Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Smear First, Apologise Later - Sue Blackwell eats some crow
By Mary Rizzo
Why is it that most everyone who starts a smear campaign against Gilad Atzmon ends up repenting at a certain stage, or at the very least, eating some crow? Harry’s Place, who has been attacking Gilad Atzmon for years now by calling him a racist crank is now stating, “Is Gilad Atzmon a racist? Not in the narrow sense of being preoccupied by genetic differences between people, certainly. He is rather, I think, a 'cultural essentialist': if such a term exists.” So, he’s not a racist, he’s just a garden variety crank. It boils down to this, to quote Morrissey, who seems to be the spiritual guide of David T: (claiming full paternity of thought is not something you will find on most Zionist sites, obviously, pen names are the vogue in those circles)
“You're just another person in the world
You're just another fool with radical views
You're just another who has maddening views”
That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s certainly not an objective observation. Its criterion is a subjective one, and it’s driven by the Zionism of the person saying it. But of course, Zionists are going to think that Gilad’s a crank…So far, so good.
Let’s focus instead on the smear campaign run by a known activist for Palestine, someone who actually believes that Zionism is responsible for the troubles in the Middle East. Some in the UK might be familiar with Sue Blackwell. She is a university professor who was one of the promoters of the failed PSC motion about Zionism, the DYR and anti-Semitism. She also managed to somehow not be able to pull off the Academic Boycott she was organising for a Union of British university Teachers. It’s not clear where the blame should be set for that, and this may not be the appropriate moment to address it. What is rather interesting, however, is her personal crusade to lead the Palestinian Solidarity movement and to dictate who is acceptable and who is not, and she of course, is the one in the know. Just like the Zionists, it’s about what she feels and thinks, not what is objectively true.
Let’s look at the facts: two years ago, upon consulting her “Jewish comrades”, as she puts it, Sue Blackwell added a page to her “famous” (like, where??) Palestinian Web Page. She called it Nazi Alert. Listed are some notorious right-wingers but also “people who should know better who give support to nazis, racists and holocaust deniers by circulating their material”. It makes things sound very sinister indeed, especially because connected in her mind to Nazi scum, we see the names and profiles of many Palestine solidarity activists who have nothing whatsoever to do with rightwing activity or have any Nazi affiliation in any way, shape or form. So ludicrous were her claims and so undocumented as to whom she put up there, before shifting some of the contents to another area, she even included my name on it. Besides having translated thousands of pages for the site commemorating Italians deported into Nazi camps, I’m known in Italy for having been involved in actions to nail Michael Seifert, the Nazi war criminal of the Bolzen Concentration Camp (see pages, 10, 11, 12, 13), so this placement on a page of "people who give support to Nazis, racists and holocaust deniers" is outrageous, as well as defamatory and false. Sue Blackwell insists the “Nazi Alert” page has had a name change, but upon reading it, one still finds this paragraph: “There is no question that Deir Yassin deserves to be remembered. Unfortunately the organisation which was set up to fulfil this task includes Israel Shamir and Paul Eisen on its board (Eisen is actually a Director). Click on the "nazi alert" button to read the whole sorry story of these blokes and their defence of holocaust denial. I am suspending my link to DYR until they are removed from its board.”
Of course, one may not discuss the Holocaust, because that turns one into a full-blown Holocaust denier! According to this logic, hundreds of thousands of people are smeared just for wanting to look at history and investigate forensic material without prejudice. History is always treated by non-specialists as a closed book of objective accounts, and analysis and investigation is generally not undertaken until the facts are chronologically quite removed. As Elias Canetti wrote, “History portrays everything as if it could not have come otherwise. History is on the side of what happened.” This might be one of the crimes, talking about a fact in history that is riddled with emotive triggers for many people, and one that is connected to how the West justifies Jewish settlement and occupation of Palestine, right up to the establishment of Israel without consent of the representatives of the indigenous people. The fact that the settlement goes on unabated in the face of continued Palestinian suffering makes the connection relevant. The ties between the two issues are obvious, and often, the Holocaust is used as a figleaf to cover Israeli and imperialist crimes, but one simply is not allowed to address that in any terms but those set by Wiesenthal and Co. One can believe that analysing the connection is not very productive, but dismissing it in an a prioristic way is lending the Zionists a hand and permitting the justification. Yet, I tend to think the crime that is worse in the eyes of the “gatekeepers” is that of discussing the issue of Jewish Power, at any level. It is apparently unacceptable to do just that. One need not even make any conclusions, the mere issue is Verboten. Just try it and see the reactions. You will get them.
Back to the “famous” Nazi Alert list. Gilad Atzmon was on it, and still is on the “Removed links” page with this text:
“Gilad is Jewish (and plays great jazz) but there have been some disturbing reports about things he has allegedly said recently which appear to condone violence against civilians. Not sure whether he said them or not, but anyway I found his "Protocols of the Elders Of London" highly offensive, not least because it slagged off some of my closest Jewish comrades while cosying up to the highly dubious Israel Shamir. So long, Gilad, thanks for the music.”
“disturbing reports” – by whom?
“things he has allegedly said” – did he or didn’t he?
“appear to condone” – do they or don’t they?
“not sure whether he said them or not” – oh, but she sticks the idea in people’s heads of rumours as truth…. This is not a very firm basis to smear someone at levels that it creates something of a monster and anathema of them, but that did not stop Sue.
Just like Sue, no one likes their friends being slagged off, but slagging off people seems to be the speciality of Sue and her own friends. Yet, if it is done, there should be a legitimate REASON for it and proof that there is something concrete behind the slagging. Crimes or instigation to crime, words and deeds that demonstrate the suppression of the rights of others, that sort of thing. Neither she nor her comrades could ever come up with a reason for it beyond affiliations that they have pumped to mean what they want them to mean, actions that they have blown out of proportion and wilfilly manipulated and distorted, and worst of all, intent. Wherever in the world does Sue Blackwell get the idea that Gilad Atzmon condones violence against civilians? Isn’t a claim that is this inflammatory and defamatory be one that should be substantiated? She has thrown the accusation around and hasn’t bothered to substantiate it in any way. Sue says it, that has to be enough.
Well, at a certain point, Gilad said to himself “Enough is enough,” and decided to have a London legal office look into the charges. Faced with having to actually substantiate her claims or face litigation, Sue Blackwell has now removed the text from the (nameless?) Poison Icon, created a separate page for Gilad, still full of insinuations, but inserted this text (errors in original) into the bottom of the page full of the people who are damaged goods (if they aren’t out and out Nazis, natürlich).
A note on Gilad Atzmon
My comments about Mr. Atzmon have been removed from this page at the request of his lawyers. I would like to make it clear that I have never called Mr. Atzmon a a nazi, a neo-nazi or a fascist. To the extent that readers of my website may have been misled into an impression that I regard Mr Atzmon as a Nazi sympathiser, I apologise to him.
And on the “former” Nazi Alert page writes:
“Please note: I have never suggested that Atzmon is a nazi. He just calls himself a "proud self-hating Jew" and has very poor taste in friends and politics, in my personal opinion.”
Well, if having poor taste in friends and political views that are in poor taste in her “personal opinion” is a hanging crime, get out the rope for Ms Blackwell herself.
But, seriously, a question does remain and it should be an example and a reflection on how all of these smear campaigns start, grow, develop and ultimately end: if Gilad Atzmon is not and was not ever a Nazi or Nazi sympathiser, why did Sue Blackwell brand him as one or both for more than two years, lumping many others with him, and all of them with right-wingers? Is this because Sue had to take advice from some others who tell her how to think, what is appropriate and how British Jews are supposed to behave in the Palestine campaign? If she never thought any of these horrible things that she’s accused him of, why does she listen to the “Jewish Comrades”? Do their views override her “better judgment”? Now she is taking the advice of solicitors. Does someone slur just as long as they can get away with it, without any criterion besides “what people say” and stop doing it when threatened with litigation? Is this any way to operate in the task of campaigning for Palestinians?? Is this rendering service to their cause?
What exactly is Sue’s contribution to solidarity and activism towards Palestinians? Besides the aborted initiatives, she has a “famous” webpage, no better, no worse than any of several thousand of them that reprint generally useful information. Then? While Atzmon has vehemently denounced the racism and crimes of Israel to audiences in hundreds of concerts and speaking events he does every year and published 170 papers on Palestine, Zionism and Israel in the recent years, as far as records seem to show, Ms Blackwell has published three papers on the issues. Actually, one of them was a compilation of Emails about the academic boycott and the other an article about the same and, the only other piece is about anti-Semitism! It’s a bit scarce to be damning someone who doesn’t give Israeli racism breathing room and is opening consciences to the ways we are all implicated by not condemning it and attempting to expose the racism and what keeps it in place, and doing it night after night, damn the torpedoes. For Sue Blackwell, it seems that fitting in with the UK “radical Jewish community” outweighs all other considerations. Well, I won’t be keeping Sue any longer, she has a “Radical Yeshiva” to participate in, where she will be giving an “Etymological history of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism”, quite certainly, with the focus on the former. Hope her advisers have hooked her up to a radio-transmitter so that she won’t have to put up apologies on her site again.