Atzmon and Jewish identity

Israel/Palestine
on 595 Comments

Gilad Atzmon did an interview with me on Jewish identity. It’s pretty good, and it’s here. Though I regret my flip comment calling the Catholic church the church of pedophilia, apologies. Here’s a bit from it:


‘I think identity is multi-factorial,’ Weiss replied, ‘I feel American before I feel Jewish. I think that’s the achievement of my life, to have flipped those identities, and Jewish is second. I see Jewish as this great civilization that I am part of. That transcends borders, and it’s not Zionist. Zionism is like Shabbetai Tzvi, It’s a big chapter in a long story. Jews will survive this one too. Jews is: a sense of difference, yes, inevitably of elite identity, that’s part of Jewish history and one I struggle with. Jewish is a Story, a myth…’

Atzmon then didn’t include the stories I mentioned, fair enough, it’s his site, but I mentioned the Binding, the Abraham-Isaac tale that occurs on Mt Moriah in Jerusalem, and of course on Highway 61 in Minnesota, where I spent some little portion of my youth, in St Paul and Duluth. Which is part of the beauty of Jewish identity, that it’s fluid, and includes Dylan’s rendering of the binding as a real referent, and one that Americans can share in…

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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  1. W.Jones
    November 27, 2011, 6:21 pm

    I found Atzmon’s passage in his book, about Anne Frank and trying to raise awareness about past persecution to be moving and made me feel alot of sympathy for persecuted Jewish people, even if overall he was critical in this chapter about what he calls “identity politics.” In fact, I would say that his leftwing criticisms of nationalism provide a general background that make me feel even more humanitarian when issues about nationalist persecution comes up, regardless of the victims, since one of his goals is to go beyond nationalism.

    Another moving part of the book was on page 11 when he talks about how he was incapable of really playing and creating Arabic style music, until he reached inside his deep memories of hearing muezzin calls and his Arabic friends’ voices and spoke them with his saxophone.

    That is not to say I agree with everything- I think if someone wants to have explicitly Jewish dissident groups it is OK, just as it is OK to have Christian or Muslim dissident groups. So I think he is too harsh in this regard, which is one of his main points.

    But if he simply prefers nonreligious or nonethnic dissident groups, or finds them more advantageous, that should be fine too, just like joining a religious dissident group would be.

    Anyway, I am still reading parts of it. So far that is my impression: in some places he is moving and actually makes me alot more sympathetic to the Jewish people who were persecuted in Europe. But he seems too harsh about national-oriented dissident groups in general.

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