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 (www.gilad.co.uk):
“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.
(on behalf of the National Committee of the Jewish Socialists’ Group)