It is difficult or impossible to not learn something from most Gilad Atzmon [GA] contributions to political discussions. GA is a solid and committed intellectual who always thinks with his own head. But in his latest political-cultural reflections he tends to over-psychologize or over-psychoanalyze and to think in terms of a bivalent logic and rationality, which is most likely the cause of more than one error of perspective or analysis. In my opinion, his recent “In bed with Bibi,” is an example of this.
Again, GA indicates with a distinctly improved tone and style, that we witness a familiar situation, “our united ‘progressives’ – a veritable synagogue, a collective of great humanists – lend their support to the oppressed.” This time, he continues sarcastically, throwing in the trash bin useless political concepts like humanism and liberalism, they want to liberate the “Syrian people,” “whose enemy is obviously Bashar Al-Assad.”
GA denounces the political-cultural scheme that on numerous occasions deserves and has earned substantive and more than reasonable criticism. Before the war on terror, he recalls, “we witnessed years of intensive progressive feminist and gay’s rights groups campaigns for women’s rights in Afghanistan.” In the same way, he continues, “theprogressive type also disapproves of the current state of the Iranian revolution. Too often he or she would insist that we must liberate the Iranians.” The unresolved point: that the parallel GA takes for granted among the different examples can be established. Not everything is one and the same even if their apparent shapes can match or resemble each other. The critique of structuralism of the 1970s should be a lesson to everyone.
The common front that GA criticizes consists of Tariq Ali, Ilan Pappe, Fredric Jameson, Norman Finkelstein “and other very good people”. Now, according to GA, the common front wants to “liberate the Syrians” and have begun to carry out “a campaign openly to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime.” In that campaign they made “an appeal to the people of the world” to pressure the Syrian regime “to end its oppression of and war on the ‘Syrian people.’” They demand that Bashar Al-Assad must leave immediately and “without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.” That’s where we stand, GA’s presentation concludes.
After the biased, very biased description, that drinks deeply – choking a little – from reasonable criticisms of humanitarian interventionism, GA slides over to the most basic of the fallacies of the Christian framework: “Ali, Jameson, Pappe, Finkelstein & Co, in light of recent Israeli attacks on Syria, will you be kind enough, gentlemen, to tell us whom you support? Is it Assad or Netanyahu you side with?” Where did this exclusive disjunction come from? Why is it necessary to support either Netahnyahu or Al-Assad? Who has led us to that terrible precipice? Either A or B? Why not C, D, E or MNO?
But not just that. GA himself dissolves the disjunction and leads the criticized group where he wants to take them: “One may wonder how it can happen that our progressives, in spite of their good will and humanist credentials, have managed once again to end up in bed with Bibi Netanyahu.” Pappe, Ali, Jameson, Finkelstein: How are they in bed with Netanyahu? Is this a balanced approach? Is this practicing Aristotle’s Golden Mean?
GA himself answers this question and, in his opinion, the answer is “embarrassingly simple.” The criticized shame: progressive philosophy, a “philosophy” that GA is far from describing, “is the latest and most advanced form of ideological choseness.” Did we read that right? Yes, we’ve read that right. Why? Because, in the opinion of GA, “Calling yourself a progressive obviously entails that someone else must be a ‘reactionary.’” And who are considered progressive? Isn’t GA familiar with the countless criticisms from the left that have been made against this expression and the worldview that underlies it? Assuming but not admitting, that this is so, why does GA think in incorrect dichotomous terms? The opposite of progressive is not reactionary but non-progressive. And, among the latter, among the complementary taxon there may be reactionaries, conservatives, centrists, leftist radicals, among many others.
And not only that. For GA the “progressive” is an elitist position that is also intolerant and racist. “Progressiveness is a precept devoted to the Tikun Olam (fixing the universe) ideology. It is premised on the idea that those who uphold progressive ideas “know better” than others “what is right and who is wrong.” Bivalent rationalism winds up playing nasty tricks on GA in his criticism. From where does he see that the authors believe they know better than anyone else what is right and what is not? In fact, if we can accept this absurd opinion, this simple and childish disjunction, could we not allow the same consideration in GA’s approach? Does he not affirm that the correct, the closest are Robert Fisk’s approaches to the issue (necessary of course) or the struggle of the Syrian Arab Army soldiers? Isn’t this the correct position he defends? Isn’t he also intolerant, racist and elitist?
The final blow hits the high note. GA believes – why is it right? – that it’s time “our progressive humanists engaged in a preliminary ethical investigation. They should find out, once and for all, what is it that constitutes moral grounds for any form of intervention.” Ali never has conducted a retrospective review of ethics? Nor Jameson? And once and for all? For any kind of intervention? It is possible that before you preach ‘Tikun Olam’ and claim to ‘fix the world’ in the name of the usually cited ‘civil society’ and ‘international law,’ and this is the last blow of the fight GA has undertaken, “you may want to consider fixing yourselves first.” Aha! A basic Freud in command! And couldn’t GA, I’m sorry to speak in these terms, apply this consideration itself about personal matters to himself?
In fact, now that we find ourselves on this strange path, who is free from a therapy with these features and with those goals? And what then?
Read “In Bed With Bibi” by Gilad Atzmon