Gilad Atzmon Finds Someone to Defend Him (Roy Ratcliffe)
Gilad Atzmon Finds Someone to Defend Him (Roy Ratcliffe)
I was recently contacted by members of Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Exeter Socialists about an invitation which was extended to the well-known anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon, to speak at their event. I had previously resisted the entreaties of Atzmon groupies who were so dazzled by the defence of Atzmon by Roy Ratcliffe that they wanted me to reply!
However I am happy to pen a short reply to his nonsense (which you can see in 2 parts of Rizzo’s Palestine Think Tank site).
I am told that a Jewish member of Exeter PSC , Manfred Ropschitz, left the group a few years ago after the same Roy Ratcliffe started a campaign up in support of Israel Shamir, a good friend of Atzmon. Shamir is an open holocaust denier (Atzmon is more covert) as well as a supporter of working with white supremacists (which he himself does – e.g. David Duke of the KKK and Horst Mahler of the neo-Nazi NPD). He even espouses the medieval anti-Semitic idea that Jews make the Passover Matzot (unleavened bread) with the blood of Christian children! [see Bloodcurdling Libel (a Summer Story)
You can get a flavour of Shamir’s politics when he wrote to Lee Barnes, legal advisor to the BNP accusing them of being too pro-Jewish!! ‘I do not feel at ease accusing you and your comrades of betraying the Britons and joining with the Jews, but if I’d keep mum, stones won’t.’
We can therefore judge Rattcliffe’s ‘trade union’ and ‘humanist’ pedigree by the company he keeps. Ratcliffe has produced a turgid 30 page article defending his hero. People will understand if I don’t reply in mind at similar length.
There can be little doubt about Israel Shamir’s fascist politics. Yet Atzmon first came into the picture when he wrote an article ‘The Protocols of the Elders of London’ which bases itself on the notorious anti-Semitic Czarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In ‘On anti-Semitism’ Atzmon stated that: “we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…. …. American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant.’
Atzmon says that it is irrelevant if the Protocols (a ‘warrant for genocide’) are a forgery because they are true whereas Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that
‘They are based on a forgery, the Frankfurter Zeitung moans and screams once every week: the best proof that they are authentic.’
The only difference between Atzmon and Hitler is that for Hitler the fact that they were true meant they were authentic, whereas for Atzmon it is irrelevant if they are a forgery, because clearly they are true! A distinction without a difference.
Atzmon’s ‘Protocols’ article was produced because we had criticised a tiny group DeirYassin Remembered which had as its advisor, Shamir, and those British Director Paul Eisen was another holocaust denier. Atzmon described Shamir to me as a ‘unique and advanced thinker’ so it is clear where Atzmon is coming from. Just as he described Paul Eisen’s Holocaust Wars, a full blooded defence of German neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel and holocaust denial as a ‘great text’. Atzmon isn’t a fascist but he is happy to defend those who are.
Ratcliffe is a good example of the saying that if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. He has clearly absorbed much of the racist nonsense of Atzmon & co. He states:
‘There must have been something in the whole Nazi enterprise that spoke to the experience and needs of the German people and was attractive to them.’
Now anyone who knows anything about German fascism will know that it was a movement supported by key sections of the German ruling class, in particular the iron and steel barons like Krupp, Kordorf, Thyssen who financed the Nazi Party as a means of smashing the German labour movement. Anti-Semitism provided the ideological glue. But there is no evidence that anti-Semitism was as widespread as many people today believe. On the contrary the Nazis had to work very hard to inculcate anti-Semitism in the German people and, as Ian Kershaw demonstrates in The Hitler Myth and Popular Dissent & Opinion in the 3rd Reich he failed. But Ratcliffe, who thinks he’s being original when he attributes it to the ‘Christ Killer’ anti-Semitism of medieval times writes of:
‘the well-manured ideological soil of ‘Jews as Christ killers’ tilled by centuries of dominant European Catholic and later Protestant (particularly Lutheran) ideology’
In fact this timelessness of anti-Semitism is a key part of Zionist ideology. But why does he have nothing to say about the following, taken from Atzmon’s ‘On anti-Semitism’article?
‘Why is it that the Jews who repeatedly demand that the Christian world should apologise for its involvement in previous persecutions, have never thought that it is about time that they apologised for killing Jesus?’
Here we have an example of just such medieval anti-Semitism but Ratcliffe defends it
‘We can begin to see some of the attraction for even many socialists and trade unionists among the German people. Capital was going to be harnessed and workers’ rights assured.’
But very few workers were taken in. The vote for the SPD and KPD in 1932 was as large as that in 1920. Indeed between July and November 1932 the Nazi vote decreased by 2 million whereas the KPD increased theirs to 6 million and the SPD 7 million. Clearly German workers weren’t as stupid or gullible as Atzmon and his sycophantic supporters like Ratcliffe.
It is interesting that Ratcliffe refers to anti-Semitism as also ‘Judeophobia’. This was a term used by the first political Zionist, Leo Pinsker, who wrote that:
‘Judaephobia is then a mental disease, and as a mental disease it is hereditary, and having been inherited for 2, 000 years it is incurable.’ [AutoEmancipation, p.5]
Zionism believed that anti-Semitism was an incurable disease If you couldn’t cure it, why fight it. This was the main reason why the Zionist movement collaborated with Nazism. Zionism came to terms with anti-Semitism because they both subscribed to the same outlook – Jews didn’t belong anywhere but Palestine.
Anyone who is even vaguely aware of the history of Zionism knows of the ideological and political symmetry between Zionism and anti-Semitism. Who welcomed Herzl’s ‘Der Judenstaat’ (The Jewish State) pamphlet if not people like Eduard Drumont, the key anti-Semitic journalist in France who favourably reviewed it in his daily, La Libre Parole.
Ratcliffe gives us a definition of fascism, viz. ‘Twentieth Century Fascism in its basic foundations is nothing other than Capitalist Collectivism organised from within a nation state armed with an elitist/racist ideology.’
This really is nonsense and shows he understands nothing of that which he writes about. Was IG Farben or the other private firms who operated in Auschwitz & Monowitz collective capitalists or private enterprise? Was IBM nationalised in Germany? It is a myth that German Fascism, still less Italian or Spanish fascism, were examples of collective capitalism. Unfortunately Ratcliffe mistakes propaganda for reality. Likewise fascism (Italy/Spain) wasn’t particularly racist until in Italy the influence of Hitler was felt in 1938.
If you want to attack your opponents, misrepresent them first. Ratcliffe states of Atzmon that he is accused of ‘sympathy with Fascism’. Nope. I’ve never accused him of being a fascist. He certainly works with those who are sympathetic, but that’s another matter. Ratcliffe then cites Norman Finkelstein thus:
‘”Finally, I emphatically believe that the Nazi holocaust should be studied. Yet one cannot learn anything substantive until and unless the Holocaust industry is shut down. Meaningful historical inquiry practically requires that comparisons be made.”
Yes, that is right. But Israel Shamir, who Ratcliffe was defending not so long ago, has clear views on Auschwitz: ‘Another go of Zionist propaganda. The camp was an internment facility, attended by the Red Cross… This idea of “bombing Auschwitz” makes sense only if one accepts the vision of “industrial extermination factory”, and it was formed only well after the war.’
Ratcliffe states that he doesn’t believe Israel is fascist. Neither Roland Rance or myself said otherwise, so he is tilting at windmills. It was Atzmon who posited this as some kind of explanation for Israel.
Ratcliffe argues that ‘Zionism is a continuation of Jewishness’ but this is a false debate. Jewish identity, not the vague and essentialist ‘Jewishness’ which is a codeword for ‘Jewish race’ has changed many times historically. The primary Jewish identity today is indeed Zionistic, but there are also anti-racist and anti-Zionist Jewish identities. It is Atzmon who argues that to be Jewish is to be a Zionist.
In the ‘Not in my name’ essay of Atzmon, which Ratcliffe defends, we see exactly why Atzmon (& Ratcliffe) are Zionists. Atzmon writes:
‘by fighting Zionism in the name of their Jewish identity they approve Zionism. They must fail to realise that their form of resistance contributes to the labelling of the entire Jewish people as war criminals….
But only if Jewish identity = a Zionist Identity (TG)
‘To demand that Jews disapprove of Zionism in the name of their Jewish identity is to accept the Zionist philosophy. To resist Zionism as a secular Jew involves an acceptance of basic Zionist terminology, that is to say, a surrendering to Jewish racist and nationalist philosophy…. ‘
So the 106 Jews, including myself, who wrote a letter to the Guardian earlier this year saying ‘We are not celebrating Israel’s anniversary’ are Zionists!! This is the madness of Ratters and Atzmon. The more you oppose Zionism the more Zionist you are! Everything equals everything. Both the Zionist movement and Atzmon claim that all Jews are Zionists. So do they. Atzmon continues:
‘Accordingly, if we regard Jewish identity as a national definition then the label ‘Jew for peace’ or ‘Jew for human rights’ makes sense. … However, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that by doing so we accept the notion of Jewish nationalism. In other words, we become devoted Zionists.’
The whole point of course is that anti-Zionists don’t accept that Jewish identity is a ‘national definition’. Only Zionists, Ratcliffe and Atzmon make such an equation. ‘Jews cannot criticise Zionism in the name of their ethnic belonging because such an act is in itself an approval of Zionism. Practically speaking, Jews can’t really oppose Zionism unless they adopt an alternative view that questions the Zionist totality. ‘
Ratcliffe sees Zionism as a continuation of rabbinical Zionism. In fact the Jewish Orthodox, of which Neturei Karta are the only remnants today, opposed Zionism. It is the successes of Zionism and the way it borrowed the rhetoric of religion for political purposes which enabled it to create an entirely new tradition. Religious Zionism uses the chauvinism of Rabbinical Zionism towards non-Jews, a chauvinism which is typical of all religions, but for the purposes of a new political project.
Ratcliffe takes Roland Rance and myself to task for saying that what is important about Israel is not its ‘Jewish’ nature but its Zionism. But that’s like criticising the Loyalists of Ulster for being Protestant. ‘A Protestant State for a Protestant People’. But the fact that the Orange State was Protestant didn’t define its character. It is quite possible to imagine the roles of Catholics and Protestants being reversed but the nature of the 6 Counties remaining unchanged. Socialists don’t mistake the ideological justification of the enemy for reality. Zionism would have been racist whatever the justification, because it was colonialist and supported by imperialism. That is what lies at the heart of Zionist racism in Israel today, not the fact that Maimonedes was a chauvinist 900 years ago!
Ratcliffe writes ‘Are people in the Palestinian solidarity movement so naïve and gullible that they would countenance such an alliance with right-wing Fascists?’ And the answer is no, but that is why it is important to keep racists like Shamir, Eisen and Atzmon well away from the movement, because nothing does more to play into the hands of Zionism than association with naked racists. Ratcliffe continues:
‘It seems the tenuous logic intimated in this paper is that those who listen to and agree with everything Gilad Atzmon writes, will then go on to listen and agree with everything Shamir and Eisen have said simply because he has said one has produced a ’important text’ and the other is a ’unique and advanced thinker‘.’
Not so. I have no idea whether Ratcliffe agrees with everything Eisen and Shamir has produced. But the fact that he has defended the racist, reactionary outpourings of Atzmon gives us a clue!
But for Roy Ratcliffe it is clear that support for the small number of anti-Semites and racists around the Palestine Solidarity movement is more important than Palestine Solidarity itself. And that is of course another characteristic of the Atzmon/Rizzo brigade, who earlier this year posted a ‘petition’ supporting themselves – ‘outstanding personalities’ they called themselves when we criticised them!!
Ratcliffe states that ‘We need to bear in mind that truthful criticism can be hurtful without necessarily being phobic’. That is of course true, but when Atzmon blames the largely anti-Zionist Jews of Eastern Europe, most of whom voted for the anti-Zionist Bund (Jewish Workers Party of Russia, Lithuania & Poland) for the Holocaust then this isn’t about ‘truthful criticism’ but blaming the victims of the Nazi holocaust, for their own demise, since they did not ‘internalise the real meaning’ of the conditions that led to their murder. ‘Seemingly, it is the personification of WW2 and the Holocaust that blinded the Israelis and their supporters from internalising the real meaning of the conditions and the events that led towards their destruction in the first place.’
Atzmon, in the historical debate between the anti-Zionist Bund and Zionism, attacks the latter. ‘The debate between the Bund and the Zionist movement has very little historical significance, yet it enlightens the notion of Jewish tribal politics; it is a glimpse into Jewish marginal philosophy and identity-politics…. While the Bund failed to grasp the obvious meaning of cosmopolitanism and universalism as an opposition to any form of racial or ethnic division within the ‘international’, early Zionists were clever enough to realise that the true meaning of nationalism can only be realised in terms of geographical orientation. For the Zionist, nationalism meant a bond between man and ‘his’ land.’
Of course there are some who are impressed by this gibberish, a total failure to understand the Bund and the class struggle within and without the working class Jews of the Pale of Settlement. But whereas the Bund organised self-defence against the pogroms and fought alongside Russian and Polish workers, the Zionists that Atzmon sees as ‘clever’ allied with the Czarist autocracy that his friend Israel Shamir looks back on with fond admiration. This is the creature that Roy Ratcliffe defends.
Ratcliffe points out that the Jewish Orthodox also holds the murdered Jews of Eastern Europe were to blame for sinning against the tenets of Judaism. That is true, which is why their views are so abhorrent and reactionary. But religious fundamentalists always blame the most catastrophic events on people having forsaken their religion. It has little political meaning. Those who blame the Jews politically for the holocaust are a different kettle of fish or are we to accept now that Atzmon too is a religious fundamentalist?
But Ratcliffe, who has produced 30 pages of drivel defending Atzmon, is now the intellectual hero of the Atzmon/Rizzo brigade. He pours out commonplace cliches dressed up as the profound: For example he writes that:
‘Although it is popular in ’liberal’ circles to leave religion out of politics it is actually unavoidable to come to the conclusion that religious ideas, motivations and rationalisations have played and do play a real ideological role in many forms of racism and brutal colonial enterprises.’
Err yes. Any basic Marxist understanding of religion understands that religion is a social and political phenomenon, a creature of its time, the ‘soul of a soulless world.’ Or take this statement of the obvious:
‘The Torah/Tanach/Old Testament has played and still plays a serious and fundamental role as an ideological support for Zionism, both Christian and Judaic, and contains within its core ideas which are racist.’
Again who is to disagree. Religion has always acted as an ideological and political legitimator of oppression and colonial barbarities, but that doesn’t therefore mean that the Jewish holy books are any more chauvinist than those of the Christian/Muslim/Budhist religions. Incidentally the ideas of the Torah are only racist in a modern capitalist sense, not in their pre-capitalist mould. Ratcliffe asks
‘what is behind this part of the objection by Roland Rance and Tony Greenstein that it is not some important aspects of the Jewishness of the state of Israel which is the problem but the Zionist nature of it? Is it possible to imagine that there could be a ‘Jewish only’ state that was not ethnicist/racist or Zionist or that Israel could still be a Jewish state if its citizens just abandoned Zionism?’
Unfortunately logic is not Ratcliffe’s main attribute. Obviously if Israel wasn’t Zionist then it would be unlikely to be a Jewish State. But the question is where the racist and exclusivist ethnic nature of the Israeli state came from. Was it something to do with the peculiar nature of the Jewish religion or did it take its cue from the settler colonial nature of the Zionist project? Ratcliffe doesn’t answer this because, at best, he is totally confused.
Ratcliffe also cannot understand why we criticise Atzmon for his open espousal and support for Eisen, Shamir and his alter ego ‘knuckles’ – an open holocaust denier. Well the reason is quite simple. Support for anti-Semitism plays into the hands of Zionists and hence benefits only the oppressors of the Palestinians. What it doesn’t do is affect Jews for whom anti-Semitism today is a largely marginal prejudice. We oppose Atzmon’s anti-Semitic politics because we support the Palestinians and don’t see why the oversized Atzmon ego and the pathetic efforts of those dazzled by this verbally incontinent jazz musician should be allowed to get in the way of Palestinian solidarity.
But the reality is that Ratcliffe, like Rizzo and Atzmon, has no understanding of Zionism beyond trying to suggest that Zionism is the logical continuation of Judaism (as the Zionists maintain). One example of this idiocy is the following:
‘There was an early attempt to blend Jewish socialism and Zionism in Palestine/Israel, by tendencies such as the Poale Zion, Mapal, Mapam and the Kibbutz movement. Many of these in order to reconcile acts of colonial dispossession with socialist ideas interpreted or rationalised Palestinian Arab resistance to occupation as stemming from a mixture of deeply held Judeophobia or anti-Semitism and feudal obstinacy. In retrospect, many of these self-professed socialists were in a form of denial….’
This is interesting because none of the above organisations were socialist. Mapai never even claimed to be socialist. The form of socialism, i.e. collective organisation, was adopted in order to pursue colonial objectives. Just as the Boer Trekkers and the American colonists engaged in collective colonialism at different times. How could the Jewish only kibbutzim have ever been socialist when they excluded the Palestinians? Mapai was set up (as an intelligent Zionist like Zeev Sternhall recognises in his Founding Myths of Zionism) as an anti-socialist organisation. Palestine Poale Zion was likewise never socialist and markedly diverged from its Polish counterpart (in Russia it had collapsed into the Bolshevik party since Jewish workers saw no need for this movement of the middle class when the working class movement saw of the anti-Semitic movements). That is why Ben-Gurion coined the slogan ‘From Class to Nation’. The purpose of organising the working class was to build Zionism not socialism.
The reality is that Roy Ratcliffe takes 30 pages to pen a defence of Atzmon precisely because he doesn’t understand either the nature of Zionism or the critique of Atzmon himself. It is one of the hallmarks of Atzmon and his supporters that there is an inverse relationship between what they have to say and how long they take to say it!