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Friday, 17 February 2012

The Tragedy of Norman Finkelstein – Time to Say Goodbye

From anti-Zionist to Supporter of a 'Jewish' State
Pragmatism in the Service of Imperialism

[this is a brilliant refutation of Norman's position, Ilan Pappe, e- mail 18.2.12.]

Norman Finkelstein, at the beginning of his career, was the brightest star in the firmament. His analysis and dissection of various Zionist propagandists and frauds was second to none. His demolition job on Joan Peter’s fraudulent From Time Immemorial, a book published in 1984, was a wonder to behold. Peter’s main thesis was that the Palestinians were newcomers to Palestine who had only migrated there as a result of Zionist immigration in the first half of the last century, i.e. they were not genuine refugees.

Finkelstein’s review showed that her use of demographic statistics was flawed and dishonest and that the book was a piece of propaganda. This gave the clue to knowledgeable writers such as David & Ian Gilmour, who cited Peter's errors such as quoting a medieval Arab historian, Makrizi, who died in 1442, to support her statements about mid-nineteenth century population movements. (London Review of Books, 7.2.85. ‘pseudo travellers’).

In fact the evidence to support the fact that Peter's thesis was junk history, on a par with the methods of holocaust denial, comes from Zionists themselves e.g. Ahad Ha'am or Leo Motzkin, a Zionist leader who in 1912 called on the Arabs of Palestine to transfer themselves to other countries. At the 2nd Zionist Congress in 1898 he told delegates how ‘Completely accurate statistics about the number of inhabitants do not presently exist. One must admit that the density of the population does not give the visitor much cause for cheer. In whole stretches throughout the land one constantly comes across large Arab villages, and it is an established fact that the most fertile areas of our country are occupied by Arabs..." (Protocol of the Second Zionist Congress, p.103).

This review was distributed widely by Noam Chomsky and as soon as the book appeared in Britain, it was savaged (unlike the US where the newspapers and news organisations sang from the same hymn sheet and refused to carry unfavourable reviews until both British and Israeli historians panned the book as a laughable further response fraud).

In the same vein, Finkelstein’s critique of Daniel Goldhagen’s apology for fascism and Nazism, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996), could not be bettered. Goldhagen held Nazism to be benign except for the Jews. The problem was not so much Nazism as the ‘eliminationist’ anti-Semitism inherent in the make-up of Germans. ‘Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s ‘Crazy’ Thesis: A Critique of Hitler’s Willing Executioners’ New Left Review I/224, July-August 1997.

Finkelstein, although a political scientist, was one of the few anti-Zionists who could hold his own with Zionist holocaust historians. With two parents, both survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and the concentration camps, he was able to command authority when he wrote on the subject. Finkelstein had clearly taken the time to get to grip with the main sources and debates of holocaust historiography and he understood how people like Professor Yehuda Bauer of Yad Vashem, the Zionist Holocaust & Propaganda Museum and Institute, operated.

With his book ‘Holocaust Industry’ describing how the Zionist movement had cynically used the extermination of millions of Jews in order to justify Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians, Finkelstein established his reputation. Finkelstein showed how the Zionist Jewish Claims Conference had stolen and defrauded via expense accounts, much of the reparations from West Germany which had been intended for the holocaust survivors. Today those survivors mainly live in poverty as a result. His second book, ‘Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History’ further established his reputation. The book also proved that Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Professor of Law, had plagiarised and copied, without acknowledgement, from other sources, for his book ‘The Case for Israel’. He had also faithfully copied their mistakes!

Included in the book was a detailed refutation of Dershowitz’s main thesis by reference to innumerable human rights sources. Herein lay a clue, which I noted at the time, to the subsequent political degeneration of Finkelstein. The Palestinian Question is not primarily a human rights issue, even though many people are brought into the movement by Israel’s abuse of Palestinian rights. It is above all a political issue. Finkelstein’s primary weakness is his failure to situate Israel's disregard of Palestinian rights within a political context.

One of the consequences of his attack on Dershowitz, the Professor of Torture (he once proposed giving the Police the right to apply for a Warrant to Torture someone) was that he was denied tenure at DePaul University. A good example of how, in the aftermath of the ‘War Against Terror’ academic freedom has been relegated to the status of a curious artefact in academia in the USA.

It therefore sad that Norman Finkelstein, who will no doubt survive for many more years on the lecture circuit, has little or nothing more to offer the Palestinian cause. On the contrary, everything he is now doing is actually helping to undermine solidarity with the Palestinians. His attack on the BDS movement as a ‘cult’ is unforgivable arrogance that bears all the hallmarks of a frustrated academic. Finkelstein has not only jettisoned much of what he believes in, he expects others, including the Palestinians to do likewise.

I first criticised Finkelstein after attending a talk given by Finkelstein to a thousand people at the Institute of Education in London on 11th November 2011. Finkelstein spent the best part of 2 hours belabouring the point as to why we should support a 2 State solution. It is only recently that a pre-talk interview with an activist Frank Barat has surfaced.

My first reaction to the interview was that Finkelstein must be suffering from a mid to late life crisis. Repeatedly he talks about how he has devoted his life time to the cause, how he is growing tired and weary. In a telling part of his interview he says:
‘Yes BDS has had some victories, but the way people have promoted it, on the verge of victory is sheer nonsense – it’s a cult. I’m tired of it. I went through my cult stage I was a Maoist. There were 2 competing possibilities – you can be a Maoist/Leninist and waste 20 years of your life. You can work with Ralph Nader, lot of bills through Congress. Nice we have seat belts and airbags – that was Nader. I’m not going to be in a cult again. Gurus in Ramallah giving marching orders.’
You cannot but detect a feeling that Norman Finkelstein believes he has wasted his life on a cause that doesn’t seem to be bearing any fruit. In his frustration he is both turning on his own supporters and looking for any and every pragmatic solution. As a young man Finkelstein was a Maoist. Maoism collapsed under its own contradictions. What has happened to Finkelstein’s politics is not a new thing. He has become attracted to what he believes is immediately achievable, hence Ralph Nader is his consummate political hero for having got Congress to enact laws in support of seatbelts. An important issue no doubt, since I can personally testify that but for a seatbelt I would probably be dead. But it is hardly an earth shattering, life-changing event for the world. Finkelstein has grown cynical of revolutionary change, which is what the liberation of Palestine demands, and instead believes that a 2 State Solution, enforced by the ‘world community’ is the only solution. Backed of course by world opinion.

Finkelstein says that ‘If you are serious about politics you can’t go beyond what the public accepts, and that is international law.’ Herein lies his most important mistake and it matters little if much of Palestinian propaganda is indeed based on a demand that Israel upholds international law. The weak often look to the law in their frustration, however it rarely serves them well as it was not devised to help the weak and powerless.

Israel does not today rule over 4-5 million Palestinian Arabs because the nebulous concept of ‘international law’ granted them permission to do so. As Finkelstein himself wrote, when he was an anti-Zionist, ‘In fact, Zionists pursued from early on a "stages" strategy of conquering Palestine by parts - a strategy it would later vilify the Palestinians for.’ For example the Anti Defamation League, a notorious Zionist organisation, acknowledges that what most Zionists concentrated upon was “creating facts on the ground ­ immigration, agricultural settlement of the land, a Jewish-based economy, etc.’ From this there came the law, not the other way around.

There was nothing in international law that allowed colonists to invade a country, take over the land, expel the people and set up a state based on the ethnic nationalism of the settler. Colonisation occurred by force everywhere and from that there came the law in order to regularise the situation. So it is with international law, except that international law is, at best, a hazy and fluid concept.

One of the major faults with international law, apart from the fact that it serves the interests of the imperialist not the colonised or occupied, is that it has no enforcement mechanisms. Who is going to take the United States to the International Court for what it did in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who is going to fine the USA billions of dollars? Who is going to prosecute George Bush and Tony Blair? Compared to them Slobodan Milosevik was a saint. What prevents the International Court at the Hague from putting out a warrant for Bush and Blair? Well the USA never ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court and does not accept its remit when it comes to its own leaders. Maybe that’s the reason but it doesn’t prevent the ICC from pursuing lesser fry than western leaders.

International law is helpless against US drone attacks on Pakistan. There is no lawful authority which allows computer gamers in Nebraska to wipe out whole families in Pakistan’s North Western Frontier. It is might and might alone which lies at the heart of power relations throughout the world. At the end of the day, capitalism rules through naked force and we can see how, even in the USA, when the bankers and capitalists are challenged, the Police resort to naked and brutal force as e.g. when the Occupied group was pepper-sprayed in front of the world’s cameras in Oakland, California. Of course the law gives a semblance of authority and rationale to the rule of capital. It legitimates the US’s actions and those of western imperialism, not least through its handmaiden, the United Nations. But the UN can only act when the USA allows it to. But when Israel breaks international law by transferring populations, exploiting the natural resources of the occupied territories and settling the land, the US vetoes all resolutions which are critical of this.

To therefore say that the United Nations is the jewel in the administration of international law is to fail to recognise that the UN is a political instrument at the behest of the USA. When Russia and China veto a resolution over Syria, the West scrambles around looking to undermine it by introducing special forces into the country, arming fundamentalist forces in the country etc.

Likewise Russia’s genocide in Chechnya has gone unremarked by the UN or international law. There are of course certain international conventions such as the Convention on the Child where states have come together to agree a Protocol as to how to deal with certain situations such as child kidnapping, but this is not enforceable internationally but by one’s own courts.

National liberation is the act of the people themselves not a consequence of international law. Apartheid in South Africa was not overthrown by international law and decolonisation did not occur because a court of law told the West to get out of its colonies. Emancipation is the act of the working and exploited classes, not international lawyers.

So when Finkelstein says ‘All I want to do is enforce the law. It is uncomplicated’ he is wrong, it is very complicated. And further international law cannot be enforced because there is no enforcement mechanism. Unless Norman Finkelstein accepts that the US military is the de facto enforcement mechanism.

One of Finkelstein’s major themes is that ‘You can’t be selective with the law.’ He says that ‘the law is a package’ some good, some bad. But this isn’t true. The law is and has always been selective. As the old saying goes:
They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common;
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.
The law is not neutral and above society. It reflects and always has done, the interest of the ruling classes in society, the powerful and rich. Even in Britain it is noticeable how so-called benefit cheats are demonised and prosecuted by the state with great vigour unlike those who have stolen billions from the banks or MPs who fiddle their expenses. Fox hunting is illegal but the Police are more interested in prosecuting hunt-saboteurs than the hunters. Their interest is with those who threaten the interests of the property owner rather than property owners who hunt and kill foxes for a past-time. In a small way this emphasises that law in capitalist society is concerned not with human rights or justice but with protection of the interests of our rulers. We can see that in the indifference of the law to extraordinary rendition. Torture is illegal but never has it thrived so.

Norman Finkelstein gives the north of Ireland as an example of how a peace settlement was achieved. But he has spoken too soon. The underlying causes of sectarianism and division haven’t gone away. Partition is still in place, although Unionism has been weakened by its own lack of strategic importance to the British state today and its political weakness and isolation. It has in short outlived its usefulness. There is also a general war weariness but the problems caused by Irish partition remain for future generations.

Norman Finkelstein says that ‘Conflict has been on 2 state basis since Partition – Arafat talked about ‘unfinished business’ of 1948.’ This is nonsense. Transjordan annexed the West Bank in 1948 in a deal with the Zionists. [see Avi Shlaim’s Collusion Across the Jordan] Although the UN carved out an area, some 46% of Palestine for a Palestinian state, it did not attempt to provide a mechanism to enforce partition, still less to provide for the internationalisation of Jerusalem. It was therefore inevitable that the area allocated to a Palestinian state would be fought over by Israel and the surrounding states. Two states was never on the agenda in 1948, let alone now. The idea of 2 statism was the creation of opportunists in the PLO, led by Arafat, who saw the solution to the Palestine Question as lying in a quick ‘diplomatic’ solution to the Palestinian crisis in 1973.

In 1948 ¾ million Palestinian Arabs were expelled in order that a Jewish majority could be created in Israel. What effectively Norman Finkelstein is now saying is that Zionism should be allowed its victory. The problem is that the 1.5 million Arabs in Israel are still subject to the same forces of discrimination and oppression.

Norman Finkelstein says that ‘There is nothing in the international consensus which says anything about Palestinian minority in Israel. You want to drag in that minority and start talking about them you’ll get nowhere. The whole world persecutes their minorities. Or every country in the Middle East.’

Whilst many states have problems of national minorities, Israel is a state of its Jewish citizens and Jews world-wide. In this it is unique. It is an ethnocracy, an apartheid state. Yes many states do have problems of national minorities, and often in those cases separation is the only solution as with Czechoslovakia and the Tamils of Sri Lanka. But in Israel the Arabs aren’t a national minority, any more than the Jews of Germany were a national minority. They are Israeli citizens, they should have equal rights but instead they are treated as tolerated guests, a ‘demographic problem’ who should be expelled when the right opportunity arises. This is very different from a problem of national minorities. It is about purification of the race. That is why Israel is also unique in not having an Israeli nationality. There is a Jewish nationality, which includes Norman Finkelstein and myself. The conflict in Palestine has nothing to do with different nationalities and everything to do with a nationalist political current Zionism which brought into being a state based on the same principles that motivated European anti-Semitism.

For example in most western states there is, at the official level, an attempt to eradicate direct and obvious racial discrimination. In Europe there have been Race Directives and individual legislation aimed at outlawing racial discrimination. Sometimes of course states have been insincere and at all times their behaviour has been, at least to some extent, at odds with their declared position. But anyone living in Britain today knows that interpersonal racism on e.g. football terraces is outlawed and clamped down upon. This followed the Scarman Report in the early '80s, which reported into the riots in Britain. The cost of racism was deemed too high.
Contrast this with Israel where the State and the parties within it compete as to who is the greater racist. The state deliberately introduces legislation which is overtly racist. A unification law which prevents Israeli Arabs marrying the person of their choice, if they are an Arab, and continuing to live with them in the country of their birth. Or the passage of legislation, the Community Standards Act, which allows committees of existing residents to veto newcomers who don't accord with the existing norms and practices of those communities. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this is a recipe for open discrimination against Arabs and a way of subverting the Supreme Court's belated decision in 2005 in Ka'adan that the Israeli Lands Administration and JNF couldn't bar non-Jews from leasing their land. Instead of implementing this decision successive governments have done their best to subvert it. In other words Israel's government does its best to increase racism and, as we saw in the Palestine Papers, the Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni negotiates with the Palestinian Authority on the basis of transferring Israel's Arab citizens into any new bantustan that is set up. A point that Norman Finkelstein, in his desire for a 2 State Solution, is oblivious to. To pretend that Israeli racism against Arabs is no different from other countries is to fail to understand the imperatives and dictates of Zionism.

That is why Norman Finkelstein is wrong to suggest that the solidarity movement is a mirror image of the Palestinian authority. It is noticeable that despite characterising the PA as ‘a gang of corrupt, wretched collaborators’ which fears its own people, he supports their aspiration to a bantustan in the West Bank.

Norman Finkelstein insults and caricatures the BDS movement as a ‘little ghetto’ ‘a cult’. Yet if this were so, it is hardly likely that Israel would pass a law which effectively criminalises calls for a Boycott of Israel and the settlements. The fact is that BDS, unlike any other solidarity action, has for once forced the Zionists on the back foot. It undermines and throws into question the legitimacy of the Zionist state and its apartheid institutions. And far from having a few accomplishments that can be counted on the fingers of two hands BDS has made an enormous impact.

Veolia has just suffered a £500m loss of contract in West London and is trying to get out of the Jerusalem light railway project. The decision of British and Irish trade unions to support the boycott has undoubtedly hurt the morale of the Israeli state and for us, the task is to turn these resolutions into reality. The growth of supermarket boycotts is a reflection of the growth in support for Palestine despite the efforts of the international law makers to insulate the Israeli state. A whole range of artists and musicians, such as Elvis Costello and Santana, have supported the cultural boycott and refused to play in Israel. Others have disrupted Israeli concerts in London. We even have a Boycott from Within group in Israel itself.

Norman Finkelstein makes much of the ruling of the International Court of Justice, which declared the Apartheid Wall illegal. It also stated that the pre-1967 border is legally Israel’s border. But Israel has never defined its borders. The ICJ’s ruling though useful propaganda wise, has been ignored, its ruling totally redundant. Indeed its ruling is held to be advisory. So when Norman Finkelstein says ‘You want to enforce one state, don’t pretend you want to enforce the law’ then we have to turn round and say clearly that we aren’t fighting to enforce any law but to obtain justice for the Palestinians, a very different thing.

Norman Finkelstein has though put his finger on certain problematic areas for the Palestine solidarity movement. There is a widespread appeal to international law and rights. Palestinians and Palestinian organisations are not left-wing or socialist groups. Palestinians are a refugee population not the scions of a working class. That is a major weakness of the Palestinians compared to Black South Africans. In South Africa the banks and capitalists feared that if they persisted in supporting Apartheid they may endanger capitalism altogether. The other weakness of the Palestinians is that the Whites were in a minority in South Africa but Israeli Jews have rough parity with the Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

The real problem the Palestinians face is that compared to the Black masses in their fight against Apartheid, they are incredibly weak. They have no hinterland, no Mozambique or Angola further from which to operate. They don’t have a politically conscious working class. They have an Arab East which is still subservient, despite the Arab Spring, to US imperialism. Indeed the US and its allies have been able to subvert the revolutions as in Libya by sponsoring particular, usually Islamic fundamentalist, groups.

The rights that people have, even the right of women to vote in Britain, were obtained not through the law but through defiance of the existing law. The best way to make a good law is to break a bad law. It is this that the good Professor Norman Finkelstein, with his patronising admonition to Palestinians that he is not prepared to waste the rest of his life, doesn’t understand.

Norman Finkelstein says that ‘I’ve been at this 30 years, I’ve earned my right to speak my mind, and not going to tolerate leftist posturing, childishness.’ Leave aside that others, including myself, have given even more time to the movement. It is not childish or leftist posturing to build for a boycott of Israel. What is most evident is a rightwards moving Norman Finkelstein. Finkelstein confuses his own personal crisis with that of the Palestinians.

Of course the Palestinian struggle faces major problems in comparison with the Anti Apartheid movement in South Africa. For a start Israel is much stronger than the Apartheid Regime of F W de Clerk. The liberation movement was led by one movement, the ANC and the Communist Party. The Palestinians are for the most part led by collaborators, bigots and Wannabee oppressors. There isn’t a great political difference between the PA in Ramallah, which tortures those under its control, or Hamas, which also uses tortures its opponents. Both Hamas and the PA opposed the movement against Mubarak and suppressed Palestinian demonstrations. But then why should we be surprised. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood are the parents of Hamas. They are also the last resort of the Egyptian military and it is no surprise that they only joined the demonstrations against Mubarak at a late stage.

It is no surprise that the Palestine Return Centre, which organised Norman Finkelstein’s last tour of Britain, has nothing to say about the content of Norman Finkelstein’s speech or interview.

About the movement for BDS and One-State Norman Finkelstein says that ‘They are being disingenuous. 3 tier, very clever – end of occupation, right of return, equal rights for Arabs in Israel. They know the result is no Israel.’

It is an interesting point, equal rights for Arabs in Israel means no Israeli state. Norman Finkelstein is correct and therein lies the problem. If equal rights and the right of return for Palestinian refugees means an end to Israel what does that say about Israel? Why should we accept the continued existence of a state based on inequality? Especially when the first thing it will do is to transfer its existing Arab population into the new Palestinian Bantustan. Most people of course don’t understand that the existence of Israel as a Jewish state means permanent inequality for Israeli Arabs. That is one of the reasons why the solidarity movement should indeed come out explicitly in favour of one state.

Norman Finkelstein sums up his case thus: ‘You are only clever in your cult. Here they have a case – they only want to destroy Israel – I think they are right. I have one standard. Can I defend this position in public not whether I can defend it in my cult.’

Norman Finkelstein is trapped by his own background in Maoist politics and fails to see that in his reaction he adopts the language of the Zionists. No one I know seriously suggests ‘destroying’ Israel, nor should they. The implication is that the population itself will be destroyed or dispersed. What we seek is the destruction or overthrow of the Israeli state. The people of Israel, its Jewish citizens, are and should be made welcome to stay as equal citizens, with guaranteed national rights such as language, culture and religion. But the apartheid Zionist state structures themselves and their implementation have to go.

Norman Finkelstein has also abandoned support for the right of the Palestinian refugees to return. He asks

‘Will a person in the public find it reasonable to demand 6m Palestinians go back to a country with 1.8m Palestinians and 5 million Jews.’ Well put in those terms probably not but that is not the choice. Most Palestinians given the chance to return will probably not take it up. They will likely choose to stay where they are, but they should have the right to return if they wish.

Norman Finkelstein even claims to support BDS, though it is hard to understand why, but ‘until they are explicit on their goal and that has to include recognition of Israel….’ When I first heard Norman Finkelstein speak, about 4 years ago, in Sussex University, he gave as good an exposition of the origins of Zionism and how it was quite uncomplicated, as I have heard. Norman Finkelstein is a methodical and clinical speaker, even if he does have the tendency to repeat himself.

It is a great pity that he has now succumbed to defeatism and despair. Apart from anything it is not his right and when he attacks the BDS movement it is unforgivable. Norman Finkelstein says that ‘It’s not an unwitting accident that BDS does not mention Israel. It will split the movement. There is a large section which wants to eliminate Israel.’ Leaving aside the caricature ‘eliminate Israel’ then he is right in the sense that there is disagreement amongst supporters of BDS as to whether 2 States is a viable solution. But so what?

Most 2 State supporters are fairweather friends and often motivated by the desire to preserve a Jewish majority in Israel. But 2 States is based on championing an imperialist solution to the Palestinian Question through a rejigging of borders and the imposition of a Palestinian Bantustan. But I agree, political clarity is important. The Green Line doesn’t even exist on Israeli maps. There is already a single state. The problem is that half of its inhabitants are denied even elementary democratic rights. Those who propagate illusions in a 2 state solution are, wittingly or otherwise, helping to prolong the agony of those in the West Bank and Gaza.

The road Norman Finkelstein is travelling on is one mapped out by Zionism. He says that ‘If we end the occupation and we bring back 6 million Palestinians and we have equal rights for Arabs and Jews we have no Israel. That’s what it’s really about and you think you’re fooling anybody?’

If equal rights for Arabs and Israelis means no Israel, because Israel by its very nature rests on racist discrimination, then most people would agree that Israel as currently constituted has to go. Of course this also means dealing a blow to sectarians on the Palestinian side too. Hamas, a Muslim organisation, cannot become a national liberation organisation. Hamas and Political Islam is a reflection of Zionism and imperialism not its adversary. But it is also necessary to put Israel in perspective. It is not supported by the USA because of a love for Jews or guilt over the holocaust but because Israel is imperialism’s main watchdog and base in the region. About the role of Israel in the Middle East Norman Finkelstein, in his post-Maoist phase, has nothing to say.

As Finkelstein says, ‘I’m 58 years old, I gave my life to the cause and I’m not going to be anyone’s fool. I’ve lost patience with it.’ It is a fact that people, even Norman Finkelstein, can get burnt out and become lost to the movement. Norman Finkelstein’s present position is that of a historical curiosity, a relic of past battles. His books relevant for what Finkelstein used to believe in rather than what we currently preaches. Norman Finkelstein today is a performing bear, dancing to imperialism’s melodies whilst the older lyrics remain unsung.

I hadn't seen the article from the Jewish Chronicle when I posted this. Although the Zionists will use any debate or disagreement within the Palestine solidarity movement for its own purpose, having seen my own articles misused on a number of occasions, and I don't believe we should therefore abandon vigorous debate, Finkelstein's attack on BDS and the wider movement is unforgivable arrogance. He must have known how it would be used and if Lenin's Tomb is correct, he tried to stop the circulation of this damaging video. However that is no excuse for his outrageous attacks and his condescension to those who disagree with him.


Anonymous said...

Tonyle you will be a Zionist too, as you always have been.

Brian Robinson said...

Part 1 of a 2-part comment

Tony, I had to read this quickly because of time constraints but unless I missed it, in dismissing Finkelstein views as they now are, you haven't dealt with the substantive reasons he gives for thinking (and trying to persuade us) that the two-state resolution still has life in it.

From where I was sitting in the Logan Hall last November I couldn't really see the detail of the settlement maps he showed on the screen, but (from memory) he made the case, or a case, that the geographical location of the settlements still allowed for a compromise solution on two-state lines, given a real commitment on both sides and given a mix of pressure and incentives from the international community (assuming such an entity still exists).

Would you like to deal with his arguments for this. I appreciate that it needs going into in some detail, and would probably take time to do his position justice.

I have no idea whether Finkelstein is right in this view, but I think if you can demolish his detailed and apparently evidence-based case here, it will be more effective than just deploring his attack on BDS and his apparent "soft Zionism".

One more point -- I don't think we should be disingenuous about this. It's possible to say -- as you do -- that his use of the word "eliminate" is a caricature and we can argue over the use of the word, but surely what Finkelstein is pointing to (whatever the precise wording) is the position of all "absolute" anti-Zionists -- Israel "was a mistake", was "never the right way to deal with antisemitism", and so on. You (I hope I'm not misrepresenting your position) don't think Israel really is, or ought to be, a or the "Jewish State", there ought not even to be such an entity -- the people and the land wont be destroyed, of course, but the dispensation will be changed utterly. True, I wouldn't call that "elimination", but words like dismantling, dissolution and so on might to. "Dezionisation" of the middle east is another phrase I've heard. That's Finkelstein's point, and of course he's right (without our agreeing if it's a good thing or a bad thing).

We can discuss til the cows come home whether Israel was "a good thing" (as in 1066 and all that) or "a bad thing", but the fact remains that Israel exists and was brought into existence not by The Word (of God) but by a declarative verbal act, a construction of sociopolitical reality by the world body of nations.

Of course not being an act of God, all such social constructs can be reversed, and it's possible, tho' unlikely that the UN will pass a new law to say that the (so-called) Jewish State shall no longer be.

And Finkelstein's weakness here, I think, is that bad laws (if that's what we want to call them) can be changed, and those who believe that Israel is a racist, apartheid, illegitimate state can work towards getting the UN (and the ICJ?) to agree. But if you do that, you'll also have to make the same case for a heck of a lot of other states around the planet.

Just one more point (if I'm running out of space, I'll continue in a further post). Yes, further post below (these blog limitations are tiresome!)

Brian Robinson said...

Part 2 of a 2-part comment

Just one more point (if I'm running out of space, I'll continue in a further post). In your penultimate paragraph, you show a touching faith in humanity which is quite endearing in one as devoted as yourself to a hardheaded worldview. In your schema, the lion may well lie down with the lamb (leaving aside which role will be played by which of the parties). But with an eye on history, and a cold eye on life and death and something we can still call human nature, why on earth would, or should, Israeli Jews put their faith in promises? The Irish case has been mentioned, not least by Finkelstein himself. As you certainly know, the Irish phrase Sinn Féin means "We Ourselves". After the Holocaust you can forgive (I certainly can) all those Jews who also decided to become Sinn Féiners. You could also paraphrase James Joyce and say they all became farsoonerites, since the wary among them said they'd far sooner do their own thing and stay alive than not do it and join all those nice dead Jews in nice Jewish graves.

But please, can you discuss Finkelstein's maps?

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Blimey, it looks like Sean Matgamna's got to him.

Dr Paul

Tony Greenstein said...

Ah it is always good to have Gilad Atzmon add his weighty intellect to a discussion, even if he does fight shy of putting his name to it.

Err yes Gilad, both NF and me are Jews, so according to your schema we are Zionists. Now go and play whilst the adults discuss more serious questions.

Brian, I am no expert in maps but I'm sure it is possible to argue that the settlers only occupy 1% of the land as long as they are confined to their homes and gardens, however in the real world they actually control 60% of the West Bank. They are part of a colonisatory system whose primary goal is the elimination of the indigenous population. That system needs to be broken not patched up.

Yes Sinn Fein means ourselves alone, but that was in the context of the fight against the British occupation. The victims of the holocaust weren’t able to make the declaration and Israel is not their continuance. On the contrary Israel marks a radical break from all the diaspora represented. It means the abandonment of Jews living in ‘exile’, it accepts the Nuremburg programme that Jews don’t belong in their countries of birth. Zionism if anything was a continuation of the anti-Semitic tradition. That is why Zionism collaborated with even Nazism, because it sought to take advantage of the misfortunes of Jews, not to combat them. The IRA by contrast fought the British colonists.

Finkelstein ignores the political context and believes a solution on paper can be transplanted to the Wild West. It can’t. The settlers want the removal of the Palestinians or their utter subjugation. Erecting a new partition wall won’t change that it will build up tensions and hatreds on both sides of the wall. Partition in 1921 did not solve the Irish Question and nor will it the Palestinian one. As for lions lying down with lambs. They said that in Rhodesia and South Africa where racist images of Blacks murdering white babies in the night were the order of the day. The old Black Hole of Calcutta again. But destroy the material basis of such fears and of course reconciliation is possible. It is Zionism, with its chosen race and ethnic cleansing that is the problem.

John Spritzler said...


You're right about Finkelstein. Except the fact is that he was never an anti-Zionist in the sense of supporting the Palestinian refugees' unconditional right of return. He always found a way to avoid saying that the Israeli government should allow the refugees to return and live as equals with Jews inside Israel. He acknowledged--even went to lengths to point out--that by international law the refugees had a right of return, but he argued that actually allowing them to exercise that right was not practical, that it was "complicated." Now we know why: he doesn't want to see the demise of Israel as a Jewish state with an, at minimum, 80% Jewish majority--a Jewish majority that requires denying the refugees' right of return.

Finkelstein's criticism of Zionists always substituted secondary issues for the primary issue of ethnic cleansing. Thus he attacked Dershowitz mainly for his plagiarism and not his insistence that the refugees not be allowed to return. And he attacked Zionists, in general, for the dishonesty of their propaganda, but again--not for their denial of right of return. It's as if Finkelstein's main desire was for the Jewish state to argue its case honestly and tell the world, forthrightly, "Yes, we violate international law and carry out ethnic cleansing because this is what Jews must do to be safe in a world of anti-semites, and we are not ashamed of this." (I would not be surprised if Finkelstein in the future comes out and says something along this line.)

The above criticism of Finkelstein applies also to his mentor, Noam Chomsky. When Chomsky debated Dershowitz a number of years ago at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he never even mentioned that Israel wrongly denied the refugees their right of return. The two of them spent the whole debate arguing over whether the failure to reach a two-state solution was the fault of Israel or of the Palestinians. The Zionists in Tel Aviv I'm sure could not have been happier at Chomsky's performance, which framed the issue exactly as they want it to be framed: "A two-state solution based on accepting as legitimate a Jewish state based on ethnic cleansing is the only permissible goal, and disagreement is only legitimate if it is about how to achieve this goal."

I agree with you about international law.

i agree with you about the need for revolution, not only in the Middle East but in our own nations (mine is the USA.)

But how do we make a revolution? Please take a look at Thinking about Revolution [online at], which I co-authored. We are distributing this as widely as we can in the U.S. and getting very positive responses from non-political, non-activist people--for example my neighbors in the apartment building I live in, etc.

All the best,

John Spritzler

Brian Robinson said...

“Zionism”, you write, Tony, “collaborated with even Nazism, because it sought to take advantage of the misfortunes of Jews, not to combat them.” An uncle of mine, a Zionist, was in the British Army in WW2, and another uncle, also a Zionist, was in the merchant navy convoys crossing the Atlantic at the same time. They certainly, in their different ways, believed themselves to be fighting Nazism.

“Collaborated”: I know about the Kasztner controversy and about Ben Gurion's oft-quoted remark about saving half the children vs all the children, about Joel Brand (who seems to have been both a communist and a Zionist), I've read Lenni Brenner (and his 51 documents). In the extremity of Nazi-occupied Europe I could well imagine myself (though I'd probably have lacked the courage) trying to negotiate (call it 'collaborate' if you will) with Nazis – and no doubt ultimately failing because all such 'negotiations' (alright, 'collaborations') were from a position of total weakness on one side and total, and ruthless power on the other.

I too, then, might well have thought the position of Jews in the world beyond hope of any future. Our position *now*, in many parts of the world although by no means all, if we want to keep informed, may well be totally different from what it was in the early-mid 20th century, but if you're going to talk about what people *did*, you have to see it in the terms, and the context, available to them at the time. (True, there were those who saw things differently, and many hail them now as having shown great foresight, aptly vindicated, but they'd become a minority by then.)

I think (apologies if I'm wrong) that your position is that Zionism (the political ideology) is inherently and irredeemably antisemitic, it might not think itself to be so, it doesn't *intend* to be so, but in its consequences it seamlessly continues and extends that rotten fabric. I would agree that some antisemites are, and notoriously have historically been, politically Zionist, that is, they favoured the movement of all or most Jews to Palestine (or some other Jewish 'homeland'), ie in their reasoning, anywhere but “here”.

But if you say some such thing as, Zionism is antisemitic, or Zionism is antisemitism in a different guise, you have to be saying that Zion*ists* are anti-Jewish. Zionism is nothing without Zionists to believe in it and implement it. But it's manifestly absurd to say that people like my aunts and uncles, indeed my entire family, were (or are) anti-Jewish, putting them in the same league (I'm thinking of the older generation) as the likes of Oswald Mosley, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and the rest of them.

To do so is to effect a sort of mirror image of what “the opposing side” is so often accused of doing, saying that all opponents of Israel are “antisemitic”. I assume that this is not at all what you intend to do, or what you mean. But again we're talking about consequences, and if you look as if you're saying that all Zionists are either open or closet antisemites, or might as well be because of the consequences of what they do, then that's as good as saying that all Zionists are antisemites, at least in the eyes of those who want to discredit you. Why give them open goals?

Contexts alter appearances, the frame changes the picture. Leave the nouns alone, they're too easily turned into meaningless slogans of abuse. Maybe in view of what you've just written, this isn't the best time to quote Finkelstein at you again, but he did once say in an online interview (I'm quoting from memory) that the question should not be are you now or have you ever been a Zionist, the question is Do you approve of house demolitions, of the use of torture by the Israeli forces in the interrogation of Palestinian suspects, do you approve of Israeli-only (although he actually said “Jews-only”) roads, of humiliating checkpoints, and so on?

[Continued in part 2]

Brian Robinson said...

[Continued from part 1]

In other words, I'm suggesting that it's better now to stop saying what “Zionism” was or is, and to focus on what the Israeli authorities are actually doing – the human rights abuses, the territorial expansionism, the militarization of Israeli civil society and the rest of it.

I've never heard you talk of “the Zio's” but I know some who regularly do so, and in my view it invariably weakens the case in favour of Palestinian rights. The words (including “Zionism” and “Zionists”) in the manner in which so many critics of Israel deploy them, no longer refer to what the authorities are doing and instead simply begin processes of action and reaction, counterproductive recriminations, reciprocal shouting matches by those with earplugs.

Not all Zionists are antisemites, not all antisemites are Zionists, “Zionism” *was*, Israel is. Easy (for the opposition) to disavow the attribution of some noun, much more difficult, if not impossible, to discount the accurate deployment of verbs. (They always try, but it's harder for them to get away with it.)

Levi9909 said...

That anonymous comment was certainly childish and racist enough for Atzmon but Atzmon marks out Finkelstein as a rare example of a good Jew (maybe in his book or on the Mondoweiss site) and he claims that you and I are zionists already.

Tony Greenstein said...


once again you comprehensively misunderstand what I am saying (& Lenni Brenner too I would imagine).

There is no contradiction between your relatives fighting fascism in the British army and the Zionist leadership collaborating. I have never said that the vast majority of those supporting Zionism were anti-Semites. Mostly they were Jews who didn't understand the logical implications of the Zionist movement.

That is equally true of Peter Bergson and Shmuel Merlin and Ben Hecht of the Emergency Committee to Save the Jews of Europe, which battled against Stephen Wise, leader of American Zionism. Their efforts led to the setting up the War Refugee Board at the beginning of 1944 and which is credited, despite having begun late in the day, as having saved about 1/4 million Jews.

My father hated Hitler and Hitlerism but was a dedicated Zionist. The point is that most Zionists don't realise that their movement grew from the belief that anti-Semitism could be used but could not be fought. Zionism took advantage of Jewish peoples' confusion and despair at time.

That is what any political movement does and their followers also often don't understand the true goals of their movement.

Tony Greenstein said...

Joel Brand wasn't a communist, he was a Zionist and a member of Mapai. You say that 'In the extremity of Nazi-occupied Europe I could well imagine myself... trying to negotiate (call it 'collaborate' if you will) with Nazis – and no doubt ultimately failing because all such 'negotiations' (alright, 'collaborations') were from a position of total weakness on one side and total, and ruthless power on the other.'

I'm not talking primarily about Zionism WITHIN Europe. I'm talking about the agreement negotiated between the Zionist leadership in 1933 with the Nazis, Ha'vara (Transfer Agreement) which broke the boycott of Nazi Germany. This was at a time when most Zionists saw Hitler as no different from traditional anti-Semites and to be used accordingly. They of course had no analysis of fascism.

I'm talking about sabotaging any rescue attempt which didn't have as its goal aliya to Palestine. Try reading e.g. Shabtai Beit Zvi's Post Ugandan Zionism in the Crucible of the Holocaust. I can send you a pdf file of it. There you see that the Zionist leadership turned its face against rescue, doubted that there was a holocaust, covered up news of it for 3 months at the minimum and actually ignored it for far longer. It preferred to believe Hitler and the Nazis denials to the reports coming out of Poland from the Home Army and the Bund. It sought to prevent the one bright star of the Evian Conference, San Domingo's offer of 100,000 places to Jewish refugees. It did the same in South American countries, in Britain, in the USA etc.
Because as Ben GUrion explained in a famous memo of December 1938 to the Zionist Executive, if 'refugeeism' as he termed it succeeded, what need for Palestine? The Jews would always go somewhere else. This was the beauty of the Zionist national ideal to one enthusiastic supporter, Christopher Sykes in Crossroads to Israel. He was the son of British Minister and imperialist Sir Mark Sykes of the Sykes-Picot agreement.

But of course Zionists within Europe, despite their politics (which led to membership of the Judenrat and yes the saving of the few at the expense of the many) didn't want to be exterminated. They fought in the Warsaw Ghetto, but this was an abandonment of Zionism as Mordechai Anielwicz made very clear.

Yes Finkelstein's counterpositions are equally wrong. Anti-Zionism means understanding why the house demolitions, the water theft, the killings and ethnic cleansing take place. It means opposing the system and ideology that does such things, that is what solidarity is about. We hold that Zionism is irredeemably racist and expansionist, the child of imperialism. We oppose the consequences AND the causes.

As I made clear above, I don't see all Zionists as anti-Semites or even Zionism as equal to anti-Semitism. Zionism was a reaction to anti-Semitism, the most defeatist and despairing reaction which said it was inherent in gentiles and therefore could not be fought. Most Jews disagreed and although Zionism today says 'we were right' they were not. Most Jews were saved from the holocaust, not by Palestine and the attempts of the Zionists to only have them go there, but by those very same 'anti-semitic' non-Jews.

Tony Greenstein said...


I've developed a 6th sense when it comes to Atzmon's cryptic comments. The address 'Tonyle' is his favourite for some reason and marks him out.

I would wager money on it being our old friend, who must be kinda feeling left out these days now that he has been comprehensively rejected by the solidarity movement.

Bubba Muntzer said...

I also read your article very quickly, freeing up more time for commenting.

As for my commenting, I don't have much to say except that to me, this is a brilliant essay, including that middle section about how raw power runs things. That's the most concise and powerful explanation of that I can ever remember reading and it should be separated out and be the first page in every group's handbook. In fact, if you don't mind, I will be reproducing it on my web log, with attribution and links.

But as to what you reveal about Finkelstein. After 30 years he wants what's practical, doable.

That's something to think about. Every time something like Occupy comes around, we old Leftists who had begun to think the revolution wouldn't come in our lifetimes, get emotionally excited. Like Norman we want change to come now, and it's because it (our activism, our passions for social justice, etc) is about us, not we, not future generations.

Of course, if you start talking about that, it goes over peoples' heads for the very reason it exists, but that's why I enjoy your clarity, the way you get to the heart of things. You're like a bullet out of the dark that whistles by every once in awhile, if I can say that without sounding too much like a big fan.

Daniel Marks said...

"It is only recently that a pre-talk interview with an activist Frank Borat has surfaced." - Surely you mean Barat or is he indeed Sacha Baron Cohen.

In my opinion,if either of them is a Mossad agent, it's Frank, who brilliantly rattled Norman's cage in the first minute by demonstrating that he had not only not read Fink's book, but hadn't even bothered to find out what it was called.

Norman in a moment became an eloquent Zionist spokesman and then all that was left for Frank to do was to behave like a complete twat or a first former being told off by his headmaster.

You have to admit it was ingenious Tony - much more creative and photogenic than blowing up Iranian atomic scientists. Not to say that isn't good too.

Erez said...

I'll admit, that was interesting.
I Never heard Finkelstein before, and he is an interesting adversary of your opinions, though marking him "time to say goodbye" sounds quite eliminational.

your criticism of international law is correct, but for one issue. I-law doesn't just protect the powerful, it also provides (problematic) order - If You abolish it, which wrong would You fix first ?

Or do you support Shmidt's claim about the nature of political power - to act inspite of the law ?

a lot of groups are victims and opressors all together.
how to implement justice without I-law ?

Your own claims lead to enforcement mechanisms, and an end to immunity, not ignoring the law.

what are the historical cases that provided a "return" right ?

while giving so much space to disputable criticism against Zionist ideology, You don't seem to present the context in which the Nakba happened.

the term "just solution" does not contradicts a peace agreement that takes care of the future lives of everyone. A personal undisputed right of return is quite absurd. As a collective, Palestinians tried
to prevent by violence the establishment of Israel, though most of them never took arms or even made any threats towards any Jew during the mandate. But a personal "right of return" ?, only at the price of giving-up their existence as a group, and any demand based upon that. Every refugee has a right for a future, but that responsibility does not lie upon Israel alone.

Finkelstein said the implementation of 3 demands together is absurd - end of occupation (by some effective non-terrorist enforcement mechanism yet to be found), equal rights for Arabs (tough to implement, but a must), right of return (here lies the vast problem).

In a semi-Utopian script, 2 states would co-exist, all Palestinians who wished would return to the Palestinian state, and after so and so decades of peaceful existence, a unification would occur and put an end to the economical and environmental illogical concept of 2 states. But today is has vast sociological and political logic. and don't forget Jordan with 70% Palestinians.

while You see the settlers as "the true face" of Zionism, I sea them as the most prominent danger for it. Zionism was made to enable Jews to take part in world, to return to history, not ignore it and summon re-enslavement and that's where the settlers lead, in spite of temporary successes.

but the line between criticism and antisemitism is about denying statehood from Jews at any borders.

that's where Finkelstein got it right - by describing the unholy alliance between Israeli fascists and the BDS movement.

all 3 demands should have a different perspective - first of all - equal right to Israeli Arabs, independent of other demands, then an end of the occupation - dependent of another mechanism to replace it, until Palestinians can manage for themselves. third - a right of return - to the west bank and Gaza only at first, and with a few decades, special conditions for Palestinian immigrants to Palestine and Israel for Jews and Palestinians alike, independent of reffugism, and multinational economic arrangements, to support Palestinian prosperity, and an end to the refugee camps.

Majority of Israelis can take it, and also majority of Palestinians. I know the Hamas and the settlers can't have it, but I Don't know about the solidarity movement ?

Erez said...

Your remark about Mordechai Anielwicz, the leader of the JFO, fits the lowest proto-intellectual sewers.

what he and his comrades did worth much more than any shame that any Judenrat could ever manifest, and it does, but not on Zionism, but on those members who wishfully thought that some awkward sovereignty would be given to Jews by the Nazis. The concept about those who may live and those who doesn't comes from Nazism, not Zionism.

Ha'avara agreement saved lives in a world already against Jewish immigration, independent of what Zionists has to say on that matter.

One of your repeated analytical mistakes is crediting Zionists much power we never had, or at least, before we actually had it.
Don't fall for the Abe Foxman trick.

Do You actually believe that Nazi legitimity ever depended on the political agreement of an un-sovereign political group ?
only if You accept the Protocols of the elders of Zion.

Do You also support the allies position about not saving or even aiding Jews during WW2 because of War priorities ?

Because of Israel, Jews are stronger, sometimes for the good (Iraq and Dir-a-zoor in Syria) and some times for the bad (Dimona to begin with, and so on), but why return willingly to the victim's position?

Mordechai Anilewicz was a Zionist-socialist from his heart to his last hair from his youth to his tragic death , and that remark denounces any credibility of all your other claims.

Tony Greenstein said...


I don’t want to eliminate Norman Finkelstein, quite the contrary. I want him to have a peaceful and quiet and long retirement!

I’m not suggesting abolishing international law. Clearly there are situations where it can be useful and for a drowning man, grasping at any straw is better than having nothing to cling onto. I’m simply pointing out that it is so vague, nebulous and subject to political whim and dictat that it is useless basing the fight for liberation on it.

I don’t know who Schmidt is but the point of any political action is to know what you want. The law is always a secondary factor. When we sought to be rid of the NF and other fascist groups, that was our main priority. The law was seen as an inconvenience to be got over since the Police would implement it according to their own prejudices and opinions.

You ask what are the historical cases that provide a right of return. Simple justice. The Zionist settlers came to the land and dispossed the indigenous population, expelling the majority. Mere equity demands that they be allowed to return to the land with which they have a close personal, legal as in property and emotional bond. Unlike the Jewish ‘right of return’ it is based on what actually happened as opposed to myth.

Your point Erez is that you are part of a dying breed of left-Zionist. Leave aside the terrible record of left or socialist-Zionism in laying the basis for everything that Likud and Lieberman have done, and it is no accident that Netanyahu is joined in his cabinet by the last Israeli Labour Prime Minister Ehud Barak, with the last but one Israeli Labour Prime Minister as President, Shimon Peres. Indeed Likud admitted Arabs to membership before the Labour Party!

I am not talking about an individual right to return but of the collective right of the Palestinians. Clearly it is individuals who will exercise that, or not, but it is based on the mass expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 and no quibbling can overcome that. Your problem Erez is that you cling to all the Zionist nostrums whilst not wishing to come to terms with the fact that Zionism was a settler-colonial movement that could only colonise Palestine against the wishes of the indigenous population, whomsoever they were. Both Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky recognised this.

Hence you mentioning of the fact that Jordan has a majority of Palestinians as inhabitants. True but irrelevant. The Palestinians come from Palestine not Jordan where they found refuge.

You say the settlers are the most prominent danger for Zionism, but it is a fact that the settlers on the West Bank are doing nothing more than was done by their Labour predecessors in Tel Aviv and Degania. You seem to have forgotten the decades long struggle of the Histadrut – for Jewish labour i.e. no Arab labour.

Zionism was not created ‘to enable Jews to take part in world, to return to history, not ignore it and summon re-enslavement.’ This is at the heart of your reactionary ideology. The Jews didn’t need Zionism to take part in the world – Spinoza, Heine, Einstein, Mendlessohn, Freud - lived in Europe not Israel. Nor were they enslaved. It is Israel, with its cheap imitation American culture which is enslaved.

Tony Greenstein said...

I don’t think Finkelstein was equating Israeli fascists and the BDS movement. He was making another equally fatuous point.

You accuse me of utopia but your recipe - first equal right for Israeli Arabs, an end to the occupation – and third a right of return, even one as limited as yours, falls down on a rock – Zionism. You fail to see that the Zionist project was predicated on a Jewish majority and further, that this majority would only happen if the Palestinians were transferred. Transfer was a constant in all Zionist discussions up till statehood, even if in public anodyne and ‘peaceful’ statements were made. From Herzl to Motzkin to Weizmann and then Ben-Gurion – all accepted that you can’t have a Jewish state in a land where the majority are not Jewish. And unlike other forms of settler colonialism, Zionism was distinct in not seeking to exploit the indigenous labour but to expel it altogether.

You say my remark about Mordechai Anielwicz, leader of ZOB, ‘fits the lowest proto-intellectual sewers.’ Why? It was Anielwicz who expressed his regret over the “wasted time” undergoing Zionist educational work. Y. Guttman, ‘The Jews of Warsaw - 1939-1943, Ghetto Underground Revolt’, Harvester Press, 1982 p.143 citing Yitzhak Zuckerman and Counci1 of Kibbutz Hi Meuhad 4/1945. He went on to say that “had the fate of the Jews in 1942 lain in the hands only of the political parties (Zionist), the revolt would never have taken place.” (Guttman p.441 fn. 23)

Of course what the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance did was in contrast to the behaviour of the Judenrat, who were as Raul Hilberg said, cogs in the Nazis extermination machine. But Hilberg was hauled over the coals and bitterly criticised by the historians at Yad Vashem precisely for his criticism of the Judenrat. Repeatedly the Judenrat have been praised and defended by people like Yehuda Bauer. Do I really have to cite sources? I suggest reading ‘Patterns of Jewish Leadership in Nazi Europe 1933-1945: 3rd Yad Vashem Conference, 1979’.

What you fail to perceive was not that ‘the world’ [actually the world is divided into different classes and opinions] was against Jewish immigration but that Zionist leaders were busy going around, like Golda Myerson at Evian, doing their best to ensure that this remained the case. Is that so hard to understand? Yes most governments were against Jewish immigration. Jews and socialists and others fought to lower the immigration barriers at the same time as the Zionist movement was in favour of keeping those barriers.

And during the war? Stephen Wise not only kept silent on the Riegner telegram confirming the holocaust for 3 months but is recorded in conversations with the State Department as saying that the dissident Zionists and Revisionists Peter Bergson and co. ‘were worse than Hitler’.

No Ha'avara didn’t save lives. If anything it took lives. 50,000 German Jews out of half a million found a place in Palestine. About 350,000 German Jews and maybe half of Austria’s 200,000 Jews found a refuge. Ha'avara was not intended to rescue Jews from Germany because at that stage Zionism saw Hitler as no more than another anti-Semitic leader. Zionism sought to use the capital of German Jewry to build the Yishuv and in this it was remarkably successful. It came about as a direct consequence, and the Nazis were open about this, of a desire to blunt the growing Boycott Germany movement abroad. In other words the Zionists scabbed and betrayed Germany’s Jews. Boycott had already stopped the SA Boycott of Jewish shops on 1st April 1933, which had been intended to be indefinite but lasted barely one day. The Jews directly covered by Ha'avara were a minority, approx. 20,000 of the 50,000 German Jews who fled. They were the richer Jews who could have found refuge anyway. Zionism once again betrayed the poorest Jews for the wealth of the rich.

Tony Greenstein said...

I don’t credit the Zionists with a great deal of power vs the Nazis except they had a negative power – to for example veto rescue. I never said that Nazi legitimacy rested on the Zionists. Don’t put words into my mouth. Vichy and Quisling also had little power and didn’t give the Nazis legitimacy but they were useful tools.

You ask if I support the Allies position about not saving or aiding Jews because of War priorities ? I don’t know why you ask this question. Of course I don’t. It was an imperialist war primarily. The saving of the Jews was a byproduct, at least until 1944 when the Zionists were still trying to prevent rescue to anywhere but wretched Palestine.

You say that because of Israel, Jews are stronger and why should one return to the victim's position. But Jews aren’t stronger because of Israel. On the contrary what they do to the Palestinians weakens Jews everywhere and perpetuates anti-Semitism. Anielwicz wasn’t the Zionist you would like to be. The Jewish Agency rescue committee at no time sought to send a representative to Warsaw unlike the Bund. Instead they parrotted the claims of the Nazis about there being 55 ghettos that the Jews were being dispersed to. That is why I suggested Shabtai beit Zvi’s book. You seem resistant to it. In any case Zionist socialism in Poland moved left under pressure of events and they allied with the Bund. Indeed Left PZ was barely Zionist. Whereas PZ in Palestine moved steadily rightwards.

What you can’t or wont face is that Zionism rewrote the history to favour them and they’ve distorted it ever since. Just as there is the myth of the Arab attack in 1948 so you are a sucker for Zionism’s rewriting of holocaust resistance. Make us strong? Zionism is our eternal curse.

Joe said...

Tony thanks for a thoughtful piece -- there's much to reflect on here.

I am baffled as to what NF thought he was doing -- he is an intelligent man, who measures each word he says for its strategic worth and tactical reasoning. He chooses and tests every word he says. He is scrupulously exacting about each word and phrase he utters.

So -- what was he thinking? I can only assume there are stresses and strains he has had to put up with (behind the scenes as well as those in the public arena we all know about), that exasperated him, wearied him to the point we witnessed. It is worth noting that he looked exhausted and totally worn out, just fed up, and he has appeared that way for a while now.

And as you noted,it really stood out that he made reference to wishing he had done something more 'mainstream' in politics rather than -- in his implication -- waste time with a ghettoised cause that isn't getting anywhere, and is set back by Palestinian leaderships’ corruption and fashionable Western cultists.

It has been suggested elsewhere on the net that Finkelstein -- like Hitchens and Cohen -- has simply 'reverted to type', and shown that 'he was a closet Zionist all along' ( EG , Hitchens and Cohen came from a privileged upper middle class past, and were only flirting with 'radicalism', so when they came out as right wing reactionaries/parlour and boudoir hacks, they were only showing their true colours once they had become tired of ‘roughing it with the commoners’ and had seen there was no fame or fortune in it anyway. ). However, that just doesn’t seem a worthy explain at all vis a vis Norman -- NF's background ( his family setting and their ethical stances, his social, political milieu ) has never, ever shown the slightest inclination towards Zionism, nationalist, self seeking exclusivity, or indeed, shown that any kind of Zionist would have any place or time for him at all anyway.

I say that all of us who are on the side of justice for Palestinians should give Norman a chance and stick by him –- I do not say that out of any ‘cultist’ leaning, or wishing to keep him on a pedestal, but simply because he has done so much for the cause, and transformed our understanding of it. He opened the eyes of countless people, who otherwise would highly likely still be in the dark about it. Sure, there were a few other authors around telling the truth about Palestine before Norman -– but none with the energy and profile that Norman had, and none with the skill at communicating with others that Norman had. Norman compelled others to join him and take it seriously and get educated about it.

I’d say that were it not for Norman’s effort the international understanding of the Palestinian cause would just be nowhere, and still stuck in the ghetto, in an area consigned for hush hush taboo discussion. It is very hard to imagine now,especially for your younger readers, but let’s remember that just ten or fifteen short years ago, publicly wanting to discuss support for Palestine in ‘acceptable/conventional’ settings such as in academia, colleges or many workplaces, would have had you sent into exile as a neo Nazi or an anti Semite nut case.

It was Norman who pretty much single handedly changed all that.

By the way -- why does Atzmon call you ‘tonyle’? What does it actually mean?

Joe said...

Daniel Marks wrote :"it's Frank ( Barat), who brilliantly rattled Norman's cage in the first minute by demonstrating that he had not only not read Fink's book, but hadn't even bothered to find out what it was called."

Don't be a silly twit Daniel -- you assume it shows what a pillock Frank was, but actually, it shows how little you know about Norman Finkelstein and his work. There's no way Frank Barat could have read Finkelstein's book, or known its title -- because the books in question have not even been released yet. The texts referred to at the start of the interview have been in the pipeline for about three years, and Norman has kept changing the release date. As far as I am aware, he has only just completed first drafts.

Keep up to speed mate; I know you and other Zionists are beside yourselves with delight at the so called 'downfall of Finkelstein' and the 'humiliation of the BDS movement', but don't get any ideas; these setbacks are no more than minimal, and will not demoralise those who support freedom for Palestinians.

Anonymous said...

far too many words.... BDS is close enough ... 1967 borders .... disarmament of all in the region .... INTERNATIONALIZE JERUSALEM with no single faith or nation ruling RIGHTS OF RETURN OR FULL MONEY COMPENSATING victims / survivors 843-926-1750 Larry Carter Center

Hester said...

"Norman Finkelstein today is a performing bear, dancing to imperialism’s melodies whilst the older lyrics remain unsung."

Poor Norman, thrown under the bus for deviating from the sacred orthodoxy. The eternal tragedy of the Left...the inability to tolerate dissent.

Tony Greenstein said...

Hester is wrong and should be thrown under a bus (but not on the Sabbath!). It's not a question of not tolerating dissent. The problem is that Norman doesn't seem to like dissent when it comes to 2 states. NF can say what he wants but the Palestine solidarity movement needs to put a distance between it and him, which is our right, as long as he insists on attacking BDS, which is the only show in town.

I think Joe goes a bit over the top. NF hasn't had that great an influence on support for Palestine.

You say we should stick by him but the problem is that he won't stick by the movement which he pours scorn on. I agree that he has done much for the cause but his weaknesses have begun coming to the fore. His downplaying of ideology and inability to see what makes Israel different is now becoming a millstone which threatens to undo all his good work.

I don't know whether or not he 'opened the eyes of countless people, who otherwise would highly likely still be in the dark about it.' Nor do I agree that but for NF 'the international understanding of the Palestinian cause would just be nowhere, and still stuck in the ghetto.' That simply isn't true.

The movement would have and has developed irrespective of NF and BDS in particular.

It was Norman who pretty much single handedly changed all that.

There have been a whole no. of people who have been equally if not more prominent. Ilan Pappe's work is immense and I would argue of far greater significance in highlighting the Nakba and putting flesh on the bones.

Incidentally Ilan Pappe sent me an e-mail after the post on NF went up, which said: 'this is a brilliant refutation of Norman's position.'

As to why Atzmon calls me Tonyle. I don't have a clue. I assumed he might have some problem like a lisp but I like to humour him.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony
Thanks for a wonderful dissection of NF opinion, NF have always been a zionist, he explicitly defended them before when asked about them and about Dr N Chomsky 'a self declared Zionist'. The main issues with Dr NF is the following:
1- He clearly oppose 'the right of return'. In all of his lectures he always sum up his position when talking to the audience that 'every one has to be principled BUT also reasonable'. He always say that the Palestinians has the right of return but they should compromise on it. That was his position from the start.
2- At the same time he had no objections on Aliyha, which means he is basically Not Principled. He is a 'hoax' himself having double standards. He thinks that Palestinians and BDS supporters want the distruction of Israel and trying to be 'clever' by asking for the right of return. So he dismiss all the refugees rights to go back to their own homes, the Israeli-Palestinians to be treated fairly in a state that they hold it's citizenship.
3- If someone wants to be principled then he has to apply justice and nothing more than justice. All Palestinians want is each and every one would have the right to go back to his home, whether they live in a state called Israel or Palestine it will eventually make no difference as long as every one in that state is treated like everyone else, no privilege for one religion over another, for one sect over another. The state would still have strict rules to make sure that the rights of ALL of it's own citizens are maintained. Anything else is not viable, 'injustice for some is injustice for all' MLK.
NF is a strong defender of the status quo, he knows that the two state solution is the only way out for the inhuman Zionist goals which he strongly defends. The language that he always used even against other Zionist can only show that he himself treat others as sub-intellectuals which is the core belief of the Zionist that they are the chosen ones and they have the right to disrespect and dismiss other humans.
Peace is not a slogan, peace can truly be achieved between both Jewish and non Jewish population of the state, only if true 'individual rights' are applied for ALL.

Brian Robinson said...

Thanks for clarifying your position on Zionism for me (yet again) but I still don't get it, however let's move on, and yes, I'd be grateful if you can send me the pdf of “Shabtai Beit Zvi's Post Ugandan Zionism in the Crucible of the Holocaust”.

Re Finkelstein and the two-state, here's a reminder of what he said in a talk to LSE Students’ Union, 20th February 2004 (much of it is still relevant and my full transcript is available here ):-

“In questions, Finkelstein expressed himself as currently unsympathetic to the one-state solution, for a number of reasons. In the first place he believes it would take another 100 years to implement, and anyone who disagrees ‘simply doesn’t know about how politics works’, and to condemn another three generations of Palestinians to a continuation of present conditions is unacceptable. As long as there is ‘even a 5% chance’ of the two-state solution being implemented, then it’s worth struggling for. If however, he became convinced that its chances were reduced to zero per cent, then he’d support the one-state solution, but not until then.

“In response to another question, he said that if you go for the two-state solution, you can’t also demand a full Right of Return. You would end up with two Arab majority states. You can have either a single, secular, democratic one-person-one-vote state, or two states, one predominantly Jewish and one Arab, but you can’t have a Right of (Palestinian) Return to a Jewish state. There was some polite dissent from this view amongst sections of the audience ...”

You, and others here, have given their reasons for not crediting Finkelstein with simply being no more and no less than realistic. I freely grant that I know very much less than you about all this and by comparison am very much of a newcomer, still it does seem to me that he has a valid point here. He stresses in the video that the achievable resolution, in his view, wont be perfect, wont be ideal and more than implies that it wont bring justice to everyone. It's something like half a loaf now being better than no loaf for another century. Or a utopian promise of bread sometime.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony
An addition to my previous post.
Your reply to EREZ, sums it all up. It is this understanding of facts that would eventually end all madness. It is this same insight that can bring true peace. One word you have used, Justice. If you provide it, if you allow the Palestinians to have their rights back, they would not do to the Jewish citizens what have been done to them. This is being 'principled' not the 'so called NF principled'.
Thank you

Joe said...

Here is an interesting critique from Virginia Tilley --

Hester said...

"NF can say what he wants but the Palestine solidarity movement needs to put a distance between it and him, which is our right, as long as he insists on attacking BDS, which is the only show in town."

So NF can say what he wants, but not without some parting insults.
Putting distance between the movement and Norman and accusing Norman of being a dancing bear to the tune of imperialism are two very different things. The metaphor was lousy, the hyperbole crass and undeserved.

Tony Greenstein said...


the insults were NF's - we are a cult, childish etc.

Anony - it is one of the excuses for the oppressor not to let go that the oppressed might take revenge. of course this is a possibility but as we saw in South Africa it rarely happens. The only place where the former colonials were later targetted was Mugabe's Zimbabwe but by then most of them had disappeared and it was more their continuing economic privilege, though I don't support what he did or the way he did it.

Brian I'm sorry u don't get it. Let me give you a simple analogy. Immigration controls within capitalism and in former colonial powers are inevitably racist. But many people don't agree. i wouldn't therefore say they are racist, merely mistaken. The controls they support are racist.

Likewise the Zionist leaders opposed rescue of Jewish refugees to anywhere but Palestine. if that meant they died then that was the price necessary to obtain a seat at the negotiating table (Nathan Schwalb actually said that). They were not the priority. That was building the Jewish state.

So in 1942 as the first reports were coming out concerning the deportations and extermination camps, the main concern of the Zionists was the Biltmore Conference in May 42, the first to demand a Jewish state. Now that is simple, what don't u get?

Yes I know NF has not been supportive of 1 state. I didn't ask him to be. I agree with him that the right of return is not compatible with a 2 state solution, another reason for not supporting it.

Because he has no overarching guide and a lack of an overall structure to his politics, no means of analysis that Marxism provides in terms of class and power, NF imagines that 2 States is a palliative. Half a loaf better than no loaf. But partition teaches us that the half a loaf can be so poisoned that it's better to go for the lot. Either a solution which eradicates the factors that perpetuate the conflict or you simply get tensions building up on both side of the border, then some Palestinian group launches an attack in response to some Israeli atrocity maybe inside Israel and before long you're back where you started except the imbalance in power is such that Israel can go into the 'state' whenever it wants.

No in Palestine there is no other solution than 1 state. You have to deal with the causes not the symptoms.

joe90 kane said...

Just to pass this on, as it is from Jamie over at the New Left Project website who has interviewed NF on a few occassions and it may have something to add -
Norman Finkelstein on BDS
NLP Blog
15 Feb 2012

Daniel Marks said...

Joe makes a good point,which I readily acknowledge, that Frank had no choice, but to appear a total prat, after mentioning Norman's book which he couldn't have read and wasn't able to name, because it has yet to appear in shops.

Just a minute! There was of course the possibility of not mentioning it in the first place!? On the other hand ignorance has never been an obstacle for you guys, so why begin now?

Frankly, I couldn't give a proverbial toss as to whether Finkelstein has changed his mind or not. Anyway, I never heard him say that he was against destroying Israel, he just made a tactical point that he couldn't sell that argument to the public. So, cheer up you guys, he still loves you!

As you may know, I am a West Bank settler (boo!) so I fully support your rejection of the "Two State Solution" and will do whatever I can, as long as it involves neither time nor money,to help you further your worthy goals.

That's the paradox. I believe in a one state solution too- so let's not split hairs about the exact nature of that state. Let us all join hands together, from Brighton to Bet El.

Joe said...

Dear Daniel Marks,

God said I can have your house and land. You have 30 days to get out. Should you decide not to leave, you will be bulldozed along with the house.

Thank you for your understanding.


Erez said...

your nonsense is credible only for consistency.

I'll react only for Anielwicz, since that is personal defamation with, I'll admit, strong emotional meaning.
I think that example alone reveals your true intentions, and explains your inability to understand how your own politics arm those You oppose most.

"It was Anielwicz who expressed his regret over the “wasted time” undergoing Zionist educational work."

what a bunc of crap!
The waste of time was not about Zionism but about the late stage in which the idea of extermination
was understood by the Jewsih underground. meaning - what's the point of (any) education if we are all going to die ? education is future dependent, and loses its meaning when there is no future.

If You read Zuckerman's book, you'd know that there was never once a regret of Zionism by him or by Anielwicz. That's a different concept of Zionism than your own, it is a moral one. Antek was rejected twice from the polish army - meaning, he never viewed taking care of his own people contradictory to his obligations towards Poland. the fact that a fraud like You cannot accept this possibility, doesn't mean it did not exist.

Anyhow, Anielwicz was mistaken. without the time taken to regroup for educational purposes, no form of armed underground would come to life, and that is true for the Bund as well.
but maybe robbing and twisting one sentence of a dead man, is easier than dealing with the deeper publications of his surviving comrades.
Look at the social structure that enabled him to act, it was built in Poland between the wars.
the funny thing in your extremely personal variation of history, is that you imply the bund waited for the Zionist in forming the underground. surprisingly, the bund leadership in Warsaw, opposed the idea of Jewish resistance and favored joining with the Polish resistance. The fact was, the there would be no Jews left when the poles decide to act.

The problem with the political parties was not Zionist. It included the Bund, Aguda and everyone.

only when the Youth leaders decided to act themselves - Edelman, Zivia, Kovner and others, armed resistance became possible - against the Will of all political parties.

making everything ideological robs those people of their personal character, and, diminishes the special atmosphere of radical Jewish youth groups.

These were the first in the Jewish public to begin to understand the reality about the extermination, and some of them, sometimes, regret their inability to understand it even sooner, and act better. To draw ideological conclusions from this kind of self-criticism with this kind of context, is quite mean.

I first saw your blog, when Edelman died, while making a booklet in his memory.
I felt sick by reading how You used his death to punch Zionism in ways Marek never dreamed. At least he had the ability to see beyond those differences, beyond his own leaders, and form brave bonds
with his JFO comrades. It's not just about who was right and who was wrong, it's about respecting people, even your adversaries.
The Bund's remnant in Israel - "Brit Avoda" bought that booklet from my organization, to give it to their grandsons (who can't read polish or Yiddish) and show their heritage.
People like Edelman, or Abraham Leon had the honesty of humble respect towards respectful adversaries.
They criticized Zionism as insufficient, inadequate to face Capitalism, unfair towards the Palestinians, impossible in the middle-east,
but they they never actively wished it would fail. Leon died, but pay attention that Edelman actively disassembled the Bund in Poland, when some of the Bund survivors tended to rally themselves with the new Soviet-Polish regime. Very far from agreement, I have a strong respect for those who took part in Jewish modernization and politicization.

Zionism may well be your own private curse, but that only shows how much You are hate driven.

Tony Greenstein said...

Erez, I shall ignore the obligatory abuse.

It was Anielwicz's comments not mine. Hashomer Hatzair was no different in making no attempt to establish contact with the Warsaw Ghetto and the remnants than the rest of the Zionist leadership. Whilst PZ, Left-PZ and HH moved leftwards under the pressure of events, Labour Zionism in Palestine moved inexorably to the right. But a sense of dialectics was never your strongest point.

The 'educational work' that the Hehalutz and the rest engaged in in Poland was running Kibbutzim, on the abandoned farms of Poles who had been deported to slave labour camps in Germany. The Bund quite rightly criticised this as volunteerism.

This was the waste of time. the Bund's position was entirely different. They had actually organised self-defence against poromists in Warsaw and elsewhere. They had marginalised the Zionists at the 1938 elections as Zionism was seen to be vindicating the anti-Semites in their goal of ridding Poland of Jews.

Edelman unfortunately moved to the right in his older age and e.g. supported the Iraq War. He stood up to Stalinism whereas some of his comrades wished to come to terms with the then Polish state.

However it is a fact, which even u cannot dispute, that after his 2002 declaration of support for the fighters of the Palestinian resistance, as he termed them, Edelman became a non-person. Not one representative of an Israeli state, which has the audacity to identify with those they abandoned at the time, which colluded with Nazi Germany to break the Boycott, attended his funeral. Actions speak louder than words.

Of course one can respect one's adversaries politically. And that includes all those who stood and fought in Warsaw. But how can one respect a Mapai leadership which didn't discuss the situation in Europe once in 1939-40 or a Jewish Agency which formed a Rescue Committee, whose Chairman, Yitzhak Greenbaum, saw as its main duty resisting demands to spend any money on rescue when their priority was building the state.

Your Zionism makes you blind. As the holocaust began in earnest, the Zionists held their major conference in Biltmore in May 1942. It was the rhythms of the Zionist organisations which most motivated Zionist activists. Apart from the very small Al-Domi group there was a pervasive fatalism as to the possibility of rescue such that there was a concerted effort to draw a veil over what was happening in Europe.

This may have been understandable. What wasn't understandable were Zionist attempts to prevent rescue to anywhere but Palestine. That more than anything demonstrated that zionism was a quisling movement, even if it contained within it those who wished to stand and fight like the revisionists Bergson, Merlin and Ben Hecht.

Erez said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe said...

Erez wrote : "Zionism may well be your own private curse, but that only shows how much You are hate driven." Erez, Zionism is not just Tony's, or one or two people's nightmare,Zionism is a nightmare for millions of people.

But being a typical Zionist, you wouldn't notice, or care about that.

Shahad Alam's book was perfectly and accurately titles -- I'd surely advise you to read it -- it is called "Israeli Exceptionalism and the Destabilising Logic of Zionism."

Have you read it? No? Ok, I will summarise it for you in a few short lines.

Dear Erez,

God said I can have your house and land. You have 30 days to get out. Should you decide not to leave, you will be bulldozed along with the house.

Thank you for your understanding.


Erez (edited) said...

Is the truth so bothering for You

"The 'educational work' that the Hehalutz and the rest engaged in in Poland was running Kibbutzim, on the abandoned farms of Poles who had been deported to slave labour camps in Germany. The Bund quite rightly criticised this as volunteerism."

The almost but-not-abandoned farm of Grochov was owned by the Jewish community, given to Hachalutz since 1919. The Nazis brought a 'folks-Deutsche' to own it instead, and he let the Chalutzim remain there.

Czerniakow was owned by the Polish farmer, Zatwarnicki. He uses to train chalutzim before, and returned for it during the war. His farm saved lives, gave shelter and food, provided a safe-house out of the Ghetto for the Zionist underground, a night-station for Jewish messengers, and a place to hold weapons.

What You call 'volunteerism' (I Never read a Bund source for it, but You supposedly have)
was, in fact, a crucial material basis for the Jewish underground, and for saving Jewish lives.

but that is only partial. Educational work included organizing youth in the ghetto's, providing teachers, cultural activities, newspapers, moving people to social activities - soup kitchens, and political activities - dealing with other movements and organizations. That was the social infrastructure for the rebellion, that's your "waste of time".

one example out of many:

Tony Greenstein said...

I've edited Erez's latest missive to make him appear a little more polite and a little less arrogant.

Erez says he's never read a Bund source concerning the Zionists volunteerism i.e. scabbing on Poles deported to Nazi Germany. Perhaps not. But maybe he could try reading a Zionist source instead and following the clues. I assume that Yisrael Gutman, a Yad Vashem historian, and in normal circumstances to be treated with circumspection, is the source.

As Lucy Dawidowicz, hardly sympathetic to the anti-Zionist left notes in her War Against the Jews:

'Only the left-wing parties and the socialist Zionist youth movements succeeded in maintaining their primary political character and in transforming their pre-war apparatus - or its remnant - into functioning underground organisations. The largest of these was the Jewish Labour Bund, which in the 1930s had emerged as the major political Jewish organisation on the municipal level and which controlled most of the Jewish trade unions. The Jewish section of the Communist Party had been second in numerical strength before 1939... smaller and weaker than the Communists were the Labour Zionists, split into left and right wings.' Dawidowicz p.321.

The Bund was virtually the only Jewish group to have contacts with the non-Jewish sector i.e.. the PPS underground. The Zionist parties by definition had been separatist and worked with themselves only. The Bund published eleven different papers under Nazi occupation compared to the one issue of the Revisionists - in memory of Jabotinsky!

“The Zionist orientated press devoted much space to the history of the Yishuv” hardly the stuff of which the resistance could be built. According to Marek Edelman, the Bund established the first fighting organisation with the PPS, headed by B.Goldstein, Abrasza Blum and B Szajndmik. [Yisrael Gutman, The Jews of Warsaw, 1939-1943 – Ghetto, Underground, Revolt, 1982, Harvester Press, Brighton, p.165].

It was however opposed to working exclusively with the Zionist socialist groups in a common fighting organisation. Not surprisingly the “Zionists placed an emphasis on the Bund because it alone had access to PPS and Polish Underground.” Left PZ had an alliance with the Polish Workers Party (PPR) and helped fund the Anti Fascist Bloc, which Hashomer Hatzair, Poale Zion, the Zionist Socialists and Dror later joined. Gutman p. 169.

On 23 July 1942, the Bund calls for active resistance to the Aktion - a sweep of ghetto looking for people to deport. Only Hashomer Hatzair and He Halutz supported them in this as the Bund issued leaflets warning of death camps. Gutman p.237.

But old habits died hard. The Zionists arranged for their youth group to work on Polish farms, training for Palestine. The farms in question suffered a labour shortage because of the deportation of Poles to Germany:
While the Zionist bodies supported and promoted this kind of training, the Bund violently opposed it, claiming that it was a form of ‘volunteerism’ on the part of the Jews that made it easier for Germans to draft Poles for forced labour in Germany.” Gutman p.140.

Tony Greenstein said...

The Bund paper Yugat Shtime (3-6.3.1941) made its view clear on these training facilities for Zionist youth:

‘The jobs made available by the deportation of the Polish farmer are to be filled by young Jewish volunteers. The ‘nationalist’ circles who support this ‘training’ have always been alien to the concrete national interests of the Jewish masses in Poland. Ibid.’ Gutman, p.442, fn.33 Yad Vashem Archives Underground Press Division

In Lodz the Bund youth organisation, SKIF picketed the Judenrat office declaring to the Zionist who helped set up similar Kibbutzim that: ‘Rumkowski, you are our misfortune.’ Betar also had training camps in Hrubieszow, the Lublin District and Dror in Czernickow.

Mordechai Anielwicz’s of Hashomer Hatzair, who commanded the Resistance, expressed his regret over the “wasted time” undergoing Zionist educational work. He went on to say that “had the fate of the Jews in 1942 lain in the hands only of the political parties (Zionist - TG), the revolt would never have taken place.” Guttman p.441 fn 23.

So far from me lying Erez, like most Zionists, engages in a little deception. It matters not who owns the farms, the Zionists engaged in a form of scabbing, not only as in Ha'avara against other Jews but against the Polish people. It was as if the Zionists were doing their utmost to alienate the Poles, who had their own struggles against the Nazis

And like all gullible 'left' Zionists Erez ends up as the apologist for the Zionist movement in Poland, a movement which had no links with non-Jewish resistance organisations and had to depend on its traditional Jewish enemy, the Bund.

So a little less arrogance Erez would not go amiss!

Anonymous said...

To Erez,
I just don't understand the crooked principles of Zionist. Either admit it or refuse but to try to dress it up as humanitarian is a shame:
1- do u believe that any human is less than another human for his race or ethnicity? Humans are not the same but their rights are exactly the same.
2- One of the major lessons people should take from the horrid holocaust is that people should be treated based on their humanity and what is happening to the Palestinians is exactly what should not happen.
3- what is the core difference between a Palestinian right to get back to his home and the Jewish right to Aliyah
What is really disturbing is the audacity of people like you.

Erez said...

Now, when You put more solid facts on the line, it is easier to draw the picture, with those You omit.

Undisputed, it is natural for the Bund to have better (but not singular) connections to the poles.
The problem was what to do with those. The Bund rejected ideologically the idea of a Jewish front so fiercely, that it even rejected a notion of a unique Nazi policy towards the Jews:"they murder poles as well". The poles had time, Jews didn't. Depending on the poles in that context meant
no rebellion. The Bund supported being an arm that takes orders from PPS, not partnership, until Edelman changed that by the partnership with the Zionists.

The anti-fascist bloc was a great iniative, only it failed because of arrests, and probably spies were involved.

Your reference toward the booklet in memory of Jabotinsky, crudely omits many other publications by left-Zionists, underground by form and character.

Even historical material can be a source for inspiration towards armed resistance, and if You can read Hebrew or Yiddish, You can look-up a crucial book published by 'Dror' - 'pain on gvure'

"The Zionist parties by definition had been separatist and worked with themselves only."

Not true. The minorities bloc for historical precedent, while the underground in Warsaw, Vilno, Bialystok were combined of different political sectors, and had connections to partisans and polish political groups.

You have a very interesting (politeness for irrational) claim about the farm. Do You suggest Jews should have died of starvation and not go to work for the Nazis - on farms/ghettos/etc ?
Have anyone had an alternative for that ? unlike other forced labour, it was the farms that helped to create the fighting power. I can see the bund's perspective then, but to use that criticism today is insane.

Mordechai Anielwicz regretted the focus on education instead of combat training, not Zionism, but it is tiring to mend your repeating defamation. writing it over and over would not make it less a lie.

He did criticize the Jewish parties, all of them, but You fail to mention that He saw himself part of a Zionist alternative, very similar to how Edelman had different views than his older leaders in the Bund.

When You write so much about how supposedly Zionists were in favor of Palestine-only immigration, You fail to mention how the Bund resisted any kind of immigration from eastern-Europe, very much like Agudat Israel.

Your kind of pin-picking-facts and anachronisms is not so convincing, spare the effort.

Tony Greenstein said...

It is natural for the Bund to have better connections with Poles because they had a vision of society which encompassed the other.

It was not that the Bund rejected the idea of a 'Jewish front' rather that Zionism stood opposed to the fight against anti-Semitism. It was like fighting the tides, it was an inevitable part of human nature.

As Isaac Deutscher wrote, in the Non-Jewish Jew and Other Esssays, (66-7):

'It should be remembered that the great majority of East European Jews were, up to the outbreak of the second World War} opposed to Zionism... the most fanatical enemies of Zionism were precisely the workers, those who spoke Yiddish... they were the most determined opponents of the idea of an emigration from East Europe to Palestine... in the idea of an evacuation, of an exodus from the countries in which they, had their homes and in which their ancestors had lived for centuries, the anti-Zionists saw an abdication of their rights, a surrender to anti-Semitism. To them anti-Semitism seemed to triumph in Zionism, which recognised the legitimacy and the validity of the old cry ‘Jews get out!' The Zionists were agreeing to get out.'

That is the problem the Bund faced, that Zionism historically had foresworn the fight against anti-Semitism. It could be argued that they didn't see how left-Zionists changed under the pressure events, just as they had in the USSR. That effectively the left-Zionist organisations abandoned Zionism in favour of standing and fighting.

You accuse others of lying but you are guilty of it yourself. You refuse to admit, despite the fact that you are more than aware of it, that Zionism began from an acceptance of anti-Semitism as normal. All flowed from that.

The Bund did not reject the notion of a unique Nazi policy towards the Jews on the grounds that "they murder poles as well". It was the Bund who helped break the news of the extermination camps at a time when the Zionist Organisation and the American Jewish Congress were doing their best to keep the lid on it. I assume you are more than aware of the 3 months delay - from August-November 1942 in the release of the Riegner telegram and this only after the State Dept. gave their permission!

It is just a caricature to say the Bund was an arm of or took orders from the PPS. Edelman operated as part of the Bund collective. He wasn't a Zionist!

I am happy to be corrected regarding any other publications by left-Zionists. The Bund however produced by far and away the most material and of course had the most wide ranging organisations. Even when the left-Zionists wanted to resist they didn't have the means because of their own political tradition. Far from taking orders from the PPS, the Bund obtained arms from them and the AK.

The minorities bloc and this whole formulation of structured minority rights suited Greenbaum and the General Zionists, but was disastrous for the Jews of Poland as it helped isolate them further.

We should not exaggerate the Jewish resistance in Vilna, Bialystok and other places. Their connections with non-Jewish groups were very tenuous and in many places non-existent. Probably the strongest links were with the Soviet Partisans around Minsk and similar places.

As regards Vilna, the resistance didn't resist and under Abba Kovner in effect handed over the Communist leader Yitzhak Wittenberg to the Gestapo.

Tony Greenstein said...

No I don't suggest that Jews should have starved themselves but that wasn't the purpose of the kibbutz. It was, as you well know, to prepare people for emigration. A complete illusion or as Anielwicz admitted, a waste of time. It also meant substituting for deported Polish labour. It's a dialectical thing that replacing those who have been shot or deported was unlikely to make non-Jewish Poles become enamoured with you.

YOu say Anielwicz and the other Zionist members of ZOB saw themselves as part of a Zionist alternative is an assertion. In fact they were very clear that the purpose of resisting was not in order to escape and make their way to Palestine, but to die on the spot resisting. All the Hollywood myths are just that, myths.

The position of Edelman had nothing to do with such alleged Zionist positions.

Yes the Bund resisted the idea of emigration from eastern-Europe. Yes they saw the struggle as being at home. But there was little possibility of emigration, certainly not to Palestine. It is a fact that the Zionist leadership, every time the question of rescue was raised in Britain and other countries, immediately launched a campaign that Palestine should be the destination. This was deliberate sabotage of the hopes of those who could be rescued.

It was fortunate that having done exactly this once, Rabbi Ehrenpreisz of Sweden, and his fellow Zionists, were not informed of the evacuation of the complete Danish Jewish community to Sweden.

That Ben Gurion, Greenbaum and the rest preferred that Jews not escape rather than they escape to countries other than Palestine is something you're going to have to come to terms with. The evidence is clear, not least from Zionist sources.

I'm sure you are familiar with Ben Gurions statement that:

'"If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel, then I opt for the second alternative."

This is not the only thing that he and others in the Zionist leadership said. And they meant it too.

Erez said...

You keep mixing up unrelated generalizations and anachronisms

Here is your share of political traditions:

"The Jews were anonymous and were murdered only because they were Jews. That was the big difference. But Orzech argued: “They're also
killing Poles." So when the Poles would decide to revolt against the oppressor, when the Polish proletariat would arise, then the jewish pro-
letariat would also rebel, shoulder to shoulder with them. Aside from that, he couldn't get rid of his opposition to the notion of “Jewish unity." We
didn't even ask him to dismantle the political framework; we asked only for a joint action. It didn't occur to me that someone should deny his ideals, his truth. Even his belief in Jewish life in Diaspora, even though we never believed there was a future for jews in Diaspora. And these were his central points: No jewish unity! No joint action! Every organization would set up its fighting units separately! You have to remember that this was after the German invasion of Russia and that there was a widely accepted conception, even among the Polish Socialist Party, at any rate
accepted by the WRN (the military arm of the rightist PPS underground), which maintained that there were two blocs, the Germans on one side and
the communists on the other; an enormous bloody struggle was raging; and one must strive to make the two sides bleed each other dry, while
Poland would be in the middle, unaffiliated with either side, and would appear on stage at the historical moment because she would have preserved her forces, and in these circumstances, she would determine her own borders"

A surplus of memory: chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising
Yitzhak Zuckerman. p. 173

You react as if I claim Edelman was Zionist. I say he was able to work against his political tradition to some extent in the circumstances.

what You call 'assertion' is compatible with Zionism as 'running away', where we see ourselves as responsible for the People. indeed, most leaders of Jewish Poland run away, including Zionist, but Zivia, Frumka, Mordechai, Antek, Tosia, Kaplan returned voluntarily to Nazi territory from east-Poland to take charge of the people - that is a Zionist alternative leadership, that led to the rebellion.

You completely fail to understand how Kibbutzim changed their meaning during the occupation - to fight, instead of training for Aliya, which is really uniquely weak, since no organized Aliya was possible at the time.

The anti-fascist bloc was broken up. The small skirmishes in 18-21 of January 1943, led by Zionists, made the JFO the leadership in the ghetto, and the Bund changed his position, against Orzech, and Edelman took the lead.

WTF Ben-Gurion has to do with that ?

a simple honest debating demands relating to the issue of it.

Erez said...

And as for your nonsence about a regret of Zionism, Anielwicz cannot revoke your lies, but Antek's confession can share some light on the issue.

"For me, everyday educational activity couldn't be an answer to what I knew by then. Later, when I balanced things, I realized there was no contradiction between them. Moreover, without the seminar and the educational work, no operations were possible. But in those days, it seemed like a contradiction, it seemed that to go on like that was self-delusion. We were going on, as it were, as if nothing had happened! The decision was that Dror would cease publication and Yediyes (News) would begin. With Yediyes in Yiddish, we would present what information we could about everything that happened. The Jews had to be told what we knew as candidlv as we could."

A surplus of memory: chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising
/ Yitzhak Zuckerman. p. 159

blaming the leaders of the resistance as "wasting time" is the rudest and meanest thing I read.

leave that behind.

Tony Greenstein said...

Briefly. I haven't said Anielwicz formally disowned Zionism but that in practice he had left it behind. It was irrelevant to the task at hand.

Yes the Bund were very apprehensive about working with the Zionists in a Jewish front because they had bad experiences of how Zionism had operated to legitimise anti-Semitism in the pre-war period.

Indeed the first task of ZOB was to eliminate Jewish collaborators and spies and most of them too, like Alfred Nossig of the 13 and the Jewish Police commanders were Zionists.

You are telling history from the vantage point of the Zionist survivors, not that of the Bund.

Yes there were differences within the Bund, which was particularly targeted by the Nazis and which suffered disproportionate losses before the Great Aktion.

In retrospect it may have been a mistake not to join the Anti-Fascist bloc and the Zionists sooner but the Bund had, as I said, experience of the Zionists, including left Zionists (and Nossig was Hashomer Hatzair affiated) and yes they were opposed to a Jewish nationalist formation, because of the history associated with it.

The responsibilty on the Bund was much greater as only they and the Communists to a lesser extent (and to an even lesser extent left-PZ) had access to any arms. Because of their work solely in the Jewish community and their writing off of non-Jews (since they didn't believe there was any future in the disapora) the Zionists had no means of obtaining arms.

Ironically the one Zionist grouping which did obtain arms in substantial quantities was Betar who obtained them from their Polish fascist friends and fought in Muranowska Square.

Yes the Zionist leaders, like Begin, did desert the masses in Poland for Palestine. The Bundist leaders however did not. And it was the Bundists who worked in the Polish Home Army, despite the anti-Semitism prevalent in that organisation, and the Polish government in exile.

Why do I bring BG in? Because he was the Chair of the Jewish Agency and because he and the rest of the Zionist leadership offered not a crumb of support to the fighters in Warsaw or the Jewish population in Poland and indeed played down the extent of the holocaust to the point of accepting Nazi denials. And before you scream blue murder, the matter is documented at length in S Beit Zvi's 'Ugandan Zionism...'

And the point you still don't understand is that until the very end the Zionist parties, because they had foresworn political work in the diaspora were unable to link up with the Poles when the time came.

Erez said...

You keep getting it wrong: about weapons, connections, many issues. There's no point in elaborating.
But, now It seems You are also able to be on the apologist side.

Anielwicz did not leave Zionism Behind for one second. Leading the JFO was the most Zionist thing to do - to lead the Jewish people in time of great peril. Zionism is about being responsible for the entire Jewish people. Zionism, in general, is a basis for many different views, not just those You say it is, but a much larger variety. From your point of view, When You don't like the family, so all the children have no private names.

I beleive You can seperate between the general concept, and the people who act it out, but advise You to practice that more often.

It is no secret Ben-Gurion failed to assist the Jews of Europe, and even more, the entire yishuv failed to contact them, while Jews from occupied Europe did manage to write and even escape and arrive to Palestine. The honorable efforts made were too weak, too late, and incompatible to the situation. This is a big issue and You are wrong about the reasons. uninteresting.

I have no Joy in displaying mistakes made by the Bund, and no problem admitting great mistakes done, then and now, by Zionist leaders, even crimes for that matter.

I'm very angry about your disrespectful altitude that when You agree with an act done by a (dead) rival, You rob his identity from him and say 'he abandoned Zionism'. This is just ugly.
I'll fight to make Zionism more like Anielwicz and Antek, and less like Ben-Gurion,
But had I been in the Bund, I would revoke membership from people like You.

Tony Greenstein said...

You misunderstand Erez. No doubt Anielwicz would have called himself a Zionist till the day he was murdered. That wasn't my point and you have comprehensively misunderstood it.

Zionism was never about resistance or being responsible for the whole people. You can't distinguish myth from reality. When kastner organised the 'train of the prominents' (his words not mine) that exchanged the Jewish and Zionist elite of 1684 people in exchange for 1/2 million that the Zionists helped pacify, with the approval of the Jewish Agency.

But when I say Anielwicz abandoned Zionism what I'm saying is not that he consciously made such a decision but that in practice he had by taking the decision, unlike that of Zionism, to stand and fight rather than to come to terms with the anti-Semites.

I suspect he did have his doubts but my point re BG is not that he was exceptional but Zionism was faced with a choice between building the state and saving the people and it c hose the latter. People like Ben Hecht and the dissident revisionists railed against this because they didn't appreciate the cruel and cold choice of the ZIonist movement.

It has nothing to do with insulting Anielwicz but Zionism's racism towards the Palestinians is mirrored by their attitude to Jews outside Israel.

Anonymous said...

To Erez,
Please answer this:
1- Before the European Jewish immigration and others to the State of Israel, that area had people living in it for more than thousand year, whatever you call them Palestinian, Arabs, endogenous. Do you consider them people or animals.? Note ( historical fact whether by war or not they were kicked out)
2- Do they have any right to live where their direct ancestors have lived for many many years.? Do they have the right to come back from the place of their origin.?
3- If your answer is no, just explain in principle what is the difference between what happened to them and the historical claim of the Exodus, it being the basic concept behind the State of Israel. So what is the difference between a population claiming the right to come back to their land after 2000-3000 years or even 60-100 years.
4- By the way, even before the3000 years there were different people, we should ask them first, don't you think so.

What is shameful, is the absolute blindness and deafness Zionists have when it comes to Palestinians. Remember one thing, injustice in history does not last, never.

Tony Greenstein said...

There is of course a difference between a population which is living in an area that is then expelled. They have actual, living roots in the territory.

The Zionist claim to Palestine was and is always a myth. Not only because the Palestinians have more claim to be the descendants of the Hebrews of Palestine 2000 years ago but because European Jewry never originated in Palestine. Not only Shlomo Sand but Ben Gurion accepted this. Not that it much matters. A claim based not on family lineage, connection, actual residence but myth is not a claim but a myth backed up by force.

Herzl was quite ambivalent about Palestine. He was quite happy with Argentina but came to realise it didn't have the same popular resonance. When you have disappeared for 2 millenium or more then you have no connection of a political/historical nature with a territory and nationhood is as much a political construct as anything.

This was the achilles heel of the 'socialist' Zionist school who denied god but then invoked the bible to justify their claims! It's unsurprising that the religious right ran rings around them.

Native Palestinian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
PeterS said...

Leave Norman Finkelstein behind?

I may not agree with Finkelstein's judgements sometimes, but his facts and research are virtually flawless.

Finkelstein is holding everyone equal under the same rights and obligations. And he made good points.

Since he has done so much, and lost so much, in a struggle against everyone, it's a tragedy that those you say they support Palestine (but don't ask the Palestinians what they want - you know, self-determination) are also name-calling Mr. Finkelstein.

PeterS said...

Leave Norman Finkelstein behind?

I may not agree with Finkelstein's judgements sometimes, but his facts and research are virtually flawless.

Finkelstein is holding everyone equal under the same rights and obligations. And he made good points.

Since he has done so much, and lost so much, in a struggle against everyone, it's a tragedy that those you say they support Palestine (but don't ask the Palestinians what they want - you know, self-determination) are also name-calling Mr. Finkelstein.

Tony Greenstein said...

I agree that Norman Finkelstein's research has been excellent and incisive (not sure virtually flawless).

But the fact that he has done so much and he is not the only one, doesn't mean that one can ignore his direct attacks on BDS as a 'cult'. It was Palestinians, not their supporters, who reached the obvious conclusion that BDS was the only thing that would shift opinion and eventually the Israeli state.

Most Palestinians want a single state but a majority would accept a genuine 2 state solution. Therein lies the problem. Despite NF's magnificent attempts to pretend the settlements are only a tiny proportion of the West Bank, the fact is that 2 States are dead.