A new dimension has been added to the crisis in the SWP by Gilad Atzmon declaring that charges of sexual harassment and rape against leading SWP organiser Martin Smith are a "tribal" (read: Jewish) conspiracy.
New SWP opposition blog: http://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/. No direct comment there yet (20 January) on the Atzmon angle.
Atzmon is sure that the charges are only invention, and the real issue is "tribal" (Jewish) harassment of Smith because he has been the chief mover in the SWP sponsoring gigs by Atzmon.
Atzmon accuses Smith’s critics — both in and out of the SWP — as being direct agents of “the Jewish lobby”.
Atzmon is a jazz musician of Israeli-Jewish origin who has turned very hostile to Israel and to almost all Jews. He has rejected his own religious, ethno-cultural, and national identities. Anyone is of course perfectly entitled to do that, and it can be a progressive and liberating act for many people. But Atzmon has rejected Jewishness in favour of racist myths about Jews; for a rough analogy, imagine a black person loudly proclaiming their support for the values of the Afrikaner Volksfront.
He denounces even fervently anti-Israeli Jewish activists, such as Mark Elf of the Jews Sans Frontières blog, as “AZZ”, “anti-Zionist Zionists”, and sees them conspiring everywhere.
He speaks of a “Judeocentric tribal coalition” conspiring to “wreck [his] career”, and says that the same forces are now “pursuing” Martin Smith directly because of his [Smith’s] support for Atzmon.
Atzmon says: “Martin Smith is obviously not a rapist. His only crime so far is supporting Atzmon and refusing to bow to Jewish pressure.”
Atzmon refers to the (many) SWP events he played at as “Red gatherings”, and speaks of the SWP’s “Jewish gate-keepers and tribal operators”. Atzmon denounces Workers’ Liberty as “tribally led”, and part of a conspiracy involving forces as diverse as the contrarian right-ish blog Harry’s Place, the anti-Zionist Jewish activist Tony Greenstein, and the Socialist Unity blog (which Atzmon refers to as the “Zionised ‘Red’ outlet known to many of us as Socialist Jewnity”).
Atzmon’s recycling of racist tropes about the hidden hand of the Jewish lobby pulling the strings of all political affairs, as well as his repeated use of the term “Red” as a derogatory political slander, place his political discourse on the fascist far-right. His out-of-hand dismissal of the charges against Martin Smith demonstrate a misogynistic insensitivity to issues of gender violence and sexual abuse (he has been known to use sexist language and images in his writing before).
But Atzmon has been producing this poison for many years. The question that must be asked is why he was courted by the SWP and heavily promoted as a voice of progressive, if perhaps confused, anti-Zionism.
A 2005 statement defending their promotion of Atzmon, and his repeated presence as a performer at SWP events, said categorically: “The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist.” The statement cited the SWP’s record of anti-racist and anti-fascist activity — as if the fact that the SWP campaigning against racism meant that anyone they worked with must somehow be anti-racist by association. The same method has been applied in the recent crisis — supporters of the SWP leadership claim that the organisation’s record of fighting women’s oppression means its leadership cannot be guilty of ignoring oppressive gender roles within the organisation. This kind of appeal to history and “record” is a way of sidestepping and silencing criticism (and, in both cases, the real “record” is much more complicated than the SWP leadership would like to make out).
The SWP’s support for and promotion of Atzmon was quietly dropped, without any apology or attempt to take account for why an anti-Jewish hate-monger was promoted by a socialist organisation.
It was bad enough the SWP sponsoring gigs by Atzmon.
The SWP Central Committee has a duty now to clear itself of the taint of political association with Atzmon by publicly dissociating from and denouncing Atzmon’s anti-semitic slur on Smith’s critics, both within the SWP and outside it.
• For more on Atzmon, including links to his posts and background on the SWP’s relationship with him, see here