Tony Greenstein | 29 September 2011 | Post Views:

Far be it from me to defend the Guardian or its Comment Is Free section. Having been banned from posting articles by its former editor, Matthew Seaton, because I insisted that comparisons could and should be made between Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the Nazi treatment of the Jews, I have no axe to grind. It is particularly cowardly since Israeli papers like Ha’aretz have no such inhibitions in describing how Israeli Rabbis such as Yitzhak Shapira in a book Torat HaMelech call for the extermination even of Palestinian children and for death camps to be established. Arabs to the Ovens Killing Non-Jews is Kosher and a Symbol of Israeli Academic Freedom!

Indeed the way that CIF has bowed quite nakedly to the all too familiar behind-the-scenes Zionist pressure politics, dressing it up as ‘community standards’, with ‘moderators’ (censors) defacing discussions with multiple deletions, makes a mockery at times of their commitment to free debate.

Only yesterday, in response to the article by Andy Newman that Cook criticises, a comment of mine was deleted (the moderators never give reasons) yet the replies to it remain undeleted!! The articles which I did post, which covered both Atzmon himself, the Jewish National Fund and the way that anti-Semitism is misused, came under sustained Zionist criticism and proved too much for the liberal notion of free debate.

Jonathan Cook is an extremely able, articulate and concise writer on Palestine and living in Nazareth himself he is able to describe at first-hand the repression that Israeli Arabs experience,. However his attack on Andy Newman’s article in the Guardian on Gilad Atzmon was both misinformed and misplaced. Instead of doing what he normally does, and researching his articles thoroughly, he shot from the hip, defended Atzmon and criticised Newman’s article without bothering to undertake even the most elementary research.

I sent an e-mail a day ago to Becky Gardiner and Brian Whittaker of CIF concerning Andy Newman’s article. I have a number of criticisms of the article yet, on balance, it struck the right note. I wrote that:

‘To put it mildly the article went on a detour, failed to mention the most obvious problem concerning Atzmon’s politics – namely his espousal of holocaust denial – and associated with the left someone whose relationship to it is at best tangential, Alison Weir. The organ donor/theft accusations don’t sit particularly well as this accusation stands or falls on its own merits. It is no more anti-Semitic than accusing China or Iran of executing people for their organs and blood – which they clearly do….

…. I have written extensively on Atzmon, and indeed all the articles on him on Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity site are written by me. I also think that his [Atzmon’s] attempt to rehabilitate holocaust deniers is somewhat of more relevance than the organ theft controversy, which has nothing to do with the medieval blood libel anyway.

I previously wrote a number of articles for CIF before falling out with Matt Seaton on account of the pressure on him not to allow any connection to be made between Zionism and Nazism…. the fact is that where there are such similarities I have documented them thoroughly e.g. the Lubavitch Magazine Fountains of Salvation that called for death camps for Palestinians which cited from Israel’s largest daily newspaper Yediot Aharanot
Andy’s article was unfortunately weak and it would appear, from the letter today from Alison Weir, factually mistaken….’

Andy Newman’s Article
The article by Andy Newman does, unfortunately, have major weaknesses. Not least of which is that it targets the alleged support of Atzmon by the Left. With the exception of the thoroughly opportunist SWP, who have now broken from him, although leading member Richard Seymour is of the opinion that the SWP owes no-one any explanation for why they promoted him in the first place I am hard put to to think of any left-wing group that has defended him. I have written a number of articles in the widest read British socialist publication, Weekly Worker, paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain, criticising Atzmon [e.g. Time to say goodbye, Anti-semitic conspiracist, ‘Anti-Zionist’ holocaust denier, and Blind eye to anti-semitism ] as well as in Tribune, Labour Briefing, What’s Next etc.

Perhaps it is the canard that the Left supports Atzmon, when the opposite is true, is why the increasingly right-wing Guardian Editor Jonathan Freedland, was so happy with it?

However Andy Newman’s article is to be welcomed. It quite correctly singles out the article “Tribal Marxism for Dummies” for criticism. Apart from a wholly gratuitous attack on Professor Moshe Machover, an Israeli Marxist and one of the founders of Matzpen, the anti-Zionist Socialist Organisation in Israel, which led even his anti-Semitic co-fellow Mary Rizzo to part company with him, it invents the novel idea of there being a ‘Jewish’ Marxism. Apparently ‘While Marxism is a universal paradigm, its Jewish version is very different. It is there to mould Marxist dialectic into a Jewish subservient precept.’

The article, which Cook would have done well to consult and think about, is dripping with venomous anti-Jewish attacks that have nothing whatsoever to do with support for the Palestinians. Quite the contrary. It is incomprehensible that Jonathan Cook, an extremely intelligent and able writer, cannot see what is staring him in the face. Atzmon specialises in quoting Zionism’s founding fathers to attack Jews. If Cook had consulted my Guide to the Sayings of Gilad Atzmon and the section ‘Borrowing Jew Hatred from Zionism – Why Atzmon Remains a Zionist’ he might have understood.

Atzmon quotes for example the address of Max Nordau, Herzl’s Deputy, to the First Zionist Congress in 1897, that “The emancipated Jew … becomes an inner cripple, and externally unreal, and thereby always ridiculous and hateful to all higher feeling men, as is everything that is unreal.” in support of his own anti-Semitism yet one of the facets of Zionism has been its Jewish self-hatred which was turned on the Palestinians.

As Jacques Kornberg notes re Theodore Herzl, founder of Political Zionism: ‘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”- Herzl’s hostile piece on the Rothschilds was written after he had spurned Herzl’s pleas to finance Zionist diplomacy. Theodore Herzl: A Reevaluation, Jacques Kornberg, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Jun., 1980), pp. 226-252.

Likewise 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] and Herzl when visiting a synagogue in November 1894 wrote that:

‘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, p. 11

Unfortunately Andy Newman’s introduction of organ theft and Israel’s alleged role in it detracted from the article and true or false, has nothing to do with medieval blood libels. Likewise the suggestion that ‘The Jews have always regarded themselves as a nation without a home’ is nonsense on two counts – the religious concept of ‘La’am’ referred to a religious people, not a nation and secondly Jews always considered where they lived their home, which may explain Cook’s intemperate attack.

But overall, given that Andy Newman was limited to 800 words, then the article was certainly something that I would have expected Jonathan Cook of all people, to have criticised constructively and researched first.

Instead it would appear that Cook really has other fish to fry, as in the subtitle, ‘The Dangerous Cult of the Guardian’. Many of his criticisms of the Guardian and George Monbiot, its pro-nuclear ‘environmentalist’ are clearly true but Monbiot was spot on re the Srebenica massacre, particularly in respect of Living Marxism¸magazine of the defunct Revolutionary Communist Party, now Spiked, which deservedly lost a libel action against ITN for alleging that pictures of concentration camp inmates in Bosnia were faked. Spiked today is a vehemently Zionist web magazine.

There is indeed a good argument for saying that the liberal press help manufacture consent in a capitalist society and that the Guardian/Observer are primus inter pares in that respect with war-mongering Islamaphobes like Nick Cohen writing for it. Cohen in particular is obsessed with Islamism yet never seems to mention Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who strides the land with his overtly racist and neo-fascist views.

I have no doubt that the Guardian has become increasingly restrictive publishing people like Noam Chomsky. I have given, in my own small way, an example of how I was excised from Comment is Free because I would not toe the line over the now discredited EU Monitoring Committee’s draft definition of anti-Semitism’s that all comparisons between Israel and Nazism are anti-Semitic. Even Europe’s Federal Rights Agency, which has succeeded the EUMC, has now abandoned this definition.

Where Cook has gone wrong is in his attack on Andy Newman’s article as an example of the Guardian thought-police in action. In the 40 years I’ve been a reader of the Guardian it has been the only paper that has at least recognised that there was a Palestinian case. I can remember my parents dropping it for the Daily Telegraph precisely on that score!

When Cook says that ‘I have no idea whether Atzmon has expressed anti-semitic views – and I am none the wiser after reading Newman’s piece.’ then my first reaction is to say that he should have taken the trouble to find out first. Newman’s citing of Atzmon’s Tribal Marxism for Dummies should have given him some clues. Cook could also have found numerous other examples such as Atzmon’s ‘On anti-Semitism’ ‘American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews (in fact Zionists) do control the world…’ The ‘(in fact Zionists)’ was added later. Hitler said that the Protocols must be true because what they said is true. Atzmon says that the Protocols are true but it it is irrelevant if they are a forgery. As Oscar Wilde noted, that is a distinction without a difference.

In the same essay Atzmon justifies as ‘rational’ attacks on synagogues and Jewish graves. ‘If Israel is the state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people themselves do not stand up collectively against the crimes that are committed on their behalf, then every Jewish person, Jewish symbol and Jewish object becomes an Israeli interest and a potential terrorist target. It is up to the Jewish people to take a stand against their Jewish state and to disassociate themselves from their zealous national movement.’ Atzmon also states in ‘’NOT IN MY NAME– An analysis of Jewish righteousness’ that ‘Jews cannot criticise Zionism in the name of their ethnic belonging because such an act is in itself an approval of Zionism.’ You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

The examples of Atzmon’s anti-Semitism, not least his repeatedly vicious attacks against Jewish anti-Zionists as fifth columnists in the Palestine solidarity movement, render him a political leper. His The Protocols Of The Elders Of London is a good example as any.

It is true that Andy’s example of why Counterpunch is anti-Semitic wasn’t the bestexample . More relevant is the fact that Counterpunch has repeatedly published articles by Israel Shamir, an open and dedicated holocaust denier who described Auschwitz as 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.’

In an e-mail to me (12 June 2005) Atzmon declared that ‘I regard Shamir as a unique and advanced thinker.’ He is certainly unique. Who else could criticise the BNP for not being anti-Jewish enough?

‘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.’

Shamir’s advanced thought manages to combine support for paedophillia with anti-Semitism and homophobia! Does Jonathan Cook really wishes to be associated with the kind of bigot who can write the following?

‘The Americans over-simplify the question of sex with minors, when they present it as something monstrous. This is not so…. Indeed, almost all cases of alleged abuse are homosexual; the alleged victims should sue the gay rights organizations rather than the Church. But the Church is not allowed even to utter these words…. (homophobia) may stand next to the taboo on “being less than fond of Jews” (anti-Semitism)…. two secondary offences have been created, “racism”, an antisemitism spill-off, and “paedophilia”, a homophobia spill-off.’

Counterpunch, which Cook believes is a paragon of journalistic virtue, also behaves like the worst of the capitalist media. On June 18 2005 it carried an article ‘The Gag Artists Who’s Afraid of Gilad Atzmon?’ by Mary Rizzo. I asked for a right of reply since it attacked me. And you know what? Counterpunch didn’t just refuse, it didn’t even respond to my requests. Today it carries repeated articles by Julian Assange’s sidekick Israel Shamir (who reportedly betrayed dissidents in Belorussia to the regime through his access to Wikileaks documents). It was those wicked left-wingers from the Marxist Archive and What’s Next and other socialist sites, not the Guardian incidentally, who carried my rejoinder ‘Why Palestinian Solidarity Activists Must Reject Anti-Semitism – A Reply to Mary Rizzo’s Who’s Afraid of Gilad Atzmon’ . So simply factually Jonathan Cook has got it wrong regarding Counterpunch. The Guardian has allowed Atzmon a reply to Andy Newman’s article.

Andy is criticised for not having read the turgid prose of Atzmon’s new book ‘The Wandering Who?’. Well I have. In it Atzmon informs us that ‘Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine, as some scholars suggest. 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.’ Anti-Semitic? Perish the thought. Atzmon vehemently rejects the idea that Israel is a settler-colonial state. It owes its existence not to Christian Zionism or imperial interests. It’s the Jews and Jewishness.

And developing his version of the international Jewish conspiracy, Atzmon has a section entitled ‘The Organism’ where we learn that ‘

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… the Zionist movement… 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 would have to wear blinkers and ear muffs not to recognise the provenance of these remarks. That Professor Richard Falk has allowed his name to be sullied by association with this garbage is unfortunate. That Professor John Mersheimer has done so is less surprising given his belief that the USA supports Israel against its own imperial interests.

Jonathan Cook puts inverted commas around Atzmon’s “antisemitic writings” as if there is any doubt about them. If the above quotes are not sufficient, perhaps Atzmon’s essay on ‘Truth, History and Integrity’ might persuade Jonathan Cook that he has made a serious error of judgement. Atzmon makes it clear that the extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis was a politically inspired fiction:

‘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?’ ‘If the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war? We should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative…’

It is true that the Guardian and Andy Newman did indeed put their own spin on what Atzmon represents. He isn’t an example of the Left. Even the SWP have now abandoned him, albeit refusing to explain why they initially supported him. Far more worrying is that some marginal sections of the wider Palestine solidarity movement still don’t get it. People like blogger Sameh Habeeb ex-Palestine Chronicle editor. The real danger is that Atzmon’s argument that Israel is not the product of a world imperialist system but of Jews as Jews will divert support for BDS (which Atzmon does not support) into retrograde anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism today is a marginal prejudice. Atzmon’s attempt to blame the current economic crisis on Jews is absured and farcical since there is no social base in the West today for anti-Semitism. The Jews’role has been taken by Muslims and asylum seekers. That is what Jonathan Cook fails to perceive

Tony Greenstein

By Jonathan Cook

September 28, 2011 “Information Clearing House” — There could be no better proof of the revolution – care of the internet – occurring in the accessibility of information and informed commentary than the reaction of our mainstream, corporate media.

For the first time, Western publics – or at least those who can afford a computer – have a way to bypass the gatekeepers of our democracies. Data our leaders once kept tightly under wraps can now be easily searched for, as can the analyses of those not paid to turn a blind eye to the constant and compelling evidence of Western hypocrisy. Wikileaks, in particular, has rapidly eroded the traditional hierarchical systems of information dissemination.

The media – at least the supposedly leftwing component of it – should be cheering on this revolution, if not directly enabling it. And yet, mostly they are trying to co-opt, tame or subvert it. Indeed, progressive broadcasters and writers increasingly use their platforms in the mainstream to discredit and ridicule the harbingers of the new age.

A good case study is the Guardian, considered the most leftwing newspaper in Britain and rapidly acquiring cult status in the United States, where many readers tend to assume they are getting access through its pages to unvarnished truth and the full range of critical thinking on the left.

Certainly, the Guardian includes some fine reporting and occasionally insightful commentary. Possibly because it is farther from the heart of empire, it is able to provide a partial antidote to the craven coverage of the corporate-owned media in the US.

Nonetheless, it would be unwise to believe that the Guardian is therefore a free market in progressive or dissident ideas on the left. In fact, quite the contrary: the paper strictly polices what can be said and who can say it in its pages, for cynical reasons we shall come to.

Until recently, it was quite possible for readers to be blissfully unaware that there were interesting or provocative writers and thinkers who were never mentioned in the Guardian. And, before papers had online versions, the Guardian could always blame space constraints as grounds for not including a wider range of voices. That, of course, changed with the rise of the internet.

Early on, the Guardian saw the potential, as well as the threat, posed by this revolution. It responded by creating a seemingly free-for-all blog called Comment is Free to harness much of the raw energy unleashed by the internet. It recruited an army of mostly unpaid writers, activists and propagandists on both sides of the Atlantic to help brand itself as the epitome of democratic and pluralistic media.

From the start, however, Comment is Free was never quite as free – except in terms of the financial cost to the Guardian – as it appeared. Significant writers on the left, particularly those who were considered “beyond the pale” in the old media landscape, were denied access to this new “democratic” platform. Others, myself included, quickly found there were severe and seemingly inexplicable limits on what could be said on CiF (unrelated to issues of taste or libel).

None of this should matter. After all, there are many more places than CiF to publish and gain an audience. All over the web dissident writers are offering alternative analyses of current events, and drawing attention to the significance of information often ignored or sidelined by the corporate media.

Rather than relish this competition, or resign itself to the emergence of real media pluralism, however, the Guardian reverted to type. It again became the left’s thought police.

This time, however, it could not ensure that the “challenging left” would simply go unheard. The internet rules out the option of silencing by exclusion. So instead, it appears, it is using its pages to smear those writers who, through their own provocative ideas and analyses, suggest the Guardian’s tameness.

The Guardian’s discrediting of the “left” – the left being a concept never defined by the paper’s writers – is far from taking place in a fair battle of ideas. Not least the Guardian is backed by the huge resources of its corporate owners. When it attacks dissident writers, they can rarely, if ever, find a platform of equal prominence to defend themselves. And the Guardian has proved itself more than reluctant to allow a proper right of reply in its pages to those it maligns.

But also, and most noticeably, it almost never engages with these dissident writers’ ideas. In popular terminology, it prefers to play the man, not the ball. Instead it creates labels, from the merely disparaging to the clearly defamatory, that push these writers and thinkers into the territory of the unconscionable.

A typical example of the Guardian’s new strategy was on show this week in an article in the print edition’s comment pages – also available online and a far more prestigious platform than CiF – in which the paper commissioned a socialist writer, Andy Newman, to argue that the Israeli Jewish musician Gilad Atzmon was part of an anti-semitic trend discernible on the left.

Jonathan Freedland, the paper’s star columnist and resident obsessive on anti-semitism, tweeted to his followers that the article was “important” because it was “urging the left to confront antisemitism in its ranks”.

I have no idea whether Atzmon has expressed anti-semitic views – and I am none the wiser after reading Newman’s piece.

As is now typical in this new kind of Guardian character assassination, the article makes no effort to prove that Atzmon is anti-semitic or to show that there is any topical or pressing reason to bring up his presumed character flaw. (In passing, the article made a similar accusation of anti-semitism against Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, and against the Counterpunch website for publishing an article by her on Israel’s role in organ-trafficking.)

Atzmon has just published a book on Jewish identity, the Wandering Who?, that has garnered praise from respected figures such as Richard Falk, an emeritus law professor at Princeton, and John Mearsheimer, a distinguished politics professor at Chicago University.

But Newman did not critique the book, nor did he quote from it. In fact, he showed no indication that he had read the book or knew anything about its contents.

Instead Newman began his piece, after praising Atzmon’s musicianship, with an assumptive reference to his “antisemitic writings”. There followed a few old quotes from Atzmon, long enough to be intriguing but too short and out of context to prove his anti-semitism – except presumably to the Guardian’s thought police and its most deferential readers.

The question left in any reasonable person’s mind is why dedicate limited commentary space in the paper to Atzmon? There was no suggestion of a newsworthy angle. And there was no case made to prove that Atzmon is actually anti-semitic. It was simply assumed as a fact.

Atzmon, even by his own reckoning, is a maverick figure who has a tendency to infuriate just about everyone with his provocative, and often ambiguous, pronouncements. But why single him out and then suggest that he represents a discernible and depraved trend among the left?

Nonetheless, the Guardian was happy to offer its imprimatur to Newman’s defamation of Atzmon, who was described as a conspiracy theorist “dripping with contempt for Jews”, despite an absence of substantiating evidence. Truly worthy of Pravda in its heyday.


Is Atzmon and his presumed anti-semitism more significant than AIPAC? Is Herman more of a danger than the military-industrial corporations killing millions of people around the globe? And is Assange more of a menace to the planet’s future than US President Barack Obama?

Reading the Guardian, you might well think so.

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Tony Greenstein

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