David Mamet, Gilad Atzmon and Identity Politics

WarnerJames Warner in Open Democracy:

Reading Gilad Atzmon's The Wandering Who? immediately after David Mamet's The Secret Knowledge, I was surprised to find the two books, written from vehemently opposed political viewpoints, nonetheless reminded me of each other. Does Mamet's need to see the Israelis only as scapegoats grow from the same root as Atzmon's need to see them only as perpetrators? An underlying emotional argument of Mamet's The Secret Knowledge could be glossed as “I used to be a poster child for liberalism, so all the more reason to believe me now I reject everything about liberalism.” For an underlying emotional argument of Atzmon's The Wandering Who? substitute “Zionism” for “liberalism.” But even if this were a compelling line of argument, each book contains plenty of evidence Mamet and Atzmon were never exactly poster children.

Mamet's plays and other writings celebrate individual courage, discipline, and commitment. While he has only recently started identifying as a conservative, his long-term distrust of academia and high estimation of street smarts, his generally low opinion of human nature and belief that playing the victim card is a more contemptible route to power than is straightforward self-interested chicanery – while arguably bipartisan attitudes — in the contemporary U.S. tend to be more associated with the right. It's not surprising if a man whose plays observe the Aristotelian unities of Time, Place and Action leans conservative, while when it comes to Israel – more likely the driving factor behind Mamet's political conversion – he has for some time been on the right of Israel's foreign policy spectrum. According to The Secret Knowledge, he now desires a Republican victory in the U.S. in 2012 and the repeal of health care reform, Israel's infallibility apparently not extending to its system of socialized medicine. Mamet loves America and Israel for their entrepreneurialism, and tends toward the neocon line that Israel is the front line in the “War Against Terrorism,” and that anyone criticizing the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinians must be an anti-Semite. Mamet reports he is now ashamed not to have fought in Vietnam, a lack for which his more recent hawkishness could be seen as a bid to compensate.

Atzmon on the other hand is in rebellion against his own experience of the 1980s Israel-Lebanon war, recalling in The Wandering Who? visiting a prison camp in Lebanon where Palestinians were incarcerated by Israelis, and deciding he was on the wrong side.