TRNN and Intellectual Integrity
by Kim Petersen - Dissident VoiceGilad Atzmon was slandered in a TRNN interview with senior editor Paul Jay and guest Max Blumenthal. At having his chance for rebuttal denied Atzmon seemed (and rightfully so) angry, saying: “Because, above all, Jay is a coward and must have realised that he doesn’t stand a chance of countering my ideas in front of a camera, not even in his own studio.”
Atzmon called Jay an “anti-Zionist Zionist,” which is going overboard. Jay is obviously opposed to Zionism. He takes exception to Atzmon’s “ideology.” That is fine. But Jay cast a dismal shadow over his own and The Real News Network’s journalistic integrity. If you are going to openly defame someone on your program, I submit that it is only fair to invite the defamed party on air to defend himself. Jay obviously disagrees. He opened a door to discussion and he closed it. Arguably, Jay leaves himself open to gatekeeping charges.
I contend that my closing paragraph when I first analyzed the video is still valid.
Consequently, since TRNN has allowed its program to be used as a vehicle for character assassination, it is incumbent on an ethical, professional, self-respecting, viewer-respecting news organization to allow the maligned Gilad Atzmon a chance at an on-air rebuttal.1
TRNN, by not allowing viewers to hear all sides of the discussion, is marginalizing a viewpoint. It is demonstrating a lack of commitment to intellectual integrity. It is biasing its coverage to views it determines are suitable for viewers. It is behaving in much the same way as the corporate media that it seeks to distinguish itself. Jay believes that Atzmon’s views are anti-Semitic. While Palestinians find themselves under siege, their orchards are plowed under, and their land is confiscated to build Jewish colonies, Jay raises anti-Semitism? Why? Sometimes TRNN guest Noam Chomsky contended, “Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, fortunately. It’s raised, but it’s raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control.”2
Does Jay believe that views he determines to be unsavory should be ignored, left in the dark? Or does Jay believe that light should be shone on darkness to reveal the darkness for what it is? TRNN, and Jay, it appears, would rather bury their ad hominem video piece, a piece to which Jay has heaped further ad hominem. TRNN is disrespecting its viewers by keeping them in the dark.
I cannot grant Atzmon a video rebuttal, but I want to grant DV readers the opportunity to hear Atzmon elaborate on his “ideology.” *****
Kim Petersen: Jay writes, “In your book The Wandering Who, you define Jewish ideology as someone [sic] who politically identifies as a Jew, ‘Jewishness is an ethno-centric ideology driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep inherent inclination toward segregation’.” At face value what you wrote is a definition of Jewishness and not of a Jew. I assume that Jewishness, as you define it, befits a Jew only insofar as that person embraces this Jewishness.
Gilad Atzmon: Hi Kim, I was also perplexed when I read the above paragraph in Jay’s piece. It revealed to me that the man is uniquely lame and may even fail to understand what ideology stands for.
Jay wrongly suggested that I define ‘ideology’ as “someone who politically identifies as a Jew” but then, just a second later, he quoted me correctly saying that “Jewishness is an ethno-centric ideology driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep inherent inclination toward segregation.” Obviously these are my words and this is how I define Jewishness and Jewish Ideology.
KP: Jay boils down your views on Jewish personality politics, as all Jews fitting into one framework, a homogenization. There does seem to be a certain “tribalism” among Jews that appears to be greater than that found among most other ethnicities I have encountered, but do you not grant that there is diversity among Jews and that your critique is confined to the uncritical, conforming Jew, specifically, the Zionist Jew – one who believes Jews have the right to the territory of an Indigenous people wherever they may be in the world?
GA: Kim you are totally correct. In my work I elaborate on Jewish cultural diversity. I examine different perspectives of Jewish identity politics and cultural manifestations. I differentiate between the Israeli identity and the Diaspora one and then examine the sub cultures within these distinct groups and so on. Yet, I also argue that amongst those who fall into the 3rd category, i.e. those who define themselves primarily as Jews, we detect a clear inclination towards segregation (political, cultural, spiritual and even physical). I am obviously very critical of the Zionist Jew in that respect, however, I also detect a similar tendency amongst Jewish progressives who, for some reason, insist to operate within Jews only political cells. The obvious question in that regard is, can Hammed, Hassan, or Abu Ali become the secretary of Jews Voice for Peace? Not really, they are apparently not qualified (ethnically, culturally or even racially).
KP: It is odd for me then to read that Jay agrees with what I find your depiction to be: “I’m not suggesting there are no such Jews, probably a majority at least when it comes to support for Israel. As odious as this is, this type of chauvinism is nothing unique, whether it’s Aryan, Han, Japanese, Russian, Saudi or American. Many nationalist cultures consider themselves to be ‘chosen’ and ‘exceptional’.”
I wonder about these other cultures that consider themselves “chosen”? Nonetheless, that other “odious,” “chauvinistic” cultures exist is tu quoque and does not exculpate Zionism. Why does Jay point out that it is not only among Jews that the claim to be “chosen” or “exceptional” exists? And why does Jay conflate “chosenness” with “Chauvinism” and “exceptionalism”?
GA: It is very possible that when Jay refers to the “odious” elements which he finds in other ethnicities and national identities he actually projects his own tribal symptoms. I have been examining Jewish secular choseness for a decade and I must admit that I find it hard to compare it with any other political culture or ethnic identity. Clearly, we can elaborate on some radical political manifestations that historically evolved into politics of hate (Nazism, Apartheid etc). However, when it comes to Jewish contemporary identity politics, we find animosity towards otherness in both Left and Right. Interestingly enough, I may be one of the few who manage to explain this peculiar tendency, and I do it in The Wandering Who. My answer is simple. Jewish secular identity is defined by negation. This implies a constant inclination towards isolation.
In order to address your question we may have to decide whether Jay is extremely dishonest or just uniquely unwise. I guess that we are dealing here with a combination of the two. In my work, I make it very clear that ‘exeptionalism’ becomes a problem when it is celebrated on the expense of others.
The kind of ‘Jewish choseness’, which I criticize in my work, is a relatively new secular concept. While within the context of the Judaic religion Jews are chosen by God to serve as a moral exemplary case, within the Jewish secular ideology choseness is reduced into a banal form of exclusive supremacy. The Zionist celebrate their symptoms on the expense of the Palestinians and the so-called anti Zionists celebrate their self-love on the expense of the rest of us all in the name of ‘Tikkun Olam’ and ‘progressiveness.’ As you probably know, I actually argue that the ‘progressive’ is a direct extension of choseness – it only implies that someone else (whom they don’t like) is ‘reactionary.’
KP: Jay writes, “One could say, as the Catholic Church does, they don’t hate homosexuals, only their behavior, but it is completely disingenuous. Just as the Church is homophobic, your position is anti-Jewish.” Thus Jay joins Blumenthal in wielding the term anti-Semite against you. The problem I see with Jay’s analogy is it being based on there being a “generic Jew” in your view. If the premises are false, then the logic is unsound. As I understood your book, The Wandering Who, your focus is on Jews who embrace supremacism, exclusion, and a right to Palestine, God-given or not.
GA: To start with, Jay’s horrid description of the Catholic Church is, in itself, extremely disingenuous but it actually reveals Jay’s hatred towards the church, Christianity, religion but it also conveys a deep dismissal of otherness that is unfortunately symptomatic to tribal mindset.
However, you are obviously correct again and Jay is totally wrong. My work is concerned with those who identify themselves politically and culturally as Jews. In the beginning of my book I make the following distinction: As far as self-perception is concerned, those who call themselves Jews could be divided into three main categories:
1. Those who follow Judaism.
2. Those who regard themselves as human beings that happen to be of Jewish origin.
3. Those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all of their other traits.
I then argue that the first 2 categories are innocent, yet the 3rd one is very problematic. It is exclusive, racially driven and in most cases, supremacist to the bone.
It doesn’t take a genius to gather that Zionists fall into the 3rd category, but what about progressive Jews who operate in Jews only cells, don’t they ‘put their Jewish-ness over and above all of their other traits’? I guess that this question demands an answer rather than a repeated and banal attempt to kill the messenger.
KP: Jay accuses you of contradictions, yet he calls you anti-Semitic while saying you do not hate all Jews, and he applauds you for “rejecting a vicious form of racism that permeates Israeli society.” Says Jay: “Do I believe you hate all Jews? No. But your theory leads to that.” I am unsure what Jay wants to say. I read your book and I was not led to hatred. I don’t hate any Jews. I don’t hate any ethic or national group. I hate racism, violence, and inequality. I understand your research into Jewish personality politics is meant to comprehend the tribalism, racism, and violence that emerges from a segment of Jewry. After all does not a knowledge of what underlies racism help to fight vicious racism?
GA: Jay indeed claims that I contradict myself, but he fails to provide a single example that supports his claim. On the other hand, as you mentioned Jay has managed to contradict himself numerous times in such a short piece. My verdict is clear, when Jay argues that I contradict myself, he, once again projects his own symptoms. The fact that we are so easily detecting Jay’s projections should be a matter of a great concern for a progressive Journalist. Again, the remedy for his condition is waiting for him in the pages of The Wandering Who where I elaborate on projection in the context of tribal mindset and Jewish identity politics.
You are also correct when you suggest that I don’t have hate in me, not even towards my arch detractors. In fact they help me a lot.
For years I was chased here in Britain by a Trotskyite political Jew who happened to be also petty criminal. His obsession with me was amusing for a while, but then I realised that he had actually a window of opportunity. He became the core of my research into Jewish tribalism.
Monitoring the so called anti Zionists was actually a glimpse into the deepest Zionist thought.
I then had to deal with Dershowitz and Foxman, and Abunimah and Omar Barghouti and Blumenthal. This endless barrage of hysteria is nothing but education. It was Abunimah and Barghouti, for instance, who provided me with the lead to George Soros’ Open Society and other liberal Zionist funders.
The relentless and desperate campaign to silence me clearly suggests that I am touching the row nerve but it also paves the path of my research. Time after time it turned the floodlight towards the obvious suspects. Look at Paul Jay and his Real News Network. I bet that his clumsy conduct in my regard will lead many of his supporters to grasp that The Real News may as well be just another exemplary case of controlled operation dominated by some tribal politics. Isn’t it a shame? I believe it is.
KP: Since it came up in Jay’s criticism — “Your hatred for all things politically left, especially Jewish and left, is superficial and banal.” — it deserves a reply. Do you hate the Left?
GA: Left, in its very original meaning and form, is the most beautiful idea. It is a universal concept preaching equality. It is also an intellectual discourse driven by critical thoughts and dynamic exchange. As such, it isn’t really different from Christianity, Islam or Ethics. But what is left of that great ideology and critical discourse? Not much. I am indeed repelled by ‘New Left’ and ‘Neo Marxism’. I am troubled with Left moral interventionists; I am bewildered by ‘progressive’ chauvinism; I am disgusted by the manner in which the New Left has dumped the working people; I am tired of Left dismissal of Islam and Muslims and religion in general; I am sickened by anti intellectualism that is inherent to the work of people like Jay and the neo-progressive clan.
So let me say it, if Left is represented by people such as Jay and Blumenthal, the answer is yes, I have very little respect to their entire project and suspect their motivations. But if Left is conveyed by the thoughts of Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and even Lenin, then I am totally fascinated.
KP: Jay says to you: “I believe your theories have no historical or factual basis. I share the view that your theories serve Zionist propaganda and divide the solidarity movement. I concur that your thesis is anti-Semitic at its core. I don’t think a debate about these issues is called for or serves any kind of useful intellectual endeavor. I will not get into a drawn out back and forth with you on this.”
Jay is conveying uncertainty about his assertions (“I believe,” “I don’t think”), and this is uncompelling for people who want to hear the facts and the arguments. However, Jay has closed the door on this. Journalism is about dialogue, shedding light on the external and internal workings of government, institutions (e.g., the media), corporations, and power – and the personalities and competing ideologies. Providing facts and logic so that media consumers can reached informed conclusions is part of a vibrantly functioning media. Yet Jay comes across as a journalist who slams the door on dialogue. This reeks of unfairness because it was Jay who opened the door with his interview of Blumenthal. Your view?
GA: Paul Jay knows that my work has been endorsed and praised by some of the greatest scholars of our time, a few of them are actually historians and avid readers of Jewish history. Jay probably knows that that my work is now studied in many academic institutes around the world. Talking about factuality, Jay didn’t manage to substantiate any of his arguments. In fact he didn’t even try, and when he attempted he ended up contradicting himself.
However, if Jay is convinced that I am talking rubbish, he clearly had the opportunity to invite me to his show, to grill me in his own studio and even to doctor the results in his own editing suite. But he didn’t take the chance. He reacted cowardly and for a good reason. He knew that he didn’t stand a chance.
We are dealing here with a very sad case. Paul Jay presented here an exemplary case of poor journalism and lost a lot of credibility. He clearly brought it on himself.
KP: As for the charge that your ideology “serve[s] Zionist propaganda and divide[s] the solidarity movement.” Surely one could similarly point to the divisiveness of their anti-Zionism.
In your reply, you wrote, “I define Jewish Power as the power to divert the attention from Jewish Power and Paul Jay clearly engages in just such an endeavour.” Few would deny that Zionist Jews have major influence in the media and over the discourse. Jay and Blumenthal while opposing Zionism have also for their part steered the discourse away from the racists/occupiers/oppressors to criticizing part of the opposition to the Zionist racism, occupation, and oppression. Is that not solidarity breaking? It seems easier for Americans to ally with al Qaeda than for anti-Zionists to stand together against Zionism and its crimes.
GA: To start with I don’t want to be instructed by anyone, neither a Jew or a Palestinian, on solidarity and how to bring it about. I am a writer, a philosopher and an artist. I don’t follow a ‘party line’ or a ‘campaign strategy’. I am driven by truth seeking and relentless search for beauty. However, you may want to ask yourself what those who claim to know what is good for Palestine have achieved so far? Zilch, is the answer.
By the time many of us in the West, as well people in the region, started to talk about The Palestinian Right of Return and One Democratic State, something that made the Israelis really worried for the first time, the BDS in Ramallah changed its goal statement in a clandestine manner and basically removed the 1948 from it official documentation. It didn’t take me long to grasp what happened there. I obviously learned that Soros money found its way to some corrupted Palestinian hands.
I guess that Jay and Blumenthal are correct to a certain extent. By now the peace movement as well as the Palestinian solidarity movements are divided. On one bank of the river we find the professional ‘anti Zionists’, the qualified good Jews namely the Tikkun Olam masters, those who also call themselves ‘progressive’, the people who think ‘as a’ (‘as a Jew’, ‘as a progressive’, as a gay, ‘as a Women’, ‘as an artist’, ‘as a patient’ etc.), some of them are anti-war, some actually support interventionist wars. That entire campaign is largely funded by liberal Zionist George Soros and his Open Society Institute. It divided the left into a collection of sporadic marginal discourses that promote and serve sectarian interests only.
On the other bank we find a lot of people who have nothing in common except an honest crave for peace, universal thought and deep intellectual curiosity. They are not funded by anyone in particular but they deliver a message and this message is harsh occasionally.
I am obviously not that river that split the land into two and it is not me who divides between these two distinct cultures that are becoming foreign to each other. But I guess that I have become a symptom and a symbol of this split between the tribal and the universal.
At a certain stage I revealed that something was not completely straight within the Judeo-centric political call, it was probably too kosher. Unlike Paul Jay, Max Blumenthal, Alan Dershowitz, and Ali Abunimah who practice the Jewish Herem culture (excommunication) all too often, I actually believe in free dialogue. I believe in freedom of thought and expression. I also believe that time is ripe for Jay and Abunimah to stand in front of the mirror and self-reflect. For the obvious reasons, Dershowitz and Blumenthal may better just self-reflect while skipping the mirror stage.
Clearly I didn’t lose my sense of humour.
- See Kim Petersen, “Independent News as Vehicle for Character Assassination,” Dissident Voice, 23 August 2013. [↩]
- Noam Chomsky, “Anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the Palestinians,” from edited transcript of a live video link-up from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to public meetings called by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and other groups & organisations, throughout Scotland and the north of England, on Friday, 11 October 2002. [↩]
Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read other articles by Kim.