An investigation into Judeophobia in Britain concludes that Jewish renegade and jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon is responsible for injecting a “relatively new form of antisemitism into anti-Zionist discourse” in the UK.
According to Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2011, published by the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism in the UK, the apostate Israeli’s rancorous views are contributing to a climate of mistrust and hostility.
Thankfully, explicit anti-Semitism in British public life is rare, says the report. Nevertheless, anti-Semitic themes alleging Jewish conspiracy and power still exist within mainstream discourse about Israel and Zionism. This, claims the CST, is partly due to the nefarious writings of Atzmon, whose recent book The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics is cited as an example of anti-Semitic discourse.
Atzmon, born in Tel Aviv and trained at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, describes himself as a “proud self-hating Jew.” Now based in London, Atzmon has released over a dozen jazz albums. Atzmon is also a prolific opponent of Israel, Jews and Judaism. His conspiratorial articles have been published by a number of dubious media outlets, including Counterpunch, Al-Arab online, the Palestine Telegraph and Aljazeera.info.
The Wandering Who? was released in September 2011 by left-wing publisher Zero Books. It is packed with anti-Semitic rhetoric and is barely distinguishable from the worst Nazi propaganda (one of the chapter headings is “Swindler’s List”). The book is a litany of hatred and lies that blames Jewish bankers for two world wars and “one communist revolution.” Jews are also responsible, says Atzmon, for persuading the UK to attack Iraq in order to “erase one of the last pockets of Arab resistance to Zionism.” Jews, he asserts, have no origin in Palestine “whatsoever” and Israeli children who visit Auschwitz return home to “mimic SS barbarity.” And perhaps most shockingly, Atzmon states that one day people “may be bold enough” to argue that “Hitler was right after all.” This is just a small sample of the book’s outrageous claims.
A few months ago I tried to have all copies of The Wandering Who? removed from libraries in Manchester, which is home to Britain’s second-largest and fastest-growing Jewish community. But because the book “has not incurred penalties under the law,” the city council says “it should not be excluded from libraries on any moral, political, religious or racist ground alone to satisfy any sectional interest.” Apparently, Manchester city council believe that the book is a legitimate expression of “human experience and activity.” I will, of course, try again to have all copies removed from the city’s libraries on the grounds that such blatant anti-semitism does not serve the public interest and may actually incite hatred or violence against the Jewish community.
It is troubling that Atzmon’s books are available in British public libraries (and elsewhere). His texts are useful fodder for far-right extremists, far-left radicals and Islamic fundamentalists. But I am cheered by the fact that many Palestinian activists and left-wingers have condemned Atzmon and want nothing to do with him. Indeed, Atzmon’s views are so repellent that even the Guardian newspaper has removed his book from its site(!)
Following the publication of The Wandering Who in 2011, ten anti-Zionist authors wrote to the publisher to complain that “the thrust of Atzmon’s work is to normalize and legitimize anti-Semitism.” Moreover, a number of Palestinian intellectuals wrote to Atzmon himself, saying: “We reaffirm that there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust; nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities.”
Of course, it is possible that some in the Palestinian camp have no choice but to distance themselves from Atzmon because such blatant anti-Semitism hurts their cause. Indeed, there there have been “some factional splits” on the Left, with some people still defending him. This is to be expected, I suppose. The Left is always disintegrating and reforming behind some cultish personality. But I did not expect the BBC World Service to take Atzmon’s side.
A few weeks ago, Atzmon was invited by the World Service to take part in a discussion on music and politics. Julian Woricker, who presented the program, claimed to be familiar with Atzmon’s writings but did nothing to challenge Atzmon. In fact, Woricker seemed incredulous that anyone would think his guest was anti-Semitic! The fact that the broadcaster – a supposedly mainstream and impartial news organization, funded by the British taxpayer, – invited Atzmon into the heart of the BBC is a disgrace.
The reasons for Atzmon’s self-hatred are no doubt complex. Historian Bernard Lewis believes that Jewish self-hate is a neurotic reaction to gentile anti-Semitism, whereby the victim incorporates, articulates and amplifies the views of the dominant culture. Well, this is nothing new. The burning of the Talmud in the 13th century was at the behest of a Jewish apostate to Christianity. Karl Marx authored a work called “On the Jewish Question” Jews and asserted that usury was the “object of the Jew’s worship.” Among the most notable Jewish self-haters is American publisher and pornographer Samuel Roth (who died in 1974), whose 325-page anti-Semitic diatribe Jews Must Live: an Account of the Persecution of the World by Israel on All Frontiers of Civilization, published in 1930, was quoted at Nazi rallies and is held in high esteem by modern-day white supremacist groups.
According to Rabbi Yisroel Cohen (Chabad Lubavitch, Manchester), Jewish self-hatred is as old as the Jewish people. Of course, there are various spiritual and psychological explanations for the phenomenon, he explained. Plus, there are midrashic sources which say that “no nation can gain an upper hand over the Jewish nation without having support from within.”
This chimes with the view of Netta Kohn Dor-Shav, a US-born clinical psychologist now at Bar Ilan University in Israel, who warns: “It is fair to say that the plague of Jewish self-hatred is more dangerous for the survival of the Jewish people than any outside threat.” In a report for the Ariel Center for Policy Research, she concludes that such self-hatred “fuels a vicious cycle that can lead to disaster and dissolution of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.”
The CST points out that “expressions of anti-Semitism in public discourse remain a serious issue of concern as they exacerbate hostile attitudes towards Jews.” The CST is absolutely correct. But I would also add that “such expressions of anti-Semitism” legitimizes extreme violence against the State of Israel and Israel individuals. Anti-Semitic language easily translates into Hamas rockets or Islamic suicide-bombers. If I had the money, I’d bet a million pounds that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has read The Wandering Who? and has absorbed the book’s claims into his own rhetoric against Israel. Today’s verbal bombast is tomorrow’s nuclear missile aimed at Tel Aviv.
Anyone who cares about ending anti-Semitism should urge the BBC and other broadcasters not to collaborate with Atzmon. Tell mainstream newspapers that it’s unacceptable to print Atzmon’s anti-Semitic articles. Write to publishers, libraries and booksellers, and encourage them not to publish or stock Atzmon’s hateful texts. Zionist or anti-Zionist, each of us has the ability to help push Atzmon’s obscene opinions into the gutter where they belong.