Last week Ruth Tenne, an Israeli anti-Zionist sent a letter to the Weekly Worker, paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain, deploring our ‘witch-hunt’ against holocaust deniers in Palestine Solidarity Campaign. This followed on from our success at the PSC AGM when one Atzmonite, Frances Clarke-Lowes, was expelled for being a holocaust denier and policy was passed affirming PSC’s opposition to holocaust denial or its minimilisation, as well as anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism.
This week both Abe Hayeem, a prominent Jewish anti-Zionist and founder of Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine and myself had letters responding to Ruth Tenne’s muddleheaded nonsense. I reprint them because they help elucidate the muddle-headedness and utter stupidity of the average Atzmonite.
Ruth Tenne’s letter is a good example of the political muddle and confusion of Gilad Atzmon’s supporters in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (February 2).
Of course, the Zionist movement has exploited the Nazi holocaust for its own political purposes, thus demonstrating its contempt for those who were murdered. What makes this even worse is that, throughout the period 1941-45, the Zionist movement and its leadership ignored or minimised the holocaust, in some cases citing Nazi sources to rebut the reports that were coming out of Europe. Their one priority was building a Jewish state. They opposed the emigration of Jews from Europe to any destination other than Palestine. Between August and November 1942, at the behest of the US administration, the Jewish Agency sat on the Riegner cable from Switzerland that provided definite confirmation of the holocaust.
As Saul Friedlander observed,
“The rescue of the Jews in Europe was not at the top of the yishuv leaders’ list of priorities. For them, the most important thing was the effort to establish the state” (Tom Segev The 7th million London 1994, p.467).
Likewise, Noah Lucas, another Zionist historian, described how Ben Gurion saw the holocaust
“as a decisive opportunity for Zionism ... Ben Gurion above all others sensed the tremendous possibilities inherent in the dynamic of the chaos and carnage in Europe ... the forces unleashed by Hitler in all their horror must be harnessed to the advantage of Zionism” (pp. The Modern History of Israel pp. l87-88).
Even Ben Gurion’s own official biographer, Shabtai Teveth, remarked 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” (Ben Gurion: the burning ground 1886-1948 p.851).
It is therefore another example of their hypocrisy that the Zionists use the holocaust to justify their racist treatment of the Palestinians when theirs was a movement of collaboration and worse. And this is compounded by the fact that the Zionist movement used the reparations from West Germany after the war for their own pet projects, leaving the holocaust survivors, for whom the monies were meant, in dire poverty. Yet the more stupid and reactionary of the Palestinians’ supporters have instead taken to denying the holocaust, falling right into the trap that the Zionists have set for them.
Thus Ruth Tenne speaks of “alleged, or imaginary, holocaust deniers”. Yet the position in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign was quite clear. As I wrote in my article, the supporters of Gilad Atzmon and Paul Eisen, who believe that denying the holocaust is the key to unlocking support for Zionism, have caused significant disruption in a number of branches (‘No room for anti-Semites’, January 19).
Francis Clarke-Lowes, whose appeal against expulsion was rejected at the conference, wrote in an email on the Brighton and Hove PSC list: “You are, of course, right that Paul, like me, is proud to call himself a ‘holocaust denier’” (April 4 2011). On April 8 he developed his theme: “the evidence for and against the six million figure, the gas chambers and the plan for Jewish extermination by the Nazis ... are quite technical issues ...” And two days later he wrote: “I do not believe that millions of Jews and others were gassed in an industrial process of extermination ... The traces of Zyklon B gas (hydrogen cyanide) are, I believe, far too low in the places at Auschwitz-Birkenau where the gas chambers are supposed to have been, and are much higher in the places where the decontamination areas were.”
Holocaust deniers are nothing if not stupid. They commissioned an execution ‘expert’, Fred Leuchter, to write a report based on traces he took from the walls of the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Compared to the residues where clothing, etc, was disinfected, they were of very low concentration. Here was their proof that the holocaust was a myth. Unfortunately, they forgot that human beings require very low concentrations of hydrogen cyanide to kill them, whereas bugs and such like require very high concentrations.
What Tenne fails to understand is that the holocaust occurred and there are countless witnesses to the selections, the disappearance of whole trainloads of Jews who only ever made a one-way journey. Where are the half a million Jews of Warsaw? What was the purpose of Treblinka and Belzec, since they were never labour camps, if not extermination? The evidence is overwhelming.
There is nothing that the Zionist ideologues want more than to see Palestinian supporters embracing holocaust denial. It is proof that support for the Palestinians is not because they are an oppressed people, but because we are anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, some people are stupid enough to fall into the trap that the Zionists set for them. Indeed, in his own speech to PSC conference, appealing his expulsion, Clarke-Lowes referred to the “holocaust myth”.
Tenne says that I will, by the definition of one Tanya Gold, “be regarded as ‘one of the leftwing anti-Semites [who] despise Israel, but are [not?] vocal on the crime of other oppressive countries’. Yet, Tony, like Ms Gold and the pro-Zionist camp, is bent on cleaning out PSC of any alleged holocaust deniers and anti-Semites.”
This is a non-sequitur. The second sentence bears no logical relationship to the first. Yes, I will be considered an anti-Semite by the Zionists’ definition. The point is that I don’t accept their definition! Ruth, like most Atzmonites, falls into the trap of believing the enemy’s propaganda.
The decision of Camden PSC to remove Gill Kaffash as secretary, in the light of her consistent support for Paul Eisen, an open holocaust denier, is to be welcomed. However, that was the decision of the local group. It had nothing to do with national PSC.
Ruth speaks of the definition of racism that she and Kaffash proposed. But what a definition. If it had been debated, it would have gone the same way as Kaffash’s other amendment and been overwhelmingly defeated. It was too clever by half. So clever that not only did it exclude holocaust denial, but also anti-Muslim racism and anti-Arab racism, from its remit, since they are primarily cultural, not biological.
The rest of Ruth’s letter is equally incoherent. It starts off by describing the death of her grandparents and relatives in the holocaust, then talks of the “holocaust narrative” of the Zionists. It is irrelevant whether five or seven million died. What makes one a holocaust denier is if you deny that there was systematic extermination and intentionality, coupled with the use of poisonous gas to aid this task. There can be no doubt about the use of poisonous gas. Even David Irving conceded this in his libel action against Penguin. It was, after all, mentally and physically handicapped Germans who were first gassed, between 1939 and 1941, so this is hardly something conjured out of thin air.
We simply don’t know how many Jews (or gypsies) were murdered. The records of many Jewish communities vanished with those communities. An unknown number of Jews fled into the USSR, possibly as many as 1.5 million. There are plenty of unknowns about the holocaust, just as there is in physics and astronomy, but who when debating the virtues of the big bang would start arguing that the sun goes round the earth?
The Palestine solidarity movement, by its very nature, is anti-racist. To allow anti-Semitism or any other form of racism to gain a foothold would be to undermine the very cause that we support.
Tenne speaks with authority, as a Jewish person whose relatives perished in the holocaust. I have to tell her that, according to Atzmon’s Not in my name, “Jews cannot criticise Zionism in the name of their ethnic belonging because such an act is in itself an approval of Zionism.” She too is, by her mentor’s definition, a Zionist!
Ruth Tenne’s letter draws a parallel between unravelling the Zionist mythology about the foundation of the state of Israel - which needs to be challenged to reveal the truth of events surrounding it - and ‘revisiting’ the facts and events of the holocaust, of which there is universally recognised and meticulous documentation.
She fails to see the distinction between the use of the holocaust as emotional blackmail (which every anti-racist is against) and denying or questioning the holocaust, which is a diversionary tactic employed by true anti-Semites. She conflates challenging the Zionist narrative of 1948 with the need to challenge the facts of the holocaust, a dangerously misguided and misleading approach. The PSC had every right to establish its anti-racist credentials against those mischief-makers who are detracting from the Palestinian struggle by introducing the deliberately fractious element of holocaust questioning, which has nothing to do with the Palestinian struggle and campaigning. This has the effect of diverting attention from action and campaigning, and playing into Zionists’ hands by trying to defend the holocaust deniers, and giving them meat to accuse the PSC of tolerating anti-Semitism.
Tenne erroneously quotes eminent historians like Pappe, Finkelstein and Mark Ellis in their challenging of Zionist history or the use of the holocaust. But they have never questioned the clear historical evidence of the holocaust itself - a tactic used by anti-Semites. Omar Barghouti, the leading Palestinian supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, very specifically stated at the PSC annual general meeting that there was absolutely no room for anti-Semitism, racism or for holocaust minimising or denial.
Anyone using the ‘witch-hunt’ description for the PSC places that person firmly in the court of defending the deniers, which does not enhance a reputation of the same person being a discerning critic of the Zionist state, and being able to sift out what needs to be challenged and what damages one’s case. Unfortunately, Ruth Tenne’s statement backing her and Gill Kaffash’s motion to the PSC executive will make them even more likely to confirm that the action taken by the AGM in removing avowed holocaust deniers was the right one and more likely to refuse their muddled and illogical motion and statement.