Tony Greenstein | 24 September 2011 | Post Views:

Dr Khouri-Machool (C) Paul Crofts

The Racist Backwash from Freiburg’s ‘Free Speech for
Holocaust denier’s’ Conference
The Political Vacuity of Palestinian Functionary Samir Abed-Rabbo

At the same time as we were planning the disruption of the BBC Proms Concert featuring the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra on September 1st, Gilad Atzmon and his supporters were planning a conference in Freiburg, Germany, whose purpose was to conflate those who are the victims of the denial of the Nakba, the Palestinians, with those who deny the holocaust, i.e. neo-Nazis.

The disruption of the IPO’s performance outraged pompous reactionaries like the Telegraph’s Norman Lebrecht but it also brought the issue of a cultural boycott to the fore.

Another reactionary, Gilad Atzmon, was also none too pleased at what happened. The difference though is that Lebrecht is an open Zionist. Atzmon pretends to be a supporter of the Palestinians. It is unfortunate that Palestinian intellectuals, Samir Abed-Rabbo and Makram Khoury-Machool have been taken in by a racist charlatan.

Atzmon’s commitment to the Palestinian cause is best example by his denunciation of the Academic Boycott as ‘book burning’. In an interview in 2007 with Mary Rizzo, Atzmon made his views crystal clear:

interfering with academic freedom isn’t exactly something I can blindly advocate. … I am against any form of gatekeeping or book burning. But it goes further, I actually want to hear what Israelis and Zionists have to say. I want to read their books. I want to confront their academics.

I asked Atzmon yesterday whether he still stood by this statement. He refused to answer. But still feeling sore about the Freiburg Flop, Atzmon let me know his views on the disruption of the IPO. Apparently it was all a ‘Jewish campaign’. J-Big was in fact one of four groups involved and perhaps ¼ to 1/3 of those who took part in the protest were Jewish and members of J-Big. That apparently makes it a ‘Jewish campaign’. And there are still those who say Atzmon isn’t anti-Semitic! I have therefore printed the e-mails at the bottom of the article.

Atzmon has posted his own video of interviews with the panel speakers and organisers of his conference, though he is careful not to include any audience shots (one presumes there was an audience). It is a remarkable piece of disinformation. Less than 10 minutes of concentrated bile. Clearly the campaign to inform people about Freiburg had its effect.

Zionism and anti-Semitism

If the history of Palestine teaches one anything it is that, in the words of Lucien Wolf, President of the Anglo Jewish Association, ‘

‘The characteristic peril of Zionism is that it is the natural and abiding ally of anti-Semitism and its most powerful justification.’[‘The Zionist Peril’ Jewish Quarterly Review, October 1904]. The German Anti Zionist Committee, described what it termed ‘National Zionism’ as anti-Semitism’s ‘twin in Jewish garb.’

Zionism was a separatist reaction to the pogroms against the Jews in Czarist Russia that took on the ideas of the oppressor and claimed them as its own. Most Jews gravitated to the revolutionaries and socialists. The whole basis of Zionism was that Jews did not belong outside Palestine, that they were asocial and had developed unhealthy characteristics as a result of not living in their ‘homeland’. These were also the ideas of the German volkish movement, such as the Pan German League of Heinrich Class, which metamorphosed into the Nazi Party.

If you didn’t know that the descriptions below were those of a Zionist, you would assume that they were the utterances of an anti-Semite. Pinhas Rosenbluth, Israel’s first Justice Minister, described Palestine as “an institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin” [Joachim Doron, Classic Zionism and Modern Anti-Semitism: Parallels and Influences (1883-1914), Studies in Zionism 8, Autumn 1983].

Theodore Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism, expressed his true feelings when visiting a synagogue in November 1894:

‘I took a look at the Paris Jews and saw a family likeness in their faces: bold, misshapen noses, furtive and cunning eyes.’
Complete Diaries of Theodore Herzl, Marvin Lowenthall, p. 11

As Jacques Kornberg wrote:

‘Herzl’s anti-Jewish sensitivities surfaced – indeed sometimes exploded – well after he had become the keeper of Jewish sovereignty. He would employ terms such as “Jewish vermin,” Mauschel, against his Jewish detractors.’ [“Mauschel,” a corruption of Moses, was a German epithet for the haggling Jewish trader; it corresponded to the English “Kike.” “Mauschel” meant speaking impure German, with a Yiddish accent. “Mauschel”- Herzl’s hostile piece on the Rothschilds after they had spurned his pleas to finance Zionist diplomacy – was an anti-Semite’s dream]. Theodore Herzl: A Reevaluation, Jacques Kornberg, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Jun., 1980), pp. 226-252.

The obvious lesson to be drawn is that without anti-Semitism, not just the holocaust, Israel would never have been created. Indeed the first Zionists were Christian Evangelists and an odd assortment of anti-Semites.

Freiburg’s Twisted Message

For most people, the true equation is between the Jewish victims of the Nazis and the Palestinian victims of the Israelis and between the perpetrators of the holocaust and the perpetrators of the Nakba and successive crimes. That is why the phenomenon of Israelis identifying with the Nazi is a continually recurring one, as this blog has often documented. It is a comparison that Palestinians themselves have made on many occasions as have a number of Jewish survivors of the holocaust itself.

But to equate the perpetrators of the Nazi genocide with the victims of Israel’s murderous actions is, apart from anything else, an insult to the thousands of Palestinians who have died as a result of the Zionist presence. Yet Atzmon makes it clear that is primary concern is not the Palestinian fight for freedom:

“i am fighting against all the disgusting laws and persecutions of those so-called holocaust deniers – a categorization I don’t accept. I think the holocaust, like any historical episode, must be open to research, to examination, to discussion and debate.”

What he wants to debate is whether the holocaust happened at all:

‘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?’

There is plenty of research to do about the Nakba, but not about whether it happened at all. As Haneen Zoabi, the MK for Balad said in an article in Electronic Intifada concerning the Nakba: “It’s not a narrative. It is not a political attitude. It’s a historical fact,”.

The Role of the Intellectual

It is unfortunate when a few Palestinian academics, whose ego outweighs their intellect, sit down and offer comfort to someone who combines in one person Zionism and anti-Semitism. At Freiburg there were 2 such Palestinians – Samir Abed-Rabbo, a Professor of International Law and Makram Khoury-Machool. Both are on the Right politically.

When one thinks of an intellectual standing against the current, one thinks of Edward Said, Noam Chomsky or indeed Hannah Arendt. Said, with his book Orientalism, stood the world on its head and showed how the West views a distorted image of the Orient. Chomsky became virtually a non-person in the USA because of his critique of US imperialism and Hannah Arendt, with her book ‘Eichman in Jerusalem’ brought upon herself the fury of the Zionist establishment. But such intellectuals are a minority.

More common are those who acted as court historians and apologists for the establishment.

A good example of the latter was Martin Heidigger who was the Nazi appointed Rector of Freiburg University, ironic given the location of Atzmon’s conference. Neo-con Irving Kristol is another example of the poacher turned gamekeeper. Zionism has produced a whole host of sub-intellectuals willing to justify its every action. People like Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University. Up till now the Palestinians have largely been free of this phenomenon.

Gilad Atzmon could only look on in anger as his conference was stripped of any anti-racist pretensions. In retaliation, he has produced a short video, The Enemy Within, which consists of a series of soundbite interviews with the speakers at his Boundaries of Open Discussion Conference in Freiburg. The video is meant as a reply to his critics.

Even the title of Atzmon’s magnus opus ‘the enemy within’ should alert all but the wilfully blind. Its antecedents included the nationalist right in Germany, with their ‘stab in the back’ legend providing the explanation for defeat in WW1, McCarthyism and its 5th column of communists and Thatcher and the miners. To Atzmon Jewish anti-Zionists are the enemy within.

What is less easy to understand is how those who might be thought of as Palestinian intellectuals should sign up to Atzmon’s racist garbage and conspiracy theories. In his new book, ‘The Wandering Who?’ Atzmon argues that:

Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine…Zionism is actually a global movement that is fuelled by a unique tribal solidarity of third category members. To be a Zionist means to accept that, more than anything else, one is primarily a Jew. (p.19 – my emphasis)

Zionism, of course, has always claimed that to be a Jew is to be a Zionist. For Atzmon, Zionism has nothing to do with colonialism or imperialism, it is about being Jewish. The implication is obvious – the fight is against Jews outside Israel not against Israel or Zionist institutions. That is why Atzmon is opposed to BDS. We are then treated to the following insight:

The Organism and Atzmon’s World Jewish Conspiracy Theory

‘It is of course possible that there is no decision-making process at all. It is more than likely that ‘Jews’ do not have a centre or headquarters. It is more than likely that they aren’t aware of their particular role within the entire system, the way an organ is not aware of its role within the complexity of the organism.

No single operator within the collective is fully familiar with the collective’s operative mode but is only aware of his or her personal and limited role, function or duties within it. This is probably the Zionist movement’s greatest strength. It transformed the Jewish tribal mode into a collective functioning system.

Looking at Zionism as an organismus would lead to a major shift in our perspective of current world affairs. The Palestinians, for instance, aren’t just the victims of the Israeli occupation, they are actually the victims of a unique global political identity, namely the third category people who transformed the Holy Land into a Jewish bunker.’

You don’t have to be an Emeritus Professor of Law (‘a pioneering work that deserves to be read and Gilad Atzmon is brave to write this book! – Samir Abed-Rabbo) or even a Distinguished Service Professor at Chicago University (‘Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world – Prof. Mersheimer) to recognise this for the utter garbage it is. A child of 9, let alone a political science or law professor, would recognise these tropes and tripe.

Being Jewish means being an unknowing part of a much larger (metaphysical?) Jewish organism. Anyone with a couple of brain cells to rub together would recognise this as an updated version of the old International Jewish Conspiracy Theory. It is new wine in a very old bottle. One can only assume that the good professors didn’t actually read the book whose blurb they contributed to. If they did read it then it goes to demonstrate the merit of the old adage that the higher you go in academia, the more you know about less and less.

The Enemy Within Atzmon’s masterpiece begins with a rogue’s gallery – Mich Levy and Sarah Kershner of the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network followed by Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and myself from Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.

It consists primarily of 3 questions to the panel speakers and organisers. To describe them as loaded questions would be an understatement.

The first question was ‘what is your message to the Jewish anti-Zionists?’

Alan Hart didn’t seem to have a message. We were ‘beyond reason’. Ken O’Keefe questions the motivation of those opposed to this conference. Since he received numerous e-mails spelling out the reasons he should withdraw, none of which he replied to, it would appear that he has difficulty reading. Sameh Habeeb simply does angry.

Evelyn Hecht-Galinski’s message was that the conference is a wonderful, peaceful intellectual event. Organiser Annie Saureland is simply tired and exhausted.

Samir Abed-Rabbo claimed that critics should have participated in the conference. But that would have meant accepting that a racist conference was legitimate. Gaby Weber simply played innocent.

The second question ‘is it really down to Jewish aZs to decide about the future of Palestine’ is what one would call a leading question in legal parlance. It is of a kind with the ‘When did you stop beating your wife’ question. The question contains its own answer. All the panellists, unsurprisingly, responded that it was for the Palestinians to decide.

O’Keefe, who makes no pretension to be an intellectual, responds that ‘it’s not up to the Jewish people or the American people…’ Clearly he accepts there is a Jewish people. It’s what’s called tilting at windmills Ken.

Abed-Rabbo claimed that anyone who claims to be a friend of Palestine has the right to participate in the debate (but what the debate is he doesn’t explain!). Presumably ex-KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who never loses an opportunity to praise Atzmon, is also welcome to join in. Words mean little to the Law Professor. As a Marxist I’ve always held that law is a cloak for class interests and at times of crisis, as with the USA and Guantanamo, the mask slips. Or as in Chile the constitutional government is itself overthrown. In times of crisis, law means what our rulers want it to mean. Is any common and garden racist, Zionist or fascist welcome to participate in this debate? The good professor doesn’t expand.

Ibrahim El-Zayat affirms the question’s proposition, also without questioning its assumption. Gaby Weber, still looking frustrated and weary, comments that the ‘so-called Palestine solidarity movement in Germany is no solidarity movement’. Apparently the banning of neo-Nazi supporters is ‘the beginning of the end’. But of course this was the conference’s real agenda. And Atzmon, relieved by the fact that the Conference took place at all, has now made a similar attack on Britain’s PSC.

Atzmon’s third question ‘Do you have a message to Tony Greenstein’ might be flattering in another context. What is clear is that the campaign about Freiburg has severely rattled the Palestinians’ anti-Semitic supporters. Khoury Machool’s comment about not knowing me is correct. Alan Hart’s is a lie, since he had corresponded with me only a few days before. But what do you expect from an ex-BBC reporter? Annie Sauerland expressed her happiness that I attended the conference and spoke! Clearly she was away with the fairies or engaging in a form of wish fulfilment.

Abbed Rabo, the only one to even try to confront the elephant in the room described my comments as ‘baseless, I read them, I took the time to investigate them’. And that’s it. One gets the feeling that Abbed Rabo is used to inquiring into things he has made his mind up about. But what did he investigate? The accusation that Atzmon is a holocaust denier is proven beyond doubt. His comments above in ‘Truth, history and integrity’ article led to Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz, withdrawing as a speaker. And to complete the pantomime we have Atzmon providing an on camera answer to his own questions!!

Atzmon also seems to have perfected the art of contradicting himself, which is perhaps a clue to his character. In his book, (above) he says that to be a Jew is to be a Zionist. Yet in his video he states that ‘I would love to see more Jews involved in this movement’. There are no end to Atzmon’s contradictions, such as his claim never to deal in ‘race’.

Nonetheless, I would expect a prominent Palestinian academic to understanding of the background to Zionism. After all, you can’t oppose something you don’t understand. It’s hardly a recipe for success. Atzmon seems surprised by the fact that Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first President, believed that:

‘ ‘There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America.’ In just a few words, Weizmann managed to categorically define the essence of Jewish-ness. It is basically a ‘primary quality’. You may be a Jew who dwells in England, a Jew who plays the violin or even a Jew against Zionism, but above all else you are a Jew. And this is exactly the idea conveyed by the third category.’ (pp. 16-17)

For Atzmon, what Weizmann has to say is confirmation of his own belief that there 3 different categories of Jews, of which the 3rd, who are defined by ‘Jewishness’, are Zionists. This includes those who organise against Zionism! What is most surprising is that Atzmon, who emphasises the influence of his Revisionist Zionist grandfather, is surprised by Weizmann’s remarks. It suggests that his book is less than honest about Atzmon’s own motivations.

The idea that Jews are not part of the nations they live with is a fundamental axiom of Zionism. It provides a potential wedge, a possible point of conflict between the interests of Zionism and the interests of Jews living outside Israel. Yet neither Abed Rabbo nor Machool Khoury are even aware of the dichotomy.

What is more worrying is that some Zionists are picking up on this, e.g. the blog ‘Exposing anti-Semitism’ mixes bile with fact, e.g. the attempts to paint Maha Rahwanji of Brent PSC and PSC Executive as anti-Semitic. The site also homes in on Gill Kaffash who, from the correspondence I have had with her, is clearly a devoted Atzmonite and willing to excuse anything he says or does. From what she has said, it is clear that she is willing to go along with holocaust denial and in my opinion should be expelled from PSC.

Atzmon poses the issue in terms of Jewish anti-Zionists. What however is needed is for prominent Palestinian activists, who privately are scornful of Atzmon and the damage he is doing, to speak out. Atzmon is a much bigger fish than Israel Shamir was and his ability to do damage is correspondingly much greater. Atzmon’s anti-Semitism is not harmful to Jews. It does however have the potential to harm the Palestinian cause, especially when so-called intellectuals of the Palestinian Right, like Machool and Abed-Rabbo, cannot distinguish between Atzmon’s flattery and the message behind it.

Makram Khoury-Machool is an academic but largely unknown. Samir Abed-Rabbo is a former advisor to the Palestine mission at the UN. Both are clearly intelligent people which makes their behaviour that much more culpable. When Atzmon asks a question beginning ‘should aZ Jews….’ it smacks of the old colonial divide and rule.

In South Africa the ANC was based on the struggle of the Black working class. The Communist Party was prominent in its work. The Palestinian national movement is not based on the working class but a refugee population. The Palestinian Communist Party and the Left were always weak and are now weaker than ever. The ANC chose the road of struggle and pioneered BDS, the PLO sought an imperialist solution to a problem created by imperialism. Their whole strategy and that of Oslo, now widely accepted to have been a disaster but at the time welcomed by most Palestinians, rested on ‘the peace process’. The latter relied on the Arab regimes, themselves the junior partners of imperialism. The results have been predictable. The ANC was never that dependent on surrounding states. The Palestinian struggle has always has been a much more difficult one to achieve. Not least because within Mandate Palestine Israeli Jews consist of about 50% of the population compared to South Africa where the Whites were about 10%. The reaction of Hamas and the PA to the Arab Spring was to repress demonstrations against Mubarak, who had done his best to support Israel’s siege of Gaza.

A number of people have suggested, some quite forcefully, that Atzmon displays all the symptoms of an agent provocateur, a state agent. None of us will know until the files are opened (or leaked) but there will always be suspicions as to his purpose. A supporter of the Palestinians wrote to me today arguing that:

‘Just as Shamir made sense twelve years ago as an agent, so too does Atzmon. There is something that simply does not ring true about the history. It’s just that someone raised in a Jabotinsky Revisionist household does not do a complete 180 very often.’

I think that the jury is out on this one but those who play footsy with Atzmon are going to look very foolish if it transpires, as it has with his friend and colleague Israel Shamir, that he has links with foreign intelligence services. But we should also keep in mind an old saying that ‘You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.’

Tony Greenstein

E-mails Between Tony Greenstein & Gilad Atzmon

Re: Behind the rhetoric – a common and garden racist

From: Gilad Atzmon
To: tony greenstein
Sent: Thursday, 22 September 2011, 17:00

We loved your opposition and we also loved your Jewish campaign against the Jewish philharmony is never boring you 🙂 we are here on air in a minute.. Be brave tony’le …

On 22 Sep 2011, at 19:47, tony greenstein wrote:
…. I’m glad that you have finally been honest about the disruption of the BBC Proms and the IPO. It was a ‘Jewish campaign’. How interesting. I’m sure activists involved in BDS will be more than interested to hear of your views.
What was that about not being an anti-Semite?
tony greenstein

From: Gilad Atzmon
To: tony greenstein
Sent: Thursday, 22 September 2011, 22:17

Do you really think that BDS enthusiasts are blind to your Judeo centric actions and motivations?

How are you going to protect Pls artists from similar Zionist actions… tragically, you are not

Pls solidarity campaigners, you are merely anti Zionists ..
and you don’t even understand the difference between the two..

From: tony greenstein
To: Gilad Atzmon
Sent: Thursday, 22 September 2011, 23:34

Ah, you’re a BDS enthusiast now are we? It’s not the opinion of BDS activists. I assume you still believe the academic boycott to be book burning? And I’m sure you recall your interview with Silvia Cattori,

‘The “Left”… leads us to believe that the colonial/post-colonial political model provides some answers and even operative solutions; following the colonial template, we first equate Israel with South Africa, and then we implement a counter-colonial strategy, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). Yet, whilst I fully support all of those actions, they seem to be in some regards, not entirely effective at all. ‘

I can’t imagine why you would supported something that’s so ineffective.
And what is the point of raising the question of the vulnerability of Palestinian artists? Is that a reason not to disrupt the performances of the IPO? Such a strategy leads to doing nothing for fear of retaliation. Indeed it is reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s opposition to sanctions on Apartheid in South Africa. It would hurt the Black Africans most of all.

So what, apart from waging a war against Jews, especially those in the Pls Solidarity movement, do you advocate?

Yes I am an anti-Zionist. But there is no contradiction between that and being pro-Palestinian (although they are not the same). Your problem is that you aren’t anti-Zionist which therefore means that you see the reason for the Palestinian plight as being Jews per se, not Zionism.

There also no contradiction between being anti-Semitic and being a Zionist, as you well know.

Why don’t you try being honest for once instead of hiding behind vacant prose? Just admit that you find it difficult to support BDS for all the reasons you have given.

Tony Greenstein

From: Gilad Atzmon
Sent: Thursday, 22 September 2011, 23:34

You are certainly a book burner… In case you didn’t gather it by now, I am an author.. Very big difference between the two as far as I can tell..

Sent from my iPhone

From: tony greenstein
Sent: Thursday, 22 September 2011, 23:46

Ah yes, Atzmon the author. Any fool can write a book, the question is what it contains. In your case not much from what I’ve seen.

But don’t dodge the question. Do you stand by your previous remarks about the academic boycott being akin to book burning? Simple, isn’t it?

tony greenstein

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