Alan Hart Responds
Alan Hart is someone whose politics seem to be something of a movable feast. His writings up to now have made a very clear distinction between Jews and Zionists e.g. his book ‘Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews’ yet he is beginning to make a habit of being a stand-in man for Gilad Atzmon.
When 2 anti-racist speakers, Ghada Karmi and John Rose, pulled out of Atzmon’s Westminster University ‘debate on Jewishness’ earlier this year, Hart agreed to be a member of a panel alongside Atzmon. But unlike the other speakers, and despite promises to the contrary, he stuck with Atzmon, who definitely does distinguish between Zionists and Jews.
As one would expect of an ex-BBC Panorama and ITN journalist, he is not a socialist or anti-imperialist, so he comes to the Middle East from a bourgeois perspective. What is good for the US and why it should recognise its true interests is very much what connects him and Atzmon. Hart also appears of late to have got into bed wit h the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. And if you are into conspiracy theories, then there are plenty about why the USA supports Zionism. The obvious answer, that it has something to do with the self-interest of American capitalism is too easy. Far better to look at how many Jews there are in Congress.
Hart is also someone who is not naturally an anti-Zionist. Apart from, by his own admission, his friendship with one of the most racist Israeli Prime Ministers, Golda Meir, he was also a friend it would appear of the Shah of Iran, who he tried to get admitted into Britain when he was overthrown in 1979.
But Hart has finally responded to my criticism of him. Below is his letter and my response.
In his Open Letter to David Cameron of 2.8.07. Hart wrote that:‘
The colonial enterprise that Zionism is has corrupted everything it touched, beginning with the United Nations and including the mainstream media, what passes for democracy in the Western world (America especially) and Judaism itselfBut this is one thing, apart from the distinction between Jews and Zionism, where Atzmon and Hart formally don’t agree. Atzmon is quite clear about this. He fervently rejects any suggestion that Zionism is a colonial enterprise.
In a talk to Scottish PSC he made his position clear when affirming the rightfulness of ultra-Zionist Alan Dershowitz:
‘To a certain degree Dershowitz manages to tackle the question. He asks, “if it is indeed a colonial state, what flag does it serve?” Fair enough, I say, he may be right. I myself do not regard Zionism as a colonial adventure. However, hang on for a second, Mr. Dershowitz. It seems you might be getting off the hook easily here. Our problem with Israel has nothing to do with its colonial characteristics. Our problems with the ‘Jews Only State’ have something to do with its racist, expansionist and nationalist qualities. Our problems with Israel have something to do with it being a Fascist State supported by the vast majority of Jewish people around the world.’Of course the idiot doesn’t seem to understand that colonialism, a priori, was always racist. It was inevitable because racism was the ideological means by which the coloniser legitimised and rationalised their domination of the native and indigenous. Racism arose as a means of justification. There is therefore nothing that cannot be explained by positing Zionism as a settler colonial movement - be it racism, nationalism or indeed expansionism. All of these are common to settler colonialism. But if one wants to hold all Jews responsible for Israel, wherever they live, then clearly the colonial explanation is no use. That is Atzmon's real objection and he all but says it. Atzmon in his crude racist stupidity is unable to see what a child with any intelligence would understand.
In An Interview with Gilad Atzmon by Silvia Cattori To Call A Spade A Spade, Atzmon developed his theme:
‘Recently I came across a critical Trotsky-ite take on my work. The argument against me was as follows: “Gilad is wrong because he manages to explain Zionism without colonialism; he explains the holocaust without fascism. He even explains the recession, the global economic disaster, without capitalism.”And since these have been his firmly held views ever since I came across him, it makes one wonder about the opportunism of the nominally Marxist Socialist Workers Party in adopting Atzmon to its bosom. He firmly rejects socialist politics as being mere ‘robbery’ of the bankers and capitalists. He attacks the Jewish Bund, the mass party of pre-holocaust European Jewry, who were firmly anti-Zionist, from a Zionist perspective. In Gilad Atzmon – Swindler’s List he writes that:
I couldn’t agree more. We do not need “working class politics” anymore….
‘Bundists believe that instead of robbing Palestinians we should all get together and rob who is considered to be the rich, the wealthy and the strong in the name of working class revolution.’Only a particularly twisted soul could hold that those who have been responsibility for robbing the poor of billions of dollars and pounds are somehow the victims of robber and ‘swindling’ [a term particularly associated with anti-Semitic attacks on Jews]. Atzmon, who always emphasises that there is nothing ‘racial’ in his criticism of Jews, writes that:
‘Zionism is inherently a racially oriented “homecoming” project driven by spiritual enthusiasms that are actually phantasmic. It intrinsically lacks many of the “necessary” elements that we understand as comprising colonialism, and cannot be defined in solely materialist terms.Atzmon says that although he supports BDS it cannot work because it is designed for a colonial state, which Israel is not. In fact Atzmon does not support BDS. In Tangling with the Oppressor he attacked the Academic Boycott as ‘book-burning’
It appears to me that “the Left” mislead us and itself by depicting Zionism solely as a colonial project. The “Left” likes the colonial paradigm because it locates Zionism nicely within their ideology. It also leads us to believe that the colonial/post-colonial political model provides some answers and even operative solutions; following the colonial template, we first equate Israel with South Africa, and then we implement a counter-colonial strategy, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions).’
Yet, whilst I fully support all of those actions, they seem to be in some regards, not entirely effective at all. The BDS has not in fact, led to any metamorphic change within Israeli society. If anything, it has led to further intensified radicalisation within the right in Israel. Why has the BDS not worked yet? The answer is simple: It is because Israel is not at all entirely a colonial entity - as we historically understand that term - and it needs to be understood that its power and ties with the West are maintained by the strongest lobbies around the world.
‘interfering with academic freedom isn’t exactly something I can blindly advocate. Unlike some of my best enlightened friends, I am against any form of gatekeeping or book burning. But it goes further, I actually want to hear what Israelis and Zionists have to say. I want to read their books. I want to confront their academics. If justice is on our side we should be able to confront them…. to impose a boycott is to employ a boycotter.’and his comments on the recent disruption of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra Ode to Boycott were very similar and waspish, although nominally supportive.
Atzmon however goes further, not only in his support of Dershowitz’s comments but a whole raft of Zionist ideologues who maintain that Israel is Jewish self-determination (as does Atzmon) and nothing to do with colonialism, as it has no mother country. In fact South Africa had no mother country for the majority of Whites, the Afrikaaners. And what mother country did the American settlers have after declaring independence from Britain?
Colonialism is what you do, not where you come from.
But to Atzmon it, colonialism, is the key to everything. Israel is not a colonial state. It is a normal state subverted by Jews internationally. Thus does he invert the whole process and offer nothing in the way of support to the Palestinians, bar anti-Semitism. It is a tragedy that there is such stupidity amongst certain Palestinian 'intellectuals' that they are incapable of seeing what stares them in the face. It is, in many ways, itself a sign of the weakness and desperation of Palestinians that some of their number now cavort with Atzmon, seeking some easy and quick route to independence. The latter writes:
‘You are right suggesting that some settler states drift away from their respective motherlands; however, Israel didn’t drift away from any motherland because it has never had a motherland. Zionism was never a colonial project in that sense — The colonial paradigm is a spinBut back to Alan Hart, who writes in the vein of ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’. Clearly I have got the old goat’s goat!
Interestingly enough, many of those who enthusiastically support the “colonial paradigm”, were also very quick to denounce the work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on the Israeli Lobby. If Mearsheimer and Walt are correct, and I think that they are, then it is Jewish power which we have to confront….’
From: Alan Hart
To: tony greenstein
Cc: Dr. Gabriele Weber
Sent: Wednesday, 7 September 2011, 9:00
You are outrageous. I ask to be and should be judged only by what I SAY AND WRITE FOR MYSELF. With your silly, truly infantile, guilt by asociation smear of me you are no better, perhaps even far worse, than a deluded Zionist monster. I have been wondering for a long time where, really, you are coming from, and what, really, your game is.
As I will be making clear in my Freiburg speech, I have two driving motivations. One is to contribute to the understanding needed if there is ever to be an acceptable minimum of justice for the Palestinians and without which I think the Zionist not Jewish state will take us all to hell. (My task on this front is to expose Zionism's propaganda lies with the documented facts and truth of history). My other driving motivation is to contribute to the understanding needed to stop Holocaust II, shorthand for another great turning against the Jews, provoked by Israel's arrogance of power, it's contempt for international law and its insufferable self-righteousness, which Harkabi said was the biggest real threat to Israel. (We are currently witnessing a rising, global tide of anti-Israelism and it was Harkabi who warned that what starts out as anti-Israelism will at a point be transformed into anti-Semitism - unless, I say, the Westerners among whom most Jews live are made aware of the diference betwen Judaism and Zionism).
Incidentally, Gilad Atzmon is not a holocaust denier. In my view one of his problems, I have told him this, is that he sometimes says things in a way that lays him open to being misinterpreted. I imagine that most Jews don't want to know what he is really saying, just as they don't want to know the facts and truth of history as I have documented and present them.
PS TO GABI: Please circulate this.
I have no problem with being outrageous. Outrage is far better than docility and diplomacy.
The accusation of guilt by association is untrue. I haven’t accused you of denying the holocaust. What I did say on my blog is that you are speaking alongside someone who does deny the holocaust. In so doing you are negating everything you have said and written about.
Atzmon’s whole past record, defence of open holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen and Israel Shamir, his consorting with Michel Renouf, his constant attacks on Jewish anti-Zionists and his ludicrous assertion that opposing Zionism as a Jew makes you a Zionist (familiar?)
You can continue wondering what my ‘game’ is if you wish but I am quite clear about what it is. If you are still unclear you can reference my letters in today’s Guardian and yesterday’s Independent.
My motives are the same as those which led me to participate in the disruption of the Jerusalem Quartet 18 months ago. Perhaps you should question the motives of someone who describes the Academic Boycott as ‘book burning’, who does his best, whilst purportedly congratulating us on the BBC Proms action, to criticise us as ‘not ordinary’ etc. and who never fails to attack Jews in the Palestine solidarity movement as 5th columnists and ‘Gatekeepers’.
Leaving aside Atzmon’s most recent comments on the holocaust in his ‘Truth, History & Integrity essay, the title of his talk at Freiburg, when I first came into contact with him he was defending Paul Eisen’s Holocaust Wars (I suggest you read it) which defended Ernst Zundel, not on free speech grounds but because Eisen believed ex-Nazis had been done an injustice. This to Atzmon was a ‘great text’. I was an ‘Elder’, the same Hitlerian term used for members of the Judenrat.
I have never questioned your motivation which is why it is, in your words, silly to question mine. If anyone is an Israeli state asset it is the person who quotes the President of the Board of Deputies, Anthony Julius, to attack Jewish anti-Zionists.
Atzmon’s problem is not one of misinterpretation or poor English. It is, if anything, that he seeks to hide the racist kernel of his argumentation behind an undergrowth of philosophical twaddle. You say most Jews don’t want to understand what he is saying. The problem is that he says very little other than he attributes most disasters, such as the financial crisis, to Jews, hence his grovelling apology to John Reynolds, which you can read about in my handy guide to his writings on my blog.
I also don't take my cue from Yehoshafat Harkabi, who was first and foremost an Israeli Arabist who wanted to preserve Zionism not destroy it.
This Conference cannot and will not be of any help to the Palestinians. It will only massage the egos of those who participate. To hold a conference, in which the key speaker conflates suppression of holocaust denial with that of the Nakba can only damage the cause of the Palestinians. And to do so in Germany of all places suggests a level of idiocy unsurpassed.