Looking back, three years later

18 Mar 2011

There have been three interesting developments in the three years since the Atzmon fiasco, and I thought it was worth an update.

The end of the Indymedia UK coalition per se

The first and most important change is that Indymedia UK, the coalition that runs the Indymedia UK aggregator site and newswire, is effectively being demoted by consensus of UK IMCistas. Other Indymedia collectives in the UK were increasingly unhappy with a hierarchy which implied that Indymedia UK was some sort of master-of-all-UK-Indymedia and that the Indymedia UK site did not represent the will of anyone other than the Indymedia UK collective rather than UK Indymedia as a whole.

With other UK collectives becoming convinced that the situation was unsustainable, there was a split (they refer to it as a ‘fork’) resulting in a decision for the removal of Indymedia UK’s collective from its point of centrality. By May 1, by mutual agreement of all involved, there will no longer be a coalition called ‘Indymedia UK’ nor a website called ‘uk.indymedia.org’. [Correction: the ‘uk.indymedia.org’ website will become a frozen archive of its current state.]

Indymedia UK served two functions: one as an all-UK aggregator of Indymedia stories, and another as a news-gathering collective in its own right. The function previously provided by the ‘Indymedia UK’ collective will be split into two. A new site will be created to serve as aggregator; that name is not yet decided, and it will not be in the hands of the current Indymedia UK collective. The current Indymedia UK collective will then have its own site, at the same hierarchical level as other local sites but with material provided by those who either don’t have a local Indymedia collective or can’t work with them for some reason. That site will likely be something like “UK Mayday Collective.”

This split was of course not caused by the Atzmon fiasco, destructive as that was. However, the enormous amount of energy and time of so many Indymedia people having been utterly wasted in 2007 and 2008 simply because one or two editors at Indymedia UK were blind to Atzmon’s blatant antisemitism, cuffed themselves to the barricades, escalated the conflict at every opportunity, and smeared anyone who disagreed with them as a Zionist conspirator no matter their anti-Zionist credentials – phreeww! – was the canary in the Indymedia coal mine, showing the fault lines and reflecting in advance the deep operational divisions which soon became clear between Indymedia UK and other UK collectives.

It’s famously been said that the internet considers censorship to be damage and routes around it. Indymedia in the UK is now routing around a different kind of damage.

Atzmon continues his descent

Gilad Atzmon, the anti-Semite at the center of the 2008 debacle, has continued to be more and more blatant about his antisemitism and in particular his embrace of Holocaust denial. The SWP, which used to have a page up saying, ‘We don’t always agree with him, but he’s no Holocaust denier,’ surreptitiously took the page down. Anthony Julius, among other things the solicitor who defeated David Irving, included Atzmon in his long study of the history of anti-Semitism in the UK, Trials of the Diaspora. Howard Jacobson put a former-IDF ex-pat jazz-musician anti-Zionist Holocaust denier into his Booker-winning novel The Finkler Question— although it was plainly not meant as a dig at Atzmon, since the former-IDF ex-pat jazz-musician anti-Zionist Holocaust denier plays jazz drums, not jazz saxophone, which is a completely different thing.

Atzmon has however a new champion in the form of American arch-racist David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, who adores him, posts Atzmon essays on his personal site, and praises him as ‘brilliant’.

In a 2010 visit to the US, Atzmon appeared on a local-access television channel in Aspen, Colorado as part of a panel discussion. He immediately began to play his Holocaust denial cards, and the others on the panel – all of them anti-Zionists who thought they were there to talk about Israel – turned visibly green bit by bit. It’s funny to watch how decent normal human beings react when they realize they are sitting on a panel with a Holocaust denier. You can see the nausea rising.

In short, in 2008 Indymedia and the SWP were the last two UK organizations not run out of someone’s garret somewhere granting Atzmon’s anti-Semitism even the slightest shred of political cover. Neither now does.

Israel Shamir exposed internationally as an anti-Semite

It’s also become clearer just why one Indymedia editor tied himself to the barricade and refused to accede in the banning of Gilad Atzmon from Indymedia. How was it possible for him to simultaneously be so wrong, so cluefree, and yet so hardheaded about it?

The answer turns out to be here.

The Israel Shamir who so stirred one of the problematic Indymedia editors to the bone, causing him to escalate the Atzmon dispute into the crisis it became, was getting his worldview from someone now internationally recognized as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. (See also, e.g., here; there are plenty more links like that at Wikipedia.)

Israel Shamir hit the headlines over the past few months over his association with WikiLeaks. Say what you want about WikiLeaks – not the topic of this blog – but even the most sanguine of commentators in the press is bothered by Assange’s decision to work with Shamir. If you followed the press over the last few months, the general conclusion was that although Assange was not an antisemite himself – a few odd utterances and failed jokes aside – he was apparently a catastrophically poor judge of character, nowhere better emblemized than in his choice to work with the Holocaust denier Israel Shamir.

So now we know why one of the Indymedia editors felt it was his personal duty to put Indymedia in the UK through its worst crisis to date, overriding the better judgement of nearly every IMCista in the UK. He was prepared from day one to treat the whole issue as nothing more than ‘Zionist slander’ (from people any fool could see were obviously not Zionists) and to never once stop and question himself one bit whether Atzmon and Shamir were legit, no matter how the rest of the network begged him to do so. The editor had his initial frame, erroneous from the start, and swore by his sword that no fact could ever change it even one millimeter — all inspired by someone whose raw antisemitism is now the stuff of headlines, even though the editor could never quite see it and was reduced to mumbling smears smears smears as he could formulate no other response.

That’s the most disappointing part of the whole business. At the end of the day, the editor in question still doesn’t have clue one about what the discussion was even really about. His position did not change one iota from start to finish: Shamir and Atzmon are perfectly, perfectly innocent little lambs being persecuted by those mean anti-Zionist ‘crypto-Zionists’ through utterly false cries of ‘anti-Semitism!’ – and incidentally, what’s so very wrong with calling the gas chambers of Auschwitz “discredited” anyway? His position – exactly the defense offered by the mad hatters Shamir and Atzmon themselves – made no sense on day one and makes no sense now, but sometimes you have to simply stand back and let the force of implacable stupidity hold its sway.

So that’s it then

In the end it all comes out in the wash.


And the comic aftermath: Atzmon’s sour grapes

21 Feb 2008

Because there is a troll out there on Indymedia UK and socialistunity.com pretending to be someone who attended the Nottingham meeting, Indymedia UK decided they needed to post an official version of the story of what happened there and the context in which the Atzmon decision was made.

Draft story.

The story is quite clearly written from the pro-Atzmon perspective, and barely touches on the central point of the whole controversy, the antisemitism of Atzmon’s writings. Instead it’s all the same “there was a crypto-zionist campaign” stuff, in which view a perfectly innocent set of postings by and about Atzmon were cruelly attacked by a vicious conspiracy trying to silence him for being such a brave spokesman for etc. etc. etc. In other words, at the end of the exercise, apparently some Indymedia UK editors remain blissfully unaware what the whole exercise was even about. There are a few hints that perhaps there was something disquieting about Atzmon’s posts, but as a whole it’s so out of balance it was in essence a defense of Atzmon rather than a story about Indymedia, or especially an even-handed report on the state of the consensus.

Controversy exploded on the features list. Some said that the story was biased; others said that posting a feature was just “pouring salt in the wound” and the best thing to do is ignore it all; others expressed regret that Atzmon had ever been published in the first place. Some of these emails are pretty heated. There is also in these mails a general sense that a great deal of time and energy had been wasted over nothing productive, and that the net result of publishing Atzmon was substiantially damaging to Indymedia UK.

Then came the most comic single moment of the whole affair: Gilad Atzmon, knowing that he had been by group consensus shunted off into a special little penalty area built just for him, did what charlatans do: he declared victory and stomped off, declaring that upon consideration he no longer wanted to be posted on Indymedia. Apparently, once Indymedia stopped celebrating Atzmon as a sage political sage and stuck him into the “disputed” bin, they no longer deserved his transcendently wise words.

The grapes, said the fox, were probably sour anyway. (Although I think the moral here is really about an animal Aesop neglected: weasel is as weasel does.)

In short, Gilad Atzmon decided to punish Tony Greenstein by giving him exactly the thing Greenstein had wanted all along: an Atzmon-free Indymedia. And Atzmon has rewarded those Indymedia UK editors who fought tooth-and-nail for his right to publish on Indymedia by kicking them in the teeth.

Genius.

I think Atzmon was no longer willing to have his posts hosted somewhere they wouldn’t be fawned over uncritically, and as long as his posts were being fought over so publicly it was obvious that his favorite narrative — that this was just Tony Greenstein’s vendetta and nothing more — could not hold water. There are enough places, such as Mary Rizzo’s blog, where he doesn’t have to worry about anyone actually disagreeing with his oracular wisdom that its foolish for him to post in a place where what he writes will actually be subjected to independent inquiry rather than empty, goggle-eyed adulation.

[edit:] Indymedia UK has decided not to post an article summarizing the issue. It’s well and truly over, and anti-racism has won.

How it looks.

Looks good that way. Should have happened months ago.


A last comment

8 Feb 2008

Indymedia is holding their all-UK meeting this weekend, and for now I’m going to end this blog. However, let me close with a comment from the Socialist Unity blog that sums it up rather well:

After 20-30 years of hard work we have finally realised that when a woman cries rape then she means it. 20-30 years that when a person of Caribean or Asian descent says that they didn’t get a job or was attacked on the street, we believe him. When a man says he can’t get a job working with children because he is gay, we believe him. When a Muslim man tells us of excrement put through his letter box because he is a Muslim, we believe him.

But, when a Jew screams antisemitism, in typical Stalinist fashhion, we tell him that it can’t be true because there has been no antisemitism for the past 60 years, and so he has to be making it up; in fact, not only do we tell him that they are making it up, but that they are making it up to hide the truth, and that they are making it up for no other reason than as a means to oppress and silence everyone in the world so as to protect “their” obnoxious little Jew-state.

After all, this is what some people here are saying, when can you ever trust a Jew?

So, I guess, when all is said and done, what I am saying is, no, [discussion participant], you fuck off!


What motivates the critics of Atzmon? Pt V

8 Jan 2008

A recent talk in Brighton by Gilad Atzmon was moved from its original venue after threat of pickets by the anti-Zionist organization Jews Against Zionism (JAZ).

Account (reparagraphed):

“A man accused of anti-semitism has been forced to cancel a speech at a church over fears it could whip up religious hatred. Event organiser Dr Francis Clark-Lowes cancelled his booking at the Brighthelm Centre, in North Road, Brighton, for the talk by Gilad Atzmon.”

… The move has been welcomed by campaign groups. Tony Greenstein, of the Brighton and Hove Unemployed Workers Centre, said Atzmon would have faced a major protest outside the building had he tried to enter. Mr Greenstein said: “Despite his abhorrent views, we did not call for the meeting to be cancelled. We wanted him to face as large a picket as possible in order that he should understand the depth of opposition. Nonetheless we welcome the fact that Brighthelm has cancelled this meeting as church premises are probably the least appropriate venue for a meeting of this kind.”

Atzmon was predictably displeased:

Mr Atzmon said: “I think it is outrageous the way I’ve been treated in all this. There’s not a single racist remark in any of my writings. All I argue is that if Israel is a Jewish state we’re entitled to ask what Judaism stands for.”

Nothing racist? Ask the Brighton Argus, whose Jean Calder wrote a very sensible column before the scheduled speech.

Source.

“Those who campaign for the rights of Palestinians are rightly incensed by the frequency with which they are falsely accused of “anti-semitism”. They point out that criticism of the actions of the Israeli government and the Zionists who sustain and support it is not anti-semitic.

However, the fact that false allegations of anti-Semitism are often made against those who criticise the Israeli state does not mean that anti-Zionists are not also sometimes anti-semitic. Or that those who oppose Zionism can cease to be vigilant about the allies they choose to stand alongside.”

Calder then identifies an example of an anti-Semitic anti-Zionist: Gilad Atzmon. Why does she call Atzmon an anti-Semite? Because he is one, as the rest of her article details with example after example from Atzmon’s writings.

I choose to highlight only one bit, although there are many others, some of which I have touched on in other posts.

‘The idea that Jews are “Christ killers” is one that is particularly close to the heart of anti-Semites and was the foundation stone of the Reich Church, the pro-Nazi section of the Baptist Church in Germany in the 1930s.

Atzmon wrote: “I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus.” He says: “Why is it that the Jews who repeatedly demand that the Christian world should apologise for its involvement in previous persecutions have never thought that it is about time that they apologised for killing Jesus?

… I [Calder] find it profoundly shocking that anyone who professes concern for human rights should suggest that centuries of anti-Semitic pogroms and persecution by Christians were to any extent provoked by the behaviour of the people who suffered them.”

Yet that is exactly what Atzmon repeatedly suggests; it was exactly that suggestion — the suggestion that the Jews had made themselves “unpopular” and thereby brought the Holocaust upon themselves — that brought about the perfectly justified call to ban Atzmon from Indymedia UK.

And it is a charge Atzmon repeats in the Indymedia interview:

“The lesson of the Holocaust … they have an opportunity to learn the lesson, there was a lesson: there were some things that made the Jews very, very unpopular. There was a chance to learn a lesson — and the lesson was to love your neighbor, as well as being loved by your neighbor.”

But the Jews of 1930s Europe apparently had failed to know this, Atzmon implies, because they were slaughtered by the millions. If only they Jews had been more enlightened, then the tragedy could have been avoided. What made the Jews of Europe “unpopular”? Why, according to Atzmon, it was the Jews of Europe themselves. Later in the interview, Atzmon continues to say the Jews had made themselves “unpopular” by their “arrogance,” although he adds that “I think that the Israeli arrogance is by far worse that the pre-war condition [of European Jews].”

He again draws an analogy between his anti-Zionist opponents and the slaughtered Jews of Europe: “I think that the condition that led towards the horrible Nazi Judeocide is not very different from the condition that Greenstein or Machover or Rance or Elf and Lenni Brenner bring or inflict upon themselves.”

Again, the interviewer is unable to grasp what Atzmon is implying. (One suspects that he would percieve nothing short of an outburst of “Kill the yids” as being actually anti-Semitic; anything more subtle than that flies right past him.) The “condition” Atzmon’s attackers are “inflicting on themselves” is being hated, according to Atzmon. And that condition “is not very different” from the condition of 1930’s Jews, a condition which Atzmon has already claimed the Jews of Europe brought upon themselves.


More from Tony Greenstein

3 Jan 2008

Tony Greenstein has made a comment on another Indymedia site, and he seems quite close to the heart of the matter.

“I have stood back from this debate, as it’s not my personality that is at stake but a principle. Does a network like Indymedia want itself to be polluted by racists and racism? If not then it has to devise a mechanism whereby apologists for racism and anti-semitism can’t block and stifle those who do want to remain true to their principles. The sad fact is that [the editor in question], who I do not know, has got lost along the way and ended up defending a small group of holocaust deniers and their supporters (& Atzmon is definitely a supporter of holocaust deniers, e.g. the infamous Israel Shamir, which is where this all started). And now we have talk of the gas chambers being ‘discredited’. I just hope that the network meeting in February will sort out this stuff.”

That really seems to sum it up. The issue isn’t the battle between Atzmon and Greenstein, or between certain Indymedia UK editors (one of whom applauds “Israel Shamir”‘s “passion for justice”) and “Zionist censorship” (largely from anti-Zionists, but let it pass), but between Indymedia and those who would use Indymedia, against the wishes of most within it, as a platform for racism.


Who am I?

29 Dec 2007

In case you are wondering.

Because this discussion has devolved so frequently into the bitterest kind of personal attacks, I have decided to remain anonymous, in order to keep the focus where it should be: on Indymedia UK editorial policy and its current inability to keep the site free of anti-Semitism (but not other forms of racism).

I will also particularly note, since this is likely to be the accusation, that I am in no way working with or coordinating with Tony Greenstein or any other member of JAZ. Although opposition to Atzmon is loudest from JAZ, they do not (as Atzmon likes to imply) represent the totality of the opposition to his anti-Semitism. I think some of Greenstein’s arguments are good, some not so good, but that his better arguments were lost in the counterproductive noise of his frontal assault on Indymedia UK. There is more at stake here than the long interpersonal battle between the anti-Zionist Greenstein and the anti-Semite Atzmon, and it’s a important not to simply retreat to a “pox on both your houses” response to being dragged into such a long and bitter squabble.

The question it all comes down to is this: Is Indymedia UK truly an anti-racist site, or is it a place where anti-Semitism — when properly coded, of course — is welcomed? If Gilad Atzmon’s anti-Semitism is clear (and it certainly is) then he should be given no platform at Indymedia. It’s as simple as that.


More Latuff cartoons

28 Dec 2007

Something one notices after seeing enough cartoons from Carlos Latuff is that that he’s unable, apparently ever, to move beyond simple propaganda of the most blatant “we’re heroes, they’re villains” sort.

Earlier I posted a link to a rather vile cartoon attempting to portray all claims of anti-Semitism to be — exclusively — more “Zionist censorship” and false cries.

Looking back, this seems to be a major theme for Latuff, and he returns to it again and again.

Only Zionists complain about anti-Semitism, and the cries are false.

Only Zionists complain about anti-Semitism, and the cries are false.

Only Zionists complain about anti-Semitism, and the cries are false.

Only Zionists complain about anti-Semitism, and the cries are false.

It is hard not to see Latuff’s cartoons as diagramming the de facto editorial stance at Indymedia UK: any accusation of anti-Semitism is to be instantly disbelieved, ignored, or ridiculed — if not hidden immediately — because it’s really only a Zionist complaining (even when it is not), and who cares what they say, since their cries are false (even when they are not).

Then, going back further, comes one that brings me up short:

Only Zionists complain about anti-Semitism, and the cries are false.

Sorry, but is there a way not to see Latuff’s grotesque caricatured Jew as exactly that — a grotesque caricature of a Jew?

And isn’t that particularly troublesome when there’s no indication that the email he’s replying to came from someone Jewish?