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.
NORTON MEZVINSKY: GILAD ATZMON AND THE WANDERING WHO?
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 (www.icmes.net) 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 (www.wrmea.com).
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, <http://www.gilad.co.uk>.”
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.