Atzmon critique

Not Quite "Ordinary Human Beings"—Anti-imperialism and the anti-humanist rhetoric of Gilad Atzmon

[The following statement has been published on several websites. The version published here contains the most up-to-date list of signers.]

Attempting to latch onto the just, vital, and growing movement in support of the Palestinian national liberation struggle, Gilad Atzmon is one of a very small and unrepresentative group of writers who have argued (in agreement with many Zionists) that there is no meaningful distinction to be made between Jews in general and Israeli atrocities. According to Atzmon, the latter are simply a manifestation of Jews’ historic relationship to gentiles, an authentic expression of an essentially racist, immoral, and anti-human “Jewish ideology.”

Atzmon’s statements, besides distorting the history of Jews and constituting a brazen justification for centuries of anti-Jewish behavior and beliefs, also downgrade anti-Zionism to a mere front in the broader (anti-Jewish) struggle. Atzmon has specifically described Zionism not as a form of colonialism or settlerism, but as a uniquely evil ideology unlike anything else in human history. In addition to any ethical problems, this line of argumentation actually strengthens Zionism’s grip and claim to be the authentic representative of Jews. It obscures the reality that Zionism is an imperialist and colonialist enemy of Jewish people and Palestinians, as well as the Arab people generally and all those oppressed and exploited by imperialism.

In his online attack on Moshe Machover, an Israeli socialist and founder of the anti-Zionist group Matzpen, Atzmon states:

Machover’s reading of Zionism is pretty trivial. “Israel,” he says, is a “settler state.” For Machover this is a necessary point of departure because it sets Zionism as a colonialist expansionist project. The reasoning behind such a lame intellectual spin is obvious. As long as Zionism is conveyed as a colonial project, Jews, as a people, should be seen as ordinary people. They are no different from the French and the English, they just happen to run their deadly colonial project in a different time.[1]

For Atzmon, such views are “pretty trivial” and “lame” because he holds that Jews are in fact radically different from the French and the English. Of the many quotes we could provide in this regard, here is a small sampling:[2]

In order to understand Israel’s unique condition we must ask, “who are the Jews? What is Judaism and what is Jewishness?”[3]

Zionism is a continuation of Jewish ideology.[4]

The never-ending robbery of Palestine by Israel in the name of the Jewish people establishes a devastating spiritual, ideological, cultural and, obviously, practical continuum between the Judaic Bible and the Zionist project. The crux of the matter is simple yet disturbing: Israel and Zionism are both successful political systems that put into devastating practice the plunder promised by the Judaic God in the Judaic holy scriptures.[5]

Sadly, we have to admit that hate-ridden plunder of other people’s possessions made it into the Jewish political discourse both on the left and right. The Jewish nationalist would rob Palestine in the name of the right of self-determination, the Jewish progressive is there to rob the ruling class and even international capital in the name of world working class revolution.[6]

Were Jewish Marxists and cosmopolitans open to the notion of brotherhood, they would have given up on their unique, exclusive banners and become ordinary human beings like the rest of us.[7]

I do not consider the Jews to be a race, and yet it is obvious that “Jewishness” clearly involves an ethno centric and racially supremacist, exclusivist point of view that is based on a sense of Jewish “chosen-ness.”[8]

At the most, Israel has managed to mimic some of the appearances of a Western civilisation, but it has clearly failed to internalise the meaning of tolerance and freedom. This should not take us by surprise: Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, and Jewishness is, sadly enough, inherently intolerant; indeed, it may be argued that Jewish intolerance is as old as the Jews themselves.[9]

Israel and Zionism then, has proved to be a short lived dream. It was initiated to civilise Jewish life, and to dismantle the Jewish self-destructive mode. It was there to move the Jew into the post-herem[10] phase. It vowed to make the Jew into a productive being. But as things turned out, neither the Zionists nor the “anti Zionists” managed to drift away from the disastrous herem culture. It seems that the entire world of Jewish identity politics is a matrix of herems and exclusion strategies. In order to be “a proper Jew,” all you have to do is to point out whom you oppose, hate, exclude or boycott.[11]

The conclusion to such views is not difficult to draw:

The endless trail of Jewish collective tragedies is there to teach us that Jews always pay eventually (and heavily) for Jewish power exercises. Yet, surprisingly (and tragically) enough, Jews somehow consistently fail to internalise and learn from that very lesson.[12]

More precisely, commenting on the climax of State violence directed at Jews in the 1930s, most famously by Germany, but also in most other European nations, Atzmon is clear:

The remarkable fact is they don't understand why the world is beginning to stand against them in the same way they didn't understand why the Europeans stood against them in the 1930s. Instead of asking why we are hated they continue to toss accusations on others.[13]

Within the discourse of Jewish politics and history there is no room for causality. There is no such a thing as a former and a latter. Within the Jewish tribal discourse every narrative starts to evolve when Jewish pain establishes itself. This obviously explains why Israelis and some Jews around the world can only think as far as “two state solution” within the framework of 1967 borders. It also explains why for most Jews the history of the holocaust starts in the gas chambers or with the rise of the Nazis. I have hardly seen any Israelis or Jews attempt to understand the circumstances that led to the clear resentment of Europeans towards their Jewish neighbors in the 1920’s-40’s.[14]

It is, as such, not surprising that Atzmon’s work has received enthusiastic reviews by such prominent members of the racist right as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Kevin MacDonald of the Occidental Observer, David Icke, and Arthur Topham’s the Radical Press. It should not be surprising that Atzmon has distributed articles defending Holocaust deniers and those who write of “the Hitler we loved and why.”[15] These connections ultimately serve the interests of Zionism, which seeks to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Jewishness. Zionist agents have repeatedly attempted to ensnare and link Palestinian, Arab, and/or Muslim rights advocates to Neo-Nazism, through dirty tricks and outright lies.

It is more surprising and disappointing, then, that a small section of the left has opted to promote Atzmon and his works. In the UK, the Socialist Workers Party promoted Atzmon for several years before finally breaking with him; his latest book The Wandering Who? has been published by the left-wing Zero Books (a decision that elicited a letter of protest from several Zero authors).[16] In the United States, the widely-read Counterpunch website has repeatedly chosen to run articles by Atzmon. Currently, in February and March 2012, Atzmon is on tour in North America, where several of his speaking engagements are being organized by progressive anti-imperialists who we would normally like to consider our allies.

While perhaps well-meaning, operating under the assumption that any opposition to Zionism is to be welcomed, progressives who promote the work of Atzmon are in fact surrendering the moral high ground by encouraging a belief-system that simply mirrors that of the most racist section of Israeli society. Anti-racism is not a liability; on the contrary, it is a principle that makes our movements stronger in the long fight for a better tomorrow.

As political activists committed to resisting colonialism and imperialism—in North America and around the world—we recognize that there can be different interpretations of history, and we welcome exploring these. Without wishing to debate the question of whether far-right and racist ideologues should be censored, or how, we see no reason for progressive people to organize events to promote their works.

In our struggle against Zionism, racism, and all forms of colonialism and imperialism, there is no place for antisemitism or the vilification of Jews, Palestinians or any people based on their religions, cultures, nationalities, ethnicity or history. At this historic junction—when the need to struggle for the liberation of Palestine is more vital than ever and the fault lines of capitalist empire are becoming more widely exposed—no anti-oppressive revolution can be built with ultra-right allies or upon foundations friendly to creeping fascism.

As'ad AbuKhalil, The Angry Arab News Service, Turlock, CA
Suha Afyouni, solidarity activist, Beirut, LEBANON
Max Ajl, essayist, rabble-rouser, proprietor of Jewbonics blog site, Ithaca, NY
Haifaa Al-Moammar, activist, stay-at-home mom, and marathon walker, Los Angeles, CA
Electa Arenal, professor emerita, CUNY Graduate Center/Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Women's Studies, New York, NY
Gabriel Ash, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Geneva, SWITZERLAND
John Baglow, writer, researcher, consultant, CANADA
Bay Area Women in Black
Joel Beinin, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Dan Berger, Wild Poppies Collective, Philadelphia, PA
Chip Berlet, Boston, MA
Nazila Bettache, activist, Montréal, CANADA
Sam Bick, Tadamon!, Immigrant Workers Center, Montréal, Québec
Max Blumenthal, author; writing fellow, The Nation, New York, NY
Hagit Borer
Sallye Steiner Bowyer, Israel/Palestine Action Committee, Santa Cruz, CA
Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley, CA
Lenni Brenner, author, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, New York, NY
Café Intifada
Paola Canarutto, Rete-ECO (Italian Network of Jews against the Occupation), Torino, ITALY
Paulette d’Auteuil, National Jericho Movement, Albuquerque, NM
Susie Day, Monthly Review, New York, NY
Sophia Deeg, solidarity activist, Berlin, GERMANY
Judith Deutsch, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto, CANADA
Ali Hocine Dimerdji, PhD student at The University of Nottingham, in Nottingham, UK
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, professor emerita, California State University
Todd Eaton, Park Slope Food Coop Members for Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions, Brooklyn, NY
Mark Elf, Jews sans frontieres
S. EtShalom, registered nurse, Philadelphia, PA
Benjamin Evans, solidarity activist, Chicago, IL
Steven Fake, author and activist, Reading, PA
David Finkel, managing editor, Against the Current, Detroit, MI
Joel Finkel, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, Solidarity
Caroline Finkelstein, retired international civil servant, solidarity activist, SWITZERLAND
Nathan Finkelstein, engineer, solidarity activist, SWITZERLAND
First of May Anarchist Alliance
Dr. Bill Friend, in memory of Rabbi Elmer Berger, Alfred M. Lilienthal and Moshe Menuhin
Racheli Gai, Jewish Voice for Peace and Tucson Women in Black
Phil Gasper, instructor, Madison College and contributor to the Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Madison, WI
Kamran Ghasri, Israel Divestment Campaign
Sherna Berger Gluck, professor emerita, California State University/Israel Divestment Campaign, CA
Neta Golan, International Solidarity Movement
Tony Greenstein, Secretary Brighton Unemployed Centre/UNISON, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Brighton, UK
Andrew Griggs, Café Intifada, Los Angeles, CA
Jenny Grossbard, artist, designer, writer and fighter, New York, NY
Freda Guttman, activist, Montréal, CANADA
Adam Hanieh, lecturer, Department of Development Studies/SOAS, University of London, UK
Swaneagle Harijan, anti-racism, social justice activism, Seattle, WA
Sarah Hawas, researcher and solidarity activist, Cairo, EGYPT
Abe Hayeem, chair, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, London, UK
Rosamine Hayeem, London, UK
Stanley Heller, "The Struggle" Video News, moderator "Jews Who Speak Out"
Mostafa Henaway, Tadamon!, Immigrant Workers Center, Montréal, CANADA
Elise Hendrick, Meldungen aus dem Exil/Noticias de una multipátrida, Cincinnati, OH
Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer, New York, NY
Ken Hiebert, activist, Ladysmith, CANADA
Fred Hirsch, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 393 San Jose, CA
Louis Hirsch, Jewish Voice for Peace (for ID purposes ONLY), Chicago, IL
Adam Horowitz, co-editor Mondoweiss.net
Elizabeth Horowitz, solidarity activist, New York, NY
Adam Hudson, writer/blogger, San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Dhruv Jain, Researcher at the Jan Van Eyck Academie and PhD student at York University, Paris, FRANCE
Remi Kanazi, poet and author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance & Palestine
Tom Keefer, an editor of the journal Upping the Anti, Toronto, CANADA
Karl Kersplebedeb, Left Wing Books, Montréal, CANADA
Anne Key, Penrith, Cumbria, UK
Mark Klein, activist, Toronto, CANADA
Bill Koehnlein, Brecht Forum, New York, NY
Dennis Kortheuer, California State University, Israel Divestment Campaign California
L.A. Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee, Los Angeles, CA
Mark Lance, Georgetown University/Institute for Anarchist Studies, Washington, DC
David Landy, author, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel, Dublin, IRELAND
Felicia Langer
Zoe Lawlor, activist, IRELAND
Bob Lederer, Pacifica/WBAI producer, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, New York, NY
David Letwin, solidarity activist, New York, NY
Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine; Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition; US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Matthew Lyons, Three Way Fight, Philadelphia, PA
Moshé Machover, Israeli socialist, London, UK
Karen MacRae, solidarity activist, Toronto, CANADA
Heba Farouk Mahfouz, student activist, blogger, Cairo, EGYPT
David L. Mandel, Sacramento chapter, Jewish Voice for Peace
Marvin Mandell and Betty Reid Mandell, co-editors, New Politics, West Roxbury, MA
Ruth Sarah Berman McConnell, retired teacher, DeLand, FL
Kathleen McLeod, poet, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
Fred Mecklenburg, News & Letters Committees in Chicago, IL
Karrie Melendres, Los Angeles, CA
Matt Meyer, Resistance in Brooklyn, New York, NY
Amirah Mizrahi, poet and educator, New York, NY
mesha Monge-Irizarry, co-director of Education Not Incarceration; SF MOOC City commissioner, San Francisco, CA
Matthew Morgan-Brown, solidarity activist, Ottawa, CANADA
Arthur Neslen, author of In Your Eyes A Sandstorm: Ways of Being Palestinian and Occupied Minds: A Journey Through the Israeli Psyche, Brussels, BELGIUM
Michael Novick, People Against Racist Terror/Anti-Racist Action, Los Angeles, CA
Akiva Orr, Matzpen, ISRAEL
Saffo Papantonopoulou, New School Students for Justice in Palestine, New York, NY
Susan Pashkoff, Jews Against Zionism, London, UK
Jean Pauline, Oakland, CA
Tom Pessah, UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine, Berkeley, CA
Marie-Claire Picher, Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB), New York, NY
Sylvia Posadas (Jinjirrie), Kadaitcha, Noosa, AUSTRALIA
Roland Rance, Jews Against Zionism, London, UK
Danielle Ratcliff, San Francisco, CA
Fanny-Michaela Reisin, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace (EJJP), GERMANY
Liz Roberts, War Resisters League, New York, NY
Manfred Ropschitz, UK
Jonathan Rosenhead, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
Emma Rosenthal, contributor, Shifting Sands: Jewish Women Confront the Israeli Occupation, Los Angeles, CA
Penny Rosenwasser, PhD, Oakland, CA
Suzanne Ross, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, The Riverside Church Prison Ministry, New York, NY
Gabriel San Roman, Orange County Weekly, Orange County, CA
Ian Saville, performer and lecturer, London, UK
Joel Schwartz, CSEA retiree/AFSCME, New York, NY
Tali Shapiro, Anarchists Against the Wall, Boycott From Within, Tel Aviv, OCCUPIED PALESTINE
Simona Sharoni, SUNY, author, Gender & the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Plattsburgh, NY
Jaggi Singh, No One Is Illegal-Montreal/Solidarity Across Borders, Montréal, CANADA
Michael S. Smith, board member, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, NY
Pierre Stambul, Union juive française pour la paix (French Jewish Union for Peace), Paris, FRANCE
Marsha Steinberg, BDS-LA for Justice for Palestine, Los Angeles, CA
Ziad Suidan, Rafah-Madison Sister City Project
Muffy Sunde, Los Angeles, CA
Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin, Bronx, NY
Tadamon! (http://www.tadamon.ca/), Montréal, CANADA
Ethel Tobach
Ian Trujillo, atheist, Los Angeles, CA
Gabriella Turek, PhD, Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
Henry Walton, SEIU, retired, Los Angeles, CA
Michel Warschawski, Alternative Information Center, Jerusalem/Beit Sahur
Bill Weinberg, New Jewish Resistance, New York, NY
Abraham Weizfeld, author, The End of Zionism and the liberation of the Jewish People, Montreal, CANADA
Ben White, author, Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination, and Democracy, Cambridge, UK
Laura Whitehorn, former political prisoner, NYS Task Force on Political Prisoners, New York, NY
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, founding member, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG)
Asa Winstanley, journalist for Electronic Intifada, Al-Akhbar and others, London, UK
Miriam Yagud, Gloucestershire, ENGLAND
Ziyaad Yousef, solidarity activist

* List in formation
* Organizations listed for identification purposes only
Postscript:

This text is not intended as a comprehensive critique of Gilad Atzmon's politics. It was written quickly by some North American anti-imperialists who learned of Atzmon's 2012 speaking tour just days before it was to begin in late February 2012. At first it was thought it would be signed by just a few people, but the initiative quickly took on a life of its own, being posted to the web and to multiple listservs, discussed via email and on Facebook, and elsewhere, even before the wording had been finalized or a decision had been made as to how to use it (the initial assumption had been that it would be passed on to organizers with far less fanfare). Instead of a few signatures, within a week there were dozens, and emails continue to arrive from people wishing to sign on. We believe that this speaks to the deep frustration that many of us feel when confronted with Atzmon's anti-Jewish beliefs, which constitute an affront to our anti-racist principles, as well as a distraction from the essential tasks of opposing colonialist genocide and Israeli apartheid. What this response makes clear is that for many anti-imperialists, opposing such racism remains essential to building a movement against imperialism and the myriad forms of oppression that both feed on and are fed by it.

Any subsequent news or information about this initiative will appear here on the Three Way Fight website (threewayfight.blogspot.com). Those wishing to discuss this initiative or get more information should email antiracistantizionist@yahoo.com. We are an ad hoc initiative and are no longer soliciting signatures, but for the time being will continue to add signatures if they come in. (Updates may not happen immediately. Please be patient.)

We wish to reiterate that we consider many of those promoting Atzmon's work to be allies, but would ask that they reconsider their decision to do so. This is not a call for censorship, but for consistency and accountability.


[1] Gilad Atzmon, "Tribal Marxism for Dummies," originally published in June 2009, republished on his Web site on April 24, 2011.
[2] Many more quotes like these could be provided, but we assume this is enough to show that these are not out-of-context or out-of-character remarks. If not, readers may wish to peruse the section of Atzmon’s website on “Jewishness” at www.gilad.co.uk/writings/category/jewishness
[3] Gilad Atzmon, "Tribal Marxism for Dummies," Atlantic Free Press, July 2, 2009.
[4] Anayat Durrani, "Exposing Dangerous Myths," Interview with Gilad Atzmon, originally published in Al-Ahram Weekly (May 19-25, 2011), republished on Atzmon's Web site on May 19, 2011.
[5] Gilad Atzmon, "Swindler's List: Zionist Plunder and the Judaic Bible," Redress Information & Analysis, April 5, 2008.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Gilad Atzmon, "An Interesting Exchange With A Jewish Anti Zionist," Atzmon's Web site, August 17, 2011.
[9] Gilad Atzmon, "The Herem Law in the context of Jewish Past and Present," Atzmon's Web site, July 16, 2011.
[10] “Herem” is a Hebrew word that refers to banning or excluding someone; it is also the name of the repressive legislation Israel recently passed to enable punitive lawsuits against those calling for a boycott of the apartheid state. For Atzmon, this law is just one more example of Zionism’s Jewish uniqueness (guess he never heard of SLAPPs), as he concludes that “this is what Jews do best: destroying, excluding, excommunicating, silencing, boycotting, sanctioning. After all, Jews have been doing this for centuries.”
[11] Ibid.
[12] Gilad Atzmon, "A Warning From The Past," Atzmon's Web site, May 26, 2011.
[13] Quoted in
Shabana Syed, "Time for World to Confront Israel: Gilad Atzmon," Arab News, June 14, 2010.
[14] Gilad Atzmon, "Jewish Ideology and World Peace," Atzmon's Web site, June 7, 2010.
[15] Tony Greenstein, "Bookmarks & Invitation to Gilad Atzmon & Holocaust Denial," JustPeaceUK, Yahoo! Groups, June 9, 2005.
[16] "Zero Authors' Statement on Gilad Atzmon," Lenin's Tomb, September 26, 2011.

22 comments:

Matthew N Lyons said...

See also the March 13 statement by Palestinian activists titled "Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon," at http://uspcn.org/2012/03/13/granting-no-quarter-a-call-for-the-disavowal-of-the-racism-and-antisemitism-of-gilad-atzmon/

Louis Godena said...

Great! So you've got a few dozen non-entities of the Left, most of whom have probably never read Atzmon, calling - Dershowitz-style -- for the silencing of a dissident author. If these worthies were more famous, or possessed any degree of popular support, this would have the likely effect of *increasing* sales of the Wandering Who. As it is, news of the controversy, and its continued coverage in some media, will probably do that. The legendary failures of the Left, and not Gilad Atzmon, are the real issues here. We need a new narrative, a new discourse, to examine some fairly basic questions about Judaism, Israel, religion and the future of the Left in general (for starters). GA has, in a perhaps less than perfect way, facilitated the beginnings of that overdue discussion.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Louis, the statement "Not Quite 'Ordinary Human Beings'" doesn't call for silencing Atzmon. It calls on leftists not to organize events on his behalf. I agree that the Left's failures and weaknesses regarding Jews and Jewishness are a larger issue here than Atzmon himself. But to portray Atzmon as facilitating the beginnings of a new discourse is absurd. Atzmon claims that Jewish bankers financed the Bolshevik Revolution, that Lenin was a Jew, that Judaism teaches Jews to plunder other people and to "infiltrate" governments, and that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion prophetically describes current reality. There's nothing new here – just standard expressions of anti-Jewish ideology. Regarding the Left, the real question is why so many Leftists are willing to give any credence at all to someone who peddles this garbage. (See "Credit Crunch or rather Zio Punch?," "Zionist plunder and the Judaic Bible," and "Dreyfus, The Protocols and Goldstone," all by Atzmon and available on his website; and "Time for world to confront Israel: Gilad Atzmon," by Shabana Syed, available on ArabNews.com.)

Louis Godena said...

Hi Matt; Sure, the statement doesn't call for silencing anyone, but then, neither does Alan Dershowitz. I think that, on a fair reading of GA and his political evolution over the past couple of decades, the charges of anti-semitism have to be dismissed as spurious. One reason the Left is in such tatters is that it has willy nilly adopted a sort of 'political correctness' that has come more and more to resemble the 'respectable' mainstream media outlook so prevalent in discourse today. We need hundreds of GA's to question the most basic and 'settled' questions that have invariably been used by the right to make war, oppress others and to instill in the general populations of the West an ecology of fear and displacement. Historically, the Left has made the most gains when it has ceased to tiptoe around 'received' liberal opinion. I note with some sadness the name of Felicia Langer, the courageous Israeli lawyer and Communist; surely, she cannot subscribe to the spirit of muzzling people like GA and foreclosing debate on what are the most decisively important questions of our age. Thanks for your comment.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Criticizing so-called political correctness is not a substantive argument; neither is guilt by association with Dershowitz. Unless you believe that leftists should promote speaking tours by every critic of Zionism (which I doubt you are saying, since that would include all neonazis and many other rightists), then the question is which anti-Zionists should we promote and which should we refuse to promote. "Not Quite 'Ordinary Human Beings'" argues that we should draw the line at anti-Jewish bigotry, and that Atzmon crosses that line. I just gave you four specific examples of classic antisemitic motifs found in Atzmon's writings and statements from the past four years, and I've read enough of his stuff to know that these examples are consistent with his overall work. You can't just ignore the examples I gave and claim the charge of antisemitism is "spurious." The burden of proof is on you.

Louis Godena said...

Matt; I wasn't ignoring your examples; I just don't think they are of sufficient consequence to justify shunning or silencing someone on the Left who has parted ways with current narratives of Judaism and Palestine. GA has a lot of company; that is, there are a lot of people who are profoundly dismayed at the state of anti-zionism, and how the oppression of the Palestinians seems to go from strength to strength with leftist opposition seemingly absent or nearly so. You and your associates simply do not resonate with the public at large and certainly not with rank-and-file anti-zionists. This may be due to the largely academic nature of your circle. It's been years since I've been in academia, but I do remember that it is deportment, rather than talent, that guarantees one advancement and security. It may be that holding views that are outside the current pale may damage one's standing, a situation I do not take lightly, given current economic realities, but it is hardly a tenable position within the context of current political realities.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Louis-- Again, I presented specific detailed evidence that Atzmon promotes anti-Jewish ideology, and you have presented zero evidence to refute this. Why should anyone believe what you say if you can’t back it up?

I find it frightening and sad that you are so dismissive of antisemitism, which not only hurts Jews but also -- as the socialism of fools -- diverts popular anger away from genuine systems of power onto shallow and false targets.

I don't know where you get the idea that "my circle" is "largely academic." To my knowledge, nobody in the core group of people that has spearheaded circulation of "Not Quite 'Ordinary Human Beings'" works in academia. You say that we "do not resonate with the public at large and certainly not with rank-and-file anti-zionists." I don't believe Atzmon has any more "resonance" than his anti-Zionist critics, who include many longtime activists, both Palestinian and non-Palestinian. Here again, you don't offer any evidence to support your claim. But even if it were true, to call for abandoning basic anti-racist principles because they're unpopular is craven opportunism. By that logic, the Palestine solidarity movement should have closed up shop decades ago.

Anonymous said...

As'ad AbuKhalil is certainly an academic. Who is the main author of this statement? Was it him?

The statement itself uses guilt by association, why is this a one way street? The statement raises "former KKK leader David Duke." So can't the rebutters raise arch slanderer and torture advocate Alan Dershowitz for the shun GA crowd?

Even better, can't we forgo the guilt by association stuff? It is really weak.

I guess while we ponder what it means to be a Jew, we might also take a look at what it means to be "Left." If anti-racist means putting as much energy into protecting those with disproportionate power and unearned privilege (such as whites, men, straight people, and yes, Jews) as people facing oppression, then I don't see what is so attractive about the "Left."

That does not mean that any of us should go attacking people with unearned privilege, but examining that privilege - while sometimes not comfortable for those with that privilege - is a necessary part of the process towards equality.

Meanwhile, Matt, I don't believe you have proven your point. I think you should listen to Atzmon's lectures and decide for yourself if this man is driven by hate or love.

And I have a question. What if something has been declared a taboo but also happens to be a fact? Can we still not talk about? Jewish power is a taboo, yet many Jews, including Zionist supremacist ones, have written quite convincingly about disproportionate Jewish power in the US. Is "Fatal Embrace" author Benjamin Ginsberg an anti-semite too?

Helen Thomas said the Zionists own the congress, the white house and the media. Is she wrong? (BTW, how much energy did you all put into defending her? Did you have a statement for that by any chance?)

I think these statements calling for shunning and disavowal are about fear of people with disproportionate power rather than fear of participating in oppression.

Richard Hugus said...

Gilad Atzmon did not put the star of David on IOF tanks.

Louis is right. This is political correctness.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Anonymous: Which of Atzmon's classic antisemitic claims that I cited above "happens to be a fact"? That Lenin was a Jew? That Jewish financiers bankrolled the Bolshevik revolution? That Judaism teaches its followers to plunder and scheme? Or that a conspiracy of Jewish leaders has been working to establish a world dictatorship through financial manipulation, war, revolution, and undermining Christian civilization, as depicted in the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion? This is the last comment we will publish on this thread that responds to evidence of Atzmon's antisemitism with simple denial and no substantive refutation. If you don't want to deal with the evidence presented, go write for your own blog.

I concede that citing David Duke's praise for Atzmon, as we do in "Not Quite 'Ordinary Human Beings,'" could be misread. To be clear, to my knowledge Atzmon has never praised Duke's politics; he is not a neo-nazi or a white supremacist, and does not espouse biological determinism. But as our statement notes, Atzmon has helped promote the work of Holocaust denier and Hitler supporter Ernst Zundel. Recently, he also refused to distance himself from a white supremacist supporter, even when urged to do so by one of his own sympathizers (http://www.pmpress.org/content/article.php/20120314153431220). By contrast, "Not Quite 'Ordinary Human Beings'" condemns both Atzmon's antisemitism and Zionist settler-colonialism, drawing a clear line between our politics and that of Alan Dershowitz.

Several people had a hand in writing "Not Quite 'Ordinary Human Beings,'" but As'ad AbuKhalil was not one of them. His name appears first on the list of signers because they are in alphabetical order.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Richard: Zionism falsely equates Jewishness with support for the state of Israel. Atzmon embraces this same falsehood, so he reinforces Zionist ideology even while claiming to reject it. Even if we assume that a majority of Jews worldwide identify with Zionism, there's nothing innate or inevitable about this -- it wasn't true in the past and it doesn't have to be true in the future. But spreading anti-Jewish bigotry and lies certainly won't help change it.

Richard Hugus said...

Where I live, the Israeli flag is widely displayed in synagogues. All the major Jewish organizations support Israel and even hold annual "Israel Day" celebrations. While we're talking about disavowal, where is the disavowal of zionism by major Jewish institutions? Based on the evidence all around us, Judaism and zionism have some serious connections. You're trying to silence people who state obvious facts by declaring them bigots -- this is nothing more than name-calling.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Richard: Yes, it's an obvious fact that the major Jewish organizations support the state of Israel, and lots of anti-Zionists (including me) have denounced such organizations for taking this position. But to claim, as Atzmon does, that Zionism is simply the logical outgrowth of Judaism, "Jewish ideology," and "Jewishness," ignores the fact that the majority of Jews and Jewish organizations opposed Zionism up until a few years before Israel's founding. You say that declaring
Atzmon a bigot is just name-calling. Well, then you have a responsibility to refute the specific evidence I've presented, or there's no point in continuing this exchange.

Samir S. Halabi said...

What type of Jews are you, siding with the enemies of Israel.
If there would have been a Jewish State in the 1930s possibly 6,000,000 Jews could have been spared their fate. I am one of those 1,000,000 Jews who's family was forced out of our native Arab homeland, we were stripped of all our real-estate, Bank accounts all frozen, and person jewellery stolen and even ripped off my late mother's neck, wrist and fingers. members of our family were also murdered by our Muslim countrmen.
We were given refuge in Israel until my father managed to get visas for us to for Geneva, Switzerland. We are ever thankful to the Israeli government for giving us refuge after being kicked out of the arab world.
We always now give generously for the safety of Israel. Why do you wish to see the destruction of Israel, and give comfort for our enemies. My wish is that one day that your gentile colleagues will turn against you and that the only hope that you will have is to run to Israel, however all your names our known to them, and you will be barred from entering, you will then have to run the gauntlet of death hanging over you from your so called friends.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Mr. Halabi -- I’m very sorry to hear about your family’s experience. As our statement criticizing Gilad Atzmon states, no one should be vilified, physically attacked, or forced into exile because of their ethnicity or religion. The Zionist movement and the state of Israel have not only done these things to non-Jewish Palestinians, but they have also consistently subordinated the safety of actual Jews to the project of building Israel. In this respect, Zionism not only promotes colonialism and ethnic oppression, but also colludes with antisemitism, the scapegoating and oppression of Jews. I have discussed these points in several articles: “Why I oppose Zionism” (http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~lyonsm/zionism.html), “Is left anti-Zionism anti-Jewish?” (http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2007/11/is-left-anti-zionism-anti-jewish.html), and “‘Bring on the bulldozers and let's plant trees’:
The Problems of Labour Zionism” (http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~lyonsm/bulldozers.html).

Aaron Aarons said...

While I could not consider signing this statement for the simple reason that I believe that many of the statements that Atzmon is being attacked for are reasonable, there are statements he has made that should, even without the references to 'Jewishness' they contain, prevent him from being a speaker, except perhaps in a debate, at a leftist forum. In particular, there is this right-wing crap:

--------------- Begin quote: ---------------
Bundists believe that instead of robbing Palestinians we should all get together and rob whoever is considered to be the rich, the wealthy and the strong in the name of working class revolution. Here is the Bund’s call for action taken from “The Vow”, the Bund’s anthem:

We swear our stalwart hate persists,
Of those who rob and kill the poor:
The Tsar, the masters, capitalists.
Our vengeance will be swift and sure.
So swear together to live or die!

On the face of it, robbing the rich, confiscating their homes and grabbing their wealth is seen as an ethical act within the progressive discourse. As a young revolutionary I myself took part in some righteous parades. I was ready to grab my sword and to join the hunt for a Tsar, a capitalist or any other enemy who may cross my way. But then the inevitable happened: I grew up. I realized that such vengeance towards an entire class of wealthy goyim [Who says that only 'goyim' are the target?] is no more than an extension of Moses’s oratory of Deuteronomy, Chapter 6.

Robbery cannot be the way forward, whether it is Palestinians, Iraqis, world banking or even the Tsar himself that is being robbed. Robbing involves a categorical dismissal of the other. Hence, it must be premised on some inherent self-righteousness. Robbery and plunder doesn’t live in peace with a deep understanding of the notion of human equality. [Apparently, Atzmon's "deep understanding of the notion of human equality" allows the successful looters of the labor of the masses, and the heirs of that loot, to keep it!] Sadly, we have to admit that hate-ridden plunder of other people’s possessions made it into the Jewish political discourse both on the left and right. The Jewish nationalist would rob Palestine in the name of the right of self-determination, the Jewish progressive is there to rob [sic!] the ruling class and even international capital in the name of world working class revolution. [How many anti-capitalist revolutionaries in Asia have been 'Jewish', Gilad?] I better stay out of it. *
--------------- End of quote ---------------

Yes, Mr. Atzmon, you should "stay out of" the global conflict between the dispossessed of the world and the possessors of their expropriated labor and resources, since you are clearly on the wrong side!

* [See link in footnote 5 for context. IMO, much of what Atzmon writes in the earlier part of that essay about the connection between classical Judaism and ZIonism is quite correct.]

fred.mrozek@gmail.com said...

I've read Gilad's book in 2012 and thought it was superb. But now that I've read this critical article which has skillfully distilled his comments down to make an argument, I appreciate his insights even more. If I were Gilad, I'd ask permission to quote from this critical essay for his cover notes because they make me want to buy and give out copies to my friends.

Colin Bell said...

This is a response to Matthew N Lyons 2nd comment (above). If Gilad Atzmon has made a link between Jewish and the Bolshevik Revolution in the way that you describe he is not alone. Alexander Solzhenitsyn also made this link in his book '200 Years Between Us'. Perhaps you will now be calling for his books too to be boycotted or burnt in the light of this ? You libertarian you. Also, just because Jews were a target in Europe in the 1930's and 40's it doesn't follow that all things Jewish are good or that Jews are ipso facto 'the good guys' and that the Jewish lobby should be immune from criticism or scrutiny. Perhaps you should try reading 'Jewish History, Jewish Religion' by Israel Shahak.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Colin, who said anything about burning books, or even boycotting them? Our statement called on leftists not to promote Atzmon or his works, and yes, if Solzhenitsyn were alive I would be critical of leftists supporting him as well. I've never called for suppressing anyone's writings, but there are lots of writers who I think leftists should not be promoting. Why is this distinction so hard to understand?

Similarly, neither our statement nor any of my comments above said or implied that "all things Jewish are good." I've criticized specific Jews and Jewish organizations on this blog and elsewhere, and I believe the whole Zionist project of Israel as "the Jewish state" is a disaster. But I reject claims that oppressive systems or behavior are logical outgrowths of Jewishness, or that Jews as a group are directing U.S. foreign policy from behind the scenes. Both of these claims are rooted in the antisemitic lie that Jews form an evil, super-powerful, conspiratorial force.

Colin Bell said...

and Karl Marx ?
Would you be critical of leftists supporting him as well ?
After all, writing on 'The Jewish Question' in 1847 he was also very critical of 'Jewish' calling Jewish Internationalism 'the internationalism of the financier', and writing that 'the social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism' i.e. from the 'partiality of the financier's "nationality", or expressed in more general terms, from "the Jewish narrowness of society" accusing the Jews of ghettoising themselves and so on.
What makes you feel that you speak for 'the Left' ?
What makes you think that you represent 'the Left' ?
Indeed, perhaps you would care to define your understanding of what is meant by 'Left' ?

Matthew N Lyons said...

Colin: I agree that Marx's "On the Jewish Question" repeats anti-Jewish stereotypes, and I have a problem with the way some Marxists have downplayed or denied this. Marx wrote this essay in in 1843, when his theory was still half formed. After that he continued to express anti-Jewish prejudices from time to time, but as far as I know never again gave them a major place in his analysis, and certainly never the centrality that they hold in Atzmon's politics.

As for "speaking for the left," please stop putting words in my mouth. If you have substantive criticisms of our Atzmon statement or my comments on it, we can talk, but asking me to defend your distorted caricatures of my views is a pointless exercise. No more.

Preston Enright said...

Thanks for the letter, and this discussion about the letter.
As it happens, I know a person who has been organizing talks for Atzmon at a Unitarian church here in Denver, and doing all sorts of promotional work for him. It has saddened me to see it; but, the critical awareness of Atzmon is growing.
I wanted to add that, Atzmon has praised Duke for being a "humanist."
http://soupyone.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/gilad-atzmon-praises-ex-kkker-david-duke/