Thursday, 2 June 2011

Colin Bell - A good example of the anti-Semitism and Zionism of Gilad Atzmon's Supporters

'Go Back to Tel Aviv' the Zionism of Atzmonism

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Colin Bell but he wrote to me at an e-mail address associated with this blog, but which I rarely use. So there was a delay in responding. He asked me what I had to fear from Atzmon and I replied nothing but that wasn’t a reason for not opposing him. I have to admit I was brusque with him, since he has an obsession about ‘Jewishness’.

It is also clear, despite trying to teach him, that he knows nothing about Zionism if he queries whether Lord Shaftesbury, a key Evangelical Christian in Britain, was a Zionist. Herzl only held his conference in 1897 so he couldn’t have been! In fact the 1st Aliyah took place in 1882 following the Odessa pogrom amongst others in Czarist Russia in 1881 and the formation of Hovvei Zion by Leon Pinsker. In fact the first Zionist pamphlet was not Herzl’s der Judenstaat in 1895 but Moses Hess’s Rome & Jerusalem in 1862.

Of course there was no reason by Bell should know this but since he didn’t he should go off and read a little before spouting his Atzmonite nonsense. Zionism didn’t just spring out of Herzl’s head. It was a movement or political current that had been steadily growing throughout the 19th century, mainly at the urging of non-Jews.

There is a good chapter ‘The Forerunners’ in Walter Lacquer’s History of Zionism on the origins of Zionism. In 1839 a series of articles in The Globe, a London newspaper which was the ‘mouthpiece’ of the Foreign Office and Palmerston, advocated Jewish settlement in the region of Syria and Palestine. In 1862, quite by coincidence, another Zionist pamphlet Drishat was written by one of the first religious Zionists, Rabbi Kalischer. In 1870 the agricultural school of Mikveh Yisrael was formed, and was where a famous (photoshopped!) photograph of Herzl and the German Kaiser Wilhelm II was taken (see Desmond Stewart’s excellent biography of Herzl for details). In 1882 the first settlement of the Biluim, taken from the verse in the Bible ‘rise O house of Jacob.’

The point is that the religious intonation, ‘next year in Jerusalem’ said every Passover, was just a spiritual longing which meant, as Bernard Lazarre, the famous Dreyfusard and anarchist, who broke with Herzl, a desire to be free. It was given political significance by Zionism.

However if you are a simple Atzmonite then all this is besides the point. It’s all to do with ‘Jewishness’ and has no connection with the real world. So we have Colin Bell on the one hand wittering on about ‘Jewishness’ and how terrible Zionism is and the other hand telling me, like the good anti-semite he is, to ‘go back to Tel Aviv’ despite the fact that I’ve only been there once, over 40 years ago!

This is though a good example of how anti-Semitism and Zionism are like siamese twins, each dependent on the other.

Tony Greenstein

From: tony greenstein
To: Colin Bell

Colin Bell,

Your last comment, that I
'should go back to Tel Aviv' confirms that you are a racist and an anti-semite, since I have never lived in Israel. So being Jewish means I should 'go back' to Israel. This was of course the slogan of the fascists in the '30's and of course many Jews did exactly that. The consequence being the establishment of the Israeli state.
So, as with your mentor, Gilad Atzmon, when I scratch the surface out comes a Zionist who believes all Jews should 'go to Tel Aviv'. And like all Atzmon supporters you have nothing to contribute or say apart from your obsession with Jewishness.

I won't however return the compliment of accusing you of working for Mossad or under cover since it is obvious you are too thick for even the stupidest 'intelligence' agency to make much use of.

Your comments are a textbook example of how anti-semitism morphs into Zionism and so I shall distribute this widely in order that people can see a real living example and blog on it later.
Probably your only moment of fame in an otherwise useless life.

tony greenstein

From: Colin Bell

To: tony greenstein

Sent: Thu, 2 June, 2011 19:46:50
Subject: Re: zionism = racism

As a final word Mr Greenstein,
My interaction with you has confirmed to me that you are a fraud.
I think you are 'working under cover' ?
How do you afford the lifestyle you lead unless you are being financed by someone ?
Mossad perhaps ?
The positions you take up over Israel etc are very inconsistent.
Go back to Tel Aviv Mr Greenstein.

Yours sincerely

Colin Bell

On 31 May 2011, at 03:27, tony greenstein wrote:
I will answer in coloured print.

Mr Greenstein,

I will answer your questions and then finish !

In your previous response you said that you 'spoke as a Jew' at the Unison National Conferences of 2008, & 2009.

Why 'as a Jew' ? Why not as 'a concerned human being' ?

Because unlike you I wished to see the motion passed and to defeat the Zionists' arguments. It was a collective decision. It was rather a good way of visibly defeating Zionist accusations of 'anti-semitism.' Most conference delegates thought so too. Hence why it was done today at the UCU Conference where an extremely important motion (see blog) was passed. The difference between us is that you are more preciously concerned with abstract notions of what is proper rather than wishing to take the struggle forward.

Thuggery and brutality against the Palestinians is as nasty as thuggery and brutality against any group of people
your statement suggests it is somehow 'different', but that 'even a Jew' [such as yourself] is concerned at the level of suffering of the Palestinians
as if you somehow deserve 'extra kudos' for this [more than say if I were to express concern - as a non-Jew]

I am not interested in your interpretations, but they are nonetheless wrong

I am not wishing to enter into a competition with you

My perception is that Jewish people [typically] stress their Jewishness at every opportunity
why ?

Gilad seems to me to be questioning this 'separation mindset'

I think it needs to be questioned

see above

Your defence of anything 'Jewish' is extreme and aggressive

and sounds to me to be remarkably similar to the tactics employed by apologists for Israel

ie. NO-ONE is allowed to question anything Jewish - unless they themselves are Jewish.

I have never said that and my questioning is far more effective than your hero worship of Atzmon.

Isn't that 'setting yourself apart' ?

Do you believe that the state of Israel 'has a right to exist' ?

I don't accept that any state has the 'right' to exist. It's not a human being but I've never accepted the right of a 'Jewish' State to exist. That should have been obvious to you.

because if you do; you are a zionist [ of some sort]

I do not mean that I think Israel will suddenly just disappear

I am questioning its 'RIGHT to exist'

When one considers the way it came into being I do not accept that it has a right to exist
[I do nonetheless accept that it is a 'fact on the ground']

I am not questioning the right of Jewish people to co-exist in the land of Palestine

You like to enlist famous names Mr Greenstein

I am not quite sure what Bob Dylan has got to do with anything, he seems to be quite a 'free spirit' to me;

it seems that you are the Zionist since Dylan is and has been consciously aiding the Zionist movement, not least by his breaking of the cultural boycott, which Atzmon also opposes.


I am not sure that Lord Shaftesbury was really a zionist [I realize that some say he was]
unfortunately he died some 12 years BEFORE the political movement of zionism was created [ie. 1897] which creates certain problems when it comes to labelling him 'a zionist'.

Your ignorance creates no problem. The first Aliya (wave of immigration) to Palestine was that of the Biluim in 1882 and Hovvei Zion was formed in 1881 and Rishon Le Zion, the first settlement in 1871.

When extremist christians use christian symbols as their 'moniker', I think it is a reasonable question for someone to then ask "what exactly is meant by 'christian' ?"

No what you ask, if indeed you bother, is what THEY mean by Christian.

The same applies to 'Jewish'.

You are too defensive Mr Greenstein; you could 'loosen' a bit

Are you saying that Jewish people [typically] do not claim to be 'the chosen people' ?

In certain situations they might, just as the Afrikaaners considered themselves chosen and the Blacks were the people of Ham. The question is what situation. Try reading a bit more widely about colonialism and then you will find out that all colonists thought of themselves as superior and therefore chosen and it therefore has nothing to do with the Jewish/Protestant/Catholic badge but to do with material circumstance.

Gilad is a bit 'provocative' at times but that is not always such a bad thing I do not understand why that annoys you to the extent that it does ?

I have never heard [or read] Gilad say anything in favour of zionism.

Clearly you haven't read my essay or closely enough. Try the essay on the Bund, where he is consistently favourable to Zionism or his favourable commentary on Antony Julius's attack on Jewish anti-Zionists (now why would the new President of the Board of Deputies write a long essay in 2 parts attacking us? just try thinking)

Can I join the 'Jewish anti-zionist Group' [as a non-Jew] ?

No. You are sympathetic to a racist and don't even recognise racism when it stares you in the face. Jewish groups are there to maximise support for the Palestinians, nothing more. We work with non-Jews and don't question as to why someone defines themselves as Jewish. Which is why people like Ghada Karmi and Sue Blackwell, who are not Jewish, attended our founding conference as equals.

I suspect not; then surely you are 'setting yourselves apart' ?

see above

How can you give opinions 'as a Jew' when you contend that, as far as you are concerned, there is no such thing as 'Jewishness' ? I don't understand.

It's not the only thing u don't understand. Being Jewish isn't dependent on Atzmon's nonsensical racial formulation.

You say that Marx's writings on 'The Jewish Question' was 'a critique of the religion primarily'.
So presumably you are saying that 'there is more to 'Jewishness' than mere religion ?
Yet a few sentences before this you were asserting that "there is no such thing as 'Jewishness'", and that to suggest that there is is 'racist' !!?
Again, I do not understand.

You will understand more, assuming you understand it to begin with, if you read Abram Leon's 'Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation'. Then all your nonsense about 'Jewishness' and reducing being Jewish to an essentialist condition will fall into place. Religion reflects material surroundings and functions. The Jewish religion reflected the changed fortunes of Jews. As circumstances changed and the role of Jews changed, so did the religion. Try reading someone who knew something as opposed to an ignoramus like Atzmon who knows nothing.

What makes you feel so certain about 'how little aware Marx was of how the Jewish masses were becoming proletarianised and pauperised' ? How could you possibly know such a thing ?? Did you ask him ? [I am not quite sure what you mean by that anyway]

Because it is apparent from his essay that he only grasped this tenuously. There was no reason why he should have known anything about the mass of Jews in the Pales of Settlement. But Marxism is a form of analysis, a means of understanding the world, not in terms of bourgeois ideology or its fragments (like Jewishness). It isn't a bible. You quote Marx as if he wrote the Gospel but Marx always warned against this reification. Idolatry is for heathens.

Since I was mentioning the fact that Marx [the philosopher] was intrigued by the meaning of 'Jewishness' and you seem to hate Gilad for pondering the meaning of 'Jewishness' I don't see how my observation is 'out of context' it seems very relevant to me. If Gilad is worthy of hatred for his pondering; why not Marx ?

I don't hate Atzmon, I have contempt for him but that's different.

I don't agree with 'everything' that anyone says and that includes Gilad but I do not feel the need to hate them for expressing a different view than my own [I think that Gilad comes up with some very interesting observations] nor would I wish to 'intimidate them into silence' That smacks of 'fear' to me however much you wish to deny it.

I don't doubt that you find his meanderings interesting. I find them boring and unoriginal.

Finally, if you really do wish to see a secular state in Palestine for ALL the people then we are perhaps not so different.

I do not understand how the antics of you and your associates in attempting to 'close down' the talk on May 3rd in any way helped the Palestinian cause.

I don't recall trying to close down Atzmon's talk. All I did was expose the fact that a 'panel' to debate Atzmon's concept of Jewishness did nothing to support the Palestinians, quite the contrary and the academics on board seemed to agree.

Rather I think it attempted to re-inforce the notion that Palestine is a taboo subject
because the notion of 'Jewishness' is at the very heart of the project to colonize the land of Palestine Your thinking is too 'black and white' for me Mr Greenstein.

I suspect any thinking is a bit much for you Colin.

Colin Bell

On 28 May 2011, at 17:41, tony greenstein wrote:

I've never said I was different because I'm Jewish. Quote where I've said that. This is part of the Atzmon poison. To make people take their eye off solidarity with the Palestinians and concentrate on Jews per se. It's a political ignorance that ends up in the fatuous statement of Atzmon that Zionism and the Israeli state have 'absolutely' nothing to do with colonialism. Presumably AJ Balfour (if you've heard of him), Palmerstone, Lord Shaftesbury and all the other imperialists from the mid-19th century onwards, were supportive of the 'Jews return to Palestine' because they were genuine romantics at heart.

And because the focus is on Jews and 'Jewishness' and colonialism is excused, there is really no need for a Boycott of Israel because it isn't Israel that is really responsible but diaspora Jews who control Israel. Oh yes, it's all in Atzmon's turgid writings but I doubt if you've read them either.

Atzmon may be posing some questions, but they are the wrong ones, and he is not a disinterested party but one keen on dividing the PS movement up into Jewish and non-Jewish. Or maybe it's debate that he is really after. Perhaps a debate on wh ether the holocaust occurred or whether we should use terms like 'socialist jewnity' and other little racist quips. No doubt we can have a debate on the 'n' word while we are at it. I prefer debating over matters of importance, not the racial fantasies of your hero.

Yes I know I could have fooled you. It's like taking candy from a kid, hence why it's not worth the effort.

There was no proscribing of the meeting. I couldn't care if it took place. We simply suggested to those who did have something to say, viz. the 2 academics who pulled out, that sharing a platform with Atzmon wasn't compatible with support for the Palestinians or opposition to Zionism. They seem to have agreed but I doubt you really understand the issues since debating Atzmon's obsessions is more important to you than solidarity.

Since I've never talked of a 'Jewish perspective' there is not much point arguing with you, since you invent things to find something to say. You are really a complete idiot. Either try reading what I say or go and find someone else to listen to your drivel. For the last time, being Jewish to me is only important when opposing racism - be it Zionism or any other form of racism. Period. Got that? Sunk in to your thick head?

And the reason why I tire of fools like you is you achieve nothing except to set back support for the Palestinians. Other than that you do nothing because you represent nothing. When some of us try to build the BDS movement in the trade unions we have to pretend that people like you don't exist because otherwise we would have great difficulty in building such support. It's bad enough with Palestinian quislings like Abbas but you don't even have his excuses.

I'm well aware, as I've already said, of what Marx wrote in the 1840's and indeed what Moses Hess wrote in the 1860's. But surprising as it may seem the world has changed since then and Jews who existed then have disappeared. Indeed they were already disappearing as feudalism gave way to capitalism in Eastern Europe. So if you are clinging to Marx I'd think again, he won't provide u with a liferaft.

Yes Jews were opposed to Zionism until the holocaust that Atzmon questions. I guess the murder of millions somewhat changed things. Surprising isn't it? Any other insights?
tony greenstein

From: Colin Bell

To: tony greenstein

Sent: Sat, 28 May, 2011 11:41:47
Subject: Re: zionism = racism

Mr Greenstein,

I wish I could say that it was worth the wait. Unfortunately I can't. I never thought it would be so easy to dismantle your argument. Your response is unnecessarily convoluted, complex, and confused. This is why I contend that your whole position is actually a sham. You fail miserably to construct a coherent argument.

On the subject of 'Jewish identity'; the point is that you, and other Jewish people, set yourselves apart it doesn't come from me I am not saying that you are different because you are Jewish
you are the people who keep stressing the notion that you are so different and why are you different ? Because you are Jewish [according to you] Yet by some quirky thinking you come to the conclusion that everything is somehow coming from me !!?

In the talk on May 3rd Gilad was simply posing questions and seeking to debate possible answers That is how one conducts a discussion on anything or do you disagree ? Meanwhile you and your associates sought to 'proscribe' the meeting and yet you assert the idea that it is you and your friends who stand for 'freedom, and liberty' You could have fooled me.

At every turn you choose to interpret everything from 'a Jewish perspective' as opposed to the perspective of being 'just another human being' in other words from the confines of a 'closed club'
a club for which anyone who is not 'Jewish' is refused entry and you don't think that this is 'elitist' and 'racist' ? [I wonder; do you breathe 'Jewish air' ? or do you breathe the same air as the rest of us mere mortals ? we wouldn't want to contaminate you after all] Yet Gilad, because he questions this 'ghetto mentality' IS racist for doing so. I think you have got the 'cart before the horse' and if some previous speakers were so easily intimidated; that is their affair.
If most Jews opposed zionism [as you contend] there wouldn't be a 'Jewish state'.

Yes, I agree, zionism was/ is supported by other groups in the creation, and expansion, of their 'Jewish' project but these other groups don't run Israel do they ?

You profess to be an 'anti-zionist' and yet you use the self same language as the zionists in denouncing people who challenge your assertions. ie. 'Racist', 'anti-semite', and 'self-hater'.
Gilad wonders about the meaning of 'Jewishness' [as did Karl Marx] and you freely admit that you 'haven't got a clue' as to what 'Jewishness' is; yet you feel qualified to denounce him as a 'racist' for examining the possible meanings of such a concept !? That simply doesn't make sense.

[You seem to have conveniently overlooked the fact that the 'raison d'etre' of 'project Israel' is that it is 'a Jewish state' so presumably 'Jewish' must mean something ? or do you disagree ?]
Marx wrote extensively on 'The Jewish Question' in 1843 and 1844, examining the meaning of 'Jewishness'. Among other things he questioned why mainstream christian society should concern itself with 'Jewish emancipation' when 'the inherent "partiality" of Judaism' is in complete contradiction with christian notions of 'universality'. Marx went on to conclude that 'the social emancipation of the Jew would be the emancipation of society from Judaism',
in other words Jewishness, by it's very nature, is both 'partial and exclusive' as opposed to 'universal and inclusive'.

That doesn't sound very different from what Gilad is saying to me. I think you need to re-read Marx [if indeed you have ever read him in the first place] Take down the barriers Mr Greenstein, we are not all savages out here. As for 'not suffering fools gladly'; I would stay away from the mirror !

Colin Bell

On 27 May 2011, at 02:30, tony greenstein wrote:


It is true that I don’t suffer fools gladly and I am therefore somewhat impatient with those who don’t get it or refuse to get it at times. No matter let’s deal with the substance of your argument, such as it is.

Firstly as I’ve already said, a reply to my googlemail account won’t be picked up for days or more You say that ‘There was absolutely nothing 'racist' in what Gilad had to say during that talk.’ I wasn’t at the talk and I’ve only watched 20 minutes of his video but he did ask rhetorically, after rejecting the idea that Zionism had anything to do with colonialism ‘Is Zionism what it is. Because ‘Jews’ are what they are?’

Now how can you identify a whole group by virtue of religion/race/ethnicity as subscribing to one particular ideology? Not Israeli Jews or even a part thereof but all Jews. The fact that most Jews opposed Zionism when it first began and its most vociferous supporters were Christian seems lost on him. See So that is racist and anti-Semitic for a start.

You say that I am ‘a zionist bigot’, but of course offer no argument in support of that statement. So why am I a Zionist? Having opposed Zionism for over 40 years what is your basis for this silly assertion? Maybe it was moving a resolution calling for a unitary democratic secular state at the 1977 NUS Conference was the action of a ‘Zionist bigot’? Or maybe co-founding Palestine Solidarity Campaign? Or maybe it was forming the Labour Committee on Palestine which successfully moved an emergency motion to the 1982 Labour Party conference supporting a democratic secular state in Palestine? Or the countless times I have argued on campuses, stalls, meetings etc. against Zionism? Or the policies of the student union where I was Vice President or that of Sussex University and many other educational establishments where I have spoken at Union General Meetings?

Or perhaps it was speaking as a Jew, quite deliberately, at the 2008 and 2009 UNISON national conference in support of Boycott? The decision that I should speak as someone Jewish was a decision of the movers of the motion as a group.

I realise that my record probably doesn’t stand comparison with your magnificent record but that’s how the cookie crumbles. So tell me. Why am I a Zionist for supporting Boycott successfully in my union and Atzmon, who opposed the academic boycott is an anti-Zionist? And if you didn’t already know his opposition to the academic boycott was because those supporting it in UCU also oppose Atzmon’s anti-Semitism because they know, living in the real world, that anti-Semitism means death to support for the Palestinians in anything other than your little gatherings of conspiracy theorists.

And calling me a Zionist when I'm a Jewish anti-Zionist is in itself anti-Semitic. I'm sure even you can work that one out.

Jewish identity politics are no more tribal than any form of identity politics. Zionism is clearly tribal but so is Wahhabism. Likewise the Afrikaaners (clue – they were also settler colonists).
I’m not aware that Jewish anti-Zionists do set themselves apart. They are part of the general Boycott movement. Jews 4 Boycotting Israeli Goods started off the Ahava protest and in that they were joined by many others, but clearly not yourself. There’s nothing elitist in that.
Yes the symbols of Zionism are Jewish. Just as the symbol of Protestant supremacy in Ireland were Christian and the symbols of the American settlers were cowboy hats and wagons. The fact that Zionism has used Jewish religious symbolism doesn’t mean that those symbols were responsible for Zionism. I know it’s a difficult argument but you see, as Bob Dylan observed, every state or nation at war uses god on their side.

The fact that Zionism claims that it represents all Jews, except the ‘traitors’ and ‘self-haters’ (like the protesters who got beaten up at the Aipac conference heckling Netanyahu a couple of days go) doesn’t mean it does. For one thing there is also a Jewish identity that looks to traditions of Jewish anti-racism. Zionism may be a majority current among Jews worldwide but its grip is slowly loosening. There are other currents and in that sense it’s signficant that Atzmon rails against the Jewish Bund which represented the Polish Jewish masses and which was anti-Zionist. Atzmon actually welcomes the triumph of Zionism within world Jewry which is reason enough to suspect him. Atzmon represents a reflection of Zionist racism and claims this as an insight!

I haven’t claimed to be of any ‘chosen people’ and therefore don’t know what you are talking about. Zionists may make such a claim but I don’t.

What is Jewishness? Haven’t a clue. Atzmon is the one who uses the term not me. I suspect he means a metaphysical substance that binds all Jews together. It is an ingredient of his racist outpourings but I don’t recognise that there is any such thing.

I’m well aware of Marx’s essay On the Jewish Question. It was firstly in the context of a debate with Otto Bauer about why Jews should be granted equal rights and be emancipated. It was a critique of the religion primarily. Marx was very little aware of how the Jewish masses were becoming proletarianised and pauperised. Mere quotes out of context say little or nothing.
I’ve said what I stand for – a democratic, secular state in Palestine for all who live there. The question is rather what you stand for.

I'm copying this to the J-Big list as an example of the muddle and confusion of Atzmon's supporters.

Tony Greenstein

Mr Greenstein,

What an aggressive attitude, and you are a 'friend' of Palestinians and a man who wants to make the world a better place ?? are you serious ? You are highly aggressive and extremely insulting to me, someone you have never met in your life I think you are a fraud. and I think you are 'pretending' to be anti zionist There was absolutely nothing 'racist' in what Gilad had to say during that talk only a zionist bigot [like you] would say otherwise

What Gilad is saying is that the 'tribalism' of Jewish identity politics leads them to consistently set themselves apart from everyone else. Everything is pretexted by 'Jewish' and there is a sort of 'elitism' involved in this. He questions why they feel the need to continually set themselves apart in this way ? As he said at the meeting, 'The symbols on the planes, tanks, etc., that bombarded Gaza, and the Lebanon were 'Jewish symbols' NOT 'zionist symbols'
or do you disagree ?

So to ask the question 'What exactly is 'Jewishness' ? seems like a fair question to me.
All this carnage is wrought in the name of 'Jewish' after all isn't it ? I think it is a very pertinent question; because if Jewish people continually stress the idea that they are somehow 'different' from the rest of us whilst simultaneously claiming to be the 'chosen' people .... they shouldn't be surprised when people view them as being different and a threat. [They seem to me to 'want to have their cake, and eat it' !!] This view of being different [never mind superior] is a form of 'class division' as far as I am concerned and I notice that the man most famous for his opposition to 'class division' [Karl Marx] wrote extensively on 'The Jewish Question' and the historic problems associated with Jewish 'partiality'; in both 1843 and 1844.

Marx questioned the notion of the 'effectively self-centred , internally cohesive, practical-empirical partiality of Jewishness'. He went on to equate 'the spirit of Judaism' with being 'the spirit of Capitalism'. My point is that Marx [as a radical philosopher] was intrigued by the 'meaning of Jewishness' in these writings. [check it out you leftie !!]

No doubt if Marx were alive today you would be accusing him of being 'dim', 'anti-semitic', and a 'racist' ? Yet you claim to be a 'man of the Left' ?? I think you [and many of your chums] are actually closet fascists; you want to tell everyone what to think. Well, not me Mr Greenstein.
I think what I want to think whether you like it or not. I look at and question whatever I want to look at and question; I do not take any notice of people like you. Why don't you 'come out of the closet' and reveal where you really stand ? What exactly is it that you are opposed to Mr Greenstein ? [or perhaps even more importantly; "What exactly do you stand FOR ?"]

Colin Bell
PS. It took you long enough to respond.

You mistake fear for opposition. Both academics involved in the academic pulled out from speaking with this racist. A couple of minor figures were added but we didn't much care as we had made our point. No one with any reputation to defend will associate with a racist because people who are not as dim as you will understand that racism is not something likely to be of benefit to the Palestinians.

It is unfortunate that Atzmon's supporters are so thick

Tony Greenstein

Dear Mr Greenstein,

Just for information; I attended the talk with Gilad Atzmon last night and ALL 3 of the billed panellists turned up, the debate went on for the whole of the alloted time and there were so many people at the meeting that some couldn't sit down (plus as we left we bumped into 4 people who hadn't been able to find the event - due to the fact that it had moved - there were probably more)

It was a very interesting discussion.

Perhaps you should buy Gilad's book 'The wandering who ?' Then you might understand what he is saying. Don't live your life in fear.

Yours sincerely
Colin Bell


  1. your good friend13 June 2011 at 21:12

    It occurred to me recently that the Palestinian solidarity discourse is spiritually, ideologically and intellectually driven by some very misleading terminology: crucial notions such as Zionism, colonialism and apartheid (heard in every discussion, and present in every text book about the conflict), are either confusing, or even delusional: I believe that they are there to actually block any attempt to grasp the true spirit and ideologies that drive the Jewish State rather than to clarify the situation.


    Many of us tend to refer to Zionism as the ideological driving force behind Israel.

    But make no mistake: Israel is not Zionism, and Zionist ideology and politics have very little at all to do with Israeli politics or practice.

    It must be understood that Israel and Zionism are, by now, two distinct categories. While Zionism was defined by its founders as an attempt to ‘transform the Diaspora Jew into an authentic and civilised human being’, Israel can, nowadays, only be seen as the pragmatic product of such an ideology.

    It may surprise many of you to hear that these days, Israel is not driven or even particularly inspired by Zionism any longer -it is, instead, engaged in self-maintenance. More so, Israelis are hardly even that familiar with Zionist ideology. For most Israelis Zionism is little more than a dated and archaic concept – it may have historical significance -but it has zero meaning in daily life.

    Zionism is, in fact, a Jewish Diaspora discourse. It is there to differentiate between world Jewry that largely supports Israel, and a few sporadic Jewish secular voices who want to maintain their Jewish national identity while opposing the Jewish State.

  2. your good friend13 June 2011 at 21:13

    The Zionist/ anti Zionist debate is, in fact, a debate that takes place within the Jewish Diaspora, and not within Israel itself. It belongs to the realm of Jewish identity politics. It has very little political significance out of that context.

    Because Israel and Israelis are actually impervious to Zionism, ‘Anti Zionist’ activity and ideology have very little impact at all on Israel and Israelis.[1] Israelis are only concerned with direct actions against their Jewish State, and for them, sanctions are a matter that concern and worry them a great deal. Israelis though, are hardly concerned at all with seeking solutions to the so called ‘Jewish Question.’ From an Israeli perspective the Jewish state is the ultimate solution for the ‘Jewish Question.’ I guess that from a realistic and pragmatic perspective, one may have to agree, Israel didn’t really solve the ‘Jewish Question’ it just moved it to a new place.

    Why do we then, continue to make this crude mistake, and always refer to Israeli crimes as a Zionist symptom? Why don’t we refer directly and openly to the ‘Jewish State’, because at the end of the day, this is how Israel defines itself.

    The answer is simple: it is because we really do not want to offend anyone. We accept that Jews have suffered all through their history and we accept their unique sensitivities. Hence, voluntarily, we self-censor ourselves. We voluntarily give up on our capacity to think freely, coherently, openly and critically.

  3. your very good friend13 June 2011 at 21:13


    Zionism is not colonialism either. As much as many activists around us insist that we must regard Zionism as a colonial project, the truth must be stated: colonialism defines itself by having a clear material relationship between a ‘mother state’ and a ‘settler state’. In the case of Zionism however, it is impossible to determine what was, or is, the ‘Jewish mother State’. In fact there is no Jewish mother State and there has never been one. Zionism is not a colonial project and it has never been one. It is indeed true that the Jewish State exhibits some colonial symptoms.[2] But then, some brain cancer patients also exhibit some symptoms of migraine. A proper diagnosis aims at discovering the true cause behind symptoms. To diagnose is to trace a true disease rather than provide a superficial explanation that may be linked to a number of sporadic symptoms.

    But it is also clear why so many of us love the colonial paradigm, despite it being flawed: the followers of the colonial paradigm accept that Israelis are not different from the British, French or Dutch; they just happen to celebrate their ‘colonial’ expansionist symptoms ‘100 years after everyone else’. Also the colonial paradigm promises a ‘solution’ at the end of the road — a post colonial reconciliation is just a matter of time, they stress.

    Again, I am sorry to disappoint so many people I really care about, but I have to say it: Zionism is original and unique of its kind, and it has no precedent in history. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit into any materialist model, for the aspiration behind Zionism was, and still is, spiritually driven.

    So why do we continue to make this crude mistake, and always refer to Zionism as colonialism? Why don’t we refer to Zionism as what it is; a totally unique Jewish ideological project? Simple, because we do not want to offend some of the very few Jews who are kind enough to support Palestine. We accept their sensitivities, and voluntarily remain quiet about it all. We would do whatever it takes to keep everybody happy. After all, we are a peace movement.

  4. your very very good friend13 June 2011 at 21:14


    And what about apartheid? Is Israel an apartheid State? In Israel we clearly witness racial separation and legal discrimination. However, I would argue that Israel is not an apartheid system for apartheid was set in place to exploit the indigenous peoples, yet, to keep them living on the land. Israel, on the other hand, is there to destroy the indigenous population - the Israelis would be relieved if they woke up one morning to find out that the Palestinians had simply left the region.

    Those who are Naïve enough to buy into the apartheid narrative probably believe that Israel may collapse soon, because this is what history teaches us about apartheid. Again, we like the apartheid model because it makes Israel look (relatively) ‘ordinary’. We do not want to offend anyone, especially the few Jews who support us.

    But here is a question that I must address to righteous Jews and fellow Palestinian supporters around the world: do you really believe that the discourse of the struggle against the Jewish State should be shaped by ‘Jewish sensitivities’?
    Was the fight against Nazism shaped by German sensitivities? Did we take on board the Afrikaners’ touchy spots when campaigning against the apartheid? Isn’t the time ripe to call a spade a spade? I do accept the crucial importance of Jews in this movement and I try to work with as many Jews as possible. Yet, I wonder, isn’t it time for Jews to overcome their sensitivities and look into the subject with open eyes? Isn’t the time ripe for all of us to do the same? Shouldn’t we question the supporters of the Jewish State, and ask exactly what Jewishness stands for?

    I believe that this is exactly what we have to do-for the sake of a better future in Palestine, we must openly engage in these crucial questions. I also believe that more than anyone else, it is Jews who must confront these questions. I would expect Jewish activists within our movement to lead this move rather than trying to silence it.

    [1] Zionism may be a useful term when referring to Jewish lobbying around the world. It may throw light on the activity of Sayanim around the world, and it may explain the inclination of some Brooklyn Jews to make Aliya. It may also explain why some Jewish Leftists join forces with rabid Zionist institutions as soon as someone questions what Jewishness stands for.

    [2] It can be reasonably argued that the relationships between Israel West Bank Settlers and the indigenous peoples could be understood in colonial terms.

  5. I shall respond to this outline of Atzmon's thesis tomorrow, as I want to go to bed now! Suffice to say I don't agree but I will give a full and considered response later.

    Colin is too modest to reveal that he subsequently rowed back on this thesis that I was a Zionist agent, funded by Mossad!

  6. your very very very good friend16 June 2011 at 08:09

    Either you are still sleeping.....
    Or your brainwashed mind is out of cells.

  7. Yes it is very remiss on me not to reply sooner. It is on the top of my agenda and I can only plead overwork but fear not I shall reply, though not at such length

  8. Colin Bell argues that Zionism is not a colonial project and Israel is not a settler-colonial state. This is a feature of the Atzmon/anti-Semitic discourse which seeks to explain Israel in terms of ‘Jewishness’ rather than simple material, political and economic forces.

    The Israeli state was created as a Jewish state as defined by its founders. There has been much argument as to what this has meant but Netanyahu has made it clear that it means Israel is a state of all Jews, wherever they live as opposed to a state of its own citizens.

    The Zionist Organisation, whose aim was a Jewish state, was responsible for bringing Israel into being. The institutions it established, such as the JNF had clearly a clear remit viz. to ‘redeem’ the land at the expense of the indigenous populaton.

    It may have escaped our good Atzmonite’s notice, but British imperialism was in the habit of establishing colonies in the 19th and 20th century. Often they were settler-colonial ones such as in South Africa and latterly in Palestine. There is nothing confusing about this except in the minds of anti-Semites and followers of Atzmon. The term Apartheid is one employed by Palestinians. Maybe they are confused and delusional. I think not. It means literally separate development and that would clearly apply in the occupied territories, where there are separate systems of law i.e. military rule for the Palestinians. But it also applies within Israel itself where Arabs receive very different treatment from Israeli Jews. There is segregation in every field. Be it land, employment, education or merely social. There is a deliberate policy to remove Arabs from ‘Jewish’ life and presence. This to me is Apartheid. If Mr Bell is still confused that is his problem.

    There is not intent in using such categories to resist the true ideology driving the Israeli state, rather to demystify it and show that it is typically colonial, as it itself used to claim, rather than being somehow ‘Jewish’. Colonists behaved much the same whatever their religion. It is the Atzmonites and other anti-semites who wish to pretend that Israel is the unique product of ‘Jewishness’.

    Zionism above all was a movement intent on creating a Jewish majority state, however ‘Jewish’ was defined. Zionist was rationalised as many things including an attempt to ‘transform the Diaspora Jew into an authentic and civilised human being’. Most of us are wary about how colonial and imperialist movements define themselves. The British Empire according to Rudyard Kipling was the ‘White Man’s Burden’. No doubt Bell accepts that too?

    Such a notion, implying Jews outside Israel were inauthentic human beings and uncivilised, was par for the course of anti-Semites and racists. That Zionism subscribed to this is not surprising but I don’t take my definitions from either Zionists or anti-Semites. Atzmon clearly does.

    Apparently ‘Israel is not driven or even particularly inspired by Zionism any longer -it is, instead, engaged in self-maintenance. More so, Israelis are hardly even that familiar with Zionist ideology. For most Israelis Zionism is little more than a dated and archaic concept – it may have historical significance -but it has zero meaning in daily life.’

  9. Really? So the continuing function of the Jewish National Fund, its refusal to allocate land to 93% of Palestinians is just a whim. In fact the JNF Law of 1953 and its Covenant with the State of Israel of 1961, whereby it did the dirty work of the State itself is just accidental? And the recent passing of a Communities Act to allow local ‘Jewish’ residents to bypass the High Court decision in Kadan is also accidental? And the raft of new measures like the Nakba Act is also incidental? And the open advocacy of transfer of the Arabs of Israel and the expansionist nature of Israel itself are also accidental? And the Judaification of the Negev and Galilee? Merely a passing whim of ‘self maintenance’ and nothing to do with the principle of Zionism that Israel must be a Jewish state above everything? Unfortunately Bell and Atzmon understand nothing of Zionism, hence their resort to crude anti-Semitic stereotypes.

    It is understandable that Colin Bell believes, having imbibed like his mother’s milk the words of Atzmon, that ‘Israel and Israelis are actually impervious to Zionism’. Yes Israel didn’t solve the Jewish question. It exacerbated it and the debate between Zionism and anti-Zionism is a debate between the existence of a racist and potentially genocidal movement and state and those who believe that Israel behaves as it does merely for pragmatic reasons.

    Colin Bell asks therefore why we ‘always refer to Israeli crimes as a Zionist symptom?’ Because as in South Africa a fairly unique state was created which privileges one section of the population, defined as ‘Jewish’ as opposed to another section of its citizens, non-Jews. That is what Zionism is about just as Loyalism in Northern Ireland tried the same and of course Apartheid in South Africa. This is why I say that Atzmon is not anti-Zionist although he pretends to be. He doesn’t understand Zionism and certainly his followers don’t.

    Bell asks ‘ Why don’t we refer directly and openly to the ‘Jewish State’, because at the end of the day, this is how Israel defines itself.’ Because I don’t take the self-definition of Zionism and its creation at its word! There is nothing about the Israel state that is inherently or intrinsically Jewish. It does not spring from the well-spring of the Talmud. If it did the question would raise, why now and not two thousand years ago? Why was Zionism formed and why did Jews emigrate to Palestine primarily in the first part of the 20th century? Colonialism might provide the answer and the Balfour Declaration is a clue.

    It has nothing to do with sensitivities to people and everything to do with understanding that Zionism was a political movement that was up to 1945 a minority amongst world Jewry. It was only Hitler and the holocaust Atzmon denies that changed that situation. Northern Ireland was defined as a Protestant state but did its discrimination against Catholics really arise from the Protestant religion or from British imperialism wanting a strategic base in Ireland?

    If Zionism is not a colonial project how come it sought first and foremost an alliance with imperialism? Herzl travelled Europe looking for such a sponsor – from the Czar of Russia to the Grand Duke of Baden to the German Kaiser, the King of Hungary, the Pope, many minor aristocrats and the Ottoman Sultan before finally trying to arrange the Uganda Project with British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain in 1903. It saw itself as a colonial project, it identified with people like Cecil Rhodes and Smuts in southern Africa. What possible reason is there for thinking it is not colonialist? Maybe Colin Bell should read up on the origins of the Israeli state. I can give him a list of books to be going on with so that he doesn’t write in such ignorance in future!

  10. But many of Zionism’s apologists also say that it is a ‘Jewish national liberation struggle’ not a form of colonialism. It is no surprise that Atzmon and his friends disagree.

    Colin Bell and Atzmon say that ‘colonialism defines itself by having a clear material relationship between a ‘mother state’ and a ‘settler state’. In the case of Zionism however, it is impossible to determine what was, or is, the ‘Jewish mother State’. In fact there is no Jewish mother State and there has never been one.’

    What is colonialism? Take Australia or South Africa. It involves settlers from outside, wherever they come from, invading the land, by force or surreptitiously, occupying and developing the land and resources and subjugating the indigenous population. In Africa this meant turning peasants into landless labourers through things like the hut tax. It is what colonialism does that defines it as such. The issue of a mother country is secondary, like the migraine analogy that Colin Bell/Atzmon employ. What mother country did the American settlers have after 1883? In the War of Independence they had kicked the British out. Were they no longer colonists? Was t his now no longer settler colonialism?

    And when the Voortreckers in 1831 began their sojourn into the heartland of South Africa, setting up the Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and Transvaal, were they not colonialists? They were escaping the British colonialists? Who was their mother country? Britain? But they never came from Britain but a mixture of European countries, especially the Netherlands. T hey even fought a war, the Boer War. Does that mean they weren’t colonists? Actually the stupid part of the British left under Hyndmann actually did believe this rubbish.

    So the statement that ‘Zionism is original and unique of its kind, and it has no precedent in history.’ is just nonsense. Zionism was modelled on European colonialism, not leas the Prussian model of 1913 as Gabriel Piterberg in ‘Returns of Zionism’ has explained. That Atzmon/Bell don’t understand or know anything of European colonialism explains why they feel the need for an anti-Semitic explanation instead. Neither the holocaust nor Zionism is exceptional or unique.

    Of course if you reject colonialism, then yes Zionism (which has now reapeared a category!) is indeed ‘a totally unique Jewish ideological project’. It is easy for the racist simpleton to believe that it is because Jews are bad, greedy, money men or whatever, that Israel is what it is. But I can point to far worse examples of human rights abuses, not least in Egypt, Bahrain today, Burma and Sri Lanka to name but a few. Jews aren’t particularly involved in those state, indeed the USA is primarily involved in 3 of the 4 examples.

    I don’t mind Atzmon/Bell ‘offend(ing) some of the very few Jews who are kind enough to support Palestine.’ If that is your purpose, to divide the Palestine solidarity movement into Jewish and non –Jewish then fine. Its not a question of our ‘sensitivities’ but whether there is to be an effective solidarity struggle or one riven by the divisions of racists. That is Atzmon’s goal and that is what Colin Bell parrotts without understanding.

    Bell/Atzmon nearly gets it right for once (after all a stuck clock is right twice a day). Yes Zionism was not concerned with exploitation. In fact the 2nd Aliyah from 1904-14 was explicitly a reaction against the 1st Aliyah (wave of emigration) that did in fact become European planters in Rishon Le Zion and the settlements of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. But Apartheid is about separation and Malan and Verwoerd, its ideological guides, were clear on the policy of bantustisation, i.e. removing the Black African population to areas of the country without resources of any independent means of survival and removing political rights from Black Africans who remained in Southern Africa. In fact it was a failure.

  11. But that is what the 2 States solution is about. Removing the Palestinians politically whilst utilising their land. In practice this does also involve exploitation but exploitation is not the sine qua non of Apartheid.

    The Apartheid model has been adopted by the Arabs of Israel and the Palestinian movement. Some of us try and relate to those we are in solidarity with.

    Bell/Atzmon asks whether or not ‘the discourse of the struggle against the Jewish State should be shaped by ‘Jewish sensitivities’?’ I’m not sure what this means or rather I think I do only too well. If by this is meant the sensitivitiy of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation then of course no. But Bell/Atzmon really mean Jewish anti-Zionists. If Israel is really the consequence of some Jewish genetic disorder then of course it is futile having anti-Zionist Jewish activists. Indeed they are as much the enemy as the Zionists and to Atzmon even more so.

    Again another idiot analogy. ‘Was the fight against Nazism shaped by German sensitivities?; I hope it was though I doubt it. But was there one German sensitivity? Who is meant by this? Anti-fascist Germans or Nazis? It is a Zionist argument that all Germans were Jew hating Nazis. That was the thesis of the execrable Daniel Goldhagen’s Germans: Hitler’s Willing Executioners. It was a book lambasted by serious academics but loved by the pro-Israel gutter press of the USA. Nice to know that Atzmon/Bell subscribe to such nostrums.

    Bell/Atzmon ask ‘Did we take on board the Afrikaners’ touchy spots when campaigning against the apartheid?’ Probably not though there were no Afrikaners outside South Africa. Whereas Israel claims to be a Jewish state not a state of all living in Israel. But was there anything inherent in being an Afrikaner that led to Apartheid? Was it inevitable that a society with Afrikaners in it must be an apartheid society? I suggest that the history of South Africa in the past 20 years suggests the answer is no. Separation from the indigenous population was a feature of ALL settler-colonial societies. The Rhodesian ‘Black Peril’, the fear of miscegenation, all White clubs in India, the examples are endless. What Israelis do is simply not unique.

    So yes, certainly call a spade a spade but first be sure that it is a spade and not a fork!


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