The SWP's favourite 'anti-Zionist', Gilad Atzmon, is at it again, writes Tony Greenstein
As many people have remarked, it would not be surprising if, with the current economic and financial meltdown, someone decided to blame the Jews (or ‘the Zionists’). It is therefore no surprise that our old friend Gilad Atzmon has once again leapt into the breach with his latest article, ‘Credit crunch - or rather Zio punch?’1
At a time when even the fascist British National Party no longer plays the Jewish card,2 it is left to Isreali-born jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon to concoct a weird conspiracy of Zionist imperialist warmongers and financiers who have somehow engineered the vast mountain of credit debt that has all but brought down British, European and American banks: “The people who keep the Palestinians starved behind walls are unfortunately very much the same people who are responsible for a class genocide of millions of disenfranchised Americans who are now on the brink of total dispossession.”
It has to be said that, although Atzmon is at his normal incoherent, contradictory and long-winded best, the message is crystal clear. We are told in one paragraph that “the current economic disaster endangers the security of millions of western Jews who have really nothing to do with global economy, banking and global Zionism. It would be devastating to see innocent Jews being implicated collectively by the crimes committed by a very few tribal nationalist enthusiasts.” A few paragraphs previously Atzmon informs us that “Jews are not necessarily Zionists. They can also be humanists, universalists, ordinary human beings ... However, the Zionists amongst the Jews are very easy to trace. They always operate politically as Jews. They run Jewish lobbies, think tanks and pressure groups. For that matter, Jewish American Committee (JAC), AIPAC, Jews For Peace and Anti-Zionist Jews are all different forms of Jewish tribal national politics. They are all different forms of racially orientated tribal pressure groups and for that matter they are all rabid Zionists who are set to serve what they regard as Jewish tribal interests.”
If one can penetrate this gobbledygook, “racially oriented” Jews are part of a separate tribe, despite the fact that “tribes went out of fashion over a thousand years ago in most of the west”. So, whatever their politics, be they anti-Zionist or Zionist, in favour of peace or war, Jews cannot help but serve “Jewish tribal interests”.
If anyone is unsure as to the genesis of these fantasies, they could do worse than consult the foreword to Norman Cohn’s book Warrant for genocide - the myth of the Jewish world conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Describing the interrogations of leaders of the SS after the war, Cohn wrote: “What I kept coming across was, rather, a conviction that Jews - all Jews everywhere in the world - form a conspiratorial body set on ruining and then dominating the rest of mankind. As part of this fantasy the Bolsheviks were funded by American Jewish bankers and Lenin was someone ‘who Hitler and Eckart both assumed to be a Jew’.”3 The irony is that the Protocols began life as “a brilliant but long-forgotten defence of liberalism” in the form of an attack on the tyranny of Napoleon III.4
He is under no doubt: “Throughout the centuries, Jewish bankers bought for themselves some real reputations of backers and financers of wars and even one communist revolution.” Quite why reactionary American Jewish bankers should have financed a revolution directed against their interests is never explained - unless, of course, it is the racial nexus. But in a footnote Atzmon assures us that “Jacob Schiff (the head of Kuhn, Loeb & Company) is credited with giving $20 million to the Bolshevik revolution. A year after his death the Bolsheviks deposited over $600 million roubles to Schiff’s banking firm, Kuhn & Loeb.” You see, “Lenin and Trotzky [sic] were Jews.”
Paul Wolfowitz, whose powers were not enough to prevent him being sacked as president of the World Bank, has, it would seem, almost single-handedly, engineered this crisis. Quite why his superior, the non-Jewish Dick Cheney, should have allowed this is unclear, but one suspects that, as with Lenin, there is some Jewish blood there somewhere. After all, “In 2003, by the time youngster of Zion Wolfowitz was on the verge of becoming a proper elder, America was taken into an illegal war in Iraq.” No-one can accuse Atzmon of lacking a sense of humour. Wolfowitz may be an Elder of Zion, as per the Protocols, but it was not long ago he was a mere Youngster!
Returning to a familiar theme, Atzmon asks: “How is it that America that had all the ‘necessary warnings’ had found itself just 10 years later acting as an Israeli mission force fighting the last pockets of resistance to Jewish national imperialism?” - which is, of course, an echo of the same argument in his ‘On anti-semitism’ essay.5
Surprisingly Atzmon’s answer is mundane: “Money is probably the answer. It indeed makes the world go round, or at least the ‘American housing market’.” So if money - ie, capitalism - is to blame, why then the tortuous detours via the Wolfowitz doctrine, Lenin and “racially orientated tribal pressure groups”. We are never told.
Atzmon asks a series of questions under the title ‘Kosher snatch or Zion punch?’ One which seems to particularly disturb him is why “the British empire found itself promising the Zionists a Jewish national home in 1917? Have you ever asked yourself what Balfour received in return?” In fact the footnote to his own question half gets it right: viz, the hostility of American Jews to an alliance with the pogromists of tsarist Russia against Germany. Leonard Stein’s Balfour declaration also gives this as a reason.6 But it was never the main reason, which clearly was the strategic situation of Palestine, adjacent to the Suez Canal, and the desirability of a friendly pro-British colonial settlement there.
Perhaps the nastiest piece of racism is when Atzmon demands: “A Zionist who declares affiliation with foreign national interests should never be appointed by any administration or any other political institution.” Given his definition of what constitutes a Zionist, it is clear that this is a euphemism for Jews per se. He is quick to assure us, that the “issue here is not at all about religious belief, ethnic origin or racial orientation”, yet immediately contradicts himself when he describes a wide variety of Jews - Zionist and anti-Zionist - as “racially orientated tribal pressure groups”.
And in what is the most underhand and dishonest of Atzmon’s polemics, he takes aim, once again, at the anti-Zionist Bund - the General Jewish Workers Union of Russia, Lithuania and Poland, a founder of the Russian Social Democratic Party. If anyone is in any doubt that when Atzmon says ‘Zionist’ he means ‘Jew’, then his attacks on the Bund should serve to put them right. The Bund was resolutely in favour of fighting for socialism and against anti-semitism where Jews lived, not in emigrating to Palestine. It led the heroic resistance of the Warsaw ghetto and the sole surviving commander of that fight, Marek Edelman, was a dedicated opponent of Zionism. But to Atzmon “The Bund, on the other hand, was a rabid Zionist setting in spite of the fact that it ‘formally’ opposed Zionism. It was Zionist just because it operated as a tribal political setting. It was Zionist just because it was racially orientated rather than universally motivated.”
Leaving aside his clear and obvious anti-semitism, the essay is a muddle of innuendo, half-truth and assertion. It is little wonder that when Atzmon asks the obvious question we can be forgiven for having assumed it. “You may wonder at this stage whether I regard the credit crunch as a Zionist plot. In fact it is the opposite. It is actually a Zionist accident.” Which may, to him, be a clever formulation, but is as empty as the rest of them. If the financial crisis is a ‘Zionist accident’ (as opposed to deliberate) then clearly the Zionists are nevertheless responsible.
Perhaps the comments on Atzmon’s website are the most revealing. ‘VS’ believes that “In fact, while I agree that Trotsky was not a Zionist, I do think that he operated primarily as a Jew.” Which Atzmon accedes to. ‘Lafayette’ suggests that “some solid facts about Jewish influence would help?” These anti-semites are never strong on “facts” unfortunately! Another poster informs us that “Zionists control the US government and the media. If you have a significant position in the government or are a significant voice in public, the Zionists will destroy.”
In response to the one person to oppose this garbage, Liz Burbank, ‘Lafayette’ informs her: “You’ve missed the point: Jews are the ruling class in the US - not less than 30% of the stinking rich, and about 50% of the billionaires. This isn’t a conspiracy theory ... The question is: do they act together in a common Jewish, rather than simply capitalist, interest? The answer is: how else could these percentages have come about?”
And there we have it. As Gilad comments, “As we can see, Zionism qualifies one as a Jew ... read the JC.” Apparently the chairman of Lloyds TSB, Victor Blank, is a Jew!
Actually what is shocking is the response of Ian Donovan of Respect. Although Donovan does take Atzmon to task for some of his stuff, not least Lenin’s Jewish origins, he concedes from the start that “This article makes some interesting points, but it really does cross the Rubicon to promote some myths that really are anti-semitic. At the very least, it is contradictory about the myth of Jewish capitalists financing the Bolsheviks.” And when Atzmon responds with his dubious source - a Berkeley professor called Slezkine - concerning Lenin’s Jewishness, Donovan responds that it is “Always a good sign when someone responds to criticism by recommending a book to read.” Yes, Ian. But there are books and books.
Quite what someone who was once a socialist is doing debating the merits of the world Jewish conspiracy beggars belief. ‘Sarah’, for example, states: “Most shockingly Slezkine describes that Lenin’s return to Russia was funded by American-Jewish soup millionaire Josef Fels and orchestrated by Jewish multi-millionaire Alexander Parvus ...” In the world of the conspiracy theory there is so much to shock one’s tender conscience and so little time to get the message abroad.
If anyone is in any doubt about Atzmon’s anti-semitic credentials, they should read the apology at the end. John Reynolds, writing in The Observer, had suggested that one answer to the financial crisis was for there to be more Christians active in the City. A typically naive liberal belief that the cause of the financial crisis is a lack of moral backbone rather than the operations of the free market and capitalist economics. But Atzmon commented: “Reynolds, the chairman of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, protests against the non-ethical spirit that has been abundant in the City for more than a while ... he may try to suggest to us that our financial world must be spiritually de-Judified.” However, there is nothing like the threat of a libel action to clarify the mind.
It is crystal clear that Atzmon has taken another step into the sewer of political reaction. But what is not clear is this: why does the Socialist Workers Party continue to defend him?
2. See www.bnp.org.uk/2008/10/the-global-financial-crisis-and-the-vindication-of-economic-nationalism
3. N Cohn Warrant for genocide - the myth of the Jewish world conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion London 1996, p203.
4. Ibid p81.
6. L Stein Balfour declaration London 1961, p533.