Report/Review: Panel Discussion: Jewish Identity Politics / Launch of Gilad Atzmon's Book 'The Wandering Who?' at Resource for London, Holloway, London N7, 10th October 2011
11th October 2011 (rev. 30th October 2011)
A Panel Discussion on 'Jewish Identity Politics' / Launch of Gilad Atzmon's 'The Wandering Who?'
Facilitator: Irving Rappaport
Much fanfare and advance publicity preceded Zero Books' launch of Gilad Atzmon's momentous book The Wandering Who? (reviewed here previously) and the accompanying Panel Discussion on Jewish Identity Politics. A substantial amount, if indeed not most, of this fanfare and advance publicity was actually generated by Atzmon's detractors, such as hasbara (propaganda) writers, Zionist media, and miscellaneous 'Jewish Anti-Zionist Zionist' groups such as J-BIG (Jews for Boycott of Israeli Goods) and their poor confused ilk. So actually, some degree of thanks is due these individuals and groups, for drawing even more attention to this important and fascinating event with their hysterical propaganda and calls to boycott the launch of Gilad Atzmon's book launch for The Wandering Who? and the associated Panel Discussion.
A picket outside the venue calling upon arriving attendees to boycott the event had even been announced by J-BIG and 'leaderine' Naomi Wimborne Idrissi, and had they and their associates made any more, and especially more coherent noise, local television news might even have been attracted!
Arriving outside Resource for London shortly after 7pm, lo and behold, I did indeed find said picket in place, apparently led by said Wimborne Idrissi. A very small picket, it has to be noted, of perhaps a dozen or so misguided individuals holding up small placards proclaiming their opposition to racism (which might have been quite laudable had they not been another 'Jews-only' club!) and handing out leaflets containing the usual J-BIG (and other such 'clubs') propaganda. It was nothing more than this, with its customary 'quotes' attributed to Atzmon, that were neither in Atzmon's style of writing or speech, nor are to be found anywhere within the pages of The Wandering Who? nor in any of Atzmon's other articles, papers and other writings. It was blatantly obvious that certainly none of the authors of this appalling drivel had ever read The Wandering Who? or any of Atzmon's writings. Pure invention trying to parade as 'fact' - if these 'propagandists' were aspiring Goebbels's they were on the right path but with a long way to go.
Likewise to be found on the pavement outside the venue was the target of all this hate-propaganda, Gilad Atzmon himself, bravely facing his detractors. Or at any rate, those that were to be found there.
Atzmon was calmly trying to engage his opponents in some sort of reasoned, rational dialogue - or as calmly as was possible in the face of the hysterical diatribe directed at him so venomously, anyway. Sadly, Atzmon's seed of calm reason and rationale fell upon stony ground, no matter how hard he tried.
Even Atzmon's sincere invitation to these pickets to come inside and raise their (perceived) grievances by taking part in the panel discussion was, alas, not taken up. Why, one has to wonder, are these would-be book burners so afraid of even any kind of dialogue?
Gilad Atzmon speaks about The Wandering Who? Israel, Zionism Jewishness, Jewish identity politics, tribalism and so on. A film by Tali Atzmon
Could the answer possibly be that these poor souls are so thoroughly indoctrinated that they are no longer capable of independent thought and reasoned, rational dialogue and can only repeat the propaganda that has been instilled in them?
Like all book burners, these wannabe neo-book burners seemed a pretty sad and sorry lot. Indeed, one could not help but feel some kind of pity for these people, purely as fellow human beings who seemed to be losing or have lost much of their humanism if not humanity.
They seem like lost sheep, led astray by a rogue. The 'rogue' here is not simply another individual, but rather, an ideology. An ideology that seduced them and then indoctrinated them into blind acceptance, robbing them of the ability of independent thought, of questioning, and of reason and rationale.
How sad is that?
And thus, these misguided sheep not only refuse to read or listen for themselves, instead preferring their inventions and those of their ideology (including re-inventing the very words of their opponents), but are filled with the burning ambition to prevent anyone else from doing so. Thus they become modern-day book burners who try and prevent everyone else from reading or listening to whatever they wish, even if that might turn out to be something uncomfortable or disquieting.
However, in this particular instance at least, their best efforts seem to have turned out entirely counter-productive. The panel discussion as part of the launch of Atzmon's The Wandering Who? was very well attended, with some seventy or so individuals nearly filling the hall at Resource for London. Not only that, the book itself has seen phenomenal sales and is already going into a second edition mere weeks after publication. Not bad for an although highly accessible but essentially academic book on essentially Jewish subject matter, surely. Indeed, when one looked at the peri-publication rankings of The Wandering Who? on both Amazon.com and Amazon UK, these were nothing short of sensational. Even now, almost a fortnight after publication, the rankings are still quite remarkable, especially for a book of this kind.
Interesting as the picketing on the pavement outside Resource for London may have been, what of 'the real beef,' the Panel Discussion inside, after all but the small band of protesters abandoned the former for the more comfortable latter?
The proceedings were started by the facilitator, Irving Rappaport (a commercial and community mediator and trainer with a special interest in the use of proven peaceful techniques for the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts both internationally and in the UK), who, after introducing himself continued to introduce the members of the panel.
These consisted of the author of The Wandering Who? - A Study of Jewish Identity Politics, Gilad Atzmon, modern jazz legend, author, philosopher, and courageous seeker of truth, freedom and beauty, who should need no further introduction here, and Oren Ben Dor, Glenn Bowman, and Karl Sabbagh.
Oren Ben Dor, a Reader in the Philosophy of Law at The University of Southampton, is also the author of Constitutional Limits and the Public Sphere (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2000); Thinking about Law: in Silence with Heidegger (Oxford: Hart Publishing 2007). He also is the editor of Law and Art: Ethics, Aesthetics, Justice (London: Routledge 2011). Ben Dor writes on the uncanny origin of political emergence as well as on originary violence in Palestine. He explores the existential relationship between the Jewish and the Zionist Questions.
Glenn Bowman is a Social Anthropologist who has worked in Jerusalem and the West Bank throughout the past 25 years. He is concerned with religion and identity politics, an interest which also involved him in (now former) Yugoslavia between 1990 and the present.
Karl Sabbagh is a journalist, television producer and the author of several books including A Rum Affair, Power Into Art, Dr Riemann’s Zeros and Palestine: A Personal History. He is currently the publisher of Hesperus Press.
Introductions done with, Facilitator Rappaport continued by outlining the subject at hand and exploring certain salient points of The Wandering Who? and media reactions to the book. My personal feeling was that this might have been achieved with somewhat more brevity in order to leave more time for the actual discussion.
This feeling also extended to much of the panel members' individual statements on the subject and The Wandering Who? itself that followed. Moreover, given that this was a public event, a good amount of what was stated by some of the panel members would have gone straight above the heads of a general public audience on account of simply (or rather, not!) being far too erudite. Admittedly, academics tend to find it difficult to speak at a level that the average well-educated person can follow, without sounding condescending, even today. But it has to be said, some of them even left me struggling.
Above all though, as already mentioned, greater brevity by the panel would have been very desirable as there seemed relatively little time left for the actual discussion.
However, the discussion turned out to be a matter of quality above quantity. A good number of interesting points, both pro and contra, were raised by members of the audience and answered in turn by members of the panel. It might have helped the flow of continuity if one point had been answered at a time, rather than two or three at once. However, all in all the discussion was conducted in an excellent and fair manner and facilitator Irving Rappaport did not need to be called upon to ensure fair and even-handed conduct.
Going slightly beyond the allotted time, the event ended with Gilad Atzmon making himself available to sign copies of The Wandering Who? A good number of attendees seemed to take advantage of this.
Overall, the event must be considered an unqualified success and was highly stimulating, challenging and illuminating.
The entire Panel Discussion on Jewish Identity Politics was covered by film maker Tali Atzmon, so videos of the event should be available on the web shortly and also on this site.
If you haven't read 'the book they'd like to burn' yet, i.e., Atzmon's The Wandering Who? it is highly recommended reading and in spite of the best efforts of the wood-be book burners it is widely available. It may be disturbing to many, but it is everybody's democratic right to read (or hear) what might disturb them.
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