Truth In Your Face: ... And What About The Holocaust?
29 December 2017
By Gilad Atzmon
German Speaking website Muslim-Market interviewed me this week about the
current debate around my recent appearance at the NRhZ ceremony. We spoke
about History, the Holocaust, Israel, Jewishness... all those things Germans
prefer to shove under the carpet.
MM: Mr. Atzmon, there has been a lot of nonsense written about you in the
western media because of your critical positions on Israel. We would like to
use this interview to understand your opinion and to correct the false
reports. It is said, for example, that you are relativizing Hitler's crimes
against the Jews. Is that true?
Atzmon: I will be as clear as I can. To start with, I am subject to slander
and defamation because I extended my critique of Israel beyond the boundaries
of mere political criticism or denunciation of 'Zionism.'
I realised that since Israel defines itself as the Jewish State we better find
out what the 'J word' stands for: Who are the Jews? What is Judaism and what
is Jewishness? While Israeli Jews have a relatively good understanding of
these 3 concepts and how they relate to one another and to Zionism, to Israeli
politics and to Israeli existence, the Jewish Diaspora and Jewish Left in
particular prefer to keep these notions blurred and confusing. This is the
primary reason for the campaign against me. I moved the discourse beyond the
banal Zionism vs. 'anti' rant. Those who follow my work understand that
digging into Jewishness, the ideology at the core of choseness, of which
Zionism is just one symptom, provides many answers. Further, if I am correct,
it may suggest that the solidarity movement was led astray for decades and
didn't achieve a thing for good reason. I should also mention that in my work
I have never criticised Jews as people, or as a race, biology or ethnicity. I
also refrain from dealing with Judaism (the religion). I restrict myself to
criticism of ideology, politics and culture.
MM: ... and what about the Holocaust?
Atzmon: My position in regard to the Holocaust is very clear. I argue that
history is the attempt to narrate the past as we move along. As such, it must
remain an open dynamic discourse that is open to change and revision. I
contend that history is essentially, a revisionist adventure. I am therefore
against all history laws (Nakba, Armenian Genocide, Holocaust etc.) Like many
other scholars, I see that the Holocaust has been reduced to a religion. It is
dogma. It lost its universal reflective qualities, it is not about an ethical
message anymore. And if the Holocaust is the new religion, all I ask is to be
To address your question. The notion of 'Holocaust relativization' is in
itself a meaningless or absurd notion. History is a relative adventure. We
grasp the past by, for example, equating Hitler with Stalin. We examine the
difference between the ethnic cleansing committed by the 3rd Reich and that in
Palestine by Israel.
Hence the demand to stop thinking about the past in relative terms is in
itself a religious dogmatic demand for blind adherence. I won't surrender to
such a ludicrous rule and no one else should.
MM: You once said that you are proud to be a self-hating Jew. Why don't you
just convert to another religion as you have already changed your citizenship?
Atzmon: To start with, I do not discuss my personal religious affairs in
public. But I can assure you that I have not been a Jew for many years. I am
not the type of a person who could easily join any organised religion. But I
enjoy following Jesus' ecumenical lesson in my own way. I learned to love my
neighbours, and to seek truth and peace. This is my personal Jihad.
MM: There are quite a number of Jews, including those in Israel, who resist
the policy of occupation. For example, we had the honor of interviewing peace
activist Prof. Nurit Peled-Elhanan. Your criticism of Israeli society is
portrayed as completely undifferentiated in the media. Is your view really
Atzmon: I don't agree with that portrayal. I have a lot of respect for some
Israeli dissident voices such as Shlomo Sand, Gideon Levy, Uri Avnery, Nurit
Peled, Yoav Shamir, Israel Shamir, Israel Shahak and others. I refer to their
work occasionally. I was the first one, outside of Israel, to review Sholomo
Sand's 'The Invention of the Jewish People.' As I mentioned above, I do not
criticise people or religion. I deal with ideology, politics and culture.
MM: As an Israeli army soldier you were in Lebanon and saw Palestinian refugee
camps. What influence did this experience have on your development?
Atzmon: It was Lebanon 1982 that made it clear to me that I shared little with
my people and would have to drift away sooner or later. It was in Lebanon,
upon seeing the refugee camps that I grasped the extent of the ethnic
cleansing that took place in Palestine in 48. While In Lebanon, I realised
that me dwelling in a Jewish State on someone else's land was crossing an
ethical red line. You have to understand that back in 82 no one in Israel
spoke about the Nakba. Then and there, I saw first hand how duplicitous the
Israeli project was.
MM: A few days ago, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a severely handicapped
man whose legs had been amputated. What is the effect of such cruel acts by
their own army on the population of Israel?
Atzmon: As far as I can tell, the effect is minimal, and this is exactly where
my research begins. How is it possible that people who have suffered so much
throughout their history can inflict so much pain on others? How is it that
the oppressed becomes the oppressor? How is it possible that just 3 years
after the liberation of Auschwitz the newly born Jewish State ethnically
MM: After all that has happened, can you imagine a day that Jews, Christians
and Muslims will live together in peace in Jerusalem?
Atzmon: This is history for you. The European Jewish past is an endless chain
of disasters. In the Muslim world, on the other hand, Jews enjoyed their life
and prospered. It is more than possible that culturally and ideologically
equating Arab Jews with Ashkenazi Jews could provide all the answers we need,
but this is exactly the type of research we are prevented from conducting.
MM: Let's discuss the event in Berlin a few days ago, which some had tried to
prevent. What was your impression of the event and were you able to convey
Atzmon: I thought the event was incredible. It was well attended. You could
breathe the spirit of resistance. The crowd was mixed. Many youngsters. I was
shocked by the support I received.
MM: What is the motivation for your nerve-wracking and multi-sacrifice
commitment to justice and peace in Palestine? We ask this question to
encourage others who sooner or later give up in the face of the apparent
superiority of the Zionist state.
Atzmon: It is way beyond Palestine by now. It is Syria, Libya, Iraq, and it
extends to Greece and Portugal, and then Britain the USA and beyond. By now we
are all Palestinians. We are all oppressed by that which we are not even
allowed to articulate.
I am living on this planet and like others, I want to be emancipated. I guess
that the ferociousness of the animosity against me suggests that some people
out there are really afraid of my message. Considering that I am not a
political figure nor am I an activist, I take it to mean that they must be
afraid of my thoughts. This is worrying but it is also a compliment.
MM: What are your next projects, can we expect another book?
Atzmon: I never know what's next. But I can tell you, it could be many things,