By Noel Ignatiev
As many of those close to me know, I have been attempting for some time to work out and set down my thoughts on antisemitism, what it is and what it is not. Part of my effort has entailed an engagement with the writings of Gilad Atzmon, who represents, in my view, a useful case-study. In the past I have posted things about him, in particular an exchange he and I had over his willingness to pal up with a person named Jim Dean, the managing editor of Veterans Today. That post is at http://www.pmpress.org/content/article.php/20120314153431220.
A recent piece by Atzmon, published on Counterpunch, has given me another opportunity to pursue my self-assigned task (like a terrier). It is at http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/04/12/controlled-opposition/
First let me set down where I agree with Atzmon:
1) I agree that the influence of American Jewry, what Atzmon calls Jewish power, plays an important role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
2) I agree that one aspect of Jewish power is its ability to inhibit discussion of it.
3) I agree that Jewish power determines the limits of acceptable debate over US support for Israel.
4) I agree that the refusal of many “progressives” to examine and confront Jewish power holds back the Palestine solidarity movement.
5) I agree that it is not the orthodox or rightwing but the secular and “progressive” who give Jewish power its force.
Here are some things about which I do not agree with Atzmon:
1) I do not agree that “Jewish power is the most effective and forceful power in the land.” That distinction belongs to the power of capital.
2) I do not agree that setting the limits of dissent is distinctively Jewish. Capital has long ruled by “determin[ing] the boundaries of the political discourse and criticism.”
3) I do not agree that the heart of neo-conservatism is “Judeocentric tribal politics.”
Atzmon’s treatment of Soros shows his outlook. Atzmon writes:
A brief examination of the list of organizations founded by George Soros’ Open Society Institute (OSI) presents a grim picture – pretty much the entire American progressive network is funded, partially or largely by a liberal Zionist, philanthropic billionaire who supports very many good and important causes that are also very good for the Jews. And yet, like staunch Zionist Haim Saban, Soros does not operate clandestinely. His Open Society Institute proudly provides all the necessary information regarding the vast amount of shekels it spreads on its good and important causes.
So one can’t accuse Soros or the Open Society Institute of any sinister vetting the political discourse, stifling of free speech or even to ‘controlling the opposition’. All Soros does is to support a wide variety of ‘humanitarian causes’: Human Rights, Women’s Rights. Gay Rights, equality, democracy, Arab ‘Spring’, Arab Winter, the oppressed, the oppressor, tolerance, intolerance, Palestine, Israel, anti war, pro-war (only when really needed), and so on.
Democracy Now, the most important American dissident outlet has never discussed the Jewish Lobby with Mersheimer, Walt, Petras or Blankfort – the four leading experts who could have informed the American people about the USA’s foreign policy domination by the Jewish Lobby. For the same reasons, Democracy Now wouldn’t explore the Neocon’s Judeo-centric agenda nor would it ever discuss Jewish Identity politics with yours truly. Democracy Now will host Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein, it may even let Finkelstein chew up Zionist caricature Alan Dershowitz – all very good, but not good enough.
Is the fact that Democracy Now is heavily funded by Soros relevant? I’ll let you judge.
Soros funds a lot of NGOs and reform movements all over the world. They have been described by one correspondent as part of an effort by “Cosmopolitan liberalism/finance capital to build astroturf organizations that bypass the traditional mass organizations – like unions – to directly organize and/or service the working class and poor. It’s worth pointing out that these organizations are all completely inscribed within the planning of a particular segment of the ruling class that advocates for less austerity and a more Keynesian fix to the crisis. They are very actively channeling opposition into a social democratic framework – from the US, to Greece, to Egypt.”
It would not surprise me to learn that Israel has a special place in Soros’ heart, and that his funding of soft Zionists and Palestinian moderates is part of his plan to save the Zionist project. But there is no reason to believe that Israel is the center of his world. The same applies to Milton Friedman, one of the people Atzmon names, who is thoroughly repulsive, but among whose crimes enthusiasm for Zionism figures small. And that is Atzmon’s problem: like the ethnocentric Jews he attacks, for Atzmon Israel blocks out the sun, like a hand held up in front of his face.
There is a link between Atzmon’s view of Zionism as the driving force of evil in the world and his unwillingness to apply the same standard to Jim Dean that he applies to Zionists, as manifest in the blog cited above. The exchange between us shows Atzmon engaging in bluster and demagogy. He knows better, but he must defend his alliance with Dean at any cost.
One may like or dislike Jews (or any other group). Antisemitism is not about what one thinks of Jews or Jewish culture or the Jewish polity. It is a philosophy of history, as much as social darwinism or historical materialism. Exaggerating the importance of Jews and the Jewish question is the hallmark of antisemitism. It shares a great deal with its supposed opposite, philosemitism.