Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Atzmon and the Face of the Far-Left

(Readers' note: I'll be at a business conference 12/7 & 12/8 and most likely unable to blog until it concludes.)
The fever swamps of extreme British far-left organization are becoming increasingly factional, as various players attempt to purge their rivals. On one side are followers of the self-described “Israeli-born Palestinian” jazz musician Gilad Atzmon (background here and here), known for his fierce criticism of Israel and rhetoric that embraces anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and approaches outright Holocaust denial. Representing the voice of reason (or what passes for it in British far-left circles) are groups like the Jewish Socialists’ Group.

The JSG sent open letter to a Scottish Palestinian advocacy group which had invited Aztmon to address their organization, suggesting they might not want to host someone whose program is: “regurgitating world Jewish conspiracy theories and diminishing the crimes of Nazism.” They highlight some hateful quotes and a particular incident:

“In 2005 Atzmon approvingly distributed Paul Eisen’s essay “Holocaust Wars” which Socialist Unity website described as ‘a full-blooded exposition of Holocaust denial material and a tribute to the notorious neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel.’ Atzmon said he only had ‘slight differences’ with Eisen’s article.”

For his part, Atzmon would like to change the face of the British far-left too, making it look, well, less Jewish. As the Guardian’s David Hirsh quotes, Atzmon told his Scottish audience:

“I would use this opportunity and appeal to our friends amongst the Jewish socialists and other Jewish solidarity groups. I would ask them to clear the stage willingly, and to re-join as ordinary human beings.”

The clear implication seems to be that in Atzmon’s mind being ordinary human beings and being Jewish are mutually exclusive. Should anyone care about the power struggles of the British far-left “anti-Zionist” movement? In a recent post, Simply Jews ask “why bother?” They link to Hirsh, who does sound the alarms, because:

“I consider this Atzmon is an anti-Semitic crank; hardly unusual, is it? The big deal is this: Atzmon is currently being hosted and/or being given a platform by groups that are thought of as being anti-racist and on the left.”

It is important to shine a light on fanaticism. Anti-Semitism is rising, particularly in Europe. When incubated in an insular and extreme political environment, where Bush is equated with Hitler, Israel with National Socialist Germany, revolution is advocated and political assassination fantasies are lauded such demagoguery can have frightening consequences. I would argue such circumstances contributed to Malachi Ritscher’s self-immolation, in a case of rage turned inward. How long will it be before a disturbed individual reacting to such rhetoric turns his rage outward towards others? That is why people of good conscience should consistently condemn the likes of Atzmon.