'Anti-Zionist' holocaust denier
Israeli jazz musician Gilad Atzmon represents a small but important current within the broader Palestine solidarity movement, writes Tony Greenstein. He sees the oppression of the Palestinians as being due to something inherent in Jewishness
Anti-Semitism in Britain is a marginal form of personal prejudice. Jews are rarely subject to physical attack because they are Jews, nor are they subject to state racism. The Jewish religion and Jews are not demonised and ridiculed in the popular press. Racist and opportunist politicians do not attempt to ‘make the non-Jewish folk angry’ by alleging there is a campaign by Jews to ‘take Phil Woolas out’. Anti-Semitism is largely confined to loony tunes and conspiracy theorists.
It is precisely because of the absence of what most people have traditionally understood as anti-Semitism - ie, violence and discrimination against Jews - that bodies such as the Zionist goon squad, the Community Security Trust (CST), inflate and manipulate figures of anti-Semitic incidents and hype the figures.
Anti-Semitic attacks in 2010 fell by 31%, yet they were portrayed as having risen. As Mark Elf points out ironically, ‘Anti-Semitic incidents in the UK fall to a record high?’ How is this possible? Because there is a deliberate policy by the Zionist movement to equate opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism and conflate anti-Semitic incidents with expressions of disgust at Israel.
For example, last year I received two emails on the same day, one saying that the holocaust was a hoax, and another, from a Zionist, wishing that my family and me had perished in Auschwitz. I reported it to the CST and its spokesperson, Mark Gardener, responded by saying that the first email would be classified as anti-Semitic but the second one wouldn’t because the “CST does not believe that arguments between ‘Zionist’ and ‘anti-Zionist’ Jews constitute anti-Semitism as such.”
Why, when anti-Semitism is at an all-time low, is Gilad Atzmon and his coterie of any importance? Atzmon and friends hardly represent a threat to British Jews. The answer is simple. Anti-Semitism is not a threat to Jews so much as a danger to Palestinians. Only Zionism benefits from anti-Semitism. It was anti-Semitism which pushed Jews out of Europe. It was Zionism which ensured that some of them went to Palestine.
There must be few if any, Jewish anti-Zionists who have not been called ‘traitors’ or ‘self-haters’. To Atzmon those of us who also oppose anti-Semitism are “crypto-Zionists”. He not only racialises the struggle, but tries to divide the Palestine solidarity movement by alleging that Jewish members are a fifth column. Jewish anti-Zionists serve as “an inside enemy”.
When a leading Zionist and anti-boycott campaigner, solicitor Anthony Julius, wrote a two-part article, ‘Jewish anti-Zionism unravelled’, Atzmon effusively welcomed it: “Julius correctly suggests that anti-Zionist Jews fall into contradiction when they hold that, while dispersion is good for the Jews, it is bad for the Palestinians, and when they demand of the Jews that they disavow ‘nationalism’, while valuing the Palestinians’ ‘continuing struggle for justice’; Julius obviously hit here on some severe level of lack of integrity within the Jewish left discourse.”
All this might be true if you accept the Zionist claim that the Jews are a nation. Atzmon makes no distinction between the nationalism of the oppressed and the oppressor. In Not in my name he argued that “Jews cannot criticise Zionism in the name of their ethnic belonging because such an act is in itself an approval of Zionism ...” For Atzmon “acting politically under a Jewish banner is in fact the very definition of Zionism”.
The Bund, a mass socialist party which organised Jewish self-defence against the pogroms in Russia and Poland, is the particular object of Atzmon’s ire: “Bundists believe that instead of robbing Palestinians we should all get together and rob who is considered to be the rich, the wealthy and the strong in the name of working class revolution.” The redistribution of wealth by the working class is theft - the equivalent of the colonists who stole the land of the Palestinians.
Atzmon concludes: “We do not need ‘working class politics’ any more ... from a Marxist point of view I am associated with the most reactionary forces: I support Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and I support Hamas ... I am the ultimate reactionary being.” Who, apart from the Socialist Workers Party, could disagree?
SWP in denial
On June 17 2005 the SWP held a meeting at Bookmarks, with Atzmon speaking. Then national secretary Martin Smith presided and amongst those attending was the SWP’s Middle East guru, John Rose. Atzmon spoke about the man Hitler described as his favourite Jew, Otto Weininger. The meeting was picketed by about 35 people, Jewish and non-Jewish.
At least until July 2009, the SWP still had a statement on its website arguing that Atzmon was not an anti-Semite, though it has now been removed. There is no explanation for having defended an open anti-Semite and even put him on its platforms. Now the article has disappeared.
According to the statement the SWP issued, “Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born Jew who served in the Israeli Defence Force and who now lives in ‘self-exile’ in Britain.” And “He is an internationally acclaimed jazz musician, whose album Exile won BBC Best Jazz Album of 2003.” Both were true, but completely irrelevant.
The idiocy of the SWP leadership provided a field day for rightwing pundits, like The Times’s Oliver Kamm and David Aaronovitch. In contrast the American SWP apologised after it had interviewed him by mistake. The question of how a revolutionary socialist organisation can play host to an open anti-Semite and holocaust denier disappears down the SWP’s memory hole.
Atzmon has previously been astute enough to realise what the consequences of open holocaust denial would be for his career. He has now abandoned this. In Holocaust politics in the service of Anglo-American hegemony he writes: “Regardless of what the truth of the holocaust is and what its denial may entail, to seal the past is to give away the vision of a better future.”
After I wrote ‘Gilad Atzmon - now an open holocaust denier’, I subsequently had doubts regarding the use of the term ‘open’. Those doubts have now been laid to rest. As one writer has written, “Gilad Atzmon’s canter towards the territory of the extreme right continues on apace.”
Atzmon admits: “I am not a holocaust scholar nor am I a historian. My primary interest is not the story of Auschwitz nor the destruction of European Jewry ... I do not wish to enter the debate regarding the truth of the holocaust.”
How the holocaust is used politically by the Zionist movement has been the subject of controversy and debate by historians and political scientists such as Norman Finkelstein and Lenni Brenner. But that is entirely different from denying that there was a holocaust.
Atzmon complains: ‘Most of the [anti-Zionist] scholars, if not all of them, do not challenge the Zionist narrative: namely Nazi Judeocide; yet more than a few are critical of the way Jewish and Zionist institutes employ the holocaust ... not a single holocaust religion scholar dares engage in a dialogue with the so-called ‘deniers’ to discuss their vision of the events or any other revisionist scholarship ... The holocaust religion is probably as old as the Jews.”
And in ‘Truth, history, and integrity’ Atzmon leaves no room for misunderstanding: “If, for instance, the Nazis wanted the Jews out of their Reich ... or even dead, as the Zionist narrative insists, how come they marched hundreds of thousands of them back into the Reich at the end of the war?”  The answer is obvious. The death marches were organised to prevent the Jews falling into the hands of the Russians. Atzmon informs us that he “happened to learn from Israeli holocaust historian professor Israel Gutman that Jewish prisoners actually joined the march voluntarily”. In fact Gutman refers to one prisoner who weighed up his chances of survival by escaping or going on the death march.
Atzmon is puzzled: “If the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war?” The answer, as Primo Levi wrote, was that most prisoners had no choice and feared that prisoners who were left behind would be murdered. Note how Atzmon now queries whether Auschwitz-Birkenau was a death camp. He continues: “We should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative ...” In fact evidence exists in abundance: e.g. the situation reports of the killing squads (Einsatzgruppen) in Ukraine and Russia.
Atzmon implies a parallel between anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, using the latter as an explanation (justification?) for the former: “Why were the Jews hated? Why did European people stand up against their next-door neighbours? Why are the Jews hated in the Middle East.” The Israelis and Jews of Europe are one and the same. It is not a question of colonialism, it seems, but of Jews as Jews.
Atzmon rejects the concept of colonialism. To him Zionism “isn’t exactly a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine. Zionism appears to be an international movement that is fuelled by the solidarity of third category subjects. To be a Zionist means just to accept that more than anything else you are primarily a Jew.”
Indeed Zionism itself hardly exists: “The word ‘Zionism’ is almost meaningless in Israel and within the Israeli discourse: it is actually non-existent. Zionism may mean something to the American settlers in the West Bank or the new wave of French immigrants to Israel, but not much more than that ... As much as Israelis do not regard themselves as Zionists, they are hardly affected by anti-Zionism.”
In ‘Beyond comparison’ Atzmon goes still further: “To regard Hitler as the ultimate evil is nothing but surrendering to the Zio-centric discourse. To regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook ... Hitler has never flattened a country for no reason at all, and this is exactly what the Israelis have been doing in Lebanon ... and in Gaza ... Nazis were indeed proper expansionists: they were trying to take towns and land intact. Carpet-bombing and total erasure of populated areas that is so trendy amongst Israeli military and politicians (as well as Anglo-Americans) has never been a Nazi tactic or strategy.”
Atzmon is simply wrong. For three days, in April 1941, German bombers razed Belgrade to the ground. Likewise Hitler’s plans for Russia included the mass starvation of 30 million civilians and the complete destruction of Moscow and Leningrad. Large parts were to be laid to waste to provide a breadbasket for Germany.
Any manifestation of being Jewish is automatically Zionist. All the problems that Palestinians experience are because of ‘the Jews’. There can be no clearer reason why he is a genuine, 24-carat anti-Semite.
- See T Greenstein, ‘Redefining anti-Semitism - the false anti-racism of the right’ Return No5, December 1990, p10.
- ‘Phil Woolas “sought to make white folk angry” in general election campaign’ The Guardian September 15 2010.
- Jewish Chronicle October 5 2005; Jenni Frazer: tinyurl.com/ykpov9u
- See, for example, M Marqusee If I am not for myself - journey of an anti-Zionist Jew London 2008.
- See R Rance, ‘Gilad Atzmon Bookmarks protest’: www.labournet.net/antiracism/0506/bookmarks1.html
- See www.socialistunity.com/?p=4412 There are still other references up, such as an advert for the Cultures of Resistance festival starring Atzmon: e.g. www.swappeal.org.uk/events/gilad.html
- ‘How did the far left manage to slip into bed with the Jew-hating right?’: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/david_aaronovitch/article538076.ece
- www.socialistunity.com/?p=1559, 21.1.08
- My emphasis; www.redress.btinternet.co.uk/gatzmon29.htm 28.1.07 accessed 5.3.11
- My emphasis; www.counterpunch.org/atzmon03032007.html
- My emphasis; dissidentvoice.org/2010/03/truth-history-and-integrity/ tinyurl.com/6kvuuw3 13.3.10
- Survival in Auschwitz: the Nazi assault on humanity New York 1961.
- tinyurl.com/6kvuuw3 : ‘Truth, history, and integrity: questioning the holocaust religion’, March 15 2010.
- W Shirer The rise and fall of the Third Reich London 1964, p988.
- Ibid pp 996-97, p1020.