It is apparently forbidden for Labour Party members to read, let alone approve of, anything written by Gilad Atzmon.

I was told by a friend that “this is the article which lead to him getting ‘cancelled’ by the anti-Zionist left originally.”

The accusation leveled against him is that “He takes the traditional ‘Jews run the world’ argument, then validates it by saying ‘Is the suggestion of conspiracy really an empty accusation?’. He then goes on to list Jews in the Bush administration. Does it have to be any clearer than that?”

I was assured by my friend that “There isn’t any need to quote more from it, it continues in the same fashion and is blatant antisemitic conspiracy theory. “

But being an argumentative fellow I considered it necessary to look at the article in detail and to make my own analysis and assessment. While my conclusion is that Atzmon is not an anti-Semite or racist of any kind, I do not of course agree with or defend everything he says in this article or elsewhere.  I am not primarily interested in defending him or his work. I am interested in defending the principle of freedom of discourse.

On Anti-Semitism by Gilad Atzmon


Para. 1
In the light of the growing discussion initiated by Israeli politicians and Zionist enthusiasts regarding the eruption of new anti-Semitism I am here to announce as loudly as I can: there is no anti-Semitism any more. In the devastating reality created by the Jewish state, anti-Semitism has been replaced by political reaction. I am not suggesting that Jewish interests are not being mutilated and vandalized. I am not saying that synagogues aren’t being attacked, that Jewish graves are not brutally smashed up. I am saying that these acts, that are in no way legitimate, should be seen as political responses rather than racially motivated acts or ‘irrational’ hate crimes. If Israel is the state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people themselves do not stand up collectively against the crimes that are committed on their behalf, then every Jewish person, Jewish symbol and Jewish object becomes an Israeli interest and a potential terrorist target. It is up to the Jewish people to take a stand against their Jewish state and to disassociate themselves from their zealous national movement.

Para. 2
If, for instance, we woke up tomorrow morning to find that another American so-called ‘soft target’ had been blown to pieces, no one would think to suggest that it was a ‘racially motivated anti-American attack’. We would be naturally inclined to view the incident as an ‘act of terror’ against ‘American interests’. Our political analysts would probably tell us that it was a form of retaliation against ‘American colonialism’, ‘expansionism’, ‘support of Zionism’ and so forth. Since Zionists want Israel to be seen as ‘a nation among nations’ we should not treat them as a unique case. We should treat them as we do the Americans and the British who have already realised that their various expansionist interests around the world are under severe threat. If we go along with the Zionist call to regard Jewish-ness as a nationalistic category rather than a religious one, we should be consistent and regard any act against Jews as a political reaction rather than an irrational racist attack. In other words: the success of Zionism drains away any possibility of anti-Semitism.

Comment on Paras. 1 and 2
Atzmon contends that nature of ‘antisemitism’ or anti-Jewish sentiment has changed from a sentiment motivated by racial hatred and fear of ‘otherness’ to a political sentiment motivated by anger at the actions of Israel. He compares this anti-Jewish sentiment to anti-American sentiment motivated by anger at the actions of the US. He does not say that acts against Jewish people or symbols are justified, nor does he say that they are not hate crimes he says that they are politically motivated rather than racially motivated. It is not within my competence to comment on the accuracy of this observation except to say that I cannot see that it is anti-Semitic.

What is problematic here (for me) is Atzmon’s assertion that “It is up to the Jewish people to take a stand against their Jewish state and to disassociate themselves from their zealous national movement.” Whereas I can agree that, “It is up to the American people to take a stand against their government’s foreign policy and to disassociate themselves from their government’s aggressions against foreign states.” Jewish people are not de facto citizens of Israel and do not bear the same relationship to it and responsibility for it that Americans bear with regard to the US. To ascribe this responsibility on the basis of ethnicity is wrong but it is not wrong to ascribe such moral responsibility to those who are explicit supporters of the state of Israel and who might on that basis describe themselves as ‘Zionists’. Atzmon’s failure to make a distinction is wrong. I’m not sure that it can be called anti-Semitic.

Para. 3
The last statement is perplexing because it is the Zionists who tell us all the time that anti-Semitism is on the rise. Zionism is fuelled by anti-Semitism. The Zionists need anti-Semitic acts in order to justify the state of Israel as the only viable option for Jewish existence. Zionists have long understood that it is anti-Semitic acts that push Jews to support the idea of a Jewish state. Accordingly, in order to promote Zionist interests, Israel must generate significant anti-Jewish sentiment. Cruelty against Palestinian civilians is a favourite Israeli means of achieving this aim. Hence, we confront something of a vicious circle: the Israelis commit atrocities against the Palestinians; some anti-Israeli feelings mature into sporadic verbal and violent attacks against Jewish people and Jewish interests; Jews around the world feel rightly threatened and inclined to support Israel; some of those Jews emigrate to Israel; more Palestinian land is confiscated; anti-Jewish outrage around the world grows. This is apparently the Zionist perpetuum mobile. Unfortunately, it is damn effective. It has worked since the early days of Zionism. Zionist leaders in Germany were very fast to welcome Hitler and the Nazi regime (Dr Joachim Prinz (Germany, 1933) is just one example). Sometimes, the Mossad itself has initiated attacks against Jews in order to ‘push them in the right direction ‘ (for instance, attacks against synagogues in Iraq in the 1950s).

Comment on Para. 3
Atzmon argues that “The Zionists need anti-Semitic acts in order to justify the state of Israel as the only viable option for Jewish existence.” And he asserts that there are historical instances that support this thesis. If these instances are fabricated then Atzmon is clearly anti-Semitic. If they are not fabricated then they support his thesis and make it worthy of consideration even if they are not enough to wholly validate it.

Paras. 4-5
In its perpetuation of anti-Jewish feeling Zionism has two principal aims. The first is simply to convince Jews that Israel is their safest option. The second is more interesting: to shatter any possibility for criticism of Israel. Zionist lobbies present all critical views of Israel as a form of anti-Semitism. Zionists are now very well trained in plucking on the gentile guilt string. This method is very effective because most westerners fail to grasp the vicious deception entangled within the Zionist identity. Zionism is grounded on a very specific realisation of the Jewish identity as a synthesis of racial awareness, religious awareness and nationalistic awareness.

While it is more than legitimate to criticise racist fundamentalism and nationalistic zeal, Zionists present any attack on their venture as an assault on the Jewish religion or the freedom of belief, or even the right of Jews to exist.

Comment on Paras. 4-5
Here Atzmon attributes malign aims and methods to Zionism and Zionists that would very likely be hotly denied by those who call themselves Zionists. To infer motivations from actions and then to re-present those actions as inspired by the inferred motivations is problematic because inferences are not necessarily correct. But analysis, critiquing of the behaviour of individuals and institutions requires making inferences about the motivation behind that behaviour. There is some question as to whether ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionist’ are terms that pick out distinct institutions, individuals or intentionalities, but it does not seem to me to be illegitimate for Atzmon to suggest that there are institutions, individuals and intentionalities with the motivations that he infers.

Paras. 6-8
Let’s review some current typical Zionist arguments:

a. The ‘Elders of Zion’ syndrome: Zionists complain that Jews continue to be associated with a conspiracy to rule the world via political lobbies, media and money.

Is the suggestion of conspiracy really an empty accusation? The following list is presented with pride in several Jewish American websites.

Jews in Bush’s Administration:

[Long list of names].

Let me assure you, in Clinton’s administration the situation was even worse. Even though the Jews only make up 1.9 per cent of the country’s population,  an astounding 56 per cent of Clinton’s appointees were Jews. A coincidence? I don’t think so.

We have to ask ourselves what motivates American Jews to gain such political power. Is it a genuine care for American interests? Soon, following the growing number of American casualties in Iraq, American people will start to ask themselves this very question. Since America currently enjoys the status of the world’s only super power and since all the Jews listed above declare themselves as devoted Zionists, we must begin to take the accusation that Zionists are trying to control the world very seriously. It is beyond doubt that Zionists, the most radical, racist and nationalistic Jews around, have already managed to turn America into an Israeli mission force. The world’s number one super power is there to support the Jewish state’s wealth and security matters. The one-sided pro-Zionist take on the Israeli­Palestinian conflict, the American veto against every ‘anti-Israeli’ UN resolution, the war against Iraq and now the militant intentions against Syria, all prove beyond doubt that it is Zionist interests that America is serving. American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews (in fact Zionists) do control the world.. So far they are doing pretty well for themselves at least. Whether the Americans enjoy the deterioration of their state’s affairs will no doubt be revealed soon.

Comment on Paras. 6-8

These paragraphs in particular have been characterised as anti-Semitic and as proving that Atzmon is an anti-Semite. Atzmon states:

“Let me assure you, in Clinton’s administration the situation was even worse. Even though the Jews only make up 2.9 per cent of the country’s population, an astounding 56 per cent of Clinton’s appointees were Jews. A coincidence? I don’t think so.”
“American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.”

[Note: the version of the 2003 article that Atzmon updated and reposted in 2009 reads “American Jews (in fact Zionists) do control the world..” instead of “American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy”.]

This been compared to statements in White nationalist propaganda listing Jews in prominent positions in media and politics and arguing that the demographically disproportionate representation of Jews in positions of power shows that Jews essentially control America. It’s been argued that there is no difference, in style or substance, between what Atzmon is saying and what White nationalist propaganda is saying and therefore if we consider the purveyors of White Nationalist propaganda to be racist and anti-Semitic then Atzmon should be considered racist and anti-Semitic. However the argument that because Atzmon uses a form of argument that is identical to a form of argument that is used by racists that argument is intrinsically racist and Atzmon is racist for using it seems to me to be fallacious. The fact that two otherwise unconnected individuals are observed to use the same argument or take the same action does not mean either that that argument or action is intrinsically right or wrong or that the motives and intentions of the two individuals are the same. The action of a person who punches and fells an assailant in self-defence is not morally equivalent to the action of an assailant punches and fells a person in an unprovoked attack.

With regard to the argument itself as opposed to the motivations of those who use it, that argument is that “Since America currently enjoys the status of the world’s only super power and since all the Jews listed above [constituting a majority in political administration] declare themselves as devoted Zionists … American Jews (in fact Zionists) do control the world..”

To say that ‘American Jews do control the world’ would be wrong and Atzmon has corrected himself in the 2009 update I have read and quoted. American Jews as a whole cannot be said to have a singular interest or intention whereas those Jews and non-Jews in powerful political positions who have declared themselves as Zionists do have singular interests and intentions and the power to realise those intentions. While we may contest Atzmon’s argument I don’t see that it is necessarily anti-Semitic.

Para. 9
b. Zionists occasionally argue that if Jewish nationalism is bad so is any other form of nationalism.

I would argue, however, that there is nothing wrong with nationalism. Being nationalistic ­ like being religious or loving punk music ­ is about belonging. Yet Jewish nationalism is unacceptable because it is based on racist fundaments and religious zeal. Zionism, which originally presented itself as a secular movement, developed real ambitions in relation to the land of Canaan. These aspirations were based on the Biblical promise. In fact, Zionists were very quick to transform the Holy Scriptures into a legal document. This was a radical distortion of the most sacred Jewish spiritual text but they didn’t finish there.

Para. 10
While being Jewish is about ‘race’ (you are a Jew only if your mother is a Jew), Zionists believe that the whole of Palestine belongs solely to the Jewish people. If we articulate this idea in Zionist terms we should rather say that the whole of Palestine belongs to the Jewish race. This type of idea ought to remind us of the Nazi expansionist philosophy, but then we must remember that Zionism predates Nazi ideology. It is Jewish nationalistic ideology that introduced the idea of ‘living space’ and the expulsion of the indigenous years before Hitler was even born. Presumably, if Nazism is regarded as an unacceptable form of nationalism, Zionism should be treated the same.

Para. 11
But Zionists won’t give up; in a righteous manner they will claim that Jews are entitled to self-determination. They will argue that Jews, like any other nation, are entitled to land. Whether this is the case or not, however, is irrelevant. Even if we agree that Jews are entitled to have a national home the existence of this national home cannot be at the expense of the Palestinians or anyone else.

Para. 12
We tend to associate nationalism with a geographical reference. The French people, for example, are those who live in France or were born there. Similarly, the Americans are those who live in America or were born there. When it comes to Jewish nationalism there is no demand for geographical bonds but rather a special notion of geographical aspiration. Every Jew from Brooklyn (NYC) or Golders Green (London, UK) is entitled to Israeli citizenship at the expense of the Palestinian people. This form of nationalism is unique and a form of racist, expansionist colonialism. Jewish nationalism is best understood as an international imperial movement specialising in colonising Palestine.

Para. 13
It should be noted that Palestinian nationalism is very different from its Jewish rival. It is multi-cultural and based on a multi-ethnic society. Palestinian nationalism is geographically based. It confers Palestinian identity to those who live in Palestine. Among the Palestinian people you will find Jewish Palestinians, many different Christian Palestinians, many different Muslim groups. (In discussing Palestinian identity I do not deny the possibility of ethnic clashes between the different groups.) Palestinian nationalism produces the ideal form of multi-ethnic democratic Arabic society. No wonder the American tyrant is so keen to destroy it.

Comment on Paras. 9-13
In these paragraphs Atzmon discusses the particularity of Zionism as a form of nationalism. He argues that this form of nationalism is premised on racial identity and its implementation in the form and constitution of the state of Israel is ‘a form of racist, expansionist colonialism’. This seems to me to be reasonable as a critique of Zionism and of Israel. It seems to me that such a critique might be challenged but I see no reason that it should be considered anti-Semitic.

Para. 14
c. Zionists are not happy at all with the recycling of some old ‘Anti-Semitic slogans and images’. They are especially annoyed when they are blamed for the death of Jesus. (I am referring here to the Jewish American organisations’ reaction to Mel Gibson’s The Passion. Many people around the world regarded the Israeli siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as an attempt to kill Jesus ‘again’.)

Para. 15
I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus who, by the way, was himself a Palestinian Jew. But then two questions should be asked:

Para. 16
1. How is it that people living today feel accountable or chased for a crime committed by their great great great ancestors almost 2,000 years ago? I assume that those Jews who get angry when blamed for killing Jesus are those who identify themselves with Jesus’s killers. Those who would commit this murderous act today. Those Jews are called Zionists and they are already advancing into their sixth decade of inhuman crimes against the Palestinian people and the Arab world. Zionism, for those who do not know, is a repetition of the darkest age of the Jewish Biblical era. It isn’t that surprising therefore that Zionists have selected the most suicidal chapters in Jewish history (such as Massada and Bar Cochva) and turned them into the pillars of their reborn culture. On the other hand, we must praise the Zionists for being consistent. Zionists claim that the whole of Palestine belongs to the Jews because their Jewish ancestors lived there 2,000 ago. Jews attempting to live on confiscated Palestinian lands nowadays regard themselves as the same Jews who lived in Palestine two millennia ago. This must explain why Zionists are so offended when they are blamed for the actions of Judas. They are offended because they are all Judases. Might I remind the reader that the Judases of today are armed with hundreds of nuclear weapons without being signed to any international control treaty.

Para. 17
2. Why is it that the Jews who repeatedly demand that the Christian world should apologise for its involvement in previous persecutions, have never thought that it is about time that they apologised for killing Jesus? I wouldn’t ask the Italians to apologise on behalf of the Romans for their part in Christ’s killing simply because Italians do not feel remotely offended when Romans are blamed for it. I merely suggest that if a Jew feels offended when accused, this reveals attachment to the perpetrators. It might be the right time for the Jewish state to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the Jewish people for their immoral behaviour.

Para. 18
I assume that the following lingual fact isn’t known to most gentiles. Jews do not use the name ‘Jesus’ when referring to Christ. Instead, they use the Hebrew word ‘Yeshu’ which means ‘may his name and memory be erased for ever’ (yeshu ­ Yimach Shemo Vzichro). I do want to believe that most ordinary Jews are not familiar with the etymology of the name Yeshu. In Jewish the hierarchy of insults this is the gravest and most disrespectful. This combination of words is usually attached to Hitler and evils of his calibre. Jesus, it would appear, is considered by Jewish spiritual leaders as the embodiment of all evil. I ask myself if Jesus was as bad as Hitler (in the eyes of the rabbis), why is it that the Jews are so offended when blamed for killing him? Why don’t they regard his killing as the most glamorous chapter of their history?

Comment on Paras. 14-18
In these paragraphs Atzmon addresses the “recycling of some old ‘Anti-Semitic slogans and images’ ..  especially [being blamed] for the death of Jesus. What he says is certainly provocative and I can understand Jewish people, Zionist or not, being offended by this as it harks back to a time when Jews were routinely and blamed and persecuted as being ‘Christ killers’. Atzmon writes “Zionists claim that the whole of Palestine belongs to the Jews because their Jewish ancestors lived there 2,000 ago. Jews attempting to live on confiscated Palestinian lands nowadays regard themselves as the same Jews who lived in Palestine two millennia ago. This must explain why Zionists are so offended when they are blamed for the actions of Judas. They are offended because they are all Judases.”

I can understand how this can be seen as an attack on Jewish identity. It seems to me as offensive as calling Black people ‘Niggers’ a term which is deeply insulting and harks back to painful historic oppression. It is also an absurdity for Atzmon or anyone else to make historical allegations based on narrative of dubious and disputed historicity.

So why am I not calling Atzmon an anti-Semite because of this? It is, first, because it appears within the context of a discussion of historic identity and second, because Atzmon is of Jewish heritage and just as it may be more permissible for a Black person but not a White person to use the term ‘Nigger’ in certain contexts even though other Black people deplore it, it may be more permissible from Atzmon to talk about ‘Judases’ that it would be if someone not of Jewish heritage were to use the same language.

Para. 19
d. Zionists are always outraged when they are equated with Nazis. They will say that to claim ‘yesterday’s victims are today’s perpetrators’ is a form of ‘Holocaust denial’ and will argue that describing Israel as the root of all evil justifies the Holocaust. With great shame I have to agree that Israel’s behaviour throws some light on the persecution of Jews throughout history. Perhaps it is time to dispose of the notion of ‘Holocaust denial’. Westerners are very concerned not to be associated with any form of Holocaust denial. In some countries Holocaust denial is treated as a criminal offence. For years I have argued that Holocaust denial is not a particularly interesting subject because as a notion it is far too wide. In practice, anyone who tries to oppose the official Zionist interpretation of World War II events instantly becomes a ‘Holocaust denier’. Some Zionists went so far as to accuse Roberto Benigni of Holocaust denial when he made his masterpiece, Life is Beautiful.

Para. 20
It is true that for quite a while the Zionists were fairly successful. They managed to stop the world from studying its history. Few people in Germany, in Israel or anywhere else know about the extensive collaboration between the Zionists and the Nazis before and during World War II. I am not a historian and the question of whether 6 million or rather 5,500,000 Jews died in the Holocaust is not really my major concern. For me, the act of killing is a catastrophe and ‘state organised serial killing’ is an unbearable and colossal catastrophe. Accordingly, the form of Holocaust denial that really bothers me is the denial of the on-going Palestinian Holocaust. This Holocaust is documented and covered daily by the western media. The turning of residential Palestinian cities into concentration camps; the deliberate starvation of the Palestinian population; the withholding of medical aid from Palestinian civilians; the wall that tears the holy land into isolated cantons and Bantustans; the continuous bombardment of civilians by the IAF ­ are known to us all. This Holocaust is committed by the Jewish state with the support of world Jewry. This Holocaust, despite being well documented, is largely ignored. This is the most serious form of Holocaust denial. Moreover, I would suggest that the Zionists promote the issue of Holocaust denial so as to spread heavy smoke in an attempt to hide their own atrocities. The Zionists are the ones to be blamed for committing a holocaust and being the first to deny it.

Para. 21
Israel and the Zionist venture are principally responsible for any anti-Jewish outrage. It is time for Jews to stand up against their nationalistic movement. It is time for the world to stand up against the Zionist crime. As we learn from a recent EU poll, 58 per cent of Europeans regard Israel as the biggest threat to world peace. They are right. The Jewish state must be stopped and the sooner the better.

Comment on Paras. 19-21
The penultimate three paragraphs of Atzmon’s essay are a comment on the relationship between Jews, Zionism, Israel and the Holocaust narrative. In addressing this relationship Atzmon is not at all denying the reality of the Holocaust so he cannot be called a ‘Holocaust denier’.

Para. 22
At this point some Zionists would try to revise their argument and claim that real anti-Semitism is in fact a form of blind hatred towards Jews regardless of their politics and misdoings. They would say that a Jew is hated just for being a Jew. My response would be that though such hatred might exist it needn’t be labelled ‘anti-Semitism’. It is xenophobia, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as an ‘intense dislike or fear of foreigners or strangers’. Perhaps Jews aren’t so unique after all.

Comment on Para. 22 and Conclusion.
The last paragraph is uncontroversial.

Having looked in some detail at what Atzmon says here I have to say that while I understand that there are passages that may provoke and offend some people I find nothing in them that puts them outside the margins of civilised discussion and discussion that is respectful to persons. I understand that his writings will not be to everyone’s taste but I do not feel that I or anyone else should feel shame or be made to feel shame at reading Atzmon’s posts and agreeing with some of his points while disagreeing with others. While some of his assertions may be objectionable or ill-conceived or simply wrong his work is not on a par with White supremacists or any other species of racist.