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Zero Books Backs Atzmon

Atzmon’s publishers, Zero Books, have come out fully in support of their author:

A lot of controversy has been generated by our imminent publication (30th September) of The Wandering Who? by Gilad Atzmon, with a deluge of comments ranging from hate mail and personal threats at one extreme, through accusations of anti-semitism in journals like the Jewish Chronicle, to a number of our authors saying they will withdraw their books from the Zero list if we publish.

I read the book when it first came through as a proposal, without any prior knowledge of Gilad Atzmon or his blogs. I didn’t see any anti-semitism there. Over the following weeks it gained a number of impressive endorsements, listed below.

When the negative comments started to come through, I was naturally worried. What had I missed?

It soon became apparent that most of those being critical hadn’t actually read the book. When pushed to do so, they came up with language/descriptive terms which, if you came to the book with the presumption that it was anti-semitic, you could make that argument by association. But if you don’t come to it with that presumption, and take it in the straightforward meaning of the terms, then there is little directly to object to.

Cancelling the publication would be a serious matter; we don’t have contractual grounds for doing so. If the book itself promoted anti-semitic views I would, without question. If it does not, but Gilad Atzmon himself is anti-semitic, that’s a more difficult problem, publishing-wise, and ethically. But is he?

The answers to both these points have been made cogently by Professor John J. Mearsheimer in his recent post below. I attach it here, as it’s more articulate and far more  authoritative than anything I could say. In the light of this, I think it would be reprehensible to cancel publication because authors were threatening to leave us. That would really make us guilty of what we’re already being accused of by some; “you’re only publishing for the money”.

Indeed, so little is money a motivating factor in Zero Books, there is no one in it full time, and I’m writing this on behalf of the publisher to try and take some of the heat off him. If any of the Zero Books authors want to discuss any aspect of this, perhaps you could get back to me, at [email protected]. Thank you.

As you can see, Zero Books has pinned its decision to publish a racist book by an antisemitic author to John Mearsheimer’s self-defence. However, as both Adam Holland and Jeffrey Goldberg have noted, John Mearsheimer’s argument is that the antisemitic material that has been cited to him does not appear in Atzmon’s book.

The problem with that argument is that the antisemitic passages are included in Atzmon’s book.

It is also interesting to hear that some of Zero Books’ authors are threatening to leave the publishing house. I’m not suprised. Not only are they publishing a racist book: they’re even hosting a panel discussion on Atzmon’s theories, featuring a number of his supporters and associates.

I can understand fully why Richard Seymour, Laurie Penny, Nina Power, Owen Hatherley, Douglas Murphy and Alex Niven, would want nothing to do with a hate publisher. Remember, these authors have explained to their publisher that the decision to promote the book “normalises and legitimises anti-Semitism”. Zero Books simply waves their concerns away.

As a footnote, this defence of Atzmon was produced by a certain John Hunt, on behalf of Atzmon’s publisher, Tariq Goddard. Goddard, who describes himself as “a part-time organic herb farmer” is very busy today, preparing for his own book launch. At the Groucho Club.

Where else?