Atzmon in Germany

Here is a review of a book reading and concert by Gilad Atzmon, that took place on 29 November 2005:

An Evening Full of Discordant Notes

Langendreer District, Bochum, Germany – “If we’re not brave enough to take on the past like grownups, then we’re also not mature enough to take on what I consider to be the true evil of our time.”

The event was actually planned as a reading followed by a concert, but Israeli writer and musician Gilad Atzmon’s performance in Langendreer Station on Sunday panned out differently than expected. Instead of reading from his new novel, My One and Only Love, Atzmon preferred to speak about the book and the background to its development. “In Israel” insisted Atzmon, who has lived in exile in London since 1994, “you’re locked up if you don’t agree with official opinion.” This, according to him, is especially true with regard to the past – his books being an attempt to rearrange that past.

Heated debate

What followed was a heated debate between the writer and his audience, during the course of which several members of the audience left the hall in protest. Atzmon described the familiar historiography of the Second World War and the Holocaust as a complete lie started by Americans and Zionists. The real enemy, he insisted, was not Hitler but Stalin. The Germans should recognise this at long last, and stop feeling either guilty or responsible. “You are the victims”, Atzmon claimed.

Massive criticism

The bombing of German cities had taken place, insisted Atzmon, because the Americans possessed these bombs and wanted to use them. And it was exactly the same for Vietnam, and nowadays in Afghanistan and Iraq. The true villains of our era were George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Ariel Sharon.

The discussion flared especially fiercely when Atzmon questioned the number of Jews who had perished during the Holocaust and argued that there was “absolutely no forensic proof” that the figure was actually six million – a thesis which drew sharp criticism from his audience.

In the end, the dispute was interrupted by festival organiser Frank Schorneck in order to usher in the musical portion of the evening – but the members of the audience remaining in the hall had visibly lost their appetite for the thoroughly impressive jazz improvisations of Atzmon and ‘The Orient House Ensemble’.

If this review is an accurate account of the event – and I hope for his sake, it is not – Gilad Atzmon expressed views that are indistinguishable from those of neo Nazis.

This was in 2005. A few months earlier, the Socialist Workers’ Party had defended Atzmon’s participation in Marxism 2005:

The SWP would also like to make it clear, that we would never give a platform to a racist or fascist. Our entire history has been one of fierce opposition to fascist organisations like the National Front and the British National Party. We played a prominent role in setting up the Anti Nazi League in the mid-1970s and Unite Against Fascism two years ago.

One of our members, Blair Peach, was killed on an anti-fascist demonstration in west London in 1979. Our founding member, Tony Cliff, was Jewish and, like many of his generation, lost many members of his family in the Holocaust. Nazis in the British National Party and National Front have targeted our members for attack. In the last three weeks we have helped initiate two vigils in response to anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Manchester and east London. Across the country our members are involved in campaigns to defend asylum seekers, oppose police brutality and defend communities from scapegoating.

We have a record of opposing fascism, anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, that is second to none.

The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist. However, while defending Gilad’s right to play and speak on public platforms that in no way means we endorse all of Gilad’s views. We think that some of the formulations on his website might encourage his readers to feel that he is blurring the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti Zionism. In fact we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with.

We do not believe that Gilad should be “banned” from performing or speaking. “No Platform” is a principle that the left has always reserved for fascists and organised racists. Where other disagreements occur, the left, with the same vigour, has defended the right to freedom of speech, debate and the clash of ideas.

Atzmon was invited back to the Socialist Workers’ Party’s Marxism event in 2006 and 2007.


Judeosphere found this story first.