Tony Greenstein | 13 June 2019 | Post Views:

Eric Pickles, Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel and friend of Europe’s fascists, has waged a war against academic freedom

Having got a Palestine conference at Southampton University cancelled Pickles then tried to get Rebecca Gould, an academic at Bristol University dismissed 

This is Part 2 of my portrait on Tory racist and bigot, Lord Eric Pickles, a man who has done extremely well out of exploiting the Holocaust.

Pickles excelled himself when he tried to get Rebecca Gould, a Professor at Bristol University sacked. Rebecca had in November 2011 written an article Beyond Anti-Semitism for Counterpunch. It was a nuanced and at times painful examination of how anti-Semitism and the Holocaust are mobilised in the service of the Israeli state and its Occupation. Just the kind of subject an academic should tackle and just the kind of thing guaranteed to attract the attention of the professional Holocaust mongers and the ‘anti-Semitism’ brayers and defamers

Rebecca Gould’s original article

After a visit to Hebron Rebecca wrote that

Israeli flags were posted at every single turn of a road that ran straight through Palestinian territory struck me as strange, given that Hebron had not been ceded to Israel after 1967’.

She thought that maybe ‘renegade settlers’ had put them up rather than the government.She had been accompanied by an American friend who declared that ‘“The last thing I want is to be called an ‘anti-Semite,” This was after he had pointed out all the terrible injustices inherent in the Occupation. She had become ‘the captive audience to his unceasing reflections on the injustices attending Israel’s occupation of Palestine’ yet now he was proclaiming that ‘I can’t make Israelis the enemy.

It is of course a common phenomenon. My criticism of Rebecca’s article are that if anything her criticisms were too tentative and hesitant. She did not at any stage broach the question of the legitimacy of the Israeli state itself or indeed Zionism. Instead Rebecca reflected on the fact that her question

evoked fears of the anti-Semitic label rather than a direct confrontation with the problem at hand reveals the power wielded by this ever-present accusation to steer conversation away from the occupation.’

The article gave examples of how ‘the spectre of anti-Semitism constrains open discussion regarding the impact of Israeli policies on Palestinian lives’. She cited the criticism of Ilan Pappe, an exiled Israeli academic by Ha’aretz because he lacked ‘any understanding or empathy for Jewish Israel’s sense of vulnerability and victimization.

Rebecca reflected on the meaning of the word ‘Holocaust’ which derives from the Greek ‘holokaustos’ (entirely consumed by fire) which can roughly be translated as a sacrificial offering. The idea that the Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis were sacrifices on the road to a Jewish state is certainly how Ben Gurion and those around him saw the Holocaust. This is not in dispute for anyone who is at all acquainted with the literature. There is the famous quotation in Perdition by Nathan Schwalb, the HeHalutz representative in Switzerland during the war. He sued the authors of Perdition and then dropped the case.

‘After the [Allied] victory, they will once again divide up the world between the nations, as they did at the end of the first war…. all the nations of the Allies are spilling much blood and if we do not bring sacrifices, with what will we achieve the right to sit at the table when they make the distribution of nations’ territories after the war? And so it would be foolish and impertinent on our side to ask the nations whose blood is being spilled for permission to send money into the land of their enemies in order to protect our own blood. Because “rak b’dam tihyu lanu haaretz(only through blood will the land be ours).’ [this can be found in Lenni Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, p.237]

The dead of the Holocaust have become Israel’s front-line soldiers in the propaganda war against the Palestinians.‘Claiming the Holocaust as a holy event sanctifies the state of Israel and whitewashes its crimes.’ Rebecca suggested that ‘perhaps the time has come to stop privileging the Holocaust as the central event in Jewish history.

It is not a novel idea. Indeed it is a testimony to the bankruptcy of Zionism as an ideology that despite its rejection of the Galut (the Jewish diaspora or exile), the Holocaust has become its prime defence mechanism

Pickles has been tireless in his campaign against freedom of speech on Palestine

Professor Yehuda Elkana, himself a Holocaust survivor, in a famous opinion piece in Ha’aretz on 2nd March 1988 in The Need to Forget’ wrote that:

the deepest political and social factor that motivates much of Israeli society in its relations with the Palestinians is not personal frustration, but rather a profound existential “Angst” fed by a particular interpretation of the lessons of the Holocaust and the readiness to believe that the whole world is against us, and that we are the eternal victim. In this ancient belief… I see the tragic and paradoxical victory of Hitler. Two nations, metaphorically speaking, emerged from the ashes of Auschwitz: a minority who assert,”this must never happen again,” and a frightened and haunted majority who assert, “this must never happen to us again.”

Elkana quoted Thomas Jefferson’s maxim that democracy and worship of the past were incompatible and the time had come to forget the Holocaust entirely. It served no purpose. Or as Rebecca put it ‘No people’s past should be allowed to determine another people’s future.’ The past can weigh very heavily on the present generation when its interpretation is passed through a military and nationalist prism.

Rebecca wrote that

Just as it is necessary to separate the past from the present in contemporary Israel-Palestine, so, too, it is necessary to separate Jewish suffering from the Palestinian crisis.’

In other words the past suffering of Jews is not a warrant for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. Yet today, far from separating out the Holocaust from the Palestinians, it has become the primary ideology not only of Israel but of Europe and the United States too. It is not for nothing that the bogus definition of anti-Semitism is named the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The Holocaust has become part of a new European ideology of exclusion, its justification for racism. It is the far-Right above all who use Zionist hostility to Arabs and Muslims as a means of justifying their Islamaphobia. In the words of Richard Spencer, neo-Nazi founder of the alt-Right, what we need to is the deJudification of the Holocaust. This was in the wake of Trump’s 2017 Holocaust day message that ‘forgot’ to mention Jews.

I am putting to one side the question of whether Israel has any right to claim the memory of the Holocaust dead as its inheritance. The idea that Jews who were victims of a genocidal racism and fascism should be the pretext for the murder of Palestinians borders on the obscene.

As Gerald Kaufman put it in one of the most famous parliamentary speeches

My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli Government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count.’

There is nothing that Rebecca said that many Israeli and Jewish historians, academics and anti-Zionists have not said. The Holocaust has become a license for Israel’s war crimes by a state that calls itself Jewish.

The reaction to Rebecca’s article was predictable. There are organisations and individuals whose sole purpose in life is to distort, slander and falsify complex and nuanced arguments and regurgitate them in a simple, binary, tabloid form. It is an art that Hitler mastered. To present all misfortunes as coming from one single source, the Jews, was the basis of the Nazis’ propaganda tricks. Today everything originates from ‘anti-Semitism’. Eric Pickles has learnt his trade well as has the misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.

You can agree or disagree with Rebecca Gould’s article but what it is not is a denial of the Holocaust. It takes the Holocaust as a given. The Holocaust is not in dispute anywhere in the article.

I accept that Pickles is not the finest intellectual talent to have graced the Parliamentary estate but to claim, as he did in The Telegraph that ‘it is “one of the worst cases of Holocaust denial” he has seen in recent years, adding that Rebecca should “consider her position” reveals him to be no more than a pound shop demagogue, as shallow as he is wide.

It says a lot for the calibre of Tory politicians today that this brazen liar and popinjay resorts to smears and slurs as his primary method of articulation. Gone are the days of Sir Ian Gilmour and the Tory intellectual. Pickles is a showcase for Zionism’s intellectual barbarism and its contempt for political debate. Incapable of defending the Israeli state and its actions in its own terms they hide behind the dead of the Holocaust crying ‘anti-Semite’ or now it would seem ‘holocaust denier’.

If Pickles or the CAA were genuinely motivated by what happened 80 years ago then the last thing they would do is use the Holocaust and the Jewish dead as an alibi for Israel’s crimes. Nothing is more guaranteed to increase Holocaust denial than making the Holocaust synonymous with Israeli war crimes and Palestinian suffering. If the Holocaust legitimises the shooting dead of Palestinian children is it any surprise that some people draw the conclusion that the Holocaust could not have happened?

Unsurprisingly the Zionist charity, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’s Gideon Falter chimed in with a call for ‘the university to dismiss Dr Gould,’ whilst adding that ‘the university’s mention of “academic freedom” leaves him with “scant confidence in the quality of their investigation

One would not expect Falter to have any understanding or appreciation of academic freedom. Academic freedom is as repugnant to Falter as it must have been to the book burners of the Third Reich.

Unfortunately for Falter and Pickles Bristol University rejected this blatant McCarthyite attack on academic freedom and Rebecca Gould. It is only a pity that Jeremy Corbyn and others who shall remain nameless had put up a fight against the false anti-Semitism syndrome that is affecting the Labour Party. As Bristol Live put it

‘to claim, as a former Government minister has done, the paper from Dr Rebecca Gould is one of the worst cases of Holocaust denial is quite frankly ridiculous and inflammatory.

Perhaps Sir Eric Pickles should read up on the discredited historian David Irving before he starts throwing around accusations and trite soundbites.’

What is astounding is that this puffed-up windbag is still given credibility. His appointment as the UK’s special envoy on post-Holocaust issues is not only an insult to the victims of the Holocaust but it is living proof that the memory of the Holocaust has been fashioned into a propaganda weapon. To have a racist and a bigot as the special representative on Holocaust issues is in itself proof of how the memory of the Holocaust has become a mere propaganda weapon. To quote Bristol Live

‘The reality is that Dr Gould is perfectly entitled to her opinion and is also entitled to express that opinion publicly. The last time I checked we were still living in a democracy.’

I was first alerted to this controversy when reading the testimony of Kenneth Stern, the person who drafted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. A definition which has been used to clamp down on free speech on Palestine/Zionism. Stern eloquently explained to the Congressmen how his Frankenstein had been abused.

In particular Stern referred to three ‘chilling’ examples in Britain of how the IHRA had effected free speech. But the‘most egregious’ was

‘an off-campus group citing the definition called on a university to conduct an inquiry of a professor (who received her PhD from Columbia) for antisemitism, based on an article she had written years before. The university then conducted the inquiry. And while it ultimately found no basis to discipline the professor, the exercise itself was chilling and McCarthy-like.’

The ‘off-campus group’ was the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which is an Israeli sponsored rottweiller, masquerading as a charity. The university in question was Bristol and the lecturer was, of course, Rebecca Gould.

If we had a government that took racism seriously then Pickles would have been consigned long ago to the outer reaches of St. James. The fact that this racist bigot has anything to do with the Holocaust demonstrates the cynical calculations that constitute British foreign policy. Because concern about the Holocaust is essentially about British policy in the Middle East and our alignment with Israel. Pickles is a propagandist for Zionist settler colonialism using the dead of the Holocaust as his prop.

This is not the first time that Pickles has been involved in trying to suppress academic freedom. In 2015 academics at Southampton University planned to host a conference on the Law and Palestine in relation to Israel’s complete disregard of international law. Pickles as Community Secretary huffed and puffed and threatened Southampton University into not allowing a ‘one sided diatribe’. On that occasion the Administration at Southampton University, instead of standing up for academic freedom buckled and gave way. The conference was cancelled because its safety allegedly couldn’t be guaranteed. It was eventually held at Trinity College in Dublin but it was outrageous that this self-important and pompous windbag had been able to get away with an attack on the most basic of freedoms without being called out.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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