Monday, September 26, 2011

Mearsheimer continues to defend the anti-Jewish author Gilad Atzmon

In recent days, several blogs (including this one) have reported that John Mearsheimer, a senior professor of political science at University of Chicago, endorsed a grossly bigoted book with a generous blurb. Mearsheimer has now issued a rebuttal to that charge in a column published on the blog his Israel Lobby co-author Stephen Walt maintains at the Foreign Policy magazine website. (Read here.)

Walt frames Mearsheimer's defense as a counterattack against columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, ignoring similar criticism Mearsheimer received from many others, including those who in the past defended his work and that of his co-author. (According to Andrew Sullivan: "Both David Bernstein and Pejman Yousefzadeh feel compelled to walk back their defenses of Mearsheimer.")

The substance of Mearsheimer's defense consists of contradictory claims that a) Atzmon is not a Holocaust denier or bigot, and b) the troubling comments to the contrary which Goldberg quoted appeared not in the book Mearsheimer endorsed, but in Atzmon's other writings.

Mearsheimer is simply wrong when he writes that none of the offensive quotes Goldberg cited appear in the Atzmon book.  The longest quote cited by Goldberg, is from page 175 of Atzmon's book.

I think that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start to ask the necessary questions. We should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws. We should strip the holocaust of its Judeo-centric exceptional status and treat it as an historical chapter that belongs to a certain time and place.

Sixty-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz we should reclaim our history and ask why? Why were the Jews hated? Why did European people stand up against their next door neighbours? Why are the Jews hated in the Middle East, surely they had a chance to open a new page in their troubled history? If they genuinely planned to do so, as the early Zionists claimed, why did they fail? Why did America tighten its immigration laws amid the growing danger to European Jews? We should also ask for what purpose do the holocaust denial laws serve? What is the holocaust religion there to conceal? As long as we fail to ask questions, we will be subjected to Zionists and their Neocons agents' plots. We will continue killing in the name of Jewish suffering. We will maintain our complicity in Western imperialist crimes against humanity...

In his column on Walt's blog, Mearsheimer falsely claims that this quote and all of the others cited by Goldberg do not appear in the book he recommended.  He further falsely denies that this or any of Atzmon's other arguments constitute Holocaust denial, but they clearly do.  In that brief quote, Atzmon argues: 1) that the Holocaust has not been the subject of free scholarly inquiry, 2) that "conclusive historical evidence" that the Holocaust occurred has not been published,  3) that belief that the Holocaust occurred is "religious", 4) that belief that the Holocaust occurred is rooted in anti-Gentile bias and is cynically motivated by a desire to manipulate Gentiles.  Moreover, that quote from Atzmon's book goes on to imply that hatred of Jews, whether in 1930s and 1940s Europe or in the contemporary world, is justified.  That Mearsheimer could either defend such an argument or not consider it noteworthy is inexcusable.

Ludicrously, Mearsheimer attempts to defend such statements as merely "provocative" and written in "overly hot language".  Mearsheimer writes:


The book, as my blurb makes clear, is an extended meditation on Jewish identity in the Diaspora and how it relates to the Holocaust, Israel, and Zionism. There is no question that the book is provocative, both in terms of its central argument and the overly hot language that Atzmon sometimes uses. But it is also filled with interesting insights that make the reader think long and hard about an important subject. Of course, I do not agree with everything that he says in the book -- what blurber does? -- but I found it thought provoking and likely to be of considerable interest to Jews and non-Jews, which is what I said in my brief comment.

and

Goldberg’s charge that Atzman is a Holocaust denier or an apologist for Hitler is baseless. Nor is Atzmon an anti-Semite. He has controversial views for sure and he sometimes employs overly provocative language. But there is no question in my mind that he has written a fascinating book that, as I said in my blurb, “should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.” Regarding Goldberg’s insinuation that I have any sympathy for Holocaust denial and am an anti-Semite, it is just another attempt in his longstanding effort to smear Steve Walt and me.


Mearsheimer, defending himself against a charge no one has made, goes on to point out that anyone who had heard him lecture would know that he is not a Holocaust denier.  That is undoubtedly true, but in defending Atzmon from this charge Mearsheimer demonstrates that he cannot recognize Holocaust denial when he sees it.  Moreover, he unfairly condemns in extremely harsh terms those who can see it and object to it.  So while Mearsheimer himself is in no way a Holocaust denier, he is very comfortable providing cover for those who are.

The strangest thing about Mearsheimer's very strange defense of Atzmon against charges that Atzmon is anti-Jewish is that it runs counter to Atzmon's own statements about himself.  Atzmon actually calls himself a "proud self-hating Jew".

Such ideas, and far worse, appear throughout Atzmon's writings and interviews.  Joseph W, writing at Harry Place, points to a recent interview in which Atzmon made the following astounding declaration of anti-Jewish sentiment:

Interviewer: I tell people we are almost getting into a Weimar situation, do you see that happening?

Atzmon: Absolutely. It is very tragic to say, but I can see it. And the only thing that can save the Jews from themselves is if we, the goyim, let’s say --

Interviewer: I heard you joined the goyim a few years ago, you are on the goyim team now.

Atzmon: Yes -- if the goyim, the gentiles, basically -- find within ourselves the powers to contain this sinister ideological collective.

(Listen below at 56:55.)


In his Foreign Policy column, Mearsheimer himself quotes Atzmon as follows, but apparently fails to absorb the meaning of what he quotes:

It was actually the internalization of the meaning of the Holocaust that transformed me into a strong opponent of Israel and Jewish-ness.


If an opponent of Jewishness is not, by definition, an anti-Semite, then such words have no meaning. Maybe that, after all, is both Atzmon's and Mearsheimer's point.



Watch this space and Harry's Place for much more about this.

6 comments:

Makabit said...

The semantic games I see being played by defenders of Atzmon, and now by extension, Mearsheimer, in comments sections across the web are telling, and rather frightening.

Of course, when San Francisco Voice For Israel demonstrated against Atzmon at the Lake Merrit United Methodist Church in Oakland back in May, I learned that when you quote the horrifically anti-Semitic things Atzmon has said to his followers and fans, they smile, shake their heads, and tell you that the Zionists lied to you.

Stop BDS Park Slope said...

Adam,

You are doing an amazing on this story. You must have a stomach of iron to read this stuff!

Nycerbarb

Benjamin said...

I've got to say, Mearsheimer's interests in Jewish topics seems a bit more... disquieting with his defense and continued endorsement of Atzmon.

schalom libertad said...

related: Zero Authors' Statement [against the publishing of the book by] Gilad Atzmon

Jonathan Harrison said...

Atzmon's assumption that Auschwitz has not been studied and verified by a mountain of evidence clearly makes him a denier. Mearsheimer is being willfully blind not to see the "no evidence of extermination" fallacy that lies behind behind Atzmon's position.

The 'why oh why?' hand-wringing is also a classic antisemite's pose.

Anonymous said...

Are Jews human? Are they human like me? I'm European with blood from all over the west of Europe. Jews are 'chosen' supposedly, at least in their own view. If so, are Jews human like me or are they 'special', '├╝ber-humans'? Should any nation or group that defines itself so separately from the rest of humanity be beyond criticism, simply because of how it wishes to be represented? Killing a lot of Palestinian people in their own homes during the Christian festive period (operation cast lead): how does this behaviour square with the Jewish self-image, and the image of Israel?

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