through his personal journeys in The Wandering Who?is the wisdom of disillusionment; the gift of not floating above water, but having to take an insightful dive into a shrouded underworld of appearances and disappearances.
The Wandering Who?: intelligent, bold, unapologetic.
At a certain stage, around 2005, I thought to myself that I might be King of the Jews. I have achieved the unachievable, accomplished the impossible. I have managed to unite them all: Right, Left, and Centre. The entirety of the primarily-Jewish British political groups: the Zionists, the anti-Zionists, Jewish Socialists, Tribal Marxists, The Board of Deputies, Jewish Trotskyites, Jews for this and Jews for that, for the first time in history all spoke in one single voice. They all hated Gilad Atzmon equally.
Gilad begins his book, The Wandering Who? with a brief story of his childhood and the tremendous influence of his grandfather on his adolescence. He writes “my grandfather was a charismatic, poetic, veteran zionist terrorist. A former prominent commander in the right-wing Irgun terrorist organization …” He writes about his attraction to jazz, his enlistment in the IDF (Israel Defense Force), and finally being sent to the first Lebanon war. He writes of his experience in Lebanon saying:
I studied the detainees. The looked very different to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. The ones I saw in Ansar were angry. They were not defeated, they were freedom fighters and they were numerous. 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’. It took me years to admit to myself that even the binary opposition Jew/Nazi was in itself as result of my Judeo-centric indoctrination.
This becomes the focal point of the transformation in Gilad’s young character. He writes “This was enough for me. I realized that my affair with the Israeli state and with Zionism was over.” InTheWandering Who?, Gilad divides Jews into three main categories: (1), those who follow Judaism; (2), those who regard themselves as human beings who happen to be of Jewish origin; and (3), those who put their Jewishness over and above all of their other traits. He regards the first two categories as harmless and innocent groups of people. Gilad is not so kind to the third category, however. This group is the primary focus in his book. He goes beyond the what to the how and why. Like a forensic scientist, he dissects them piece by piece historically, economically, philosophically, psychologically, and politically.
Zionism: A Global Network
Israel is not a colonial power and does not function as such. Colonial powers form an equilibrium with the indigenous peoples whose land they occupy. They have a parasitic nature that knows their survival is based on cooperation with and even helping the indigenous peoples, albeit on a very minimum level. We have seen this with the colonization of India by the British, Algeria and Morocco by the French, and South Africa by Afrikana apartheid. Israel’s function is more that of a cancer that consumes its host resources until there is nothing left, consequently destroying itself as a result. As Farid Esack, a South African scholar, writer and political activist, known for his opposition to apartheid, says in his open letter to the Palestinian people, “Israel is not an apartheid, it’s worse.”
Gilad also writes:
Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine, as some scholars suggest. Zionism is actually a global movement that is fuelled by a unique tribal solidarity of third category members.
Zionism: Realm of Hungry Ghosts and Animals
By referring to hungry ghosts and animals the intention is not to dehumanize Zionists but is a reference, from a Buddhist teaching, to two of the six realms of existence, describing states of mind that human beings inhabit at any given time. The hungry ghost realm applies to those who are never satisfied, perpetually discontented no matter what they have. The animal realm refers to those without reason, who function solely by instinct and are incapable of identification with others. As Gilad put it:
Also, considering the racist, expansionist Judeo-centric nature of the Jewish State, the Diaspora Jew finds himself or herself intrinsically associated with a bigoted, enthnocentric ideology and an endless list of crimes against humanity.
Israel is the only country recognized by the United Nations without any roots in the land it occupies. In 1947, the newly formed United Nations brought a group of people from the four corners of the planet and located them in one place and called this ‘chicken soup’ the State of Israel. But more was needed in order to legitimize this newly made nation. They needed national history, which they conveniently borrowed from the Bible. It did not matter how fictional the Biblical story of Jews are. As Gilad put it, “the Jewish people is a made-up notion consisting of an imaginary past with very little to back it up forensically, historically, or textually.”
Zionists’ claim of Jewish ancestral homeland is echoed by the Christian right and Christian Zionists primarily in the historically ignorant United States population, 20% of whom still believe the earth is flat, and 55% regard evolution as a hoax. Furthermore, the majority of people in the U.S. accept the Bible as a historical and factual book.
The magical and yet extremely subtle gift that Gilad Atzmon offers through his personal journeys in The Wandering Who? is the wisdom of disillusionment; the gift of not floating above water, but having to take an insightful dive into a shrouded underworld of appearances and disappearances. He disarms his critics beforehand by saying: “I am a proud self-hating Jew”.
Although Gilad discusses an extremely sensitive phenomenon in every sense of its meaning and implications, nothing is taboo for him; even those subjects which have been expressly forbidden to explore lest one be labeled anti-Semitic or worse. Gilad recalls: “While in the past an anti-Semite was someone who hates Jews, nowadays it is the other way around, an anti-Semite is someone the Jews hate.”
Further on he writes about Holocaust as a religion:
To a certain extent, the Holocaust religion signals the final Jewish departure from monotheism, for every Jew is potentially a little God or Goddess. Abe Foxman is the God of anti-defamation, Alan Greenspan the God of ‘good economy’, Milton Friedman is the God of ‘free markets’, Lord Goldsmith the God of the ‘green light’, Lord Levy the God of fundraising, Paul Wolfowitz the God of US ‘moral interventionism’. AIPAC (the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) is the American Olympus, where mortals elected in the US come to beg for mercy, forgiveness for being Goyim and for a bit of cash.
Whether or not one agrees with Atzmon’s views, his book would propel Jews and non-Jews equally toward a better understanding of Israel, Zionism, and Jewish identity, beyond news headlines or state propaganda. This book is the odyssey of one man’s transformation within transformation, the end of which is yet to be written.