Noel Ignatiev: More on the Atzmon Controversy

Introduction by Gilad Atzmon: The Abunimah & Co's declaration also  sparked a big debate within the One Democratic State (ODS) movement. It seems as if  prominent Palestinians and intellectuals grasp that the declaration is inherently undemocratic, based on empty  accusations and divisive.  Noel Ignatiev published some of the comments.

More on the Atzmon Controversy

My previous posting consisted of an exchange I had with Gilad Atzmon, plus a comment from longtime antizionist Jeff Blankfort.


There is a statement signed by Palestinian academics and activists denouncing Atzmon for racism and antisemitism. It is at


Some responses:


Dear all, NOT IN MY NAME PLEASE. I express my deep sadness at the petition in the Electronic Intifada, a petition which is composed and signed by people whom I love and with whom I have been struggling for a vision of equality and peace in Palestine for years now. Gilad’s book, bravely, and on many levels, points at; touches; brings into language the existential complexities that link the Jewish and the Zionist questions.  It cries out for making this link into a field of inquiry. The complexities of these links reflect both the depth to which any grasping of and responding to what is now happening in Palestine must traverse. It is controversial but so what? It is causing offence to some uncritically accepted coordinates of debate but so what? It may not be palatable or expedient but so what? There is absolutely no racism or any hatred in the book. It is written from love, from passionate truth-seeking and beyond all out of deep care for people, care for the being of people, both those who perpetrate violence and those who suffer at its hands. Indeed the book meditates on the origin of violence in Palestine, origin to which Zionism may be but a symptom.  The accusation of racist anti-Semitism is a cynical attempt to prevent a question from being asked – an act of violence against questioning, against opening the possibility of self-questioning. We need a debate not petitions like this. It is precisely the lack of debate which serves simplistic views and structures of power. This refusal to touch a painful points, points that are in existential sense earlier than memory, is itself question-worthy. Why does anybody fall into a line of feigning ‘expediency’ so strongly like that? Touching the relationship between Zionism and Jewish being and thinking might well be needed precisely if anti-Zionism is to have any existential bite.  I sense the force that leads to this petition and am despairing at it. At no time does it call for an engaging with, to take on board, accept, contest, disagree and inflect Gilad’s insights and pointers. This petition is written out of fear and political expediency. It caricaturises and then criticises the caricature. It is certainly not written out of dwelling together in the seeking of truth and justice. Can justice ever be achieved if truth, not merely of actions but also that being that brings these actions about, is not sought and brought into language?   Ironically it is the statement that shows the urgency to canvass the insights it evades.  We are all together. Together. There is something very telling and deep in this violent silencing and oblivious to freedom of speech, this blind conditioning of respect for the political stake that ought to unite all the people who struggle for justice in Palestine. I call for adopting the seeking of truth and the overcoming of existential fetters, as the objective of this political struggle. 

Therefore, if the statement about Gilad finds its way to our website than it is with the greatest sadness and regret that I have to withdraw my name from the declaration as well as from the website, as no attempt is made to disassociate the commitment to the statement from the commitment to the Palestinian statement about Gilad.

With peace and love, Oren Oren Ben-Dor, anti-Zionist former Israeli residing in the UK


Indeed I oppose the attacks on Gilad. Apart from considerations of the right of people to voice alternative views, and their right to be heard, I do not believe it is appropriate for Palestinians in particular to get involved in what is largely an intra-Jewish dispute.

Ghada Karmi prominent Palestinian writer/activist in the UK


Dear all

I agree with Oren and Ghada and will not have my name added to a statement denouncing Gil'ad Atzmon. I believe it is not up to us to censor opinions with which we do not agree, particularly on the anti-Zionist side, and I am saying this as a Jew and an Israeli citizen, albeit living and working in Ireland.

The discussions about him have taken far too much time and space, and as Lubna says, are diverting our attention from what is really important. If the group decides to publish this statement on the website, I will regrettably have to ask you to remove my name from the website and the list.

In peace and solidarity,

Ronit Lentin


I agree with Ronit, Lubna, Oren, Sami, Ghada and others. Khalas. Those who feel strongly to add their name to support Condemning Gilad Atzmon can and should do it in personal capacity.  We will not/should not post this on any group website.  Those who want to post things on their individual sites should do so.  Also those who wish to go to Munich or not go to Munich should also do it. But let us end this discussion here. It has taken far too much energy.

Mazin Qumsiyeh


Dear All!
I would like to make 3 points:
1. I am in total agreement with Oren and Mazin and will not repeat their splendid responses. However, I want to add the following: a few days ago I received a call from a dear friend of mine who happens to be a professor of history, an orthodox-Jew who read most of Gilad's work including his recent book. This person stated categorically that Gilad is not an anti-Semite nor is he a holocaust denier nor is he a self hating Jew. His conclusions are the same as mine after several discussions which I had personally with Gild. This person's name is available for anyone to contact or if you wish, I will invite him to contribute to this discussion.
2. Being obsession with identity politics or any other subject does not make the person an anti-Semite. If we look at ourselves, each one of us is obsessed with one subject or another that can be easily labeled by the Zionists and their supporters as anti-Semitic.  What does that make us? I read the petition and I, frankly speaking, find it to be and a hatchet job, offensive and demeaning to Palestinian sense of fair play and justice!  
3. Dr. Nur mentions that "one of the principal German co-organiser of the one-state Munich conference is closely associated with Atzmon.. someone who openly campaigns for Atzmon and against the "Jewish anti-Zionists"... using a typically anti-Semitic language...". Can you please be specific as to the name of the person you are talking about and to the incidents of anti-Semitic language used? This is a serious charge and no one benefits from making such a baseless accusation.  
The Munich Conference is initiated by ODS. The ODS Declaration is the basis of the One State Document which we are proud of. You were invited to be co-initiator and to have an equal input in the event out of respect and a desire to work together. In fact, the whole idea behind the Munich Conference is to bring all activists together and equally participate in the creation of the movement for ODS. What is anti-Semitic about it? Once again, I appeal to all of you to come together and work for advancing the cause of ODS and allow clear and coherent debate on related ideas to take place and to renounce the ways of the Zionists. I personally, professionally, and business wise suffered greatly from it and I certainly do not want anyone to be subjected to it!
Please forgive me if I offended anyone. It is not my intent!

Dr Samir Abed Rabo