Challenging antisemitism on Gaza demonstrations: Reposted from the Workers’ Liberty Website.

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Daniel Randall from Workers’ Liberty has written the following which is re-posted from the Workers’ Liberty website.  You can read the original article here.

On the 26 July London demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza, I confronted a man who was carrying a placard which read “Research: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”, with an image of a Star of David, dripping blood, with “666” in the centre.

The Protocols are an anti-Semitic forgery dating from Tsarist Russia, which purport to expose a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. They were used in their time, and have been used since, to whip up racist hatred, often violent, against Jews.

I told the man that racism had no place on the demonstration, that his presence harmed the Palestinian cause, and that the document he was promoting was a racist hoax. In the course of what was probably a not very coherent tirade from me, I mentioned that I was Jewish.

“Well, you’re blinded by your bias because you’re a Jew”, he said. “Only Jews make the arguments you’re making.”

Thereafter the “discussion” became more heated, and several onlookers were drawn in. Several people backed me up, but several defended him.

Their defences ranged from, “he’s opposing Zionists, not Jews”, to “he’s not racist, Zionism is racist!”, to the perhaps more honest “Jews are the problem. If you’re a Jew, you’re racist, you’re what we’re demonstrating against.” One man, topless, but wearing a balaclava, said “fuck off, unless you want your fucking head kicked in.”

I walked away, angry and upset. I returned a short while later to find the placard-holder embracing two young men, before leaving. When me and some comrades challenged them, they told us he wasn’t anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist. “Look, it says ‘Zion’”, not ‘Jews’. ‘Zion’ means Zionists”, one helpfully informed us.

Explicit anti-Jewish racism of the kind displayed on the man’s placard has been relatively rare on Palestine solidarity demonstrations in Britain. But the fact that it was present at all, and that it could find even a handful of defenders in a crowd of other demonstrators, is deeply worrying. Pointing to its rarity, and dismissing the problem as restricted solely to fringe elements, would bury one’s head in the sand. As recent events in France and Germany have shown, it is an undeniable fact that there are anti-Semites in the global Palestine solidarity movement, and ones prepared to violently express their anti-Semitism. That must not be allowed to infect the movement in Britain.

I don’t know how easy a ride the man and his placard had on the demonstration before myself and others confronted him. Had official stewards of the march seen the placard, and challenged him? Perhaps he’d spent all day under attack from other demonstrators; I hope so. But when I found him, he was perfectly at his ease, and, as it turned out, surrounded by friends. That is a disappointment. If people with such politics want to attend solidarity demonstrations to peddle them, they should find themselves isolated, and face constant harangue. They shouldn’t be entitled to a moment’s peace.

While outward displays of “classical” anti-Semitism are rare, subtler themes are more common. Placards and banners comparing the Israeli state to Nazism, and its occupation of Palestine to the Holocaust, and images melding or replacing the Star of David with swastikas, are, while far from universal, relatively commonplace. The politics of this imagery, too, has an anti-Semitic logic.

Nazism and the Holocaust – an experience of attempted industrialised genocide, just two generations distant – left deep scars on Jewish identity and collective cultural memory and consciousness, wounds that will take a long time to heal. As others have written recently, no other ethno-cultural group has the most traumatic experience in its history exploited in this way. “Zionism = Nazism”, “Star of David = Swastika”, and “The Occupation = The Holocaust” all use collective cultural trauma as a weapon to attack Jews. The fact that those who take such placards on demonstrations intend only to target the Israeli government, and not Jews in general, is no defence or excuse. The barbarism of Israeli state policy does not make the Jewishness of its government fair game, any more than Barack Obama’s imperialism excuses racist attacks on him.

To describe the Palestinian solidarity movement, as such, as “anti-Semitic” would be a calumny. Cynics and right-wingers have attempted to use incidents of anti-Semitism to extrapolate conclusions about the politics of all marchers, or to imply that any support for the Palestinians at all is somehow anti-Semitic. Such cynical extrapolations are not my intention with this article. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of marchers attended because they want to oppose Israel’s current assault on Gaza. The movement includes many Jews (and not just the theocratic reactionaries of Neturei Karta, but secular-progressive Jews too), and many sincere anti-racists. But a situation where anyone thinks it appropriate to carry such a placard, where he can find supporters, and where such people can openly racially abuse Jewish demonstrators who challenge them, is not tolerable and must be addressed.

Right-wingers in the Jewish community will use instances of anti-Semitism to discredit the Palestinian cause, and dissuade Jews from acting to support it. On this, instrumental, level, anti-Semitism harms the Palestinians. But racism should have no place in any solidarity movement, not because it’s bad PR, but because the politics of solidarity should be anathema to any form of racism.

It is now common in the left-wing blogosphere for articles which contain potentially traumatic content to carry “trigger warnings”, alerting those who have experienced particular traumas that something in the article might trigger painful memories of their experience. To attend a demonstration where Nazism and the Holocaust, the worst and most traumatic of Jewish collective experience, is used as a cheap propaganda tool, and openly anti-Semitic placards are carried and defended, while those challenging them are racially abused, must surely be “triggering” for many Jews. But we can’t put trigger warnings on demonstrations, or on life. All we can do is work to win hegemony for a political culture where such things are confronted and stamped out.

Finally, a “historical” note on placards on Palestine solidarity demonstrations. In 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, some Workers’ Liberty members in Sheffield (three of us, incidentally, Jewish) took placards on a demonstration against the assault which, amongst other things, said “No to IDF, no to Hamas.” As it happens, I now think, for various reasons, that our slogan was misjudged. But no-one attempted to engage us in debate or discussion about it; we were simply screamed at, called (variously) “scabs” and “Zionists”, and told we must immediately leave the demo (we didn’t). Our placards were ripped out of our hands and torn to pieces.

As I say, I don’t know how many people had challenged the racist placard on the 2014 London demonstration before me; several, I hope. But the political atmosphere on the demo was evidently not such that the man carrying it felt unwelcome – and, indeed, when he was challenged, many people leapt to his defence.

I don’t make the comparison in order to express a wish that what happened to us in 2009 had happened to him in 2014. I wouldn’t particularly advocate physically destroying the man’s placard, or attempting to physically drive him and his supporters off the demonstration. But a movement in which “no to IDF, no to Hamas” is considered beyond the pale even for debate and discussion, and must be violently confronted, but a placard promoting The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion can be carried without challenge, even for a moment, and its carrier find numerous defenders, needs to change its political culture.

John Mearsheimer and the University of Chicago

This is a guest post by Joseph Weissman.

By endorsing Gilad Atzmon’s new bookThe Wandering Who, John Mearsheimer heaps praise upon the racist writings of an antisemite who argues that Fagin and Shylock accurately represent Jewish evil, and that Hitler could be proven right.

Stephen Walt allowed Mearsheimer a guest post on his Foreign Policy blog, to defend himself from “smears” suggesting Mearsheimer had endorsed an antisemite.

In order to defend Atzmon, Mearsheimer sanitised Atzmon’s arguments. Mearsheimer commends a passage in The Wandering Who, where Atzmon draws similarities between AIPAC lobbying in the USA and Jewish lobbying in Nazi Germany. Mearsheimer wrote:

Goldberg refers to a blog post that Atzmon wrote on March 25, 2010, written in response to news at the time that AIPAC had “decided to mount pressure” on President Obama. After describing what was happening with Obama, Atzmon notes that this kind of behavior is hardly unprecedented.In his words, “Jewish lobbies certainly do not hold back when it comes to pressuring states, world leaders and even superpowers.” There is no question that this statement is accurate and not even all that controversialTom Friedman said as much in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago.

In the second half of this post, Atzmon says that AIPAC’s behavior reminds him of the March 1933 Jewish boycott of German goods, which preceded Hitler’s decision on March 28, 1933 to boycott Jewish stores and goods. His basic point is that the Jewish boycott had negative consequences, which it did.

Writing days later in Foreign Policy, David Rothkopf deconstructed Mearsheimer and Walt’s backing of Gilad Atzmon.

A professor at the University of Chicago, Mearsheimer has given his academic endorsement to Atzmon. To date, there has been no official reaction from the University of Chicago.

However, a philosopher of law from the University of Chicago, Brian Leiter, has accused Mearsheimer’s critics of opposing “academic freedom”, and of spreading “right-wing smears.”

Universities have a duty of care towards their students, and the university campus should be safe for Jews. The University of Chicago is clearly a safe environment for Jewish students. Yet two U. Chicago professors are now dismissing anyone concerned about the antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon, as anti-freedom and anti-intellectual.

Now, the university’s student paper The Chicago Maroon, has published an article defending Mearsheimer for endorsing Atzmon, on “academic freedom” grounds. U. Chicago student Colni Bradley writes:

There is no reason to condemn Mearsheimer based on Atzmon’s previous controversial comments. The only acceptable criticism would be if he could prove that The Wandering Who? is itself anti-Semitic, and that Mearsheimer is guilty of praising those hateful elements. Goldberg does no such thing.

However, by far the worst comment Atzmon has ever come out with, is found on p.179 ofThe Wandering Who.

Read this paragraph:

“The present should be understood as a creative dynamic mode where past premeditates its future. But far more crucially, it is also where the imaginary future can re-write its past. I will try to elucidate this idea through a simple and hypothetical yet terrifying war scenario. We, for instance, can envisage a horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran that escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario, some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.”

Atzmon is trying to prove, that there are scenarios which may well prove  Hitler had the right idea all along.

In Atzmon’s scenario, Israel goes to war with Iran, and some Iranian survivors of Israeli attacks conclude that “Hitler was right”. They are bold to do so. For Atzmon, this is just one scenario in which “the imaginary future can re-write its past” – and future events could justify Hitler.

Atzmon is arguing that eventually, the terrible behaviour of Israel will cause some people to realise that Hitler might have been right after all. But for now, alas, the “Holocaust religion” prevents us in the present from realising this.

U. Chicago student Bradley also writes:

I think we should commend anyone who seeks to push the boundaries and uncover the difficult truths, particularly when the questions are so messy. I am not saying I agree with Mearsheimer’s opinions on these issues: I don’t even know all of them. But I don’t care. For probably the first time since coming to this University, the words “academic freedom” mean more to me than justifying questionable investment practices. Atzmon may very well be an anti-Semite, but John Mearsheimer is not.

How is it “academic freedom” to endorse a racist book?

How is it “pushing the boundaries”, to suggest that Israeli  evil couldl eventually prove to the world that Hitler was right all along? Why should Mearsheimer commend such a work?

How would we feel about someone endorsing Mein Kampf itself – would we say they are being edgy, and making the full use of their academic freedom? Or would we say they are knowingly pushing a racist text?

This is not a rhetorical question.

In Gilad Atzmon’s recent interview with Keith Barrett, he tells his host (from 13:00):

“Mein Kampf is an interesting read, a very important document, I could hardly find anything about the Jews – only 2 and a half pages out of 400  about the Jews. This book was a major bookseller, and I didn’t want to think the Germans were all stupid, they were one of the most advanced  societies. It was a very very interesting read. I, for the first time, understood why Hitler managed to impress so many Germans.”

Here are some of Hitler’s quotes on Jews from Mein Kampf:

Here he stops at nothing, and in his vileness he becomes so gigantic that no one need be surprised if among our people the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.

The ignorance of the broad masses about the inner nature of the Jew, the lack of instinct and narrow-mindedness of our upper classes, make the people an easy victim for this Jewish campaign of lies.

While from innate cowardice the upper classes turn away from a man whom the Jew attacks with lies and slander, the broad masses from stupidity or simplicity believe everything. The state authorities either cloak themselves in silence or, what usually happens, in order to put an end to the Jewish press campaign, they persecute the unjustly attacked, which, in the eyes of such an official ass, passes as the preservation of state authority and the safeguarding of law and order.

Slowly fear and the Marxist weapon of Jewry descend like a nightmare on the mind and soul of decent people.

For a racially pure people which is conscious of its blood can never be enslaved by the Jew. In this world he will forever be master over bastards and bastards alone.

Now begins the great last revolution. In gaining political power the Jew casts off the few cloaks that he still wears. The democratic people’s Jew becomes the blood-Jew and tyrant over peoples. In a few years he tries to exterminate the national intelligentsia and by robbing the peoples of their natural intellectual leadership makes them ripe for the slave’s lot of permanent subjugation.

The end is not only the end of the freedom of the peoples oppressed by the Jew, but also the end of this parasite upon the nations. After the death of his victim, the vampire sooner or later dies too.

Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: ‘by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.’

Atzmon channels Hitler,  plays down the racism of Mein Kampf, and argues that  a nightmare scenario involving Israeli evil could eventually prove Hitler right.

Mearsheimer and Walt then channel Atzmon, arguing that his book is “fascinating” and “Jews and non-Jews alike” must read it.

Where will this end?

US Boat to Gaza proudly presents antisemite Gilad Atzmon at its fundraising party

Antisemite Gilad Atzmon

The US Boat to Gaza proudly advertised:

In concert and talk.

A benefit for the Bay Area’s flotilla passengers who will be onboard The Audacity of Hope. You’ll meet them as they get ready to go on the “Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human” to break Israel’s illegal naval blockade, an awesomely courageous revolutionary liberatory, even world-history-making action.

Atzmon is a worldwide-renowned jazz saxophonist par excellence. He was born and raised in Israel. After serving in the Israeli military he became an expat and lives in London. He also holds a PhD in philosophy and is a prolific writer and speaker on Israel-Palestine.

Please join Gilad, his pianist Daniel Raynaud, and the passengers.

May 10, 2011 at 4:30pm

Gilad Atzmon is an unambiguous and explicit antisemite.  These are the kinds of things that Atzmon likes to say:

“They try to call me an anti-Semite, I’m not an anti-Semite. I’ve got nothing against the Semite people, I don’t have anything against people – I’m anti-Jewish, not anti-Jews.

“I think Jewish ideology is driving our planet into a catastrophe and we must stop.”

“The Nazis were indeed . . . evil. They did things that were disastrously inhuman and unacceptable. But this doesn’t mean the Jewish ideology is correct, because in fact Jewish ideology and Nazi ideology were very similar.”

See this pdf on Harry’s Place for the antisemitic things that Atzmon has said and written.

See this piece by David Hirsh on Atzmon.

See this piece by David Aaronovitch on Atzmon.

David Adler assessed Atzmon years ago, in Jazz Times.

More on Atzmon here.

Even Sue Blackwell thinks Atzmon is an antisemite.

But the ‘antiracist’ antizionists have to take some responsibility for Atzmon.

Open antisemitism doesn’t harm your reputation

Petronella Wyatt writes in the Daily Mail (11 June 2011) [via cst and hp]:

“…It is, chillingly, not such a different sentiment than the one expressed to me not long ago by a life peer.”

“As we basked in the sunshine on the House of Lords’ terrace, he said: ‘The Jews have been asking for it, and because of the atrocious way Israel behaves, we can finally say what we think.'”

“This remark is not one I ever expected to hear in this country.”

(also her spectator piece)

Remember what Eve Garrard heard from an academic at a formal academic dinner (13 June 2010)?

Bloody Jews,’ he said. ‘Bloody Jews, bugger the Jews, I’ve no sympathy for them.’

I gazed at him, aghast. Where had this suddenly come from?

The encounter I’m here describing took place very recently, in the course of a large academic dinner at a University in another city, not my own one. It was a pleasant occasion, and the people at my table were innocuously and comfortably talking about sociological issues connected with the economic crisis, all completely harmless and (relatively) uncontentious. And then I heard the academic on my right hand side say to the person opposite him, ‘Bloody Jews.’

When he saw my appalled stare, he said impatiently, ‘Oh well, I’m sorry, but really…!’

‘I’m glad you’re sorry,’ I replied politely, collecting myself together for a fight. But then he asked, ‘Are you Jewish?’ When I nodded, this academic – whom I’d met for the first time that day – put his arm around me and said, ‘I’m sorry, but really Israel is terrible, the massacres, Plan Dalet, the ethnic cleansing, they’re like the Nazis, they’re the same as the Nazis…’

Remember Rowan Laxton, UK diplomat (9 Feb 2009)?

Rowan Laxton, 47, an expert on the Middle East, allegedly shouted “fucking Israelis” “fucking Jews” while watching television reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza in the gym.

He is also alleged to have said Israeli soldiers should be “wiped off the face of the earth” during the rant, which was overheard by staff and gym members.

Martin Linton MP (March 2010):

“There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.  … You must consider over the next few weeks, when you make decisions about how you vote and how you advise constituents to vote, you must make them aware of the attempt by Israelis and by pro-Israelis to influence the election.”

Sir Gerald Kaufman MP (March 2010):

“Just as Lord Ashcroft owns most of the Conservative Party, right-wing Jewish millionaires own the rest,” he said.

 Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade (3 Sep 2010):

“Don’t underestimate the opinion … of the average Jew outside Israel…. There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

 Frank Johansson, the Chair of Amnesty International in Finland, (August 2010):

“On the basis of my own visit, which occurred during the 1970s and 1990s for the final time, I agree [that “Israel is a scum state”].

Baroness Jenny Tonge, (19 Sep 2006):

“The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party.”

Daniel Bernard, French Ambassador to Britain, (20 Dec 2001):

 ” … that  shitty little country Israel…”

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, 2006):

Finegold: How did tonight go?

Livingstone: Have you thought of having treatment?

Finegold: Was it a good party? What does it mean for you?

Mr Livingstone: What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?

Finegold: No, I’m Jewish, I wasn’t a German war criminal and I’m actually quite offended by that. So, how did tonight go?

Mr Livingstone: Arr right, well you might be [Jewish], but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren’t you?

Finegold: Great, I have you on record for that. So, how was tonight?

Mr Livingstone: It’s nothing to do with you because your paper is a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots.

Finegold: I’m a journalist and I’m doing my job. I’m only asking for a comment.

Mr Livingstone: Well, work for a paper that doesn’t have a record of supporting fascism.  [Ironic for a man who was once an editor of Labour Herald]

‘For far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government, as I have been.’

Is antisemitism an elite phenomenon?

Westminster University Cancels Gilad Atzomon’s discussion of “Jewishness”

Gahda Karmi had already said she was pulling out.  She’s the one who thought that “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s UN speech on 21 April struck many as obnoxious, but in terms of understanding the 1948 roots of the Middle East conflict he was spot on.”  She also thought that after  ‘the Holocaust and all this business’, as she put it, masses of ‘alien’ Jews started to pour in to Palestine. These Jews were nothing like the Jews they were used to: these new Jews were pale and blue-eyed, but most of all they were ‘complicated’, ‘very difficult to deal with’, and they were bringing ‘their miserable lives’ with them.

John Rose had also said he was pulling out.  Remember John Rose, brought up in a “Zionist home”?

Alan (“some of my best friends are Jewish“) Hart was also billed to speak.

The star of the show was to be the antisemitic saxophonist, Gilad Atzmon.

The event had been promoted by groups including the Stop the War Coalition, the white nationalist Stormfront movement, and the Real IRA, according to the Jewish Chronicle report here.

BBC World Service Documentary on Contemporary Antisemitism

Part 1 is out now on iplayer and is well worth listening to – click here

With material from Malmo in Sweden, from Vilnius in Lithuania, from Anthony Julius, Howard Jacobson, Mark Gardner, David Hirsh, Brian Klug, Edie Friedman, Deborah Fink and Dovid Katz.

Broadcasts today at 16:32, and tomorrow, Thursday at 16:32, 00:32 and 0432

Mainstream antisemitism

The Prime Minister of Italy:

“Days after Berlusconi told a youth rally an apparent joke about Adolf Hitler, he emerged from his Rome residence on 29 September to regale supporters with a joke about a Jew who charges fellow Jews money to hide in his basement from the Nazis, without telling them the war is over.”  more in the Guardian

A CNN news anchor:

Rick Sanchez: I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. I just think it’s important that people who are not minorities understand that those of us who are – and very few of us will say the things that I just said – are actually more complex than they think we are.

Pete Dominick: [Jon] Stewart’s a minority as much as you are. He’s Jewish.

Sanchez: Yeah. Yeah. Very powerless people. Please. What are you, kidding?

Dominick: You’re telling me that….

Sanchez: I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they – the people in this country who are Jewish – are an oppressed minority? Yeah.

more in the Guardian

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