Regular readers will know that over the past couple of years I have followed the public statements of a jazz musician and former Israeli reservist Gilad Atzmon, now resident in Britain. To call Atzmon a crank is to cast aspersions on those gentle souls who believe the USAF is covering up a crashed UFO at Roswell, that a cryptogram in the works of Shakespeare reveals the authorship of Francis Bacon, or that homeopathy is a branch of medical science. Atzmon's beliefs are a case apart because of their malevolence as well as their stupidity. He maintains, for example, that the notorious Czarist forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, depicting a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, is an accurate depiction of the state of modern America:
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 (in fact Zionists) do control the world.. So far they are doing pretty well for themselves at least.
(Note incidentally, that Atzmon appears to regard it is an open historical question whether the Protocols are in fact authentic! Their forged provenance was established by The Times as long ago as 1921, in three article reproduced here.)
But in his latest comments, published at the weekend on the Al-Jazeerah web site, Atzmon outdoes himself. The Irish historian, statesman and polymath Conor Cruise O'Brien once observed that, so far as debate about Israel is concerned, it is an indicator of antisemitism "if your interlocutor can't keep Hitler out of the conversation ... feverishly turning Jews into Nazis and Arabs into Jews". Atzmon has long been a particularly boneheaded exponent of that type of reasoning, but now he believes that the Nazis have been unfairly maligned. You think I misrepresent him? Well, consider his words:
To regard Hitler as the ultimate evil is nothing but surrendering to the Zio-centric discourse. To regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook. To compare Olmert to Hitler is to provide Israel and Olmert with a metaphorical moral shield. It maintains Hitler at the lead and allows Olmert to stay in the tail.
You think this is merely a metaphorical way of expressing a consuming hatred of the Jewish state rather than an apologia for Nazism? Well, consider Atzmon's direct description of the Nazis' aims and conduct (emphasis added):
Now is the time to stand up and say it, unlike the Nazis who had respect for other national movements including Zionism, Israel has zero respect for anyone including its next door neighbours. The Israeli behaviour should be realised as the ultimate vulgar biblical barbarism on the verge of cannibalism. Israel is nothing but evilness for the sake of evilness. It is wickedness with no comparison.
Go and read, as they say, the whole thing - if you you are of strong stomach. Atzmon maintains that: "Carpet bombing and total erasure of populated areas that is [sic] so trendy amongst Israeli military and politicians (as well as Anglo-Americans) has [sic] never been a Nazi tactic or strategy." If Atzmon had referred to, say, the history of the Warsaw Ghetto as "total erasure of populated areas", I should have condemned his euphemistic choice of language; yet he denies that such an act of barbarism even took place! Go and read his diagnosis that (emphasis added) "Nazism was a nationalist expansionist movement with extensive yet limited ambitions" - limited indeed to the conquest of western Europe, the enslavement of eastern Europe, and the annihilation of every last Jew.
Why do I bother citing ravings that I would wish to take professional advice upon before dismissing the hypothesis that their author is clinically insane? Because, as regular readers will know, Atzmon has appeared for each of the last three years as a listed speaker at the summer jamboree of the Socialist Workers' Party, which regards his anti-Jewish bigotry as "fearless tirades against Zionism". The SWP has its own electoral front called the Respect "Coalition". You may recall that during the last general election campaign, Respect's national secretary, John Rees, told The Guardian, "everyone in Respect has a long record of fighting anti-semitism". Presumably he meant "fomenting" antisemitism.