What motivates the defenders of Atzmon? Pt I

An Indymedia UK editor gives an impassioned plea against the no-platforming of Gilad Atzmon, using as an example the figure “Israel Shamir.” This is an ethical mistake; the example he uses even more so.


“A few years ago, Gilad Atzmon wrote an article about the demonisation of Israel Shamir. . . .

I had quite a long chat with Israel, and I was impressed by his passion for justice. This was before his banishment from the Palestinian solidarity movement by a group whose behaviour Atzmon claimed amounted to ‘modern Jewish secular intolerance.’ He described the process:

‘The liberal Zionist cell, as we are going to read, cannot really take it. They demand the cleansing of Shamir. They insist upon ruining his intellectual career or at the very least, his reputation. They would use any possible manipulative strategy to have him thrown out of DYR, which is the first step towards sending him beyond the pale.’

He asserted that his readers that the episode was ‘a glimpse into the abusive, assertive and violent world of Zionist lobbying.'”

There’s one problem with Atzmon’s version of events, which the editor seems to accept so unquestioningly: it’s fundamentally wrong.

Who no-platformed “Israel Shamir”? It wasn’t “the liberal Zionists” as Atzmon claims — even if one grant’s Atzmon’s peculiar definition of the word “Zionist,” which to him appears to mean “anyone who self-identifies as a Jew and thinks Atzmon’s an anti-Semitic crank.”

“Israel Shamir” was clearly no-platformed by the pro-Palestinian movement as a whole, not just the Jews within it. In fact, the first important criticism of “Shamir” came from Ali Abunimah, founder of the Electronic Intifada, and Hussein Ibish.

The open letter.

See also Wikipedia for more gems from “Israel Shamir,” the man who so impressed the Indymedia UK editor with his “passion for justice.”

What Abunimah — by no imaginable stretch a Zionist figure — has to say is worth repeating, because it’s just as appropriate when applied to the anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon as to the anti-Semite “Israel Shamir”:

“Many people have welcomed the contributions of Israel Shamir in good faith, but we feel they may not be paying close enough attention to what he is saying. Perhaps this is because many of us welcome criticism of Israel from someone who appears to be an “insider,” that our hunger for validation from Jewish Israelis sometimes allows us to proceed without the requisite skepticism or overlook excesses we otherwise would not tolerate. Perhaps some are ready to overlook statements that appeal to anti-Semitic sentiments because the person making them identifies himself as a Jew. But the identity of the speaker makes such statements no less odious and harmful. We do not have any need for some of what Israel Shamir is introducing into the discourse on behalf of Palestinian rights, which increasingly includes elements of traditional European anti-Semitic rhetoric. Such sentiments will harm, not help, the cause. We urge all our friends in the movement for Palestinian rights to seriously consider the long-term effects this rhetoric will have on the cause, and act accordingly.

The no-platforming of “Israel Shamir” was a triumph over bigotry within the Palestinian solidarity movement, but to the Indymedia UK editor — and his bizarrely skewed version of history — it was a tragic lynching by the Zionists. After all, “Shamir”‘s friend and admirer Atzmon has told him so, so it must be true — that it was “leftist Zionists” who knocked “Israel Shamir” off his pedestal, and they were now planning to do the same thing again:

“And now the same group that went for Shamir are gunning for Atzmon. They are demanding that we kick him out. . . It worries the shit out of me that Indymedia might just give them [i.e. what Atzmon calls “the liberal Zionist cell”] their first taste of blood in this new kill.”

The editor is right in part; the principled disassociation of the Palestinian solidarity movement from the rank anti-Semite “Israel Shamir” should be followed, for the same reasons, by their principled disassociation from the rank anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon. He’s wrong, though, about what those reasons were. Atzmon — just as “Shamir” did before him — waves the “Zionist censorship” flag, and the editor is so helplessly transfixed by it, he doesn’t stop to consider that it’s not “a liberal Zionist cell” but anti-Zionists who are calling for Atzmon to be no-platformed.

Characteristically, though, the Indymedia UK editor can see no actual anti-Semitism in “Shamir,” and concludes he was simply persecuted with false cries by those who metaphorically “killed” him (by no-platforming his racism).

As we’ll see, this is part of a pattern for the editor, who scurries to the defence of anti-Semite after anti-Semite — Atzmon and others — to save them from “Zionist censorship” and “false cries.” This then is the framework from which the Indymedia editor blocked the no-platforming of Atzmon: a routine inability to detect anti-Semitism others see without difficulty (or else this is only pretended blindness), and a routine assignation of “Zionist censorship” as the true motivation of attacks on such anti-Semites.

One of the other editors provides a very simple reply:

very wordy stuff.

are you sure you’re onsite with the spirit of the editorial guidelines?

i don’t think you are.


I don’t think he is either. He defends anti-Semites and attacks those who condemn anti-Semitism. He can’t tell Zionists from anti-Zionists. I think he’s definitely lost the plot. But then losing the plot is a prerequisite for defending Gilad Atzmon.


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