November 21, 2007
Jews and Jew Haters: The Anti-Zionist Jewish Squabble
A Guest Post by “Mikey”
I once heard an anecdote of someone asking a New York lawyer why so many lawyers in the city seem to be Jewish. The response was something like, “I don’t know, Jews like to argue I guess.” For Jews not destined to become lawyers, what better way is there to have an argument other than to get involved in politics? If they really want to have a good argument then internal Jewish politics is surely an excellent place to do it.
Clearly, it is not just Jews in the mainstream who like to argue, because the tiny fringe of Jews who are committed opponents of Zionism seem to have a similar penchant. Tony Greenstein, a key anti-Zionist Jewish activist in Britain, last year said, “Yes, I want the state of Israel to be destroyed.” More recently, he has said:
If every staffer in AIPAC were to be vapourised tomorrow, alongside Bush, Blair and Cheney, I wouldn’t lose a minutes sleep…. Presumably if we could engineer a nuke that only devastated its offices and personnel then all would be well in Palestine.
I suppose that Israelis and their supporters should be grateful that to the best intelligence we have available, Tony Greenstein has not been trying to obtain a nuclear capability.
Fighting on the same side as Tony Greenstein is Mark “Jews Sans Frontiers” Elf. This character divides the world into anti-Zionists (good) and Zionists (bad.) Elf believes that Zionists are “dominating, if not controlling, the whole media” and that his blog, in its own small way, is a counterbalance to this domination. (As an aside, if there are any media journalists reading this, can they please confirm that on their application form for their job, as well as having to provide references, they had to swear allegiance to the State of Israel.)
Elf will of course claim that he is only anti-Zionist and not in the slightest bit antisemitic. Only last week he said:
The sad thing, I think, is this propensity for sheer instinctive dishonesty has become a habit of mind with many, maybe most, Jews. It's part of the culture now and it'll be a hard slog shifting it. I think as communities, the Jews are heading for a disaster thanks to this grotesque culture of deceit.
Surely, this was a simple slip up. Elf must have meant Zionists. He would not possibly be calling Jews dishonest would he?
On the other side to this debate is the Israeli saxophonist and self-declared ex-Jew, Gilad Atzmon who is championed by the SWP. Despite their opposition to the State of Israel and Zionism, Atzmon dismisses the likes of Greenstein and Elf as, crypto-Zionists. The problem he has with them is that they identify as Jews and set up groups such as Jews Against Zionism and websites such as Jews Sans Frontiers. The relevance being that these groups have the word “Jews” in their title. As a result, he refers to them as “a bunch of silly tribal Jewish ethnic activists.” Mark Elf counters that Atzmon and his main supporter, Mary Rizzo are “scum of the earth deliberately dividing the anti-zionist movement” and are “antisemitic pieces of shit.” Because both Zionist Jews and anti-Zionist Jews that identify themselves as Jews, proudly refer to themselves as Jews, Atzmon can exclaim, “In short, there is no difference between Zionists and Jewish anti Zionists.” He concludes that Elf should “seek some psychiatric help.”
Whilst Mark Elf believes that Zionists control the Press and the majority of Jews are dishonest, Atzmon wrote a few years ago:
[W]e must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously.... American Jewry makes any debate on whether the 'Protocols of the elder of Zion' are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.
Whilst Tony Greenstein erroneously believes that during the Holocaust the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis, Gilad Atzmon circulates texts from those that support Holocaust denial. Atzmon also leant support to Israel Shamir, and referred to him as “a very civil and peaceful man.” Shamir is of course not someone who just supports Holocaust denial but felt able to denounce Lee Barnes of the BNP as a Jew.
For a number of months, Atzmon and his supporters, the “Atzmonites” and the anti-Zionist Jews have been at each others throats like cats and dogs in a debate that is becoming increasingly acrimonious. The debate centers around two main issues. The first of these issues is whether antisemitism should be tolerated in the Palestinian Solidarity campaign. (PSC) Both sides have been accused of antisemitism and both sides deny it, but Greenstein and his pals insist Atzmon is an antisemite and want Atzmon and Israel Shamir banished from the pro-Palestinian movement. Atzmon insists that he is not against Jews, although it was reported in the Observer that he believes that burning down a synagogue is a “rational act” and he fully admits that he is against “Jewishness.”
The recent spat started with an article Atzmon wrote in August entitled “Saying NO to the Hunters of Goliath.” This article stated:
the Jewish state and the sons of Israel are at least as unpopular in the Middle East as their grandparents were in Europe just six decades ago. Seemingly, it is the personification of WW2 and the Holocaust that blinded the Israelis and their supporters from internalising the real meaning of the conditions and the events that led towards their destruction in the first place.
The article appeared on the Indymedia site. Tony Greenstein wrote to Indymedia requesting that they remove Atzmon’s article. In support of his request Greenstein copied an email he had received from Moshe Machover, who he refers to as “an absolutely solid Israeli Jewish anti-Zionist.” In that email, with which Greenstein claimed he agreed, Machover stated:
He [Atzmon] is comparing here the – perfectly justified -- present hatred for Israel in the Middle East, with the "unpopularity"(!!!) from which European Jews suffered in the 1940s! You, I and GA [Atzmon] agree that if a destruction awaits Israel in the future, it will be a consequence of its present actions. What he is implying here is that the same is also true of the destruction of European Jewry six decades ago. This is not Holocaust denial; it is rather Holocaust justification! Or, at the very least, partly blaming it on the victims.
This communication led to a whole bout of correspondence with a person who goes by the name, “Free the Peeps”, and who seems to be a moderator for Indymedia deciding that he does “not believe that Atzmon hates all Jews because they are Jewish.” As such he stated, “I am therefore for leaving the article on the newswire.”
Atzmon’s main supporter is Mary Rizzo, who runs her own blog, PeacePalestine. Shortly after Machover’s email appeared on Indymedia, PeacePalestine published an article entitled, Moisha’le’s New Suit by someone called “Hans Christian Underdog” generally assumed to be an Atzmon invented character. This article was a spoof fairytale ridiculing Machover, “a Marxist emporer,” and Greenstein and Elf as “nothing but imposters.”
Greenstein’s supporters in this dispute have fought back. Steve Cohen, who wrote the book That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic wrote to Indymedia and said that Atzmon’s writing’s are “clear,unarguable anti Semitism. Just as ‘kill the Yids’ is clear,unarguable,anti-Semitism.”
Mark Elf sent Free the Peeps an email full of abusive language, accusing him of “betraying a woeful ignorance of racism.” Whilst Elf requested that any response was kept “off list,” Free the Peeps duly published Elf’s email complete with all the abuse together with his own response. As far as Free the Peeps was concerned, Machover, Greenstein, Elf and supporters were “using the exact same methods of intimidation that the zionist lobby uses to attack those that do not agree with the implementation of ‘Zionism in practice’ and the horrors that entails for Palestinians.” In no uncertain terms, he said of them:
If the group cannot find a more reasonable way of dealing with groups that they say they are supportive of, if they do not stop hounding and attempting to banish and silence their political adversaries, then I say they can FUCK OFF! I want nothing to do with them. Hopefully others will take the same line.The discredited Trotskyite author, Lenni Brenner, also wrote to Indymedia demanding that they “stop printing Atzmon's material” and arguing that Atzmon had developed a “mad form of fanaticism” and compared him to a Jew who shouts “Heil Hitler!” Free the Peeps was not amused and he responded stating that Brenner was “no comrade” of his and accused Brenner of hounding Atzmon on behalf of Greenstein. The crux of the matter and this really is the second major area of dispute between the anti-Zionist Jews and the Atzmonites was Brenner’s sign off: “For 1 democratic, secular bi-national Palestine/Israel in a socialist world.” Free the Peeps responded: -
Excellent news. I like the sound of that option. I'm just a little unsure about how you are going to persuade the Palestinians to see it your way. They kind of think that they have some right to be there on their own terms, and last time I looked they voted in some Islamic party that started with a H. Perhaps if you put them under serious pressure they'll see it your way?
What it comes down to is exactly this. Greenstein, Brenner and ideological comrades want to see Israel destroyed and a secular and socialist Palestine in its place. The Atzmonites also want to see Israel destroyed but they claim that they just support the Palestinians. If therefore the Palestinians want to support Hamas then so will they.
“Hans Christian Underdog” (Atzmon) was so impressed with Free the Peeps response to Brenner that he went to so far as to write and get professionally recorded a short radio play based on it. This play completely ridicules and pours scorn and derision on Brenner suggesting that apart from Greenstein and Brenner’s own mother, no one takes him seriously.
In the interim Greenstein has written an article, “There are no gatekeepers – just anti-racists” that he has had published on the Socialist Unity blog. Greenstein was most upset that Atzmon had called him a Zionist. He was also concerned that Atzmon and his supporters “indulge in anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Ignoring the fact that many Jews emigrated to Palestine for religious or other reasons that are completely independent of antisemitism, Greenstein states as a fact “Without anti-Semitism there would have been no Zionist settlers. The only effect of a growth of anti-Semitism today would be a new wave of settlers emigrating to Israel.” This is therefore what Greenstein is upset about: Because of Atzmon, Jews will be more likely to become staunchly Zionist and emigrate to Israel.
As many are aware, Hamas is a deeply antisemitic organisation, that in its own Covenant promotes the idea that Jews should be killed and that the notorious forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that suggested Jews have a plan to take control of the world, is true. Greenstein disputes this as he has said in the comments section of his own post in relation to Hamas and Hezbollah, “they are not anti-Semitic, because they quite simply are not organisations whose goal is the destruction of Jewish people or their oppression.” Greenstein does not elaborate in his bizarre statement how he can say that when the Hamas Covenant takes the trouble to specifically quote the Muslim Prophet as saying:
The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.
None of this has stopped Atzmon accusing Greenstein et al of having a “racially exclusive” Jewish secular political identity and according to Atzmon, “Jewish secular socialism is nothing but a form of ‘national socialism.’”
Jews for Justice for Palestinians supporter, Stephen Marks, who only two years ago shared a platform with someone who had previously been funding the known Holocaust Denier, David Irving was upset that Atzmon called the Jews a “race.” He said “This assertion is simply nonsense. I am not aware of any secular Jewish organisation which regards Jews as a ‘race’. Whatever its validity or lack of it, secular Jewish identity is cultural.” Atzmon was not impressed. He said because anti-Zionist Jews operated in groups under a Jewish banner, such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians, “you (Jewish secular political activists) aren’t a race… just racially orientated. i.e racist.”
One wonders who sane and rational people should support in this dispute. Should they support Tony Greenstein who wants “the state of Israel to be destroyed” and who thinks that Hamas and Hizbollah are not anti-semitic or Gilad Atzmon who is happy to support Hamas, wants Israel to disappear, and who also thinks burning down a synagogue is a rational act?
I have no idea, but no doubt, this argument is set to run and run.
In the interim, I am looking forward to my holiday next month in Tel-Aviv.
To hear Gilad Atzmon's play, click here
Posted by Your View at November 21, 2007 04:08 PM | TrackBack