Anti Fascism

Atzmon’s Aesthetics

Here are two articles, both of which are worth reading in full.

The first is by the Jazz writer, David Adler, which considers the failure by jazz commentators to engage with Atzmon’s increasingly paranoid and racist politics:

The plight of the Palestinians is real, but Atzmon has crossed the line into anti-Jewish bigotry, and it’s disappointing to see how few in the jazz world have noticed. Stephen Graham, editor of Britain’s Jazzwise magazine, told me that Atzmon is “a popular draw on the live scene.” Exile was voted album of the year at the 2003 BBC Jazz Awards, and Atzmon’s latest, musiK: re-Arranging the 20th Century, was in the running this year. The praise for his music isn’t unwarranted —though it has obscured the political issues raised by his work.

Elliott Simon, reviewing Atzmon’s 2003 disc Exile for, was entirely hoodwinked, characterizing the saxophonist’s message as “a plea for understanding among Israelis and Palestinians….” Atzmon’s message is the opposite: “[W]e must help the Palestinians become as armed as their Israeli enemy,” he has written.

The second is by Oliver Kamm which argues that it is not always easy to separate the two ways of considering Atzmon and his work:

I will defend strongly the independence of aesthetic criteria from political ones, but Atzmon invites us to judge him according to the latter.

My view is that Atzmon’s politics are applauded because they are understood only superficially. Atzmon’s rambling works of political theory and his association with Paul Eisen and “Israel Shamir” is not the sort of thing that most people know or care about. Reputable campaigners for the Palestinian cause condemn and distance themselves from these third positioners: precisely because they bridge the ideological gap between the far right and the far left. Ultimately, however, because Atzmon is a jew, his ethnicity acts as a kind of “stamp of quality” on his politics for many relatively politically uninvolved people. In a world of simple dualities, Atzmon has become the “good Israeli”: the anti-Sharon.

That excuse is not available to the SWP, whose leadership know that Atzmon is an outspoken racist and conspiracy theorist, but continue to promote not simply his music but also his views.

I do not know much about jazz. In fact, the words “And now… Jazz!”, when spoken on Radio 3, triggers a reflexive lunge for the off switch. However understand that people who like jazz do so because its complex and subtle nature rewards close attention. It is certainly time that the jazz world also began to develop a similarly subtle understanding of Atzmon’s politics.