antisemitism,  The Left

Zero Books authors distance themselves from Atzmon

It was deeply depressing to read the comments under Andy Newman’s piece on Socialist Unity.  So few regular commenters – apart from those who are consistently off SU message such as Darkness at Noon and Jonny Mac – were prepared to engage thoughtfully with the issues Andy raised.  Here’s a not untypical comment from ‘redscribe’:

But there is more grounds to debate Atzmon fraternally than to debate some of the supporters of Israeli oppression  who are posting here.

And this is what is wrong with Andy Newman’s article and its thrust and emphasis. It brings him into a alliance with supporters of Israel oppression against a misguided, Jewish opponent of that oppression. Not a good place to be particular given the complicity and worse of our own government in Israeli crimes.

Happily, some of the authors at Zero Books – Owen Hatherley, Douglas Murphy, Alex Niven, Nina Power and Richard Seymour – don’t fancy a fraternal relationship with Atzmon.  They have written to the publishers expressing great unease at the thought of sharing catalogue space with him, including a detailed critique of his deplorable views. They conclude, quite rightly, that ‘the thrust of Atzmon’s work is to normalise and legitimise anti-Semitism.’ You can read the full text over on Lenin’s Tomb.  (Do note that more names may be added to the signatories.)

As I said in the comments on SU – does that make anyone here think again, I wonder? Or is it all a dastardly Zionist plot?

Hat Tip: Tony Cliff in the SU comments

Lucy Lips adds:

The Zero Books Authors letter concludes:

We call on Zero to distance itself from Atzmon’s views

So far, Zero Books has merely been tweeting defences of Atzmon. On 10 October, they’re holding a panel discussion on Jewish Identity, with Atzmon, various supporters and those who are happy to share a platform with him.

Richard Seymour should be congratulated for taking this stand. The indulgence that it displays to Falk and Mearsheimer for endorsing the book, and to Zero Books is somewhat less impressive. Nevertheless, the letter is a clear exposition of the vicious nature of Atzmon’s politics. I’m glad that they spoke up.

We reproduce the statement in full below.


Laurie Penny has signed the letter.

“We call on Zero to distance itself from Atzmon’s views”

We are writing to express our concern that Zero Books, a vibrant, radical publisher, has made a terrible error of judgment in publishing a manuscript by the Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon.  The book, entitled The Wandering Who?, is a discussion of ‘Jewish identity’ in the light of global issues such as Israel-Palestine, and the financial crisis.  But the nature of Atzmon’s political engagement on ‘Jewish identity’ makes him at best a dubious authority on such matters.  His central concern is to describe and oppose “Jewish power”, as he sees it.  Thus, in one piece complaining about the presence of Jews in the Clinton and Bush administrations, he argues:

“Zionists complain that Jews continue to be associated with a conspiracy to rule the world via political lobbies, media and money. Is the suggestion of conspiracy really an empty accusation? … we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously … 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 do try to control the world, by proxy.”[1]

This ‘control’ is, Atzmon argues, quite extensive.  “Jewish power” is such that legitimate research into the Nazi judeocide (by which he means Holocaust denial) is impossible.  The established history of the Holocaust is a “religion” that “doesn’t make any historical sense”.  But Jewish power has “managed to prevent the West from accessing one of the most devastating chapters of Western history”.[2]  Moreover, he blames the global economic crisis on Zionism and Jewish bankers:

“Throughout the centuries, Jewish bankers bought for themselves some real reputations of backers and financers of wars [2] and even one communist revolution [3]. Though rich Jews had been happily financing wars using their assets, Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States, found a far more sophisticated way to finance the wars perpetrated by his ideological brothers Libby and Wolfowitz…”[3]

Elsewhere, he relates that Marxism is merely an expression of Jewish tribal interests, “a form of supremacy that adopts the Judaic binary template”.[4]  Thus, Jews are held responsible by Atzmon for war, financial capitalism and communism.  Being born to an Israeli Jewish family, he does not identify the problem, as he sees it, in terms of blood or DNA.  Rather, he identifies a “Jewish tribal mindset”, a “Jewish ideology”, as the animus behind Jewish attempts “to control the world”.  Yet, racist ideology has never been reducible to its ‘biological’ variants.  It has often taken a ‘cultural’ form, predicated on an essentialist reading of its object (Islam, ‘Jewishness’) which is held to represent a powerful, threatening Other.

Atzmon’s assertions are underpinned by a further claim, which is that antisemitism doesn’t exist, and hasn’t existed since 1948.  There is only “political reaction” to “Jewish power”, sometimes legitimate, sometimes not.  For example, the smashing up of Jewish graves may be “in no way legitimate”, but nor are they “’irrational’ hate crimes”.  They are solely “political responses”.[5]  Given this, it would be impossible for anything that Atzmon writes, or for anyone he associates with, to be anti-Semitic.  This shows, not only in his writing, but in his political alliances.  He sees nothing problematic, for example, in his championing of the white supremacist ‘Israel Shamir’ (“the sharpest critical voice of ‘Jewish power’ and Zionist ideology”[6]), whose writings reproduce the most vicious anti-Semitic myths including the ‘blood libel’, and for whom even the BNP are insufficiently racist.[7]

The thrust of Atzmon’s work is to normalise and legitimise anti-Semitism.  We do not believe that Zero’s decision to publish this book is malicious.  Atzmon’s ability to solicit endorsements from respectable figures such as Richard Falk and John Mearsheimer shows that he is adept at muddying the waters both on his own views and on the question of anti-Semitism.  But at a time when dangerous forces are attempting to racialise political antagonisms, we think the decision is grossly mistaken.  We call on Zero to distance itself from Atzmon’s views which, we know, are not representative of the publisher or its critical engagement with contemporary culture.

Owen Hatherley, Douglas Murphy, Alex Niven, Nina Power & Richard Seymour.  (Others to follow).

[1] Gilad Atzmon, ‘On Antisemitism’,, 20th March 2003

[2] Gilad Atzmon, ‘Zionism and other Marginal Thoughts’,, 4th October 2009; Gilad Atzmon, ‘Truth, History and Integrity’,, 13th March 2010

[3] Gilad Atzmon, ‘Credit Crunch or rather Zio Punch?’,, 16th November 2009

[4] Gilad Atzmon, ‘Self-Hatred vs. Self-Love- An Interview with Eric Walberg by Gilad Atzmon’,, 5th August 2011

[5] Gilad Atzmon, ‘On Antisemitism’,, 20th March 2003

[6] Gilad Atzmon, ‘The Protocols of the Elders Of London’,, 9th November 2006

[7] See Israel Shamir, ‘Bloodcurdling Libel (a Summer Story)’,; and Israel Shamir, ‘British Far Right and Saddam : responses of Robert Edwards and LJ Barnes of BNP’,, January 2007