Is Gilad Atzmon a Holocaust Denier? The answer is not a simple “yes,” but unfortunately Atzmon has made it impossible to provide a simple “no.” There is no evidence I have seen that Atzmon, for example, argues that the number of Jews killed by the Nazis has been overstated by millions, or that he denies the existence of the gas chambers. But Atzmon is scandalously willing to exploit and promote, rather than denounce, Holocaust denial, when it suits his political purposes.
In this way, he resembles that subset of editors at Indymedia UK, who — while likely not anti-Semites themselves — are more than willing to let Indymedia UK host anti-Semitic posts when those posts serve their political purpose. The key distinction is that I believe the Indymedia UK editors are acting out of naïveté, whereas Atzmon has no such excuse.
How has Atzmon become entangled in the sphere of Holocaust Denial? He has chosen, for distribution, an essay by the Jewish anti-Semite Paul Eisen called “The Holocaust Wars”.
The Eisen piece starts with a valentine to the Holocaust-denying career anti-Semite Ernst Zündel, author of The Hitler We Loved and Why:
“Unlike most Holocaust revisionists, (rather an austere, academic lot), Zundel is a hands-on activist — a gentle, good-humored man, kind and honest and with those qualities often found in the strangest places: a fine mind and a good heart.”
Eisen addresses Zündel’s Holocaust Denial and provides a good working definition of what constitutes Holocaust Denial, although wrapped in their usual euphemism of “Holocaust revisionism”:
“Ernst Zundel is a Holocaust revisionist or, a “Holocaust denier” as some would have it. Like all revisionists, Zundel does not deny that the National Socialist regime targeted Jews or that Jews suffered at their hands, but he does deny specific, albeit key aspects of the Holocaust narrative as we know it. His denial is limited to three areas which should be clearly understood.
— That there ever was an official plan on the part of Hitler or any other part of the Nazi regime systematically and physically to eliminate every Jew in Europe.
— That there ever existed homicidal gas-chambers.
— That the numbers of Jewish victims have been exaggerated.”
Eisen praises Zündel’s Holocaust Denial, and finds at root that Zündel’s goal is to defend the honor of the National Socialists:
“For him, the revision of the Holocaust is not just the pursuit of a truth, but the pursuit of a truth that will set his people free. Germans stand accused of having committed the worst crime in human history: the premeditated attempt to coolly and efficiently annihilate every Jew in Europe. Zundel rejects this. He is prepared for National Socialist Germany to be held accountable for the crimes it did commit but the attempted genocide of European Jews is, for him, not one of them.”
Eisen is aware but not bothered that he’s praising a self-confessed Hitler-lover:
“Ernst Zundel was once involved in the publication of a book called The Hitler We Loved and Why, but Ernst Zundel was not the only German who loved Hitler and is probably not the only German who still loves Hitler. Millions of Germans loved Hitler, who for twelve years impacted on them as no German has or probably ever will, and, though they never say so, must, deep down still cherish his memory.”
Eisen then exonerates Zündel’s anti-Semitism with startling vapidity:
“But Ernst Zundel does not hate Jews because Ernst Zundel doesn’t hate anyone.”
There follows over two thousand words laying out the standard Holocaust Denier arguments — non-existence of the gas chambers, etc — presented uncritically, at face value, and without rebuttal. Later in the essay comes more than three thousand words offering a narrative of how the Jewish/Soviet conspiracy created the “myth” of the Holocaust.
“After all, people once believed the earth was flat and sat on the back of four elephants riding on a turtle. They believed the earth was the centre of the universe and persecuted skeptics with the same fervor and with about as much justification as they do today’s Holocaust revisionists. …. So what is so hard to believe about the planned and premeditated slaughter of six million Jews by modern industrial methods, loaded in their millions onto trains and taken to industrialized killing centers where they are done to death thousands at a time in huge slaughter halls, their bodies burned to ashes and their bones ground into dust? People believe in heaven and they believe in hell — so why not the hell of the Holocaust?”
In short, one would have to have a head made of granite not to see that Eisen’s “The Holocaust Wars” is an essay from a Holocaust Denier promoting Holocaust Denial.
Yet Gilad Atzmon, upon seeing the essay, decided that the proper thing to do, the right and moral thing to do, was to personally circulate that essay to his mailing list.
Why on earth would a self-proclaimed leftist intentionally distribute, under his own aegis using his own name on his own list, a sixteen-thousand-word apologia for Nazi crimes?
To Sue Blackwell, one of the leaders of the academic union movement to academically boycott Israelis, this was apparently a last straw. Aware of the damage that anti-Semitism can do to the pro-Palestinian movement, she moved Atzmon onto her page of no-good-niks. Blackwell — and remember, this is the same Sue Blackwell who pushed for the academic boycot of Israel within AUT and again in UCU — has a page detailing why she believes Atzmon should be no-platformed.
Atzmon has given the following reply to Tony Greenstein when called to account for distributing Holocaust Denial:
Mr Greenstine, 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.
This is a stirring stump speech, of course, and is one hundred percent disingenuous. Atzmon claims that he only circulated Eisen’s paper because “argumentative texts must be circulated as widely as possible.” This defence fails to pass the most elementary plausibility test. If this were actually what Atzmon believed — rather than an excuse to circulate an anti-Semitic essay while posturing innocence — then his circulation list would be crammed with conspiracy theory junk. There are no shortage of “argumentative texts” claiming that JFK was assassinated by the villain of your choice, that the moon landing was faked, that Lady Di was murdered to prevent her remarriage to man of unsuitable ethnicity, and on and on and on.
But, no, the “argumentative texts must be circulated” routine is put in action only when the argument in the text is anti-Semitic. And Atzmon is only able to reply to an extraordinary chunk of raw and undisguised anti-Semitism — Paul Eisen’s essay — with the minor polite cough, ahem, that his own “take on the subject is slightly different.”
To be clear: Atzmon claims he has at best “slight differences” with a sixteen-thousand-word essay comprised of classic Holocaust Denial boilerplate.
Whether this makes Atzmon himself a Holocaust Denier, I’ll leave to the reader to decide. But certainly it makes him someone capable of choosing to spread barefaced, shameless, glaringly anti-Semitic propaganda when the mood suits him.