Faint Heartedness, Political Correctness, and Peculiar Timing: The Attacks on Gilad Atzmon


By Richard Edmondson

A group of prominent Palestinians who recently launched an attack on Gilad Atzmon seem to have made their required obeisance to Jewish sensibilities. Bravo for them. I must confess something, however: what good this will do for Palestine, or how it will ultimately help end the occupation, is totally beyond me. On the other hand, it does seem like an awfully nice gift for Israel, coming especially on the heels of the latest murderous rampage against Gaza. In this most recent paroxysm of Israeli violence, some 25 people died, including children. Why publish an attack against Atzmon at this particular time? Could it not have waited?

Atzmon is not only a longtime defender of Palestine, he has also emerged as one of the most powerful voices in anti-Zionist discourse. Why attack him at all, of course, but why especially now? As the most recent images of Gazans mourning their dead were flashing across the Internet, people throughout the world were getting worked up into a state of righteous anger. Even the mainstream media were forced to admit—something they rarely do—that the Israeli assault was not in “retaliation” for the firing of any missile or anything else any Palestinian had done. But then wham! Suddenly we get our “disavowal” manifesto. For this particular group of people to attempt to soil Atzmon with the “anti-Semite” label at this particular moment—well, let’s put it this way: Israel could hardly have asked for more.

The manifesto and its signatories can be found here. I recognize a number of the names on the list, and am aware that at least some of them hold comfortable university positions. Universities used to be bastions of free speech, but that is not the case any longer. We’ve seen a decade of attacks against outspoken academics coming from people like David Horowitz. Academic freedom, as with other freedoms in America, is pretty much on the road to extinction, and criticizing Israel is probably the most risky of all things you could possibly do. Get labeled an anti-Semite and it can be the end of your job. Such is Jewish power in America. But this power is especially felt in academia where many prestigious universities depend on Jewish financial gifts.

But of course the Palestine Solidarity movement is made up of many diverse people. Some, by virtue of positions they hold, certainly have reason to fear should they say or do something to offend Jews, while others are not encumbered with this concern. But curiously even the ones who aren’t, act as if they are. It’s as if being cognizant of the Holocaust and treading carefully around Jewish sensibilities has become ingrained in us. This is true virtually everywhere, at every level of American society, and now, as we see, it has spread into the Palestinian community as well. Were it any country other than Israel, and any ethnic group other than Jews, I dare say we would not even be having this conversation right now. The question is—what has all this caution, concern and political correctness gotten us? We’ve had four-plus decades—going back to the attack on the USS Liberty—of tiptoeing timidly around Jewish sensibilities. And what have we seen? Israel repeatedly unleashing murder and mayhem, becoming ever more emboldened how it goes about it in the process, while Jewish lobbies have at the same time consolidated greater and greater power over Western governments. Meanwhile, the Palestine Solidarity community splits asunder because some are worried about causing offense to Jews. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. It’s time to try something new, and that’s what Atzmon represents—he represents a change in the discourse. He is a breath of fresh air.

Israel is an evil country led by evil people. Time to acknowledge that. But time to acknowledge also that there is a certain definable problem here other than just the leaders of the country alone. As Atzmon himself has noted, 94 percent of Israelis supported Operation Cast Lead. And during the latest mugging of Gaza, Judy Nir Mozes Shalom, an Israeli talk show personality, called for an escalation of the bombing to include even the “passive residents” of the besieged territory. “I hope that at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting a decision will be accepted to enter Gaza and kill all those responsible for the nightmare that is happening in the south,” said Nir Mozes Shalom. “It’s time even for the passive residents of Gaza to suffer the way the residents of the south are suffering.”

One might also inquire: are Israeli leaders able to read minds? Did they know Zuhair al-Qaissi was planning or contemplating something? Or was the sudden violating of the truce more about Israeli domestic politics and the thirst for blood brought on by the Purim holiday? My hunch is the latter.

Israel’s hostile, belligerent behavior is taking us dangerously close to a potential World War III. People need to be jolted awake to this threat before it’s too late, and I have a feeling that treading lightly and meekly observing the rules of political etiquette is not going to accomplish that. If the detractors of Atzmon—and now apparently we can add the courageous Ken O’Keefe to the list of those under attack—are too faint hearted to call a spade a spade, that’s fine; I think we can all understand your qualms and sympathize to a certain extent. Just abstain from hurling brickbats at those who do have the courage to speak up and say the things that need to be said.