There was an excellent opinion piece recently in the Brighton Argus by Jean Calder.
Gilad Atzmon had been intending to speak in Brightoin at a community centre, but the event was cancelled due to concerns about Atzmon’s anti-semitism. As the Brighton Argus reported:
” A man accused of anti-semitism has been forced to cancel a speech at a church over fears it could whip up religious hatred. Event organiser Dr Francis Clark-Lowes cancelled his booking at the Brighthelm Centre, in North Road, Brighton, for the talk by Gilad Atzmon.
Tony Greenstein, of the Brighton and Hove Unemployed Workers Centre, said Atzmon would have faced a major protest outside the building had he tried to enter.
Mr Greenstein said: “Despite his abhorrent views, we did not call for the meeting to be cancelled. We wanted him to face as large a picket as possible in order that he should understand the depth of opposition.
Nonetheless we welcome the fact that Brighthelm has cancelled this meeting as church premises are probably the least appropriate venue for a meeting of this kind.”
Those who campaign for the rights of Palestinians are rightly incensed by the frequency with which they are falsely accused of “anti-semitism”. They point out that criticism of the actions of the Israeli government and the Zionists who sustain and support it is not anti-semitic.
However, the fact that false allegations of anti-Semitism are often made against those who criticise the Israeli state does not mean that anti-Zionists are not also sometimes anti-semitic. Or that those who oppose Zionism can cease to be vigilant about the allies they choose to stand alongside.
Repeated groundless accusations of anti-Semitism may make people careless and consequently less likely to take allegations seriously, especially when they are levelled against those who do not fit the usual profile of an anti- Semite. And so, just as the boy who cried wolf eventually came face to face with a real live wolf, the same may be true about anti-Semitism.
On January 7, the Brighthelm Church and Community Centre will host a talk by Gilad Atzmon.
An ex-Israeli, Atzmon is a talented jazz player who proclaims his support for the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the terms in which he does so echo much of the language of anti-Semitism He insists “there is no anti- Semitism any more”, suggesting that acts of violence against Jews should be understood as political rather than racist acts.
Despite the fact that he rejects Zionism – which wrongly claims to speak for all the Jewish people – Atzmon perversely holds all Jewish people responsible for the actions of the Israeli state.
He writes: “If Israel is the state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people do not stand up collectively against the crimes that are being 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 dissociate themselves from their zealous national movement”.
At a talk given at the School of Oriental and African Studies, he is reported to have said: “I’m not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue. I can see that it is a rational act”.
The idea that Jews are “Christ killers” is one that is particularly close to the heart of anti-Semites and was the foundation stone of the Reich Church, the pro-Nazi section of the Baptist Church in Germany in the 1930s.
Atzmon wrote: “I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus.” He says: “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?”
In the same essay, Atzmon explained that “we must begin to take the accusation that Zionists are trying to control the world very seriously.”
The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion was a forgery concocted by the pre-revolutionary Czarist secret police in Russia but was treated by the Nazi Party as a foundation stone of their beliefs. Hitler knew it to be a forgery, but ignored this because he considered true the basic allegation that Jews were attempting to control the world.
Distressingly, Atzmon seems to agree.
He points to the number of Jewish people in the Bush and Clinton administrations and asks: “Is the suggestion of conspiracy really an empty accusation?” He adds: “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”
Perhaps most worrying is his statement that “Israel’s behaviour throws some light on the persecution of the Jews throughout history.”
I find it profoundly shocking that anyone who professes concern for human rights should suggest that centuries of anti-Semitic pogroms and persecution by Christians were to any extent provoked by the behaviour of the people who suffered them.
To its credit, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Brighton has apparently refused to support or sponsor the meeting but it is nonetheless going ahead – almost certainly organised by people acting in good conscience.
Had Atzmon’s views been expressed by, for example, a member of the BNP I venture to doubt that he or she would be speaking publicly in Brighton.
It seems wrong that such views may be heard in a Christian community centre, in a city with a proud history of anti-racist organisation – apparently without protest – just because the speaker claims to support the embattled Palestinian people.