Whilst there are very few anti-Semites who support the Palestinians – Gregson is the exception that proves the rule

Many people involved in Palestine solidarity activism in Britain are likely to have come across Peter Gregson. He has often been unfairly treated, such as when the GMB union expelled him in March 2019 for ‘anti-Semitism’. His expulsion was effected by the rabidly racist and misogynist Gary Smith, then Regional Secretary of Scottish GMB and now General Secretary of the union.

I even testified at the kangaroo court that the GMB had assembled and wrote a document in his defence. However if one week is a long time in politics 3 years and 9 months is an eternity. Peter’s politics, which were always flaky, have now become anti-Semitic.

Nick Kollerstrom – Holocaust ‘sceptic’

Peter has to his credit expulsion from a number of organisations. I initiated the first from Labour Against the Witchhunt when he put up a petition on his website linking to an article by Holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom who had written a ‘literature review’ on ‘The Auschwitz “Gas Chamber” Illusion’.

Peter decided to publish on his blog my entire correspondence with him over this. The Jewish Chronicle then published it verbatim. It is probably the only article that ‘liar’ Lee Harpin has written that didn’t contain the obligatory quota of mistakes!

PSC and I believe Jewish Voices for Labour have also expelled him and Jewish Network for Palestine has rebuffed his attempts to join.

Peter is notorious for setting up his own ‘campaign’ groups such as LAZIR (Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism) and now the Campaign Against Bogus Anti-Semitism (which he tells me has 60 members!).

In April 2022 Gregson emailed me asking me to comment on a document he’d written Why Zionists Are Not Jews.There are many arguments in the anti-Zionist armoury but this is not one of them.

My response was as diplomatic as I could manage:

Obviously many Zionists are Jewish according to the halachic definition of being born to a Jewish woman.  Being Jewish is not just a matter of belief.  Of course Jewish identity has changed throughout the ages and Zionism is one such identity.  Anti-Zionism is another but to go down this road is extremely dangerous and completely besides the point.  The fact is that the religious establishment and most rabbis do believe in Zionism.

Indeed this whole debate over whether someone is Jewish or not reminds me of the Nazis trying to define being Jewish.  The Law of Return then adopted the Nazi definition almost wholesale.

Totally misplaced and your campaign will go the way of your previous campaign I suspect

Peter has taken to heart the ideas of Neturei Karta that ‘true’ Jews do not support Zionism but NK are not Marxists. They are well meaning but politically naïve. Orthodox Jewry, which historically was anti-Zionist, has changed its position though even now the United Torah Judaism party in Netanyahu’s coalition is officially non-Zionist.

The majority of Haredi Jews in Israel are Zionists and indeed are among the most anti-Palestinian elements in Israeli society.

Gregson’s political degeneration began with his article Do Jews in the UK have significant leverage on Israel? on the anti-Semitic Redress Online site which has itself published articles by holocaust deniers.

The article is historically illiterate. It asserts ‘Right from the outset, rich Jewish bankers such as Lord Rothschild backed Zionism. It is unlikely we would have Israel now were it not for his influence.’The first Rothschild that Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism encountered, was Edmond Rothschild, who opposed Zionism.

Contrary to the assertion of Wikipedia Lord Walter Rothschilds was not a ‘Zionist activist’ but an obsessive Zoologist. He was considered the leader of British Jewry by virtue of his aristocratic rank, which was why the Balfour Declaration was addressed to him (also contrary to Wikipedia he wasn’t President of the Board in 1917 but 1925-6). In 1919 Walter Rothschild stood for Vice President of the Board against both Anthony de Rothschild and the Zionist candidate, Samuel Duiches. who obtained just 21 compared to Walter’s 123, which is a good indication of the strength of the Zionists amongst the Jewish bourgeoisie then. In 1918 the anti-Zionist Leopold de Rothschild was unanimously elected President of the United Synagogue.

In 1917 the anti-Zionist League of British Jewswas formed at a meeting in New Court, headquarters of the Rothschilds’ business interests. Its first AGM in March 2018 was attended by over 400 members. Lionel Rothschild, a Conservative MP was elected President. Gregson’s attachment to the Rothschild’s legend is in itself telling. Gregon’s article asserts that

Around 75 per cent of the UK’s 300,000 Jews support Israel (if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism).

The idea that the IHRA only exists because of Jewish support is indicative of Gregson’s drift to the anti-Semitic right. Jews were convenient political pawns of the political establishment. The reason for the IHRA is to outlaw as far as possible opposition to British foreign policy in the Middle East by calling it ‘anti-Semitic’. For example Lord Eric Pickles is a White non-Jewish racist and the British delegate to the IHRA.

What Gregson is doing is suggesting that Jewish Power is responsible for British support for Zionism rather than seeing support for Israel as a consequence of imperialist politics. Jews are convenient political pawns or as Barnaby Raine described them,

‘favourite pets: heroic colonists in the Middle East… Jews are conscripted as the alibi of white society…. We are the useful props for a moral panic.’

But Gregson doesn’t do subtle. He goes on:

Jews have significant leverage. And the majority of them throw their wealth and personal resources into ensuring Israel maintains its immunity from criticism.

But it was the wealthy and influential Jews in politics and the media who foisted the IHRA definition upon us, the tool now widely used to silence pro-Palestine campaigners and used by the Labour Party to expunge activists. If Jews had not been behind demanding the new definition and claiming it was essential for their safety, we would not have it.’

That this analysis is complete nonsense hardly needs stating. The British bourgeoisie adopted the IHRA definition, as did open anti-Semites like Trump and Viktor Orban in Hungary.

Gregson assumes that Jews act as one homogenous mass. You can accuse British Jewry of many things, not least stupidity, but to suggest that they acted in concert to foist the IHRA on gullible Gentiles is simply untrue. Gregson’s defence, for what it is worth is that:

To say Jews in the UK have great leverage is not anti-Semitic, it is just a statement of fact. Like saying an Eton education gets you into Parliament. Or Muslims don’t like alcohol and fear speaking out about Islamophobia. Or Scots are “good with money”, i.e. not profligate. Or Germany has an enormous collective guilt over the holocaust, while Austria, its partner in crime, has not. Or London has many rich Russian oligarchs…

It should not take a genius to see why Gregson is comparing apples to oranges. To suggest that Jews, as a collective group, have ‘great leverage’ makes assumptions about Jewish political power whereas saying Muslims don’t drink alcohol (untrue, many do) is a generalisation.

Gregson goes on to say, on the basis that Jews are eight times over-represented in the UK Parliament that

they are powerful, in proportion to their share of the population (300,000 out of 66 million), comprising 0.4 per cent of us.

The fact that the Zionists encourage such conspiracy theories by claiming to speak on behalf of all Jews, doesn’t make what Gregson says any the less anti-Semitic. Gregson’s assertion that

It is because of these wealthy Zionist Jews, steered from the British Board of Deputies of British Jews and the like, that nobody in this country, including our media, dare point out the blindingly obvious: that we have utterly lost our freedom of speech on Israel because everybody is frightened of what Zionist Jews will do to them.

One wonders why, if Jews are only 0.4% where they get all this power.

Sir Edwin Montagu

Historically the British Jewish bourgeoisie was determinedly anti-Zionist until 1940. The only member of Lloyd George’s War Cabinet to vote against the Balfour Declaration was its only Jewish member, Sir Edwin Montagu, who accused his fellows of ‘anti-Semitism’.

It was the adoption of Zionism by the non-Jewish bourgeoisie that eventually led the Jewish bourgeoisie to realise that it was ‘patriotic’ to support Zionism.  In other words Gregson gets cause and effect the wrong way round.

However it is his latest article Against Zionist invaders: Why race matters in Palestine on Redress (where else) that should put him beyond the pale for Palestine solidarity activists.

I leave to one side his mistaken position, derived from Neturei Karta that up until 1940 most Jews refused to move to Israel on religious grounds.’What should be condemned is Gregson’s assertion that

These were the people that Hitler gassed. With Zionist support. Proof? Over the period 1942-44, Rabbi Weissmandl of Hungary made a deal with Adolf Eichmann… (my emphasis)

I won’t quote the rest of this rubbish. Weissmandel didn’t make an agreement with Eichmann, nor was he from Hungary! Having read Zionism During the Holocaust Gregson has failed to understand any of it.  There is absolutely no proof that the Zionist leaders, supported the extermination of European Jewry. It is simply not true.

There are many criticisms that can be made of the Zionists during the war and I make them, at length. Their obstruction of rescue attempts not involving Palestine, their playing down of the holocaust because people would be distracted into giving money for the refugees rather than their own fundraising, but to say that the Zionists supported the gassing of Jews is both false and anti-Semitic.

Ironically the main criticism of the Zionists for what I and Lenni Brenner before me write, is that what we are saying amounts to saying that the Jews murdered themselves. Once again Gregson has acted to reinforce the Zionist narrative rather than the other way around. Instead of reading my book and reflecting Gregson has cherry picked a few quotations and put his own crazy interpretation upon them. For those interested in the debate on this issue on my blog go here.

Gregson is apparently organising a tour of Britain in April/May involving both Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta and Dr Azzam Tamimi. I shall write to the former but if anyone has any contact with Dr Tamimi he would be well advised to pull out.

Tony Greenstein