Life in the termite colony

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Oliver Kamm

AMein Kampf, of Zion

Pro­to­cols of the El­ders the free so­ci­eties of Europe and North Amer­ica.

Topham has a pre­dictable de­fence wit­ness in his trial. It’s Gi­lad Atz­mon, the jazz sax­o­phon­ist. I was the first jour­nal­ist to note (around 10 years ago) the crudely an­ti­semitic ma­te­rial be­ing es­poused by Atz­mon, a for­mer Is­raeli. His stuff was a straight­for­ward Jewish con­spir­acy the­ory. It re­mains so. His sub­mis­sion to the Bri­tish Columbia court main­tains that “the end­less Jewish and Zion­ist at­tempts to re­fer to the Pro­to­cols as an an­ti­semitic forgery is a tac­ti­cal move that is in­tended to di­vert at­ten­tion from the re­al­ity of force­ful Jewish lobby groups”.

I’m glad to have pub­licly ex­posed the noi­some and twisted opin­ions of Atz­mon. Yet when I did so he was a fix­ture on the far left. He was a star turn in mu­si­cal per­for­mance and po­lit­i­cal polemic for the So­cial­ist Work­ers Party, which com­mended his “fear­less tirades against Zion­ism”. He has since re­ceived com­men­da­tion from John Mearsheimer, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist who co-au­thored a ten­den­tious book a few years ago called The Is­rael Lobby. Mearsheimer has praised what he terms “a fas­ci­nat­ing and provoca­tive book on Jewish iden­tity in the mod­ern world” by Atz­mon.

The lan­guage of clas­sic an­ti­semitism, in­clud­ing the most bizarre claims, crops up dispir­it­ingly of­ten in the world of pol­i­tics and let­ters. One in­stance I re­call with par­tic­u­lar in­credulity was a cover for the New States­man in 2002 head­lined A Kosher Con­spir­acy? show­ing a Star of David pierc­ing a union jack. (Un­der a new ed­i­tor, the NS has re­cov­ered its bear­ings and be­come an in­dis­pens­able read.) An­other was the sack­ing of Baroness Tonge in 2010 as a spokesper­son for the Lib­eral Democrats when she called for an in­quiry into al­le­ga­tions that Is­raeli sol­diers were in­volved in or­gan traf­fick­ing in Haiti. Most dispir­it­ingly for me, as a Labour sym­pa­thiser, is the elec­tion of Jeremy Cor­byn as party leader — an af­fa­ble light­weight with a long history of as­so­ci­at­ing with ex­trem­ists.

This is all (to coin a redo­lent phrase of my late friend Christopher Hitchens) an in­di­ca­tion of how far the ter­mites have dined and how well they’ve fed. The dig­i­tal age has cre­ated new fo­rums for the ex­pres­sion of malev­o­lent fringe opin­ions. We shouldn’t mis­take a mega­phone for a mass move­ment, how­ever, or treat such toxic opin­ions as typ­i­cal of free so­ci­eties and pro­gres­sive par­ties in which Jews play an in­te­gral part and Is­rael is widely ad­mired.

At least, that’s what I keep telling my­self and my com­rades who are ap­pre­hen­sive of the rise of an­ti­semitic in­vec­tive in pub­lic life.

We have new fo­rums for ex­press­ing malev­o­lent opin­ions

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