Tony Greenstein


Why Palestinian Solidarity Activists Must Reject Anti-Semitism

A Reply to Mary Rizzo’s Who’s Afraid of Gilad Atzmon

Readers of Counterpunch must have been surprised by the heavily personalised attack by Mary Rizzon (June 17th) on someone 99.99% of them have never heard of. Why this venom over a picket of a small meeting in the SWP’s bookshop in London? Unfortunately those reading the article would have been none the wiser.

If Ms Rizzo is correct the issue is an attempt to deny freedom of speech to Mr Atzmon and the determination of myself in particular to insist on what is ‘good for the Palestinian people.’ I want to be ‘master of discourse’ indeed the ‘most pure, and official voice of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement.’

By her own admission, the articles originates from Mary’s isolation on the JustPeaceUK list
"was getting on my nerves". At least that explains the tone of the article.

Let me make a confession. I was brought up as a Zionist in an orthodox Jewish household. I also grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. I concluded from an early age that if anti-Semitism was wrong, then all forms of racism were equally wrong.

Unfortunately the Zionist movement drew the opposite conclusion. Indeed it accepted the arguments of anti-Semitism that Jews did not belong in the lands where they were born and grew up. They were strangers living in exile (Galut). They should ‘return’ to Palestine. Unfortunately they took with them the ideological framework of European racism. In essence, the anti-Semites said ‘you do not belong’ and the Zionists said ‘we agree’.

Today the Zionist movement regularly accuses its opponents of ‘anti-Semitism’. In what is a new phenomenon, there has grown up a small group of people, based around a certain Israel Shamir, who have said ‘yes’ ‘if you call us anti-Semites, then there must be nothing wrong with anti-Semitism’. The phenomenon of a section of the oppressed adopting the ideological framework of the oppressor is nothing new. It is a characteristic of separatist movements, e.g. Louis Farrakhan. What is strange is when ‘supporters’ of the oppressed adopt the ideas of the oppressor.

The accusation that to support the Palestinians, to be opposed to Zionism, is a form of anti-Semitism, is a charge that has gradually lost its potency, especially in Europe. If it were to be perceived that in fact there were some truth to this allegation, that part of the Palestine Solidarity movement were indeed genuinely anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi, this could have a devastating effect on support for the Palestinians amongst e.g. the trade unions. In Britain there has been a battle to boycott Israeli academia. This was won then lost in the Association of University Teachers. There are high hopes of winning this position again. There is nothing the academic supporters of Israel desire more than ‘evidence’ of anti-Semitism.

Nor is this academic. Sue Blackwell from Birmingham University, who proposed the boycott motion, inadvertently put a link on her own web site to a Shamir supporters site, Wendy Campbell’s Marwen Media. The Zionists used this extensively to attack the academic boycott. Shamir’s response? 'Sue richly deserves the trouble - for the trouble she gave me. Once, she was cc'ed in a letter where Martin Webster, a known British far right figure, was mentioned…’ Martin Webster was one of the founders of the British National Front, a fascist organisation. A man Shamir is friendly with and to whom he forwarded Sue’s personal details.

The argument over Gilad Atzmon is a side issue. Atzmon is the mere mouthpiece for a Swedish/Russian fascist called Israel Shamir. This is someone whose followers have taken over an organisation called Deir Yassin Remembered, whose co-director is a Paul Eisen. In an e-mail of 12th June, Atzmon wrote to me that ‘Indeed I correspond with Shamir occasionally. I find him an extremely charming man and rather entertaining. But more to the point, my ties with Shamir are merely intellectual. I regard Shamir as a unique and advanced thinker.’

Visitors to his website can perhaps judge for themselves just how ‘unique’ and ‘advanced’ Shamir’s views are. Certainly his defence of the blood libel myth is unique. In an article On Anti-Semitism Shamir writes that:

‘For as long as Richard Perle sits in the Pentagon, Elie Wiesel brandishes his Nobel Prize, Mort Zuckerman owns the USA Today, Gusinsky bosses over Russian TV, Soros commands multi-billions of funds and Dershowitz teaches at Harvard, we need the voices of Duke, Sobran, Raimondo, Buchanan, Mahler, Griffin and of other anti-bourgeois nationalists.’

Shamir quotes Horst Mahler of the German neo-Nazi NPD, "a great adversary of Jewish supremacy, (who) stressed the spiritual element of the struggle: ‘Hitler failed for he attended to biological (racist, tribal) aspect of Jews, while it is the spiritual aspect that had to be fought.’" The war in Iraq is a ‘Zionist war’ according to Kristoffer Larson in another article on Shamir’s website. For those who desire such things, Shamir’s site is packed with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, waxing lyrical about Jewish ‘Christ killers’. As he explains: "In the forthcoming struggle, it makes sense to know who your enemy is and what sort of victory you hope to achieve. In my opinion, the enemy is Jewish supremacy carried out by organised Jewry."

Mary Rizzo’s article is an exercise in dishonesty and dissembling. Not once did she even mention the name Israel Shamir. She hasn’t always been so reticent. On 5th May 2005 she stated that ‘I'm neither anti semitic, nor, in my opinion is Shamir. Sorry, but I read his critiques on Zionist supremicism not as anti semitic.’ On 18th April she had written ‘Why should I be obligated to join in on the smear campaign?… I am convinced that there are indeed attempts made at ritual defamation both against Shamir,…’ As far as Rizzo is concerned, criticism of Shamir’s virulent anti-Semitism is a ‘smear’ campaign. She finds nothing anti-Semitic about the above views, which have been repeatedly pointed out to her. Her attack on Jewish anti-Zionists has to be seen in this light.

Rizzo’s suggestion that ‘Greenstein seems to know what is best for the Palestinian people,… Is he a self-appointed spokesman for them or does he just set the agenda because his ideas are the most important, significant and true ones?’ is an exercise in self-deception and conspiracy. All of us who are active in support of the Palestinians and who oppose Zionism and what it has done have a duty to point out that it was anti-Semitism that gave birth to Zionism. The last thing the Palestinians need is the support of anti-Semites. All political activists have ideas. Many of us make no attempt to hide our support for a democratic secular state in Palestine and opposition to a 2 State solution. Rizzo herself is opposed to the 2 States idea. Is this an imposition on the Palestinians? No. We have the right to give our opinion and most Palestinians if given the choice would opt for a unitary state solution.

But maybe Rizzo will find it easier to accept the advice of Palestinians directly? She might listen to Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish: (SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT ISRAEL SHAMIR), two prominent Arab-Americans:

"1) Yesterday we received an Easter Message from Shamir in which he repeats the most odious characterizations of Jews as "Christ killers," the staple of classic European Christian anti-Semitism…. We cannot agree that Jews "deserve" to be called "Christ killers," or that this kind of rhetoric has anything whatever to offer of value to the movement for Palestinian liberation and human rights.… What could be more counterproductive to building the community of conscience, the powerful moral stance, which is and must be the goal of those of us in the United States who support Palestinian rights, than the introduction of this kind of rhetoric into our conversation? How could we do more to discredit ourselves than by allowing such ideas to proliferate in behalf of a movement that has no need whatever to stoop to vilifying others to justify itself?

2) Shamir recently gave a speech at Tufts University. He is quoted as saying at that speech: "Palestinians are perfect mammals; their life is deeply rooted in the ground...Israeli people represent a virus form of a human being because they can live anywhere."

Is it necessary to point out that those who talk of Jews, or any human beings, as ‘viruses’ are the direct political descendants of Streicher, Rosenberg and the other Nazi ideologues?

Rizzo plays the ‘free speech’ card. There is no such thing as ‘free speech’ when it comes to fascism and racism – it always carries a price. As Britain’s RH Tawney wrote: ‘freedom for the pike means death to the minnow’. And Oliver Wendell Holmes noted that free speech does not include the right to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre. Fascist ‘free speech’ means death their targets. Paul Eisen’s Holocaust Wars is not an exercise in ‘free speech’ nor is it a dispassionate presentation of Ernst Zundel’s holocaust denial views. It is an account which betrays Eisen’s own views extremely clearly. The use of the 3rd person is an attempt at deniability by Eisen. However he found the temptations too much. Eisen wrote of this Hitler lover:

"Unlike most Holocaust revisionists (rather an austere, academic lot), Zundel is a hands-on activist – a gentle, good-humored man, kind and honest and with those qualities often found in the strangest places: a fine mind and a good heart."

He uncritically cites Zundel to the effect that:

"In the 1960’s ….I experienced my first doubts about some details of the Holocaust story. Further study, mostly at night, convinced me that many segments of the story were highly exaggerated, and the number of Jewish losses were wildly inflated."

Eisen argues that:

"Despite an impressive defense from heavyweights such as Robert Faurisson, Marc Weber and David Irving who, having just read the Leuchter report, took the opportunity of the trial to proclaim his conversion to Holocaust revisionism, Zundel was again found guilty and sentenced…."

"How do those Germans now nearing the end of their lives, feel when told that what seemed so right then and perhaps even still seems so right was in fact so wrong? And how do those Germans today, born and educated in postwar Germany, feel when told of the shame and disgrace of their parents and grandparents? How might it feel, to be forbidden, alone amongst the peoples of Europe, to recall your recent history with anything but shame?"

"The Hitler we loved and why…

Ernst Zundel was once involved in the publication of a book called The Hitler We Loved and Why, but Ernst Zundel was not the only German who loved Hitler and is probably not the only German who still loves Hitler. Millions of Germans loved Hitler who for twelve years impacted on them as no German has or probably ever will, and, though they never say so, must, deep down still cherish his memory."


The War for the Truth

The Revisionists

It bears repetition that the denial of the Holocaust revisionists does not extend to the entire Holocaust narrative. Revisionists do not deny that the National Socialist regime brutally persecuted Jews.… But they do deny the Holocaust narrative as we know it in three specific areas.

In making their claims, Revisionists have offered a considerable body of work. To what degree they are right, everyone must judge for themselves. Many will take the view that Holocaust revisionism is but pernicious nonsense motivated only by a hatred of Jews and a desire to rehabilitate Hitler and National Socialism specifically, and fascism in general and therefore not even worthy of scrutiny. I don’t agree, and those with sufficient curiosity to wish to research the subject can visit the website of the premier Revisionist think tank the Institute for Historical Review…"

To suggest that Eisen was merely presenting Zundel’s views is an exercise in mendacity. Anyone reading the article can have no doubts as to where Eisen’s sympathies lie.

Gilad Atzmon is a two-bit player in this affair, but if anyone should doubt what his views are, then they should ask themselves if the following are anti-Semitic?

"we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…. ‘On Anti-Semitism’… "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 do try to control the world, by proxy…" Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Verse 2)

I assume most people are aware of the pivotal role that the Protocols played in the history of anti-Semitism and the Nazi era. Indeed it was Atzmon’s attack on members of Jews Against Zionism, quaintly titled The Protocols of the Elders of London which triggered the picket of Atzmon’s SWP meeting in London. When I asked him whether he distributed Eisen’s Holocaust Wars, Atzmon was quite candid: ‘my take on the subject is slightly different than Paul's one and yet, i found Paul very attentive to my criticism. Furthermore, Let me assure you that if I ever see a great text written by yourself I ll be the first to circulate it.’

Fascist groups have always pretended to support the Palestinians, but it has always run up against their racism against Black people and today Muslims in particular. The phenomenon of Palestinian supporters adopting a version of holocaust revisionism and anti-Semitic imagery and ideology is something new. Noone denies their right to freedom of speech, but what we do deny is their right to destroy the rest of the movement in support of the Palestinians with their views.

Tony Greenstein