I had initially written an article on this subject in order to show my enthusiasm with the denunciation of Gilad Atzmon by many pro-Palestinians activists in a letter they signed. I have always held the belief that people like Atzmon and Shamir cross the line from criticism of Israel to the demonization of the Jewish people.
I believe the flaw in my original diary was that I did not denounce some of the wrong reasoning and hostility to Zionism I saw in the letter in the diary itself but rather the comments section. So in good conscience I wish to start over and express my denunciation of both the letter and Atzmon.
I wish to see the Israel-Palestine conflict resolved as soon as possible. Too many lives have been lost and too many people have suffered in both Israel and Palestine.
However, I do not believe that this conflict can be resolved as long as both sides hate, demonize and reduce the opposing side from a human being to an “Other.”
That is why I am glad to see that many Muslims and Pro-Palestinian activists have rejected the utter bigotry of Gilad Atzmon in a letter signed by the likes of Columbia University Professor, Joseph Massad, and poet Rafeef Ziadah.
The letter reads in part:
With this letter, we call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination. We do so as Palestinian organizers and activists, working across continents, campaigns, and ideological positions.
Atzmon's politics rest on one main overriding assertion that serves as springboard for vicious attacks on anyone who disagrees with his obsession with “Jewishness”. He claims that all Jewish politics is “tribal,” and essentially, Zionist. Zionism, to Atzmon, is not a settler-colonial project, but a trans-historical “Jewish” one, part and parcel of defining one’s self as a Jew. Therefore, he claims, one cannot self-describe as a Jew and also do work in solidarity with Palestine, because to identify as a Jew is to be a Zionist. We could not disagree more. Indeed, we believe Atzmon’s argument is itself Zionist because it agrees with the ideology of Zionism and Israel that the only way to be a Jew is to be a Zionist.
Palestinians have faced two centuries of orientalist, colonialist and imperialist domination of our native lands. And so as Palestinians, we see such language as immoral and completely outside the core foundations of humanism, equality and justice, on which the struggle for Palestine and its national movement rests. As countless Palestinian activists and organizers, their parties, associations and campaigns, have attested throughout the last century, our struggle was never, and will never be, with Jews, or Judaism, no matter how much Zionism insists that our enemies are the Jews. Rather, our struggle is with Zionism, a modern European settler colonial movement, similar to movements in many other parts of the world that aim to displace indigenous people and build new European societies on their lands.
We reaffirm that there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust; nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities. Challenging Zionism, including the illegitimate power of institutions that support the oppression of Palestinians, and the illegitimate use of Jewish identities to protect and legitimize oppression, must never become an attack on Jewish identities, nor the demeaning and denial of Jewish histories in all their diversity.
Now just to be clear I am not in total agreement with the content of letter. The letter claims that:
“Rather, our struggle is with Zionism, a modern European settler colonial movement, similar to movements in many other parts of the world that aim to displace indigenous people and build new European societies on their lands.”
which I think hurts the peace-process. We must begin to recognize that under international law, Israel is a nation and that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination. Simultaneously we must also recognize that under international law the Palestinian people also have a right to self-determination
If this is not our starting point then the peace-process will inevitably fail and I believe the letter fails to convey this message.
However the letter, is a gradual step forward and by signing this letter these Palestinian activists have refused to mix Anti-Semitism and the degradation of the Jewish people as a whole, with their quest for Palestinian rights.
But what makes Atzmon an Anti-Semite? Hussein Ibish of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee explains:
Atzmon calls himself a leftist, but in a straightforwardly racist manner distinguishes between genuine Marxism and a pathological Jewish version: "Jewish Marxism is very different from Marxism or socialism in general. While Marxism is a universal paradigm, its Jewish version is very different. It is there to mould Marxist dialectic into a Jewish subservient precept. Jewish Marxism is basically a crude utilisation of ‘Marxist-like’ terminology for the sole purpose of the Jewish tribal cause. It is a Judeo-centric pseudo intellectual setting which aims at political power." According to Atzmon, "Jewish Marxism is there to suppress any form of engagement with the Jewish question by means of spin. It is there to stop scrutiny of Jewish power and Jewish lobbying." As Andy Newman correctly noted in The Guardian, "This is a wild conspiracy argument, dripping with contempt for Jews."Until Arabs and Jews see each other as equals, as brothers and sisters and as one human family, sharing one world there will never be peace. Anti-Semitism is the antithesis of all of this.
Atzmon has also disturbingly argued that, "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." Atzmon argues that he is only referring to Zionists and not Jews, so these comments cannot be considered anti-Semitic. Yet the first sentence in the passage clearly refers to “American Jewry” in general and the second to “American Jews” which he describes in general as being “in fact Zionists.” His disclaimers are completely unconvincing and are absolutely belied by the language and structure of his text, which are not equivocal. It's also noteworthy that this article appears to have been permanently removed from his website, but it can still be accessed here. As Atzmon himself notes, the bracketed comment “in fact Zionists” does not appear in his original text, and he added it later to try to establish that his essay “contains no anti-Semitic or anti Jewish sentiment." I'd challenge any reader of the full original text linked above to agree with that assessment.