By Gilad Atzmon
In my latest book The Wandering Who, I explore the ideological, spiritual and political continuum between Jewish identity politics and gay theory. Yesterday, Stephen Fry, a British gay Jewish playwright and celebrity, provided us with an opportunity to review the tight political and spiritual affinity between Jewish identity politics and the LGBT call.
In An Open Letter to PM David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee, Fry equated Putin’s anti gay policy with Hitler’s Jewish hatred. Fry’s argument deserves some attention.
Hitler, says Fry “banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they ‘polluted’ the purity and tradition of what it was to be German…”
According to Fry, “Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law.“
Historical analogies are dangerous territory, especially when the necessary and even elementary scholarship is lacking. Needless to say that I oppose any form of abuse of human right against Jews, LGBTs, Palestinians or anyone else. However, I also oppose the emerging lame culture of sound bites and empty slogans in which Fry is, unfortunately, a leading exponent.
Fry, for the obvious reasons, avoids the most necessary question – what is it that led to the dreadful treatment of Jews in the 3rd Reich? Far from being surprising, he also avoids a similar question when it comes to Putin’s antagonism towards LGBT. And in fact, if we really want to fight oppression, these are the most crucial questions to ask and tackle. I would argue that the difference between holocaust scholarship and proper history is that holocaust studies are mainly concerned with the study of the suffering (itself) while history attempts to grasp the events that brought the suffering into existence.
The Jews who want to prevent Jewish future suffering must look closely into the repeated circumstances that made Jewish history into a chain of Shoas. They should read Bernard Lazare’s ‘Anti-Semitism, It’s History and Causes’ instead of reading Anne Frank or the Jewish Chronicle. Similarly, gay theoreticians should examine critically what is it exactly that the Russians oppose in the LGBT discourse. Is it possible that the Putin regards LGBT as a form of crude Western intervention? Maybe Stephen Fry should answer this question before he is lobbying again for an international boycott.
If Fry is truly interested in historical analogies, surely he can detect a similarity between his own call to boycott Russia and the famous 1933 Judea call for war against Germany.
I am not impressed with Fry’s historical analogy but may I suggest to the playwright that more than a few historians actually connect between the 1933 Jewish call for boycott against Germany and the Jewish suffering to follow. I am pretty sure that Fry wouldn’t like to be associated as a catalyst in any future suffering of the Russian LGBTs.
Zionists tend to compare their enemies with Hitler – Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Yassir Arafat all ended up equated with Hitler. Fry, the humanist celebrity activist is doing exactly the same to Putin. “He (Putin) is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews.” Is it a coincidence that Fry is using the exact Hasbara tactics?
Many agree that Putin’s anti gay policy is problematic and inacceptable; yet, it is the exact Western interventionist philosophy that Fry exhibits in his call for boycott, that actually fuels Russian intolerance and leads to such policy.
Fry says about himself “I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian ‘correctively’ raped, …the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.” I feel for Fry and respect his concern, yet I wonder whether Fry also weeps at Bernard Henri Levy’s call for moral interventionist wars ‘as a Jew’; When Wolfowitz ‘liberated’ the Iraqi people (as a Ziocon). How does Mr Fry feel when he learns about the repeated crimes committed by the Jewish State in his name? How does he feel when his own people are raping the Palestinian soil, hearts and minds?
The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics, available on Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk
Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born British jazz saxophonist, novelist, political activist and writer.
Atzmon’s album Exile was BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. Playing over 100 dates a year, he has been called “surely the hardest-gigging man in British jazz.” His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore the music of the Middle East and political themes. He has described himself as a “devoted political artist.” He supports the Palestinian right of return and the one-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity, and Judaism, as well as his controversial views on The Holocaust and Jewish history have led to allegations of antisemitism from both Zionists and anti-Zionists. A profile in The Guardian in 2009 which described Atzmon as “one of London’s finest saxophonists” stated: “It is Atzmon’s blunt anti-Zionism rather than his music that has given him an international profile, particularly in the Arab world, where his essays are widely read.”