Unpleasant serendipity. On Monday evening, as I was thinking about this article, I received an email in my Times account from the managing editor of a small book publisher, which she runs from her farm-cum-organic herb business in Wiltshire.
She wanted to know whether I would like to take part in a discussion on "Jewish Identity Politics" with one of her authors.
I looked at the company's website. "A cretinous anti-intellectualism presides," it proclaimed, "cheerled by hacks in the pay of multinational corporations who reassure their bored readers that there is no need to rouse themselves from their stupor." Since I am a hack in the pay of a multinational corporation, I would have been suspicious of the invitation, were it not for the fact that I had already decided to turn it down. This was mainly because my fellow-panellist was to be that motor-mouthed sack of egoism, the Judeophobic jazzman, Gilad Atzmon. It is hard to complain about cretinism and then promote Atzmon.
A secondary reason was the description of the forthcoming event as a "lively debate about Jewish political attitudes, the role of the holocaust, anti-Gentile ideologies, Jewish pressure groups, Zionist lobbying and much more." Refusing, I emailed my unhostess and asked her what "anti-Gentile ideologies" were. Her reply: "Dear David, It's my view that it means Israeli exceptionalism, which of course is a bed fellow of Zionism."
Ah, bedfellows! The serendipity, though, is that I sort of knew what they meant, since at the precise moment I received the email, I was watching a video of Atzmon having a "discussion" back in May on the same subjects. His fellow panelists were a media man called Karl Sabbagh and Alan Hart, the "former ITN and BBC Panorama reporter" whose books denouncing Zionism have made him something of a hero to the less discriminating part of the anti-Zionist movement. Which increasingly seems to be the larger part of the anti-Zionist movement.
It is hard to complain of cretinism and promote Atzmon
Mr Hart was to have been my subject, partly because of his truly idiotic suggestion that Anders Breivik had slaughtered so many Norwegians under the influence of Zionist disapproval of the Norwegian Labour Party's stance on Israel.
I was going to note his belief in the possibility of Israeli involvement in the attack on the World Trade Centre, his championing of the conspiracy theories over Israel's mistaken bombing of the USS Liberty in 1967, and his suggestion that the BBC's Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston, had been kidnapped and murdered by Israeli agents (a theory he amended only slightly when Johnston was released, unmurdered, by a Gazan clan).
Despite this history of malicious stupidity Mr Hart has been praised by Lauren Booth and Clare Short, has been joined on his Press TV show by luminaries such as John Pilger, Jenny Tonge, Ghada Karmi, Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe, Abd al-Bari Atwan, Alastair Crooke and Steven Rose, and appears up and down the country at respectable venues, complaining about his treatment at the hands of "Zionism".
Central to his respectability is his constant distinction between antisemitism (perish the thought) and anti-Zionism. Indeed, in his discussion with Atzmon, Hart reminds the audience that it is NOT the Jewish lobby, but the Zionist lobby, that is so powerful.
But try this from Hart. "In my experience most Jews in the world, and I really mean most Jews in the world, are beyond reason on the subject of Palestine. You cannot have a reasoned, rational discussion with most Jews." Or his repetition of an Atzmon joke. "Gilad, you said, Alan, the Jews are more clever than that, they get other people to control the world for them!" At which there is laughter and some applause. Then, " I must make a comment to protect my backside, I always say it is true that some Jews control some of the media, but there is a worse problem…" which turns out to be self-censorship. An even worse problem? Oy gevalt!
Then this. "There's a case for saying that the real cleverness of the Jews is inventing a God to promise them someone else's land. That's a tough thing to say in public, but now I've said it." And this: "It's also a fact that for several hundred years the Rothschilds funded all the wars in Europe. They funded both sides. These are facts."
And then he sits back as Atzmon does an obscene parody of an old East European Jew whining that the Germans just went meshugge, before adding, "they never understand why is it that out of the blue people turn against them."
It may be this that Lauren Booth is referring to when she talks about the audience for this meeting "enjoy(ing) his trademark frippery". Just anti-Zionists having fun, you understand.