Atzmon


In my inbox is a notice from World Village-Harmonia Mundi: Saxophonist Gilad Atzmon “makes a rare appearance in New York City beginning May 5th and is available for interviews.” Oddly I see no gig schedule listed.

In any case I won’t be interviewing Atzmon during his visit, because I’m too busy interviewing musicians who don’t claim that the Jews provoked Hitler. And don’t hail Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And don’t garner praise from neo-Nazi David Duke, or write things that end up cross-posted at racist sites that proclaim “No Jews. Just Right.”

My point, and one I’ve made many times before, is that Gilad Atzmon is a Jew-hater — and far from the only one in the UK and elsewhere who’s found it helpful to drape himself in the Palestinian cause, or the fashionable rhetoric of anti-imperialism.

But of course there’s something different about Atzmon: He’s a musician, and a strong one at that. He insists that his music is intrinsically political. And this is therefore something that every New York music journalist planning to cover Atzmon needs to weigh carefully:

How does a man of such views claim the mantle of “cultural resistance” that is so bound up with the history of jazz? How can an apologist for the Iranian regime — an apologist for Nazi Germany — claim to be “fighting oppression of every kind”?

He gets away with it only if compliant journalists allow him.


I think it’s safe to say that political activists who compare themselves to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ought to be regarded with a high degree of skepticism. Alas, many on the left regard Julian Assange of WikiLeaks the way he views himself.

Katha Pollitt of The Nation has written this very eloquent piece about the belittling of Assange’s rape charges. She also notes that Israel Shamir, the writer who launched a campaign of falsehood against Assange’s accusers, is a virulent antisemite. And that Shamir published his smears in Counterpunch, edited by Alexander Cockburn, one of the most shameless and dogged purveyors of antisemitism on the far left.

That assessment of Cockburn is mine, not Pollitt’s. The fact that Cockburn still retains his post as a Nation columnist is a scandal in itself, although Pollitt doesn’t make that case.

What Pollitt also doesn’t state is that Israel Shamir works for WikiLeaks, in an official capacity. The photo above shows Assange and Shamir together (Z Word has already remarked on this, as have Harry’s Place and Michael Moynihan).

Israel Shamir, lastly, is an ally of the UK-based saxophonist and polemicist Gilad Atzmon, who routinely denies he is antisemitic despite having argued in plain though inarticulate English that it was the Jews who provoked Hitler.

I have written on Atzmon’s noxious beliefs fairly extensively.

Side note: In early November, Patrick J. of A Blog Supreme commented on Atzmon’s recent recording with Robert Wyatt and Ros Stephen, For the Ghosts Within. I thanked Patrick in the comments, and I’ll do so again here, for kindly referring readers to my argument that Atzmon is an antisemite. My position has not changed.

Update: There are reports that Israel Shamir has funneled WikiLeaks material to the thug regime of Belarus to help facilitate the unfolding crackdown there. Adam Holland has also posted background on this.

As much as I applaud the NAACP for calling out rampant racism within the Tea Party movement, the problem is this. The NAACP’s rhetorical strategy is a delicate one; they don’t want to alienate masses of blue-collar whites who might be drawn to the Tea Party’s brand of (I would argue phony) libertarianism. So the NAACP instead insists that the Tea Party must make clear there is “no place for racists” in its movement. But the fact is there is a place for racists in the movement. And there’s no delicate way to say that.

The problem is similar when it comes to antisemitism, the fringe left and the Palestine solidarity movement. Consider, for instance, the attempt of Socialist Worker to slink away from its association with Nazi sympathizer Gilad Atzmon. To his credit, Paul Heideman of Newark wrote in to denounce Atzmon and say that antisemitism “has absolutely no place in our movements.” But yes it does. Antisemitism does have a place in far-left movements at present, and that is because the far left has created a rhetorical culture attractive to antisemites. Just as the Tea Party has created a rhetorical culture attractive to white racists.

Yes, it is. So it’s good to see the fringe lefties at Socialist Worker retract and apologize for publishing an interview with a Nazi sympathizer. The fact that they felt no need to vet Gilad Atzmon beforehand speaks volumes, however. “Critics of Israel,” no matter how virulent, have come to be given the benefit of the doubt on the radical left.

Judeosphere has the story.

If Socialist Worker is “the best publication on the U.S. left,” as Safia Albaiti of Boston declares, then this is a sad commentary on the U.S. left. But I already knew that. Still I’m grateful to Albaiti for speaking up and making short work of the lie — perpetuated by NJ-based jazz musician Rich Siegel and others — that Atzmon has been taken “out of context.” Here is Atzmon:

In the light of Israeli brutality, the conviction of gross swindler Madoff and the latest images of Rabbis being taken away by FBI agents, it is about time we stop discussing the rise of anti-Semitism and start to elaborate on the rise of Jewish Crime.

And here is Atzmon:

Jewish texts tend to glaze over the fact that Hitler’s March 28 1933, ordering [sic] a boycott against Jewish stores and goods, was an escalation in direct response to the declaration of war on Germany by the worldwide Jewish leadership.

Atzmon has not disavowed these remarks, nor has he explained the “context” that supposedly requires us to read these words for anything other than what they are.

Rich Siegel, who is partnering with Gilad Atzmon as described in my previous post, has written me a terse reply. He says that the Atzmon quotes I cite “do not constitute racism or holocaust revisionism. I suggest you read them again.”

Michael Ezra, in the Z Word comments space, has also referred me to this piece of writing, in which Rich Siegel writes sympathetically of Holocaust revisionism: “It seems to me that if holocaust revisionists are wrong, then open dissemination of their views encourages those with opposing views to prove them wrong. And if they are right, all the more reason we should hear about it.” Note that this goes well beyond an argument for free speech. For Siegel, it is an open question whether David Irving and other like-minded hucksters are right or wrong. (Hint: It’s not an open question, and Irving’s Jew-hatred and pro-Nazism are copiously documented.)

Alas, it is not the case, as I’d hoped, that Siegel is deceived about Gilad Atzmon. He is in fact a fellow traveler through and through.

But because Siegel’s denials strike me as part of a larger political strategy to define antisemitism out of existence, allow me, as Siegel has suggested, to read Atzmon’s comments again. I do so at the risk of insulting the intelligence of my readers. But it seems that some in liberal and progressive circles have lost the ability to detect antisemitism even when it’s staring them dead in the face.

First Atzmon quote:

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.

Siegel sees no revisionism in this statement. To him, the notion that the Nazis never engaged in carpet bombing or, in a word, genocide, falls within the bounds of legitimate historical comment.

Second Atzmon quote:

One of the things that happened to us was that stupidly we interpreted the Nazi defeat as a vindication of the Jewish ideology and the Jewish people.

Siegel sees no racism in the notion that there’s such a thing as “the Jewish ideology,” or in the idea that a persecuted minority group requires “vindication” — as if the Jews, in the lead-up to the Holocaust, were collectively guilty of something.

But if you share Atzmon’s worldview, then yes, you do believe these things, as a third quote from Atzmon makes clear. I didn’t cite this in yesterday’s post, and I didn’t send it to Siegel for comment, because I’ve only just learned of it. But it puts Atzmon’s overt Hitler apologetics in plain view as perhaps never before:

Jewish texts tend to glaze over the fact that Hitler’s March 28 1933, ordering [sic] a boycott against Jewish stores and goods, was an escalation in direct response to the declaration of war on Germany by the worldwide Jewish leadership.

There it is: The Jews made Hitler do it. I can think of few political sentiments more chilling and, I would hope, more foreign to the spirit of jazz.

[Cross-posted at Z Word, and at Harry’s Place.]

The bloggers of Mondoweiss have worked very hard to convince the public that antisemitism does not exist among the Palestine solidarity movement — indeed, that all such charges of antisemitism are mere subterfuge concocted by “Zionists” to tar critics of Israel, who are by definition pure of heart.

So it’s important to note that Mondoweiss is now voicing support for the Israeli-born, UK-based jazz musician and virulent antisemite Gilad Atzmon.

Atzmon, who has declared, “One of the things that happened to us was that stupidly we interpreted the Nazi defeat as a vindication of the Jewish ideology and the Jewish people,” is scheduled to play two concerts in upstate New York with Rich Siegel, a pianist, vocalist and bandleader from New Jersey. Siegel is author of the Mondoweiss posts, here and here, alleging that the Rochester concert was nearly canceled thanks to what he calls “Zio-pressure.”

The Mondoweiss posts paint Atzmon in benign colors as an “anti-Zionist.” They cite Atzmon’s defense that he is “often quoted with ‘cherry-picked’ quotes taken out of context,” which is amusing, since the entire context of Atzmon’s political writing is coterminous with Israel and the Jews — and in any case, I’m not sure what “context” would render the above-mentioned verbatim quote morally acceptable. Or for that matter, this quote:

American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ [sic] are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.

A nearly identical argument about the Protocols appears in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Or this quote from Atzmon, also verbatim:

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.

It’s ironic that Rich Siegel, speaking about the Rochester venue’s decision to ignore complaints from a local rabbi, writes: “It seems that they came to a realization … that the rabbi was part of an agenda that they don’t want to support.” But apparently Siegel is comfortable supporting Atzmon’s agenda.

I am not familiar with Siegel’s work, but his website lists appearances with highly respected and important jazz musicians such as Art Baron, Cameron Brown, Eliot Zigmund and Bob Kindred. I’d like to believe that Siegel’s been taken in by Atzmon’s self-whitewash on the matter of antisemitism. Or it could be that Siegel has read Atzmon’s racist, lunatic writings and is in full agreement with them. I’ve emailed Siegel to get some clarity on that question. Meanwhile, we cannot sit by and allow Atzmon to hoodwink others in the American jazz community.

Having begun to read David Aaronovitch’s engaging Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, I am prompted once again to mention the UK-based saxophonist and political agitator Gilad Atzmon. To be clear, Atzmon does not appear in Aaronovitch’s first chapter, about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. However, Aaronovitch does reveal something that underlines the toxicity of Atzmon’s rantings against the Jews — oh, excuse me, his pro-Palestinian advocacy and “constant debate with different Jewish lobbies.”

As Oliver Kamm recently reminded us, Atzmon wrote the following on his website in 2005:

American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ [sic] are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy. […]

Now, compare that sentiment to the following, quoted by Aaronovitch in Voodoo Histories:

The Frankfurter Zeitung is forever moaning to the people that [the Protocols] are supposed to be a forgery; which is the surest proof that they are genuine. What many Jews do perhaps unconsciously is here consciously exposed. But that is not what matters… What matters is that they uncover, with really horrifying reliability, the nature and activity of the Jewish people, and expose them in their inner logic and their final aims. But reality provides the best commentary. […]

This passage is from Mein Kampf, by one Adolf Hitler.
Let’s be clear on this. In stating that the Protocols‘ inauthenticity does not matter, that Jewish behavior tells all, Atzmon is cribbing arguments from Adolf Hitler.
Kamm goes on to cite a more recent piece by Atzmon, in which he writes:

It took me years to grasp that my great-grandmother wasn’t made into a ‘soap’ or a ‘lampshade’*. She probably perished out of exhaustion, typhus or maybe even by mass shooting. […] The fate of my great-grandmother was not any different from hundreds of thousands of German civilians who died in an orchestrated indiscriminate bombing, because they were Germans. Similarly, people in Hiroshima died just because they were Japanese. 1 million Vietnamese died just because they were Vietnamese and 1.3 million Iraqis died because they were Iraqis. In short the tragic circumstances of my great grandmother wasn’t that special after all.

Apart from the pseudo-leftist flourishes, this also happens to be Mel Gibson’s view of the Holocaust. Here is what Gibson, or “sugar tits,” said to Peggy Noonan in 2004:

Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century 20 million people died in the Soviet Union.

In other words, “wasn’t that special after all.” The subtext is clear, and Atzmon could have uttered it. But given that Atzmon is on record parroting the views of Hitler himself, his brand of Holocaust minimization is especially ghoulish.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that no leftist of any stripe would want to be caught dead praising Hitler. Or Mel Gibson for that matter. But Atzmon? That’s different.

Anil Prasad has an interview up with drummer Asaf Sirkis, whose recent recordings The Song Within and The Monk I can vouch for as unique and well worth hearing. Sirkis also happens to be a musical associate of Gilad Atzmon, a saxophonist and political blowhard with a straightforwardly antisemitic paper trail that has come up frequently on this blog. In defense of his colleague, Sirkis offers:

… [I]n Israeli/Jewish culture, you can be a lefty, right wing, orthodox, or whatever you like, but there are a few things that you’re not supposed to question, so to speak, and that could make things difficult for people like Gilad Atzmon with whom I worked. Gilad, who is very outspoken about his pro-Palestinian views, had to deal with situations when at his gigs members of the audience—mostly Jewish/Israeli, of course—left the hall because of something he said. As far as I know he is in constant debate with different Jewish lobbies.

Let’s be clear about Atzmon’s political record, for he is not merely outspoken about his pro-Palestinian views. He is equally outspoken about his anti-Jewish views, which are in many respects indistinguishable from the views of the racist far right. “One of the things that happened to us was that stupidly we interpreted the Nazi defeat as a vindication of the Jewish ideology and the Jewish people,” Atzmon wrote recently, leaving one to wonder about the meaning of “us” and “we” in the sentence. The notion that only “Jewish/Israeli” audience members would find such a statement disgusting is almost as offensive as the statement itself.
Also consider Atzmon’s record of Holocaust denial and apologetics for the Third Reich. It’s not for nothing that Atzmon’s work is greeted warmly on David Duke’s website, Stormfront chat boards and other white supremacist outlets.
Asaf Sirkis might have noted that even many of the UK’s most outspoken anti-Zionist activists will have nothing to do with Atzmon. One can be sure there are Palestinians who feel the same way and have no use for Atzmon’s “pro-Palestinian” advocacy. But all one has to do these days is invoke the dreaded “Jewish lobbies” and the discussion is over. After all, anyone “in constant debate with different Jewish lobbies” must be a pretty good guy.

From another adulatory interview, this one by Martin Gibson in New Zealand’s Gisborne Herald (via Harry’s):

There have been numerous attempts to silence Mr Atzmon, including inevitable charges that he is anti-Semitic, although he is Jewish himself.
(Gibson fails to document one single such attempt to silence Atzmon.)
Here is Atzmon, from the same interview:
“One of the things that happened to us was that stupidly we interpreted the Nazi defeat as a vindication of the Jewish ideology and the Jewish people.”

“I think Jewish ideology is driving our planet into a catastrophe and we must stop.”
Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone would call Atzmon an antisemite.
[Cross-posted at Z Word and Harry’s Place.]

Can you imagine a journalist for a liberal newspaper referring in neutral, even vaguely congratulatory terms to an artist’s “provocatively anti-gay rhetoric,” or “provocatively anti-black rhetoric,” or “provocatively anti-Arab rhetoric”?

Well, have a look at John Lewis’s profile of Gilad Atzmon for the Guardian, in which we read about the saxophonist’s “provocatively anti-Jewish rhetoric,” his “firebrand political outbursts,” his “furious attacks on Israel,” his “blunt anti-Zionism.” Sounds like laudable stuff, a challenge to the status quo, hooray!
Lewis, to be fair, does mention the fact that some Palestinian activists want nothing to do with Atzmon. But he refuses to see Atzmon’s message for what it is: hatemongering. And Lewis is hardly the only one.
To remind readers: Atzmon is an apologist for the Third Reich; he’s endorsed the antisemitic writings of Wagner. In this viciously racist screed, published just this day, Atzmon’s line of attack against Nick Cohen is to call him a Jew (Cohen is not Jewish). He also declares: “Without justifying any violent act whatsoever, the reasoning behind resentment towards Israel and Jews is rational.”
It’s become a truism on much of the left that Jews who make charges of antisemitism are simply blowing smoke on behalf of Israel. I think the opposite dynamic is evident: On much of the left, you can’t call an antisemite an antisemite. That would make you an evil Zionist.
[Hat tip: Oliver Kamm]

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