September 29, 2011

A few points for the occasion of the Atzmon saga going mainstream

Of course Atzmon is antisemitic. I think a lot of people who steered clear of him, including yours truly, have been loath to say that because of the way this accusation has been weaponized by Zionists, and the desire not to give them any credibility. But that kind of circumlocution quite often has a price. Had people been less circumspect, the implosion of Mearsheimer might not have happened. It takes a unique kind of genius to cede the moral high ground to the denizens of Harry’s sewer, where every kind of bigotry is acceptable except antisemitism, or the concentration camp volunteer guard Jeffrey Goldberg.

One doesn’t need to parse Atzmon’s most hateful words, or identify his most egregious falsifications, such as asking whether the Nazis wanted to kill Jews, blaming the holocaust of “Jewish pressure”, etc., to show his antisemitism. These are but manifestations. That confusion is the result of not having a clear idea of what antisemitism is. Antisemitism is fundamentally a political analysis that explains social and political pathologies as effects of some essential Jewish attributes. This is Atzmon’s core idea, which he keeps touting as his big contribution. Atzmon’s reflection on why he isn’t antisemitic itself shows that he is, as As’ad Abukhalil called him, not merely antisemitic, but “one of those classical anti-semites.”

Atzmon's key defense is that he speaks neither of Jewish religion nor of Jews, but of Jewishness, which he defines as “Jewish ideology". This distinction precisely repeats the two gestures that establish nineteenth century antisemitism as a political tendency. Wilhelm Marr coined the term Antisemitismus to distinguish his political analysis of Western societies in terms of Jewish pathology from the old anti-Jewish prejudices based on the denigration of Jewish religion. In his programmatic pamphlet, Marr also takes care to dissociate himself from less sophisticated Jew haters, specifically writing, “Not individual Jews but the Jewish spirit and Jewish consciousness have overpowered the world.” (Victory of Jewishness over Germanity) Compare that to Atzmon:
You may note that I neither refer to Jews as a racial or ethnic group; nor am I directing my critique towards Judaism, the religion. And whilst Jews can indeed succumb to what I define as 'Jewish ideology', (and many of them do) it is valuable to bear in mind they can also be its most virulent enemies.
Substituting "Jewish ideology" for "the Jewish spirit and Jewish consciousness" is all what makes Atzmon's take on Jewishness "ground breaking." Everything else is derivative.

Another point about Mearsheimer's implosion.

As the authors of Zero books have noted in their protest letter about Atzmon, it is easy to be fooled by Atzmon's convoluted and pretentious claptrap. Mearsheimer could have extricated himself from his self-inflicted fiasco with little effort, at most a little uncomfortable 'oops'. Instead, he decided to stand his ground in the most obtuse way, defending an article in which Atzmon effectively plagiarizes white supremacist fabrications as example of Atzmon’s not being an antisemite. All he had to do to find out where Atzmon gets his knowledge of history was click on a few links Atzmon provided, and find the source from which he lifted the claim that
Jewish texts tend to glaze over the fact that Hitler's March 28 1933, ordering a boycott against Jewish stores and goods, was an escalation in direct response to the declaration of war on Germany by the worldwide Jewish leadership.
It doesn’t take a sleuth to determine that the source of this fabrication is an article of writer who advocates something called "ethno-nationalism," published in the holocaust denial publication, The Barnes Review, the brainchild of Willis Carto, an American white-supremacist and a former affiliate of David Duke. The article, linked indirectly by Atzmon, is hosted on a site whose political flavor can be easily gauged by this enthusiastic introduction to another article:
Entire books have been written on the topic of "why Germany lost the War" - or, conversely, "why the Allies won". This booklet exposes a vitally important, but often underestimated factor: the German traitors who worked to destroy the German Reich from within. Their attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944 was only the tip of the iceberg. More and more, it appears that the Allies would not have been victorious without their help - and that, in fact, the war might never even have come about without their machinations!
But let alone that Mearsheimer, despite being a political science professor, has a tin ear, and a not very scholarly attitude to checking sources, even more disturbing is the incongruity between his attitude and the fact that he “taught countless University of Chicago students over the years about the Holocaust and about Hitler's role in it.” It is preposterous to accuse Mearsheimer of holocaust denial, and the mainstream people who attack him now have very little integrity. But that is not enough. How does someone who teaches history at Chicago University defends the integrity of an article that is based on a fabricated historical claim, in the area of his teaching, without noting that the core claim is a fabrication? There was no “declaration of war on Germany by the worldwide Jewish leadership.” First, there was no worldwide Jewish leadership (it’s an antisemitic and nazi boogeyman), and, second, as Saul Friedlander writes (and as Lenni Brenner fleshes out in detail) :
most of the Jewish organizations in the United States were opposed to mass demonstrations and economic action.
Atzmon, one can be sure, hasn’t read any “Jewish text” (his racializing code word for competent history) on the matter. He apparently read one article in The Barnes Review, and from this article he took, and made his own, the (yet another) false claim that
Not even Saul Friedlander in his otherwise comprehensive overview of German policy, Nazi Germany and the Jews, mentions the fact that the Jewish declaration of war and boycott preceded Hitler's speech of March 28, 1933. Discerning readers would be wise to ask why Friedlander felt this item of history so irrelevant.
In fact, Friedlander includes the story of the organizing among Jews during the first months of Hitler’s rule in the first chapter, pages 6-11 of the abridged edition of Nazi Germany and the Jews. It is available on line, so it is easy to check. Here is Friedlander actually setting the sequence of events:
Much of the foreign press gave wide coverage to the Nazi violence [from early March]. American newspapers, in particular, did not mince words about the anti-Jewish persecution. Jewish and non-Jewish protests grew. These very protests became the Nazis’ pretext for the notorious April 1, 1933, boycott of Jewish businesses. In mid-March, Hitler had already allowed a committee headed by Julius Streicher, party chief of Franconia and editor of the party’s most vicious anti-Jewish newspaper, Der Stürmer, to proceed with preparatory work for it. (Ibid. my emphasis)
It is funny in a not funny way that a professor of political science would describe a writer who draws his "knowledge" of history quite exclusively from far right white nationalist publications as a “universalist” who “is the kind of person who intensely dislikes nationalism of any sort.” What is not funny in a not funny way is how Mearsheimer managed to destroy his own intellectual standing for defending an insignificant blurb. (And just to be clear, the implosion of Mearsheimer does not mean that AIPAC is any less nefarious an organization than it was last week.)

urls not linked in this article:

2. The Barnes Review, "The Jewish Declaration of War on Nazi Germany", The Economic Boycott of 1933" archived at

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