Editors note: In the days following the (surprising to a lot of people who should have known better or at least suspected) massive victory of Hamas in the Palestinian general Parliamentary elections, there has been a great deal of fascinating discussion about the meaning of this. Many people who really love the Palestinians have complained that this was a terrible development and went on to explain why. Others did what was (to me) normal, and complimented the Palestinians on their achievement, wish them well and stress that support for their cause is as strong as it ever was, and that we would do what is our only duty: to put ourselves at their service. On this blog Gilad Atzmon wrote a really interesting article, Where to Now, Palestine? that stimulated a lot of discourse, including the diffusion of an open letter, by Elias Davidsson, which then received this reply by Atzmon. The interventions on many forums were frequent, bringing about a discussion on Universal Human Rights, to which Atzmon wrote Kant, Hamas and Human Rights.. Needless to say, the discussion, as is right in these instances, had widened and continued on a few internet forums, leading Atzmon to draw some conclusions about the discussions themselves and the direction they were taking.
He published an article yesterday here and elsewhere called Jewish Secular Fundamentalism which analyses the mode of many Jewish activists of claiming that it is essential to create a Secular society for Palestine, for the region, and to at some rate, create a Greater Middle East, under whatever banner, as a way of resolving the fact that Jewish people are the minority in this area that is vastly Islamic, and politicised in that way as well.
It didn’t take long for the usual forums to respond, as as a public service to those who don’t read the Haifa University Academic Left list, Just Peace UK, Movement for One Democratic Secular State, One-Democratic-State, or One-State, I reprint some of the letters offered to people to read and discuss, so that the debate can carry on where it has been followed by thousands of people so far. So, without further ado, I present the exhanges written by some of the people who had taken part: (mary rizzo, peacepalestine)
FROM GILAD ATZMON
Dear Roland and Shraga
It is rather obvious that many of us were against the Oslo agreement at the time. I left IsraHell in 1994 after realising what Oslo was all about; I just lost hope. The reason is simple: Oslo failed to address the Palestinian cause and this was more than enough for me and others, including you both. Yet, the point I raise in the paper is completely different. In the paper I argue that criticism suggested by Elam concerning Oslo, indeed looks like a valid argument (“But Elam offers what seems to be a sound argument”), but in fact it fails academically, something to do with its logical formulation. In other words, it is a proper technical issue. One should never present an historic event as a logical consequence. Alternatively, one should take the task of presenting a chain of events AS a logical pattern that necessarily leads toward a conflict, a resolution, or even just a singular event.
In practice, IF it was a logical necessity that Arafat would become the Israeli Sheriff, THEN we must ask you both why you didn’t suggest toppling Arafat and the PA back in 1993-4?
Again, this isn’t a criticism; regardless of your self expectation, I don’t expect you, or anyone, to be a prophet. If you had to be honest, all you could say at the time was that the chances for an appropriate resolution of the conflict were rather slim. But then, didn’t we all say just that? Anyhow, since you are great believers in democracy, I would expect you to welcome the Palestinians’ clear cut decision to change the fate of the PA. While I do not know what Roland’s take is on the subject, Elam has presented his. In any case, the paper isn’t about Elam or Machover. At the end of the day, I quoted Machover’s unmovable ideas. I am sure that the man is happy about it. I quote Elam’s paper, he can’t really complain. And in fact he didn’t.
Unwillingly, he tried to convince us that he was a proper prophet already in 1993. This is exactly what my paper is all about: The Jewish Secular Prophets! So you happen to agree with me. I am so happy with your approval. From my point of view, my paper is an exposure of the ‘exclusivist secular Marxist yeshiva’. As you may know by now, I believe that my one and only intellectual task is to expose and deconstruct the 3rd category network. I did it in the past with JPUK and I did it yesterday with JSF (Jewish Secular Fundamentalism). If you think that the main parameters of my argument are wrong, I would be delighted to know why. Obviously we have no dispute regarding Oslo. Yet the fact that you both are solely concerned with this side-issue, leads me to believe that you may agree with me on the rest of my argument. How to say, I am delighted to learn that you are capable of self-reflection.
—– Original Message —–From: Shraga Elam To: Alef Cc: Moshe Machover ; Gilad Atzmon Sent: Tuesday, February 07, 2006 10:00 PM Subject: Re: [alef] Jewish Secular Fundamentalism – By Gilad Atzmon.
I don’t have the time or the desire to go into detailed discussion with Mr. Atzmon. He reminds me strongly of my Zionist opponents and that he attacks Anti-Zionists Israelis with a longer record than his like Moshe Machover or Elisha Davidsson ( I’m in a very good company) does not exactly speak for him. I’ll just concentrate on one of his arguments. Mr. Atzmon wrote:”Needless to say that back in 1994, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinian could have predicted that the PA would become an extension of Israeli colonial apparatus. Within the last ten years Israel as well as the world went through some radical political changes.”
Mr. Atzmon doesn’t only demonstrate a poor understanding of the Oslo process, but also ignorance of the opposition to the Oslo Agreement from the moment it was made known. On the Palestinian side I’ll mention e.g. the PFLP and if I’m not wrong the Hamas as well. Also known intellectual like Azmi Bishara and Edward Said spoke out loudly against Oslo and didn’t have to wait “ten years”.
I presume that Atzmon can’t read German, otherwise I could recommend to him to read my analysis of the Oslo Process in the Swiss leftist weekly “Die Wochenzeitung (WoZ)” from September 3, 1993 (few days after the Oslo process was made public), which is also to be found in the internet: http://www.anis-online.de/pages/_1-ebene/ShragasRoom2.htm#930309. In the Palestinian-Israeli magazine “News from Within” from December 1993, I wrote: “The agreement between the PLO leadership and the Israeli government is without doubt an expression of a new reality. (…) Everyone concerned about the right of the Palestinians to independence and freedom, ever yone concerned that there should be a just peace in this region, should be aware of the various dangers inherent in the new situation, while at the same time focusing on developing methods and ways to avert, avoid, and fight them. This requires more than just subjective emotional reac tions or demonstrations.
Looking at the… new developments we can see a classical neo-imperialistic process going on. Instead of direct physical control over the colonized people, the tendency is towards a remote control mode, in which the Israelis, in this case, simply leave the dirty work to the Palestinians, while continuing Moshe Dayan’s old political line and “carrot and stick” approach with some modifications.” Other people besides me called already several times in the past for dissolving the PA, even PA spokepersons threatened with this step several times. There is actually nothing new about it besides the point that there is now a situation which might be more favorable for abolishing unilaterally the Oslo agreement which served Israeli interests and those of corrupted Palestinian politicians and business persons. This will also save Hamas the impossible dilemma it faces now of either making very painful concessions or risking a higher degree of political and economical isolation than even the Fatah regime experienced. Those who are playing with the illusions of alternative financial foreign support are not aware of the possibility that Israel will use the opportunity and intensify the siege by for example not allowing foreign aid from reaching a Hamas government. Those that believe that Hamas has now more military options than before must be dreaming. Only people who believe in hollow slogans can really think that the Palestinian political and situation will be now better than before.
I have to repeat myself the Israeli establishment is the main winner of the Hamas’s electoral victory. They can now justify more easily the escalation of the anti-Palestinian measures. This isn’t theory, this is something that something that we already experience. E.g. if Memri, the Zionist media watchdog brings correctly the Friday sermon by Hamas leader Khaled Mash’al at the Al-Murabit Mosque in Damascus February 3, 2006 (To view this clip, visit: http://www.memritv.org/Search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1024 , The English transcript can be read here: http://www.memritv.org/Transcript.asp?P1=1024), it is to be assumed that this address will not strengthen Hamas stand vis-à-vis Israel, US and the European country. Fantasizing about Islamic control of the world, like Mash’al does, is exactly the stuff that can feed the Islamophobic propaganda.
Together with Palestinian friends we launched a campaign against a Swiss Zionist propagandist who had accused that the Islam strives to control to the world. This propagandist was sued for infringing the Swiss Anti-Racism law. We lost the case as the judges in scandalous verdicts found that accusing Jews of desiring to control the world is racist and doing the same against the Islam is not to be considered so… Threatening with the use of chemical weapons was used by the US and Israel in 1990 to launch the campaign against Saddam Hussein and now Mash’al poses as a new Saddam Hussein. Will this declaration help the Palestinian?
I don’t want to get too personal about Mr. Atzmon but in his place I would be a little bit more cautious with political analysis, especially after his completely wrong assessment of the Israeli “Labor” party leader, Amir Peretz. The allegedly anti-Zionist Mr. Atzmon could not contain his enthusiasm about the success of the Ultra-Zionist opportunistic Peretz in winning the “Labor” party leadership as an alleged authentic voice of the Mizrahim (Jewish Arabs) in Israel. Something which Mizrahim activists themselves question (see e.g. Ha’aretz from today: ” Labor chief accused of neglecting Mizrahi voter base” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/679559.html – There are more Hebrew texts with harsher critique against Peretz dated from much earlier dates, before and after his elections).
FROM ELIAS DAVIDSSON
Gilad Atzmon – Jewish Secular Fundamentalism http://peacepalestine.blogspot.com/2006/02/gilad-atzmon-jewish-secular.html
There are very few anti-Zionist Israelis (or Jews) who are supportive of a just and lasting solution to the Palestine question, including the right of return, the abolition of the Zionist state and a unitary democratic state in the whole of Palestine. I guess such peoplE number in their tens, worldwide. Yet, it is against this group of loyal veterans of anti-Zionist struggle that Fausto finds time to write a long article. Perhaps Fausto wants to alienate these few people, leaving not a single person of Jewish descent willing to support the Palestinian struggle. The end-effect of such a tactic is to entrench an abyss between two communities which can only solved by power and violence. I thought that only Zionists were thinking along these lines. But it appears that I was wrong.
As for Fausto’s arguments, they cannot be taken seriously. Any person, whereever, is entitled to voice his/her opinions on any issue of international relevance, whether the question of Palestine or other issues. Shraga Elam could easily and happily find himself a cozy job in a Swiss university and let the Palestinians and Israelis fight i out among themselves, spending his life studying history. Yet, Shraga is genuinely and honestly concerned about what is going on in his former homeland, Palestine/Israel. I feel the same, although I live in Iceland. It concerns me, emotionally, not because of any vested interests. It has been all along my opinion that a liberation movement, which the PLO claimed to have been, must develop a winning strategy, and not merely fight from hand to mouth, in reaction to the oppressors. The PLO, alas, did not produce any viable strategy that could lead to the dismantlement of the Zionist state. Nor does Hamas has one. The empty rhetoric of both organizations hides impotence and the unwillingness to engage in a constructive vision. I will not stop my critique of these movements because some people who seem more catholic than the pope are attempting to gag me. I feel it a moral responsiblity to express my opinions when I consider that political movements are leading to disaster. The fact that a slight majority of the Palestinian people of the 1967 territories voted for Hamas does not necessarily mean that Hamas’ ideology and goals are correct or will lead the Palestinian people to victory.
The vote must, of course, be respected, as such. But this does not exclude a critique of Hamas (and of other Palestinian organisations).
It is below any intellectual standards to label Shraga Elam and other activists of Israeli origin as “fundamentalists”, let alone connect their views with the Talmud. As someone who supports Shraga Elam’s right to express his opinions on the Palestine question and who believes that he contributes positively to the debate, I feel Fausto’s attack as aiming also at myself. To conflate people of my background with the Talmud or with some Jewish thinking is a figment of the writer’s imagination, and has no relation to the reality.
I will kindly ask Fausto to refrain from hitting our Jewish friends who have shown more courage and more determination to struggle for Palestinian rights than most of the Palestinian diaspora, let alone masses of Arabs who don’t care a damn about Palestinians (see Lebanon).
Neither Fausto nor the new convert to fascism Gil’ad Atzmon will shut up those who struggle for justice and human rights. Elias Davidsson
FROM FAUSTO GIUDICE
Dear Elias !
I don’t understand your text here below. I never wrote anything by signing Gilad Atzmon, so why do you pretend to answer to me instead of answering to the author of the article, Gilad Atzmon himself ?
I only transmited the article of Atzmon to the list, in order to feed the ongoing debates. I agree only partially with Gilad but I find your labelling him as a “convert to fascism” really excessive.
I have unfortunately to much work presently to write anything on these topics myself. Canaanitley yours
FROM ELIAS DAVIDSSON
I am very sorry for having believed that you wrote this article. Please accept my excuses. Somehow I saw your name below and I thought that the name Gilad Atzmon was part of the article’s title. It was presented in such a way.
I sincerely believe that Atzmon is a “convert to fascism”. His declared admiration for the essentialist philosopher Heidegger (who strongly influenced Nazi ideology), his uncritical support of Hamas ideology (Hamas being in my opinion a fascist organisation) and his rejection of the concept of universal human rights, are elements which support my allegation.
Now, I do not dispute the right of thE Palestinian people to vote for a fascist organisation. Nor do I deny Atzmon to propagate anti-humanist opinions. I merely deplore these facts.
I will continue to stick to those principles which are recognized by the quasi totality of UN member states and enshrined both in the UN Charter and human rights treaties, and on which the Palestinian moral and legal claims are based.These principles have been violated by Israel and its allies, and in recent years by the Palestinian Authority. I will never retreat from a principled and honest support of Palestinian rights, nor will I accept that in achieving these rights, the fundamental human rights of Jews should be sacrified. One injustice does not justify another.
With kind greetings,
FROM GILAD ATZMON
Elias wrote: …I sincerely believe that Atzmon is a “convert to fascism”. His declared admiration for the essentialist philosopher Heidegger (who strongly influenced Nazi ideology),
Gilad: Hoy vey, I thought that we may be saved of this form of J banality, according to Elias: Derrida, Lyotard Sartre and Levinas (all inspired by Heidigger) must be even more facist than me.
E: …his uncritical support of Hamas ideology (Hamas being in my opinion a fascist organisation)
G: Hoy vey, how can an Islamic party be facist (a post marxist /capitalist view)? The man obviously doesn’t know what the word fascism refers to.
E: …and his rejection of the concept of universal human rights, are elements which support my allegation.
G: Following Kant, i reject an imposed notion of universalism, my paper about it was published all over the place. Elias must know about it.
E: Now, I do not dispute the right of the Palestinian people to vote for a fascist organisation. Nor do I deny Atzmon to propagate anti-humanist opinions. I merely deplore these facts.
G: OK so now it is Formal, ‘the Pls voted fascism’, sorry man, this is unacceptable!!!!!
E: I will continue to stick to those principles which are recognized by the quasi totality of UN member states and enshrined both in the UN Charter and human rights treaties, and on which the Palestinian moral and legal claims are based.
G: Apparently, this isn’t necessary the case anymore! Pls may claim their right based on Jiahd, what to do then, do we stop supporting them? I keep on!
E: These principles have been violated by Israel and its allies, and in recent years by the Palestinian Authority. I will never retreat from a principled and honest support of Palestinian rights,
G: Except the right of freedom of belief ….