An Open Letter from Gilad Atzmon 22 June 2005
In the last two weeks I had been confronting a vicious smear campaign that was spearheaded by a few marginal and sporadic Jewish groups. Zionists together with some alleged left activists joined forces to stop me from appearing in Marxism 2005, a major Socialist gathering organized by the British SWP (Socialist Workers Party). The campaigners accused me of being a racist, an anti-semite and a holocaust denier. Anyhow, the SWP, a left institution that stands in the forefront of the fight against racism and fascism took stock of those accusations and treated them very seriously. They have now released a statement that makes it utterly clear that each and every one of those allegations are groundless (read below). I would appeal to you to be very suspicious whenever you come across these kinds of accusations. Labelling and smearing is a very common Zionist weapon. It is there to serve an Israeli political cause. I don't expect you to ignore those accusations when you come across them but rather to be careful and to judge for yourselves.
I would like as well to thank the SWP for their support all the way through.
The following statement from the Socialist Workers Party appears on their website at http://www.swp.org.uk/gilad.php, dated 21 June 2005:
There has been some controversy surrounding our invitation for the musician Gilad Atzmon to perform at Marxism 2005. One or two small groups are claiming that Gilad is an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. We would like to state the following:
- Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli born Jew who served in the Israeli Defence Force and who now lives in "self-exile" in Britain.
- He is an internationally acclaimed jazz musician whose album Exile won BBC Best Jazz Album of 2003.
The SWP would also like to make it clear, that we would never give a platform to a racist or fascist. Our entire history has been one of fierce opposition to fascist organisations like the National Front and the British National Party. We played a prominent role in setting up the Anti Nazi League in the mid-1970s and Unite Against Fascism two years ago.
One of our members, Blair Peach, was killed on an anti-fascist demonstration in west London in 1979. Our founding member, Tony Cliff, was Jewish and, like many of his generation, lost many members of his family in the Holocaust. Nazis in the British National Party and National Front have targeted our members for attack. In the last three weeks we have helped initiate two vigils in response to anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Manchester and east London. Across the country our members are involved in campaigns to defend asylum seekers, oppose police brutality and defend communities from scapegoating.
We have a record of opposing fascism, anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, that is second to none.
The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist. However, while defending Gilad's right to play and speak on public platforms that in no way means we endorse all of Gilad's views. We think that some of the formulations on his website might encourage his readers to feel that he is blurring the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti Zionism. In fact we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with.
We do not believe that Gilad should be "banned" from performing or speaking. "No Platform" is a principle that the left has always reserved for fascists and organised racists. Where other disagreements occur, the left, with the same vigour, has defended the right to freedom of speech, debate and the clash of ideas.
Gilad Atzmon has made the following statement (previously published on the same web page as the SWP statement above) refuting the allegations of his Zionist detractors:
This is to confirm that I am not a Holocaust denier, I have never denied the Nazi Judeocide and I do not have any intentions to do so. For me racism and Nazism are categorically wrong and it is that very realisation that made me into a devoted opponent of Israel and Zionism.
For me, Zionism, being a racist expansionist movement, is no different from Nazi ideology. In my writings, I try to suggest some alternative philosophical and ethical realisation of historical narratives and current world affairs. This of course applies to the Holocaust. I would argue that atrocities should be realised in ideological terms rather than in measurable positive terms.
Occasionally I question the impact of the Holocaust as a "means of justification". I try to scrutinise its role within western politics and discourse. In fact, I am not interested in the debate concerning the scale of Jewish casualties. As we all know, it wasn't only Jews who died in that bloody war and it isn't the number that makes the difference.
For me the Holocaust isn't a question of quantity but rather a moral lesson, it is search into the essence of being amongst others. These ideas make me very unpopular among Zionists and their supporters.
I may mention as well that I am a jazz musician and a novelist. I am not a politician; I have never been a member in any political party. I am acting independently. I am not associated with any political body and I do not intend to be associated with one in the foreseeable future. I deeply believe in an open intellectual exchange in which people with many different and opposing views can hear and be heard. I do believe that we must learn to listen to our opponents. Unless we do that we will never win. I would argue that any form of discourse is acceptable as long as it doesn't bridge the elementary ethical barrier i.e. endorsing violence and discrimination.
Those who try to stop me from appearing in Marxism 2005 next month and Bookmarks later this week are in fact reactionary forces who aim to shatter the most intrinsic notion of intellectual life. They fight against freedom of speech, freedom of interpretation and ideological diversity. They are trying to forcefully implant their obscure views in the very core of British left discourse.
It is devastating to find out that those calls are expressed under the banner of British Jewish left (Anti Zionist Jews, JPUK etc). I would rather prefer to believe that, after such a long history of Jewish suffering, left Jews would position themselves at the forefront of the battle against discrimination and defamation. No doubt many Jews do and I am very thankful for that.
I use this opportunity to call my opponents to attend the coming events and to engage themselves in a fruitful dialogue with me and everybody else.
Gilad Atzmon's website is at www.gilad.co.uk.
Articles on this Website by Gilad Atzmon
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