the emancipation, the Jew was a stranger among the peoples, but
he did not for a moment think of making a stand against his fate.
He felt himself as belonging to a race of his own, which had nothing
in common with the other people of the country. The emancipated
Jew is insecure in his relations with his fellow-beings, timid with
strangers, suspicious even toward the secret feeling of his friends."
Nordau, address at the first Zionist Congress, Basle, 1897
The term 'separatism'
refers to the process in which a minority group chooses to break
away from a larger group. Separation is called for as soon as the
marginal politician senses immanent danger of integration into mainstream
society. Separatism refers not only to attempts to create alternative
societies, but also to exclusionary practices within marginal communities
underlying premise of
lesbian separatism is that men
cannot or will not change.
Consequently, women can only
guarantee their own freedom
by detaching themselves from men.
Some separatist women suggest
a need for violent confrontation
with men to overthrow their power.
Not surprisingly some of the
most radical lesbian separatists
would prefer to live in a world
entirely free of men and some
have gone so far as to state that
'Dead men don't rape'.
One is reminded here of the
equally devastating Zionist expression
'A good Arab is a dead Arab.'
as a reaction to the emancipation of European Jewry, a process that
started with the French Revolution and spread rapidly all over
Europe during the nineteenth century. By the late nineteenth century
a few prominent assimilated Jews (such as Nordau, Herzl and Weizmann)
realised that emancipation of the Jewish people might lead towards
the disappearance of the Jewish identity. Their argument was simple:
ghetto walls had been demolished and yet Jews were failing to integrate
into European life.
the Europeans were accused of being insincerely sympathetic towards
Jews: 'The nations which emancipated the Jews have mistaken their
own feelings. In order to produce its full effect, emancipation
should first have been completed in sentiment before it was declared
by law.' The argument is of a very basic character: first you should
love me and only then should you marry me. This idea appears reasonable
but we have to remember that, unlike a love affair, civil life is
based on respect rather than affection. I expect my neighbour to
respect me; he may as well love me but I can never demand it.
order to support their views, Zionists illustrated an image of emerging
anti-Semitism. Their illustration was far from accurate. In fact,
by the late nineteenth century Jews were already deeply involved
in every possible aspect of European civil life. Moreover, the Zionist
leaders themselves were highly integrated within their Christian
context. But a persistent myth of persecution was needed.
On Oct 15,
1894 Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the sole Jewish member of the French
army's General Staff, was detained on charges of spying for Germany.
Throughout his trial Dreyfus declared his innocence. For many it
was clear that Dreyfus was a victim of a despicable racist allegation.
Theodor Herzl, a prominent Viennese journalist who traveled to Paris
to cover the trial, was moved by the saga and deduced from it that
assimilation was doomed to fail.
The only solution according to Herzl was '[a] promised land, where
we can have hooked noses, black or red beards without being despised
for it. Where we can live at least as free men on our own soil,
and where we can die peacefully in our own fatherland' (Judenstaat,
Theodor Herzl). Apparently the trial had an immense impact on
Herzl but, as Lenni Brenner points out, 'Herzl misunderstood the
Dreyfus case. The secrecy of the trail, and Dreyfus' insistence
on his innocence, convinced many that injustice was done' (Zionism
in the Age of the Dictators).
long time ago I found that
through the replacement
of the word 'woman' with 'Jew'
and the word 'man' with 'gentile',
a lesbian separatist text could be
transformed smoothly into a
radical Zionist pamphlet and vice versa. Lesbian separatism is a
it requires a shift from the
realisation that 'every woman
can be a lesbian' to the radical
'every woman should be a lesbian'...
In fact the
case created a huge surge of gentile support. Although Dreyfus never
managed to clear himself (in a retrial that took place in 1899,
Dreyfus was found guilty again), the French government bowed to
pressure and reduced his sentence. Following the intense support
of French intellectuals and the European left, Zionism lost its
grip in France. The French Jews felt truly emancipated. Herzl's
displeasure was evident in the following extract from his diary:
'[French Jews] seek protection from the socialists and the destroyers
of the present civil order truly they are not Jews anymore. To be
sure, they are not Frenchmen either.
They will probably
become the leaders of European anarchism.' It would appear that
Herzl, a marginal politician, sensed better than anyone else the
immanent threat of Jewish integration. This example illustrates
the essence of separatist ideologies; they aim at putting barriers
between people. As we can see, Herzl, the
separatist politician, came up against his fellow Jews. Separatism
is a strategy of ghetto building and Zionists have followed this
strategy since the late nineteenth century. And yet, who are the
first to suffer? Of course, those Jews who are weak enough to take
Zionist Separatism seriously and those who are doomed to be born
into a Zionist reality in Israel.
The case of
lesbian separatism is very similar. In the 1970s, when women were
closing social gaps and achieving greater equality, a radical militant
feminist tendency developed. In her article 'The Way of All Separatists'
(Blatant Lesbianism, 1978 Sydney Magazine. P.10-13), Ludo
McFingers writes: "They hate men, see women as a sex class,
support biological determinism, reject reformism and despise the
underlying premise of lesbian separatism is that men cannot or will
not change. Consequently, women can only guarantee their own freedom
by detaching themselves from men. Some separatist women suggest
a need for violent confrontation with men to overthrow their power.
Not surprisingly some of the most radical lesbian separatists would
prefer to live in a world entirely free of men and some have gone
so far as to state that 'Dead men don't rape'. One is reminded here
of the equally devastating Zionist expression 'A good Arab is a
between Zionist and feminist separatists are evident. Moreover,
from time to time the two radical ideologies merge into a singular
devastating voice. When it was suggested to the American Jewish
feminist Andrea Dworkin that the idea of Womenland was insane she
answered: "didn't they say that about Israel? And didn't the
world think that Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement,
was a crank? The Jews got a country because they had been persecuted,
said that enough was enough, decided what they wanted and went out
and fought for it.
politics is maintained
by hostility against oneself.
In order to sustain marginal politics
one should evoke loathing
against oneself. Zionists need
burned synagogues and
lesbian separatists need rape victims.
If there were no burned synagogues
the Zionist would burn some himself.
If there were no rape victims
the lesbian separatist would invent a lie.
Within the separatist worldview,
such behaviour is legitimate
because strategy and campaign
are more important
than any moral code.
From a separatist point of view
everybody out there is an enemy.
do the same. And if you don't want to live in Womenland, so what?
Not all Jews live in Israel, but it is there, a place of potential
refuge if persecution comes to call as the Jews fought for Israel
so women have the right to execute, that's right, execute, rapists
and the state should not intervene" (Guardian, 13 May 2000).
Earlier in the same interview, Dworkin, the 'far left' activist,
admitted that 'She remains a supporter of Israel's right to exist,
of the Jewish right to have their own state and the Jewish right
to fight back against those who tried and still try to kill them;
just as she thinks that women have the right to fight back, even
kill, the men who have abused them.' Dworkin may represent the views
of a minority but the ideological similarities between the two calls
long time ago I found that through the replacement of the word 'woman'
with 'Jew' and the word 'man' with 'gentile', a lesbian separatist
text could be transformed smoothly into a radical Zionist pamphlet
and vice versa. Lesbian separatism is a form of 'ultimate feminism';
it requires a shift from the realisation that 'every woman can be
a lesbian' to the radical perception that 'every woman should be
a lesbian' ('Women,
Wimmin, Womyn, Womin, Whippets? On Lesbian Separatism', Julie
a Zionist would argue that 'every Jew should be a Zionist' rather
than that 'every Jew can be a Zionist'. Some Zionists would go further
to argue that since Israel is 'the state of the Jewish people' every
Jew should be seen as a Zionist. Accordingly, rejection of Zionism
by a Jew should be considered an act of treason, or at least self-hatred.
Naturally, most women would not seriously accept their categorisation
by radical feminists.
would say that, at least before the Second World War, the majority
of Jews were offended by the Zionist call. It appears that the Holocaust
and its industrial exploitation by Zionist institutions changed
the attitude of the world Jewry towards Zionism
and Israel. The Holocaust was the biggest Zionist victory, just
as a single case of a rape is seen by feminist separatists as proof
of the validity of their theories. As we have seen, marginal
politics is maintained by hostility against oneself.
In order to sustain marginal politics one should evoke loathing
against oneself. Zionists need burned synagogues and lesbian separatists
need rape victims. If there were no burned synagogues the Zionist
would burn some himself. If there were no rape victims the lesbian
separatist would invent a lie. Within the separatist worldview,
such behaviour is legitimate because strategy and campaign are more
important than any moral code. From a separatist point of view everybody
out there is an enemy.
lingual restrictions within the mainstream discourse serves the
marginal cause. Political correctness is, in fact, a political stand
that doesn't allow any political opposition. On the surface it looks
like a revolt against the notion of freedom of speech. But the marginal
politician aims at establishing a single narrative, a singular vision
of reality, with a clear particular historical account.
A single narrative
is an interpretation that opposes the possibility of competing interpretations.
It is a narrative that includes a refutation of any possible competitive
narrative within its body of arguments or set of ideas. The marginal
politician aims to dictate the acceptance of a single narrative
within both the margin and mainstream society.
correctness is, in fact,
a political stand that doesn't
allow any political opposition.
On the surface it looks like a
revolt against the notion of
freedom of speech.
But the marginal politician
aims at establishing a single narrative,
a singular vision of reality,
with a clear particular
margin, such a task can be easily achieved. Since marginal identity
is based on collective identifying with an artificially constructed
set of ideas, meanings and appearances, all the politician has to
do is locate the desirable narrative within the body of the identified
set. Being a Zionist simply means that one is identifying with the
Zionist single narrative. For instance, it means a total acceptance
of the Zionist vision of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as well
as an acceptance of the official Zionist account of the Holocaust.
But then, how
can the marginal politician impose a single narrative on the entire
society or on distinct cultures? How can he impose politically correct
idioms? The case of the Holocaust is a classic example. No one in
the West is allowed to suspect the official Zionist narrative of
the Holocaust and this prohibition is (in some countries) imposed
by law. Furthermore, Zionists demand that their enemies, the Arab
countries, endorse their Holocaust narrative.
While every junior Second World War researcher realises that the
official Zionist tale falls short of providing a comprehensive account
of the complexity of the events, no one is allowed to suspect the
Zionist tale in public. Anyone who exposes the extensive collaboration
between the Zionists and the Nazis is labelled a 'revisionist';
anyone who suspects the figures, the measure, or even the order
of events becomes a Holocaust denier. It would appear that Zionists
have managed to prevent the West from accessing one of the most
devastating chapters of Western history. The West, it seems, has
How does the
Zionist manage to dictate a single narrative? My view is that, at
certain moments, the Zionist narrative has suited Western leading
classes and political decision-makers. For instance, the Zionists
shaped their narrative to make it fit nicely into the post-Second
World War American worldview. Herein lies the essence of political
Zionism: it is an attempt to establish symbiotic relationships between
Zionism and major colonial forces. This is the story of the bond
between Zionism and the different super powers: first the Ottoman
Empire, then the British Empire, now the United States.
not unique in this respect. It is not a coincidence that feminist
groups were the first to 'declare war' against the Taliban, many
years before President Bush realised where Afghanistan was (assuming
that he now knows). And yet very few marginal groups have been as
successful as Zionists in dictating their narratives. I have no
doubt that the official Zionist account of the Holocaust suited
the victorious Anglo-American Allies very well.
vast acceptance of the tragedy of the Jewish people, no one really
found the time to discuss in detail the Allies' murderous bombing
raids of German cities, clear attacks against innocent German civilians.
According to the Zionist narrative, the Americans were the liberators
(which isn't really the case: it was mainly the Soviets who liberated
the East European camps) and the Germans were the killers.
politics in practice
specialises in robbing its followers
of their most basic human qualities.
Zionism, being a radical form of
marginal politics, should be seen as
an anti-humanistic movement.
commonly adopted Zionist Holocaust narrative there is little reason
to talk about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Why should we? Isn't Auschwitz
terrible enough? The Americans represent the ultimate good; the
rest are evil (sometimes even the 'axis of evil'). This very restrictive
worldview allowed the Americans to turn their attentions to Korea,
Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Since the Second World War there
has not been a single year in which the USA has failed to bomb innocent
Americans were seen by many as the ultimate liberators, the champions
of democracy and freedom, those who fought Hitler and liberated
Europe. But in practice it wasn't even Hitler that they fought with,
it was Stalin. The decision to raid the beaches of Normandy in June
1944 was actually the outcome of Hitler's defeat in Stalingrad.
The Americans and British realised that unless they join the war
in Western Europe immediately, they would soon have to face a reality
of red soldiers in Calais.
The Americans didn't only endorse the Zionist Holocaust narrative;
they owned at least some of the copyrights. Within the heavily dictated
Zionist Holocaust narrative, the Allies liberated Europe and saved
the Jews. The fact that the main initiative was blocking Stalin
has been completely neglected. The Zionists never raised too many
questions. They never asked their allies why they did little to
help the Jews during the war. They never really asked why they didn't
bomb Auschwitz. Within the acceptance of the Zionist account, many
of the most crucial questions have been pushed under the carpet.
This obviously suits both the Americans and the Zionists.
Thus, the domination
of a marginal single narrative should be understood as an outcome
of a symbiotic partnership between the margin and some key elements
within the centre. It usually happens when the marginal narrative
is made to suit the mainstream narrative. Consequently, the Zionists
should realise that the success of their Holocaust narrative might
be temporary. Within a political and intellectual shift in the West,
the Zionist tale will be abandoned or at least severely modified.
the Settler, the Dyke and the Queer
Tough and Tender - the Native born Israeli has been given a sobriquet
'Sabra' after the wild cactus which flourishes in the arid soil
of Israel, the fruit of this plant is prickly on the outside and
soft in the inside. This implies that our sabres are tough, brusque,
inaccessible and yet surprisingly gentle and sweet within. The nickname
is given affectionately and is borne with pride of our young, who
enjoy the reputation that they cannot be 'savoured' from outward
you don't look Jewish' is the dubious compliment a young Israeli
usually receives when he goes abroad. The Sabra is usually a head
taller than his father, often blond and freckled, often blue eyed
and snub nosed. He is cocky, robustly built, and likes to walk in
open sandals in a free swinging, lazy slouch."
and Tender, an art installation by Gabi Gofbarg, 1992
politics is wrong
whether it appears on the right
or on the left.
Marginal politics is a call
I would like
now to analyse the prospects of marginal stereotypical behaviour
in terms of a dialectic of identity. It is apparent that marginal
identities are quick to adopt eccentric behavioural codes that make
the marginal subject unmistakably distinguishable. On the surface
it would make sense: the newly liberated identity celebrates its
detachment from the oppressive mainstream society. It would seem
as though the marginal subject was revealing its 'true self'.
As discussed above, the notion of manifested true identity cannot
be taken seriously. Nonetheless, we can allow ourselves to move
one step forward. If the notion of the real self is left out or
vague, then an external means of identification is required. This
would explain the fact even the most lefty Zionists, those who regarded
themselves as atheists, haven't given up on the idea of circumcising
their sons. All things considered, appearance is more important
than ideology. Marginal identities make themselves easily distinguishable
in the crowd. This applies to the Sabra, the settler, the orthodox
Jew, but also to any other stereotypical marginal identity (the
dyke, the queer and so forth).
I will now
dig into one of the most notable twentieth-century caricatures of
marginal identity, the Sabra. Zionism claims to reveal the true
essence of the liberated Jew. The Sabra is the stereotypical icon
of that liberated identity.
As we should
expect, the Sabra, being a separatist Jew, is defined in terms of
negation in relation to the 'inauthentic' diaspora Jew. 'Like a
wild cactus' the Sabra 'flourishes in arid soil', while the despised
humiliated European Jew declines mentally in reactionary Europe.
The Sabra 'is prickly on the outside and soft in the inside', while
the 'speculative capitalist' 'Diaspora Jew' appears soft on the
outside but is extremely shrewd where business is concerned. The
Sabra is 'tough and tender'; he can kill like a real 'man' when
he has to but this doesn't stop him from crying like a 'woman' on
the 'Weeping Wall' as soon as he has completed an invasion of the
Old City of Jerusalem.
He can ethnically cleanse the entire Palestinian population on Friday
and then attend a 'Peace Now' demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday
evening. Unlike the 'softy' humiliated bent Jew, the Sabra is tough;
he is 'a head taller than his father'. Like a German soldier he
is: 'often blond often blue eyed He is cocky, robustly built.' But
then unlike a German soldier he likes to walk in open (biblical)
sandals in a 'free swinging, lazy slouch'. Basically he is kind
of a compromise between an SS commander and a biblical Moses. A
kind of Nazi in jeans, a puss in boots. As interesting as this caricature
is, there is nothing authentic about this outrageous construction.
As an Israeli male secular Jew between the 1940s and 1980s, one
was destined to participate willingly in a process that would rob
one of any sense of authenticity.
politics) is about
erecting walls and building ghettos,
whether those ghettos are made
of bricks and mortar, concrete
or simply cultural boundaries.
As funny as
it may sound, the birth of the settler Jew, a radical messianic
militant who plans to confiscate the entire 'land of biblical Israel',
is an attempt to bring the Sabra back home. It is an effort to resolve
the impossible schizophrenic Sabra identity. Like the Sabra, the
settler walks in open sandals in the winter; like the Sabra he is
slightly athletic and robustly built (until the age of twenty-two,
when he grows a gigantic belly that stands as a symbol for good
But then, unlike the Sabra, he has a skullcap on his head, his Tzizit
falls out of his trousers and patches of hair cover his young face.
He is far from being handsome. As a matter of fact he is pretty
ugly. Needless to say, he fails to resemble a Wehrmacht soldier.
He looks very much like a diaspora Jew strapped to an Uzi automatic
rifle. He looks like a Jew because he is one and he is proud to
May I mention,
within the same breath, the astonishing fact that the biggest crimes
against the Palestinian indigenous population were committed by
so-called left Sabras, by young IDF officers, soldiers such as Rabin
and Sharon (for those who don't know, Sharon's political origins
are within the Israeli left; for years he himself was an icon of
young Israeli male beauty). We may now be able to explain the Israeli
left's hypocritical and merciless conduct. People who are engaged
in the process of identification arrive eventually at a complete
detachment from any possible authentic understanding.
They cannot behave in an empathic manner because they cannot put
themselves in the place of the other; they simply lack any sense
of 'self-ness'. If we consider Kant's 'categorical imperative' which
implies that one should 'always act in such a way that the maxim
of one's action can be willed as a universal law', we should agree
that it is not applied in the case of the Sabra. He simply lacks
a lucid notion of self. If one is totally identified with a remote
collective icon, then the 'maxim of one's action' is, in practice,
the action of a collectively identified subject.
Thus, in the eyes of the Sabra his action is a form of 'universal
law'. In other words, the Sabra has no ethical sense, not to mention
realisation of universalism. This revelation might explain the fact
that within the Israeli political world, it was Menachem Begin,
the diaspora Jew, who initiated the peace process with the Arab
world. It may also be the reason that it is Shimon Peres, the other
diaspora Jew, who is still engaged in a process he mistakenly regards
as a peace process.
The case of
radical feminists is similar. The astonishing labelling of the entire
male gender as rapists can only be understood in terms of a severely
troubled ethical sense. More than often we come across a groundless
story of a man who is blamed for sexual harassment. I am not trying
to argue that sexual harassment doesn't exist; I am simply trying
to illuminate the conditions that make such ungrounded accusations
possible. I am trying to expose the structure of collective victimisation.
I would argue that collective victimisation results from a surrender
to the process of identification, a surrender which leads to an
absence of empathic and moral sense.
that occasionally presents itself as the expression of the oppressed
is, in fact, engaged in the robbery of the
marginal subject's notion of the self. Marginal
politics in practice specialises in robbing its followers of their
most basic human qualities. Zionism, being a radical form of marginal
politics, should be seen as an anti-humanistic movement. This may
explain the Zionist conduct: past, present and future.
But then, we
cannot really blame the marginal subject. The Sabra murderer isn't
really an authentic subject; it isn't him who kills, it is the 'identity',
the caricatured identity, he is destined to bring to life. The separatist
lesbian who wants men out of the world doesn't really express her
own wish; that separatist isn't really her, but rather a collective
singular identity she adopts, an identity that exists merely in
a platonic ideological realm.
should leave the old binary left/right behind us. What matters is
not whether one is in the right camp, how good one is at producing
lefty arguments, nor the content of one's political outlook. What
matters is one's strategy of justification. Marginal politics is
wrong whether it appears on the right or on the left. Marginal politics
is a call against humanity. It is a call against the multiplicity
of the human landscape. It is a rejection of the idea of being amongst
others. It is about erecting walls and building ghettos, whether
those ghettos are made of bricks and mortar, concrete or simply
Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli
military. He is the author of the new novel A Guide to the Perplexed.
Atzmon is also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in
Europe. His recent CD, Exile, was named the year's best jazz CD
by the BBC. He now lives in London and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
first appeared in Counterpunch Jan 22/24 2005. CounterPunch is one
of the top 10 sites for political journalism on the net. Edited
by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, CounterPunch sets out
to tell the facts and name the names whether in battles against
the war machine, big business or the rapers of nature.]
You can buy Gilad Atzmon's albums, Musik and Exile, at http://www.jazzcds.co.uk/store/commerce.cgi?product=GiladAtzmon.
Atzmon also played on Robert Wyatt's Cuckooland which is a BigO
Album of the Year 2003.
to download free Gilad Atzmon MP3s.