Tony Greenstein | 09 October 2012 | Post Views:

The Free Gaza Movement Must Get Rid of Those Who Legitimise Anti-Semitism

Greta Berlin and Atzmon’s take on the story

I must confess I  had barely heard of the name Greta Berlin until today.  What I know now is more than enough to know that she is doing incredible damage to the movement everytime she opens her mouth.  She has been dishonest, to put it mildly.

Some of us are trying to build BDS and in Brighton we are fighting to stop an Israeli shop, Sodastream, based on an Israeli settlement, from continuing to trade.  People like Berlin do incredible damage to the movement because anti-Semitism today does not hurt Jews.  It hurts the Palestinians by giving the Zionists a free gift.

Berlin in happier days n

To put it bluntly, there is nothing that Zionism wants more than to show that is opponents are anti-Semitic.  In a tweet that Berlin put on the Free Gaza Movement’s twitter account we learn that ‘Zionists Ran the Holocaust and the Concentration Camps.”  It is difficult to know where to start with this nonsense and plain pig ignorance. 

Firstly, although she is probably unaware of the difference, the holocaust was primarily perpetrated at the Extermination camps not Concentration camps – Birkenau, Treblinka, Chelmno, Sobibor, Belzek and Maidenek among others.    Birkenau was the extermination part of the Auschwitz concentration camp, which was both a labour and extermination camp.  The others were almost exclusively extermination camps. 

The concentration camps were not set up primarily with Jews in mind – the first ones – Dachau and Sachsenhausen were for Communists, Socialists, Liberals and other dissidents and were, of course bad enough.  Maybe 2/3 of the 6 or so million Jews died in the extermination camps, but it is sheer and utter lunacy to pretend that the Zionists ‘ran them’.

Eustane Mullins – Vicious anti-Semite

The holocaust did not just claim Jewish lives but those of gypsies and gays (‘anti-socials).  If it had run its course it would have claimed the lives of Slavs and Hitler had already made it clear that 30m Russians were slated  for starvation.

The crimes of the Zionist movement are bad enough as it is without such exaggeration.  There is no doubt whatsoever that the Zionist movement – and here I distinguish sharply from individual Zionists who also perished in the holocaust – collaborated with the Nazis.  Initially they broke the anti-Nazi boycott with a trade agreement called Ha’avara – the Transfer Agreement – that ensured that the primary exporter to Jewish Palestine was Nazi Germany!  Over 60% of the capital investment in Jewish Palestine (the Yishuv) between 1933-39 was Nazi Germany.  But at least the Zionists could claim then that they didn’t realise that Nazism would have such lethal consequences because initially the Nazis aim was expulsion not extermination and of course the first victims of the gas chambers were not Jews but the German people themselves – the mentally and physically handicapped (the so-called Euthenasia Programme – T4 named after “Tiergartenstraße 4” in Berlin) when up to 100,000 Germans were murdered in the special hospitals of Brandenburg, Hartheim, Grafenek and others.  In 1941 the Bishop Galen of Munster spoke out against what was happening and Hitler was forced to call a halt (in fact the murders became the wild euthenasia programme carried out in the concentration camps themselves). 

Up to 200,000 people are believed to have been killed.  For those who are interested in reading up on the precursor to the holocaust, Henry Friedlander’s book ‘The Origins of Nazi Genocide. From Euthanasia to the Final Solution’, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill & London 1995 is the best there is.

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But the Zionist movement, which had always accepted anti-Semitism as the natural reaction of non-Jews to the Jews in their midst, ‘understood’ Nazism.  Some actively cooperated and like Israel’s former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir openly proposed collaboration.   ‘Death of Israel’s pro-Nazi Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’ .  Others like HeHalutz representative in Switzerland during the war, Nathan Schwalb, openly argued that the Jews needed a blood sacrifice in order to take part in the negotiations for the ‘Jewish’ State.  This is all documented.  Ben-Gurion himself, Chairman of the Jewish Agency and first Prime Minister of Israel, were totally unconcerned with the holocaust and preferred the intricacies and bickering of the Zionist parties of the Yishuv.  Little wonder that even his own official biogropher, Shabtai Teveth could write that ‘‘If there was a line in Ben-Gurion’s mind between the beneficial disaster and an all-destroying catastrophe, it must have been a very fine one.’ [p. 851,  The Burning Ground] referring to the holocaust.  Likewise the writings of Zionists such as Israel’s first Justice Minister Pinhas Rosenbluth, who described Palestine as an ‘”an institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin.” (Joachim Doron, Classic Zionism and Modern Anti-Semitism: Parallels and Influences (1883-1914) Studies in Zionism/Journal of Israeli History, Autumn 1983, Vol. 8) could have been taken from Mein Kampf.

Berlin in  Germany

Likewise there is no absence of evidence that the Zionist movement deliberately obstructed rescue of Jews to any place but Palestine during the war, thus condemning thousands to death, going so far as to describe Jewish campaigners against the USA’s anti-Semitic immigration legislation as ‘worse than Hitler’ (see Lenni Brenner’s 51 Documents and Zionism in the Age of the Dictators).  The Kasztner trial in Israel demonstrated beyond any doubt that the representative of the Jewish Agency, Rudolph Kasztner, made an agreement with Adolph Eichman in Hungary, that in exchange for the Jewish and Zionist elite of 600 (increased later to 1684) in a train out of Budapest, then they would collaborate in rounding up nearly ½ million Hungarian Jews for Auschwitz.  This is covered in Ben Hecht’s Perfidy (Hecht was a Revisionist Zionist).

But collaboration was one thing.  The suggestion that the Zionists who, like all Jews, were trapped in the furnace that was Europe, actually ran the concentration and extermination camps is obscene.  No Jew ran or took part in the running of a concentration camp.  The fact is that the Zionists of Europe were abandoned by their Palestinian Zionist compatriots.

Berlin’s accusation that the Jews and Zionists ran the holocaust and therefore perpetrated it, also links to a vicious anti-Semite, one Eustace Mullins, for whom Jews were just human vermin and the instruments of the financial malaise of the United States.  It is somewhat ironic that Glenn Beck, the Fox News presenter, a vicious  Zionist who addressed Israel’s Knesset, is an enthusiastic backer for all of Mullin’s anti-Semitic claptrap. 

But this too is no surprise.  Zionism’s most ardent backers in the United States are the Christian Zionists of John Hagee.  Hagee is on record as describing Hitler as god’s emissay sent to drive the Jews to Israel!  Once again anti-Semitism and hatred of the Palestinians and support for Zionism go hand in hand.

Any Palestinian supporter who, out of political or intellectual laziness, gives comfort to these anti-Semites is also giving comfort to Zionism.  Zionism is a form of race hatred which is also turned against anti-Zionist Jews.  Not for nothing do we get called ‘self-haters’.  Literally we hate ourselves because we hate our race.  It is a deeply anti-Semitic concept and people like Berlin feed it.  On the contrary, as I explain to the Zionists, I hate them and racism for the same reason that I hate anti-Semitism!

And if you want proof of how crazed and racist, to the point of adopting a Nazi mentality the Zionists have become, see articles like ‘Shin Bet Urges Halt to funding Judeo-Nazi Yeshivah’ 
Ali Abunimah, the editor of the excellent Electronic Intifada web site, has pointed to the damage and hypocrisy of Berlin.  I would go even further.  It was allegedly part of a private discussion on her Facebook page that mysteriously made its way onto a Free Gaza Movement tweet.  If this were so she would immediately have posted copies of said discussion.  She refused.  Even more to the point, what are Palestinian supporters doing discussing garbage like this anyway?  Was it an academic exercise?  If so what conclusions were reached?

Not surprisingly, Zionist apologists and propagandists have seized on this as an example of the solidarity movement. The Free Gaza Movement Shows Its Anti-Semitic Face (UPDATED) .  Yet nothing could be further from the truth.  When, as is inevitable, some members of the Palestine Solidarity movement demonstrate that they are anti-Semitic, then they are expelled.  They play into the hands of the Zionists.  When Francis Clarke-Lowes came out as a holocaust denier in Brighton PSC he was immediately expelled.  And you know what?  Harry’s Place, neo-con Zionist site which had purported to support people like myself who had initiated the expulsion, then showed their fury when they realised we meant what we said in that there was no room for racists in the movement.  They immediately proceeded to bar me from commenting such was their sincerity!! 

Unlike the Zionist movement we expel racists.  The Zionist movement takes racists and fascists, people like Glenn Beck, to their bosom.  That is the difference.

If this were one error, one misjudgment by Ms Berlin, then one could perhaps be more forgiving   But as Tom Pessah points out, she has form.  She went out of her way to praise the viciously anti-Semitic book by Gilad Atzmon ‘The Wandering Who’ last year.  It is a book which lays the blame for the financial crisis on Jewish bankers.  Atzmon deliberately conflates Jews and Zionists and holds that it is impossible to be a Jewish anti-Zionist.  The more Jewish you are the more of a Zionist you are.  ‘Jewish anti-Zionists are a fifth column ‘who will convert (to Zionism) in the next anti-Semitic wave… who makes Zionism into an eternal struggle for ‘Jewish salvation’.’  [‘Not in my Name’] but at least the Zionists are honest. I have written an essay on Atzmon’s political development which is worth visiting.  The book by Atzmon, according to Berlin, is apparently ‘one of the best reads of 2012.‘ In fact it is a shoddy work, lacking footnotes, wholly impressionistic and anti-materialist.  Indeed anyone with the slightest understanding of what used to be called the Jewish Question would know that Jewish Identity has never been fixed.  Today the majority Jewish identity is a Zionist one, it is worship of the state.  That is why it produces nothing of cultural significance, except for anti-Zionist Jews such as Israel’s most famous poet Yitzhak Laor.  In an interview with +972′s Larry Derfner, Berlin claimed she found “nothing anti-Jewish in that book,” adding that she felt Atzmon had been “demonized.”
Perhaps believing that Jewish anti-Zionists are a ‘fifth column’ is an example of such demonisation or the belief in an overriding Jewish conspiracy to control the world.  In Ali Abunimah’s blog, Greta Berlin’s statement is not correcton Sat, 10/06/2012 Abunimah writes:

On 30 September a tweet was made from the official Twitter account of the Free Gaza Movement (@freegazaorg) which stated “Zionists Ran the Holocaust and the Concentration Camps.”

The tweet linked to a video of an anti-Jewish diatribe by notorious anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist Eustace Mullins.

The tweet’s contents originated as a posting by Free Gaza Movement’s Greta Berlin on her personal Facebook page. It was posted automatically from Facebook to Twitter. Following considerable uproar over this tweet, the Free Gaza Movement posted a statement on its website on 4 October that included the following explanation:

    A TWEET from the Free Gaza TWITTER account was posted several days ago that had a link to a lecture titled, “Zionists Ran the Holocaust and the Concentration Camps.” This TWEET did not come from Free Gaza, and does not represent FG’s position in any way whatsoever; in fact we condemn its content. It came from Greta’s private Facebook page and was shared with a group of people who were discussing propaganda and racism, and this link was an example of the terrible propaganda that could be spewed on websites. For some reason, Facebook connected our Free Gaza account to her personal Facebook account, and the link was posted.

This statement did not calm the growing controversy. In order to dispel any doubts, many people, including me, asked Berlin to publish screenshots of the discussion from Facebook to show the context in which the video was posted. Berlin, who controls the @freegazaorg Twitter account, refused.’
Free Gaza Movement @freegazaorg
@AliAbunimah @alexbkane @972mag ‘Many in the group will verify our ongoing discussions. The group is private, like many Facebook groups.’

This evening I had an opportunity to spend several hours with full access to a private Facebook group of which Berlin is an administrator, and where the video was first posted by another administrator on 28 September with the comment “This will be a real thought provoker for some.”

When the video was posted on 28 September it was neither preceded nor followed by any interactions that would fit the description that it “was shared with a group of people who were discussing propaganda and racism, and this link was an example of the terrible propaganda that could be spewed on websites.” This context does not exist.

I have no doubt that other members of the Free Gaza Movement took Berlin’s explanation in good faith. Now is the moment for them to demand proper accountability.
As members of a broad and diverse Palestine solidarity movement, our loyalty to one another can only be based on trust and honesty.

On bigotry and solidarity 

By Tom Pessah

Greta Berlin’s anti-Semitic tweet was but one in a series of comments she has made, enabling many of her critics to discredit the entire Free Gaza Movement. As activists, it is our job to make sure one bigotry can never be used to justify another.

An Iranian American acquaintance once explained to me the predicament she’s in. She’s a committed feminist who wants to expose and critique any examples of male domination in Iran. Yet whenever she does so, her critique is immediately seized upon by those wishing to justify the next war, which could harm her family.

I was thinking of my friend recently in light of the controversy generated by pro-Palestine activist Greta Berlin’s anti-Semitic tweet (“Zionists Ran the Holocaust and the Concentration Camp”). Everyone can make a mistake, but this is part of a pattern. After reading an erroneous report about the origin of a recent anti-Muslim film, she excitedly tweeted that “an Israeli film maker, 100 Jewish donors” were behind the project. Recently she glowingly endorsed a book by Gilad Atzmon, calling it “one of the best reads of 2012”. In an interview with +972′s Larry Derfner, Berlin claimed she found “nothing anti-Jewish in that book,” adding that she felt Atzmon had been “demonized.”

Atzmon is a Holocaust denier; he has previously asked “if the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war?” In this book that Berlin endorsed, Atzmon writes on page 179 “we, for instance, can envisage a horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran that escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario, some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.’

On page 27 he argues “Throughout the centuries, some Jewish bankers have gathered the reputation of backers and financers of wars and even one communist revolution.” Again, Berlin found “nothing anti-Jewish about that book” which she tells Derfner she read till the end. The current controversy may cause Berlin to finally dissociate herself from this ongoing pattern of endorsing anti-Jewish literature.

One of the strongest Palestinian voices calling out Berlin for her anti-Jewish behavior has been Ali Abunimah, one the leaders of the global BDS movement. Abunimah’s vision is consistent: he believes in full equality between Israeli Jews and Muslim and Christian Palestinians. He has written of his vision for one state, which would include changes in current Israeli immigration policies to allow Palestinian refugees and their families to return to their homeland and live alongside Israeli Jews. Abunimah’s family is from Jerusalem, and they were living in the nearby village of Lifta before they were expelled in 1948.

In order to root out any expressions of anti-Jewish bigotry, it is important not to put principled activists like Abunimah in the predicament my Iranian friend faces: having their criticism manipulated in order to justify further harm. Greta Berlin is also one the founders of the Free Gaza movement and an organizer of flotillas which are aimed at breaking the siege on Gaza – a siege which has prevented access to clean drinking water, causing death and disease. Denying human beings access to clean water and medicine is certainly as racist as Berlin’s tweets are. Yet, unlike Abunimah, many of her critics have seized upon the opportunity to discredit her entire movement and to legitimize these inhumane policies. One form of bigotry can never be used to justify another. Solidarity is indivisible.

Tom Pessah is an Israeli graduate sociology student at the University of California, Berkeley.

A contrary viewpoint is put by Larry Derfner, al so 972 mag.
Published October 6, 2012

Head of Free Gaza Movement: Anti-Semitic video in question is ‘disgusting’

After being accused of promoting a video which places the blame for the Holocaust on the Zionists, Greta Berlin tells her side of the story.    

I just finished about a 20-minute phone interview with Free Gaza Movement spokeswoman Greta Berlin, who spoke from Los Angeles. I exchanged some e-mails with her, I asked her several questions, I read quite a bit of the criticism and condemnations of her from left and right, and the bottom line is that I find her defense to be completely credible. She is not, to my mind, any kind of anti-Semite or wacko. Even if I find some of her terminology about Gaza (“slow-motion genocide” and “extermination camps”) to be awfully exaggerated and dangerous, I see no evidence that she’s the monster she’s been made out to be. She’s a self-described anti-Zionist, but I see nothing she’s done or said that I, at least, would consider beyond the pale.

To recap in brief: Berlin has been accused of promoting a video by a crazy, dead Jew-hater, Eustace Mullins, who says the Zionists were behind the Holocaust. The accusation is that Berlin promoted the video on Sunday by tweeting it on the Free Gaza Movement’s Tweeter account. On its website, the FGM apologized for the tweet, condemned the video’s content and said it “came from Greta’s private Facebook page and was shared with a group of people who were discussing propaganda and racism, and this link was an example of the terrible propaganda that could be spewed on websites.” Berlin stated on the website:

I am not a Holocaust denier. And I am not a supporter of the video that I posted, nor would I ever have been. It was, in fact, an example of propaganda that is EXACTLY what I and others are horrified over. The video (although I didn’t watch it then) seemed like the kind propaganda that our group was discussing. And I passed it on because of the title.

 Ironically I am caught in the same propaganda hysteria that I was trying to fight. It was my mistake that I didn’t post to the small private group on Facebook and the video ended up on my wall. Greta

It seemed the easiest way to determine if Berlin was telling the truth or lying would be for her to publish the Facebook group discussion of the video, in whole or at least in part. On Friday night, Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada wrote that he had just spent several hours on a discussion group where the video was posted (though, he noted, not by Berlin):

 [I]t was neither preceded nor followed by any interactions that would fit the description that it “was shared with a group of people who were discussing propaganda and racism, and this link was an example of the terrible propaganda that could be spewed on websites.” This context does not exist.

I asked Berlin if she would publish the group discussion, in full or in part, and she reiterated what she wrote on FGM’s website – that the video never made it to her discussion group. She said the group discussion Abunimah monitored has over 1,000 members, while the group she meant to send the video to has 37. In other words, she said, the  group discussion for which she’d intended the video never took place, so there’s no discussion to publish. (See statement from group members in UPDATE below.)

I saw part of the Facebook discussion that Abunimah evidently referred to, and from what I saw, his description was right – but it’s not the group Berlin says she meant. She said the smaller group has been together for nearly a year, and in the last month some of its discussion topics included  “homophobia in the Middle East,” the tragedy of the Jews from Arab countries – it’s an inseparable part of the Zionist story,” the Israeli 12th grade draft resisters, Pamela Geller, and a Tel Aviv historical exhibition on “Nakba perpetrators.”

She says she didn’t watch the Mullins video when she tried to send it to her group – which she did on the basis of its title, “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews” – but said she has watched it since. “It’s disgusting!” she exclaimed. “This is what upsets me more than anything [that such a video could be associated with her and FGM]. The man is a nut.”

I asked about her endorsement of Gilad Atzmon’s book “The Wandering Who?” which is widely considered anti-Semitic (and which I haven’t read). She said she’s “not a big fan of what he writes,” but that as she wrote in her endorsement, she found the book fascinating, funny, sad “and by the end I was exhausted. When I wrote that after reading all that I was ‘glad I’d been brought up a Methodist,’ that was meant to be funny.” I asked if she thought the book expressed hatred of Jews, and she said, “I found nothing anti-Jewish in that book,” adding that she felt Atzmon had been “demonized.”

I asked about the FGM tweet of a 1943 Nazi propaganda movie, and she said she didn’t recall seeing the movie or sending the tweet. Regarding an FGM tweet about the infamous film “The Innocence of Muslims” that mentions “An Israeli film maker, 100 Jewish donors,” she said those details were taken from the early reports in the New York Times and other mainstream news agencies, but that since then, of course, the story had changed. “The New York Times was fooled, too,” she said.

I asked her about an FGM tweet of the “slow-motion genocide” in Gaza. She said: “That’s a term I’ve been using for a long time, I use it in my presentations. That is my view of what’s happening.” I asked her about the FGM tweet regarding the “extermination camps” in Gaza. She said: “I think if something isn’t done about Gaza pretty quickly, I think that is what’s going to happen. There are lots of reports, UN reports, that say Gaza is going to become uninhabitable. I am pretty upset by the situation in Gaza.”

Berlin, who’s 71, apologizes for hitting the wrong button on Sunday’s tweet, but not for anything else, certainly not for anything she’s said with FGM. She doesn’t strike me as a person who scares easily, or who would disown something she believes in to stay in anyone’s good graces. If she genuinely believed in crackpot, anti-Semitic ideas, I think she’d say so and stick by it. But she says she doesn’t believe in such ideas, in fact she finds them disgusting, and there’s nothing remotely close to any definitive proof that she does believe them, and I think the reason for that is because she doesn’t.

UPDATE: Statement by members of Berlin’s FB discussion group:

In the past few days there have been a flood of attacks on Greta Berlin, based on an incident that was blown out of proportion, a reaction to an innocuous post that was taken completely out of context. When Greta saw the originalpostpublished in one Facebook group, she intended to share it with our group in the context of an ongoing discussion. Unfortunately, she forgot to change the setting on the Facebook sharing feature, bringing the post to her wall instead of landing in our closed group. Since Greta’s wall was linked with the Free Gaza Movement Twitter account, the post found its way to Twitter. Isolated from our discussion, the post was understood completely out of context, leading readers to believe that Greta herself was endorsing the content of the post.

Ours is a small and secret Facebook group, 37 members strong, consisting of a very diverse set of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and opinions. Many of us know each other personally; our mutual trust allows discussions to involve subjects that are not appropriate for public consumption, sometimes simply because our opinions are not fully ripe; we experiment with them and bounce them off each other in an attempt to understand the issues at hand, developing a better and more coherent argument.

One such topic involves the role of the Zionist movement during the Holocaust. Numerous historians before us made the claim, that leaders of the Zionist movement gave higher priority to the realization of their national project, sometimes missing opportunities to save European Jews. These priorities were made explicit in a famous quote by David Ben-Gurion, their consequences analyzed by historians such as Tom Segev and others. In this context Greta wished to highlight that anti-Semitic remarks have exaggerated and distorted this argument, claiming that Zionists have actively “run the concentration camps”.

Naturally nobody in his or her right mind would adopt such a claim, least of all Greta Berlin. Greta is highly respected and trusted by a large community of human rights activists, a co-founder and one of the leaders of the Free Gaza Movement. She’s faced down the IDF on the high seas a number of times, and is obviously no coward. If she hated Jews and denied the Holocaust, she would not be afraid to say so in public. But that’s not what she thinks, and her personal courage is a matter of record. So there is no reason for anyone to doubt her word.

Many in the media accused Greta of actually endorsing this false claim. Being familiar with the relevant discussions, we attest that understanding the context makes it plain that she does not endorse it, nor are we aware of her ever suggesting that she does.OthersaccusedGreta of failing to provide the required context that supports her position. In the paragraphs above we tried to shed more light on this context, explaining the technical glitch that resulted in the publication of an isolated fragment of discussion, decontextualized from the rest. We hope that this will contribute  to the clarification of this unfortunate affair.

Members of the Facebook group:

Adam Rawat, London, UK
Fadwa Othman, Nablus, Palestine
Ian Raven. Leicester, UK
Kyle O’Laughlin, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Mary Hughes Thompson, Manchester, UK
Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestine
Mike Burch, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Moe Tamim, Montreal, Canada
Mona Affaneh, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Nadia Mansour, Los Angeles, California, USA
Ofer Engel, London, UK
Rim Selmi, Tunis, Tunisia
Robby Martin, Dublin, Ireland
Sam Siddiqui, Mumbai, India
Walid Jabari, Bethlehem, Palestine
Yani Haigh, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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