The Left

The Legacy of Atzmon

It is often suggested, by his detractors, that the racist crank Gilad Atzmon is a Mossad agent, whose mission is the discrediting of the Palestinian solidarity campaign.

The essence of the argument is that Atzmon is a phony. Although Atzmon is certainly engaged in winding up jews, and having fun doing so, he’s evidently very serious about his kooky racist views. He isn’t play acting.

As to whether he is discrediting the Palestinian solidarity campaign, I’ve really only this to say.

First, the weird and wonderful stuff that Atzmon peddles – jewish world conspiracies, the rationality of burning down synagogues, the intrinsic wickeness of “jewishness” – is thematically and substantively the same as the overblown nonsense emanating from parts of the far Left on the subject of “Zionism”.

Does anything that Atzmon has said really discredit, further, those who ramble on about the supernaturally powerful “Zionist” lobby, who “mbunderstand” suicide bombers, and who denounce as “Zionists” anybody who doesn’t doubts that a “secular binational one state solution” is in the cards in the immediate future?

Secondly, Atzmon deplores the inability of some on the Left to show proper and full solidarity with Hamas by continuing to advocate the creation of a secular Palestinian state: when this is evidently not what the Hamas, which won the election, wants. It does not discredit the Palestinian solidarity movement to make the point that Hamas wishes to create a theocracy, and looks forward in its Constitution to the genocide of jews.
The only thing that really discredits the Palestinian solidiarity movement is the pretense that this is not the case, or that it does not matter.

Thirdly, and finally, Atzmon is accused of trying to render anti-jewish racism a mainstream part of the Palestinian solidarity movement. I’d suggest that racism blindness and denial is already an entrenched feature of parts of the far Left, who put an enormous amount of effort into suggesting that it doesn’t exist, is exaggerated, or that it would disappear if only Israel were to vanish, and if only a sufficiently large number of jews called for the dismantling of that State.

Atzmon certainly isn’t the main purveyor of racism in the world, and not even within the Palestinian solidarity movement. He’s just a bloke who is so desperate to escape his jewishness that he can’t stop talking about it for a single moment. Jewishness is the tune that he can’t get out of his head. It keeps playing on and on, variation upon nightmarish variation. Atzmon’s jewishness chases him around, like a personal demon.

Put it this way. If you don’t recognise that Atzmon is a racist crank, then you have a difficulty recognising racism. Atzmon is the symptom: he’s not the problem.

And that’s what the Atzmon business is really all about. Racism blindness and racism denial is more problematic than racism itself: because it both disguises racism itself, and undermines the ability to combat it. When the Socialist Workers’ Party invited Atzmon to speak and play to its members, and for its benefit – despite his high profile as a racist crank – those acts spoke volumes about its nature.

The problem isn’t Atzmon and his racism.

The problem is the political effort that the Socialist Workers’ Party has put into promoting him, and the intellectual effort that SWP intellectuals put into explaining that Atzmon isn’t really a racist crank at all, but rather is’playing with post-colonial discourses of identity’, or what have you.

The problem is that every time the Socialist Workers’ Party wants to downplay anti-semitism generally, or immunise themselves from the suggestions that they are racist, they wheel out a jew to “kosherise” their position: usually poor old Michael Rosen.

In his own way, Atzmon called the far Left on this tactic. Just as Atzmon’s associate slammed the British National Party for being run by “jewish overseers“, Atzmon denounced what he called the “jewish gatekeepers“, who sought to police the boundaries of acceptable politics within the Palestinian solidarity movement. The far Left jewish activists, Roland Rance, Tony Greenstein, and Mark Elf, and indeed anybody in the anti-Zionist camp who identified as jewish naturally became the particular targets of Atzmon’s accusations.

For the past year or so, the anti-Zionist blogosphere has crackled with static given off by the Atzmon and Pals v the Anti-Zionist Jews rumble: one bunch of cranky jews arguing against another bunch of cranky jews.

It now looks as if the matter is being brought to a head. Mick Napier’s Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Committee recently invited Gilad Atzmon to address them and to write special incidental music to their production of Perdition: a play which recycles old Soviet propaganda about Zionists conspiring with Nazis. Now it looks as if he has had a dramatic change of heart.

He had denounced Atzmon on the SPSC website.

Atzmon has responded. He is not best pleased. Indeed, he takes the opportunty to lay into the “non dialectical Marxists” of the revolutionary Left. As usual, he poses the right question:

The reason is simple, non dialectical Marxists are themselves part of the problem. Don’t they fight Islam? As sad as it may sound, non dialectical Marxists are part of the Western white supremacist discourse. They don’t know how to cross the bridge between materialism and Jihad. I myself struggle crossing this very bridge. But long time ago I realized that my Jihad is actually understanding what Jihad is all about (i.e.dialectical approach)

Nowadays, when the Palestinians in the PA voted Hamas, it would be interesting to hear from Napier and Daljit what they have to say about the role of Islam in the isr/pls conflict. Do they accept a theocratic non democratic Palestine? Or do they insist upon ‘secular’ ‘democratic’ one state? In other words, do they listen to the Palestinians or rather suggesting to the Palestinians? This is probably the most crucial question.

My answer to that question is not the same at Atzmon’s. Palestinians are entitled to self-determination and security: just like any other cultural group. That is as far as solidarity should go.

Atzmon’s question is, however, a very good one indeed. It is one which the section of the far Left which “glorifies” Hizbollah has answered, in its own way. Atzmon should be pleased.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Atzmon created this problem. He is merely one further manifestation of it.

This weekend, Tony Greenstein will propose to the Palestine Solidarity Conference that they proscribe Deir Yassin Remembered: an organisation which brings together two Atzmon associates, and fellow racist cranks, “Israel Shamir” and Paul Eisen. Paul Eisen’s “defence” of his organisation is instructive, and I recommend you read it. If you can’t be bothered, it basically consists of a repetition of Eisen’s “Jewish Power” thesis, and of the “compelling” views of the imprisoned Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel.

At some point, no doubt, the Socialist Workers’ Party will decide that it has to cut its links with Gilad Atzmon. That time must be coming soon, if it is not already here. The SWP has recently forced one of its members to quit the SPSC over the restaging of Perdition. [And, as tim in the comments points out, Galloway has already “made his excuses” and ducked out of a gig with Atzmon. When Galloway deserts a ship, you know it is doomed.]

For the reasons explained above, however, it hardly matters whether they do it sooner or later.

One thing is clear, though. You can hardly blame Gilad Atzmon for discrediting the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Palestinian solidarity movement.

They did it to themselves.