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Gilad Atzmon

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Gilad Atzmon (Hebrew: גלעד עצמון‎, born June 9, 1963) is a jazz musician, author and anti-Zionist activist who was born in Israel and currently lives in London.

He was born a secular Israeli Jew in Tel Aviv, and trained at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. His service in the Israeli military convinced him Israel had become a militarized state controlled by religious extremists.[1] He emigrated from Israel to London at age 32. He studied philosophy in Germany.

Politics and Allegations of Anti Semitism
Atzmon is an anti-Zionist who denounces all forms of Jewish identity and supports the Palestinian Right of Return and the establishment of a single state in Israel/Palestine.[11] He is a signatory to the “Palestinians are the Priority Petition” which states ‘full and unconditional support of the Palestinian people is a condition sine qua non for activists to adopt.’[12]

In May 2005 the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a dossier illustrating widespread antisemitism at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, including this quote from a talk delivered by Atzmon: “I’m not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act.”[13] Atzmon responded in a letter to The Observer that he did not “justify any form of violence against Jews, Jewish interests or any innocent people.” He claimed that the context of his comment was that of “debating the question of rationality of anti-semitism. I claimed that since Israel presents itself as the ‘state of the Jewish people’, and bearing in mind the atrocities committed by the Jewish state against the Palestinians, any form of anti-Jewish activity may be seen as political retaliation. This does not make it right.”[14] Atzmon alleges that in 2006 the Board of Deputies exerted “enormous political pressure” to try to cancel his “London debut at the prestigious Pizza On The Park jazz club.”[15]

Atzmon was quoted by Iranian Press TV as having called the Holocaust a “complete forgery, initiated by Americans and Zionists”. [16] In a German forum, many attendants left in protest after he called the Holocaust a “complete forgery initiated by Americans and Zionists. According to him the true enemy was not Hitler but Stalin.” [17]

In June 2005 David Aaronovitch in The Times criticized the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) for inviting Atzmon to speak at their “Marxism 2005” annual event. He described Atzmon’s controversial statements accusing American Jews of trying to control the world and his support for the neo-Nazi writer Israel Shamir. He also questioned Atzmon’s support for the Jewish director of Britain’s Deir Yassin Remembered, Paul Eisen, who questioned the existence of Nazi gas chambers and championed the perspective of Ernest Zudel, author of “The Hitler we Loved and Why”.[18] In defence of the invitation the SWP argued: ‘The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist. However, while defending Gilad’s right to play and speak on public platforms, that in no way means we endorse all of Gilad’s views. We think that some of the formulations on his website might encourage his readers to feel that he is blurring the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti Zionism. In fact we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with.’[19]

There has been a long-running and often heated debate between Atzmon and his critics, including anti-Zionist Jews. In June 2005 Jews Against Zionism accused Atzmon of antisemitism, in part because allegedly he “spends much of his time denouncing anti-Zionist Jews who do not, like him, dissociate entirely from their Jewish background,”[20] and of helping Israel because by “eliding the important distinction between Israel and Jews, is actually aiding the propaganda effort of the state he purports to oppose.”[21] He has responded by describing his critics as being “crypto Zionist” and as “searching for essentiality,” so that for them the “Holocaust is the new Jewish religion.”[22] He also has written: “I write about things that I find while looking into myself. This is indeed very dangerous for people who try to promote some collective dogmatic and ethnic tribalism.”[23].

In August 2006, Atzmon wrote that critics of Israel should stop equating Israel’s acts to those of the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler because Israel’s actions are worse. “To regard Hitler as the ultimate evil is nothing but surrendering to the Zio-centric discourse. To regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook'” Citing Israel’s summer 2006 bombing of Lebanon and 2006 Israel-Gaza conflict, Atzmon continued: “The Israelis demolish for the sake of demolishing. It is about time we internalize the fact that Israel and Zionism are the ultimate Evil with no comparison.”[24] He further stated that in a comparison of ruthlessness between Nazi Germany and Israel, “‘it is the Israelis who win the championship of ruthlessness and the reasons are obvious. Nazi Germany was a tyranny, Israel is a democracy led by a centre-left national unity government.”[24]

In November 2006 The Guardian blogger David Hirsh, a leading opponent of antisemitism, shared several Atzmon quotes he characterized as antisemitic and accused Atzmon of “trying to lead an anti-semitic purge of the anti-Zionist movement and one that will ditch the formal anti-racism onto which some anti-Zionists still cling.”[25] When Atzmon started negotiations with Guardian editors to make his own blog reply, Hirsh’s blog closed. The editors re-opened it and then allowed Atzmon to do his own blog entry. In it he claimed that Hirsh’s accusations were unproven or taken out of context and then alleged: “Hirsh needs anti-semitism. The reason is simple, while Zionism, being an oppressive and expansionist ideology, is impossible to defend, anti-semitism is a racial crime and therefore easy to attack.”[26]

The Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism (SCAA) has criticized the Swedish Social Democratic Party for inviting Atzmon to speak at a seminar on Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan, which was held in Stockholm on March 18th, 2007. SCAA chairman Jesper Svartvik said Atzmon was a “known anti-Semite” and urged the party to distance itself from the decision.[27]

Atzmon answers the various accusations against him at the ‘1001 Lies About Gilad Atzmon’ page on his web site. There he responds to accusations of antisemitism by questioning the existence of antisemitism itself, writing: “Because Anti-Semite is an empty signifier, no one actually can be an Anti-Semite and this includes me of course. In short, you are either a racist which I am not or have an ideological disagreement with Zionism, which I have.”[22] In an article entitled “Think Tribal, Speak Universal” Atzmon wrote: “Surely, the most effective way to confront a thinker is through open intellectual debate. But somehow, this is precisely what those who oppose me refuse to do. Instead, they employ various tactics aimed at silencing me.”[28]

Atzmon has accused “Israel, the Jewish state” of following the call of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:10 “to plunder, rob and steal,” specifically from the “indigenous Palestinians of their land, cities, villages, fields, orchards and wells” for “over a century.” Writing about the Jewish revolutionary Marxists of the “Bund” (the General Jewish Labor Union), he writes: “Bundists believe that instead of robbing Palestinians we should all get together and rob whoever is considered to be the rich, the wealthy and the strong in the name of working class revolution.” Stating “Robbery and plunder doesn’t live in peace with a deep understanding of the notion of human equality” and citing his own youthful vengeance towards “wealthy goyim,” Atzom further asserts: “The Jewish nationalist would rob Palestine in the name of the right of self-determination, the Jewish progressive is there to rob the ruling class and even international capital in the name of world working class revolution.”[29]

In October 2008, Atzmon wrote an article intended to “disentangle the horrifying tribal plot that accidentally led towards the destruction of the American Empire and Western financial hegemony.” He details various “Jewish tribal political operations” and concludes: “You may wonder at this stage whether I regard the credit crunch as a Zionist plot. In fact it is the opposite. It is actually a Zionist accident. The patient didn’t make it to the end. This Zionist accident is a glimpse into Political Zionism’s sinister agenda. This Zionist accident provides us with an opportunity to see that as far as misery is concerned, we are together with the Palestinians, the Iraqis and the Afghans. We share one enemy.” He also writes: “It would be devastating to see innocent Jews being implicated collectively by the crimes committed by a very few tribal nationalist enthusiasts.”[30]

Oren Ben-Dor, who also grew up in Israel and now teaches at the School of Law, University of Southampton, UK, commented on a 2008 petition condemning what he called ‘the constant attempts to silence Gilad Atzmon.’ He wrote: “All those who try to smother Gilad’s endeavours, to distort his voice through vulgar associations and conventional clichés, and to utilise uncritically accepted conventional havens for thoughtlessness, do not really do justice to the intellectual game as far as Palestine is concerned.”[31]

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