Both sides of the witch-hunt
It is not anti-Semitic to refer to the mutual praise exchanged between the Nazis and Zionists. Tony Greenstein examines the AWL’s political schizophrenia
If there is one thing that the Zionist movement hates, it is being reminded of the time 80 years ago when leading Nazis not only praised the German Zionist movement, but also favoured it in preference to their ‘assimilationist’ opponents.
Why then do I mention it? Is it calculated cruelty? Have the Zionists changed their spots? No, the Zionist movement today is still willing to collaborate with fascists, Nazis and assorted anti-Semites. Whether it is the Zionist Organisation of America inviting Steve Bannon - the editor of Breitbart News, house magazine of the alt-right - to their annual gala1 or the visit in July by Binyamin Netanyahu to see his good friend, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. Orbán is the most racist leader in Europe (and the competition is quite strong). I have previously pointed out that, “Far from Netanyahu criticising him [Orbán] for his anti-Semitism, quite the opposite took place and Israel’s ambassador in Hungary, Yossi Amrani, was forced to withdraw his mild criticisms.”2
Shortly before Netanyahu landed in Hungary, Orbán had launched a nasty anti-Semitic campaign against George Soros, a survivor of the Nazi occupation of Hungary - who Netanyahu also hates, because he finances Israeli human rights groups. I wrote: “His real crime has been the campaign by Orbán and his Fidesz party to rehabilitate admiral Miklós Horthy, Hungary’s ruler between 1920 and 1944 and the author of Hungary’s wartime alliance with Nazi Germany.”3 Horthy presided over the deportation of nearly half a million Jews to Auschwitz, but that little fact did not get in the way of Netanyahu’s love-in with Orbán.
However, according to the misnamed Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, we are “left anti-Semites” for raising such matters (see Dale Street’s Solidarity article, reproduced below). On the contrary, it is the AWL which is demonstrating that it consists of a bunch of social chauvinists and apologists for the racist crimes of imperialism and Zionism.
Edwin Black, a devoted Zionist has written the most comprehensive book on the Nazi-Zionist trade agreement (the Ha’avara)that helped destroy the Jewish and international boycott of Nazi Germany.4 Black describes how on March 25 1933 Hermann Göring, panicked by the success of the boycott, summoned the leaders of German Jewry to his offices. At the last moment the Zionists secured an invitation. The three non-Zionist Jewish leaders denied that they had any influence over the boycott campaign in America (although they could not say it, they welcomed the pressure on the Nazis - it was this which had kept Nazi violence against Germany’s Jews in check). Black describes what happened next:
Blumenfeld [secretary of the German Zionist Federation] stepped forward on behalf of the Zionists, declaring that the German Zionist Federation was uniquely capable of conferring with Jewish leaders in other countries … Once uttered, the words forever changed the relationship between the Nazis and the Zionists.5
The Zionists, unlike the non-Zionists, were prepared to do their best to help the Nazis defeat the boycott - if in turn the Nazis would help them build a Jewish state in Palestine.
Why is this relevant? Because today, as fascist groups and racism (including anti-Semitism) are on the rise in eastern Europe and elsewhere, the Israeli state and its leaders have the friendliest of relations with not only Orbán, but other racist and anti-Semitic regimes - for example, Polish prime minister Beata Szydło of the far-right Law and Justice party.
Only last weekend there was a march of an estimated 60,000 fascists in Warsaw celebrating a pogrom against the Jews in Warsaw in 1936.6 Their slogan is ‘Pray for Islamic holocaust’. Presumably there is no point in praying for another Jewish one, since most Polish Jews either died in the holocaust or departed after the war. We can assume that Israel will not be making any representations about this march.
Today the primary victims of fascist violence in Europe are Muslims and this is not unwelcome to Israel and the Zionist movement. The far right in Europe and America openly admire Israel for its hostility to Muslims. The neo-Nazi leader of America’s alt-right, Richard Spencer, declares that he is a ‘white Zionist’.7 Is there a difference between the march in Warsaw and the thousands of settlers who chant ‘Death to the Arabs’ in Jerusalem?
The AWL is nothing if not stupid. You might have thought that its experience of being denounced as ‘anti-Semitic’ by Owen Smith in the leadership contest with Jeremy Corbyn would have taught it a lesson. At least two AWL members - Pete Radcliff and Daniel Randall - have been expelled from the Labour Party for ‘left anti-Semitism’.
The AWL is unique on the British left. It is Trotskyist Zionist (though Trotsky would have run a mile from them!). Whereas most supporters of a two-state solution in Palestine reluctantly accept the continuance of a racist Jewish supremacist state, the AWL endorses the apartheid Jewish state enthusiastically. Those who do not share this enthusiasm are guilty of ‘left anti-Semitism’.
Absurdly, however, the AWL argues that ‘left anti-Semitism’ is not racist! As I pointed out in a debate with Daniel Randall on September 15 2016, if it is not racist it is not anti-Semitic either!8 They should find another word - like anti-Zionist!
During our debate I embarrassed Randall by noting that he had been expelled from the Labour Party for ‘left anti-Semitism’. His response was: “I do want to say from the outset that it is undeniably the case that the issue of anti-Semitism has been instrumentalised and manipulated by some on the Labour right and their supporters in the press in order to undermine Corbyn and the left.”9
Never before or since, as far as I know, has the AWL admitted that ‘left anti-Semitism’ is a weapon used by the right against the left. It took the experience of the summer of 2016 for the AWL to realise that for the Labour right ‘anti-Semitic’ and being on the left were synonymous. In Scotland, Rhea Wolfson, the left’s candidate for the national executive committee and herself a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, had her nomination rejected by her Glasgow constituency, after Jim Murphy, Blair’s Scottish leftover, accused Momentum of ‘anti-Semitism’.
What has angered the AWL is that Moshé Machover has been exonerated and readmitted to the Labour Party despite writing an “apparently anti-Semitic” article, describing the warm relations between leading Nazis and the Zionist movement in Germany. Indeed Sam Matthews of the disputes committee backed away from his initial description of the article that Moshé had written and which Labour Party Marxists had reprinted.
Moshé had quoted an article Reinhard Heydrich had written in the SS paper Das Schwarze Korps on September 26 1935:
National socialism has no intention of attacking the Jewish people in any way. On the contrary, the recognition of Jewry as a racial community based on blood, and not as a religious one, leads the German government to guarantee the racial separateness of this community without any limitations. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, so-called Zionism, with its recognition of the solidarity of Jewry throughout the world and the rejection of all assimilationist ideas.
The full quotation can be found in The Third Reich and the Palestine question by Francis Nicosia, professor of holocaust studies at Vermont University.10
Of course, by itself, this quotation simply proves that the Nazis looked on the Zionist rejection of assimilation favourably. Obviously Heydrich, who is described by Gerald Reitlinger as the “engineer” of the Final Solution,11 was lying when he said that the Nazis had no intention of attacking the Jewish people.
Relations between the Zionists and the Nazis went much deeper. Lucy Dawidowicz described how in January 1935 Heydrich had issued an instruction to the Gestapo in Bavaria that Zionist youth groups “are not to be treated with that strictness that it is necessary to apply to the members of the so-called German-Jewish organisations (assimilationists)”.12
The question is whether this was just one-way traffic. Did the Zionists reciprocate in any way? The answer is yes, very much so. On June 21 1933 the German Zionist Federation wrote a memo to Hitler explaining the ideological similarity between the Zionists and the Nazis.
On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race, we wish so to fit in our community [so that] fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible. Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial realities. Precisely because we don’t wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we too are against mixed marriages and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group … The realisation of Zionism could only be hurt by resentment of Jews abroad against the German development. Boycott propaganda … is in essence fundamentally unZionist, because Zionism wants not to do battle, but to convince and to build.13
The Zionists set their face against any campaign against the Nazis. They opposed a boycott because they realised that Jewish Palestine could prosper by trading with Nazi Germany. When faced with a choice between building a Jewish state and the needs of the Jewish diaspora, they unhesitatingly chose the former. At the World Zionist Congress in Prague in 1933 they failed even to condemn the Nazi regime.
In August 1933 the Zionist leaders agreed the Ha’avara trade agreement with the Nazis, which effectively destroyed the international Jewish boycott - a boycott which had the potential to destroy the Nazi government in its infancy. Instead the Zionist movement hitched its wagon to the success of the Nazi state. The result was that the pressure was off Hitler and the regime in subsequent years could consolidate.
As Black noted,
Ha’avara meant that. whilst most Jews were doing their best to undermine the German economy and effect the removal of Hitler, the Zionists’ interest was in stabilising and safeguarding the German economy: the Nazi party and the Zionist Organisation shared a common stake in the recovery of Germany. If the Hitler economy fell, both sides would be ruined.14
Even as ardent a Zionist as Elie Wiesel has admitted that
... the Jewish leaders of Palestine never made the rescue of European Jews into an overwhelming national priority. We know that Zionist leader Itzhak Gruenbaum ... considered creating new settlements more urgent than saving Jews from being sent to Treblinka and Birkenau.15
In reviewing Tom Segev’s The seventh million for The Los AngelesTimes in 1993, Wiesel cited approvingly Segev’s conclusion that “Only a few survivors owed their lives to the efforts of the Zionist movement.”
Yet the AWL would have you believe that to mention this naked collaboration is ‘anti-Semitic’. The AWL identifies with the most rightwing, racist movement amongst Jewry. This is the mark of their appeasement of and concession to imperialism today.
It is argued that the Zionist movement at this time could not be certain that the professions of Heydrich and others - that they intended no harm to the Jews, but merely sought racial separation - were false. The physical attacks on Jews in Germany and the vile anti-Semitic propaganda of Der Stürmer should have told them that the Nazis were no ‘ordinary’ anti-Semitic regime. Most Jews knew this - which was why they packed out Madison Square Gardens in New York as part of the movement to boycott Nazi Germany. But unlike most Jews the Zionists chose to believe the Nazis, which is why they alone welcomed the 1935 Nuremburg Laws, which were described by Reitlinger as “the most murderous legislative instrument known to European history”.16 The introduction to the Nuremburg Laws read:
If the Jews had a state of their own in which the bulk of their people were at home, the Jewish question could already be considered solved today … The ardent Zionists of all people have objected least of all to the basic ideas of the Nuremberg Laws, because they know that these laws are the only correct solution for the Jewish people too …17
On the September 17, just two days after the promulgation of the Nuremburg Laws, Jüdische Rundschau, paper of the German Zionist movement, welcomed them, declaring:
Germany … is meeting the demands of the International Zionist Congress when it declares the Jews now living in Germany to be a national minority. Once the Jews have been stamped a national minority, it is again possible to establish normal relations between the German nation and Jewry.18
Moshé also cited the welcome for the Nazi regime by rabbi Joachim Prinz, one of the leaders of the German Zionist Federation. In his 1934 book Wir Juden (‘We Jews’) he stated that the Jews
have been drawn out of the last recesses of christening and mixed marriages. We are not unhappy about it ... The theory of assimilation has collapsed … We want to replace assimilation by something new: the declaration of belonging to the Jewish nation and the Jewish race. A state, built according to the principles of purity of the nation and race, can only be honoured and respected by a Jew who declares his belonging to his own kind.
The AWL in its ‘Quoting Nazis to damn “the Zionists”’ article criticises Machover for the “trope of Nazi-Zionist collaboration”(‘trope’ is a favoured word for Zionist dopes!). The article quotes at length Heydrich to prove that he was a vicious anti-Semite. No-one, however, disputes this or his role in the holocaust. Yet despite this Heydrich spoke favourably of the Zionists and they in turn saw in the rise of the Nazis ‘proof’ that the Jews did not belong amongst the German nation. The article goes on to quote Hitler in Mein Kampf as saying that a Jewish state would be “a central organisation for their [Jews’] world swindling … a haven for convicted scoundrels and a university for budding crooks”.
What else was Hitler expected to say? That he saw a Jewish state as leading to the reforming of the Jewish character? In fact many Nazis did believe this - including Eichmann, who described himself as an “ardent Zionist” - but in 1922 Hitler saw everything that was Jewish as being evil, including Zionism, which he knew little about. However, he was willing to adapt to circumstances when in power. In 1933 the same Hitler approved the trade agreement with the Zionists and in 1937-38, when others in the Nazi government wanted to end it, it was Hitler who was decisive in ensuring the Ha’avara continued up till the beginning of the war.
What Moshé Machover said in his article was merely a basic recitation of the facts of the early Zionist relationship with the Nazis. Of course, the Nazis’ flattering of the Zionist movement in Germany did not mean that they changed their attitude to the Jews. They still sought either to expel them or exterminate them. The tragedy is that, instead of offering unremitting opposition to Nazism, the Zionists became the Nazis’ useful fools. The Nazis played the Zionists like a violin. In 1941 with the beginning of the holocaust and the deportation of the Jews from Germany, the Nazis made no distinction between Zionists and non-Zionists. All Jews were destined for the gas chambers or the pits of Ponary. The Zionist movement even betrayed its own supporters in Europe.
Ha’avara led to 100 million Reichsmark of trade between Germany and Palestine, which accounted for 60% of total capital investment in the Zionist economy in Palestine.19
Berl Katznelson, who was a founder of Mapai, the Israeli Labor Party, and editor of the Histadrut paper Davar saw the rise of Hitler as “an opportunity to build and flourish like none we have ever had or ever will have”. Ben Gurion “hoped the Nazis’ victory would become a ‘fertile force’ for Zionism”.20 Zionism functioned as a Jewish Quisling movement. The Jews of Europe were completely written off by the Palestinian Zionist movement and the Jewish Agency.
In the course of its article the AWL also implies that Jackie Walker was anti-Semitic for saying that the black holocaust of slavery is not commemorated on Holocaust Memorial Day. As this is a fact, then presumably AWL is happy with this exclusion. Former NUS president Malia Bouatthia is also attacked as anti-Semitic for stating that Birmingham University was “something of a Zionist outpost”, while Ken Livingstone’s ‘anti-Semitism’ is simply taken for granted.
The AWL represents an extreme version of a historic tendency of the British left to accept what Lenin described as the crumbs off the table of imperialism. Lenin had been seeking to explain the conservatism of the British working class in terms of its identification with the British empire. The AWL has a long history of support for western imperialism, from refusing to call for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq or Afghanistan to supporting the CIA-backed Islamic Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, to opposition to the republican movement in Ireland.
In Palestine the AWL treats Zionism not as an ethno-nationalist, settler-colonial movement, but as a legitimate form of nationalism - even though Zionism claims that Jews worldwide form a nation despite the fact that diaspora Jews do not speak the same language, occupy the same territory or have the same culture. It is a racial view of Jewry. The AWL refuses to see Israel as a client regime of US imperialism. It also has nothing to say about the virulent racism which is inherent in a Jewish settler-colonial state.
Within the trade union movement the AWL has consistently opposed any attempts at solidarity with the Palestinians. When I spoke to Unison conference in 2007 and 2008 in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions, one of those speaking against was from the AWL. However, the AWL’s support for Israel had negligible support and the motions were passed overwhelmingly.
The AWL found itself in a dilemma when the Labour right and Zionist Jewish Labour Movement sought to expel Moshé Machover from the Labour Party. After all, Machover had been expelled not only for his relationship with the CPGB and Labour Party Marxists, but originally for his “apparently anti-Semitic” article, ‘Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism’. The AWL supported the basis on which the expulsion was proposed, but not the expulsion itself, which would have cost it all credibility on the left. In the article below the AWL has sought to try to reconcile these contradictions - how to oppose the witch-hunt of which it is itself a victim, whilst retaining its ideological purity.
The result is, as one might expect, a complete ideological mish-mash.
3. See http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/israel-supports-viktor-orban-and.html.
4. E Black The transfer agreement London 1999.
5. Ibid p36.
9. See transcript of the debate: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wBaAOHgkBEL7ohkelvpaaGiIY-q124sKqEwCglkrVm0/edit.
10. F Nicosia The Third Reich and the Palestine question London 1985, p57.
11. G Reitlinger The final solution London 1968, p13.
12. LS Dawidowicz War against the Jews 1933-45 London 1987, p118.
13. LS Dawidowicz A holocaust reader Springfield 1976, pp150-53.
14. E Black The transfer agreement London 1999, p253.
16. G Reitlinger The final solution London 1968.
17. M Machover and M Offenberg, ‘Zionism and its scarecrows’, citing Die Nürnberger Gesetze: https://libcom.org/library/zionism-its-scarecrows.
19. D Rosenthall, ‘Chaim Arlosoroff 65 years after his assassination’ Jewish Frontier May-June 1998: www.ameinu.net/publicationfiles/Vol.LXV,No.3.pdf.
20. T Segev The seventh million London 2000, p18.