Blind eye to anti-semitism

The accusation that anti-semitism equals anti-Zionism is one that Zionists and supporters of the Israeli state level at their opponents with monotonous regularity. When New Labour MP Martin Salter distributed a leaflet to his constituents supporting "the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and statehood", fellow MP Jane Griffiths accused him of anti-semitism (BBC news, June 9 2004). My favourite example, however, is that of tycoon Philip Green, who sought to take over Marks and Spencer, accusing its chairman, Paul Myners, who is also Jewish, of anti-semitism! (Jewish Chronicle August 6 2004). Even more absurdly, the US state department has decided to rate its allies on their treatment of their Jewish citizens (see David Rennie The Daily Telegraph October 13 2004). The chance of a similar rating for treatment of, say, gypsies is zero. 'Anti-semitism' and the holocaust make a powerful ideological weapon that is used, especially by the neo-conservatives, to justify the oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians. Anti-semitism has become the respectable anti-racism of the right, in much the same way as imperialists, from Bentinck to Bush, have used women's oppression as a means of justifying their conquests. The holocaust has enabled the Israeli state and the Zionist movement to claim enormous sums of money in reparations from Germany - not for its survivors, but for the Israeli State. And those Jews who are anti-Zionist? Well we are 'self-haters', a term previously used by the Nazis used against anti-fascist Germans. But just because Zionists and their supporters, including the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, accuse anti-Zionists of anti-semitism does not mean that anti-semitism has disappeared. Anti-semitism in the west is not a state-sponsored form of racism, in the same way as racism against gypsies and asylum-seekers is. However, it does function as an ideological glue for the far right, helping shape their world view via the 'international Jewish conspiracy'. The Jew as both capitalist and communist was central to Mein Kampf and it still operates as a false anti-capitalism for the nuts and cranks of the far right. SWP and Gilad Atzmon Gilad Atzmon is a talented jazz player. He is also an exiled Israeli. His horror at the treatment of the Palestinians is genuine. However, his writings are clearly and overtly anti-semitic. His essay, 'On anti-semitism', is ironically a very concise definition of anti-semitic ideology: "We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously "¦. 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 "¦ I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus who, by the way, was himself a Palestinian Jew." So when Jews Against Zionism learnt that Gilad Atzmon was not only performing at Marxism 2005, but that he had been booked to speak on the 'Deconstruction of Zionist identity' at Bookmarks, the SWP's bookshop, on June 17, I wrote to the Socialist Workers Party urging it to cancel the talk. I received a one-line email from Martin Smith, SWP secretary, confirming that he was appearing. This was why Jews Against Zionism organised a remarkably successful picket of the meeting. So panicked was the SWP that it barred anyone it did not recognise, including SWP members who fraternised with the pickets, from coming into the meeting, which it suddenly declared was "all-ticket". In fact there were more of us (30-35) on the pavement than in the meeting. A number of SWP members have contacted us to say how shocked they are at the behaviour of their leaders. In the days leading up to the picket, the SWP and Bookmarks went to extraordinary lengths to have the picket called off. The SWP distributed a statement from Atzmon denying he was a holocaust denier, though we never said he was (see www.swp.org.uk/gil-ad.php). After the meeting, the SWP issued its own statement claiming that the controversy was caused by "one or two small groups". As John Rose stated, it was all the fault of the AWL, who, ironically, did not participate in the picket because, as far as it was concerned, it was one group of anti-semites picketing another group of anti-semites! And despite the SWP's claim to the contrary, veteran Israeli socialist and anti-Zionist Moshe Machover sent a message of support and professor Hilary Rose turned up to support us. Zionist groups who shout so loudly about anti-semitism were conspicuous by their absence. Even the soft-left Zionist group, Jews for a Just Peace, led by Richard Kuper and Irene Bruegel, refused to support the picket, which consisted primarily of non-aligned socialists, the Jewish Socialists Group and Jews Against Zionism. But maybe that too is not surprising, since our key slogan was 'Anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism'. The SWP rejects the idea that Atzmon is an anti-semite because he is a famous jazz player and an Israeli-born Jew living in exile. And if that is not enough, the SWP trumpets its record of fighting fascism and anti-semitism, as if the past can acquit the present. When I wrote to Atzmon on June 28 stating: "We live in a society where a tiny minority, of whatever religion or none, own and control the wealth of the world." Atzmon replied: "And guess who they are? Zios and their supporters." Atzmon, however, is merely a symptom of the problem. For years Zionists have peddled the libel that to support the Palestinians, to oppose the brutal and genocidal racism of Zionism, meant that you were anti-semitic. It is not surprising that there has grown up a small group in the Palestine solidarity movement, the Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) group, which has assimilated the idea that you have to be anti-semitic to support the Palestinians (Deir Yassin was a village near Jerusalem, over 200 of whose inhabitants - mainly women and children - were butchered by the Irgun, supported by the Labour Zionist Hagannah, in April 1948). Unfortunately a growing but still small group of people have said, 'OK, if you have to be anti-semitic to support the Palestinians, then we are anti-semitic.' This reaction is usually associated with separatists who adopt the ideological parameters of their oppressor. The spiritual mentor of this group is one Israel Shamir, who sits on DYR's board of advisors. He would appear to be an ex-Russian/Swedish fascist now living in Israel. Atzmon and Shamir The 'Atzmon affair' started when an article was posted by Atzmon on Shamir's website entitled 'The protocols of the elders of London' attacking a number of Jewish anti-Zionists who had had the temerity to criticise DYR and call for its isolation (www.israelshamir.net). The title clearly alludes to the notorious anti-semitic forgery of the tsarist secret police, The Protocols of the learned elders of Zion, the Nazis' bible. I wrote to Atzmon asking him to withdraw the article and at the same time to confirm whether he was distributing a pamphlet, Holocaust wars, by Paul Eisen, London director of DYR. Atzmon replied stating that, yes, he was distributing it and further he had only "slight differences" with what was a "great text". Holocaust wars is a holocaust-denial tract, written in support of veteran neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel. It is written primarily in the third person, in order to effect deniability, but Eisen's views are clear. He writes of the "millions of Germans" who loved Hitler, but 'forgets' to mention the millions of workers who opposed him and the murder of the leadership and activists in the German labour movement in Dachau and Sachsenhausen. Another holocaust denier on the Board of DYR is Jeff Blankfort from the USA. In response to my question as to whether or not he denied that there was a holocaust, he replied: "I do not believe there was any official Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews because, had there been, there would not have been close to a million left alive" (June 24 2005). Not surprisingly, professor Jeff Halper resigned from the board of DYR in December 2004, stating that the attempt to "turn the Deir Yassin tragedy into a discussion of Jewish racial characteristics, to dirty it with racist discourse, to create a situation where the people who were the most committed to honouring its memory "¦ feel the need to leave, raises serious, fundamental questions. When I hear diatribes of non-Palestinians against the Palestinian, Ali Abunima, because he raises concerns over Shamir's racism and the entire tone of the DYR discussion, a red light goes off. Has Deir Yassin been hijacked by a cult more intent on pursuing hate campaigns against the fictive 'Jews' than in searching for the humanistic, universal, critical and truly relevant elements of the Deir Yassin story?" (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JustPeaceUK/message/15021 April 7 2005). Veteran Israeli civil rights lawyer Lea Tsemel and former Israeli prisoner of conscience and anti-Zionist activist Michael Warschawski wrote: "There is no room for a racist in an institution aimed to fight for the memory of the Deir Yassin victims of ethnic cleansing and massacre. We therefore ask you to clarify whether or not Israel Shamir is indeed part of DYR" (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JustPeaceUK/message/16181, May 5 2005). Ms Tsemel resigned her position on the board. Dan McGowan, the executive director, wrote back stating that he did not consider Shamir a racist. Israel Shamir So what is the truth? Is Shamir an anti-semite and a fascist? Two leading Arab-Americans, Abunimah and Hussein Ibish, in their 'Serious concerns about Israel Shamir' had no doubts. They wrote four years ago: "(1) Yesterday we received an 'Easter message' from Shamir in which he repeats the most odious characterisations 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 "¦ How could we do more to discredit ourselves than by allowing such ideas to proliferate on 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.'" (www.abunimah.org/features/010416shamir.html April 16 2001). The description of Jews as viruses, germs, bacillus, etc was of course standard fare in Nazi demonology. Shamir's website is a veritable gold mine of such descriptions. You would have to go back to Nazi ideologues Streicher and Rosenberg or Arnold Leese to find a defence of the 'blood libel' accusation - that Jews slaughtered non-Jewish children to make Passover bread at Easter. Shamir writes that "The frequent and tendentious use of the horrifying label (together with 'anti-semitism' and Protocols of the elders of Zion) brought a certain depreciation of its value, but it is still going strong. You can't ever, ever consider that there might be some truth to the blood libel - the accusation of ritual murder of children. Or can you?" (www.israelshamir.net/english/blood.htm). Another DYR contributor, Joh Domingo, has an article entitled 'White nationalists - a possible ally?' (www.israelshamir.net/english/JohD.shtml). And Shamir too calls for an alliance with the fascist right. In 'On anti-semitism' he writes: "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." Griffin is leader of the BNP, Duke is a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and Mahler is a leading member of the neo-Nazi German NPD (www.israelshamir.net/english/antiSemit.htm). Shamir is a medieval christian anti-semite who believes that the salvation of the Palestinians lies in the conversion of the Jews, the 'christ-killers', to christianity: "There is no 'tainted blood' - acceptance of christ is the Final Solution of the Jewish question, while assimilation and intermarriage is the way to undo the vestiges of Jewish separatism" (www.israelshamir.net/shamirImages/Shamir/marxists2.shtml). I first came into contact with Shamir when he copied personal details of Sue Blackwell (the Birmingham University lecturer who moved the successful motion to boycott Israeli universities earlier this year) to Martin Webster, founder of the National Front. He is clearly at home with the fascist right. In June 2005, Shamir attended an 'anti-Zionist' conference in Kiev alongside David Duke, ex-KKK grand wizard. In what Shamir describes as "a lucid and uncompromising report", Marek Glogoczowski attacks Duke for not being anti-semitic enough (quite an achievement!): "Although superficially fighting against 'Jewish supremacy', in a deeper reality [Duke] tries to assure that the wealth of the former Soviet empire will safely land, like a 'ripe fruit', in hands of heavily Judaised world plutocracy!" (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/shamireaders/message/536). Shamir's delegation to the Kiev conference included Serge Thion, whom he described as "an eminent French historian and orientalist "¦ an important French intellectual of the left when he entered the holocaust controversy "¦ he is the most pleasant of the revisionist scholars, and a strong representative of the left wing in this movement." This representative of the 'left' wrote, in his report of the Kiev conference: "The holocaust revisionist movement is certainly well known by all of you. But we have been particularly unsuccessful in raising an interest for it in the territories covered by the former Soviet Union. In many conversations with people there, we always get more or less the same response: 'The Jews are lying? No big news. We've known it all along.' We believe this is not the adequate answer. There is more to it." It is therefore remarkable that Shamir and his circle still have influence among some who consider themselves on the left. The US web magazine Counterpunch, which is run by Alex Cockburn, carried a full-blooded defence of Atzmon on June 17 by one Mary Rizzo (www.counterpunch.org/atzmon06172005.html). Ms Rizzo is an unashamed apologist for Shamir, and the other holocaust deniers and anti-semites. On June 11 she declared: "I know Gilad to be completely anti racist. I don't know Paul, but my opinion is that he is not racist" (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JustPeaceUK/message/15967). In April she spoke of the "ritual defamation" of Shamir (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JustPeaceUK/message/15212) and when it came to holocaust denier Jeff Blankfort, she became delirious: "I am in awe ... I bow down at the altar of your most excellent reasoning and communication skills. Wow, wow, wow." Paul Eisen graduated to holocaust denial via an essay 'Jewish power', which Blankfort declared "represented the most cogent analysis of what arguably has become "¦ the major obstacle to achieving justice for the Palestinians". The problem anti-Zionists face is akin to that of boy who cried wolf. The Zionist movement has cried wolf so often that when genuine anti-semites come along, some people are unable to see the real thing. That the liberal Counterpunch has carried an article by a supporter of holocaust deniers, whilst refusing any right of reply, is not too surprising. That the SWP, a revolutionary socialist and Marxist group, has sought to cover the matter up is an altogether different matter l Jews Against Zionism can be contacted at: info@jewsagainstzionism.org