Abunimah: Absolutely No Reconciliation with Atzmon

Report by Henry Herskovitz


Ali Abunimah introduced his new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine, to about thirty people at a presentation at UM Dearborn (University of Michigan, Dearborn campus) last Tuesday. I asked him whether, in response to Blake Alcott's request to "bury the hatchet" he would be willing to sit down with Gilad Atzmon and publicly hash out their differences.

"Absolutely not" was his reply, and it actually received a smattering of applause from the audience. I then followed up with a request that, for the benefit of this audience, he briefly describe his differences with Atzmon.

"It's all in the letter" was all he said, and Shaheen (not her real name), the student organizer for the event, supported Abunimah, saying that she had read Alcott's piece and Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Anti-semitism of Gilad Atzmon.

Shaheen subsequently refused an email request to continue the conversation, writing, "In addition, as a person who is not Jewish, I do not feel that my perspective belongs in conversations about Jewish identity politics and whether or not Gilad has expressed anti-Semitic views."

I responded "It appears … that your 'not Jewish' admission speaks exactly to the power that Gilad writes about. Your perspective belongs in these conversations, absolutely! Why wouldn't it? Ali's homeland (might be yours, too ... I don't know) has been under siege by the Jewish state for almost as long as I've been alive. And this state gets support from almost all mainstream Jewish organizations worldwide. So it appears to me perfectly normal to question all aspects of the behavior of this Jewish state, including Jewish identity politics. It's my belief that Gilad's book is an attempt to do just that, and, from my perspective, not at all in a mean-spirited way."

Ali also extolled the work of Jewish Voice for Peace and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which causes me to wonder why a displaced Palestinian would collaborate with Jewish peace organizations who also consider Jewish identity politics, and Israel's legitimacy, to be verboten topics. When, in The Wandering Who, Gilad defines Zionism as a Jewish tribal preservation project, it becomes clear that Ali Abunimah has sided with those who promote Jewish interests above Palestinian interests and the cause of justice and peace. It is with regret that Ali has become a tacit ally of the Jewish intellectuals who dominate the movement.

Ali said that Israel cannot teach the US about racism because the US promotes its own brand of racism (against Blacks, Latinos, Natives). Hello, Mr. Abunimah, it is not American racism that has ravaged your country, and continues to do so. It is Israeli and American Jewish racism – supported clearly by Jews worldwide – that is doing so, and for you to "spread the blame" is, in my opinion, protecting the very ones you should be holding accountable.

He pointed out the chapter in his book, which asks "Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state?", but did not answer the question at the presentation. Hopefully, he will answer the question in the book. Finally, and for the record, Gilad Atzmon was contacted prior to writing this report and shared his willingness to sit down with Ali anytime.