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It has been a good week for the anti-racist left, and a fairly poor week for progressive independent publishing. Several months back I called on Zero Books – an independent publisher long associated with the left – to cancel their plans to publish a book on “Jewish Identity” by the notorious anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon. This week the book came out, containing Gilad’s incoherent ramblings about the credit crunch being a “Zionist accident”, and attacks on numerous Jewish socialists.
To their great credit a number of authors published by Zero Books have signed a public letter expressing their dissatisfaction with their publisher’s decision to give a platform to Atzmon. Meanwhile Andy Newman at Socialist Unity had an excellent article about the whole affair printed in the Guardian.
Meanwhile Zero books have published an evasive and pathetic response to the criticism.
“I read the book when it first came through as a proposal, without any prior knowledge of Gilad Atzmon or his blogs”, reads the post. “I didn’t see any anti-semitism there.” It continues “If the book itself promoted anti-semitic views I would, without question [cancel publication]. If it does not, but Gilad Atzmon himself is anti-semitic, that’s a more difficult problem, publishing-wise, and ethically.”
It is a neat way to suggest that Atzmon’s well known anti-Semitic commentary, prior to the book, is of limited relevance to the decision to publish it. Such an argument is, however, absurd. Atzmon’s book makes some rather serious and rather vicious accusations numerous progessive Jews. The book, for example tells us that Jews Against Zionism, a small group Jewish socialists, “hate goyim”. Given the paucity of evidence to back up this claim, a responsible publisher might wander how their author reached such a conclusion. Indeed, before providing platform for such assertions, a responsible publisher might be concerned by the probability, that such conclusions were reached in a spirit of anti-semitic prejudice – not least given the extent to which the author relates such alleged character flaws to the “Jewish identity” of those that he vilifies. Indeed, a progressive author might worry that he was giving an anti-Semite a platform to make unwarranted attacks on some of his Jewish comrades. For heavens sake, if Nick Griffin as to write a book about the Mumia case, would it not matter that he was Nick Griffin?
On the question of whether or not Gilad Atzmon is an anti-Semite, the author of the Zero Books defense fails to answer the question directly. Instead he refers us to piece by American right winger, and Atzmon ally, John Mearsheimer, defending Atzmon on some quite specific points.. No attempt is made to address the serious example’s of Atzmon’s anti-Semitism put forward by those authors who objected to the books publication. No attempt, of course, is made to address, Atzmon’s affinity with age old Jewish conspiracy theories, or his statement – included in the authors’ letter – that “we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously … American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.”
Zero Books would do well to consider, in future, whom it hands a megaphone to.
To contact Reuben email email@example.com