Gilad Atzmon in Edinburgh

Gilad Atzmon, the famous saxophonist, played in Edinburgh on Nov. 22nd at the invititation of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Before the gig, he gave a talk entitled “Zionist Control (The Gatekeepers of the Pro-Palestine Discourse)”–it’s no secret that he doesn’t think much of “Jewish leftist groups”. The Jewish Socialist Group wrote to SPSC (it’s an open letter that I couldn’t find anywhere on the Web, so I have reproduced it below) protesting about the invitation on the grounds of Atzmon’s antisemitism. I also wrote privately, in a personal capacity, to Mick Napier of SPSC, who has promised a considered reply.

Dear Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign,

The terrible situation of the Palestinians today, especially in Gaza, demands the broadest possible unity by those who wish to challenge oppression, racism and human rights abuses. Those who disrupt that unity, or make pro-Palestinian activity vulnerable to charges of antisemitism cannot be friends of the Palestinian people.

Against this background, the Jewish Socialists’ Group strongly oppose Scottish PSC’s invitation to Gilad Atzmon to speak and perform on November 22 at an event called “Zionist control”. Apart from the SWP, which has inexplicably invited Atzmon to its annual Marxism events, and to a book launch at its Bookmarks shop (which was picketed by “Jews Against Zionism and other anti-racists), Atzmon is shunned by other progressive, pro-Palestinian organisations. They completely reject his statements – regurgitating world Jewish conspiracy theories and diminishing the crimes of Nazism – which have been widely denounced as antisemitic.

Atzmon’s outbursts have been a gift to Zionist journalists, providing them with an opportunity to discredit and smear those who support Palestinian rights and justice for the Palestinian people.

If you are not familiar with the views of the person you have invited, here are some examples from his article “On antisemitism” December 2003 on his own website (

“We 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 elders of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.”

“Israel’s behaviour throws some light on the persecution of Jews throughout history.”

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

In 2006 he wrote an article called “Beyond comparison” for Al-Jazeerah [not the TV station] (August 12) about Israel and Nazism: “Nazis were indeed proper expansionists, they were trying to take towns and land intact…unlike the Nazis who had respect for other national movements including Zionism, Israel has zero respect for anyone including its next door neighbours. The Israeli behavior should be realised as the ultimate vulgar biblical barbarism
on the verge of cannibalism.

“While Nazism was a nationalist expansionist movement with extensive yet limited ambitions, the Jewish State and its Zionist lobbies are trying to revive the spirit of a global crusade in the name of a bizarre religious war.

“It is about time to … say it all loudly… We have to admit that Israel is the ultimate evil rather than Nazi Germany”.

Since the early 1980s the Jewish Socialists’ Group has worked closely with Palestinian organisations and solidarity campaigns and more recently with Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Just Peace UK and European Jews for a Just Peace in the struggle against occupation and for equality and self-determination for Palestinians. We have challenged Jewish communal “leaders” when they denounce opponents of Israel as antisemitic and Jewish opponents of Zionism as “self-haters”.

At the same time we remain vigilant about antisemitism and other forms of racism. We agree entirely with the Britain’s former PLO representative, Afif Safieh, who frequently told pro-Palestinian demonstrations and meetings that antisemitism was an enemy of the Palestinians as well as the Jews.

As Jewish socialists and outspoken opponents of Zionism, racism and fascism, we cannot understand how it benefits the Palestinian struggle to invite and promote an individual who speaks as Atzmon does, regardless of his origins. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has long had a clause in its aims to oppose antisemitism and all forms of racism. We cannot understand why SPSC seem intent on exposing the pro-Palestinian movement to charges of antisemitism.

We appeal to Scottish PSC to rescind the invitation and we appeal to Palestinian organisations and solidarity organisations to make their views on this
known to Scottish PSC.

David Rosenberg
(on behalf of the National Committee of the Jewish Socialists’ Group)

Meeting with Alyn Smith MEP

Two of us went on Friday to meet Alyn Smith, the Scottish Nationalist MEP, who has just got back from a European Parliament fact-finding mission to Israel and Palestine. The mission was announced on a Europa website (a link at the bottom leads to the mission’s programme, which was pretty good, but subsequent news about it seems to have been relayed only through an Iranian news agency, Electronic Intifada, Al-Jazeerah, etc). This may be because the conclusions that the MEPs brought back are uncomfortable, though unfortunately not surprising. Alyn Smith seems to have been brought up to speed on the situation by the five days of meetings and visits, and has come back with an admirable determination to try to find a positive Scottish contribution to the situation. First the very uncomfortable main points that he has brought back:

  1. The mission saw for themselves what the Palestinian solidarity movement has been saying for months: that the humanitarian situation on the West Bank, and especially in Gaza, is catastrophic. About Gaza they said:

    Due to economic sanctions, almost all public institutions have shut down. The hospitals are overcrowded and receive neither money nor sufficient medicine. The public employees have not been paid for months. The doctors told us that some deadly injuries are not caused by traditional weapons but most likely by new experimental chemical weapons. More amputations than ever are necessary. They have not had the time to examine the dead bodies yet as they are busy dealing with the wounds of those who have survived.

    (It’s not only economic sanctions that are strangling the PA. Probably more important is the large amount of customs revenue that the Israeli government is still “withholding”.) It’s impossible to imagine a situation so bad continuing indefinitely. But the MEPs didn’t forecast any success for the hopes of the Israeli government and the “international community” that the Palestinians will rise up and throw off the Hamas government. They believe that it is more likely that the situation will solidify support behind Hamas, which they acknowledge as the elected government. More likely is the prospect of civil war or a coup by Abbas, who is importing large quantities of arms into the Gaza strip, a situation that the US is “completely relaxed” about (to quote Alyn). You can’t imagine anything more likely to please Olmert and Bush.

  2. We couldn’t take any encouragement from his assessment of the political leadership on either (or, more accurately, any) side of the conflict.

  3. His opinion of EU policy was scathing. The attempt to route part of the PA payroll as aid through Abbas’s office makes no sense at all, either in the context of the Hamas boycott (which it undermines, as far as it is effective at all), or in the context of helping the PA continue to operate (which it is completely ineffective at doing, since the amounts involved are so small). I was particularly struck by his opinion about the Rafah checkpoint, the only route into Gaza that is (supposedly) not under Israeli control. Rafah is open under the supervision of EU monitors, which means that when they can’t reach it it stays closed (this happens often). And where are the monitors living–remember, this is a checkpoint between Gaza and Egypt? Why, in Ashkelon, of course! That way, their access to Rafah is entirely under the control of the IDF. According to Alyn, the head of the EU “Border Assistance Mission” didn’t bother even to try to justify this arrangement to the MEPs

Alyn hopes to call a meeting of “stakeholders” in the Scottish community very soon. I know that before he went he discussed the situation with at least the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. He plans on a meeting in early December, at which he hopes to be an honest broker in starting a dialogue between the different stakeholders, in the hope that a distinctive Scottish position will emerge. It’s a conscientious and constructive move, but I can’t say I’m wildly optimistic about the chances of the dialogue being very helpful.