Tony Greenstein | 31 May 2012 | Post Views:

Atzmon and all that Jazz

Last night Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and I went to the film premier of Gilad and all that jazz at the Soho Hotel cinema.  About 18 months we were both interviewed for the film and we took a decision that it would be churlish to boycott the film preview since we had no dispute with David Alamouti and Golriz Kolahi who produced and directed the film.

Al Ansar – Israel’s Concentration Camp in Lebanon

Bund veterans – a favourite Atzmon Target
Kamm – one of the hypocritical Zionist critics of Atzmon
Aaronovitch – One Narcissist Criticising Another

Tony Greenstein – J-Big

More pertinently we each took individual decisions, as J-Big has no policy on such things, of agreeing to be interviewed.  Partly this was because we didn’t want it to be seen that the only opposition to Atzmon’s anti-Semitic views came from right-wing supporters of genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan like David Aaronovitch and Oliver ‘banker’ Kamm.  Two  pretty disgusting liars and war-mongers, the first of whom I successfully took to the libel courts 3+ years ago.

It is extremely important that anti-Zionists make their position clear, because there is nothing that the Zionists would love than to pretend that the only opposition to Atzmon’s undoubted anti-Semitism comes from racists of a Zionist flavour.  As it is, Kamm and Aaronovitch displayed in all their glory just how vacuous and empty headed they are.  Their message?  That Atzmon gives vent to all the classic tropes of traditional anti-Semitism.  True, but they had nothing to say about why his ideas have received support from people you would have otherwise expected to oppose him or even why it is that a few, and getting fewer, number of Palestinians have supported him.

J-Big and Palestine solidarity activists picket Atzmon’s book launch

And of course Kamm and Aaronovitch have nothing to say about little things like the ethnic cleansing of the Negev Bedouin today or the Arabs of Jerusalem.  Because Kamm and Aaronovitch have nothing to say about oppression in the here and now, their message plays only to convinced Zionists or the gullible.  They are incapable of winning so much as a fly to their arguments.  A good demonstration of the futility of their hypocrisy was when Aaronovitch and fellow Islamaphobe Nick Cohen, debated with Atzmon at the Sunday Times Book Festival a few years ago.  They were slaughtered, utterly humiliated.  Aaronovitch thought it a good idea to read out Atzmon’s quotes and everything would be self-evident.  However the man is incapable of explaining why they are anti-Semitic and even less able to explain why if anti-Semitism is wrong then so too is anti-Arab and Muslim racism.  Because of course the slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan is only justifiable on the basis that Arabs and Muslims are a lesser species of humanity.

But the film is certainly very well produced and moving in parts, in particular where it shows the terrible atrocities of the Israeli army, the devastation and the use of tanks in civilian areas.  Likewise, despite knowing nothing about and not liking jazz all that much, I don’t think that anyone can deny that Atzmon is a talented musician.

And that is what is so tragic.  Atzmon could have put his undoubted talents to the use of the Palestine solidarity movement.  Instead of getting mixed up with Paul Eisen, David Duke and all the other loonies and fruitcakes of the neo-Nazi and holocaust denial Right, he could have advanced a cause other than himself.  Instead the Palestinians are a support act in Atzmon’s life (or they are villified and abused).  Instead Gilad spouts all this identity nonsense and junk philosophy.

I tackled him on his concept of the Judaic god as the explanation for what Israel does.  He draws a direct line between Moses and Israel today.  And he denied it!  I explained to the audience, who had been hostile to Naomi when she spoke , that you can’t locate what has happened to the Palestinians in Jewish identity because that identity itself changed from an anti-Zionist one to Zionism (in large part).  And Gilad agreed and therein lies the problem.  Politically there is no coherence to his views and one does have to come back to his repeated anti-Semitic jibes and jests.  Some of them are probably more about offending but they also do reflect his own inner belief.

But let us be clear, since Atzmon finds it difficult, to understand what it is that he is arguing.  The following passages from The Wandering Who are pretty explicit:

‘The Judaic God, as portrayed by Moses in the above passage, is an evil deity, who leads his people to plunder, robbery and theft…. There are many other ways to save the Judaic God and Judaism from being the logos behind contemporary Israeli plunder, but it is not so easy to save the Israelis from being presented as robbers and pillagers.’ [20]

‘Israel and Zionism, both successful political systems, have instituted the plunder promised by the Hebrew God in the Judaic holy scriptures.  But this continuum goes further than just theft – in reviewing the following Biblical passages, recall the devastating images of Gazans being bombed in a UN shelter at the time of the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead (Dec-Jan 2008-2009): [121]

‘the difference between Judaism and contemporary Jewish nationalism can be illustrated as follows: while the Judaic Biblical context is filled with references to violent deeds, usually committed in the name of God, within the modern Jewish national and political context Jews kill and rob in their own name, in the name of self-determination, ‘working class politics’, ‘Jewish suffering’ and national
aspirations.’ [123] 

‘So someone who supports, and I have no doubt he is appalled by the actions of the Israeli governments, the Palestinians, is now widely seen as a liability by them.  Someone who does more damage than good.  We shook hands as political foes and I have no problem with that and I’m sure the photos will be up soon enough!

But as I was explaining why Gilad’s political pretensions were gibberish, and as he was reduced to incoherence he grabbed me by the shoulders and whispered something about my not being ethical!   Atzmon seriously believes that questioning Auschwitz’s purpose is the height of an ethical morality!  I then repeated what he had said which seemed to make him blush (if that’s possible!).  ‘Twould seem that the great man is, when it comes to it, incapable of defending his ideas other than to deny them!

Of course Kamm and Aaronovitch didn’t make an appearance although Kamm is reported to have  accepted the invitation, so I guess that like most of their kind, they are also political cowards too when they have to defend their ideas in what they perceive to be a hostile environment.

Naomi and me had some very good discussions with many of those present and Gilad seemed most upset that his film preview had turned into a debate that he could not control or which was not centred around him.  I also accepted that if there was a panel discussion on TV or radio, then yes I’d be happy to take part and continue the discussion as we should never be afraid of taking these ideas apart.  Jewish identity has understandably confused people, since the Zionists maintain it is inseparable from being a Zionist.

It is a great tragedy that although Gilad Atzmon became revolted at what he saw in the Lebanon War of 1982, he accepted the basis premise of Zionism that it is indeed the sole representative of Jewish identity.  It is this which leads him to attack Jewish anti-Zionists, ending up in the absurd position of labelling the Cultural Boycott and the Habima and Royal Albert Hall protests as ‘book burning‘ and ‘Judeocentric’ [whereas of course those participating were both Jewish and non-Jewish and none was counting either].  But he also attacks those manifestations of past Jewish identity which don’t fit in with his schema.  In particular the Bund, which as I pointed out last night and he accepted, represented 85% of the Jewish Council seats in Warsaw in 1938 are more detestable to Atzmon than Zionism.

Atzmon despicably attacks the Bund and that small remnant who weren’t wiped out by the Nazis who made their way to Israel in 1948.  A film has been made about them, a very sad and tragic film.  The Bund in Israel sought both to keep the memory of their fight in Poland alive and stay together to cherish their heritage.  I doubt if there are many Palestinians who would resent or oppose these survivors of the holocaust settling in Palestine as it then was.  Just as today Black Africans have formed a community in south Tel Aviv and been the victims of the most appalling pogroms and racist abuse. [see Xenophobia in Tel Aviv, ‘We must not let nationalism, threatened sense of identity turn us into old-time Europe’ Daniel Feldman]

The remnants of the Bund came as refugees not colonisers.  The Zionists came as colonisers and used the Jewish refugees as a battering ram, actively campaigning against their admission to the USA and elsewhere in the world.  Yet Atzmon attacks this tiny remnant who sought to preserve their socialism in the midst of a contradiction of being Jewish in a ‘Jewish’ state.  In fact the Produce Eran Torbiner, a young late 40s Bundist is a supporter as he told me of the Boycott Within.  Yet Atzmon seems to attack these of all people. Gilad Atzmon: The Bund- A Disturbing Jewish Political Exercise (must watch)

 Atzmon cites Yaacov Belek, an elderly Bundist, that “The Bund was a unique Party. It wasn’t like any other party… it was an empire. A bund member was a different kind of person. … For years we grew bigger and bigger. Before the beginning of WWII it was the largest party in Poland. We possessed everything. We had the youth, future, SKIP, sport, so many schools, we were the new type, we were the new man’   This is an example of ‘Jewish Power’  The absurdity should be obvious to anyone.  The Bund actively worked with the Polish Socialist Party.  They led the Warsaw ghetto resistance.  They campaigned against the Zionists and represented the Jewish oppressed which Atzmon terms a ‘Jews only’ party.  Well yes, the oppressed do have the right to organise separately.  Do we call the Black Panther movement in the USA ‘Blacks only’ as if it and not the KKK were the racists?  Perhaps Atzmon could consult David Duke about all of this!

It is no surprise that Atzmon’s support for the Palestinians ends up in an attack on Jews who oppose Zionism and in so doing he  reflects Zionist ideology.  Last night in what turned into a debate, he cited Chaim Weizmann that “There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America” But that was the whole point.  It was a common theme of anti-Semites and Zionists that the Jews
did not belong, they were a separate nation whose land was Palestine. 
Weizmann counted the hated founder of the proto-fascist anti-Semitic British Brothers League, Major William Evans-Gordon, as his friend.  And that is where Atzmon’s anti-Semitism leads him.  Back to the Zionist project, whose barbarities he recoils from.

And that is why the few Palestinians who still support Atzmon, like Karl Sabbagh (there yesterday) are supporting their own dispossession.  Palestinians and Arabs who see Atzmon as the fount of all wisdom are turkeys looking forward to the next Christmas.

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Tony Greenstein

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