Atzmon’s Attack on Moshe Machover Backfires!
Sad as it might seem, Mary Rizzo seems to be getting over her infatuation with Gilad Atzmon. Admittedly it has taken a long time and for a middle-aged woman it might be thought somewhat naff to drool over the latest drivel by the phony philosopher, but better late than never!
Back in June Atzmon penned another of his nonsensical racist tirades, this time against the veteran anti-Zionist and founder of Matzpen, Moshe Machover. Machover has been a tireless and unceasing campaigner against Zionism, but his problem as far as Atzmon was concerned was that he was Jewish. In short there was Marxism and ‘Jewish’ Marxism. Quite which category Karl Marx would have fitted into beggars the imagination! [see my critique ATZMON AND “JEWISH MARXISM”].
But instead of the usual laudatory comments about how wonderful and insightful his article was, he faced a storm of criticism, with only the despicable racist Sarah Gillespie supporting him.
Atzmon took exception to Machover’s unexceptional remark that
“The subsequent emergence of Islamism holds a false promise. While it poses a challenge to Western domination, it is backward looking and inherently unable to deliver progress.”In fact he omitted the following crucial sentence which provided the context:
‘Nor can it possibly be a uniting force: on the contrary, it is deeply divisive as between Sunnis and Shi‘is, and has no attraction whatsoever for non-Muslim and secular Arabs (including Palestinians), let alone Hebrews.’Machover was criticising Political Islam/Islamism as a divisive force which in the end can’t even unite Muslims, as Iraq has graphically demonstrated. One might have thought that the events in Iran, where opponents of Ahmedinajad's corrupt and murderous regime, a regime which fed off the hostility of George Bush, might have given pause for thought, with reports that hundreds of demonstrators were killed and tortured before being buried secretly (a tip they no doubt learnt from Israel).
For Atzmon though, the problem was that
‘For very many years the Palestinian solidarity discourse was dominated by leftist ideology carried largely by Jewish Marxists…. No one needs the odd kosher ‘righteous Jew’ to approve that this is indeed the case.’One contributor, Dave
‘found this piece to be nothing more than rant. The important issue raised in the opening quotes are correctly drawn Marxist conclusions regardless of the author's ancestral tree. You are conflating faith in Islam with the political program of Islamic movements. … You may criticize the author's Marxist conclusions — i.e. if you are not a Marxist. But in your obsession with "Jewish" you appear to the reader as nothing but another racist.’Elias Nasrallah a Palestinian wrote that
‘I found it disturbing to read such a personal attack on Moshe Machover, hidden behind the pseudo philosophical arguments of Gilad Atzmon. Atzmon tried to convince us he is attacking Machover from the left as someone who cares dearly for the Palestinians. To be quite honest and with a great deal of experience, I am yet to understand exactly where Atzmon stands politically. His article does not clearly manifest his opinion about Zionism. He makes clear that he is anti-Marxist, but fails to elucidate the more important and reality based question of whether or not he is anti-Zionist. We know, as a matter of fact, and as Atzmon himself attests, that Machover is Anti Zionist.’And that is the nub of it. In his desire to attack ‘Jewish’ Marxists, Atzmon has no hesitation in joining hands with Zionists, as I’ve demonstrated on this blog before, with Atzmon's praise for Anthony Julius. And who better than the Arab-American Zionist, Hussein Ibish. Atzmon therefore cites without any criticism or disapproval whatsoever the view of Ibish that Israel is not a settler-colonial state. Unsurprisingly, Ibish’s criticism of those who hold that Israel is a settler colonial state, which Atzmon has always shared, is the basis of his opposition to a Boycott of Israel. And who else opposes a Boycott? Step forward Gilad Atzmon, who is on record, in the context of the academic boycott, as saying that
‘I am against any form of gatekeeping or book burning.’
‘Klein's argument that Zionism is a form of racism based on economic exploitation seems to me a very poor explanation of the conflict indeed. I have heard this many times before and it seems to me an effort to smash the square peg of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the round hole of traditional colonialism and imperialism.’But none of this should be any surprise. I have argued for a long time that the frame of reference of Atzmon’s politics is a Zionist one. His hatred of Jews derives from a similar Zionist contempt. Likewise his conflation of being Jewish and Zionist. And nor should one forget that for all his vapid rhetoric, Atzmon retains deep down a belief that the Israeli state is capable of change internally. When Amir Peretz was elected as leader of the Israeli Labour Party, a party that is ‘left’ in name only and has been responsible for all the major tragedies of the Palestinians, notably the Nakba and the 1967 Occupation, Atzmon was gushing in his words of praise:
'For the first time, the Israeli Labour party is led by a real fiery working class leader…. It becomes clear that the only way to confront global capitalism is to fight it locally and socially. This is what the Israeli Labour party has decided to do.'Unfortunately shortly after Atzmon wrote this, Peretz as Defence Minister led the invasion of Lebanon! But our great philosopher has never been good at predicting events.
This failure to analyse the specifics of the Zionist state and its foundations is not at all surprising. If you reject, as Atzmon does, the idea that Israel was set up as a colonial venture, then the only other explanation is that Zionism is an inherent part of Judaism and Jewish people. Hence why his anti-Zionist Jewish critics, such as Machover, Mike Rosen and myself, are all ‘crypto-Zionists’. But a careful reading of his own writings e.g. Not in My Name make it clear that for Atzmon, being Jewish and Zionist is synonymous.
‘I really do not understand those who fight Zionism in the name of their secular Jewish identity. I have never understood them. I have never really understood what secularism means for the Jewish people.Atzmon’s argument is extremely simple. Where is the motherland of Israel? All settler-colonial states have motherlands therefore Israel cannot be a product of colonialism!! But logic is not something that Atzmon has much time for. What defines settler colonialism is not where the colonists come from, nor who sponsors or supports them, but what they do. If the original settlers of Virginia dispossessed the indigenous population and expelled or murdered them, what does it matter if they depended on support from a British Governor? It’s what they do and their relationship to the indigenous American Indians that matter not their life support system.
To demand that Jews disapprove of Zionism in the name of their Jewish identity is to accept the Zionist philosophy. To resist Zionism as a secular Jew involves an acceptance of basic Zionist terminology, that is to say, a surrendering to Jewish racist and nationalist philosophy. To talk as a Jew is to surrender to Weizman’s Zionist philosophy.’
In fact the same could have been said of Apartheid South Africa. The Boers had no motherland when they trekked into the Transvaal and Orange Free State. It was a rebellion against the British for interfering with their right to do as they wish, including enslavement, of the Black peoples. The American colonists did not cease to be colonists simply because they also waged a War of Independence against Britain from 1775-1783. The expansion westwards took place after that but they didn’t behave different in California from how they had behaved in Maryland. If anything it was worse. In fact the Zionists did have a motherland. It was called Great Britain. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 established the British state as its protector, as and until they became strong enough to stand on their own two feet. When in 1945 they had achieved a critical mass they had no hesitation in jettisoning GB and turning to the USA. But in terms of land confiscation, mass murder, apartheid discrimination the Israeli state was if anything more colonial after 1948 than before. After all, the Jewish National Fund had actually had to buy the land it settled before 1948 but in 1950 they came into possession overnight of twice as much land as they had bought in 30 years prior to independence.
But Ibish is an ideal tame establishment Arab for Atzmon. He, like Atzmon himself, is an opponent of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and in his article ‘Why boycotts are the wrong strategy for Palestinians’ he makes clear that he rejects BDS in an attack on Naomi Klein for her advocacy of the same. No doubt according to Atzmon, Klein is following her ‘Jewish’ interests. In all of this Mary Rizzo stays faithful to her mentor.
But whereas Atzmon attacks anyone who criticises Political Islam as an ‘Islamaphobe’ Mary discerns a difference between the religion, in all its variations, and the political movements that claim it as a source of legitimation. Indeed it would appear that, ever so slowly, she has begun to recognise that you can support for example Hamas or Hizbollah in their fight against imperialism and Zionism without supporting their ideology.
At the moment Rizzo has confined her criticisms to the personal and stylistic, e.g.:
‘sorry gilad, as much as i admire you, I can't believe you would go on a rampage about a plural pronoun when you yourself used this is a comment just some hours earlier:’
She gives short shrift to Sarah Gillespie, Atzmon’s faithful rottweiller and echo chamber:
‘I just spent a while talking with Gilad about this stuff, and it seems as if you are merely repeating by rote some lines of his without adding anything of your own or original to substantiate it, which also seem kind of strange coming from someone who in the past has indeed felt free enough to criticise this or any other religion.’Clearly the scales are falling from her eyes. And she even shows signs of personal irritation, always a good indication!
‘well, gilad, taking folks out of context is not that cool. It is a shame that you haven't really bothered too much to engage in the quite well-argumented discussions of Luis…. This space would have been refreshing if someone could read it without looking at trouble and a lot of hostility. Oh well, it didn't work out. It is too bad you didn't give Luis that much due respect.'and in what is almost a warning to her partner-in-crime (ex?). ‘You can interpret this as you want, but personal attacks will not be approved should ring clear to everyone. I (like it or not) have to manage the comments in a fair way, or is this not the case?’ as well as a thinly veiled attack on Atzmon’s view of himself as an intellectual! 'calling him lazy, unsophisticated or ideologically trapped, which is not the greatest thing for a real intellectual to do’. Ouch!
Perhaps even more surprising is the vicious attack by Edna Spennato, who has been taken aback it would seem, by an article Atzmon posted entitled ‘God Blessed America’. which is a long and boring paean to Obama. One wonders of course where these people have been. But one should welcome converts, however long their journey to Damascus takes!
‘When a writer continuously "salutes" the zionist politician and front-man carrying out a policy of genocide against the world's Muslim population, refuses to inform himself of these facts on the ground, and then engages other people in an endless nit-picking discussion about Islam vs Islamism, calling all those who don't agree with him ignoramuses and islamophobes, one can only wonder about his real agenda.And there is more! Edna picks up on Atzmon’s lovely little paragraph wherein he states that:
Perhaps it's time to introduce a new term to the lexicon - Reborn Zionist?’
‘Being raised as a Jew, i was trained very much like you to believe that my culture was superior. In my attempt to fight the Jew in me, I have managed to get rid of most traces of superiority (i am still an arrogant tosser [agreement for once – TG] … in order to liberate the marxist we must liberate Marxism of it its Kosher (cultural) grip.’Edna asks ‘Are you saying there was "superiority" to begin with? This to me would seem to be a very supremacist notion. Or when you say "I have managed to get rid of most traces of superiority", do you really mean, "I have managed to get rid of most traces of imagined superiority." ?? If so, I would beg to differ.
And then Edna asks the question that Atzmon is determined not to answer:
‘However, perhaps you could throw some light on how you manage to expose that dangerous ideology with a statement like this one from your recent piece, "God Blessed America":
"He (Obama) is now marching America towards humanism. He reclaims the American ideology of liberty. I salute the man, I salute the great intellect, I salute the humanist.’
Even more amusing are the questions Edna poses for Atzmon:
‘1. Why are you not able to respond to the question about your support for the imperialists, who you have relabeled as "humanists"?But of course these questions are not easy peasy for Atzmon. The answer of course as to why Arab or Black Zionism is more palatable than Jewish anti-Zionism is quite simple really. Atzmon is a died-in-the-wool anti-semite, who like his Zionist friends hates anti-Zionist Jews. Indeed Atzmon hates anti-Zionist Jews far more than Zionists.
2. Why is zionism more palatable to you when touted by an 'arab' such as Ibbish or a person you regard as
'black' such as Obama? (Much more palatable than anti-zionism touted by a 'jew')
3. What is your understanding of the concept of 'reverse racism'?
Atzmon himself is the ‘super-Islamicist’. For him the main problem ‘is the acceptance of the notion of ‘Islamism’ as a distinct form or political version of Islam. Islam is a ‘way of life’. Its politics and even armed Jihad are integral part of Islam though they have different interpretations.’ And from there it is but one short step to the idea that
‘Hamas’ ideology is Islam and to say that Islam is reactionary is nothing short of Islamophobia. Probably the most problematic issue is the use of the word ‘Islamism’ which to my opinion reveals a sever lack of understanding of Islam as a unified ‘way of life’…. From an Islamic perspective there is no distinction between Isalm and Islamism.’Just as for Atzmon there is no distinction worth drawing between Judaism and Zionism, both are interchangeable, so Islam and the political interpretations and movements derived from it are one and the same. The fact that an Islamic regime in Iran is as corrupt and bloodthirsty as any in the world passes him by completely. The idea that political movements have historically taken as their source of legitimacy is something that has escaped our esteemed philosopher. Because whereas ‘Islam and Christianity are universalist precepts (Judaism isn't). They are all about brotherhood. In practice things can appear differently …the same applies to Marxism.’
Nonsense and gibberish though this is, it is interesting to see that Judaism isn’t seen as a universal religion, which just goes to show that ignorance and bigotry are usually handmaidens. In fact Judaism, of which Islam and Christianity are in many ways offshoots, was a clearly universal religion. That is what monotheism, with a single causal explanation (a single divinity) is. Of course in practice there were many variations of Judaism, such as Hasidism, which in practice believed in the existence of more than one god and the Bible, stripped of its intepretative post-hoc justification, makes it clear that the history of the Hebrew tribes was a conflict between polytheism and monotheism.
But as Atzmon proudly proclaims: ‘Actually, i transform self hate into an argument. This is my way.’ Indeed it is.
But then Atzmon is nothing if not a simpleton. For him ‘Political Islam is our way to interpret Islam within world current affairs. I refuse to talk about Islamism or political islam unless we agree that it is western terminology that we refer to rather that the 'thing in itself' For me the big question is who promotes the notion of 'political islam'. Why Zionists, Neocons and Marxists are so keen to use it? And why you of all people use it?’ A sure sign of desperation. If Zionists or Neocons use the term ‘political Islam’ that means that it is automatically redundant. In fact it is obvious that the rise of the clerical ruling class in Iran, tied by their own class interests to the bazaari merchants was a classical development of a religious come political movement. And because of its class interests they have used the weapons of terror, torture and mass murder to perpetuate their hold on the levers of power.
It is somewhat ironic therefore that Edna, in view of her own previous comments, has to give Atzmon the clearest message: ‘The enemy is Zionism, Gilad, not Jews or Marxists or anti-zionists, or even all of those rolled into one big boogeyman.’
And likewise Mary states the obvious to Gilad that:
‘now you are getting silly. The oppression of muslims is located in an ideology called lots of names, Global Hegemony, Empire, Culture Clash, Zionism, Market Capitalism, and especially the USA foreign policy.’
The only other interesting thing about this debate is how Atzmon determinedly ignores the questions that Edna poses. After asking repeatedly, in one form or another, the simple question
‘why a writer who labels everyone else an "islamophobe" when he looks the other way while the "occupying powers" expand their genocide and ethnic cleansing of the "Muslim world", referring to it as "humanism" and an "ideology of liberty", and publicly "saluting" the chief war criminal. Care to answer that question regarding the use of faulty terminology in your "God Blessed America", Gilad?Gilad, for once, is tongue tied!