Saturday, June 18, 2005

Gilad Atzmon at Bookmarks

Cut and pasted below is Roland Rance's account of the picket and protest that took place last night outside Bookmarks - the SWP's bookshop in Bloomsbury, London - at the SWP's decision to invite Gilad Atzmon to speak on the subject of ‘My One And Only Love’ and on the deconstruction of the Zionist Identity'.
Much has been written on the net and elsewhere about the controversial decision taken by the SWP to invite Atzmon to speak both at Bookmarks and their forthcoming Marxism event (he has spoken at Marxism twice before), and naturally many people who have an axe to grind with the SWP - yes, I'm a natural member of that bloc - have obviously waded in with both boots to call them on it, but if you want an inside account of the protest - on the whys and wherefores - against the views expressed by Atzmon, then I would suggest that you check out Mark Elf's blog jews sans frontieres for a pretty thorough trawl through all the claims and counter-claims. An alternative take on the matter of the rights and wrongs of protesting against Atzmon can be read on the Counterpunch website here.
From the UK Left Network discussion list:
About 30 activists turned out to protest the talk by Gilad Atzmon at Bookmarks bookshop, significantly outnumbering those who actually went in tothe meeting. Several of these had attended for the express purpose of denouncing Atzmon and his views, and it is clear that very few attended in order to listen to and learn from him. Numbers of attendees were further restricted by the (unannounced) decision to make the meeting ticket only,those preventing even some of their own members from attending. Of course, none of the pickets was allowed to attend.
Although some of the audience took our leaflets, and a few engaged in debate with us, the SWP's leadership treated us with arrogant contempt, refusing even to acknowledge, let alone touch, the leaflets; and, in some cases, aggressively pushing us aside without even asking us to move.
Despite earlier attacks by the SWP that, by calling the picket, we were"lining up with the AWL", they, and other sectarians and Zionist apologists were totally absent, and the protesters were all clearly opposed to Israel and its Zionist practices. We were further admonished that "reasionable people" like Hilary Rose and Moshe Machover opposed the picket. In fact,Hilary turned up and stood with us in the protest, while Moshe, who was unable to come, sent the SWP a letter strongly supporting and endorsing the picket.
It's clear that the SWP had no idea of the extent and depth of revulsion atAtzmon's ideas, and the anger at them for giving him a platform. They have been given something to think about.
After the picket, most of us went for a drink, and were later joined by sympathisers who had attended the meeting. We learned from them that Atzmon had not been received well, that no-one had sppoken in his defence, and that several SWP members were apparently in dismay at the views they heard, and the damage they have done to the party's image. Our shouts, and the many speeches through the megaphone, were heard clearly throught the meeting. Apparently, Atzmon devoted a large part of his talk to discussing the highly controversial theories of Otto Weininger (who, as Atzmon himself admitted, was Hitler's favourite Jew), who, in his work Sex and Character, characterised the Jew as "feminine, and thus profoundly irreligious, without true individuality (soul), and without a sense of good and evil . . . The decay of modern (ie early twentieth century) times was due to feminine, and thus Jewish, influences - see here. Atzmonalso propounded his own highly sexist theory of gender, before giving a rambling account of his own views, and expressing his bemusement at the picket. In the ensuing discussion, he was roundly denounced by several speakers; John Rose of the SWP reportedly made a particularly powerful and effective response.
Members of the SWP who did not know at the beginning of the meeting, certainly realised by the end what an error they had made. However, we must still marvel at their stupidity in even inviting Atzmon in the first place, as well as expressing our anger at the contempt we faced from some SWP leaders, notablty their national secretary Martin Smith, who refused (unlike most of his comrades) to exchange even one civil word with us.
All in all, we are pleased with our efforts, which in a short time mobilised a large and vocal protest, and which confronted the SWP with a reality they wished to ignore -- that they cannot hold a meeting with a racist and expect it to pass quietly, and that you cannot defend Palestinian rights if you accept the Zionist paradigm which identifies all Jews with Zionism.
Roland Rance

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