Are the Independent Jewish Voices or the IJV really independent? Why is it that they have to frame their belief in freedom and human rights within the Jewish discourse? Author and musician Gilad Atzmon explains.

Gilad Atzmon.

The Palestinian activist Reem Abdehadi, when asked for her opinion about Jewish anti-Zionist campaigners, said sarcastically: "they are very nice, all fifteen of them…"

I was rather happy to read in yesterday's Guardian that "A group of prominent British Jews will today declare independence from the country's Jewish establishment, arguing that it puts support for Israel above the human rights of Palestinians."

It is indeed about time that Jewish people with influence in art, academia, business and the media raise their voices against Israel's crimes and its supportive lobbies around the globe. It is rather crucial that Jewish people should openly succumb to true ethical and universal thinking rather than clannish monolithic discourse solely concerned with tribal maintenance.

Earlier today, I logged on to check out what the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) have to say. If to be honest, though I found more than a few of my friends enlisted, I was rather disappointed with the views expressed by the group.

Once again it was an 'image' of moral thinking rather than an authentic ethical commitment. Once again it was a glorifying exposition of Jewish righteousness rather than simply acknowledging the Palestinian cause, i.e., the 'right of return'. Disappointingly, the declaration wittingly avoids confronting the kernel of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since it is rather established that the Palestinian cause is largely orientated around the mass expulsion of the indigenous Palestinians in 1948 and the failure to resolve the refugee catastrophe, avoiding the issue is nothing less than denying the Palestinians the most elementary human right: the right to live on one's land. Avoiding the refugee issue is nothing less than dismissing the Palestinians of the most basic human rights.

In other words, when the JIV says "Human rights are universal and indivisible and should be upheld without exception. This is as applicable in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as it is elsewhere," what they really mean is "Human rights are universal as long as you are not a Palestinian who wants to return to his land." I may admit that I find this approach rather disappointing. I would really love to believe that more than a few of the Jewish Independent Voices do agree with me on that one. I want to believe that they really fail to grasp what they were signing.

But the independent Jewish humanists do not stop just there; they also say "Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives." This may be true. Yet somehow, it sounds to me too much like the highlight of Olmert's speech. People are entitled to live in peace, nevertheless, the occupier and the colonialist cannot expect to live a secure life. I would even suggest that Jewish intellectuals who dismiss this crucial point might find it hard to secure their position as 'independent ethical voices'.

The Independent Jewish Voices expect all sides as well to comply with 'international law'. And I think to myself, in a world where America is a single superpower, international law and UN resolutions have very little to do with ethical thinking. Moreover, even the historically accepted 1947 partition resolution is non-ethical to the bone. Once again, I would expect the ethically orientated Independent Jews to stand out and promote ethical thinking rather than resolutions that are grounded by hegemony and military might.

Eventually, the prominent independent Jews spit it out. They are really against anti-Semitism. "The battle against anti-Semitism is vital and is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic."

While on the verge of complete dismay, I wonder, wouldn't it be sufficient to just be against racism in general? Why is it that Jews who regard themselves as Independent Jewish Voices have to declare that fighting anti-Semitism is 'vital'? The reason is simple. They insist upon not being seen as anti-Semites by their 'less independent' brothers. In other words, they, the independent voices, are far from being liberated. They are far from being independent. They are totally imbued within the Jewish discourse. And their message to the world is nothing more than the old two state solution.

I am not impressed.

Note: Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of two novels: A Guide to the Perplexed and the recently released My One and Only Love. 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:
Click here to order Gilad Atzmon's CDs and books.

Articles by Gilad Atzmon:
Pour Out Your Fury Upon The People Of Lebanon And Gaza
The Tyranny Of Pronouns
The Myth Of
The Open Society: The Politics Of Auschwitz
Zionism And Other Marginal Thoughts

Other articles:
Liberating The American People, by Philip Cheah

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February 23, 2007