Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gilad Atzmon Grinds His Axe

If you search for jazz on al-jazeera’s English language site, Gilad Atzmon’s name comes up. If that makes you uneasy, your suspicions are correct. Through his essays, interviews, and most recent novel, Atzmon’s rhetoric is consistently venomous.

Atzmon is a former Israeli, the son of conservative Jewish parents, who now identifies himself as a Hebrew speaking Palestinian and avowed Marxist. He is also a multi-reed jazz instrumentalist, but his website is more preoccupied with politics than music.

Atzmon is a harsh critic of Israel, and sees Zionist conspiracies everywhere. His essay “The Protocols of the Elders of London” openly alludes to the thoroughly discredited “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which has repeatedly been used to incite anti-Semitic violence. This essay is in fact a rather tedious polemic on the in-fighting within the “anti-Zionist” British far-left. Aztmon writes of “a horrifying image of modern Jewish secular intolerance” and “the abusive, assertive and violent world of Zionist lobbying,” which seems to consist of asking people to sign open letters renouncing Israel Shamir, a certain figure they consider too extreme. Shamir (whose real name is apparently Jöran Jermas) has been associated with Holocaust denial and has advanced other anti-Semitic myths, including classic blood ritual libels, but he is the salt of the Earth in Atzmon’s book.

Aztmon’s “Protocols” essay is most troubling for its title, rather than its attempt to score points within insular far left power struggles. However, “On Anti-Semitism” literally excuses all forms of anti-Semitic violence as a form of political rebellion. Right out of the box Aztmon states:

“Anti-Semitism has been replaced by political reaction. I am not suggesting that Jewish interests are not being mutilated and vandalized. I am not saying that synagogues aren’t being attacked, that Jewish graves are not brutally smashed up. I am saying that these acts, that are in no way legitimate, should be seen as political responses rather than racially motivated acts or ‘irrational’ hate crimes.”

Note the quotes on “irrational.” While not endorsing hate crimes against Jews, Atzmon has effectively excused any act of violence as a response to alleged crimes against the Palestinians. Aztmon continues with explicit references to the original insidious “Protocols” with statements like:

“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 (in fact Zionists) do control the world.”

For history of the fraudulent Protocols and their role in promoting hate violence, I recommend this background from the ADL. Aztmon even makes the bizarre claim in support of Zionist world domination that “an astounding 56 per cent of Clinton’s appointees were Jews. A coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Considering the sheer volume of presidential appointments, and the percentage of the America population identified as Jewish, I truly doubt the accuracy of this statement. If you have numbers to the contrary, e-mail them to me. In general, I fail to see the evil in disproportionately appointing Jewish Americans to executive branch positions, so long as individual appointees are qualified.

Aztmon is not a Holocaust denier, but he does wink at it, writing:

“For years I have argued that Holocaust denial is not a particularly interesting subject because as a notion it is far too wide. In practice, anyone who tries to oppose the official Zionist interpretation of World War II events instantly becomes a Holocaust denier.”

Aztmon is also a “novelist.” His latest My One and Only Love has yet to find an American publisher. One and Only is replete with the ugliest caricatures of Israeli Jews imaginable. It tells a split narrative of Danny Zilber and Avrum Shtil. Zilber is a misogynistic, impotent trumpeter who plays a romantic light-jazz (sort of half Mr. Acker Bilk, half Chet Baker). Shtil is his greedy, violent, and perverse manager—the sort of stereotype you would expect from hate literature. Shtil deftly creates manipulatively sentimental acts designed to exploit European guilt over the Holocaust. In truth though, his musical acts are simply a profitable cover to smuggle nuclear material for the State of Israel. If any of my publishing colleagues have this on submission, I recommend you pass.

I have linked to all of Atzmon’s essays quoted above. Readers are invited to verify their accuracy and context. I enjoy many artists whose opinions I passionately disagree with. Oscar Brown, Jr. was a member of the Communist Party at a time when he had no excuse for not knowing of the purges and famines Stalin directed. Yet his music has a charm and wit that excuses such judgments. He was first and foremost a man of music. For Atzmon, his identity seems to come from his extremist politics, not his music. He seems to enjoy pushing the envelope of acceptable discourse, approaching outright anti-Semitism, and then citing his heritage as an alibi. It’s a sad act.