By Gilad Atzmon
You’d think that Malcolm Hoenlein, who heads the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, would choose his words carefully.
However, in an interview with the Zionist The Times of Israel, Hoenlein spoke about antisemitism as a global “pandemic in formation.”
‘Pandemic’ is an infectious disease spread through human populations across a large region. So, according to Hoenlein, opposition to Jewish power and Israeli politics is a disease, both infectious and hateful, that is globally prevalent in Goyish populations.
In Hoenlein’s universe, the ‘chosen’ are always innocent while the ‘unchosen’ are eternally sick.
For Hoenlein, antisemitism “is not our (Jewish) problem. It’s society’s problem. It’s Christianity’s problem. It’s everybody’s problem, when there’s hatred against Jews. We’re the victims, we’re not the cause of it. It’s not because we did something wrong. It’s because of who we are and our values.”
But what are these values Hoenlein attributes to the Jews? Are they simply choseness and racial supremacy? Are they those ethical standards practiced by the Jewish state?
Is it a distinctly Jewish value to believe that the Jews are always innocent victims and the Goyim are barbarian hate-monger as contended openly by Hoenlein?
Anyone with a minimum understanding of Jewish culture and Judaism knows that the Jewish universe is dominated by Torah and Mitzvoth (rules and commandments) that, as opposed to universal ethics and values, are tribally based. Because both Judaism and Jewish culture are inherently tribal, there is no such a thing as Jewish universal values.
In fact, Haskalah, the Jewish enlightenment, was merely an attempt to mimic European secular universal values. Similarly, Zionism’s promise to make Jews ‘people like all other people, implicitly accepting that all other people were actually culturally and ethically superior.
Hoenlein points to “widespread concerns over the Israeli government’s total alignment with US President Donald Trump, which some fear could turn Israel into a partisan issue in the United States.” But if you think Hoenlein is advising Israel to stay away fromAmerican politics, you are wrong.
This Jewish American leader actually calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “invite to Israel the newly elected head of the Democratic party, Tom Perez, in a bid to cement bipartisan support for the Jewish state.” Hoenlein wants the Jewish state to dominate the entire American political spectrum — Trump, as well as the Democrats. Surely such an approach can only make American Jews even more loved by their neighbours.
Zionism in its early days agreed with the so-called ‘antisemites’ that Jewish identity was unhealthy and parasitic. Early Zionists promised to take the Jews away and to ‘civilise’ them by means of homecoming.
But Hoenlein intends the opposite. He insists that Israel dominates both poles of the American political exchange – obviously Hoenlein is the very personification of those Jewish symptoms the early Zionists promised to treat.
If Hoenlein is genuinely concerned with antisemitism, maybe accusing gentiles of being infected in a hateful disease is not exactly going to make Jews loved. If Hoenlein and the Jews really, once and for all, want to defeat antisemitism, all they need do is to look in the mirror and ask themselves, what is it about them that invokes such hatred in others?
Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born British jazz saxophonist, novelist, political activist, and writer.
Atzmon’s album Exile was BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. Playing over 100 dates a year, he has been called “surely the hardest-gigging man in British jazz.” His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore the music of the Middle East and political themes. He has described himself as a “devoted political artist.” He supports the Palestinian right of return and the one-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity, and Judaism, as well as his controversial views on The Holocaust and Jewish history, have led to allegations of antisemitism from both Zionists and anti-Zionists. A profile in The Guardian in 2009 which described Atzmon as “one of London’s finest saxophonists” stated: “It is Atzmon’s blunt anti-Zionism rather than the music that has given him an international profile, particularly in the Arab world, where his essays are widely read.”