The Vindication of Gilad Atzmon

03 May
Gilad Atzmon_DSC0108b

Gilad Atzmon

I publish below the introduction by Gilad Atzmon to a review of his book The Wandering Who by Norton Mezvinsky, the highly respected Jewish anti-Zionist professor and co-author (with the late Israel Shahak, the celebrated Israeli fighter for Arab rights) of Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. The review is critical, and attempts to address various perceived problems with Atzmon’s work, all of which helps advance the cause of rational political debate on the questions Atzmon raises about world politics and the Middle East. Indeed it could be regarded in some ways, not as a demolition of Atzmon’s work by any means, but as a much more challenging criticism from a generally politically fraternal perspective than virtually any other progressive critique, including my own modest effort. Mezvinsky is not a Marxist, but on questions connected with Jews and Judaism he really knows of what he speaks. He is undoubtedly one of the most prominent authorities on this particular subject alive today


But one of the important points he makes is the clear debunking of the smears and misunderstandings of Atzmon’s work as supposedly anti-semitic. Mezvinsky strongly takes issue with these characterisations and in my view, decisively refutes them. In that sense, he vindicates both Atzmon against the false charge of anti-semitism, and the small minority of leftists who have spoken out against the campaign of vilification of him by a number of misguided people on the Jewish left – and well as aspiring reformist thought-police like Andy Newman of Socialist Unity, whose political record and understanding on the most contentious issues of the Middle East are, shall we say, on rather a lower level than both Atzmon and Mezvinsky.


Introduction by Gilad Atzmon: The following article is probably the first valid academic and intellectual criticism of The Wandering Who. Rather than the usual repetitive, banal and futile attempts to silence me, it actually offers a deep and comprehensive reading of my thought followed by an educated criticism of my ideological, philosophical and political stand. Professor Norton Mezvinsky is one of the world’s leading authorities on Jewish history and Israeli politics. He iscurrently the president of the International Council for Middle East Studies ( a new academic think tank in Washington, D.C. His book Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, which he wrote with the late Israel Shahak, is regarded as one of the most important critical texts on Israeli politics and culture.

Needless to mention that I am delighted with Professor Mezvinsky’s review  of my work. But I also agree with some of his criticism. I addressed most Mezvinsky criticism in our last month Washington DC public session organized by the Washington Report (

A video of this very interesting session can be watched here or at the bottom of this article.

Delinda C. Hanley, News Editor, for the Washington Report described the unfortunate  events proceeding my public meeting with Professor Mezvinsky. “The night before Prof. Norton Mezvinsky’s March 14th interview with Atzmon at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church a controversy shook up our plans for a thought-provoking event. Ali Abunimah and 21 other respected Palestinian writers and activists issued a statement calling for The Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon. Puzzled, and probably deeply hurt, Atzmon penned a thoughtful response. (The Washington Report sent both statements to thousands of readers on our “Action Alert” list.) Hours after Professor Mezvinsky’s interview concluded, there was a sea change in the blog­osphere—Atzmon received a barrage of encouragement from his supporters and won scores of new visitors to his Web site, <>.”

Delinda C. Hanley concludes, “while he was in the U.S., Atzmon shook up friends and foes alike, and started a conversation which must continue. We learned that in addition to Zionists who are quick to label anyone who disagrees with them anti-Semitic or racist, there are also well-meaning, self-appointed, pro-peace gatekeepers who don’t want to allow others to speak. But to achieve true lasting peace, and uphold the values of a free society, we need to hear every voice. This, after all, has been the Washington Report’s goal for the past 30 years.”

I couldn’t agree more. Freedom of thought and expression are at the heart of the spirit of resistance, dissent and change.



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7 responses to “The Vindication of Gilad Atzmon

  1. Ruth Tenne

    May 5, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Red Scribe’s informative and truthful report -The Vindication of Gilad Atzmon -quotes Delinda c. Hanley , News Editor of the Washington Report , who observes thoughtfully “We learned that in addition to Zionists who are quick to label anyone who disagrees with them anti-Semitic or racist, there are also well-meaning, self-appointed, pro-peace gatekeepers who don’t want to allow others to speak. But to achieve true lasting peace, and uphold the values of a free society, we need to hear every voice. This, after all, has been the Washington Report’s goal for the past 30 years.”

    Sadly, the misguided two statements by Jewish anti-Zionists and Palestinian activists, to which Belinda Hanley referred in her report, followed in the steps of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s recent “mission” to purge out, or force down,long-standing PSC members and activists who were accused for allegedly being Holocaust deniers – (indeed some of the signatories to those statements have close links with, or are members of, PSC.)

    Thus , Zionists and anti-Zionists appear to form an unholy alliance of strange bedfellows . I am “Granting (them) No Quarter”

  2. David Ellis

    May 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Ruth: this `strange alliance’ as you describe it is the result of Fatah’s recent attempt to get their bantustan recognised by the UN. In order to do this they have been obliged to agree that Israel is indeed a legitimate state and that the refugees will never return or receive compensation. Fatah and their stalinist supporters across the globe in the various solidarity campaigns are leading the charge for the legitimation of Israel so of course to prove good faith they are purging all one-staters, or people who recognise the bogus nature of the Zionist and Fatah’s two-state peace process, from the movement. Accusing them of anti-semitism and holocaust denial is a tactic they have borrowed from the Zionists. I myself, though I have never denied nor ever would that the Holocaust took place was banned by Andy Newman from Socialist Unity on the grounds that I am a Holocaust Denier. The real reason is my unstinting political support for a unified (Gaza, West Bank, Israel), secular, democratic Palestine that addresses the interests and concerns of the refugees.

  3. Ruth Tenne

    May 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I am sorry David Ellis your analysis above does not fit in with the reality on the ground as those Palestinians who issued and signed the statement to disavow Gilad Atzmon (Granting No Quarter) were activists who are staunch supporters of one -state policy . However, if your read Red Scribe’s report carefully and my own article in the Palestine News Network (for which I provided the link) , you would probably come to realise that one of main factors behind the US Palestinian Community Network ‘s misguided statement was to give support to PSC’s move against (alleged) Holocaust deniers and, thus, to keep the BDS Movement – which is now strongly advanced by PSC – on their side . I think that I am quite well informed about what is going “behind the curtains”, (following the “crucial “PSC’s AGM in January ) but I really do not want to get involved in further arguments on this issue.

  4. David Ellis

    May 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Fair enough Ruth i have no desire to fall out with you about anything and didn’t realise I was but I would question the true depth of the commitment of the witch hunters to one-stateism. Most of them seem to qualify it in one way or another even Greenstein who wrote a letter to the Weekly Worker a couple of weeks ago claifying his position by saying:

    `I entirely agree with Barbara Finch’s criticisms of my letter (April 19). I should have been more precise when I wrote, “If equal rights for Arabs and Israelis means no Israel, then that is a price well worth paying.” What I was saying was that equal rights for Arabs and Israelis will mean no Israel as a Zionist entity – which is, of course, what the current demands for recognition amount to. It goes without saying that Jewish Israelis have the right to continue living in Israel as equal citizens with their Arab neighbours.’

    Israel can only exist as a Zionist entity. If course if that is how a one-stater talks then we need not discuss the people who support the two-state peace lie. They are from Fatah and its apologists to Netenyahu Zionists or its apologists.

  5. redscribe

    May 6, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    I think it is not as simple as that. Fatah is actually not identical to the Palestinian authority. Some of the best Fatah militants are in Israeli jails, such as the heroic Marwan Barghouti, and many others. What runs the Palestinian authority is but one part of Fatah, the collaborationist part.

    I have no problem with Tony Greenstein’s comment above. One big problem with two-statist advocates in the Middle East is that they assume that there are actually two nations involved. But Israel, as presently constituted, does not actually if you examine it closely, claim to be a nation. It rather claims that the Jews are its nation and Israel, as Atzmon himself notes, is a ‘territorial asset’ of the Jews as a (kind of) nation. That is why no Israeli citizen can identify their nationality to be ‘Israeli’ on an Israeli passport; they have to say that they are ‘Jewish’ or ‘Arab’. Because Israel is in its own eyes a territorial asset of ‘the Jews’ then it must be expansionist and can never have a settled border as it needs more space for those who ‘return’ in the future. And Arabs must necessarily be second class citizens in such a polity. Hence the two states idea is a dead duck.

    I’m not in favour of two states, but I am actually strongly in favour of a single bi-national state,with guarantees for both peoples. But in order for Israel to be part of a bi-national entity, it would have to become a genuine nation itself which means a break with the concept of the Jews worldwide as a single nation. That is, Israel would have to break with Zionism. Incidentally, that is also why Atzmon is wrong and Israel-centric in saying that Israelis are not Zionist and that that terminology means little to them. It may be that many Israelis subjectively feel that the debates around ‘Zionism’ etc. are arcane and belong to the diaspora, and of little relevance to them, but that is actually an illusory form of political apathy as I see it.

    I do actually think we should not go over the top in denouncing the Greensteins of this world, even though they may behave in a very strident and foolish manner over this debate. There has been a deafening silence from these people about Norton Mezvinsky’s debate with Atzmon and his refutation of their accusations of anti-semitism. This is because Mezvinsky, as a close associate and collaborator of the late Israel Shahak, has a lot of authority for these Jewish leftists and they simply cannot denounce him as a Jewish anti-semite – it would be an unbelievable allegation that would make them look like donkeys. I doubt if Evildoer or Joe Kane are going to start flinging Nazi-lover-type allegations at Mezvinsky for disagreeing with their allegations against Atzmon, as they have with me. So they are suddenly keeping it zipped.

    I do suspect, actually especially since Tony Greenstein ran out of arguments to throw at me when we debated in the Weekly Workers letters page, that he and others might be just beginning to suspect that they have got this wrong. If they come to this conclusion in time, then that is good. It has bearing on their reputation for political judgement, but then politics and life is so complex that it is very easy for anyone to get things wrong.

  6. Tony Greenstein

    April 10, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    I haven’t even read Norton Mezvinsky’s debate or whatever with Atzmon nor do I intend to as I have far more important things to do.

    However the hairsplitting of David Ellise is something else. Of course is no Israel means no Israelis, i.e. those Jews who live there, I am opposed to that. I don’t recall the ANC campaigning for the elimination physically of Whites and quite correctly.

    What I said there could be no Israel which was Zionist and also means I oppose bi-nationalism. But given the rough parity demographically between Israeli Jews and Palestinians then there is also a greater problem, not least the open and abject support for Israel from the neighbouring Arab states, which (with the exception of Malawi) the ANC and Black South Africans didn’t have to contend with.

    So one possibility would indeed be for a new state to be called Palestine-Israel. What I’m quite clear about and these debates don’t ever seem to rise above trivial nitpicking, is that the Jews of Israel are, whether they like it or not, Jewish Palestinians.

    My response re Mezvinsky wasn’t a cop out. I was very doubtful about his trajectory 20 years ago and also Shahak’s in terms of whether the racist or chauvinist aspects of the Talmud could therefore explain Zionist racism. Shahak never took that leap whereas Mezvinsky does. I do not think, on the basis of what I have read of him, that he can be termed anti-Semitic whereas Atzmon is clearly an anti-Semite.

    And yes, my commitment to a one-state solution is absolute. I was one of a small minority who opposed the Oslo Accords and I believe that partition would be the worst of all worlds. This is the position of Ali Abunimah. David Ellis’s suggest that this is not sincere is ridiculous.

  7. redscribe

    April 28, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Hm, just noticed this, I am often too busy to tend this blog much right now.

    I wonder if anyone really cares about what Tony G thinks is Norton Mezvinsky’s ‘trajectory’? Presumably it is a ‘trajectory’ towards anti-semitism, though Tony hastens to add that his is not accusing Mezvinsky of anti-semitism. 20 years is a long time to harbour ‘doubts’ about someone’s ‘trajectory’ and come up with nothing at all.

    Mezvinsky’s record of political activism (since the 1950s) speaks for itself. Tony’s dark mutterings about ‘trajectory’ mean less than nothing. More honesty – in the sense of being more openly and cretinously dishonest – was demonstrated by the foolish Canadian Bundist who, on twitter, absurdly lied that Mezvinsky is a white supremacist.

    Presumably this person also believes that the Queen of England for all these years was really a closeted transsexual.

    That kind of absurd make-believe allegation is in the same ballpark. A bit like Giyus, but without the sinister competence demonstrated by those odious racists in smearing their critics. If you are going to lie about someone, the lie has to be at least minimally believable. Otherwise people will (rightly) consider you to be simply an imbecile.

    This situation when everyone has to tread on eggshells when dealing with the Jewish question lest they be accused of anti-semitism – including Jews themselves – is absurd. Jews today are an oppressor people – directly in the Middle East, indirectly in the advanced countries where mainstream Jewish organisations act as a ferocious Israeli-imperialist lobby for hardline support from fellow imperialists for Israeli imperialism’s crimes against the Palestinians. They thereby also act as oppressors of the Palestinians by proxy. That is the real context we live in.

    The minority of Jews who oppose this oppression actively do not negate this context by their mere existence, any more than those in imperialist countries in general who oppose imperialist oppression of the third world similarly negate the fact that advanced capitalist-imperialism oppresses the masses in those countries.

    The irony is that Tony G is right about binationalism. It is at best misguided, and at worst a smear to imply that he is in some way pushing Zionist or Israeli interests. However, it is also perfectly understandable for some to mistakenly come to this conclusion.

    Why? Because Tony and his semi-bundist current use the same lying, bullying techniques against criticism as the Zionists do. False allegations of support for ‘white supremacy’ coming from a bundist are exactly the same as similar fabrications from Harry’s Place, or the ADL, or Giyus, or any number of other utterly mendacious pro-Israeli sources.

    The common element between them is communalism. The bundists are certainly not Zionists. Many of them are militant, angry opponents of Zionism who are themselves repeatedly and falsely accused of anti-semitism by real Zionists, who hate them just as much as they hate, say, Atzmon or those on the left who reject the charge of anti-semitism against Atzmon.

    But the common element between the left-Bundists and the Zionists is their claim to represent the Jews as a communal entity. They are bitter enemies and rivals for this mantle, but this commonality leads to similar practices. If you are a communalist, then almost everything is justified to achieve your aim of hegemony over your ‘own’ people, including psychotic lies and overtones of violence against perceived ‘traitors’ to the Jewish community. So that is why we see, as parallel phenomena, Zionist hasbara and bundist hasbara – propaganda lies.

    The imbecile who accused Norton Mezvinsky of ‘white supremacism’ on Twitter only exposed that the techniques of lying that she and her ilk use against critics are no different to those of the likes of Mark Regev. And that is despite their deep antipathy over Israel.


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