Tony Greenstein | 31 August 2018 | Post Views:

For both anti-Semites and Zionists, to be a Jew is to be a Zionist

Just because 99% of supporters of the Palestinians are
anti-racist it doesn’t mean that occasionally a supporter of the Palestinians
is found to be anti-Semitic. Gilad Atzmon, a former Israeli Jew is one such
person.  My first encounter with him was
way back in 2005 when he wrote informing me Paul Eisen, that a Holocaust
Denier, had written a ‘great
entitled Jewish Power and describing a Swedish fascist and
resident of Israel, Israel Shamir, as a ‘unique
and advanced thinker
Eisen, the British director of the now-defunct Deir Yassin Remembered, went on to publish such insightful essays as Why
I Call Myself a Holocaust Denier

Shamir has gone one better.  In Who Needs Holocaust?
he described Auschwitz as an ‘internment facility, attended by the Red Cross’.
Lest this be thought of as guilt-by-association Atzmon has also questioned
whether the Holocaust has occurred’
Pictured here is Israeli Marxist Moshe Machover – Atzmon has developed a unique concept of Jewish as opposed to non-Jewish Marxism!
In Truth,
History and Integrity
Atzmon described how
‘It took me years to accept that the Holocaust
narrative, in its current form, doesn’t make any historical sense. … If, for
instance, the Nazis wanted the Jews out of their Reich (Judenrein – free of
Jews), or even dead, as the Zionist narrative insists, how come they marched
hundreds of thousands of them back into the Reich at the end of the war? I am
left puzzled here, if the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why
would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war? Why didn’t the Jews
wait for their Red liberators? I think that 65 years after the liberation of
Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start to ask the necessary questions. We
should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than
follow a religious narrative… We should strip the holocaust of its
Judeo-centric exceptional status and treat it as an historical chapter that
belongs to a certain time and place.’
Atzmon went on to ask
‘65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz we
should reclaim our history and ask why? Why were the Jews hated? Why did
European people  stand up against their next door neighbours? Why are the
Jews hated in the Middle East, surely they had a chance to open a new page in
their troubled history?’
When I
challenged him on this passage Atzmon retorted
that this essay had been integrated into his book The Wandering Who and if it had suggested Holocaust denial then ‘the book would’ve been  banned and I’d have been arrested” when he set foot in Germany since Holocaust
denial is illegal there. What Atzmon
omitted to say was that everything before ‘65
years after the liberation of Auschwitz..’
had been omitted from the book!
Blowing his own trumpet
In 2005 Jews Against
held a picket
outside the SWP’s Bookmarx shop when Atzmon was invited to speak to the
collective faithful.  I have published a number
of articles on Atzmon such as Guide
to the Sayings of Gilad Atzmon
and Time to say
In mid-July
Tony Gosling, who hosts a community radio station in Bristol invited me to
debate Atzmon for the first time on a programme. Despite finding it difficult
at times to hear everything he said, it was clear why Ali Abunimah, Omar
Barghouti, Professor Joseph Massad and many other Palestinians had issued a joint statement Granting
No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad
six years ago. (see below for statement).
From the Palestinian Ali Abunimah to the Zionist Alan Dershowitz everyone is out to get Atzmon
Atzmon’s paints all those who are what he calls politically
Jewish as one and the same.  To him,
regardless of whether your are an anti-Zionist or a Zionist if you are what he
terms politically Jewish you are all the same. He takes particular exception to
Jewish groups which are formed to oppose Zionism.  This is apparently a specific example of
Jewish supremacy.
Atzmon is one of those few anti-Semites who opposes Israel,
not because it is a settler-colonial state but because it is Jewish.
Historically most anti-Semites supported the idea of a Jewish state as it was
an ideal place to send all their unwanted Jews.
Throughout the debate Atzmon insisted that he cannot be
anti-Semitic because he never mentions the word ‘race’, even though he
consistently accuses anti-Zionist Jews of being ‘racially oriented.‘  It is clear to me that if you assert that all
Jews are Zionists, i.e. politically the same, because they are Jewish, then you
are invoking an anti-Semitic stereotype which says that all Jews share the same
beliefs and opinions because they are Jewish. It is clearly as assertion of race by any other name.
In Not
in My Name
Atzmon declares that

By contrast, I really do not understand those
who fight Zionism in the name of their secular Jewish identity. I have never
understood them. I have never really understood what secularism means for the
Jewish people…. 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. 
As Atzmon conceded in the debate, Jewish identity is not and never has been fixed.  The idea that Jewish identity can only take the form of Zionism or Orthodox Judaism is an essentialist view of what it is to be Jewish.  In stating that to be Jewish is to be a Zionist Atzmon mirrors what Zionist ideologues themselves say. To say, as Atzmon says above that to oppose Zionism as a Jew is to accept basic Zionist terminology only makes sense if you accept that being Jewish and Zionist are interchangeable.

In Saying
NO to the Hunters of Goliath
Atzmon repeats a theme that he is particularly
fond of.  The Jews were exterminated by
the Nazis because they were ‘unpopular’. Nothing to do with fascism, racism,
the need for a scapegoat.  And now Israel
is ‘at least as unpopular in the Middle
East as their grandparents were in Europe just six decades ago.’
other words it not because Israel is a settler colonial state, rather Jews behave
badly wherever they are. After all Israel is a Jewish state and being Jewish is
a timeless quality. Atzmon wrote that:

Jews are now more than welcome in Germany and in
Europe, yet, the Jewish state and the sons of Israel are at least as
unpopular in the Middle East as their grandparents were in Europe just six
decades ago. 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.
In the
present climate when false accusations are the principal weapon of the Labour
Right and the Zionists in their attempt to remove Jeremy Corbyn from the
leadership of the Labour Party, then people like Atzmon can point to what is
happening as an example of what he calls ‘Jewish Power.’

No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad

For many years
now, Gilad Atzmon, a musician born in Israel and currently living in the United
Kingdom, has taken on the self-appointed task of defining for the Palestinian
movement the nature of our struggle, and the philosophy underpinning it. He has
done so through his various blogs and Internet outlets, in speeches, and in
articles. He is currently on tour in the United States promoting his most
recent book, entitled, ‘The Wandering Who.’
With this letter,
we call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well
as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and
note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and
providing any platforms for their dissemination. We do so as Palestinian organizers
and activists, working across continents, campaigns, and ideological positions.
Atzmon’s politics
rest on one main overriding assertion that serves as springboard for vicious
attacks on anyone who disagrees with his obsession with “Jewishness”. He claims
that all Jewish politics is “tribal,” and essentially, Zionist. Zionism, to
Atzmon, is not a settler-colonial project, but a trans-historical “Jewish” one,
part and parcel of defining one’s self as a Jew. Therefore, he claims, one
cannot self-describe as a Jew and also do work in solidarity with Palestine,
because to identify as a Jew is to be a Zionist. We could not disagree more.
Indeed, we believe Atzmon’s argument is itself Zionist because it agrees with
the ideology of Zionism and Israel that the only way to be a Jew is to be a
Palestinians have
faced two centuries of orientalist, colonialist and imperialist domination of
our native lands. And so as Palestinians, we see such language as immoral and
completely outside the core foundations of humanism, equality and justice, on
which the struggle for Palestine and its national movement rests. As countless
Palestinian activists and organizers, their parties, associations and
campaigns, have attested throughout the last century, our struggle was never,
and will never be, with Jews, or Judaism, no matter how much Zionism insists
that our enemies are the Jews. Rather, our struggle is with Zionism, a modern
European settler colonial movement, similar to movements in many other parts of
the world that aim to displace indigenous people and build new European
societies on their lands.
We reaffirm that
there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for
any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust;
nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories, far-right,
orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities. Challenging
Zionism, including the illegitimate power of institutions that support the
oppression of Palestinians, and the illegitimate use of Jewish identities to
protect and legitimize oppression, must never become an attack on Jewish
identities, nor the demeaning and denial of Jewish histories in all their
Indeed, we regard
any attempt to link and adopt antisemitic or racist language, even if it is
within a self-described anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist politics, as
reaffirming and legitimizing Zionism. In addition to its immorality, this
language obscures the fundamental role of imperialism and colonialism in
destroying our homeland, expelling its people, and sustaining the systems and
ideologies of oppression, apartheid and occupation. It leaves one squarely
outside true solidarity with Palestine and its people.
The goal of the
Palestinian people has always been clear: self determination. And we can only
exercise that inalienable right through liberation, the return of our refugees
(the absolute majority of our people) and achieving equal rights to all through
decolonization. As such, we stand with all and any movements that call for
justice, human dignity, equality, and social, economic, cultural and political
rights. We will never compromise the principles and spirit of our liberation
struggle. We will not allow a false sense of expediency to drive us into
alliance with those who attack, malign, or otherwise attempt to target our
political fraternity with all liberation struggles and movements for justice.
As Palestinians,
it is our collective responsibility, whether we are in Palestine or in exile,
to assert our guidance of our grassroots liberation struggle. We must protect
the integrity of our movement, and to do so we must continue to remain vigilant
that those for whom we provide platforms actually speak to its principles.
When the
Palestinian people call for self-determination and decolonization of our
homeland, we do so in the promise and hope of a community founded on justice,
where all are free, all are equal and all are welcome.
Until liberation and return.


Professor Emeritus, University of
Massachusetts, Dartmouth
human rights activist
Chair, American Muslims for Palestine
National Coordinating Committee, US
Palestinian Community Network
US Academic and Cultural Boycott of
Lecturer, School of Oriental and
African Studies (SOAS), London
Tadamon! Canada
National Coordinating Committee, US
Palestinian Community Network
author and human rights advocate
Chair person, Canada
Palestine Association
 and Co-Host Voice
of Palestine

Palestinian blogger and activist
Professor, Columbia University, NY
Israeli Apartheid Week US National
Co-Coordinator & Students for Justice in Palestine- University of New
Columbia Students for Justice in
National Coordinating Committee, US
Palestinian Community Network
School of Oriental and African Studies
(SOAS), London
SOAS Palestine Society, London
poet and human rights advocate

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Tony Greenstein

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