Saturday, June 13, 2009

Staring Evil in the Face--Gilad Atzmon at the BFUU

A number of readers are of course quite curious as to what finally happened when professional anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon came to Berkeley to perform a concert at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists.

Members of the BFUU had expressed a great deal of consternation in the days leading up to the event itself. They alternated between trying to distance themselves from the event on the one hand, while on the other hand denying that Atzmon was a hateful creature who should not be invited by any group of civilized citizens. Certainly they did not welcome the publicity and they did not welcome the several dozen activists who held a public vigil outside the church that evening.

A BFUU member handed me a "statement for public inquiry". It makes for interesting reading.

"The BFUU-SJC [note: Social Justice Committee of the BFUU] agreed to be a cosponsor but was unaware at the time of Mr Atzmon's controversial reputation in some quarters." This I can easily believe. I can only hope that in the future BFUU will do some basic research before agreeing to bring in other hatemongers that groups such as ISM and Bay Area Women in Black might wish to promote. I can suggest a few easy ways to do that-- Google, Yahoo Search, and Ixquick are all very user-friendly!

"At this point in time we are prepared to publicly state that we have read some quotes by Mr Atzmon that have earned him severe condemnation and that we find these quotes to be extreme." Extreme. OK, that's a start, although you can almost see the clenched teeth through which even this minimally negative statement is forced. Not entirely certain if that's a disclaimer or not; after all, "extreme" isn't always a negative connotation. There's an entire group of entertainment events called "Extreme Sports" and even a local pizza chain called Extreme Pizza. Maybe the members of the SJC took Atzmon there after his appearance.

Then they get to the gist of it: "At the same time we have also begun studying some of Mr Atzmon's writings and have listened to analysts expert in the field who say that even though he has made very controversial statements he does not deserve to be shut out of public debate." This is the argument which hate speakers and Holocaust deniers from David Duke to David Irving to Mahmoud Ahmedinejad fall back on. Does the BFUU also feel that David Duke should be a part of public debate on race relations in this country?

So in the end, the BFUU SJC refused, in its meeting the day prior to the event, to even take the tepid step of quietly withdrawing its sponsorship of this event, and the BFUU decided to defend Atzmon despite his "controversial statements".

The protest itself was interesting in the reaction that it engendered from those at the BFUU event (apparently about an equal number to the demonstrators themselves). Many of those in attendance took numerous photographs of the demonstrators in a silly attempt at intimidation. One notorious local hater appeared with his Hamas flag, while another who has written approvingly of the man who recently murdered 4 Oakland police officers and has also publicly written anti-Semitic hate screeds even worse than Atzmon's came out to share in the bonhomie. It's not surprising that Atzmon would draw these types of troglodytes.

The aftermath of this event is yet to be written. The BFUU, of course, has hurt feelings that anyone would consider inviting a hate speaker to be in opposition to their own "covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person." There is an attempt being made by some genuinely well-meaning individuals to initiate a dialogue between those who made this event possible and those of us who protested against it. I'm somewhat skeptical of the chances for that effort to succeed; after all, those who openly support the genocidal aims of Hamas don't see anything wrong with bringing that agenda directly into our community. As I said to one BFUU member holding a sign that claimed that BFUU stood for the dignity of every person: Which part of "burning down a synagogue... would be a rational act" supports that lofty position?


  1. Gilad Atzons own commentary on the Berkeley event: Sit down for this one, folks:

    http://palestinethinktank dot com/2009/06/16/gilad-atzmon-yearning-for-a-minyan/

    " They are pointing their finger at themselves saying, “we are Zionists, we are a racist rightwingers, we are loud, proud and as you can see we are openly promoting our tribal interests.”

    (Well, actually the people protesting were progressive activists in the peace and justice movement embarrassed by the presence of hate speech in our community.)

    "I told my audience in Berkeley that the bunch of noisy people"

    (it was a silent protest)

    "whom they met in the entrance were crucial for the understanding of Zionism and its violence. The people out there were exactly the same people as the Israelis, they were motivated by the same supremacist ideas. They were using exactly the same intimidating tactics."

    (A silent protest is an intimidation technique? Quick, someone tell Dr. King! )

    "They just lacked the means to put us all behind barbed wire, to starve us or to spread white phosphorus over our heads. The picketers in Berkeley were waving the Israeli flag and carried placards, they were foreign to the calm evening scene as much as their settler brothers are foreign to the hills of Judea and Samaria. "

    (There was only one "foreigner" on the scene. The rest of us were community activists)

    "They basically brought Israeli ugliness to an innocent Californian street. Funnily enough from a light PA system "

    (it was a radio. An old radio. Is this man clueless or what?)

    "they brought along they played some horrible Israeli folk music, they probably didn’t realise that I could recognise my saxophone and clarinet on most of these badly played and horribly arranged songs. "

    (Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't he complaining about the music and taking credit for it simutaneously?)

    "The night was a great success."

    (This certainly shows how utterly divorced from reality this man is. There were fewer people attending his concert than protesting it outside. That counts as a great success?)

  2. I had written to the organization who was hosting this self-hater explaining a simple metaphor, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, flaps like a duck, is it a turkey? No - it's a duck. Same as for the self-hater with the very Jewish/Israeli name -- if he calls for destruction of people, if he says that being a Zionist is evil, why does he sound more like a Nazi/KKK/Islamic Jihadist than a Torah loving Jew? It's quite simple, he should say the Shahada and pledge his soul to Araputz and Bin Laden/Hitler.

    Shalom, Salaam, Namaste, Salaw, Shpena

    Hinda B.
    Sonoma County, California

    The organization wrote me back stating that there is Freedom of Speech in the US - true - so but there are laws against speeches such as the Reverend Wright, David Duke, et al. have stated too regarding find a Jew or a Black and hack them to death. Is that also part of our Constitution that gives us Freedom?

    Hardly. It was also funny and ironic that this putz would also quote Dr. Martin Luther King who was a Republican AND he supported Israel! He spoke against the newly formed PLO and of the Arabs because Dr. King knew of the partnership between the Nazis and the Muslim Brotherhood.

    By the way, as of December 2008, the US State Department was looking into whether the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) was a terrorist supporting group -- the proof was that they are. They supported Hamass and Hezbollah and also warned people prior to Sept. 11, 2001 of not being in NYC.