Atzmon’s anti-Semitism, Part I

Since the conflict about Indymedia UK editorial policy centers on Gilad Atzmon, it will also necessary to address the question: is Gilad Atzmon an anti-Semite?

I believe the answer is yes, and I will show over a sequence of posts that Atzmon is an anti-Semite, albeit one who intentionally tries to muddy the definitional waters as a way to protect himself from the charge.

One of the measures of anti-Semitism is to what degree a person has internalized some form of the usual claims of anti-Semitism — worldwide Jewish conspiracy, shadow Jewish government, Jewish media ownership, Jewish exclusivism, and so on.

Let me give an example of how this works. It turns out to be a relevant example.

There is a common claim among anti-Semites that Ashkenazi Jews aren’t actually descendants of the Biblical Israelites, as Sephardic Jews are granted to be, but are instead essentially “impostors” descended instead from the Khazars, a tribe from the Caucases who converted to Judaism circa 800 AD.

To be clear: it is historical fact that some Khazars did convert to Judaism, which is unusual since Judaism is not a proselytizing religion. One of the greatest Hebrew poems of the Middle Ages, “Ha-Kuzari” by Judah ha-Levi, is about exactly that. It’s cast as a dialogue between a rabbi and the historical figure of Bulan, king of the Khazars and (eventual) convert to Judaism.

The conversion of the Khazars is not in dispute. However, anti-Semites have then added an additional twist: the claim that descendents of the Khazars did not join the Ashkenazi Jews, but essentially replaced them, and that today’s Ashkenazi Jews therefore have no true historical link to the Israelites. As this Wikipedia article documents, the replacement claim has become a favorite of anti-Semites of all flavors.

See, for example, here, read the banner about the “antichristic conspiracy of the Khazar ‘Jew’ supremacists”, and then don’t fail to click on the link on the left side for a quick glance at Protocols of the Elders of Zion. You also may be interested in these “Khazar”-related links to a Holocaust denial site — one which, as it happens, lists as one of its “columnists,” nestled between Holocaust deniers Andrew Winkler and John Kaminski, one Gilad Atzmon. Small world in certain circles, isn’t it.)

The replacement claim, never accepted by the mainstream but long championed by white supremacists and other anti-Semites, has been disproved by DNA studies:

The study, reported in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by Dr. Michael F. Hammer of the University of Arizona with colleagues in the United States, Italy, Israel, England and South Africa. The results accord with Jewish history and tradition and refute theories like those holding that Jewish communities consist mostly of converts from other faiths, or that they are descended from the Khazars, a medieval Turkish tribe that adopted Judaism.

(For completeness: other studies have demonstrated the genetic fact that there are Ashkenazi Jews who can count Khazars among their ancestors, but again the claim “some Ashkenazi Jews have some Khazar ancestors” is a different beast than the claim “Ashkenazi Jews are largely Khazars.”)

So what do we know about the claim that Ashkenazim aren’t “really” Jews but Khazars instead?

First, we know that it’s absurd.

Second, we know that it’s been a favorite of anti-Semites for a century.

Third, we know that one of the people who spreads this absurd claim about the Khazars is . . . Gilad Atzmon. Responding to the many people calling — quite rightly, in my opinion — for Indymedia UK to no-platform Atzmon, an Indymedia UK editor did an audio interview.

Indymedia interview with Gilad Atzmon.

I will deal with this interview in more than one post, separated by topic, because the interview does clearly substantiate a series of claims made against Atzmon by Tony Greenstein and others. For the purposes of this post, however, I’ll simply direct your attention to the following comment, made by Atzmon eleven and a half minutes into the second half of the interview.

“In fact, Sephardi Jews — or “Arab Jews” — are far closer to Palestinians than Ashkenazi Jews, who are largely Khazarians.”

The interviewer, unfamiliar with the standard cant of the anti-Semite, fails to challenge Atzmon.

So I must do so in his stead. Why, it’s fair to ask, is Gilad Atzmon, self-described intellectual whose knowledge of history we are supposed to be inspired by, instead spreading an anti-Semitic cock-and-bull story? And why is Indymedia UK helping him do so?

To be clear: spreading the “Ashkenazi means Khazar” lie is not, taken independently and in isolation, sufficient grounds to conclude that Atzmon is an anti-Semite, rather than simply a shambolic scholar fooled into not only embracing but (more embarrassingly) spreading a classic anti-Semitic fiction. The most that can be said when this is taken in isolation is that it’s obviously best to be quite wary when accepting Atzmonite “history” and that one might be justified in wondering whether the rest of it is also recycled anti-Semitic cant.

But I hasten to point out that this is only one chip in what turns out to be, on examination, a rather tall stack. As the chips accumulate, other ad hoc explanations become increasingly untenable, until for all but the most willfully self-blinkered the most reasonable conclusion will be: yes, Gilad Atzmon is an anti-Semite, and yes, Indymedia UK should indeed no-platform him.


One Response to Atzmon’s anti-Semitism, Part I

  1. geniza says:

    If one Googles “atzmon khazarians,” it will be immediately apparent that Atzmon’s passing the “Khazaria” lie in the Indymedia interview was far from a unique event. In many cases he is completely unambiguous: “as many of us know, the Ashkenazi Jews are in fact Khazarians,” “I tend to believe that all Ashkenazis are Khazarians,” etc.

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