by Alan M. Dershowitz
January 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm
If you want to understand why anti-Semitism seems to be increasing among young people—especially young people on the hard left—consider a recent invitation extended by a left leaning school in New York to a self-proclaimed Jew hater.
The Friends Schools around the country are legendary. Presidents' children attend them, my own daughter and nephew were students, and they are regarded as among the most elite schools in the world. That is why it is so shocking that the Friends Seminary in New York has lent its imprimatur to a notorious anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Friends Seminary has a reputation for propagandizing its students against Israel, but it has now crossed a red line into legitimating anti-Semitism.
Gilad Atzmon, who was invited to be a featured performer in a celebration of Martin Luther King at the Friends Meeting House, has written an overtly anti-Semitic book entitled "The Wandering Who?", which, he acknowledges, draws…much of his "insights from a man who…was an anti-Semite as well as a radical misogynist."
Among the "insights" Atzmon seeks to share with students are the following:
While the Holocaust "was not at all an historical narrative," and Auschwitz was not a "death camp," the "accusations of Jews making matzo out of young Goyim's blood," may be true.
"The Jews" caused the recent credit crunch, which the author calls "the Zio-punch."
If Iran and Israel fight a nuclear war that kills millions of people, "some may be bold enough to argue that 'Hitler might have been right after all.'"
The "new Jewish religion…could well be the most sinister religion known to man…"
The author of the book containing these statements has told students that he cannot "say whether it's right or not to burn down a synagogue. I can say that it is a rational act." He has also apologized to the Nazis for having earlier compared them to Israel: "Israel is in fact far worse than Nazi Germany."
He has written that we "must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously," and that "with Fagin and Shylock in mind, Israeli barbarism and organ trafficking seem to be just other events in an endless hellish continuum."
It is not as if Friends School is unfamiliar with Atzmon's anti-Semitic rants. Atzmon was previously invited to make a guest appearance in a class last year and one of his essays was distributed to the students. The essay came from his website, which is replete with anti-Semitic "insights."
When I heard about this bizarre invitation, I wrote the following letter to the school's Headmaster:
Your school is now legitimating anti-Semitism by inviting a self-described Jew hater, Gilad Atzmon, to participate in events at the school. This sends a powerful message to your students, and to other students around the world, that Atzmon's views are legitimate and an appropriate subject for discussion in academic circles….If you believe these views are appropriately discussed, considered and possibly accepted by your students, then you are doing the right thing by associating your school with the man who expressed them. If not, then you are doing a terrible disservice to your students and to the values for which the Friends School purports to stand.The Headmaster did not respond to my letter, but he had the director of development (the fundraiser) send me an email saying that Atzmon was invited "solely for his musical accomplishments" and that the invitation was extended by "the Meetinghouse Jazz Orchestra."
I cannot overemphasize how serious this matter is. Legitimating the oldest form of bigotry is a moral and academic sin. I cannot remain silent in the face of complicity with bigotry. Nor should you.
Atzmon performed on January 13 to honor a man—Martin Luther King—who despised anti-Semitism and would have been appalled by Atzmon's hateful words. Students cheered his performance and conversed with him.
I cannot imagine an overtly homophobic, sexist or racist musician being invited by any group in any way associated with Friends "solely for his musical accomplishments." (I hear that David Duke, the white supremacist perennial candidate, plays a mean saxophone). Atzmon is famous (really infamous) not because he is a distinguished musician, but rather because he is a notorious anti-Semite whose blogs are featured on neo-Nazi websites all over the world. He never would have been invited but for his well publicized bigotry. Friends Seminary is well known for inviting artists whose politics and ideology are consistent with the values of the school. Indeed, the poster advertising his featured appearance at the "22nd Annual Martin Luther King Concert" at the "Meetinghouse at Friends Seminary" included a description of him as a "writer" and "political activist." Moreover, when he was previously invited by the school to address a class, the teacher distributed one of his bigoted essays from his anti-Semitic website.
However the school may try to spin this invitation, the end result will be that Atzmon's bigoted views will have been given the imprimatur of the Friends Seminary. Shame on Friends.