J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Isolating or Celebrating Extremists

Last week David Tate in his Guardian UK blog called for the British left to disassociate itself with Israeli-born radical “anti-Zionist” jazz musician Gilad Atzmon. The Marxist reedman had a history of making provocative statements that either flirt with Anti-Semitism, or explicitly cross the line into hate speech. Here’s some background. Tate criticizes the British Socialist Workers’ Party, and challenges its umbrella organization Unite Against Fascism, writing:

“The SWP invites Atzmon to speak because it is a party which actively and openly promotes racist conspiracy theories as part of its failed Respect strategy, including the notion that "Israel has been formulating and directing UK and US foreign policy".

The Socialist Workers' Party makes a great play of its anti-racist credentials and its prominent role, through its involvement in Unite Against Fascism, in opposing racism.

If Unite Against Fascism is a truly independent organisation, they will have no difficulty in condemning Atzmon's participation in Marxism2006, and will call for his invitation to be withdrawn."


Tate is certainly correct in his contention that involvement with Atzmon will only further discredit the British left. Oddly, the American liberal media seems to encourage the participation of such extremists, as evidenced by the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle endorsing the long-shot Congressional bid of former Rep. Pete McCloskey.

McCloskey served in the House from 1967-1983, and has become an easy sound-bite whenever the media needs someone with Republican credentials to criticize the national GOP. He also enjoys speaking to groups like the Institute for Historical Review, whose raison d’être is Holocaust denial. In one such speech, he referred to the “so-called Holocaust.” Incidentally, on Thur., he returned a $2,100 political donation to an individual linked to al-Qaeda.

In a dark parallel, both McCloskey and Aztmon seem inclined to quibble over historical details and actual numbers killed, in the hope that each caveat or downward revision will help de-legitimize Israel. At one point McCloskey, signing his full name, Paul N., suggested to IHR:

I want to make a polite suggestion. So many of my friends and relations personally saw the Nazi death camps during the last days of World War II that I myself am convinced that there was a deliberate policy of extermination of Jews, Poles, gypsies, and homosexuals by the Nazi leadership. Numbers of the specific events can be challenged, but it is my personal view that the IHR would be far more effective if it were to concede that a holocaust did occur and focus on the ADL’s distortions of truth.

Likewise, Atzmon wants to raise issues about historical accuracy in how we remember the Holocaust (page 9):

“Few people in Germany, in Israel or anywhere else know about the extensive collaboration between the Zionists and the Nazis before and during WWII. I am not a historian and the question of whether 6 million or rather 5,500,000 Jewsdied in the Holocaust is not really my major concern."

While the Guardian urges the isolation of Atzmon, the LATimes and SF Chronicle see fit to embrace a McCloskey if he is willing to criticize the current Republican Congress. Is it any wonder American newspaper readership keeps falling?