Monday, January 8, 2007
The Poet's Cornered: Rosen without rhyme or reason regarding Atzmon
Following the publication in Socialist Worker of an attack on Gilad Atzmon by Michael Rosen, I felt compelled to write to SW in Gilad’s defence. I sent a copy to Rosen as a matter of courtesy and the following e mail exchange was the result. I am publishing it without comment, as I feel that it is instructive enough without elaboration and I am confident that you can judge for yourselves. The e mails are given as they were printed, without corrections. Rosen has allowed these emails to be publicly diffused.
Socialist Worker Letters Page
Inviting Gilad Atzmon to play is a bad move
Great news about the Cultures of Resistance musical programme, but I have to say I’m mightily dismayed that you have saxophonist Gilad Atzmon on board.
He is someone who has frequently expressed racist ideas and surely we have always said that you can’t fight racism with racism? I fear that the racism he expresses is seen by some in the liberation movements as a racism that doesn’t matter as much.
That’s to say, it’s said by some that racism towards peoples from countries oppressed and exploited by the West is the main racism we’re fighting, but a racism directed towards peoples seen as heavily implicated in the West’s oppression matters less.
Thus, antisemitism in the 21st century is seen perhaps as “mistaken” within the liberation movement, much as we might say that going on about Rupert Murdoch being Australian is “mistaken”.
This is a disastrous route to go down. Antisemitism imagines the removal or elimination of a group of people from the world system.
All we have to ask ourselves is:
1) would eliminating that group change the system for the better?
2) what ghastly processes would a state create in order to do the removing and eliminating?
I think Cultures of Resistance is making a great mistake taking Atzmon on board with them and this will undermine and weaken what we are all trying to do.
Michael Rosen, East London
Letter to Socialist Worker
The attack on Gilad Atzmon by Michael Rosen printed in last week’s Socialist Worker is a total disgrace. Gilad Atzmon is an implacable anti racist and anti Zionist and it is precisely because of the latter that he has been the target of a sustained and co-ordinated Zionist campaign to vilify him as an anti semitic.
It is because of his analysis of Israel as a racist state and his attacks on the Israeli Left’s racist two state solution, (the essence of which is to accept a Zionist state on the bones of the Palestinian people, whilst consigning the remnants to walled-in Bantustans), that Atzmon’s gigs are picketed by Zionist extremists and organisers are threatened with violence if they refuse to cancel.
It is a deliberate tactic of Zionists to confuse anti Zionism with anti Semitism and Michael Rosen, in adopting the same groundless smear, aligns himself with the butchers of Sabra, Chatilla, Jenin and Beit Hanun.
Rosen’s letter is typical of other attacks on Atzmon in that whilst making accusations against Atzmon, he fails to substantiate a single one. If you want to check what Atzmon actually says go to his website at www.gilad.co.uk/ and see for yourself. Far from banning Atzmon, it is Rosen who should disappear from the pages of Socialist Worker.
E mail from Rosen to REJ 3/1/07 17.07.17
terrific letter Richard. the blog pages of Jes Sans Frontieres cite example after example of GA's antisemitism in relation to what he's said about eg the protocols of zion, the holocaust. "the jew" (whoever that is!), the power of the Jewish lobby and stuff about "the Jews" killing Jesus. What he has said (prior to subtle emendations) is indistinguishable from classic antisemitism. Dont try to turn me into an apologist for Israel. That's nothing less than a lie.
E mail from REJ to Rosen 3/1/07 9.24
Thanks for your reply which I will read and forward to Gilad.
E mail from Rosen to REJ 4/1/07 7.17.03
what a good idea that a) you read it and b) you forward it to GA. You could also take the time to read what GA wrote on the subjects I mentioned. SWP member who runs blog Lenin'sTomb has views on Atzmon too which more or less overlap with mine. Or mine overlap with his. Perhaps you are aware of the criticism GA received at Marxism and Bookmarks bookshop from SWP members, some from the Central Committee?
E mail from REJ to Rosen 4/1/07 12.06
I’ve read through the stuff on the JSF site and I have read all Gilad Atzmon's articles on his site. You are going to have to do a lot better than that if you are going to parrot the Zionist slanders aimed at him. Incidentally, I joined I.S. as it was then in 1968 and I'm well aware of what is going on in the party now. I quickly learned to distrust polemics constructed around a few carefully chosen 'quotes' and consisting for the most part in wild insults and unsubstantiated assertions. The JSF file makes the Iraq 'dodgy dossier' look like a substantial argument! I must say I am surprised to see you caught up in this campaign to vilify Gilad Atzmon.
E mail from Rosen to REJ 4/107 12.41.05
well you'll also remember how we said that black people dont need lectures on racism directed towards them. i've looked at what Ga has written, and Eisen and tthe "new" tendency bynsome Jews to develop a new antisemitisn. thanks for the patronising lecture tho.
E mail from REJ to Rosen 4/1/07 2.17
When you have something of substance to say get on with it, but please don't waste time trading insults. It demeans you. REJ
E mail from Rosen to REJ 4/1/07 16.20.07
if you dont understand the central problem of whether i'm 'permitted' to interpret atzmon's cooments re protocols, jesus , jewish 'power', 'the jew' as anti-semitism, then you're the lucky one. i also feel entitled to say you're being patronising whenyou tell me that i dont understand this ir rhat. i'm not a member of the swp, so i guess you can have many happy hours sorting this out with them. i think you'll find people with impeccable anti-zionist credentials who are horrified by atzmon's comments and have told him so. i look forward to reading your defence(s) of atzmon's thoughts on what's wrong with the jews.
E mail from REJ to Rosen 4/1/07 11.48
Strange - I don't recall saying any of the things you attribute to me. This bad habit seems to be catching in certain circles. I think the SWP are best left to sort out things for themselves. I'm still waiting for you to advance anything of substance.REJ
E mail from Rosen to REJ 4/1/07 18.05.05
As you've eliminated the possibility of arguing against Gilad Atzmon by using what he actually says, you're absolutely right, I have nothing further to say. If you've got no recollection of being patronising then you'll lead a happy and contented life.
E mail from REJ to Rosen 4/1/07 6.38
I've kept all the e mails so I'm quite content to be judged on what I have written. I think you might on mature reflection regret some of your petulant comments. They have helped to confirm the opinion I quickly formed about you and I rather think that others reading them would come to the same conclusion.
E mail from Rosen to REJ 4/1/07 19.47.47
and you've just conforned to the oldest tactic of all: recruiting unseen supporters for your position that there's something wrong with me in the way i've respinded to a personal attack on me. and then you do that other number of trying to prove you have occult knowledge because you've kept information or files and the like! and of course you haven't dealt with a] my entitlement to perceive atzmons statements as antisemitic, b] your refusal to 'allow' textual reference c] your insistence that i shpuld accept your patronising bits of advice. you've become my hero overnight. x
E mail from REJ to Rosen 4/1/07 18.54.16
Funny, I seem to think all this started with you launching a personal attack on someone, or have I got the chronology wrong in some way? Of course, youcan think whatever you want to think, but when you launch public attacks onpeople you can expect to be asked to justify them and nothing you have given mecould remotely justify what you have said. As for 'textual references' I prefer to read in full what people say not words that others put in their mouths. I also have the advantage of knowing Gilad Atzmon personally. What is this advice I have been giving you? I ask you to back up what you have said and you refer me to some Mickey Mouse documents that a child would have difficulty in believing. Anyway, keep going I'm loving all this. Talk about 'giants' with feet of clay!REJ
E mail from Rosen to REJ 5/1/07 7.36.27
I haven't tried to justify why I said that Gilad Atzmon expresses racist ideas towards Jews because it would involve me quoting what he has written. Quoting seems to be a process you find unacceptable so I'm not going to go there in this correspondence. On account of what I (and plenty of other people) think are antisemitic utterances, I suggested that it's a mistake to book him for a Culture of Resistance.Your response to this is that I'm a 'disgrace' (to what? to whom? to what body of thought of which you are the gate-keeper?) and that I should be banned from the pages of SW.
Then when I engage with you on this matter you try several psycho tactics including recruiting unseen supporters who would be backing you if they could read what you've stored in your file on me and you being patronisiing as with: "You are going to have to do a lot better..." and "I must say I am surprised...". The last time I heard stuff like that was when I was at school. As I've said, if you can't recognise that as patronising then you'll lead a happy and contented life.As for giants with feet of clay then perhaps the fault there lies with any tendency in you to turn anyone you know or have heard of or have the 'advantage' of knowing into a giant.
You and I know that this dispute is much wider than this correspondence. Many other people have taken issue with what Gilad Atzmon has written and it's probably best if a debate about that goes on in public. Then, I guess, we'll be able to see if he really did write this or that, wishes to defend it or retract it. As far as I know, he's been in conversation several times with anti-zionists about his views on 'the Jews' so in one sense this is all water under the bridge. My letter had moved on from that and was a debate about whether it was appropriate to book someone who expresses these views - not whether he does or not.
In the meantime, you can wag your finger at me as much as you like. That's clearly something that gives you pleasure. Enjoy! But as you would say, 'there's nothing you've said...' that has made me change my views. In your case, it's because you haven't shown me that GA doesn't write Jew-hating material. You point out that I haven't convinced you of anything but as I haven't even begun to try to convince you of anything, it's small wonder that I haven't succeeded!
E mail from REJ to Rosen 5/1/07 6.59.34
If you make an attack of this serious nature, then you must justify it. I don't object to quoting, but I do object to selective quotation as opposed to looking at the complete argument. Read the original letter I sent to SW (and to you as a matter of courtesy). I did not say that 'you' were a disgrace, but that the attack on Gilad Atzmon was a a disgrace, precisely because you did not substantiate it (as you continue to refuse to do).
I am also aware of a considerable campaign to discredit him, inlcuding threats of violence (from which I hope you disassociate yourself). When I said "you'll have to do better than that" in relation to your referring me to the JSF site, it reflected my astonishment that you should honestly believe that the contents of the site were sufficient enough on which to base your opinion of Gilad Atzmon. This is a serious charge and it needs serious evidence, doesn't it? This is my argument with SW. I don't think they should just print serious charges without any attempt to justify them, particularly in this case when there appears to be a co-ordinated Zionist campaign against Gilad.
The fact that there is such a campaign does not surprise me as Gilad's relentless exposure of Zionist ideas must be very difficult for them as he is Jewish himself (hence their description of him as a 'self hating Jew'). You cannot seem to separate his attacks on Zionism from the idea that he isattacking all Jews which is complete nonsense. He is attacking some ideas held by some Jews. You seem to think the 'debate' has been settled and that leaves you free to say what you like without having to justify a scrap of it. In disagreeing with you I am not acting as a 'gatekeeper' for any body of thought other than my own. Does that mean my voice should be discounted? I don't have to show you anything, because I am not the one making vile accusations. Why cannot you find it within yourself to substantiate these properly. You are right about the remark about 'giants with feet of clay'. I was wrong to have put you on a pedestal in the first place. I must learn from my mistakes.
E mail from Rosen to REJ 5/1/07 14.06.25
I like the controlled rage of this post. I only referred you to the JSG website because it was where the argument was going on not because this is the fount of wisdom, nor the source of the quotes. I like the way you want it both ways - ie to tell me how the old IS/SW way of using quotes is unacceptable but now saying that I should start using quotes to justify what I wrote. Nope, I won't fall for that one. Nice try and predictable. As I said, this is best done in public.
In my letter to SW, what I said was that GA had expressed racist ideas. This is how I estimate what he wrote on his website (though some of these have been altered and removed). Your attempts to tie me into zionists and zionism is also an old tired tactic and absolutely unfounded. I'm very interested in the idea that GA is attacking 'some Jews' and not all Jews. Perhaps there is some linguistic confusion here. I've read several times on his site the use of the phrase 'the Jew' and 'the Jews'. That doesn't sound much like 'some Jews' to me.
E mail from REJ to Rosen 5/1/07 6.34
I wonder if anyone reading my last e mail would have detected "controlled rage". I feel quite calm when when I am putting points to you.
I wonder why you referred me to the JSF site at all, because far from argument being presented, I found even more examples of smear tactics.
I made it quite clear that I want to see your 'evidence' in full and not in the form of disconnected quotations, sometimes mere phrases given without any context whatsoever. Your own e mail contained references to "some Jews", "not all Jews", "the Jew" and "the Jews" am I to deduce from these that you are anti semitic? Of course not, but I can say that because I know what the context was.
You associate yourself with Zionists by repeating exactly the same smears that they do.
I have repeatedly given you an opportunity to furnish evidence for your claims, but you have so far failed to do so. It has been suggested that one reason might be that you haven't even read Gilad's articles for yourself. In any case, you seem to regard providing evidence as some kind of trap and that makes you even more suspect.
I notice that you did not even respond to my invitation to disassociate yourself from threats of violence against Gilad. What am I to make of that?
As for arguing in public, isn't that what we have been doing for the last few days?
E mail from Rosen to REJ 5/10/7 24.14.22
no, this a one on one correspondence. you set the terms when you described the tactics of quoting used by IS etc. i referred you to jsg because there are several threads there where gilad was invited to confirm or deny all kinds of quotes and ideas attributed to him. he and various friends responded by threatening legal action. yes i have read ga's site for some 18 months. a public environment would enable us to find out what ga really believes and whether these correspond to customary defs of antisemitism or not. re: zionist smears and anti-zionist criticism - your point here is equivalent to saying that because fascists sometimes critique capitalism in a similar way to socialists (or did many years ago) then socialists are/were guilty by association!
E mail from Rosen to REJ 5/1/07 20.19.39
i utterly disassociate myself from any threats on gilad atzmon. I understand this whole matter to belong to the realm of ideas.
E mail from Rosen to REJ 5/1/07 20.24.39
I'm writing some of these emails with a stylus on a tiny mobile phone screen. Thus errors and abbreviations. by the way your requirement that i do what you demand is bizarre.
E mail from REJ to Rosen 5/1/07 21.13.25
A little progress then. At least you distance yourself from threats of violence, but what is wrong in my asking you to justify your attacks. If you have read what Gilad has to say and you can find evidence to support your attack, go ahead and do it. Until you do, why shouldn't I associate your views with identical views expressed by Zionists? There is nothing to distinguish you from them. As for Gilad denying ideas attributed to him, how bizarre can you get? He's not exactly shy in putting forward his ideas at length. Judge him on his own words, not on what others attribute to him.