Separatism: "Before 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." - Max 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 themselves.

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 dead Arab.'

Zionism developed 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.

Additionally, 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.

In 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).

A 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'...

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 left."

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 dead Arab.'

The similarities 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.

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.

Women should 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 are clear.

A 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 McCrossin).

Similarly, 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.

I 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.

The Single Narrative

Imposing 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.

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.

Within the 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 willingly obeyed.

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.

Zionism is 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.

Within the 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.

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.

Within the 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 civilians.

Until recently, 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 Sabra, the Settler, the Dyke and the Queer

"The Sabra, 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 appearances.

" 'But 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."
- Tough and Tender, an art installation by Gabi Gofbarg, 1992

Marginal politics is wrong
whether it appears on the right
or on the left.
Marginal politics is a call
against humanity.

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.

(Marginal 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 Jewish health).

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 be one.

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.

Marginal politics 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.

Conclusion

We 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 cultural boundaries.

Note: 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: atz@onetel.net.uk

[The above 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.

Click here to download free Gilad Atzmon MP3s.




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