Antisemitism


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.

Much attention is focused on Tony Blair as he testifies before the Iraq Inquiry, but I want to say a quick word about Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth. A recent convert to Islam, Booth is someone whose politics, like George Galloway’s and Cynthia McKinney’s and Gilad Atzmon’s, can only be properly described as far-right — although all these individuals and their fellow travelers continue to masquerade as progressive.

Via Harry’s Place comes word that Booth will be sharing a bill with Mahathir Mohamed, at a speaking engagement organized by the new Malaysian branch of Viva Palestina (the land-based equivalent of the famously seafaring Free Gaza Movement).

As I’ve noted before, Mahathir, the former Malaysian prime minister and ruthless despot, recently voiced his disappointment that the Holocaust failed to wipe out every Jew. His reading of Jewish history includes the view that “[Jews] had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole Governments to ransom.”

Lauren Booth, in associating herself with Mahathir, is either announcing that she holds the same neo-Nazi views, or that she is stupid and ignorant. Or both, I suppose. And yet on her Wikipedia page, Booth is described as a “human rights activist.”

(Don’t get me started on Wikipedia, which is useless or worse on matters of politics, though this doesn’t stop some from hailing its 10th anniversary with utopian rhetoric that really ought to be embarrassing.)

As habibi at Harry’s notes, Viva Palestina Malaysia has also recycled an article on its website by Michael Collins Piper, a talk-radio host and antisemitic conspiracy theorist who makes Rush Limbaugh look like a hippie.

And it gets better — the link at the bottom of the piece takes you to the website of Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke.

So, Viva Palestina, begun by George Galloway, is a conduit of explicit antisemitism and far-right bigotry and a megaphone for American neo-Nazis and KKK figures. In today’s pro-Palestine movement, all of that is perfectly OK. And if anyone calls you out, just say you’re a “critic of Israel,” that antisemitism charges are always fabrications, and you’re being silenced by the neocon Zionist conspiracy. Plenty of people will back you up.

Following up my previous post on Julian Assange’s ties to Holocaust denier and antisemite Israel Shamir: this.


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.

“Jewish domination of the media.”

I didn’t think my opinion of this huckster could sink any lower. Comments from Norm Geras, Judeosphere, Z Word, Modernity Blog.

Stone has issued an apology. Translation: he’s sorry for revealing to an interviewer that he’s essentially a far rightist, an apologist for dictators, a man without a shred of moral comprehension, an ignoramus who would presume to lecture us all.

It would be interesting to get the reaction of Tariq Ali, one of Stone’s screenwriters and a supposed man of the left.

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.

Just in case you thought the term “kike” went out of use in the ’50s: here is Ben C. Slocum, who signs off here from South Orange, New Jersey, and who wrote the following in my comments field:

“Why all this hysteria over something as negligible as anti-Semitism. Jews are the richest and most privileged people in the world. Israel has over 200 nukes and has the 4th deadliest military in the world. Sn [sic] what’s this nonsense about anti-Semitism? Do the common folk have to bend down and lick the crack in a Jew’s ass so as not to be called an ‘anti-Semite’ today? Are they that neurotic and insecure? They own the world – isn’t that enough for these kikey little farts?”

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.

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