Wednesday, June 15, 2005
reflections on anti-Atzmon campaign by Miguel Martinez
While you probably look (rightly) at the Zionist aspect of it, what I see is a typical event on the Left. And I think Gilad gave us the key to it when he wrote, some time ago, a fascinating essay on the Master-Slave dialectic of Hegel (do read it all: http://www.gilad.co.uk/refelections.html )
It explained something I felt several years ago, seeing Israeli embassy spokesmen speak on Italian TV: they looked as obtuse as any Soviet bureaucrat, and spoke in a haughty yet stupid manner. Yet in the early and mid-20th century, "the representative Jew" (insofar as one existed) had brilliant wit and the capacity to take himself lightly - the price of mastership is idiocy.
Gilad put Greenstein as the "Slave", which is partly true; however, I also see another aspect.
Costanzo Preve says we live in a world where the economy is right-wing, the administration is centrist and culture is left-wing. "Left wing" here may simply mean, of course, that if Bush bombs Iraq, he first has to say that he is doing it for "democracy and women's rights".
This situation means that - in Italy at least, but I imagine in other parts of Europe as well - leftist intellectuals of every variety are at the same time in rapid decline, powerless, yet proud as peacocks. Like the nobility at Versailles in 1788.
I am *not* talking about left-wing ideas, which I respect; and I am not talking about many honest individual left wing intellectuals, who very often end up by splitting with the "left wing intellectual" milieu. I am talking about a sociological category of "left-wing intellectuals" (which includes bloggers and leaflet writers). In their cozy little niche, they feel they have the truth in their hands, and are the "Masters". They can only think in terms of excommunicating, demanding and refusing to discuss other ideas, accompanied by a total lack of sense of humour.
Then there is a hysterical fear of contamination-through-association, which is reminiscent of an Indian Brahmin. Contamination is contagious (you can be contaminated by being associated with somebody who has been associated with somebody who...): Tony Greenstein, as a leftist, is worried that the whole Left will soon be polluted because the SWP risks being sullied forever by a few minutes' contact with Gilad Atzmon, who is totally contaminated by once having forwarded an e-mail by Paul Eisen, who once wrote a few lines about Ernst Zundel.
This is expressed in a recurrent language which is fascinating from a psychological point of view: in Italy they use terms like "clarity", "consistent viewpoint", "lack of ambiguity" to describe their solar selves, and "sewers", "darkness", "ambiguous", "unacceptable", "I don't discuss with the likes of [followed by a surname without a first name]", etc. to describe their nocturnal adversaries.
When they decide to attack somebody, their judgement is final. It only takes into account "evil" deeds. They will never say, "though so-and-so has done nine excellent things, he has also done one bad one". Somewhere in the Old Testament, I believe, there is the notion that only contamination is contagious, not purity: so quite rightly, the good deeds, not being contagious, do not count.
If you accept their right to judge you, you have definitely become their slave: the more grovelling the apology, the more you are a slave. If you refuse their right to judge you, they will froth at the mouth, scream, jump up and down in a temper tantrum (as Mary said) but finally they will have to stop, and this will do their ego no end of good.
It's a question of looking them straight in the eye, which you are not supposed to do to Masters or to judges.
Internet, however, makes the mastership style untenable. The same people who are horrified at the supposed Zundel-contamination of Gilad know who Zundel is because at night they secretly go to see Zundel's website (they then hide their tracks on the computer, much in the way certain husbands carefully clean their coats of any telltale hairs before going back home). They meticulously peruse the right-wing publications and websites they accuse others of having something to do with.
There is a suicidal element in all this.Take Tony Greenstein. Somebody this small person dislikes is going to speak for a few minutes at a small event organised by a small political group. Normally, people would have listened and, alas, forgotten.
Now Greenstein, who calls himself a pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist of the Left, has made this a world case, via Internet. Some of the mud he is slinging will stick to Gilad of course. However, a lot will also stick onto the Left, onto anti-Zionists and onto pro-Palestinians in general. Zionists and anti-Leftists will have a feast: "Do you believe it, there are some Communist Jews in England who like the Palestinians and hang out with Holocaust deniers! I read that somewhere on the Internet, there was a big discussion, but I can't remember the details".
Now, I am sure that somewhere out there in Internet there is something "associating" Greenstein with Gilad. Maybe they both spoke at the same event five years ago, maybe they both wrote an article for the same magazine. Gilad is a "Holocaust Denier"-by-association, having once forwarded an e-mail by somebody else which mentioned a third person, the picturesque revisionist Ernst Zundel.
So, the day Tony Greenstein steps out of the line, there will be an avalanche ready to fall on his head - "Tony Greenstein, ambiguous self-hating Jew who writes for the same magazine as does Holocaust Denier Ernst Zundel". Remember, they always snip associations, cutting down a few removes. And all his pickets and red lines won't help to put him together again that day...
Good luck and never give in