The Wandering Who?: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics

The Wandering Who?: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Gilad Atzmon

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  • Publisher: Zero Books
  • Format: Paperback | 177 pages
  • Dimensions: 138mm x 212mm x 14mm | 259g
  • Publication date: 30 September 2011
  • Publication City/Country: Ropley
  • ISBN 10: 1846948754
  • ISBN 13: 9781846948756
  • Sales rank: 62,107

Product description

An investigation of Jewish identity politics and contemporary Jewish ideology using both popular culture and scholarly texts. Jewish identity is tied up with some of the most difficult and contentious issues of today. The purpose in this book is to open up many of these issues for discussion. Since Israel defines itself 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.

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Author information

Atzmon is a world-acclaimed jazz saxophonist and composer, a member of the Blockheads and fronts the Orient House Ensemble. He has published numerous political and cultural essays. See: www.gilad.co.uk www.myspace.com/giladatzmon www.jazzaproductions.squarespace.com

Customer reviews

By George Polley 06 Nov 2011 5

The grandson of a former prominent commander in the right-wing Irgun terror organization, Gilad Atzmon was raised to believe in Jewish righteousness and Arab duplicity. To him, as to the majority of Israel's Jewish citizens, Palestinians were just people who wandered about doing low-paying jobs. And then, late one night on a radio jazz program, he heard Charlie "Bird" Parker and his saxophone and his world suddenly expanded. He had never heard such organic, poetic, sentimental and wild music in his life. Then he discovered that Parker and his fellow jazzmen were black Americans, and made a second discovery: Jews were not the only people in the world to create great things, they were only one people among memory. Thus began his awakening.

And then he joined the IDF at the beginning of the first Israel - Lebanon war and went to Ansar, "a notorious Israeli internment camp in South Lebanon." The Palestinians he saw there were very different from the Palestinians he was familiar with in Jerusalem. These men were not defeated, they were angry freedom fighters "and they were numerous." Walking along outside the barbed wire, he arrived at what he calls "an unbearable truth: he "was walking on the other side, in Israeli military uniform, and I was nothing but a 'Nazi'." Reading that, I was reminded of a day in the summer of 1954 when my best friend let me know what it had been like growing up black in my home town (Seattle). I was shocked to my core. How could anyone do that to my friend, and to all his friends and family members. It was as much a life-changing experience for me as was Gilad Atzmon's experience walking the perimeter at Ansar.

Gilad Atzmon asks some very uncomfortable questions in this book. Who are the Jews? What is Jewishness? Are the Jews one People, as Zionist and Israeli ideology says, or are they a conglomerate of many peoples who have merged over the years. His conclusion, and mine, are that they come from many origins, not one. The notion that they are the descendants of exiles from ancient Israel is good mythistory, but it is just that. So the modern State of Israel has no foundation or justification in history, no right to occupy Palestine and drive out its Arab inhabitants.

Atzmon has been accused of being an anti-Semite (a word that has come to have a very narrow meaning as "someone who criticizes Israel"). Yet nowhere in the book does he refer to Jews as an ethnicity or "race"; instead, he differentiates between Jews (the people), Judaism (the religion) and Jewish-ness (the ideology). It is this third category that is significant because it signifies a political commitment to defend the Jewish State, even if it means betraying the country you live in an are a citizen of. Zionism's greatest strength, he writes, has been transforming Jewish-ness into a thought collective that can be counted on to serve Israel.

This is a valuable book that deserves the popularity it is receiving.

Review quote

It is a scholarly and truly monumental work, deeply profound and, of course, controversial. (Alan Hart, British Journalist and covert diplomat in Middle East, ITN's News at 10, BBC's Panorama) A seriously funny writer and the wittiest musician since Ronnie Scott. We're lucky Gilad Atzmon is around. (Robert Wyatt, musician and founding member of Soft Machine)