By Gilad Atzmon for VT
“America is willing to sacrifice its young soldiers and national interests and even its economy for Israel,” Gilad Atzmon, who was born in a Jewish family in Israel and grew up in Jerusalem al-Quds, tells the Tehran Times. ”
Atzmon, who now lives in Britain, also says, “Israeli pressure groups seem to believe that they are actually more powerful and certainly more important than the American constitution.”
The following is the text of the interview:
Tehran Times: Numerous rights bodies have slammed Western countries’ arms trade with Israel. What is your comment?
Gilad Atzmon: For decades, Israel has been selling killing machines to the most oppressive regimes around the world and this shouldn’t be surprising, as Israel itself is at the forefront of the list of oppressive regimes.
Embarrassed by the Israeli government’s current arming of Azerbaijan in its war with Armenia, Holocaust scholar Israel W. Charny penned an article for The Times of Israel titled: Would Israel sell a used drone to a Hitler? Charny admits in his piece that Israel’s conduct is fundamentally unethical. He ends his commentary writing, “to my Armenian colleagues and friends, I can only say that as a Jew and as an Israeli, I am mortified – and angry.”
I would think that if Israel’s leading genocide historian allows himself to admit in an Israeli nationalist outlet that the Jewish State is profiting from non-ethical arms trade, the rest of us should be entitled to engage with this topic freely and to use every possible platform to denounce Israel or anyone else from profiting from non- ethical practices.
The issues go well beyond Israel’s arms trade. A few days ago we learned from the Jewish Press about a Bipartisan bill in America that would give Israel a say on Middle East arms sales. The bill “would require the President to consult with the Israeli government to ensure concerns are settled.” If the bill passes, the USA military industrial complex trade would be dependent on Israeli consent.
Tehran Times: How great is the influence of the Zionist and Jewish lobbies in the United States and how can this status quo change?
GA: The facts regarding the immense influence of Israel and the Jewish Lobby in the USA and other Western countries have been established for a while. One can refer to The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a detailed study by two of the most influential American social scientists (Prof. John Mersheimer & Prof. Stephen Walt). Another leading American political scientist admired by a generation of academics who also covered the topic is, of course, Prof James Petras in his book The Power of Israel in the United States.
What can be done about the well documented domination of AIPAC? I would like to believe that the most effective method to approach this topic would be to point squarely at The Lobby and its corrosive impact: this entails pointing the finger at the wars the USA fights on behalf of Israel, the sanctions that the USA mounts for Israel, the fact that America is willing to sacrifice its young soldiers and national interests and even its economy for Israel. Theoretically speaking, American citizens are entitled to voice such criticisms as freedom of speech is enshrined in the first amendment of their constitution.
Israeli pressure groups seem to believe that they are actually more powerful and certainly more important than the American constitution. A few months ago we learned that Right wing activists attempted to spread new laws across Republican controlled states that would suppress criticism on public university campuses of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territory.
By now, the USA is practically functioning as a remote and subservient Israeli satellite. I am unable to identify any genuine political force in the USA that can change this anytime soon. I do not see anyone within American politics who is willing to tackle the matter. But the American people, like the Brits and the French are no fools, they see it all.
Tehran Times: Though Israel is violating and defying international law on a daily basis, its Western supporters and allies continue to support these actions or at least turn a blind eye to what is taking place. How do you assess this double standard?
GA: In general, it’s a good practice not to overestimate people’s intelligence. But Israel and its Lobby make the opposite mistake; they tend to believe that people are far stupider than they are.
People do see what is going on and the general discomfort with Israel and its lobby is growing rapidly. People do notice Israeli criminality, they also notice their politicians on all levels operating as foreign agents for a criminal state. Israel and The Lobby interpret this rise of awareness as ‘growing anti-Semitism,’ but this is hyperbole. A general mass awareness has surfaced. The Israelis and The Lobby know that once you see the full picture, you can’t just un-see it. In that respect, Israel is facing a wall of silent resistance and the consequences of this reality are unpredictable.
It is fascinating to observe the tsunami of mass protests that we see within Israel against Netanyahu and institutional corruption. The Israelis, or at least many of them, are also tired of themselves being themselves. It is very possible that in line with Jewish history, it will actually be the Jews who bring their current empire down. As far as I can tell they are better at that battle than anyone else.
Tehran Times: How do the Western countries exploit Human Rights as a tool to apply their policies and how do they politicize Human Rights?
GA: Human rights issues are close to our hearts. We don’t like to see abuse of others, we hate discrimination, we are appalled by racism of any kind. Seemingly, some were clever enough to attach barcodes to these genuine universal and ethical feelings. As things stand, human rights matters have morphed into a profitable industry. Many human rights campaigns are funded by elements who are themselves dedicated human rights abusers.
Since the Palestinian struggle is close to my heart it took me little time to find out that while the BDS movement was receiving money from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, BDS changed its goal statement and practically gave up on the Palestinian Right of Return.
In 2012 the BDS National Committee in Ramallah made a crucial change to its goal statement. It changed the wording of its original (June 2005) mission statement from “demanding that Israel end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” to demanding that Israel end “its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967*” My attempt to find out who introduced this change revealed that this new wording first appeared in Omar Barghouti’s 2011 book, ‘BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: the Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights’ (page 6).
It seems that since 2011, The BDS National Committee basically abandoned the most precious Palestinian right—it drifted away from the commitment to land occupied since 1948 and limited its struggle to the liberation of lands occupied in 1967. Further attempts to clarify who made the change and by what process revealed that this significant change was made in a clandestine manner—it appeared only in English. It has never appeared in Arabic or any other language.
It is evident that the change took place behind the backs of the Palestinian people. Despite BDS’ claim to be a ‘civil society’ representing more than 170 Palestinian organizations, Palestinians were totally unaware of the BDS National Committee’s compromise of their mission.
Further investigation revealed that BDS—like most Palestinian NGOs—was funded by George Soros’ Open Society Institute. In 2013 I was asked to review a book titled Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, by Sarah Schulman. It was Schulman who resolved the mysterious change in the BDS goal statement. In her search for funding for a young Palestinian Queer USA tour in support of BDS, Schulman wrote that she was advised to approach George Soros’ Open Society institute. The following account may leave you flabbergasted, as it did me:
“A former ACT UP staffer who worked for the Open Society Institute, George Soros’ foundation, suggested that I file an application there for funding for the tour. When I did so it turned out that the person on the other end had known me from when we both attended Hunter [College] High School in New York in the 1970s. He forwarded the application to the institute’s office in Amman, Jordan, and I had an amazing one-hour conversation with Hanan Rabani, its director of the Women’s and Gender program for the Middle East region. Hanan told me that this tour would give great visibility to autonomous queer organizations in the region. That it would inspire queer Arabs—especially in Egypt and Iran…for that reason, she said, funding for the tour should come from the Amman office” (Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, by Sarah Schulman p. 108).
Here is clear and embarrassing evidence of a crude intervention made by George Soros’ institute in an attempt to shape Arab and Islamic culture and political life. We also learn about the manner in which Soros’ Open Society Institute introduces gay and queer politics to the region. Apparently money for a tour promoting Palestine and BDS is traveling from Soros’ Open Society to Jordan and then back to the USA with the hope that such a manoeuvre would “inspire” gays in Iran.
This makes it clear why BDS had “good reason” to remain silent regarding its funding sources. After all, being funded directly or indirectly by a liberal Zionist philanthropist, a man who also funds the openly Zionist JStreet and was invested in Israeli companies in the West Bank, is indeed embarrassing. But the meaning of it is rather devastating. The discourse of the solidarity of the oppressed is shaped by the sensitivities of the oppressor who funds the movement of the oppressed.
We see this in the Palestine solidarity movement, we saw the same thing in Occupy Wall Street and currently in some segments of BLM activity. Instead of genuinely caring for the oppressed, Human rights and solidarity movements often morph into policing forces that dedicate themselves to controlling the so-called opposition.
The case of the language of BDS has a good ending. Though Omar Barghouti didn’t change the words printed in his book where he bluntly compromised on occupied land demands on behalf of the Palestinian people. The BDS movement eventually changed its goal statement once again. It now resembles the original 2005 statement opposing occupation of ALL Arab Land.
Tehran Times: Why doesn’t Israel accept the idea of a nuclear-free zone in the region?
GA: The real meaning of thinking yourself chosen is in attributing a unique sense of impunity to yourself and to no one else. In real politics this means that your Jewish State is the only nuclear power in the region, your Air Force is the only one to fly F-35s, your army is not committed to any recognized ethical standards, your military industry trades with the darkest regimes around. Try to imagine a world where everyone believes themselves to be chosen.
In the Interview the Iranian outlet refers to me as “a Jewish political activist.” I wrote to the Tehran Times and pointed out that I am neither an activist nor I am a Jew. However, by the time I posted this article, my request is yet to make any impact.
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.”