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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Palestine not Vanity – A Question of Honesty: A reply to Paul Rooij’s Snakes in the grass

One of the Atzmon/Rizzo clones to have recently surfaced is 'writer' Paul Rooij. Fresh from trying to deface the Cork PSC site he is an editor for, he has penned a delightful article 'Beware of the snakes in the grass'.

Brendan Behan wrote that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, apart from one’s own obituary. But in the case of Paul Rooij I’ll make another exception. What, you may ask was the point of a 1700+ word personal attack on me? How did it advance the cause of the Palestinians or the struggle of the oppressed? Indeed whose cause did it serve?

Rooij uses the adjective ‘vile’ no less than four times. I’ve written a ‘vile’ article about him and made ‘vile’ accusations of anti-Semitism against Atzmon and Rizzo [AR]. He spends a lot of time saying very little. I am also ‘contemptible’. But what Rooij doesn’t do is explain what lies at the heart of the present controversy over Gilad Atzmon and his acolytes.

Granted that Rooij doesn’t like my article, what he doesn’t explain is why. And that is characteristic of his whole article. Here is a nasty person, Tony Greenstein, attacking the freedom loving AR. The only question missing is why, hence the profusion of adjectives such as ‘contemptible.’ Ad-hominem as a substitute for reason is hardly the basis of Voltaire, still less John Stuart Mill. It is the hallmark of the wannabe tabloid journalist.

It is also a question of honesty. The background is quite simple. As a writer about Zionism the UCC Cork PSC database has a collection of my articles and an introductory page of author details. Paul Rooij, as an editor, decided to abuse his position so that his personal attack on me took for criticising Atzmon etc. took over the page. It was clearly insulting and therefore unacceptable. There was no reason why he should have pride of place on a page which introduces my articles. Rooij’s comments are now on a link from the front page. Of course I complained to Ireland PSC about this and mindful of the fact that they want to build solidarity with the Palestinians, and most people with their heads screwed on don’t want to associate with holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, PSC ensured that Rooij’s comments were relegated and he wasn’t able to succeed with his act of intellectual vandalism. You see trade unionists don’t go a bundle on anti-Semitism and fascism, and both of those things Paul Eisen, to whom I’ve been ‘uncivil’ subscribes.
But despite his synthetic outrage, what Rooij didn’t explain was that Eisen wrote Holocaust Wars which can be found on the site of a neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel. Since this pamphlet is an uncritical tribute to Zundel it isn’t a question of a far-right site borrowing his material without permission.

And what does Eisen’s pamphlet actually say?

The Hitler we loved and why…
'Ernst Zundel was once involved in the publication of a book called The Hitler We Loved and Why, but Ernst Zundel was not the only German who loved Hitler and is probably not the only German who still loves Hitler. Millions of Germans loved Hitler who for twelve years impacted on them as no German has or probably ever will, and, though they never say so, must, deep down still cherish his memory.’

Quite what does this apologia for the leader of German fascism have to do with support for the Palestinians? Leaving aside that Hitler was a mass murderer, hated by the German workers and also an imperialist, who was careful not to support the Arab uprising 1936-9, because he thought the British Empire was a wonderful institution, what possible purpose can be served by these pro-fascist sentiments?

Or the following apologetics for holocaust deniers or ‘revisionists’ as Eisen terms them?

‘But they do deny the Holocaust narrative as we know it in three specific areas.
· They deny that there ever was an official plan on the part of Hitler or any other part of the Nazi regime systematically and physically to eliminate every Jew in Europe.
· They deny that there ever existed homicidal gas-chambers;
· They deny the figure of six million Jewish victims of the Nazi assault and claim that the actual figure was significantly less.’

This is a pretty good summing up of the case for holocaust denial. The fact that the evidence is overwhelming – documentary records, eyewitnesses, admission by the perpetrators – you name it, no evidence is acceptable to those who are in denial. In fact the only historian with any reputation amongst them, David Irving, was not only trounced in the libel action he brought against Penguin Books but he accepted that gas chambers were used everywhere but Auschwitz, and then it depended on whether one could see holes in the roof where the gas pellets were dropped!
But again, what has this to do with the Palestinians? Atzmon distributes Eisen’s pamphlets and now signs up to all the above nonsense. Read Gilad Atzmon – Now an Open Holocaust Denier.

Interestingly Atzmon didn’t even bother to deny the thrust of the article, that he is now a holocaust denier. More and more evidence from Germany is coming to light that Atzmon has explicitly declared that he doesn’t believe that there is any forensic evidence for the holocaust. He describes the Socialist Unity site as ‘socialist Jewnity’. Is this the kind of statement designed to elicit support for the Palestinians? It resembles the ramblings of his hero, Israel Shamir, who with Eisen he has vigorously defended, who ended up describing the party of Avigdor Liebermann, the nakedly transferist Deputy Prime Minister of Israel thus:

Even less substantiated is Makdisi’s weird claim that YB is a "racist party" and for them, "non-Jews are not welcome". As a matter of fact, the YB is the least Jewish nationalist party in the Knesset outside the Arab block’ It was our criticism of Shamir that prompted the The Protocols of the Elders of London article that Rooij thinks so highly of.

When Jewish and non-Jewish anti-Zionists oppose anti-Semitism in the Palestine solidarity movement we don’t do so because we think that Eisen and Atzmon are a threat to Jews in the West. They are not. We do it because their antics, and those of their followers, are dangerous to the cause of the Palestinians. It really is that simple.

Rooij attacks the idea of Jewish organisations campaigning around Palestine. Yet it is no secret that western Jewish leaders support Israel as do many in the Jewish community. It therefore makes sense to have groups which are Jewish who aim to mobilise amongst other Jews against the Israeli state. Just as white groups also fought apartheid.

But according to Atzmon, and presumably Rooij:
by fighting Zionism in the name of their Jewish identity they approve Zionism…. To demand that Jews disapprove of Zionism in the name of their Jewish identity is to accept the Zionist philosophy…. if we regard Jewish identity as a national definition then the label ‘Jew for peace’ or ‘Jew for human rights’ makes sense. … Jews cannot criticise Zionism in the name of their ethnic belonging because such an act is in itself an approval of Zionism.'

When the Boycott campaign was at its height last summer, what was the reaction of the Zionists of the Board of Deputies of British Jews? Did they stand in wonder applauding those Jews (Zionists according to Atzmon) who were active in the movement? According to the Jewish Chronicle (22.6.07.) at their monthly meeting ‘deputies also gave vent to their anger – particularly at Jews who supported the move (for boycott).’ Strange that.

But the whole point is that we don’t accept that Jewish identity and Zionism are synonymous. What Atzmon is saying is that if you are Jewish, not for national but political, cultural or whatever reasons, then you are a Zionist. But that is exactly what the Zionists also say! So for all the insightful, searching, thought-provoking analysis which Rooij says I am trying to censor, what it all boils down to is our criticism of the Zionist analysis of Gilad Atzmon.

Anyone with any knowledge or understanding of Zionism beyond the trivial and superficial waters in which Rooij fishes will know that it was anti-Semitism that gave birth to Zionism. If Rooij and co. knew anything about Zionism then they would know that from the very beginning Political Zionism made an alliance with anti-Semites. Theodore Herzl wrote that:

‘the anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.’ (Diaries pp. 83/4)

‘In Paris ...I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.’ (Diaries p.6)

At this very moment the Jewish Agency is scouring Jewish communities trying to increase the present low level of emigration to Israel. France, Germany, Britain, Russia all have them. What possible purpose does it serve to engage in anti-Semitic discourse? If it were successful it could only result in what the Zionists themselves want – increasing emigration of Jews to Israel. Which is why Zionism has never opposed anti-Semitism.

As A B Yehoshua said (Jewish Chronicle 22.1.82.) ‘Anti-Zionism is not the product of the non-Jews. On the contrary, the Gentiles have always encouraged Zionism, hoping that it would help to rid them of the Jews in their midst. Even today, in a perverse way, a real antisemite must be a Zionist.’

If Rooij had got about a bit more in London he would know that Jewish organisations do anything but segregate themselves off. I don’t recall seeing Rooij at last year’s valentine day blockade of Carmel Agrexco for example. There were plenty of people from JAZ and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods there. But picketing Israel’s largest export outlet in Britain as part of Jewish groups is to be a Zionist according to Atzmon!! Clearly words have lost all meaning for these people.

Rooij describes me on the Cork PSC article as close to the anti-boycott Engage. But that is ironic since I have campaigned ceaselessly to support boycott. Unison, the second largest union in Britain voted to support boycott last summer. I spoke in favour of that position, as a Jewish member of the union, and it was passed by at least 80%. For that I am some form of racial segregationist?!! Get real Rooij.

Ironically, at the same time, Atzmon was denouncing the academic boycott as ‘book burning’ (and here).

The one semi-sensible question Rooij asks is what in American society produces support for Zionism. But the only answer his friends provide is ‘the Jews’. Apart from ignoring the much more numerous Christians for Zionism they totally fail to even begin to answer it. Yet it is not difficult to understand why the USA projects its power in the way it does – economic, military, imperial reasons – oil for example. But this means having an analysis of class society and imperialism, something Atzmon and friends explicitly reject. Its reminiscent of the Nazi explanation of capitalism – it’s all to do with the Jews. The problem was that capitalism survived without any Jews. Likewise the US would support Israel even if there were no Jews there because it is in its interests to do so.

Rooij alleges on the Cork PSC site that I am no longer an anti-Zionist. Not true and of course he could find no example to back this up, apart from criticism of Atzmon etc. In fact my hostility to Zionism is undiminished but so is my hostility to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

I helped found the Return magazine and Jews Against Zionism. I was a founding member of British PSC and the Labour Committee on Palestine which achieved support for a democratic, secular state at the 1982 Labour Party conference. I am a member of J-BIG, out on the streets over Gaza each weekend, campaigning in my union for Boycott. These are the acts of a Zionist?
There are a number of errors in Rooij’s article, eg. That I sent ‘defamatory letters’ to the venue where Atzmon was due to speak. Not true. I sent no letters. It was an article in the local press that alerted them to the meeting. Nor was it a church hall. But it is this attention to detail that marks out Rooij as the quality journalist that he is.

Rooij alleged that I had called Atzmon and Eisen ‘fascists’ or ‘Nazis’. I pointed out that was untrue, so what was his response? ‘Sue Blackwell is Greenstein's comrade, and together they have waged their vendetta against Atzmon, et al. Blackwell's website for some time carried a section on "Nazis" and Gilad Atzmon featured in that page.’

Yes Sue Blackwell, who led the academic boycott is my comrade. But surprising as it may seem, I am not responsible for her web site! This is what is usually called guilt by association. McCarthyism in other words.

Rooij warns us to be aware of ‘snakes in the grass.’ I can only suggest that he looks in the mirror because England has very few snakes, apart from the odd viper.

Tony Greenstein

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