Bread, Butter and Brotherhood: Addresses Keith Kahn-Harris' Criticism
06 December 2017
By Gilad Atzmon
Gilad Atzmon addresses Keith Kahn-Harris' criticism in the Forward
Every few months The Jewish Forward, a New York so- called progressive outlet,
appoints one of its less gifted writers to destroy Gilad Atzmon. This week,
Keith Kahn-Harris, a London-based sociologist, took on the mission.
"Cloaked In Pretensions, Gilad Atzmon's Anti-Semitism Soldiers On" is the
title Khan- Harris gave to his article. As we will see, Khan-Harris
desperately tries to present yours truly as a pretentious masturbatory writer,
but instead he takes us on a spectacular journey through a hollow Jerusalemite
mind. Khan-Harris fails to substantiate any of his claims. Actually, it seems
that by the time Khan-Harris reaches the end of his piece, he has become
something resembling an avid converted 'Atzmonite.' Read for yourself:
"Atzmon's diagnoses of the pathologies of the 'post-political' age certainly
resonate with the zeitgeist in a time when extraordinary new alliances and
ideological fusions emerge on a daily basis. Atzmon can offer a patina of
philosophical respectability, a thrilling sense of intellectual discovery, to
fellow adventurers - and even if he might wish it to be otherwise, his
disavowed Judaism provides a useful alibi to anti-Semites."
I can assure Khan-Harris, that his paragraph would make my Israeli mother
Khan-Harris' commission was to portray my work as a directionless anti-Semitic
rant. Here, according to Khan-Harris, is an example of my worthless
"I suggest that instead of looking at the world through the rigid lens of the
Right/Left dichotomy, or a particular ideological perspective, it is more
instructive to impose an alternative (meta-ideological) method that juxtaposes
"the human" i.e. the human condition, with the political spectrum as a whole.
Instead of imposing any particular ideology, be it Right, Left, Capitalism,
Fascism and so on, I examine the complementarity between a political system
and the human condition." (Gilad Atzmon, Being in Time - A Post Political
I am, naturally, very proud of the above, but Khan-Harris complains that I
used the terms "'complementarity', 'meta-ideological' and 'the human' simply
to position myself as a sophisticated thinker. He points out that "the quote
resists easy comprehension, not because he [Atzmon] is offering a difficult
and complex mode of theorising, but because its argument is absurd."
In scholarly terms, this is a promising beginning. Perhaps Khan-Harris is
about to demonstrate the 'absurdity' of my core argument. Let's see what
evidence this 'academic' presents.
"Atzmon is claiming that his writings transcend ideology, that he speaks from
a place of common, universal humanity. This is not only arrogant, it is
delusional. We all speak from somewhere."
That a tribal academic is unable to cope with the 'universal' is no surprise.
After all, the tribal and the universal are like water and oil. But
Khan-Harris fails to understand that the universal, no doubt an abstract term,
is actually 'a thing' and even 'an authority.' This is an indication of how
far removed Khan-Harris is from accomplishing an intellectual exercise.
Khan-Harris continues, "Being in Time, like Atzmon's previous book, The
Wandering Who? is founded on the conceit that it is both possible and
ethically essential to reject 'identity' and any form of politics that would
speak for it. This is a ridiculous argument: humans can no more transcend
identity than they can transcend elbows and body odour; identity is nothing
more than the way we define ourselves in the world."
Our 'sociologist' seems to contend that the human condition has morphed
radically in the last three decades. Does he really believe that we, the
people, can't find our way without the assistance of the identitarians and a
bunch of cultural Marxists? How does his statement even resemble an academic
or scholarly argument? Where or what is the argument? From a formal, logical
perspective Khan-Harris' statement is constructed like a mitzvah or biblical
commandment rather than a scholarly position. Kahn-Harris could have saved our
time and reduced his extended 'criticism' into a one-liner - "Gilad Atzmon is
totally wrong. Because!"
But I am by nature a kind and experienced educator and so I will assist the
Jewish social scientists. Khan-Harris' statement that "humans can no more
transcend identity than they can transcend elbows and body odour," is neither
a 'law of nature' nor it is axiomatic. It is merely a peculiar identitarian
position that begs support, something Khan Harris fails to produce. I wonder
whether he or anyone can.
Rarely Kahn-Harris comes closer to his target, "Jewishness is the original
sin, according to Atzmon." Though I wouldn't use those words. I do see a deep
problem at the core of Jewishness. But what is Jewishness? In my work, rather
than criticising Jews (the People) or Judaism (the religion), I focus on
Jewish ideology (Jewishness) - the racially oriented sense of entitlement
known to Jews as choseness (ניבחרות, Hebrew). The concept of choseness is
overwhelmingly familiar to every self-identified Jew, whether Zionist or
'anti.' It is embedded in the philosophy of those who claim someone else's
land in the name of a book they don't even believe in. And it is also
symptomatic of the anti Zionists who operate in racially exclusive cells and
believe that it is down to the Jews to give Palestinian solidarity a "kosher
Jewishness, hence, refers to Jewish ideology. It contains a manifold of
different Jewish exceptionalist precepts. But Khan-Harris' argument is that
Jewish ideology (Jewishness) is beyond criticism. Unwittingly, he provides
support for my definition of Jewish power. Jewish power as I define it, is the
power to suppress criticism of Jewish power. In his Forward article
Khan-Harris preforms a clumsy attempt of just that sort. He really doesn't
want us to discuss Jewish ideology. I wonder, is there any other ideology he
shields or is it just the Jewish one that better be protected?
And what is it, you may wonder, that makes Atzmon an 'anti-Semite'? Here he
"Being In Time features some anti-Semitic tropes from central casting: Atzmon
decries 'Jewish power' and the silencing of critiques of it; he takes
sideswipes at billionaire and left-wing donor George Soros, at Jewish
dominance of international finance, at 'cultural Marxism', at the neo-Marxist
intellectual movement known as the Frankfurt School, at Jewish volunteers in
the Spanish civil war and at many others. He also cites the work of
anti-Semitic thinker Kevin MacDonald and even Henry Ford's The International
Jew with approval."
Notice that Khan-Harris doesn't want any discussion of Soros or the extent of
cultural Marxism's influence. And his argument? He doesn't make one. We are
still paddling in the Mitzvah swamp where thought is devoid of reason or
logos. It is true, I am attracted to controversial texts. I have learned that
the books they are desperate to burn are exactly where disclosure (Heidegger,
I guess) comes into play. I believe that Kevin MacDonald's Culture of Critique
is one of the 20th century's most important texts on Jewish culture and
survival strategies. I do not agree with MacDonald on some issues. MacDonald
has criticised my work for avoiding a biological argument. Yet, within the
Athenian realm, open debate is where humanity comes alive.
In Being in Time, I exercised care in how I dealt with the books The
International Jew and The Bell Curve. I explained the controversies to my
reader. I used the books not because I agree with every word in them, but
because I wanted to focus on certain arguments in each book that I regard as
crucial to an understanding of contemporary affairs. I accept that because I
irreverently insist upon delving into 'prohibited' texts, I elicit anger and
fear within the progressive ghetto. And this suggests that the burning of
books is at least evoking some guilt.
In Being in Time I delve into the unique ability of self identified Jews to
dominate both poles of pretty much every debate considered relevant to Jewish
interests. For instance, Jews are at the centre of the capitalist world and
advocacy of free markets. And they are also at least as dominant amongst anti
capitalist revolutionaries. Many Jews, as we know, affiliate themselves with
Zionism, but at the same time, it is Jews who are at the vanguard of the
so-called anti Zionist call. As a 'sociologist,' Khan-Harris might be expected
to find this phenomenon interesting and try to explain it.
Instead, Khan-Harris writes, "this Jewish colonisation of almost every point
on the political map is the reason why, as Atzmon sees it, we are living in a
'post-political' world in which politics has become irrelevant, power acts
unchallenged, and the freedom to speak has been extinguished." I really can
not detect an argument. Or even a counter argument. Of course, in the realm of
mitzvoth and commandments there is no need for counter arguments. This is
precisely the difference between Athens and Jerusalem.
"If there is hope for Atzmon, it lies in a 'return to Athens'…he identifies
the latter (Athens) with a fearless search for truth, for discovering the
'essentials' of the human condition… In contrast, Jerusalem stands for
authority, law and obedience, for a 'political correctness' that shackles
truth." This is a correct description of my argument in Being in Time. Let's
see what Khan- Harris, the prototypical Jerusalemite, makes of it. "In other
words, the only hope for humanity is to transcend its essential, flawed
Jewishness." My call is for a departure from Jerusalem, it is Khan Harris who
equates Jerusalem with Jewishness. I would like to believe that Khan-Harris
fell into this obvious trap because he could easily identify Jerusalem at the
core of his own Jewishness. While I differentiate between Jerusalem and
Jewishness, it seems that most Jews do not know where Jerusalem ends and
In his desperation to establish an argument that holds water, Khan-Harris
writes "Atzmon denies he is a racist, partially on the grounds that he loves
the work of Charlie Parker and other African-American jazz musicians." This is
just wrong. I'm not a racist because I hate racism. I'm not a racist because I
dedicated my adult life to fighting racism through my music, my writing and my
public life. I'm not a racist because I hate biological determinism and I
oppose racially exclusive politics whether it is White, Black, Aryan, Zionist
or 'anti-Zionist'! In none of my work is there a single critical reference to
anyone as a biology, as a race or as an ethnicity. If Khan-Harris or anyone
else can point at a place where I criticise people as race, I won't just issue
an apology, I will join my foes and publicly denounce myself.
Towards the end of his article, Khan-Harris affirms that there is " Atzmonism"
there: a body of ideas that offers a new outlook on the Jewish universe and
its role in the world. Khan-Harris is right, and it is no secret that my work
has been endorsed by some great scholars and humanists. And if there is 'Atzmonism'
out there, Khan-Harris lacks the subtlety to grasp its depth.
"Another central tenet of Atzmonism, namely, that anyone who identifies as a
Jew in any way cannot be, for Atzmon, an ethical human being." Now here,
Khan-Harris has failed to do his homework. In The Wandering Who? I acknowledge
that Jewish identity is complex. It is an identity that is largely threefold:
part religion, part ancestry and part politics. In my work on Jewish identity
I reference only the 3rd category: those who identify politically as Jews.
Within the third category there is no dichotomy between Zionists and Jewish
anti Zionists for both identify politically as Jews. Both are engaged in a
racially oriented exclusive political discourse.
"So how dangerous is Gilad Atzmon? " Khan-Harris asks. Apparently very and
why? Because "Old-style anti-Semites such as David Duke are certainly happy to
cite him approvingly. After all, the only good Jew is an ex-Jew." It seems
that I am also dangerous because, despite the relentless Jewish terror
campaign against my supporters and me, I am still "invited to speak in some
leftist circles." Khan-Harris may be too dim to grasp that he has written a
certificate of approval for my work. My philosophy gets past the banal and
dated Left/Right binary. My work is warmly endorsed by people on the Left, the
Right, communists, nationalists, humanitarians as well as racists. I do not
fit and do not want to fit within the binary left/right universe. I offer an
alternative. A possible vision of unity, a concept that could bring people
together. And when I speak about people being together I obviously refer to
everyone, including Jews who, unlike Khan-Harris, are inspired by the
universal and accept that it is out there even if they can't touch it or
reduce it to shekels.
In case you were hoping for a Holocaust free article you are about to be
disappointed. "Atzmon is deliberately apathetic about the Holocaust and other
atrocities against Jews, nodding towards without completely embracing both
justification and denial." This is true. Since Jewish history is basically an
endless chain of holocausts, I don't see any particular reason to delve into
one shoah and skip another. Instead, I prefer to ask what is it about the Jews
that arouses so much animosity in others in so many different places and
I grew up in Israel in the 1960s and 70s. Some members of my family had
numbers tattooed on their forearms. Obviously I was aware of the holocaust and
Jewish suffering, but like other Israelis of my generation, I didn't want to
identify with suffering and victimhood. As a thinking adult with an affinity
for philosophy, I came to realise that history is the attempt to narrate the
past as we move along. Accordingly, history is a revisionist adventure. To
revise the past is to allow ethics to come into play. For me, understanding
the Holocaust for real is to prevent the next one—to understand once and for
all, what is it that provokes hatred on a genocidal scale. Israel and Zionism
are fascinating test cases. Zionism was a promise to bring about a new
civilised Jew. It vowed to make Jews people like all other people. Zionism
failed and its failure is a window into the core essence of Jewishness. My
study of Jewishness suggests that there is no collective remedy for the Jewish
question. If you care enough; break out, run for your life. Search for the
universal, the ordinary, the bread, the butter and brotherhood.