Gilad Atzmon – Yearning for a Minyan

16 June, 2009 – Palestine Think Tank

atzmon-us.jpgAmerica is a very interesting place at the moment, especially for Palestinian solidarity activists. The emerging conflict between the current Administration and the Israeli government is not exactly a secret anymore. The images of Israeli youngsters calling Obama ‘F**k Head’, ‘S**t Head’ and ‘Ni**er’ are rather effective PR materials at the hands of the friends of Palestine and it seems as if the Israelis are aware of it. Haaretz reported the other day that Netanyahu is convinced that “Obama seeks a clash with Israel to appease Arabs”. Palestinian activists in America know also that AIPAC and the Jewish lobby is in a state of confusion. The Lobby is not really used to being pushed to the corner, at the end of the day, after spending so much money on American politicians (Obama included) they really expected to run the show.

In my trip to America last week, I visited Texas, Colorado and California. I found out that talking about Palestine and the Middle East conflict in America was a very different experience to the one I am used to in the UK. As far as I could see, in America, or at least in the cities I visited, there was an openness about discussing issues that are largely regarded as a taboo in Britain [1]. Unlike Britain where solidarity activism is largely run by older activists who happen to be affiliated with some decaying Eurocentric ideologies, something that alienates many Palestinians, in America, exiled Palestinians and vibrant Arab students are highly involved in every possible level and aspect of activism. Rather than following a watery agenda that is there to appease a few Zionist tribal infiltrators into the movement, in America, activism is largely free of 19th century Ideological indoctrination. Instead, it is set around some basic human right issues and a general notion of justice. It is mostly about ‘right vs wrong’ rather than  ‘right vs left’. More than often it is grassroots human right activists who together with fully dedicated Palestinian exiles and students setting the tone. Somehow Palestinians and Arabs happen to know something about Palestine others may fail to grasp.

In each city, after my talks, I hung out with local activists (many of them from the Middle East) till the small hours.  As much as I was there to throw some light on issues to do with Jewish and Israeli identity, I actually happened to learn a lot from the local Palestinian community of activists. For the obvious reasons it is crucial to learn from Palestinians themselves: what is their cause, what do they care about, what they want to achieve and what do they think they can achieve.

Americans love their radio and they have a lot of it. Independent radio is a very powerful tool, it is capable of delivering instant unmediated information.  In Houston for instance, I was a guest of Said Fattouh who runs a radio show bringing Arab news to 150,000 listeners (you can hear the link here by clicking on the podcast at the bottom). In San Francisco I did the same with Khalil Bendib’s Voices of the Middle East and North Africa at KPFA. In each city I visited to at least one or two radio stations. Independent Radio has a tremendous impact, something we really miss in Britain and Europe.

In America, everything has a price tag or a market value. Bearing that fact in mind, the involvement of a highly successful Palestinian businessmen introduces a new realm of functionality that is hardly seen in European activism. Businesspeople tend to follow business models. They know how to set targets but more importantly, they know how to set a strategic plan to achieve those targets. This level of focus marketing is something I hardly see in Europe. While pure political activism may fail to unite the spirit and the matter, focused economic mindset seems to provide the spirit with the necessary material backing. Here, in Britain I saw only one focused successful Palestinian campaign, it was the Deir Yassin Remembered. It was an epic gathering of many Palestinians together with British solidarity activists. As it happened, UK Jewish groups within the movement went out of their way to dismantle this important commemoration and information group (Here is one example).

Cash For Honour

Talking about market value and campaigning, I may as well suggest that not many people realise that in Western capitals, observant Jews are actually paying hard cash to secure their seats in their synagogues. Bearing this astonishing fact in mind, it is not very surprising that a cult that attaches a market value to God-loving produces a political lobby that turns Jewish power into a commodity.

I’ve been following AIPAC activity for years, I read about its far reaching influence but I have never learned about its operational methods within the Jewish communities. Interestingly enough, in America, I held an AIPAC document in my hands for the first time.  My Colorado host left me with a bunch of Zionist brochures when he dropped me at Denver Airport. He probably assumed that I needed some light entertainment for the duration of my next local flight.  While most of these brochures repeated the usual Israeli lies, the AIPAC one was fascinating – for it was selling cash for honour in broad daylight. Without trying to hide anything, it basically offered American Jews the opportunity to buy membership in an exclusive club that would introduce them to some influential politicians.

AIPAC’s business model is very simple: the ‘more you pay, the more you get’. It is all about buying your way in. I obviously realised that this was how it worked, and yet, I assumed that Jewish lobbyists would be slightly more discreet about it.

As I learned from the brochure, the lowest level AIPAC club is The Washington Club (minimum annual contribution of $1,500). The “Club members are invited to exclusive events in their communities featuring leading members of Congress and other policymakers, key Israeli diplomats and top political pundits.” The richest Jews on the planet, can save themselves from wasting time on the local governor or the Sheriff’s assistant, they are invited to join ‘The Minyan Club’ (minimum annual contribution of $100,000) and  “to peer behind” no less than  “the scenes of America’s foreign policy”.  As a Minyan member, you will join an elite circle of only several hundred of AIPAC’s most dedicated members “who get to know the personalities behind the politics…. Minyan members receive an unparalleled chance to peer behind the scenes of America’s foreign policy. Members have had their picture taken and mingled with leaders such as President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice…”

Seemingly you don’t have to be an elder in order to join the Zionist lobby. All you need is just a bit of extra cash. This is indeed tempting, I thought that once I land in London, I should talk to my financial adviser. As one may gather, a photo with Condy could really help my musical career. I wonder whether they accept proud self-haters into their exclusive Minyan[2].

The Minyan members are not just interested in American hegemony. Their influence is worldwide. Someone in AIPAC obviously realises that in order to secure the ‘promised land’, they better as well Zionise the entire planet. For just over $100.000 a year Israel lovers are invited to  “explore new corners of the world poised to affect Israel’s future and America’s policies in the Middle East. Minyan members who take part in AIPAC’s semi-annual Missions have seen India through the lens of its evolving strategic relationship with the Jewish State and have debated Europe’s Middle East policies with the people who shape them in Brussels…”

As far as I can recall, AIPAC says in its defence that America is a ‘Lobby orientated society’, and this is how lobbies work. However, let’s face it, not many Lobbies in America try to push for a global conflict and nuclear assault against Iran all in the name of a foreign country with a peculiar racist agenda and a devastating record of crimes against humanity.

Thinking about AIPAC’s successful business model I thought to myself that I wouldn’t like to see the Palestinian solidarity movement becoming a money making machine. Besides, it seems that in spite of AIPAC’s triumphant attempt to penetrate into the hub of the American political system and its success at enslaving the entire American political system, the resentment towards Israel amongst the masses is growing all the time. The loathing towards AIPAC and its tactics is not a secret either. The failure of AIPAC to reach the masses is very easy to explain.  While you can buy political support with money, real empathy is a different animal altogether, for empathy is the capacity to put oneself in the place of the other. In the world’s current affairs, ethical beings tend to empathise with Palestinian suffering, with people who are locked behind barbed wire and starved by the Jewish state. AIPAC knows how to intermingle with local and world leaders, yet, this doesn’t translate into general approval of Israel by the general crowd. Quite the opposite, people out there are tired of the continuous murderous tactics practiced by the Jewish state. People out there are weary of the obnoxious and relentless Jewish institutional lobbying in favour of Israel and its murderous practices.

Let them Expose Themselves

I ended my tour talking at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Church, an event that was sponsored by ISM and Free Gaza. This is where I met my Zionist opponents who picketed me in the street.  Already before I left for America I saw the usual clichés originally collected by the so-called ‘Jewish Anti Zionists’.[3] This time my words were circulated on the net by rabid Zionists. Once again it was a failed attempt to stop me from sharing and telling the Zionist devastating truth to the public.

The local promoter of my California talks was rather happy with the Zionist campaign. He rightly said, they have the money and the means to promote your views in America, we better let them do it. It reminded me that years ago it was the ‘Jewish anti Zionist’ campaign against me that brought my views to the attention of many Palestinian solidarity activists. By the time the crypto Zionist infiltrators realised that they were shooting themselves in the foot, it was too late. My views were rather accepted in wide circles. As it happened, it was actually the crypto Zionist tribal activists within the movement who had become marginalised. Interestingly enough, the same happened to my Zionist foes in Berkeley, California. It was their voice rather than mine that was silenced.

I do want Zionist tribal activists to expose their symptoms.  I want them to shout and to point their finger at every person whom they suspect to be an anti-Semite. By doing so, all they achieve in practice is admitting who they are. They are pointing their finger at themselves saying, “we are Zionists, we are a racist rightwingers, we are loud, proud and as you can see we are openly promoting our tribal interests.”

I told my audience in Berkeley that the bunch of noisy people whom they met in the entrance were crucial for the understanding of Zionism and its violence. The people out there were exactly the same people as the Israelis, they were motivated by the same supremacist ideas. They were using exactly the same intimidating tactics. They just lacked the means to put us all behind barbed wire, to starve us or to spread white phosphorus over our heads. The picketers in Berkeley were waving the Israeli flag and carried placards, they were foreign to the calm evening scene as much as their settler brothers are foreign to the hills of Judea and Samaria. They basically brought Israeli ugliness to an innocent Californian street.  Funnily enough from a light PA system they brought along they played some horrible Israeli folk music, they probably didn’t realise that I could recognise my saxophone and clarinet on most of these badly played and horribly arranged songs.

A young Palestinian man who stood near to me asked the picketers, “why do you insist upon living on my land?”  A blue flag waver turned to him, he had a massive star of David hanging on his chest. Here is what he said, “because, Israel is our promised land, we were waiting for 2000 years…. And don’t forget the holocaust”. As stupid as it may sound, this is basically what the Zionist argument is all about: the promise, the bible, the yearning and then of course the holocaust.  Add to this Zionist lethal dish a lot of American weapons and Western backing and you have a ‘Jewish only state’ pushing for a global war. Israel got away with all of it for too many years. But after Gaza, the tide is changing. People out there see it all. The resentment towards Israel is growing by the day. This is something that I see in my concerts and talks around the world. I could see it again in Berkeley, in spite of all the pressure those Zionist operators mounted on the church for weeks, the event went ahead according to plan. The night was a great success.

The voice of Palestinian plight is now noticed, the Israeli barbarism is well observed. Western politicians may continue, for a while, to bathe in the gold poured at them by Minyan club members and Lord Cashpoints, but sooner or later they will have to listen to us.  Unlike Karl Popper who was concerned with the battle between the ‘Open Society and its Enemies’ the real battle here is between ‘Humanity and its Relentless Enemies’, namely Zionists. In this battle we must win and we will.


[1] I am aware of contradicting reports that suggest that gatekeepers are actually on the rise. However, since I hardly visited America in the last 8 years, I can only refer to America  in comparison with my European experience.
[2] Refers to the Quorum required for certain Judaic religious obligations. The traditional minyan for most cases consists of ten Jewish men.
[3] As far as tactics are concerned, there is not much difference in methods and operational practices between Rabid Zionists and Jewish anti Zionists. They are somehow primarily interested in chasing anti-Semites, even if they have to invent them.
Gilad Atzmon interviewed on Arab Voices. The host of the radio show is Said Fattouh.

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