Lieberman and the Jewish Political Continuum

Gilad Atzmon
Gilad Atzmon's Blog

Following Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman’s address at the UN last week, Aluf Benn wrote (1) in Haaretz:

“During the past few weeks, Netanyahu invested a great deal of effort in trying to convince the leaders of the world that he is serious about peace with the Palestinians. He asked them to ignore the resumption of settlement construction, and convinced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to quit the negotiations.

Now comes Lieberman, Israel’s most senior diplomat, and tells all those leaders that… Netanyahu is faking. Even worse: the foreign minister is implying that Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is merely cover for the expulsion of Arab citizens.”

Netanyahu, Barak and many other Israelis are often ‘outraged’ by FM Lieberman. I guess that Israelis grasp that their senior diplomat exposes the Israeli ploy: when Israelis talk peace -- what they really mean is war with no end. When Israeli government spokesmen insist that Lieberman “misrepresents Israeli Government’s policies” -- what they really mean is that he fails to repeat the Israeli official lies. As it stands, Lieberman’s UN speech few days ago, conveys not only Israeli cabinet vision, it is also a devastating glimpse into the Israeli mindset, worldview and spirit. Lieberman is a transparent image of the Israeli desire for racial and cultural homogeneity. Many Israelis claim to detest him and his ideas: but my guess is that they grasp that Lieberman is actually their true mirror. Otto Weininger wrote in “Sex & Character” that people hate in others that which they detest in themselves. Many Israelis ostensibly oppose Lieberman because he reminds them of the bigot whom they can’t stand in themselves. Some people do not like to look in the mirror; others are devastated when the mirror gazes back at them with pity.

“We, the Israelis are united”, Lieberman told the UN assembly (2) , “now we have a stable coalition, stable government and we have the support of a majority of Israel's citizens.” Lieberman is obviously correct: the Israelis are now more united than ever. In fact, there is no political opposition in Israel except from the Arab parties. Yet, “we are not ready to compromise our national security or the vital interests of the State of Israel” Lieberman continued.

This says it all : unlike the rest of humanity who regard the concept of peace as a means towards reconciliation and harmony, for Lieberman -- and in fact for every Israeli politician I can think of -- the word ‘peace’ only translates as ‘security for the Jews’

Lieberman is no fool. Unlike the Israeli so called ‘peace camp’ who rally for Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines, the Israeli Foreign minister knows that occupation alone is not the root of the problem. He also understands that a further Israeli withdrawal won’t significantly change anything. Rather, Lieberman fully understands that the right of return is actually at the heart of the Palestinian cause, yet he is not willing to discuss it. Instead, Lieberman insists that “recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people” is of the essence, because he basically wants Israel to be a ‘Jews only’ club. And it is crucial to admit here, that this point is also totally vital for Israelis and Zionist Jews around the world too.

But here, there is a shocking twist: whilst we understand that Zionists insist on operating within a ‘Jews only’ club -- the Jewish anti Zionists are apparently not much different. For some reason, the Jewish opponents of Israel also insist on operating in what seem to be just more Judeo-centric tribal dissident political cells. It is pretty obvious that the ‘Jewish boat to Gaza’ was a Jews only vessel. I can only assume that ‘Jews for Peace’, ‘Jews for Palestine’, and ‘Jews against Zionism’ are then, all simply different exercises in a Jewish national and tribal politics that is also racially orientated, or, at the very least ethno centric. For some reason ‘Political Jews’ do not like to mix with others, whether it is the Likud party, ‘Yisrael Beiteinu or ‘Jews for Peace in Palestine’.

Lieberman was actually totally honest in the UN when he admitted:

“we should focus on coming up with a long-term intermediate agreement, something that could take a few decades.”

It is completely obvious that the Israelis are not ready for peace. It may, indeed, take decades before they encompass the notion of harmony and reconciliation. One may also wonder at this stage, if the Jewish left is any different? How many years will it take before ‘Jews for Peace’ understand that solidarity with Palestine is a universal humanitarian cause? Is not 200 hundred years of Jewish assimilation [*] enough time for Jews to join the battle for humanism as ordinary participants? I myself would love to believe that even a day is more than enough. Clearly the facts suggests otherwise.

Lieberman admits that “the guiding principle for a final status agreement must not be land-for-peace but rather, exchange of populated territory”. This idea obviously appeals to most Israelis -- because it emphasizes and expresses the true meaning of a Jewish affinity towards segregation.

Embarrassingly enough, this affinity toward isolation is also inherent within the Jewish left. On the one hand, we have the Global BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction for Palestine) (3), a movement driven by a universal and ethical call to boycott Israeli Goods -- yet on the other hand we have also the J-BIG (Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods) (4) who rally for the exact same cause -- but would accept Jews only. For some reason, even the ‘good Jews’ ( those who oppose Israel and Zionism ) refuse to share political space with the Goyim. One may also wonder at this stage, how can anyone boycott 'as a Jew’? What is implied by this ethno centric political call? Do they really refuse to buy Caterpillar boots or Motorola phones -- ‘as Jews’? I was a Jew for the first four decades of my life, and I somehow, never managed to do a single thing solely and exclusively ‘as a Jew’.

Along the years I have challenged a few secular Jewish anti Zionists : I ask them why do they insist on operating politically as Jews -- especially considering the fact that they claim to be secular, or even atheist? What do they actually mean then, when they say, ‘as a Jew I support X or oppose Y’. I have never yet heard an answer that was decent enough to report.

I am afraid that Lieberman is brave enough to provide an answer: He does speak ‘as a Jew,’ and it seems he is at least consistent and coherent, though somewhat deluded. Expressing it as ‘historical truth’, he speaks of

“almost 4000 years during which the Jewish People were born in the Land of Israel, while developing the corpus of ethical and intellectual treasures that have been instrumental in giving rise to Western Civilization.” Lieberman goes on to claim that “2000 years of forced exile, and interim conquest by Byzantines, Arabs, Mamelukes, Ottomans and others, cannot, and never will, impair the unbreakable bonds of the Jewish People to its homeland. Israel is not only where we are. It is who we are.”

Evidently, Lieberman regards the Bible as a historical text. He believes in a Jewish continuum. He seems to consider that the Old Testament’s ‘eye for an eye’ is the spiritual foundation of Western Civilization. He is obviously wrong : he is probably not familiar enough with Athens. Lieberman also fails to realize that Jesus’ preaching for universal brotherhood was actually an attempt to counter, revise and amend Hebraic tribalism.

Yet, Lieberman is at least crystal clear in his vision. He believes in an ‘eternal bond’ between ‘spirit’ and geography: Israel is not ‘just where we are’ -- it is also ‘who we are’. This statement is actually crucial for an understanding of what is assumed by Zionists to be a ‘magical’ power inherent within their world view.

However, Lieberman is clearly misinformed -- a brief reading of Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People would help him trace his Khazarian ancestors. And yet, Lieberman is at least articulate . His identity assumes meaning, because it cements Jewish contemporary existence with Talmudic supremacy. It sets out to frame the ‘here and now’ within an historical context. It bonds the current robbery of Palestine with a very similar Biblical tale of plunder. I guess that these facts alone explain why Lieberman is a major political player in the Jewish state. It also explains why the Israeli government followed and approved his demand for a ‘Loyalty oath’ to the Jewish state.

If we want to understand Jewish political identity; If we want to understand the depth of Israeli belief in racial supremacy (or alternatively why nine brave Jews insist on breaking the siege on Gaza in a ‘Jews only’ yacht), Lieberman is a key figure. It is actually Lieberman the right wing hawk who helps us to understand the insular ‘Jews for Palestine’, J-BIG and J- Street.

Lieberman is becoming more and more popular amongst Jews and Israelis. He is a key member in the Israeli coalition. Jewish anti Zionism, on the other hand, is far from being popular amongst the Jewish masses. If we talk in terms of numbers, it is not even marginal. True, it is loud, occasionally verging on noisy, but it is far from being clear about what it is trying to achieve. It is inconsistent and still apparently founded on a misleading myth of ‘Jewish universal and ethical tradition’. The truth of the matter though, is devastating: There is no coherent Jewish secular value system; instead, there are just different modes of Jewish political exceptionalism.

For some peculiar reason, the Jewish left refuses to intermingle within the rest of the solidarity movement. Instead of grasping, once and for all, the true dynamic meaning of universalism, pluralism and ethics, it is there to exchange symbolism. ‘We want to show’, they seem to be saying, ‘that there are some good Jews around’.

I guess however, that Jewish leftists are too intellectually lame to grasp that such a statement is actually the ultimate form of anti Jewish racism: because it says to the world that ‘the rest of the Jews’ are indeed, little more than reactionary Zionists.

It refers to ‘the rest of the Jews’ then, as a non-ethical collective.

I do realize that many of us detest Lieberman, but the truth must be said -- the Israeli Foreign Minister is an eloquent glimpse into contemporary Jewish politics and identity politics.






[*] On September 29, 1791, France became the first country in the world to emancipate its Jewish population. By 1796, Britain, and the Netherlands had granted the Jews equal rights with gentiles. Napoleon also freed the Jews in areas he conquered. By the beginning of the 20th century Jews were emancipated throughout Europe. And yet, for some reason, Jewish left has failed to assimilate. It operates as an exclusive political cell.


Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel in 1963 and had his musical training at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem (Composition and Jazz). As a multi-instrumentalist he plays Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxes, Clarinet and Flutes. His album Exile was the BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. He has been described by John Lewis on the Guardian as the “hardest-gigging man in British jazz". His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore political themes and the music of the Middle East.

Until 1994 he was a producer-arranger for various Israeli Dance & Rock Projects, performing in Europe and the USA playing ethnic music as well as R&R and Jazz.

Coming to the UK in 1994, Atzmon recovered an interest in playing the music of the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe that had been in the back of his mind for years. In 2000 he founded the Orient House Ensemble in London and started re-defining his own roots in the light of his emerging political awareness. Since then the Orient House Ensemble has toured all over the world. The Ensemble includes Eddie Hick on Drums, Yaron Stavi on Bass and Frank Harrison on piano & electronics.

Also, being a prolific writer, Atzmon's essays are widely published. His novels 'Guide to the perplexed' and 'My One And Only Love' have been translated into 24 languages.



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