Why no self-respecting organisation should host Gilad Atzmon

A post on the CST Blog which explains why we should take him more seriously than most of the extremists we routinely come up against.

Political music festival featuring antisemite Gilad Atzmon sponsored by the Art’s Council, The Co-Operative and National Lottery Fund.

Raise Your Banners is a “festival of political song” held annually in Bradford and is sponsored by the Art’s Council, The Co-Operative and National Lottery Fund. It was started 16 years ago in celebration of the great Wobblie (IWW) union organiser and songster Joe Hill. However this year it’s featuring Gilad Atzmon. Maybe the organisers don’t know about Atzmon’s politics but seeing that they link to his website, maybe they do. As it’s a festival of poliitical music they can’t use the old argument that they’re hosting Atzmon for his music and not his politics.

You may have liked to have gone to see Peggy Seeger perform but unfortunately it’s sold out. Still you can always go to the workshop “Songs to Counter the Zionist Bullies”.

INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM FOR RESEARCH ON ANTISEMITISM AND RACISM – new initiative announced by David Feldman at the Pears Institute in London

An international research consortium to promote the study of antisemitism is
launched today (Tuesday 8 November, 2011).  Co-convened by David Feldman, Pears
Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London and Scott
Ury, Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism,
Tel Aviv University, the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and
Racism (ICRAR) involves leading scholars from universities and institutes across
Europe, Israel and the US, who share the common goal of revitalising and reshaping
the study of antisemitism. 

The Consortium will promote rigorous, independent research that looks to related
fields and other disciplines for insight and embraces new theoretical and
methodological approaches. To promote and foster new thinking on antisemitism, the
Consortium will hold annual workshops and summer schools and produce publications of
the outcomes. The first workshop will be Boycotts: Past and Present. This will be
held in London in 2012, hosted by the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism.

David Feldman explains: "Antisemitism is an important and contentious problem. Yet
our understanding of it remains under-developed. The study of antisemitism too often
stands in isolation from related fields of inquiry and has failed to benefit from
contemporary intellectual currents that encourage new thinking and approaches.
Scholarly work has also suffered from the politicisation of the field, being
corralled by immediate political concerns. This has foreshortened our understanding
of antisemitism, both in the past and critically, in the present, and undermines the
contribution academics can make to overcome it."

Scott Ury adds: "The Consortium wants to reshape and revitalise the study of
antisemitism. We are predominantly a group of historians, but in our collective
endeavour we will reach out across disciplinary boundaries. We aim to shed light on
the content, meanings, functions and dynamics of antisemitism. Importantly, we will
also explore the connections between antisemitism and other racisms."

Other founding members of the Consortium are:

François Guesnet, University College London
Jonathan Judaken, Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee
Veronika Lipphardt, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Michael Miller, Central European University, Budapest
Amos Morris-Reich, University of Haifa
Maurice Samuels, Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism, New Haven, Connecticut
Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technical University, Berlin.

Israel and the Apartheid Slander – Judge Richard Goldstone

This piece, by Richard Goldstone, is from the New York Times.

The Palestinian Authority’s request for full United Nations membership has put hope for any two-state solution under increasing pressure. The need for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians has never been greater. So it is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it.

One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.

While “apartheid” can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.

I know all too well the cruelty of South Africa’s abhorrent apartheid system, under which human beings characterized as black had no rights to vote, hold political office, use “white” toilets or beaches, marry whites, live in whites-only areas or even be there without a “pass.” Blacks critically injured in car accidents were left to bleed to death if there was no “black” ambulance to rush them to a “black” hospital. “White” hospitals were prohibited from saving their lives.

In assessing the accusation that Israel pursues apartheid policies, which are by definition primarily about race or ethnicity, it is important first to distinguish between the situations in Israel, where Arabs are citizens, and in West Bank areas that remain under Israeli control in the absence of a peace agreement.

In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.

To be sure, there is more de facto separation between Jewish and Arab populations than Israelis should accept. Much of it is chosen by the communities themselves. Some results from discrimination. But it is not apartheid, which consciously enshrines separation as an ideal. In Israel, equal rights are the law, the aspiration and the ideal; inequities are often successfully challenged in court.

The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.

But until there is a two-state peace, or at least as long as Israel’s citizens remain under threat of attacks from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for self-defense, even as Palestinians feel oppressed. As things stand, attacks from one side are met by counterattacks from the other. And the deep disputes, claims and counterclaims are only hardened when the offensive analogy of “apartheid” is invoked.

Those seeking to promote the myth of Israeli apartheid often point to clashes between heavily armed Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank, or the building of what they call an “apartheid wall” and disparate treatment on West Bank roads. While such images may appear to invite a superficial comparison, it is disingenuous to use them to distort the reality. The security barrier was built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks; while it has inflicted great hardship in places, the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered the state in many cases to reroute it to minimize unreasonable hardship. Road restrictions get more intrusive after violent attacks and are ameliorated when the threat is reduced.

Of course, the Palestinian people have national aspirations and human rights that all must respect. But those who conflate the situations in Israel and the West Bank and liken both to the old South Africa do a disservice to all who hope for justice and peace.

Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the West Bank cannot be simplified to a narrative of Jewish discrimination. There is hostility and suspicion on both sides. Israel, unique among democracies, has been in a state of war with many of its neighbors who refuse to accept its existence. Even some Israeli Arabs, because they are citizens of Israel, have at times come under suspicion from other Arabs as a result of that longstanding enmity.

The mutual recognition and protection of the human dignity of all people is indispensable to bringing an end to hatred and anger. The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.

Richard J. Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court, led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008-9.

This piece, by Richard Goldstone, is from the New York Times.

RMT official accuses critic of Israel Boycott of being ‘one of the chosen people’ and ‘a modern-day Nazi’

Read the whole piece, with sources and recording, on Harry’s Place.

Steve Hedley is the London Transport Regional Organiser of the RMT, the official representative of tube and bus workers in London.  When his arguments for boycotting Israel were challenged he said the following to the critic at a public meeting at SOAS, University of London:

“We oppose the Israeli government because we oppose the racist policies that they’re carrying out on the Palestinian people. And you can cover it up for so long with your friends in the media, with the attack on the Mavi Marmara, and the attack on the innocent women and children who you who you starved and turned into the biggest concentration camp on the earth [applause].

And this is the reality of it!

You’re an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people!

You are a modern-day fascist!

A modern-day Nazi!

… No wonder the EDL are flying the flag of Israel!”

After this extraordinary tirade had finished, Richard Millett  asked Steve Hedley if he felt better, to which he replied:

“Better than you, obviously. But then again you’re one of the Chosen People so you might feel better than me, huh?”

Thereafter, this is what happened:

It wasn’t long after this that I felt a tug on my shirt collar and heard the words “You’ve got a right hook coming to you” menacingly whispered into my ear.

Read the whole piece, with sources and recording, on Harry’s Place.

On being chosen – Eve Garrard

This is a guest post by Eve Garrard.

Deborah Orr recently wrote a piece about the exchange of one Israeli prisoner for 1,000 Palestinian ones, from which exchange she infers that Israelis regard one Israeli life as being worth 1,000 Palestinian lives, and she also infers what she claims to believe is the corollary: a Zionist belief in the importance of the ‘chosen’ over other members of the human race.  Many people have rightly commented on the grotesque illogic of Orr’s calculation about equivalences, and her appalling assumption, in the teeth of the evidence, that it was Israel rather than Hamas that set the numbers so high. However what I want to concentrate on here is another aspect of her piece: her reference to the ‘chosen’.

The ‘chosen’ ones are meant to be Jews, of course, notwithstanding Orr’s fig-leaf reference to Zionists; the phrase long predates the State of Israel.  The ‘Chosen People’: that’s how Jews are supposed to think of themselves. Now it so happens that during my childhood, I never once heard Jews refer to themselves as the Chosen People.  I was aware in some imprecise way that there was a theological view about chosen-ness, but this was primarily a matter of the  burden of observation and practice which orthodox Jews were required to carry by a covenant with God.  It was nothing to do with the lives of Jews being worth more than those of other people, and in any case the view in question didn’t resonate at all with those Jews who weren’t religious, and was never held by them. Indeed, it was never very likely that European Jews, in the shuddering aftermath of the mid-century genocide, would regard themselves as being extraordinarily important or strong or powerful – any use by them of the ‘Chosen People’ trope would have been bitterly and painfully ironic.  But although I can’t of course speak for others, I myself never heard it used by Jews; the only contexts in which I came across this phrase were ones in which it was deployed by those who disliked Jews, who wanted to sneer at or denigrate them. And even in that usage I didn’t come across it too often – in the first two or three decades after the Second World War people who didn’t like Jews were often ashamed to reveal their hostile feelings in public.

Things are different now, and this trope has been resurrected for the same old use: to denigrate Jews and stir up dislike, or worse, against them.  In fact it’s very effective for that purpose: most people (very understandably) dislike anyone who claims to be inherently superior to everyone else; and so to attribute such a claim to Jews is a very economical way of making people dislike and distrust them.  By referring to the Chosen People you can, without saying another word, tell your listener that Jews are an arrogant supercilious bunch who despise the rest of the human race, and that you yourself don’t much like that kind of thing; and indeed your listener (or reader, as the case may be) probably doesn’t much like that kind of thing either, being a decent honest person; and so you and she together can enjoyably agree that there’s something pretty obnoxious about Jews, or they wouldn’t be claiming to be ‘chosen’, would they, or insisting that one Jew is worth 1,000 other people, which of course they must believe, since Gilad Shalit was exchanged for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, and there’s no other possible explanation of that ratio, is there, eh?

All that hostile implication from just two well-chosen (so to speak) words, or even in Orr’s case one word alone – she writes with casual familiarity about ‘the chosen’, apparently assuming that her Guardian readers use the term so readily that no misunderstanding can arise from the informal contraction.  This is indeed real economy of effort in the business of producing Jew-hatred.  Orr herself may not, of course, have intended to stir up dislike of Jews; but the language which she chose to use did all the work that was needed for that unlovely task.

What’s worrying about this use of the Chosen People trope is not so much its appearance in a little piece by Deborah Orr: a minor journalist making derogatory insinuations about Jews isn’t anything so very special.  But with Orr as with Mearsheimer it’s the silence of the others, of those in the wider context – the colleagues, the editors, the readers at large – that’s the really chilling thing.

For further excellent discussion of this, see Alan Johnson’s recent piece.

On a lesser Gilad

Bob From Brockley has been following the trajectory of jazz musician, weak satirist and devoted anti-Jewish (or is it ‘Jewishness’?) activist Gilad Atzmon since his most recent contribution to literary fiction, The Wandering Who (now on sale in Tesco).

  1. Left antisemitism and its rejection: credit where credit’s due / blame where blame’s due
  2. Atzmon and left antisemitism – some addenda
  3. Gilad Atzmon and the SWP – a brief chronology
  4. Gilad Atzmonism
  5. CIFwatching, Andy Newmanism and the socialism of fools

And all Bob’s Atzmon posts ever.

 

John Mearsheimer and the University of Chicago

This is a guest post by Joseph Weissman.

By endorsing Gilad Atzmon’s new bookThe Wandering Who, John Mearsheimer heaps praise upon the racist writings of an antisemite who argues that Fagin and Shylock accurately represent Jewish evil, and that Hitler could be proven right.

Stephen Walt allowed Mearsheimer a guest post on his Foreign Policy blog, to defend himself from “smears” suggesting Mearsheimer had endorsed an antisemite.

In order to defend Atzmon, Mearsheimer sanitised Atzmon’s arguments. Mearsheimer commends a passage in The Wandering Who, where Atzmon draws similarities between AIPAC lobbying in the USA and Jewish lobbying in Nazi Germany. Mearsheimer wrote:

Goldberg refers to a blog post that Atzmon wrote on March 25, 2010, written in response to news at the time that AIPAC had “decided to mount pressure” on President Obama. After describing what was happening with Obama, Atzmon notes that this kind of behavior is hardly unprecedented.In his words, “Jewish lobbies certainly do not hold back when it comes to pressuring states, world leaders and even superpowers.” There is no question that this statement is accurate and not even all that controversialTom Friedman said as much in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago.

In the second half of this post, Atzmon says that AIPAC’s behavior reminds him of the March 1933 Jewish boycott of German goods, which preceded Hitler’s decision on March 28, 1933 to boycott Jewish stores and goods. His basic point is that the Jewish boycott had negative consequences, which it did.

Writing days later in Foreign Policy, David Rothkopf deconstructed Mearsheimer and Walt’s backing of Gilad Atzmon.

A professor at the University of Chicago, Mearsheimer has given his academic endorsement to Atzmon. To date, there has been no official reaction from the University of Chicago.

However, a philosopher of law from the University of Chicago, Brian Leiter, has accused Mearsheimer’s critics of opposing “academic freedom”, and of spreading “right-wing smears.”

Universities have a duty of care towards their students, and the university campus should be safe for Jews. The University of Chicago is clearly a safe environment for Jewish students. Yet two U. Chicago professors are now dismissing anyone concerned about the antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon, as anti-freedom and anti-intellectual.

Now, the university’s student paper The Chicago Maroon, has published an article defending Mearsheimer for endorsing Atzmon, on “academic freedom” grounds. U. Chicago student Colni Bradley writes:

There is no reason to condemn Mearsheimer based on Atzmon’s previous controversial comments. The only acceptable criticism would be if he could prove that The Wandering Who? is itself anti-Semitic, and that Mearsheimer is guilty of praising those hateful elements. Goldberg does no such thing.

However, by far the worst comment Atzmon has ever come out with, is found on p.179 ofThe Wandering Who.

Read this paragraph:

“The present should be understood as a creative dynamic mode where past premeditates its future. But far more crucially, it is also where the imaginary future can re-write its past. I will try to elucidate this idea through a simple and hypothetical yet terrifying war scenario. We, for instance, can envisage a horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran that escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario, some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.”

Atzmon is trying to prove, that there are scenarios which may well prove  Hitler had the right idea all along.

In Atzmon’s scenario, Israel goes to war with Iran, and some Iranian survivors of Israeli attacks conclude that “Hitler was right”. They are bold to do so. For Atzmon, this is just one scenario in which “the imaginary future can re-write its past” – and future events could justify Hitler.

Atzmon is arguing that eventually, the terrible behaviour of Israel will cause some people to realise that Hitler might have been right after all. But for now, alas, the “Holocaust religion” prevents us in the present from realising this.

U. Chicago student Bradley also writes:

I think we should commend anyone who seeks to push the boundaries and uncover the difficult truths, particularly when the questions are so messy. I am not saying I agree with Mearsheimer’s opinions on these issues: I don’t even know all of them. But I don’t care. For probably the first time since coming to this University, the words “academic freedom” mean more to me than justifying questionable investment practices. Atzmon may very well be an anti-Semite, but John Mearsheimer is not.

How is it “academic freedom” to endorse a racist book?

How is it “pushing the boundaries”, to suggest that Israeli  evil couldl eventually prove to the world that Hitler was right all along? Why should Mearsheimer commend such a work?

How would we feel about someone endorsing Mein Kampf itself - would we say they are being edgy, and making the full use of their academic freedom? Or would we say they are knowingly pushing a racist text?

This is not a rhetorical question.

In Gilad Atzmon’s recent interview with Keith Barrett, he tells his host (from 13:00):

“Mein Kampf is an interesting read, a very important document, I could hardly find anything about the Jews – only 2 and a half pages out of 400  about the Jews. This book was a major bookseller, and I didn’t want to think the Germans were all stupid, they were one of the most advanced  societies. It was a very very interesting read. I, for the first time, understood why Hitler managed to impress so many Germans.”

Here are some of Hitler’s quotes on Jews from Mein Kampf:

Here he stops at nothing, and in his vileness he becomes so gigantic that no one need be surprised if among our people the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.

The ignorance of the broad masses about the inner nature of the Jew, the lack of instinct and narrow-mindedness of our upper classes, make the people an easy victim for this Jewish campaign of lies.

While from innate cowardice the upper classes turn away from a man whom the Jew attacks with lies and slander, the broad masses from stupidity or simplicity believe everything. The state authorities either cloak themselves in silence or, what usually happens, in order to put an end to the Jewish press campaign, they persecute the unjustly attacked, which, in the eyes of such an official ass, passes as the preservation of state authority and the safeguarding of law and order.

Slowly fear and the Marxist weapon of Jewry descend like a nightmare on the mind and soul of decent people.

For a racially pure people which is conscious of its blood can never be enslaved by the Jew. In this world he will forever be master over bastards and bastards alone.

Now begins the great last revolution. In gaining political power the Jew casts off the few cloaks that he still wears. The democratic people’s Jew becomes the blood-Jew and tyrant over peoples. In a few years he tries to exterminate the national intelligentsia and by robbing the peoples of their natural intellectual leadership makes them ripe for the slave’s lot of permanent subjugation.

The end is not only the end of the freedom of the peoples oppressed by the Jew, but also the end of this parasite upon the nations. After the death of his victim, the vampire sooner or later dies too.

Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: ‘by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.’

Atzmon channels Hitler,  plays down the racism of Mein Kampf, and argues that  a nightmare scenario involving Israeli evil could eventually prove Hitler right.

Mearsheimer and Walt then channel Atzmon, arguing that his book is “fascinating” and “Jews and non-Jews alike” must read it.

Where will this end?

Two from the CST

Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade debate with Gilbert Achcar

Here is Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade’s critique of Achcar’s book, The Arabs and the Holocaust.

Here is Achcar’s resposne.

Now Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade have responded as follows:

Gilbert Achcar has decided, at least for the time being, not to deal with our central arguments, writing that “I won’t here discuss the substance of the two authors’ comments.“  This is his prerogative and we have no objection to his exercising it.

We are, however, surprised to find him indulging in ad hominem attacks: “Küntzel is the author of an infamous Islamophobic book” and both of us are “pro-Zionist zealots”, who are “much more fanatical in their defence of Israel than the Israeli mainstream itself” and to whom “standard academic practices … seem to be totally alien.”

Our critique of his book is not about Zionism or Israel, but about antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab world – topics of major importance and topicality. By resorting to insults, Achcar confirms what we say in our review: that he considers those who takes these matters seriously to be Zionist propagandists.

The explicit message to the readers of this homepage is: don’t start reading the book review by Küntzel and Meade. The implicit message is: those in Britain who wants to avoid such insults should refrain from taking a serious interest in contemporary Arab antisemitism.

He supplements his attack with a hefty dose of self-praise.  Almost half of his text is devoted to an approving article from April 2010, to which he later adds: “My own book was praised by prestigious Holocaust scholars and Israeli scholars (Michael Marrus, Francis Nicosia, Peter Novick, Avi Shlaim, Idith Zertal).“

True enough. But does he think this is some sort of answer to the points we make? Leaving aside the fact that we mention his book’s supporters in our text, it should be noted that the support is reciprocal: Achcar praises or favourably quotes all the above authors in his book.

However, the centrepiece of his response, is the following extract from one of his interviews:

“The [Holocaust] denial in the Arab world today comes mainly from ignorance. However, you have to distinguish it from the Holocaust denial in the West, which is a pathological phenomenon. In the West, these people are mentally ill, complete anti-Semites. In the Arab world, the denial that exists among certain strains of public opinion, who are still in the minority, comes from rage and frustration over the escalation of Israeli violence, along with the increased use of the Holocaust. It began with the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.”

This quote is not taken from his book but from the journal that we mentioned in our (now corrected) footnote.

We quoted this paragraph as follows: “The denial in the Arab world … began with the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.” Achcar calls this a distortion and claims: “It is clear from the context that what I mentioned – and, mind you, this was an interview done over the phone – as beginning in 1982 is Israel’s ,increased use of the Holocaust’.”

Our interpretation of this passage was the obvious one. If Achcar now wishes to make it clear that he believes Arab Holocaust denial began earlier, then that is fine by us; we are not interested in distorting his point of view.

However, the key problem remains the same, regardless of how the passage in question is interpreted or where it originally comes from. This problem is the distinction Achcar attempts to draw in this interview between Holocaust denial in the West, on the one hand, and, on the other, Holocaust denial in the Arab world, which he considers forgivable because it is, in his view, ultimately caused by “rage and frustration over the escalation of Israeli violence” and stems “mainly from ignorance”.

Achcar’s response to our paper does not address, but distracts attention from this key issue and the substantive points we make, namely:

- that antisemitism and Holocaust denial are widespread in the Middle East at both the popular and leadership levels;

- that antisemitism and Holocaust denial cannot be adequately explained as responses to Israeli policies or any other real world political events;

- that antisemitism is not a marginal ideological twitch, but a political worldview that determines behaviour;

- that Achcar’s anti-Zionism makes him unable fully to grasp and draw the consequences of points 1-3.

This discussion has to start yet. We remain willing to engage in it in any appropriate forum, including in direct debate with Achcar himself.

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