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The Socialist Workers Party – Apologists for Racism?

Statement from Jews Against Zionism

 

The SWP’s statement defending the invitation to Gilad Atzmon to speak at Bookmarks on Friday 17th June 2005 is self-serving and hypocritical. No admission of anything wrong, no acceptance that in hindsight that it might have all been handled differently. Instead there is a parody of what happened.

They do not even refer to the picket of Bookmarks last Friday at which some 30-35 people picketed the shop in protest at the invitation

‘One or two small groups are claiming that Gilad is an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.’

It is not merely “One or two small groups”, but a large number of individuals, many of them Jewish; the picket was called by Jews Against Zionism. We did not claim that Atzmon is a holocaust denier, though his relationship with Paul Eisen, a holocaust denier, is very close. In particular Gilad Atzmon has distributed Eisen’s ‘Holocaust Wars’, which is a full-blooded exposition of holocaust denial material and a tribute to notorious neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel. Atzmon says he has only ‘slight differences’ with Eisen’s article.

The only group the SWP has mentioned has been the pro-Zionist Alliance for Workers Liberty. We made it quite clear that we want nothing to do with the AWL, who are equally incapable of distinguishing between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

We did claim that  Atzmon is anti-Semitic.  Do the leaders of the SWP not consider the following quotes – from Atzmon’s article “On Anti-Semitism”, which can be found on his web site – to be an anti-Semitic and deeply reactionary outline of the world Jewish conspiracy theory?

“we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…. They (Zionists) are especially annoyed when they are blamed for the death of Jesus…. … American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy… I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus who, by the way, was himself a Palestinian Jew”.

Atzmon is a great jazz player, but this is hardly relevant. Nor is his self-exile in Britain. No one doubts that Atzmon is supportive of the Palestinians; the problem is the way he has chosen to express that support politically. The fact that the SWP has a fine record of fighting fascism and racism and that its founder, Tony Cliff, was Jewish is also irrelevant. We are not accusing the SWP of anti-Semitism, but of opportunism and turning a blind eye to anti-Semitic statements.

Nor have we made a demand for Atzmon to be ‘no platformed’. We are not quite as unsubtle as the SWP is making out. We do not believe he is a fascist. What we demanded was that a SOCIALIST organisation should not offer him a platform. That is something quite different.

Atzmon is part of a group of people who, repelled by Israel’s racist treatment of the Palestinians, have unfortunately reacted to the traditional accusation that those who oppose Zionism and support the Palestinians are anti-Semitic by saying, yes, if that is the case we are anti-Semitic. This is a wrong-headed and deeply troubling response, which cannot build the solidarity movement, nor contribute to the struggle for Palestinian rights. Rather, it reinforces Israel’s propaganda claims.

Atzmon is closely linked to the figure of Israel Shamir, who he has described as a ‘unique and advanced thinker’. Shamir is deeply anti-Semitic and racist, and openly works with fascists and neo-Nazis. Shamir’s web site carries his own articles, such as one defending the medieval Christian blood libel. It also carries Eisen’s holocaust denial article and Atzmon’s attack on Jewish anti-Zionists, “The Protocols of the Elders of London”.

We would expect the SWP to be in the forefront of those demanding that anti-Semites and their supporters be marginalised within or excluded from the Palestine Solidarity movement. Instead, they have managed to end up as apologists for them. Putting out a self-serving statement that obscures more than it reveals is dishonest and does not move the issue on at all. Atzmon’s response to the statement says it all: “I would like as well to thank the SWP for their support all the way through”.

The SWP needs to engage in some open and honest critical self-examination. The SWP Central Committee are fooling themselves, and their membership, if they think their statement will deceive anyone.

 

Jews Against Zionism,

 info@jewsagainstzionism.org

 

 

June 2005

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