13 April 2009

When is Comment NOT Free? When Zionists are Offended!

The Guardian’s Comment is Free was one of the first newspaper Internet blogs. When it was set up a few years ago, it deliberately courted controversy under editor Georgina Henry. For example it became the site of the launch of Independent Jewish Voices in the UK.

The Zionists were outraged and soon pressure was applied, Georgina was replaced and establishment toady Matthew Seaton appointed in her place with a remit to clamp down on anything 'offensive' [to Zionists that is]. So Seaton has promoted the views of contributors like the ‘soft’ British settler Seth Freedman, who Seaton thought was a peacenik until Freedman came out in full throated support for the Gaza blitzkrieg. Comparisons between Zionism and the Nazis, which are the commonplace of Israeli discourse and actions [see the settler graffitti such as ‘Arabs to the Gas Chambers'] are off-limits lest they cause said Zionists 'offence'.

Because just as Israel's first, genuine, bona fide fascist has become Foreign Minister, so even greater efforts are needed by establishment scribes like Seaton to protect readers from the truth. So when I posted a comment to a thoughtful article by Antony Lerman, a Jewish establishment critic on CIF bemoaning how a widely syndicated cartoon by Pat Oliphant had been attacked as, well, anti-Semitic of course, my comment was 'moderated' i.e. censored by the obsequious Seaton.

Comment is Free? NOT.

Tony Greenstein

Letter to Editor of Guardian Comment is (Un)Free

Dear Mr Seaton,

I refer to the article published by Antony Lerman in the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog last Thursday 2nd April.

The article argued that the cartoon by Pat Oliphant, showing a ‘headless Nazi-like, goose-stepping, jackbooted figure, with one arm raised and outstretched, holding a sword, and the other wheeling a head in the form of a Star of David’ may have been offensive but it was not anti-Semitic.

Lerman argued that ‘political cartoons are often very offensive, and offensive – even when it involves comparing Israelis with Nazi’ but that ‘does not automatically mean antisemitic.’
It is an argument which is, I would have thought self-evident. Especially when, as Lerman goes on to point out:

‘The effect of the complaints of antisemitism made by the American Jewish organisations is to attempt to protect Israel from legitimate, if deeply unpleasant, criticism…. All it seems to be doing is devaluing the currency. If the ADL and the Wiesenthal Centre don't like or agree with the comparison, why can't they just argue that it's wrong?.. This only makes it increasingly difficult to raise concern about genuine instances of antisemitism and to develop effective means to prevent them.’

This was a well argued article about the pernicious effects of labelling critics of Israel and Zionism as anti-Semitic. I therefore wrote in to support the main thrust of the article and to point out the hypocrisy of those who label others as anti-Semitic when they don’t hesitate themselves to make comparisons between their opponents and the Nazis. In particular I highlighted:

The fact that Israeli soldiers returning home from Gaza had tee-shirts printed legitimising the killing of children and in particular one which showed a pregnant woman in the cross-hairs of a rifle with the slogan ‘one bullet, two kills’. The Nazi mentality behind such thinking should be obvious to all.

The comparisons that have regularly been made between Palestinians and Arabs and the Nazis by Zionists and gave Begin’s comparison of Arafat in Beirut with Hitler in his bunker as but one example.
I recalled the fact that even internal critics of Israel, Zionists themselves, had drawn comparisons to earlier massacres such as that at Kfar Quassem, and the Nazis. I cited Aharon Zisling, later to become a Mapam Minister in the Israeli government who said of the above massacre that ‘Nazi acts have been committed by Jews as well, and I am deeply shocked.’
I noted that on no occasion have those, like Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League ever criticised Zionist comparisons between Palestinians and the Nazis as anti-Semitic.
I drew attention to the trip that Baron von Mildenstein, Head of the Gestapo’s Jewish desk, made a journey in 1933 to Jewish Palestine for 6 months at the invitation of the Labour Zionist movement. Now I wouldn’t expect you to know this, clearly you don’t, but it is documented in Jacob Boas’ ‘A Nazi Travels to Palestine’ which was printed in the January 1980 edition of History Today, a journal which isn’t usually considered on the wilder fringes of the political spectrum.

And finally I drew attention to the fact that those who deprecate comparisons between Zionism and the Nazis have no hesitation in making just such comparisons themselves eg. between BDS campaigns against Israel today and the Nazi ‘Boycott’ of Germany in the 1930’s. Indeed the very same people who objected to Oliphant’s cartoon make this comparison.

I cited as a source for the Zisling and other quotes, the book, 7th Million, by ex-Haaretz journalist, Tom Segev, about the survivors of the Holocaust who emigrated to Palestine/Israel after 1945.

I posted this comment at 1.09 pm last Saturday 4th April and, because of previous experiences of censorship at the Guardian’s Comment is Free site, took the precaution of saving it. Sure enough, when the same petty-minded censors of CIF ( ‘moderators’) got round to dealing with the inevitable Zionist complaint, my comment was removed.

Now I understand that moderators can fulfil a useful function of removing libellous, defamatory and generally ad hominem comments, whose only purpose is to disrupt debate. But my comment was a contribution to, not an attempt to disrupt, a debate. Clearly this is a difference you are having trouble with. Nor was it in any sense anti-Semitic, though its logic was certainly bound to offend our narrow minded opponents and your tiny-minded moderators.

There was a time when CIF, under Georgina Henry, had no hesitation in encouraging debate such as this. It would seem that you on the other hand were brought in as Editor of CIF precisely in order to clamp down on controversial debate, CIF having been subject to a concerted campaign by the Zionist Federation and their allies who were and are afraid of any debate they cannot control.

I look forward to an apology for the deletion of this comment and failing that I would hope that you are honest enough to rename CIF to something more appropriate such as ‘Comment is Free Except When We Censor It’ or ‘Comment is Free (in moderation)’. At the moment CIF is a tribute to Orwell’s Newspeak where censorship is called free debate.


Tony Greenstein

The Offending Comment that Matthew Seaton and his 'Moderators' Deleted
The concern of Mr Foxman and all the other slavish apologists for Israel's actions about a cartoon, stand in marked contrast to their silence, indeed their exculpation of the murder of over 400 Palestinian children in Gaza.

Just imagine - 400 Jewish children slaughtered by an intensive air, land and sea bombardment in an attack against their ghetto (which is what Gaza is)? The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Oh we know the excuse. Hamas are hiding behind civilians - just like Haganah, the Zionist pre-state militia. Presumably the British would have been right to shell kibbutzim, synagogues (where weapons were definitely stored).

But at least the soldiers who committed the atrocities in Gaza were honest. The children will only grow up to be 'terrorists' hence why killing them too is legitimate. The tee shirts Israeli soldiers had made up to 'celebrate' their deeds - such as the picture of a pregnant Palestinian woman in the cross-hairs of a gun sight - 'one bullet 2 kills' is indeed an example of the Nazi mentality. As are slogans such as 'we have come to annihilate you'.

But of course this misses the point. For years Zionists and apologists for everything the Israeli state does to the Palestinians have done so in the name of fighting the Nazis. The settlers invoke the Nazis and ‘never again’ to justify their deeds, the attack on Beirut was likened by Begin to an attack on Hitler’s bunker.

And likewise the Israeli opponents of their State’s barbarism also resort, quite correctly, to analogies with the Nazis. ‘We must demand of the entire nation a sense of shame and humiliation. That soon we will be like Nazis and the perpetrators of pogroms," wrote Rabbi Benyamin’. This was written after the cold-blooded murder of 46 Palestinians at the Kfar Quassem village just prior to the Suez War. Likewise, after some of the events of the 1947-9 war Aharon Zisling, later to become Minister of Agriculture for the Zionist Mapam said at a cabinet meeting that ‘I have not always agreed when the term Nazi was applied to the British. I would not want to use that expression with regard to them, even though they committed Nazi acts. But Nazi acts have been committed by Jews as well, and I am deeply shocked.’ [Tom Segev, the 7th Million, pp. 300-1]

And yet I cannot recall Foxman or the Hoffmans of this world criticising the use of Nazi analogies to demonise the Palestinians because that is their view too. It is only when the victims use such analogies that they are verboten. Strange that.

But maybe the apologists for Israel’s latest slaughter in Gaza have forgotten that it was in 1933, when the Head of the Gestapo’s Jewish Department, Baron von Mildenstein visited the Yishuv, Jewish Palestine, for 6 months, that he not only wrote a series of laudatory articles in Der Angriff when he returned to Germany, having been the guest of Histadrut and the Kibbutzim, but he even had a coin minted – with the Swastika on one side and the Star of David on another. But this was when the World Zionist Organisation had decided that parleying with the Nazis was better than the anti-fascist boycott of them!

But I forget - boycotts too have been compared these days to Nazi ‘boycotts’. And who has made the comparison? Ah yes, the same people who object to such comparisons when the Palestinians make them!!!

Tony Greenstein
04 Apr 09, 1:09pm


  1. And then of course there's that niggling little fact that Matan Vilnai called for a Shoah to be visited upon the Palestinians. So Israeli Jews can straight-facedly call for an equivalent of their most grievous historical trauma to fall upon the Palestinian community.
    But a cartoon? Out of line!

  2. Great article Tony.


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