Talking About Athens And Jerusalem In Athens On The Eve Of
The Gaza Flotilla Mission
23 May 2010
By Gilad Atzmon
eve of the Gaza Flotilla Mission. A talk given in
Kyttaro Athens May 2010
There is often a noticeable discrepancy between
what one claims to be and what one actually is.
Hegel taught us that our self-perception is a
fragile and evolving amalgam of the way we like to
see ourselves and the way we are mirrored by
I, for instance, tend to regard myself as a Jazz
saxophonist. My self-image is inherently dependent
on the willingness of others to listen to me and to
buy my music. My vision of myself as a writer is
again subject to other people’s reactions to my
thoughts and ideas. It seems that man is not exactly
an island. We live amongst others and are shaped by
a process of mirroring.
In terms of Jewish history, we can detect a real
dilemma here concerning this mirroring. As much as
Jews tend to regard themselves (traditionally) as a
chosen people, they have been largely confused by
other people’s dismissal of their ‘greatness’.
Zionism intended to amend this dilemma. It
promised to reinvent the Jew as a proud authentic,
ethical, universal, productive, organic, humble and
civilised human being.
If Athens stands for universalism and inclusive
ideologies and Jerusalem stands for tribal and
exclusive thinking, Zionism was a promise to
introduce Athens to the Jerusalemite.
The Zionist Jew was supposed to eventually look
into the mirror with pride.
Zionism may have been, at one stage, a genuine
attempt to bring this about. However, it was doomed
to fail. It was set into a conflict with the
indigenous Palestinian population. It was inspired
by Biblical plunderous ideology. It was unethical to
the bone. Zionism is, practically speaking, a
repetition of a Biblical sin.
As much as the Israelis insisted on presenting
themselves as moral beings celebrating their
national revival project, millions of uprooted
Palestinians were there to remind us all that the
notion of an ethical ‘new Zionist Jew’ was mere
As much as we can recall seeing white
phosphorous pouring over UN shelters, as much as we
witnessed babies being slaughtered, as much as we
continue to witness Gaza transformed into the
biggest jail in the history of humanity, the
Israelis also see it all by themselves. But far more
concerning for them is the fact that they see
themselves being watched by the rest of us.
They see themselves mirrored as modern day evil
by our gaze.
Lacan teaches us that ‘unconsciousness is the
discourse of the other’. Unconsciousness is the fear
of becoming the subject of a public discourse. From
a Lacanian perspective, the fear of impotence should
be realised as the threat of being established as
‘sexually malfunctioning’ instead of just failing in
Similarly, the Israeli collective
unconsciousness can be grasped as the fear of being
perceived as a collective murderous society rather
than the obvious concern about being involved in the
murderous act itself.
This fear has matured along the years into a
unique form of Israeli collective neurosis. In fact,
when Zionists blame you for being an anti Semite,
they basically express a deep unease with the fact
that you have managed to see through them.
As things stand, the discrepancy between ‘what
the Israeli claims to be’ and ‘what the Israeli
happens to be for real’ has already grown into an
Consequently, the gap between Athens and
Jerusalem is more noticeable than ever.
Since 1948, the Israelis and Zionist insisted on
portraying Israel as nation amongst nations.
However, after the 2006 Lebanon campaign and the
2009 Gaza massacre, such an effort is in vain.
The deceptive attempt to portray the Jewish
state as an ordinary society is doomed to fail.
The current, hawkish Israeli government is fully
aware of all this. They know about the unbridgeable
gap between Athens and Jerusalem. They are familiar
with the unavoidable neurosis, but they also know
how to resolve it. As we can see, Israel has given
up on Athens.
Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman does
realise that for Israel to survive as the ‘Jews only
state’, the demographic threat posed by Palestinians
must be resolved once and for all.
Israel is preparing itself for a second Nakba.
For those who do not realise, the ethnic cleansing
currently taking place in Jerusalem is part of this
sinister program. Israel also insists on maintaining
its status as the region’s only nuclear power. It is
willing to take the risk of an attack on Iran.
As we have known for more than a while, Israel
is the biggest threat to world peace.
Israel also realises that it won’t be able to
fulfil its missions with American support.
Israel is willing to, at least momentarily, run
into conflict with the entire West.
In political terms, Israel’s behaviour is
The history of Western civilisation can be
realised as a continuous battle between Athens and
Jerusalem. Between the universal and the tribal.
Between the ethical and the plunderer.
Our assets known as humanism are all associated
with Athens. Interestingly enough, the Jews who
contributed to humanism, such as Jesus, Spinoza and
Marx and many others, were people who opened their
hearts to the Athenian philosophy. Jesus, Spinoza
and Marx broke away from Jerusalem.
To stand up against Israel is to fight against
the invasion of Jerusalem. To stand up against
Israel is to fight for the revival of Athens.
Bearing all this in mind, it is not that surprising
to find the Greek people at the forefront of the
Palestinian solidarity movement.
Accordingly, the coming Gaza Flotilla Mission is
not just a humanitarian mission. It is actually
there to remind us of what humanism is all about. It
is there to remind us of what Athens stands for.