Political Islam and ‘Jewish identity politics’ – a comparison

27 Nov

Political Islamist - Osama bin Laden

Theodore Herzl - Jewish analogue of political Islamist?

The controversy over Gilad Atzmon and his book The Wandering Who, which I recently reviewed on this blog, raises a lot of important questions about history and the politics of the last two centuries. I make no apology for writing about this question again because some of the issues he raises are of great importance to questions relating to war and peace, the nature of contemporary capitalism, national questions and the composition of major classes in society, particularly the capitalist class. All these questions are of central importance to anyone who wants to see capitalism superseded by socialism – they also touch intimately on questions intertwined with the causes of at least one world war in living memory, as well as other traumatic and world historic events including the currents wars and now revolutions shaking the Middle East and neighbouring regions and states. So its pretty important.

Atzmon is not a Marxist thinker, but an idiosyncratic left-wing liberal, born and raised in a racist ethnocracy. His own rejection of a racist upbringing and his privileged birthright as a Jew in a Jewish state, has generated some ferocious rhetoric and not a little incoherence and misunderstanding by friend and foe alike in some cases. But Atzmon’s writings are significant: this is also acknowledged by his enemies, usually rabid Zionists though also a few semi-Bundist socialists who on most issues are on the opposite side of the barricades to the Netan-yahoos. My point here is not to dwell on that conflict, but to acknowledge the significance of his work on ‘Jewish identity’. If it was just, as his enemies proclaim, reheated anti-semitism from the pre-WWII years, Atzmon would be unable to defend himself against a tidal wave of universal opprobrium.

After all, even many on the far right in Western countries are themselves keen to distance themselves from anti-semitism because it is no longer useful to them – anti-Muslim hate is much more de rigeur. So how come, if Atzmon is anti-semitic, is he getting a hearing from many broadly on the left of the political spectrum? It does not make sense. The only explanation for this that his enemies can put forward is to start talking about how the left itself is hostile to people of Jewish origin purely because of that origin. But that is a nonsensical allegation that I will not address here except to note that it is usually the refuge those pushing some kind of racist anti-Arab agenda, or opportunists of various kinds aiming to suck up to people with these kinds of views. And many of those abused in this way by Zionist right-wingers and their gentile reactionary allies are themselves Jewish.  No-one of any integrity believes this allegation so I will say no more about it.

Despite his evident differences with Marxism, which he has derided as ‘psuedo-scientific’, Atzmon is putting forward something useful to Marxists in addressing the Jewish question. He puts forward a theory about the politicisation of Jewish identity that basically divides its bearers into three categories. One is a religious identity, that of believing practitioners of Judaism. Two is those who are born Jewish, who may or may not be religious Jews, and who basically regard themselves as citizens of whatever state they reside in, and attach no particular political significance to their Jewish identity. And then there is what Atzmon calls the third category, of those Jews for who being Jewish is a political identity above all, and indeed appears to be the most important aspect of their political persona. He considers the first two ‘categories’ to be basically harmless; the third anything but.

Atzmon states that this ‘third’ category of Jews act as a ‘tribal’ or communalist body, claim to speak for ‘the Jews’ as a whole, and act as a collective in maximising their influence against other national/ethnic communities, particularly Arabs, though not limited to them. Atzmon further states that this ‘third category’ movement, as part of its communal project, acts to ‘infiltrate’ the corridors of power particularly in advanced countries like Europe and America, basically to fight for ‘Jewish’ interests, which today are expressed through the interests of the Israeli state. This latter supposition is the most contentious aspect of Atzmon’s theories and I will put off discussing that until I have examined some of its antecedent arguments.

There is nothing odious or even unusual about the logic Atzmon uses to divide Jews into three categories. A very similar schema can be used to divide up Muslims, and many of Atzmon’s most vehement critics would have no problem in making such distinctions. One could say that a first category Muslim is simply an ordinary believer who is purely religious in motivation and does not concern himself or herself with politics. A second category Muslim is a believer who may well involve themselves in politics in some way, but does not make the Muslim religion or identity the focal point of their political activity. The third category of Muslim would then be a Muslim who is involved in political activity whose central aim is to promote Islam, or the perceived interest of Muslims, as their prime concern and reason for political activity.

Many of Atzmon’s critics would have no problem in dividing Muslims up in this way and would of course have a ready-made term available to describe the ‘third category’ of Muslims. Such people they tend to call ‘political Islamists’. This is uncontroversial among liberals and the left: while there are wide differences on how to relate to those who are politically active as Muslims, with some writing off all such people as irremediably reactionary while others adopting a more nuanced position, there is little dispute about the existence of political Islam, and therefore three basic categories of Muslim identity. No one on the left goes around denouncing anyone who recognises the mere existence of political Islam as a distinct category as racist or Islamophobic.

When it comes to making such distinctions among Jews, however, the reaction from both progressive and right-wing Jewish activists and their cheerleaders on the gentile left is quite hysterical. Thus the campaign against Atzmon, recently taken up in  an unsuccessful attempt at banning his music by the Zionist-influenced ‘anti-fascist’ campaigning group ‘Hope Not Hate’ and the Zionist anti-Muslim hate site Harry’s Place. No one with any sense on the left expects much from these people, who spend more time witch-hunting anti-imperialists and anti-war activists particularly from the Middle East than any purely nominal ‘anti-fascism’. But more serious people on the left have also reacted with horror to Atzmon’s making such distinctions among Jews.

Jewish and Islamist politics – parallels and differences

There are some important differences between Jewish politics and Political Islam that make such a comparison not as straightforward as all that. One important one is that there is no significant secular form of political Muslim communalism. Because Islam is a pan-national religion that is the majority in a range of countries from Morocco to Indonesia, those secular forms of politics that have evolved tend to be based on one or another form of nationalism – Arab nationalism, nationalist politics in Pakistan (initially defined against India), Indonesian nationalism, etc. Pan-Islamic politics is most definitely not secular, but aims to appeal to people of disparate nations on the basis of loyalty to Islam. This is most definitely not parallel to Jewish politics.

Jewish politics as a form of communalism is mainly secular and largely the creation of atheists. The reasons for this are complex and go back into history. Abram Leon, the Trotskyist who authored The Jewish Question during the Second World War (before being himself murdered in the holocaust), provided the framework for much of this understanding, describing the Jews as having been a class of pre-capitalist traders in feudal society, a people-class who performed a necessary economic function and whose religion and identity became adapted to reflect their social role. For Leon, the reason for the Jews’ survival as a distinct religious community was linked to that economic role. With the advent of the capitalist mode of production, growing up within feudal society and eventually overturning it, that role became obsolete.

The result was a pretty complex evolution for the Jews, they became hated competitors for the emerging bourgeoisie, having had a monopoly position in the role of financiers and merchants under feudalism. At the same time, Jewish merchants did make careers for themselves under the new mode of production and became sometimes a target of social discontent that the bourgeoisie managed quite skilfully to steer away from itself towards ‘Jewish’ capital. But in any case, the medieval religious form of the Jewish religion was obsolete and in no shape to drive the former people-class forward in a new world.

The threat of disintegration, assimilation, and the obsolescence of the old Judaism led to the emergence of reform Judaism as the capitalist mode of production fully emerged in the 19th Century, and at the same time, even more strikingly, a movement to define the Jews as a people in secular terms, as described recently by Tel Aviv Professor Shlomo Sand in his remarkable study The Invention of the Jewish People. The most obvious manifestation of this was Zionism, in terms of the project to completely re-create the Jews as a fully-fledged nation with its own territory.

The real point of all this being that unlike with Islam, where specifically Muslim communalist politics takes a form that is overtly, sometimes fanatically religious in ideology, the opposite is true with Judaism. Specifically Jewish politics has not, for the reasons sketched out above, been generally religious, but secular. Indeed religious trends, with some more recent and derivative exceptions in Israel itself, have been generally less inclined to communalism than the secularists.

This paradox makes the Jewish question quite difficult to get a handle on, and more to the point is that in criticising Jewish communal politics one appears to be specifically attacking the secular and apparently modernising trend among this people, which is the opposite of the way such matters are usually approached. But the reason for this is that the Jews are not a nation, and the attempt to re-create them as such could only have reactionary results. As we see today with the anti-democratic monstrosity that is Israel, the ethnocratic tyranny, created through the dispossession of another people, that threatens the peoples of the Middle East with a nuclear holocaust.

So that is where Gilad Atzmon is fundamentally correct. In differentiating between the three ‘categories’ of Jews, and focussing his attack only on the third ‘category’, he is making an important contribution to the understanding not only of the Jewish question, but of the world we live in today.

The conclusion he derives from this, about the alleged proclivity of bearers of the ‘third category’ Jewish identity to infiltrate the corridors of power, is what has led to the controversy about his alleged ‘anti-semitism’. He writes in his book about the Book of Esther in the Hebrew bible as a blueprint for this, the story of a Jewish woman who married the king of Persia without her Jewish origin being known and was supposedly able to avert a genocide of the Jews through her influence at court. The story, as Atzmon points out, is almost certainly fictional, but he sees it as a paradigm of not only the tactics of Israel’s supporters today in seeking through lobbying to promote Israeli interests, most notably in the US, but also of similar tactics by ‘third category’ Jews throughout the whole period since the birth of the concept of the Jews as a putative nation in the 19th Century.

“Justifying” or explaining?

In a particularly sharp way, Atzmon pointed out in 2009 some of the likely consequences of Israel’s unremitting and brazen brutality against the Palestinians and other surrounding peoples in terms of re-generating hatred of Jews:

“Hitler was indeed defeated, Jews are now more than welcome in Germany and in Europe, yet, the Jewish state and the sons of Israel are at least as unpopular in the Middle East as their grandparents were in Europe just six decades ago. Seemingly, it is the personification of WW2 and the Holocaust that blinded the Israelis and their supporters from internalising the real meaning of the conditions and the events that led towards their destruction in the first place. Would the Zionists understand the real meaning of their Holocaust, the contemporary Israelite may be able to prevent the destruction that may be awaiting them in the future.” (Saying No to the Hunters of Goliath)

This article and this passage in particular produced a pretty hysterical reaction, not just from Zionists (which is to be expected), but also from many on the Jewish left. Tony Greenstein, for instance, accused Atzmon of ‘justifying the holocaust’ with this passage.

The hysteria involved in this accusation is obvious with a little sober reflection. First of all, if Atzmon was indeed ‘justifying the holocaust’ he really must be more Nazi than any other neo-Nazis. For of course, the tactic of neo-Nazis such as David Irving and Richard Verrall, when confronted with the utterly despicable act of racist mass murder that was the holocaust, is not to brazenly justify it and say that the victims got what they deserved. Such a position would be complete political suicide for anyone who came out with such hate-filled invective. Rather, the tactic of neo-Nazis is to deny that there was any genocide, and to look for some means to cast doubt on it.

Atzmon is also, falsely accused of holocaust-denial by some of the same people. But no one seems to notice that the two accusations contradict each other. To justify the holocaust you have to acknowledge that there actually was a holocaust. Conversely, if you regard (or claim to regard) the holocaust as a piece of fiction, it is not possible to ‘justify’ it – justifying a fiction (real or alleged) is an impossible, chimerical task!

So why the hysterical response to this stern warning to the Israelis about the likely consequences of their brutality? The hysteria is prompted in reality by the implication in the above passage that there may have been something in the conduct of powerful Jews prior to the Nazi genocide that contributed to the Jews being hated enough in Europe for a genocidal backlash to happen. This appears to be what Atzmon believes. Is this true? I do not profess at this point to definitively know. It is however possible. And more to the point, this is a legitimate subject for political debate, there is nothing ‘racist’ in raising it. A simple analogy with the present day will be sufficient to indictate why asking this question is not racist.

Causes of Islamophobia

Take the question of Islamophobia today. It is self-evident that fighting Islamophobia is the duty of every decent socialist and anti-imperialist. Those supposedly on the left who fuel it, the likes of the Alliance for Workers Liberty or the even more loathsome elements around Harry’s Place, cannot be regarded as comrades or progressives at all. But it is not enough to condemn Islamophobes when analysing the causes of Islamophobia.

The fact is that some reactionary elements among Muslims also bear responsibility for promoting Islamophobia. Atrocities like the 9/11 attacks, 7/7, the Bali bombing, the attacks in Africa and Spain, etc have fuelled Islamophobia, and provided much ammunition to Islamophobes. Indeed, the most nihilistic elements among Islamists quite deliberately fuel Islamophobia and calculate that they will benefit from it.

The classic recent example of this is the activities of Al Mujaharoun, the group around Anjem Choudhury which plays a cat-and-mouse game with British governments determined to stamp it out by repeatedly dissolving in the face of a ban and re-forming under different names. Its organisation of a demonstration in Luton in March 2009 excoriating dead British soldiers as scum and psycho-killers who allegedly deserved to die and ‘burn in hell’ was a provocation aimed at provoking Islamophobia. It had the desired effect, as it crystallised for the first time a specifically Islamophobic fascist group in Britain – the English Defence League was formed directly as a result of this provocation.

It is not in the slightest bit racist to say that. Nor is it incompatible with the fight against Islamophobia. What is however characteristic of Islamophobia is to equate all Muslims, or even all political Islamists, with the like of Al Qaeda or Al Mujaharoun. Some political Islamists have played a progressive role in the struggle against Islamophobia. One example springs to mind immediately – the role of the Muslim Association of Britain, which has links with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, in being one of the three organisations that came together to form the mass anti-war movement that shook Tony Blair’s warmongering government and mobilised two million people in the massive anti-war demonstration of February 15th 2003. The fraternal links that this forged between Muslims and non-Muslims in opposing the war has limited the growth of Islamophobia even to this day – things would likely be a lot worse were it not for what happened during this period. Those on the left who tried to abort this progressive collaboration, and baldly equated the MAB with Al Qaeda etc, played an utterly reactionary role.

Jewish communal politics and anti-semitism

Going back to the issue of Jewish communal politics, Atzmon is on strong ground when he attacks the various rabid Zionist neocons, or the likes of Lord Levy in the Blairised Labour Party, as partisans of Jewish communalism in promoting what appear to be Israeli interests in the British or US governments. If this is what these people are doing, and they are pretty brazen about it, how is it racist to point this out? The question of why they are able to get away with this is a different question, and Atzmon’s non-Marxism and hostility to what he calls ‘psuedo-scientific materialism’ means he gives emphasis to the subjective aims and objectives of these communalist Jewish politicians, and not to the material interests of the bulk of the non-Jewish Western ruling classes which give them that latitude. But nevertheless to attack such people for promoting ‘Jewish’ interests is no more racist than to accuse Al Qaeda of promoting antagonism between Muslims and non-Muslims.

So, were there elements of Jewish communal politics that existed prior to the holocaust, and prior to the formation of the state of Israel for that matter, that helped create the climate of hatred of Jews that made the holocaust possible politically? From my understanding, and by an analogy with the present day situation of Islamophobia, there may have been such things. But they were subordinate and subsidiary to the overriding factors that drove anti-semitism in the pre-WWII period. Just as today, while some elements of political Islam bear responsibility for the growth of Islamophobia, it is fundamentally driven by imperialist and Zionist interests in the domination of the Middle East.

Pre-war anti-semitism was above all a counter-revolutionary paranoia and demonology, emanating from the ruling classes of capitalist Europe which was shaken by the spectre of Communism and the Russian revolution. Unable to admit, even to themselves, that the economic system from which they drew their wealth and privileges was disfunctional and provoking legitimate social protest and the possibility of revolution, they looked for a demonic force as the culprit instead.

The prominence of Jews, driven by their oppression under Tsarism, in the Russian Revolution, and the prominence of emancipated Jews in the earlier bourgeois revolutions in Europe, which the bourgeoisie was always ambivalent about because of the risk that mobilising the masses posed to all privilege, even that of the bourgeoisie itself, as it benefited from a revolution that made it the ruling class, led it to see revolution as a demonic, harmful thing. Which of course must be the work of a demonic, ‘alien’ force. The Jews being the most obviously visible ‘alien’ force involved in revolutions became the demon of the revolution in the eyes of the bourgeoisie.

That was the primary cause of pre-war anti-semitism. But the ruling class is not omnipotent. It does not just click its fingers and get the masses thinking the way it wants. In order to get the lower orders thinking the way it wants, it needs suitable propaganda, that is effective. It is a fact that, as a result of the legacy of the origins of the Jews as a financial-trading ‘people class’ in the medieval period, they are overrepresented among powerful bankers and the like. This was just as true in pre-war period as it is today.

Take a look at some examples: Goldman Sachs. This US investment bank is, as is well known, very conspicuously Jewish owned. It has interests in Israel, but it is hardly Israeli or particularly bound to Israel. Its interests are far wider that that, in fact world-wide. It is almost a century older than Israel, and as solidly American as the Ford Motor Company. Its world-wide interests, its ruthlessness and its profit-gouging proclivities have gained it the nickname of the Vampire Squid.

In the current Euro-crisis, close associates of this predatory investment bank have recently been appointed to head the European Central Bank, and as Prime Ministers of Italy and Greece without popular election, a development that has fuelled fears of an anti-democratic takeover of European politics by banking interests led by Goldman Sachs. This kind of role, and the perceptions it generates, are not of course confined to Goldman Sachs. The Rothschild family, based mainly in Europe, has a similar reputation itself going back centuries.


In  the pre-WWII context, were these Jewish-owned financial organisations involved in promoting specifically Jewish communal politics or just pure-ruthless money-making? It is not really completely clear; there are some grounds for suspicion of this particularly in terms of funding of the early Zionist movement and the colonisation of Palestine, but nothing conclusive. But here is the point: the over-representation of Jews in finance and banking related companies etc, which is quite marked, itself cannot but fuel suspicions of clannishness, self-interest and mutual aid based on communal lines. Because of the power that such over-representation gives, it can easily be perceived as an aggressive act even if that perception is not given more credence by visible self-interested behaviour. And of course, that the latter never happened is hard to believe, particularly given the influence of Zionism whose strategy was always oriented to the recruitment of powerful people to its cause.

This is in some ways deeply unfortunate, a product of the one-sided development of a culture derived from the Jews’ past as a people-class. That as may be, but that over-representation is a material factor fuelling such suspicions and allowing ideologues an open goal in inciting hostility to specifically Jewish capital instead of capital as a whole. Combined with the bourgeois class-based paranoia about Jewish radicalism, this is certainly enough to explain the potency and appeal of pre-war anti-semitism and why it was able to reach genocidal proportions in a major capitalist crisis.

The chief driving force of this was the latter bourgeois paranoia, and thus Atzmon is almost certainly wrong in extrapolating from today’s widespread anger at Israel back in time to the pre-WWII period. However, the analysis I am putting forward here derives in large measure from a Marxist analysis of the class consciousness, or ‘false consciousness’, of the bourgeoisie, and it is hardly surprising that someone who rejects Marxism would not concur with it.

The perception of the Jews as a threat to the capitalist order is no more. The conservative, counter-revolutionary evolution of Israel has largely put paid to that idea. Israel is now one of the key props of worldwide capitalist reaction. What exists today is a different combination of factors, the same over-representation of Jews in the sphere of finance-capital, this time combined with the activities of those who seek influence to promote Israeli state interests.

In contrast to the pre-war situation, when you had a combination of this over-representation with the bourgeoisie’s fantasy about Jews as a revolutionary infestation infecting an otherwise conservative working class population, today you have two real factors in combination – the same over-representation with the existence and activities of the Zionist lobby. These are ample grounds to characterise this combination as a real, dangerous communalist, counter-revolutionary phenomenon, not the kind of phantasm that was the basis for pre-war anti-semitism. There is nothing racist or wrong in pointing out the over-representation of Jews who rabidly support Israel and its crimes in positions of power and influence in Western societies, in pointing to the sinister and anti-democratic significance of this and demanding that this be reversed.

However, its significance should not be exaggerated – it still exists basically by permission of the non-Jewish ruling classes of the advanced Western countries, who could brush if off very easily if they were minded to do so. For their own reasons of class interest, they are not so minded.  Because of the previous history of racist anti-semitism, this issue is capable of generating considerable misunderstanding. It has to be theorised very clearly in order to avoid an escalating series of misunderstandings and confrontations with honest people who are hostile to Israel and its crimes, but fear anti-semitism also.

Progressive or reactionary?

One manifestation of Islamophobia, as I pointed out earlier, is the equation of all forms of political Islam as utterly reactionary. I think an analogous error is possible with ‘third category Jews’ as Atzmon so defines them, and one legitimate criticism of Atzmon is that he sometimes makes this error. Recently he has taken to using the insulting designation ‘AZZ’ in referring to those anti-Zionist Jewish activists who denounce him as an anti-semite. ‘AZZ’ being a abbreviation for ‘Anti-Zionist Zionists’.

In its own way, this is as absurd as the Tony Greenstein self-contradictory accusation that Atzmon ‘justifies’ the holocaust while simultaneously ‘denying’ it (see earlier). When self-contradictory accusations are levelled in the course of a political feud, it is always a sign that something has gone wrong with the reasoning of the person levelling them. One is either a Zionist, i.e. a supporter of the Zionist project of Israel, or one is not. One cannot be both, they are mutually exclusive. This tortured formulation is a sign that Atzmon has lost sight of the fact that there are different trends among the ‘third category Jews’ as he (correctly) characterises them, just as there are differences between political Islamists.

The proportions are different between the progressive and reactionary components among political Islamists and political or ‘third category’ Jews. Because many of those who gravitate towards political Islam are driven there as a reaction to imperialist oppression and the apparent failure of secular and leftist alternatives. Whereas because Israel is an oppressor state, based on the dispossession of the Palestinian Arabs, and its overseas supporters act as auxiliaries of that oppression, the bulk of ‘third category Jews’ are reactionaries. But because there is a real history of oppression also among Jews, and a real tradition of struggle against that, there is also a minority trend among the ‘third category’ that are progressive anti-Zionists. Hence such formations as ‘Jews Against Zionism’, ‘Jews for Justice for the Palestinians’, etc.

Actually, if you look at the material produced by Atzmon, and many of his ‘AZZ’ critics, and remove the material that relates to their internecine conflict, you will find that there is much in common between them. Much of their material denouncing the Israeli state is very similar in its outspokenness and potency, which is why on several occasions I have noticed perceptive Zionist reactionaries, commenting on their in-house propaganda and discussion sites (such as Harry’s Place) note this and express the hope that these two trends will tear each other to pieces.

At the moment this complex issue is causing deep divisions among partisans of the Palestinians, and a great deal of confusion and rancour, to the benefit only of Zionists. Yet the differences are real and important, and cannot be simply wished away. The only way they can be overcome is through a process of discussion and clarification, as calmly and rationally as possible. In that spirit, this blog links to both anti-racist, anti-Zionist trends, to Gilad Atzmon’s website and Tony Greenstein’s blog. Hopefully this article will contribute to that process and bring some light to the debate.


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26 responses to “Political Islam and ‘Jewish identity politics’ – a comparison

  1. Brad

    November 28, 2011 at 4:30 am

    Wow. Man do you have a regular reader!

  2. Ed

    November 28, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    This is a useful article which I will need to read in depth.

    However, I will first simply point out that marxism is first and foremost an analysis of society from a class, i.e. proletarian perspective. Those who put national or identity politics (including a non-scientific “workerist” identity) before class are not entitled to call themselves marxists. Yet that is precisely what the left has become – a shouting match to see whose identity entitles them to feel “most oppressed” because of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and (occasionally) class.

    Second, I think I understand what Atzmon is getting at with the AZZs. They are trying to push the anti-Zionist narrative in directions that suit the Zionists, toning down the rhetoric so as not to offend the Jewish Chronicle etc (hence their total opposition to Atzmon who is to be applauded for refusing to jump to Jewish lobby’s orders). In particular, the AZZs require the PSC to take every opportunity to underline its commitment to “fighting antisemitism”. This delights the Zionists (see Lucy Lips today at Harrys Place) because it puts supporters of Palestinian rights permanently on the defensive.

    Thus, an organization that was set up to support Palestinians is transformed into one whose mission is to fight antisemitism.

    That’s rather as though the Labour Party, having been set up to represent workers, became an organization that supported capitalism … As though the Labour Party became anti-capitalist capitalists.

    Er …

  3. Chuck

    November 28, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    That’s all bullshit.
    Atzmon attracts Antisemites from all the spectrum, radical left once and Radical Right as David Duke.
    They all link to the Jewish born persona who is a “Anti Jewish Jew” and cannot resist the smell of his Antisemite dialect.

    That’s the point, nothing else.

    Atzmon is useless for those, once you take out the Antisemite smear, get it into your head.

  4. redscribe

    November 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Not much reasoned argument in Chuck’s posting immediately above.

    Ed’s posting makes some good points, however. My attitude to people regarding what they claim to support is to take them at face value until they do something to prove that they are not what they say they are. It seems to me that the Zionists are in the driving seat in the current situation regarding the Raise Your Banners fiasco (which it was, for the Zionists as it went ahead despite their best efforts).

    A purge of alleged ‘anti-semites’ in PSC logically can only mean in short order an attack on Hamas sympathisers among Palestinians in and around PSC, since Hamas are by far the largest ‘anti-semitic’ force involved in the Palestinian struggle and are in fact that party that has the most support among Palestinians in Palestine – the last time the Israelis and their collaborators in the Palestine authority allowed an election to take place.

    This has been a debate that has rumbled on for years and up till now, both PSC and the various anti-Zionist Jewish activists have defended Hamas supporters against the Zionists, while arguing ideologically against the anti-semitic elements of Hamas’ politics. This is and was a perfectly principled position, based on the recognition that this sentiment is a regrettable but comprehensible response to the terrible situation that Palestinians find themselves in at the hands of the ‘Jewish state’. And that the nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and even the racism of the oppressed cannot be equated with apparently corresponding ideologies of the oppressor.

    It does appear that changes are afoot, as evidenced by the latest PSC position on ‘anti-semitism’ using Atzmon as a pretext. This seems to be tailor-made to exclude Hamas sympathisers from PSC rather the same way that the Labour Party drew up exclusion clauses and loyalty oaths to exclude Militant supporters in the 1980s. Not a smart move, rather hysterical in fact.

    There is a hysterical piece of Israeli-agent-baiting from Tony Greenstein against Atzmon, without the slightest shred of evidence, just posted on his blog. The fact that some Jews have come to empathise or even sympathise to varying degrees with some of this sentiment, in an attenuated way, is hardly a coherent reason to junk such a principled policy.

    In the Palestinian context, taking a position of excluding ‘anti-Jewish elements’ among Palestinians and Jews from the Palestinian solidarity movement would be a bit like having a clause excluding ‘anti-German’ elements from a movement in solidarity with the victims of the holocaust, or ‘anti-white’ elements from the movement against apartheid. In a movement which tapped into those at the sharp end, there would be many with such sentiments, which could only be transcended through struggle.

    If they really are prepared to follow this through to its logical conclusion, that would mean a major shift to the right.

  5. John Cameron

    November 28, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I gave up on the AZZs after I noticed their totally half hearted support of fellow Jew Richard Goldstone after Judge Goldstone was attacked for his report describing inhumane Israeli polices towards the Palestinians.

    The AZZs uniformly made their usual, load denunciation of the persecution of Goldstone followed by what turned out to be absolutely nothing. No marches at the offices of the the Jewish groups like the Board of Deputies in support of Goldstone. No picketing of the offices or residences of prominent Jewish supporters of Israel. The AZZs, in the end. simply ran and hid. This despite the fact that in the past they were known to picket and protest at the drop of a hat for a myriad of other causes.

    It turned out their protestations were simply made for Gentile consumption. Goldstone had committed the ultimate sin for both left and right wing Jews: he had gotten Jews in trouble. He was guilty of mesirah to both groups and remains so to this day.

  6. Brad

    November 29, 2011 at 12:20 am

    The designation anti-Zionist Zionists is useful and relevant to the extent it can be shown that there are either anti-Zionist groups, or members within those groups, who will refuse, misuse or abuse a strain of anti-Zionism they feel is too extreme. This is what Atzmon is claiming to show – and often – when so-called anti-Zionist organizations lie about and otherwise misrepresent what he has written, simply because they do not like the force and depth of his criticisms with respect to third category Jewish activities.

    Atzmon’s analysis ends up being a kind of exposé, where the nature of the response to what he has written, reveals where some groups/individuals anti-Zionist tendencies end. Once one begins accusing Atzmon of being an anti-Semite or a Holocaust denier, ones anti-Zionist limits are exposed precisely to the extent that these accusations are baseless and indefensible. If such accusations can be substantiated, however, then Atzmon’s AZZ designation crumbles.

    I, for one, would be interested in any such articles making a claim to being a substantive critique of Atzmon’s book at the level of showing him to be an anti-Semite and/or Holocaust denier. I’m very much less interested in all the baseless accusations that are going around.

  7. rehmat1

    November 29, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    The writer claiming to represent the so-caleed “progressive and socialist” thinking can be excused for his ignorance of Islam. There are no “three categories” of Muslims in Islam. Gilad Atzmon and I had discussed this topic on ‘peacepalestine’ and my blog a while ago.

    Islam is the only monotheist religion left in the world. It demands from its ‘true followers’ to implement the Divine message in Holy Qur’an and take the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) life as model to follow. Which means that a Believer has to live within Islamic boundaries from BIRTH TO DEATH – making Islam a FAITH and religion like Judaism, Christianity or Hinduism.

    There is no political Islam (a term coined by anti-Muslim Zionist Jew, Dr. Daniel Pipes). Islam doesn’t divide its followers’ loyalty to the Church and Cesar as is the case in the Bible. The Divine obligation of all the biblical prophets was to create a society in which the observants live under the Divine Laws. Islam demands the same. That’s why, the Prophet (pbuh) created the first Islamic State of Medina in 624 CE. Under Islamic Shari’ah – Islamic state leadership must be honest, patriotic and practicing Muslim. There is no place for sex maniacs like Bill Clinton or George Bush or Joseph Stalin in Islamic leadership.

    The community “collectiveness” in Islam is totally different from Judaism. It’s base on faith being practiced and not on ‘mother’s religion’ as the case in Judaism. It’s also devoid of skin color and nationality or tribalism. Islam, call it UMMAH, which is a FARD (must) for every practicing Muslim.

    Islam is totally against ‘nationalism’, ‘tribalism’ and ‘secularism’. Islam also doesn’t believe in the western ‘democracy’ which was created by the 1% to rule the 99%. Islam believes in a sort of ‘theocracy’ as being practiced in Iran currently.

    In a nutshell – it’s useless to demonize Islam by comparing it with corrupted religions or man-made dogmas like Communism, Socialism, Nazism or Zionism. A true Believer is whom the Zionists and atheist call “radical” Muslim – and personally, I have no problem with that.

  8. William Bowles

    November 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I don’t think Atzmon is saying anything new about the three (convenient) identities that Jews alone apparently possess, I’ve writing about it for years. Am I Jewish by ‘race’, religion or ethnicity? Who cares? Joseph’s coat of many colours

    I think the real strength (and weakness) of Atzmon’s perspective is that at last, the entire mythology of Jewishness has been blown apart. Oy Veh! Maybe now Jews can dealt with on the same basis as the rest are.

    The weakness? Like many who utterly reject long-held beliefs, I think Gilad can’t see the wood for the trees. And what the hell is Jewish Marxism anyway?

  9. redscribe

    November 29, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Its very pleasing to get some thoughtful comments from a variety of different standpoints. I must admit I am slightly surprised with the brazenness of the recent bloc of the Jewish left with the Harry’s Place people and ‘Hope not Hate’. Talk about racism, its not so long ago that a representative of both outfits was going round racially abusing black activists and cheering on Operation Cast Lead, even wishing out loud that Israel would use its nukes on Gaza. To say that they were slow to distance themselves would be a grotesque understatement. So why Jewish leftists would willingly play second fiddle to such people is somewhat beyond me. It is also likely to backfire and split Palestine solidarity in ways they will almost certainly not be happy about. If they were Zionists, they would be happy about what is likely to happen, But I suspect not.

    Hysteria like that is generally a sign of a deep contradiction in someone’s world-view.

    Rehmat, I respect your views though you can hardly expect me to agree with you as a Marxist. No way was I trying to demonise Islam. Indeed some prominent spokespeople for Islamic parties in the Arab world, writing in the bourgeois media, proudly call themselves ‘political Islamists’. I was merely pointing out that some of Gilad Atzmon’s ideas are no more outrageous than these analogous terms that even some radical Muslims use about themselves. No problem about using that term incidentally..

    I do think that theocracy, apart from its negative aspects in itself which I won’t dwell on here, is a utopian solution to capitalism. Iran has also had problems with many of the same issue of neo-liberalism, privatisation, declining living standards and other things that affect the rest of the capitalist world. Theocracy cannot abolish inequality and exploitation. Not do I think that Islam has an economic system of its own, though it does to be sure have economic ethics which are worth looking at.

    I don’t agree with you at all about democracy, my criticism of capitalist democracy is that it is hollow and does not mean any democratic control over the economy at all, which is why the bourgeoisie, very crudely i suppose the 1%, dominate. The real point about bourgeois democracy is that it is not really democratic.

    Actually, I’ve never seen any evidence of GA denying the holocaust. Possibly even my review of his book was a little harsh about his seeming ‘ambiguity’ on this in the light of having read John Mearsheimer’s narrative of quotes from GA proving that he does not believe anything of the sort. All they can do on this is try to amalgamate his views with those of Paul Eisen, on the grounds that he circulated his terribly mistaken text ‘Holocaust Wars’ for others to read. But Atzmon circulates other materials that he does not necessarily agree with, and he stated his disagreement with Eisen, while doing so in such a way as to not add to the hatred that the unfortunate Eisen’s own errors had already visited on him. Eisen being no Nazi, but a massively confused ‘proud Jew’ in his own words.

    If I thought GA were a racist, I would denounce him. If I thought he was a Nazi, even more so. But he is evidently nothing of the sort.

    I have barred three people who I do suspect of Nazi sympathies from this blog. Its unfortunate that merely addressing some of these issues attracts such people looking for a way in,from the cold, but that is life. But now we seem to be getting some excellent comments.

  10. rehmat1

    November 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Redscribe – I will be the last person to try to convince a Marxist or atheist to take Islamic teachings as the “ONLY solution” to world’s political and economical problems. But German diplomat and author Dr. Murad Hofmann and Australian-born atheist journalist and author, CJ Werleman so so.

    Iran, beyond your knowledge based on Jewish-controlled mainstream media, is home to best democratic system, freedom of thought, universal education and medicare and a booming economy. Jewish bloggers like Gilad Atzmon and Roger Tucker say so.

    There are hundreds of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu scholars and historians who refuses to buy Zionist narrative of the Holocaust (Six Million Died).

  11. William Bowles

    November 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Rehmat: It’s a fact that some 6 million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis (amongst them almost my entire maternal family in Russia). It’s also true that some 3 million Roma were also exterminated as well as countless millions of ‘Slavs’, along with homosexuals, communists, catholics, the mentally and physically disabled, all of them methodically, industrially exterminated. In addition to this the Third Reich worked to death millions of slave labour workers. Is this not, in its entirety the holocaust?

    What’s at stake is not how many Jews were killed (or how many Zionists can you get on the head of a pin) but the Zionist possession of the word Holocaust (capitalized), a description Zionism reserves for its use only. And not by accident obviously. It fits into the ideology of the Jews as somehow being a ‘special’ case.

    I might add in ref to Atzmon’s apparently pathological hatred of Israel and all that it stands for, is not without reason. What other country on the planet could get away with Israel’s barbarity, a barbarity that owes everything to the Nazi ideology of a ‘master race’, hidden behind and justifying a fictitious ‘anti-semitism’?


  12. redscribe

    November 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    I think for quite a few today Islam is a utopia just as in the past Stalin’s Russia was a utopia. Debating that is more worthwhile than merely contradicting each other on the facts, e.g. about Iran and democracy. People are looking for solutions to oppression, and some look to an elite of saviours, whether of theocrats now or of bureaucrats like Stalin in the past, to create utopia. What is missing from that is the basic democratic ethos though, that the only solutions to the problems of humanity are those that humanity can collectively debate and implement.

    There are probably as many myths and misconceptions about Europe from non-Europeans as there are the other way round. Holocaust denial is a fringe belief in Europe, not because it is repressed per se but because too many older people of all creeds and origins were involved in the war and saw the horrors. In quite a few continental countries it is illegal to deny the holocaust, usually in those countries where significant sections were directly involved in the mass killings: most notably Germany, Austria, also France. Mainly because of popular guilt feelings, and the fear that something similar could happen again.Of course, the Zionists exploit the guilt for all its worth, but if large numbers did not know what happened, then that would not be possible.

    If the Holocaust really were a lie, then many millions of people would know that and you would need a totalitarian apparatus of Stalinist proportions throughout Europe to enforce that orthodoxy. And even in such hypothetical circumstances, it would fail. Too many people would know the truth from experience. But that is light years away from reality.

    Its a fringe belief in Europe, but not the Middle East. Its not difficult to deduce why.

    It is hardly surprising that many who have been on the receiving end of Anglo-American – not to mention Israeli – crimes since WWII might look back in history and wonder if they other lot might have been better if they had won. Even at the time, there were some who adopted that view and fought for it – Subbas Chandra Bose in India is probably the best known, but there were others in the Middle East, and I don’t mean al-Husseini who was just a British quisling who wrongly guessed the outcome of the war and switched sides.

    But myth making about the holocaust does not liberate anyone from imperialist oppression. Its useful to expose the cynical way in which it is distorted to benefit a racist agenda today, but to deny the basic facts about it helps no one. It just muddies the waters and gives Israel a weapon.

    Its amazing how, by promoting distortions of a real and terrible event, they reap an additional propaganda bonus by inducing their enemies to damage themselves by denying that event outright. Some might say this is a very clever Israeli strategy. But in any case those who fall into this trap merely hurt themselves.

    Buy allying with Zionists to ‘deal with’ this problem, as the opportunist Bundist types are now doing, compounds the problem even more. It is inexcusable.

  13. Evildoer

    December 1, 2011 at 10:18 am

    As usual, full of claptrap, empty, generalized accusations against “bundist types”. Name names you coward scumbag!

  14. redscribe

    December 1, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I think Evildoer is very upset because this debate is showing that there is principled way of dealing with the issues posed by Gilad Atzmon that does not involve abuse and threats.

    I suggest he reads the ‘about’ page on this blog to discover why I do not generally insult named people, but stick to political criticism.

  15. Evildoer

    December 1, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Dear scumbag, a principled accusation that someone has done something “inexcusable” has an address, a name, and a concrete substance. Using “bundist” in exactly the way some of your best new buddies use “bolshevik,” namely, as an ethnic slur, thrown generally at whatever the audience may think the slur applies, is not “principled,” it is what makes you a scumbag.

  16. Evildoer

    December 1, 2011 at 11:23 am

    And PS, what your principled debate shows, is exactly the tight similarity between islamophobia and antisemitism, keep going from the one to the other at your pace.

  17. redscribe

    December 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

    In case you haven’t noticed, I also used the term ‘Islamist’ in the article above. Is that also an ethnic slur? Of course not, the idea is just silly.

    Evildoer’s comments will be moderated from now on until he abides by the comments policy.

  18. William Bowles

    December 1, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Evildoer’s responses reveal why, for the most part, ‘comments’ are a complete waste of time as analysis flies outta the window, made possible by the medium which as Baudrillard once commented in his essay ‘Zerox to Infinity’, the transitory nature of ‘phosphor dots’ on the screen is transferred to the reader. Words are scanned not read. What grabs the reader stands out and the rest is ignored. In the early daze of the Internet it was called ‘flaming’. Nothing seems to have changed.


  19. Evildoer

    December 1, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Yes, scumbag, Islamist is an ethnic slur,the common meaning is “person with a dark skin, usually from the Middle East, most often A-rab, who wants to take away our freedom.”

  20. redscribe

    December 1, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I’ll let that through, because it is so irrational it just makes the author look silly.

    As I explained in my article above, I think some Islamists have played a progressive role.

  21. redscribe

    December 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    It is also worth noting that if you go on the excellent website ‘Islamophobia Watch’, which I am proud that this blog links to, the publishers also use the term ‘Islamist’ in order to argue against Islamophobia.

    Are these people also then Islamophobes?

    Very silly. Even slanders should make some sense.

  22. redscribe

    December 1, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Just on Bill’s point, I think comments are useful though there are risks if you allow them. Flame wars are a problem, but good moderation can nip them in the bud. They are also a problem for the culprit, though, because in this case for instance he will be visible to search engines flinging abuse and then looking silly.

  23. William Bowles

    December 1, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Hmm… looking silly? I’m not sure that’s how they see it. But my point is missed: the very nature of electronic texts encourages scanning rather than reading of which the ‘debate’ on ‘islamists’ is a perfect example of what I mean. The critic lights on the word or phrase that offends, fuck the rest! He or she is off! From then on it’s downhill until the moderator locks out the ‘offender’.

    When I first started working with online communications in the early 80s, flaming was one of the first ‘sins’ to emerge from the medium, like the telephone ‘invented’ heavy breathing (what did they do before the invention of the telephone?).

    In any case, I decided not censor anything, advising other users to ignore stuff that is written precisely to inflame and eventually they go away and find some other ‘place’ to annoy.

    I’m not sure if there is any solution to the issue in such a free-wheeling medium as the Web. And the proof is obvious; how much comment finds finds its way into broader communication? Not much and when it is, it’s normally writers quoting other writers.

  24. redscribe

    December 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Of course Bill has a point, but there are several ways of handling this problem. One is to let it all hang out, but I think that can scare off the kind of people I do want commenting here. People who want reasoned fraternal debate. As for ‘looking silly’, I agree that is probably understated, but I really have no desire to throw abuse back at our friend. Life’s too short for that.

  25. William Bowles

    December 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I think I’m losing it… What I meant was not that he/she ends up looking silly or whatever but that he/she simply has no sense of how they appear to others. I think it has to do with the false sense of impunity the medium encourages.

  26. redscribe

    December 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Fair enough, I think we more or less agree 🙂


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