A debate between Tony Greenstein, an anti-Zionist ethnic Jewish activist and Gilad Atzmon, an ordinary Jazz musician
What follows is a brief version of a private email exchange between Tony Greenstein and Gilad Atzmon which was posted by Tony Greenstein on JPUK. Many have asked for wide distribution, Mr Greenstein in primis, and due to space reasons, I present only an edit here. Basic typos have been corrected and it has been arranged into a dialogue style to aid in comprehension, yet the content remains unvaried. An unabridged version is available here.
T: I note that in the tirade below, (The Elders of London) you accuse Jews Against Zionism and myself of being ‘undercover Zionist agents of influence’.
G: As it seems, you are calling for Jews to act under their ethnic/racial banner. i.e. Jewishness. I was sure that as a Marxist you should aim to let Jews become ordinary human beings i.e. equal comrades, rather than an isolated and segregated ethnic group.
T: By your own admission you are distributing Eisen’s holocaust denial text.
G: Holocaust Denial is in itself a Zionist terminology and I refuse to accept it or to use it.
T: I understand that you have been distributing Paul Eisen’s most recent The Holocaust Wars which denies, in the course of defending Ernest Zundel, that there ever was a holocaust or extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis.
G: Mr Greenstein, True, I circulated Paul Eisen’s paper. I do believe that argumentative texts must be circulated as widely as possible. I am sure that in case you have a counter argument to suggest Paul will be delighted to address it. By the way, my take on the subject is slightly different than Paul’s one and yet, I found Paul very attentive to my criticism. Furthermore, let me assure you that if I ever see a great text written by yourself I’ll be the first to circulate it. This is my way, that is what I believe in.
T: You admit you only disagree ‘slightly’. By your own admission you are condemned as either a knave or a fool or more probably both. I haven’t the slightest intention of engaging with holocaust deniers, any more than I have time to waste on flat earthers.
G: I assume that if you had just a hint of integrity you may have realised along time ago that the Holocaust doesn’t lead necessarily to just one ‘conclusion’. First, there might be more than one and if this is not enough, it might even provide us with more than one moral lesson (in case you don’t realise, a moral lesson is a dynamic process while a conclusion is a firm and fixed idea). For me, the Holocaust like any other historical narrative is a dynamic process of realisation and interpretation. For me to be in the world is to be engaged in a dynamic process of interpretation. For me and not only me…Judaism at its very best is merely a dynamic critical process of re-reading and re-writing. For me the beauty of Judaism is conveyed by the imagery of a single Biblical page: a few lines of Biblical text and many different interpretations around it (deconstruction). On the other hand, Jewishness in its lowest form is the aim towards the imprisonment of meaning and fixation of ideas. In that very sense, I am very sorry to tell you Mr. Greenstein, you are presenting the lowest form of rabbinical and talmudic Jewish existence. You try to determine meanings and to stop any possible critical scholarship and interpretation. As bizarre as it may sound, Mr Paul Eisen, a man you try to destroy for being an anti-Semite, is presenting us with the ultimate beauty of Judaic thinking. Unlike you, Eisen is engaged in interpretation (Parshanut). Eisen is engaged in a process of re-reading and re-writing. Eisen follows the most radical form of orthodox Judaic spirit.
Let me tell you, Eisen was raised as a Jew, unlike you he managed to internalise the essence of Judaism, this is enough to make him into a very important voice. If you were a real Jew rather than just a shallow form of talmudic Zionist you would stand up to Eisen and fight with his interpretation with dignity. But as it seems you are incapable.
Instead of doing that you prefer to act under your Jewish banner whatever it means (something that you do constantly). You run campaigns solely with your Jewish comrades (rather than in the forefront of world working class). Rather than joining or even forming a humanistic open discourse, you try to stop the world from moving on. You insist on locating your worldview in the centre of any possible discourse. Why do you do it? Because you are a supremacist Jew. You must believe that you know better. You must believe that you know better than the SWP what is important for the British working class. You must think that you know better than the Palestinians what is right for the Palestinian people. Are you familiar with the notion of modesty? Just contemplate over the remote possibility that you may not know better……Let me tell you Mr. Greenstein, Marxism isn’t an internal Jewish affair (it may had been for a while, but not any more) and so with the Palestinian cause. It is our duty (as human beings) to show our support to the Palestinian people but we are not allowed to tell them what to do. We are not allowed to tell them what is right or wrong, we can only offer ourselves as soldiers, this is what Paul is doing, this is what I try to do.
Your frequent usage of the word ‘insist’ (you insist that the SWP kick me out and you insist that DYR will spit out Shamir or Eisen etc.) reveals a clear image of classic Jewish supremacist tendencies. You blame others for being white supremacists, just because you are daily engaged in supremacist practices. Considering the clear fact that you can’t even present a simple argument. I would conclude that you should scrutinise your own conduct. You better look in the mirror Mr Greenstein, you better get used to the idea that you are just an ordinary human being like all of us, you can’t ‘insist’ anymore, you can only suggest, and you better be polite about it.
T: Not that this should be any surprise given your association with Israel Shamir, who makes a habit of supporting and defending white supremacists.
G: With all due respect, you won’t find any support for white supremacists in any of my writings. If you read my writings you will find the very opposite. I am against any form of supremacism. I wrote 2 books about the subject. Anyhow, I assume that you have a serious problem with Shamir, and yet I do not know what do you mean by the term ‘association’. As you should know I am not a politician and not even a political activist. I am an artist: I am a musician and a writer. The notion of association means nothing to me. I am not a member in any party, I act solely as an individual. I am interested in Shamir’s writings as much as I am interested in any other writer who supports the Palestinian people. For me Palestine is more important than all those childish political games. I believe in freedom of spirit and freedom of speech. I would fight for you or anyone else in case someone would try to censor your writings. But then, let me admit, you are right about one thing, I am not associated with any pro Palestinian Jewish organisation. I do believe that the Palestinian cause is a human issue, it is far more important than Jewish politics. I hope that sooner rather than later you will realise it yourself.
T: I didn’t accuse you of supporting white supremacists, I stated that you associate with Shamir who supports white supremacists. That is clear from his web site, his repetition of the blood-libel myths and his collaboration with neo-Nazis.
G: I already addressed the association issue, again you use a terminology that is inapplicable to me. I am not associated with anyone. I am reading Israel occasionally, I think that he is a very important writer. But at the same time I would read every paper written by Brenner. I just read, I am a reader and a writer. Again, it is possible that you associate me with Shamir but this is your problem.
T: I certainly wish to see a speedy end to Deir Yassin Remembered. It can only do great damage to the Palestinian cause in so far as it is led by a holocaust denier and associated with another virulent anti-Semite.
G: As you may know, I performed in DYR this year and it was one of the most emotionally moving events I’ve ever taken part of. Mind you I am performing every night for over 25 years. You insist to bring DYR down, and let me tell you, this is enough to make you into a Zionist.
T: Some, who draw the necessary conclusions from the holocaust, will hold that racism whomsoever it is directed against is wrong and will therefore adopt anti-Zionist and indeed anti-fascist politics.
G: For a change I am in total agreement with you, I am against racism and in fact in my writing you won’t find a single racial reference. Moreover, when I write about Jewish identity I analyse it in ideological and philosophical terms. For me Jewishness is a mind set. Nothing to do with the quality of one’s blood or the religion of one’s mother.
T: Ironically it also mirrors the Zionist libel that anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism.
G: I agree with you and this is another reason for me not to come with such a conclusion. And yet you blame me for being an Anti-Semite just because I am ridiculing yourself and your own shallow Marxism. Mr Greenstein, I must let you know that to be a Marxist is not just a ‘language game’, It is not enough to call someone a ‘comrade’ and to expect him to remove Gilad Atzmon from his conference. To be a Marxist is to be a critical thinker. But then not only that you aren’t critical, you engage in censorship of any possible critical thinking. Basically you follow the most devastating Rabbinical practices. No wonder why you act as ‘Marxist Jew’ rather than just a Marxist. You probably regard Marxism as an internal Jewish affair, this may explain the fact that you allow yourself to come to the SWP with demands.
T: I have no intention of taking lectures in respect of Marxism from someone who is supportive of Eisen’s thesis that the holocaust didn’t happen.
G: This may be true but somehow you don’t stop visiting my mail box. Being educated as a German philosopher I am very interested in different aspects of Master Slave dialectic (Hegel). Thus, I wonder why you are begging for my recognition. Why do you take the role of the slave in this debate? I ask just because I am really not interested in being your master or anyone else’s master.
T: Clearly it is outrageous that a socialist organisation should invite you to their annual beanfeast. However that is their problem, not mine.
G: Apparently it isn’t their problem. They are very happy with it, this will be my third successful appearance in the conference. But somehow you aren’t happy at all. You keep humiliating yourself sending them lengthy letters and get a short clear cut dismissal.
If you have any dignity in your system you better take a rest. Look for enemies somewhere else.
With Love and Peace
Further related articles:
Reflections on the anti-Atzmon campaign by Miguel Martinez
Whose side are you on? by Mary Rizzo
It Ain’t Necessarily So – The Gilad Atzmon Interview
The Left and Palestine by Mary Rizzo
Reflections on Holocaust Remembrance Day by Mary Rizzo