GILAD ATZMON is a writer and jazz musician. His first novel, A Guide to the Perplexed, is out now. It is a satirical novel about Gunther Wuntz who, like Gilad, is an Israeli Jew who comes to reject Israel. It is set in 2052, 40 years after the Israeli state has ceased to exist. Matthew Cookson spoke to Gilad.
WHAT motivated you, somebody from an Israeli Jewish background, to write a novel against Israel?
'I AM devastated, completely disgraced and outraged with what the Israelis are doing. This is my war - a war against Israel and Zionism. I think the whole stupid conflict between the West and so called Islam is stimulated heavily by Zionist zealots. The Israelis behave badly towards their neighbours. They want us to think the Jews will be wiped out of Israel if there is a Palestinian state. I don't think this is the case.
'My book, with its Palestinian state in what is now Israel, is not a utopian dream. It's going to happen. The idea of the Oslo peace process is pathetic. The idea of two states for two peoples will never happen. It shouldn't happen, because it doesn't address the main Palestinian problem. There are six million Palestinians who are dispossessed - almost four million in refugee camps all over the Middle East.
'The idea of two states doesn't address their right to return. Israel is demolishing the possibility of two states by building settlements around the Palestinian areas and building roads and sewage infrastructure in Palestinian territories.
'This means Israel will never be able to withdraw. Israel should be stopped. I don't see it happening, so it's going to be demolished. When this apartheid regime dissolves it will be a Palestinian state. The majority of people in the area are oppressed Palestinians. If they want to, Jews should stay there.'
WHAT HAS been the impact of your book in Israel?
'MY BOOK has been taken off the market in Israel. The major distributor and the chains brought it off the bookshelves. You can get it, but it takes a lot of searching. I got a letter from a woman in Israel who had read my book.
'She said that she agreed with everything it said and she and her husband were packing up and moving out. There was a massacre in Jenin. There is no doubt about it. There was a United Nations investigation and the Israelis just said, 'No.' How come?
'They are about to start a war against Iraq because they refused UN inspections. They don't have any real evidence that Iraq has weapons. Blair's dossier is a joke. I love Socialist Worker. It is the only newspaper in Britain which campaigns against Israel.'
HOW DID you come to these views?
'I WANTED to be in the military when I was a kid in Israel. Israel is a military dictatorship. The army controls the country. Military life is the embodiment of human stupidity. Israel has murdered people for over 50 years without compunction.
'I was a soldier in the Lebanon war in 1982. I felt more sympathy for a Palestinian who was in my helicopter because he had been captured, wounded, and was miserable. I've just finished a new album with Dhafer Youssef and Reem Kelani, Palestinian musicians. It will be released next year.
'I am performing with another Palestinian musician at the London Festival in November. We have joined forces against Zionism. It is all about the Palestinian right of return. I get to many people. It is my duty as an artist.
'I have exiled myself from Israel. I will go there, like Gunther Wuntz, when it is Palestine.'