Tony Greenstein | 29 May 2023 | Post Views:

Roger Water’s Berlin Concert demonstrates how Political Culture can be subversive

Pickle is the weekly newsletter of alternative Jewish cultural group Vashti, which was founded in 2019 by Rivka Brown of Novara Media which supported the ‘anti-Semitism’ witchhunt. The group claims that it stands in opposition to the existing leadership of British Jews but does it?

Vashti  is one of a number of groups which have come about as a result of the Israel right or wrong, leadership of Britain’s Jews. Anything that weakens the Zionist consensus should be welcomed. However in their attempts to bridge the divide between anti-Zionism and Zionism there is a danger of Vashti reinforcing the very forces that caused them to form in the first place.

Jewish cultural politics can degenerate into self-indulgence and an identity politics which celebrates being Jewish for its own sake. It is but a short road to Zionism

A Jewish cultural politics that is not aware of this can end up reflecting rather than challenging the Zionist grip on British Jews. Any alternative Jewish political culture has to have as its focal point the Palestinians.

Identity politics carries with it the danger of counterposing the identity of the oppressor against the oppressed, given the Zionist context of Jewish politics today. Zionist feminism is a good example.

How Identity Politics Turned the Victims of Sabra & Chatilla into the Antisemitic Oppressors of Zionist Feminists – A Reply to Erica Burman,

Ahed Tamimi Exposes the Refusal of Western Feminism to Come to Terms with Zionism and Imperialism,

White Women as Slave Owners and the Myth of Sisterhood – Stephanie E. Jones and Why Zionist Feminism is an Oxymoron.

The Board of Deputies, the BBC and Tory establishment led the false ‘anti-Semitism’ attack on the Labour Left. Yet both Rivka Brown and Novara Media supported the witchhunt of Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone. For some reason I was excluded from their attacks. Perhaps that was because I was White unlike Jackie.

When Rivka Brown was invited to a meeting billed as “A celebration of Jewish Radicalism” which was co-sponsored by Jewish Voices for Labour, I immediately wrote to JVL, pointing out Rivka’s poisonous attack on Chris Williamson as a ‘Jew Baiter’. I asked them to take their name off. To their credit they did so. See Solidarity is the Bread and Butter of Socialism. In the end Brown withdrew entirely.

Pickle & the Rachel Mars Interview

In the current Pickle Emma Jude Harris interviews Rachel Mars, a performance artist, starring in The Forge at the Barbican. The Forge consists of Mars welding together a replica of the gate at Dachau concentration camp. The original was stolen in 2014. It bore the slogan arbeit macht frei (work makes you free). 

Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp and it opened on 22 March 1933, not for Jews but for communists and trade unionists.

Performance art is about challenging the conventions of visual art and using one’s body as the medium to convey hidden meanings. The mind boggles at what Mars was hoping to communicate by recreating a sign that symbolised Nazi terror. It is clear from her interview that she was not challenging conventional norms. I can’t imagine anything more boring than watching someone welding a gate on stage.

The first question Harris asked was What do you feel is your “inheritance” as a Jewish person?’ which in itself begs the question as to whether there is a common Jewish inheritance. Mars’ response that this came up in therapy this week – so the need to go to therapy is the first one.’ speaks to class not ethnicity. Do more Jews than non-Jews go to therapy or is it a particular type of person?

Rachel Mars

 ‘As a Jewish person, I have inherited many things … a love of language, and argument, and disagreement, and debate, a certain type of love for a certain sense of humour, the need for a particular kind of community, and also a helpful feeling of otherness in Britain. But also an unnamed grief or sadness… because of Holocaust inheritance. I’ve inherited a big hole where there should be a lot of other people and their histories….’

The apotheosis of otherness is diversity and the depoliticisation of racism. The result is Lammy, Sunak and Braverman and the celebration of betrayal and collaboration.

Does being ‘othered’ give you a ‘helpful feeling’? What is Jewish otherness? It sounds very much like the Zionist desire to keep Jews separate from non-Jews. Otherness was forced on Jews by anti-Semitism. The response was unity with non-Jews. And do you miss people you’ve never seen or known?

Jewish humour came about as a result of oppression. It was a way of mocking authority and turning the tables. In the words of Saul Bellow ‘Oppressed people tend to be witty.’ Today Jewish people are not oppressed. This reference to Jewish humour is nothing more than pastiche, the romanticisation of a past that has long disappeared.

The interview goes from the bizarre to the banal as Emma asks ‘So what is your least favourite Holocaust memorial? And why?’ to which Rachel responds Ooh. I’ve got quite a lot of favourite ones?’

Banal because there is no questioning of why the Jewish holocaust is memorialised when no other acts of genocide are treated in this way. Bizarre because it treats holocaust memorials as if she was a child choosing her favourite candies.

In 2013 the National Congress of American Indians petitioned for a National American Indian Holocaust Museum. It’s still waiting.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian depends on donations from American Indians themselves for support and this is not a Museum dedicated to the American Indian Holocaust.

The American Indian Genocide Museum in Texas is a voluntary organisation dependent on public donations. It does not receive the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum [USHMM] in Washington.

What about a US National Slavery Museum? In 2001 a non-profit organization was founded in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to raise funds and campaign to establish a national museum on slavery. In 2008 the project died due to its inability to raise sufficient funds to pay property taxes, let alone begin construction. It has been abandoned.

The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama was established in 2018 at an estimated cost of $20 million raised from private donations and charitable foundations. It was established by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organisation. It costs $5 to enter.

Contrast this with the USHMM. In October 1980, Congress authorised the establishment of the USHMM in Washington. It received lavish funding from corporate America via tax deductible donations for its construction. It opened in April 1993. In the current year it will receive $65 million in Federal money. Entrance is free.

The USHMM commemorates just one holocaust. That of Jews. As a result of lobbying by Turkey, Israel, and American Jewish/Zionist organizations, there is no mention of the Armenian genocide in the museum. As I document in Zionism During the HolocaustElie Wiesel, who was instrumental in founding the USHMM, attempted to destroy an international conference on genocide in Tel Aviv in 1982 because it included sessions on the Armenian holocaust. Israel’s Foreign Ministry made strenuous efforts to sabotage the conference.

In December 2003, 67% of the USHMM’s budget was provided by federal funds. Its operating budget depends largely on US government funding. The Federal Government also donated 1.9 acres of land in the centre of Washington for its construction.

So I have a question for Rachel Mars and Vashti. Why does the US Government spend hundreds of millions of dollars maintaining a national holocaust museum for a genocide that took place in Europe yet it isn’t prepared to build or subsidise a national museum to remember slavery or the extermination of the Indians?

According to the National Congress of American Indians, the American Indian population was approximately 10 million in 1500 and barely 237,000 in 1900. Nearly 98% of Native Americans were wiped out through colonisation – be it by disease or extermination. Yet there is no federally funded museum to commemorate this.

It’s not just in America that the Jewish holocaust is commemorated. Virtually every European state has its memorials and museums. As I pointed out in my open letter (see below) to Vashti, a Holocaust Memorial Bill is currently being proposed by the very same government which describes the boat refugees as an ‘invasion’.

So while Rachel Mars picks and chooses which are her favourite memorials, as if she was a child choosing her favourite toy, the victims of other holocausts go unremembered. Emma Harris observers how

‘Germany did an amazing job of memorialising everything, and that it’s so incredible that they’ve had all these interventions’

to which Mars agrees. Not once does it occur to these two sages to ask why this is so and the relationship to the virtual outlawing of solidarity with the Palestinians. Could it be that the German state is memorialising the holocaust as a way of cementing its military relationship with Israel, the West’s strategic ally in the Middle East?

If these two empty heads, sated with their vapid identity politics, had any knowledge of the history of German imperialism they would know that genocide did not begin with the Jews but with the Herero and Namaqua people in South-West Africa between 1904 and 1907 where Darwinian theories of race supremacy were applied.

Eugenic experiments were conducted by Eugene Fischer, who became the leading racial hygienist under the Nazis and Director of the Kaiser Wilhem Institute of Anthropology. Fischer defined the Herero Africans as an “inferior race.”

Fischer came to Shark Island and other concentration camps to conduct medical experiments on the Herero prisoners, who were subjected to sterilisation and injections of smallpox, typhus and tuberculosis. 310 Herero and mixed-race children of Herero women and German men were made test subjects of “lesser racial quality.”

Fischer’s medical experiments were a testing ground for later medical experiments on Jews and others during the Holocaust. Fischer’s The Principles of Human Heredity of Race Hygiene,” was read by Hitler in Landsberg prison in 1924. Fischer became Chancellor of the University of Berlin, where he taught medicine to Nazi physicians including Josef Mengele. What happened in SW Africa and Shark Island became ‘a template for the Holocaust.’

German memorials to the Rhineland Bastards, and the victims of the Herero and Namaqua genocides are conspicuous by their absence. When Harris and Mars congratulate the German state on having ‘memorialised everything’ they fail to ask why not anyone else.

Mars referred to how ‘impactful’ the Jewish Museum in Berlin is yet failed to mention how the Israeli and German states forced the resignation of its previous Director, Peter Schaffer, in June 2019. Mars’ interview is an example of the triumph of form over substance.

Schafer had previously been criticised for inviting a Palestinian scholar to give a lecture at the museum. But it was a post to the museum’s Twitter account that cited an open letter signed by 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars which sparked the Zionist backlash.

The post concerned a parliamentary motion declaring the BDS movement antisemitic. The scholars said that “Parliament’s decision doesn’t assist the fight against anti-SemitismOn the contrary, it undermines it.” The museum used the hashtag #mustread in its retweet and added a quote from the letter.

The Jewish Museum in Berlin had, for a long time, been in the firing line for its independent political stance. It had come under attack in 2013 for having invited British Jewish scholar Brian Klug to give its annual Kristallnacht lecture and before that Judith Butler.

At the end of the interview Harris asks why Mars feels that her work is an ‘important intervention for you to be making right now’? Mars refers to a ‘picture of a small boat trying to make it to Dover…. We really need to make this about now – this is not going away.”

Yet there is no obvious connection between welding a replica gate and present day racism against refugees. On the contrary in praising the variety of different holocaust memorials, without ever asking why, she contributes to the legitimation of the very states that demonise refugees today. Mars refers to how

‘Britain is constantly trying to position itself as [the] only saviour for the Jewish community in the Holocaust. And if the Jewish community accepts that narrative, that is a major problem’

without any reference to what actually happened. It’s not only the ‘Jewish community’ i.e. its Zionist leaders but Mars and Harris themselves who fawn over the Holocaust Memorial Industry.

The USHMM obscures the role of the United States and the State Department under Breckinridge Long, in turning away Jewish refugees. As Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, the policy of erecting bureaucratic hurdles ‘makes it all but impossible to give refuge to the victims of fascist cruelty in Europe.’ A report to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau on the ‘Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews,’ concluded that ‘it takes months and months to grant the visa and then it usually applies to a corpse.’

You would look in vain in the interview for any mention of the policy of the State Department towards Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Likewise in Britain, the Holocaust memorial industry consciously avoids all mention of the role of the British government and Home Secretary Herbert Morrison in turning away Jewish refugees from Vichy France who were desperate to get out in the autumn of 1942 before the Nazis overran the territory.

Given the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign in the Labour Party it is worth bearing in mind that in October 1942 Morrison received a delegation of eminent churchmen and public figures such as Eleanor Rathbone and Lord Astor, asking him for visas for 2,000 Jewish children and the elderly in Vichy France. Morrison refused.

On 31 December 1942 after the Allies had declared that Germany was exterminating Europe’s Jews Morrison made it clear that ‘he could not agree that the door should be opened to the entry of uncategorised Jews.’ Morrison believed that if the Jews were allowed to remain in Britain after the war ‘they might be an explosive element in the country, especially if the economic situation deteriorated.’

Morrison believed that most Jews were communists and feared that they would be prominent in any industrial unrest. Morrison was said to doubt that there was a holocaust. Morrison was also a supporter of Zionism so you won’t find any mention of this by the Zionists.

What Mars’ interview shows is that a Jewish cultural politics that concerns itself with form not substance, which reflects instead of questions, ends up supporting the Zionist holocaust narrative and whitewashing the role of the West. To fail to ask why there are memorials to the Jewish but not Gypsy or Disabled holocaust, still less the Native Americans or Slavery, is to collude in a narrative that uses the holocaust dead to oil the wheels of the West’s war machine.

Roger Waters in Berlin Shows How Political Culture Can Challenge Racism & Fascism

If you want to understand how Political Culture can be subversive then you only have to look at the concert Roger Waters has just held in Berlin. Judging by the reactions of the same Berlin police who banned Nakba Day demonstrations, Waters has scored a bullseye.

The German police are the linear descendants of the Nazi Security Police which united with the SS in September 1939, except now they claim to be anti-Nazi and opposed to anti-Semitism.

Roger Waters has challenged the Nazi-style behaviour of the German state for its suppression of solidarity with the Palestinians. The hypocrisy of the German Police who are alleging that comparisons between Israel and the Nazis are criminal ‘incitement’ is breathtaking.

Moshe Yalon calls Israeli Ministers Ben Gvir  & Smotrich ‘Mein Kampf in reverse’

Such comparisons are legion in Israel. Ex Likud Defence Minister Moshe Yalon calls out Ben Gvir and Smotrich as Jewish Nazis ‘Mein Kampf in reverse’. Today’s headline in Ha’aretz is Netanyahu’s Cabinet Ministers in Race to See Who Is Most Fascist.

Roger donned an imitation fascist garb to draw a comparison between the suppression of anti-Zionism in Germany today and its suppression by Nazi Germany. This may be painful for those who pretend that they are now opposed to anti-Semitism but it is nonetheless true. The Times of Israel reported that Waters had ‘sparked outrage”

by projecting Anne Frank’s name at recent concerts to draw comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany. Such comparisons are considered antisemitic under the widely-used IHRA definition of antisemitism.

If comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is anti-Semitic according to the IHRA then that only demonstrates how flawed the definition is!

Anne Frank, although only a teenager, never expressed Zionist sentiments and she considered Zionists freaks and oddities, as did most of Europe’s Jews. Anne wrote in her Diary (11.4.44) that

‘My first wish after the war is that I may become Dutch! I love the Dutch, I love this country…’

Palestine was not on her horizons. Zionism has colonised her name. Waters enraged the Zionists even further by linking Anne Frank’s name to that of Shireen abu Akleh, who was assassinated by Israel.

Vashti’s Cowardly Cultural Politics

The bravery of Roger Waters and his demonstration of how political culture can challenge bourgeois ideology is in contrast to the insipid and anaemic cultural politics of Vashti, who prefer to venerate a rusted Nazi gate than challenge the way that the holocaust has been used to underpin and legitimise the Palestinian genocide.

Vashti doesn’t dare make such comparisons because of the ‘offence’ it might cause to the Zionist leadership in Britain.

The Board of Deputies complained that it was “very concerning” that Waters will be performing in the UK, calling his concerts “political rallies.” Perish the thought. A concert that is political! Clearly Board members didn’t attend the Free Mandela concerts a generation ago.

Joe Biden’s ‘anti-Semitism’ Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, a junk holocaust historian, was quick out of the stalls in condemning Roger Water’s as was her European counterpart Katharina von Schnurbein.

Death to the Arabs Demonstration in Jerusalem

We should take our hats off to Roger Waters. The comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany are many and varied, from according different rights to different ethnicities to marches chanting ‘death to the Arabs.’ If the Zionists don’t like the comparison it’s because it’s true.

Tony Greenstein

Open Letter to Vashti

Dear Eli Machover/Vashti,

It was with a growing incredulity that I read your interview with performance artist, Rachel Mars. The focus was on ‘Holocaust memorialisation and the ways our inherited trauma shapes the art we create’.

What stands out most is the inability of Rachel or the interviewer, Emma Jude Harris, to place holocaust memorialisation in a political context. Simple questions such as why the focus and emphasis is on the Jewish holocaust and why the holocaust in the Belgian Congo and the Slave Trade attract so little attention were not even asked.

Not once does Rachel or Emma ask how and why the ruling elites in our society have co-opted the holocaust to imperialism, still less how Zionism has constructed an apartheid society using the holocaust as its justification. Such simple questions yet Emma did not feel the need to ask them and Rachel felt no need to mention them.

Questions such as why the German political establishment has taken on a particular interpretation of the holocaust as a justification for their integration into the NATO alliance and how their support for Israel and Zionism has cemented that integration.

To seek answers to such questions one would have to consult books such as Edith Zertal’s Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, or Yitzhak Laor’s The Myth of Liberal Zionism or my own newly released Zionism During the Holocaust – The Weaponisation of Memory in the Service of Nation and State.

Projected holocaust memorial in Victoria Gardens

Questions such as why a rabidly racist government in Britain, that demonises asylum seekers crossing the Channel as an ‘invasion’ is so keen on holocaust memorialisation that only three days ago it introduced a Holocaust Memorial Bill which will enable the erection of a holocaust memorial in Victoria Gardens next to Parliament despite strong local opposition.

Rachel mentions the abundance of holocaust memorials in Germany yet fails to mention the virtual outlawing of any manifestation of solidarity with the Palestinians in Berlin or other parts of Germany.

My young Israeli friend, Stav, is facing two weeks in a Berlin prison for taking part in Palestine solidarity action. She refuses to pay on principle the fine that was imposed by the German state for daring to express solidarity with the Palestinians and she also faces being gaoled in Britain for taking part in actions against Elbit. None of this was allowed to intrude on your arty-farty interview.

This is the real Jewish trauma that Rachel Mars ‘forgot’ to mention as opposed to the synthetic trauma that Israel and its diaspora Jewish offshoots have helped inflict on Jews as a way of generating support for the ‘Jewish’ state. Emma mentions ‘intergenerational trauma’ among Jews but Zionism has deliberately out to recreate and invent trauma as a means of solidifying support for its racist enterprise.

As I noted in Zionism During the Holocaustif the behaviour and attitude of non-Jews in Europe towards Jews had replicated that of Israeli Jews towards the Palestinians, then not 6 but 7 or even 8 million Jews would have died in the Holocaust.

This is the irony that escapes not only Emma and Rachel but Vashti too. The most pro-Zionist party today in Germany is Alternative for Germany which in the debate 3 years ago in the Bundestag wanted to make BDS illegal, is riddled with neo-Nazis and holocaust deniers.  

It was less than a month ago that two parliamentary representatives of AfD followed, in what has become a long tradition of neo-Nazis and the far-Right paying homage to the holocaust, when they paid a visit to Israel’s propaganda museum, Yad Vashem.

There is no mention of how, in attacking Jewish anti-Zionists, the German state today is repeating the actions of the Nazi state before 1939 against Jews who were not Zionists.

On 28 January 1935 Reinhard Heydrich issued a directive stating:

‘the activity of the Zionist-oriented youth organisations that are engaged in the occupational restructuring of the Jews … lies in the interest of the National Socialist state’s leadership…. (they 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).

In May 1935 Schwarze Korps, paper of the SS, wrote that:

the Zionists adhere to a strict racial position and by emigrating to Palestine they are helping to build their own Jewish state…. The assimilation-minded Jews deny their race and insist on their loyalty to Germany or claim to be Christians because they have been baptised in order to subvert National Socialist principles

None of this appears in your interview, even as background.  No mention of how it is the Palestinians who are now the real victims of the European Holocaust and how the ‘intergenerational trauma’ of Jews is relieved by supporting neo-Nazis in the Israeli government, as they cry ‘death to the Arabs’.’ The interview with Mars referred to there being no state sponsored memorials to the victims of slavery or lynching in the USA, in comparison with a holocaust which didn’t occur in America. Mars says:

There’s a new-ish memorial to lynching [in Alabama]. And that was not state money. It was an individual pursuit, and it is incredible in terms of design and impact.

Mars and her interlocutor don’t ask why it is that a memorial to lynching is not sponsored by the state where it took place or indeed by the Federal Government. It’s simply taken as an act of god.

Not once do they ask why were hundreds of millions dollars spent on the US Holocaust Museum in Washington yet the American state does not see fit to memorialise the Holocaust of Native Indians and Africans that took place on its shores?

Nor did this interview venture to ask why it is that holocaust memorialisation conveniently omits Britain and America’s record in turning away Jewish refugees from the Nazi holocaust. There are some lessons from the holocaust that are best forgotten.

Mars witters on about the ‘sonic experience’ of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and how ‘impactful’ it is yet she fails to mention how the Israeli and German state took out the previous Director of the Museum, Peter Schaffer, in June 2019.

Schaffer’s ‘crime’ was having retweeted a report referring to a letter signed by 240 Israeli and Jewish scholars rejecting the parliamentary motion condemning BDS as anti-Semitic. The museum used the hashtag #mustread in its retweet and added a quote from the letter: “Parliament’s decision doesn’t assist the fight against anti-Semitism.”

The Jewish Museum in Berlin had, for a long time, been in the firing line of the Israeli and German states for its independent political stand on anti-Semitism. It had come under attack in 2013 for having invited British Jewish scholar Brian Klug to give its annual Kristallnacht lecture and before that Judith Butler.

The saccharine cultural politics that Vashti offers has not questioned how Israel and the Zionist movement, aided and abetted by the British and European states, has colonised diaspora Jewish institutions. Why is it that everything that Vashti touches has to be so superficial?

When I offered to write an article about the weaponisation of the memory of the Holocaust, the theme of my recent book, you didn’t even acknowledge it. You must have taken fright at the very thought of debating the uses to which the Holocaust has been put.

As for ‘intergenerational trauma’ – I think there are other words for it like exploitation of past injustice in order to perpetrate present injustices.  But do tell me. Is this a psychological or a political ailment? Or just schmaltz dressed up as a pathology?

On a brighter note this will make for an excellent blog on how the Zionist narrative of the holocaust persists, even amongst those who claim not to be Zionist. Instead of creating a political culture which asks searching questions what you are doing is engaging in a cultural politics which simply reflects rather than questions existing culture and assumptions surrounding holocaust and how memory is manipulated to serve nation and state today.

I do not expect a reply to this letter since I doubt that you are capable of one. With that in mind I am blind copying it pending a blog.

Tony Greenstein

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