antisemitism

Andy Newman on Gilad Atzmon

The Guardian has published, in its print version and online, an article about Gilad Atzmon by Andy Newman.

The article is a good one, and it is positive that it has been published in the Guardian Newspaper itself. Here is Andy’s conclusion:

It is incumbent upon the left and the Palestinian solidarity movement to both be aware of the conscious effort of far-right antisemites to infiltrate the movement, and to vigorously oppose and exclude antisemites. We would not hesitate to condemn racists, homophobes or sexists, and must be equally robust in opposing anti-Jewish hate-speech.

Although his politics on many issues are just terrible – as a search through the archives of Harry’s Place will confirm –  Andy Newman is clearly and rightly concerned about the rise of antisemitism, particularly on the Left. This is not the first time that Newman has spoken up on this issue, and not the first time that Socialist Unity has called out Atzmon as the Nazi that he is.

Newman is equally outspoken in his own comments box:

Zionists and fascists) to attack the left who have always taken a lead in fighting against anti-semitism unlike the Zionists.

Perhaps Ray can explain how the “Doctors’ plot” purge, the campaign in East Germany against “Cosmopolitanism”, or the Slansky Affair are examples of “taking a lead against anti-Semitism” ???

To the casual observer these would look like examples of left politics being informed by anti-semitism.

We don’t have to look very far for an example of indiference to anti-semitism, though do we??

I wrote

14.“It is incumbent upon the left and the Palestinian solidarity movement to both be aware of the conscious effort of far-right antisemites to infiltrate the movement, and to vigorously oppose and exclude antisemites. We would not hesitate to condemn racists, homophobes or sexists, and must be equally robust in opposing anti-Jewish hate-speech.”

To which SWP member Ray responds

What utter nonsense.

Why is it utter nonsense that we shold oppose anti-Jewish hate speech?

Let us be clear, martin Smith of the SWP continued to court Atzmon even after Michael Rosen had pointed out to the SWP that Atzmon was an antisemite.

It is important that a stand is taken against hatemongering against minority groups. At Harry’s Place, we similarly oppose those who peddle vicious anti-Muslim conspiracism and bigotry, and carefully confine what we have to say to specific named hate preachers, and particular identified political parties. It would be churlish to refuse to recognise the important stand that Andy Newman has taken. It would be positive, also, if our clear stand against the vilification of Muslims was also recognised by him.

The question, now, is what happens next?

As far as Atzmon is concerned, being attacked by a former National Council Member of Respect in the Guardian is no bad thing. He wants to be talked about, and to use any controversy as a device for spreading his Nazi arguments. He knows that there are plenty – on the far Left and the far Right – who will happily defend him.

So, let’s see how this unfolds.

For a start, will Atzmon be given a “right of reply” in the Guardian? Last time he was criticised  on CiF, the Readers Editor insisted that Atzmon was allowed to publish a piece in response:

The Guardian’s independent readers’ editor writes: David Hirsh in a Comment is free blog dated November 30 entitled Openly embracing prejudice, devoted his entire article to taking issue with the views and activities of Gilad Atzmon. Mr Atzmon immediately began negotiating with the editor of Comment is free to blog on his own behalf in response to Mr Hirsh. During their discussions, clearly entered into in good faith by the Cif editor, Mr Hirsh’s blog closed. Then the editor of the Guardian, who had been consulted, ruled that Mr Atzmon should not be allowed to blog independently but that the Hirsh thread should be reopened to allow Mr Atzmon an opportunity to reply. This was done on December 7, one week after the Hirsh blog was published. Attention was drawn to the reopened blog on the Cif home page. Mr Atzmon’s views which had already been edited in agreed exchanges with the editor of Cif, appeared as posting number 373 on the reopened thread. Although the posting allowed him to express his response at length, Mr Atzmon objected that this nevertheless did not represent a fair opportunity for him to respond to a blog that, in effect, was entirely devoted to attacking him and had been treated much more prominently. The readers’ editor agrees with that assessment. Mr Atzmon’s views therefore appear here as the blog he was negotiating for in the first place. The readers’ editor points out that the exceptional factors involved here are unlikely to be relevant to other complaints concerning the free expression of opinion in blogs: a blog implies an invitation for immediate comment and response and that is the course that should normally be followed. An adjudication in favour of Mr Atzmon does not imply any agreement with his views and, as in the case of the views expressed in other blogs, should not be taken as implying any agreement with them on the part of the Guardian.

This was a very poor decision. The Guardian’s columnists frequently attack Nick Griffin and the BNP. They do not offer Griffin or his party activists a soapbox.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the institutional position of the Guardian on the issue. If the Guardian accepts that Newman is right about Atzmon’s  antisemitism, it should explain to him that it is for this reason that it will not publish any response by him or his supporters.

Here are a few other questions:

First, Andy Newman notes:

Indeed, a small leftwing publisher, Zero Books, has commissioned Atzmon to write a book on the Jews as part of an otherwise entirely credible series by respected left figures such as Richard Seymour, Nina Power and Laurie Penny.

So, it would be interesting to hear from Richard Seymour, Nina Power and Laurie Penny how they feel to be published by a pusher of antisemitism.

Finally, is it now now about time that an antiracist campaigning group takes the lead in campaigning against Atzmon and his Nazi theories about Jewish power? Their silence is as disgraceful as Andy Newman’s is creditable.

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