Here we go again. Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement appears to have been caught in an egregious anti-Semitic faux pas. The responses fall into the usual three broad categories: principled repudiation from within the Palestine solidarity movement, cynical exploitation from those who wish to discredit that movement, and kneejerk rallying around the perpetrator by those who would seek to turn that movement into a vehicle for Jew-hatred.
Let's start with the first. We are glad to see Ali Abunimah demand a forthright accounting of the affair on Electronic Intifada. He writes:
On 30 September a tweet was made from the official Twitter account of the Free Gaza Movement (@freegazaorg) which stated "Zionists Ran the Holocaust and the Concentration Camps."
The tweet linked to a video of an anti-Jewish diatribe by notorious anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist Eustace Mullins.
I wrote here about the vile Eustace Mullins and his creepy neo-Nazi connections, but the Zionists-were-behind-Hilter line is a fairly ubiquitous canard among the Jew-hating set. Abunimah doesn't allow Berlin to try to weasel out of taking responsibility for her little barbarism. In response to her claim that she was citing Mullins as a bad example, he notes:
When the video was posted on 28 September it was neither preceded nor followed by any interactions that would fit the description that it "was shared with a group of people who were discussing propaganda and racism, and this link was an example of the terrible propaganda that could be spewed on websites." This context does not exist.
So Abunimah gets full creds for being a stand-up guy on this question (once again). His courage and honesty is vividly contrasted by the conniving cynicism of the perennially annoying Jeffrey Goldberg, who exploits the affair in a piece for the Gannett newspapers predictably entitled "Nazi propaganda permeates anti-Israel movement."
The maddening and actually quite crafty thing about his propaganda screed is how he mixes up legitimate points with cynical shots, confusing the gullible. (Ironically, this is a time-honored tactic of anti-Semites, as we have noted. And yes, "crafty" is a bit of an anti-Semitic buzz-word, but in this case there's no getting around its appropriateness.) He starts out with some background on the vile Mullins, including an account of his brief meeting with the schmuck. ("He actually accused me of being a part of the Rothschild 'gang.' From your mouth to God's ears, I said.")
Mullins, who died in 2010, was a protege of Ezra Pound, who helped him refine his hatred of Jews during their conversations together at St. Elizabeth's psychiatric hospital in Washington, where Pound found himself confined after his World War II exertions on behalf of Hitler. Mullins also did investigative work for Sen. Joseph McCarthy...
But the Jewish question was what animated Mullins most, and longest. He argued that the Jews were a parasite eating at civilization, that the existence of Jews was a crime against nature and that Jews drank the blood of "innocent gentile children" in their secret rituals. Mullins also spun elaborate theories about collusion between Zionists and Nazis. Hitler, he argued, "allied with the Zionist Party, and the mission of the Nazis was to force the anti-Zionist Jews to accept Zionism, and this is what the concentration camps were about." He argued that the "zi" in Nazi stood for Zionism.
Then, under the again predictable subhead "Delegitimizing Israel," he goes in for the kill...
The Free Gaza group, the leading edge of the international campaign to delegitimize Israel and bring about its end as the national home of the Jewish people, has always argued that it isn't anti-Semitic, and is merely trying to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip...
Free Gaza is a hypocritical organization, of course. Egypt shares a border with the Gaza Strip, and is tightening its own blockade, but Free Gaza activists seem uninterested. They are also uninterested in the sins of Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza. The Israeli blockade was a response, in large part, to the unfortunate (and ongoing) Hamas practice of firing rockets into Israeli villages. But put aside Hamas’s crimes against Israelis; the Free Gaza website also makes no mention of a recent report from Human Rights Watch that found that Gaza's Hamas-run criminal-justice system "reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights, and grants impunity to abusive security services."
Nevertheless, it was at least semiplausible to argue that the Free Gaza movement, while scapegoating the Jewish state, didn’t traffic in overt anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Until now, of course. OK, how many things are wrong with this little exercise? Egypt is serving as Israel's gendarme in tightening its control of the Gaza border—arguing that its actions somehow let Israel off the hook is a distraction of the lowest order. But that's just a prelude to the repugnant blame-the-victim BS about how Israel has no choice but to choke Gaza because of Hamas and its rockets. (The rocket attacks are generally in response to Israeli raids, justified by previous rocket attacks, ad nauseam...) The invocation of Human Rights Watch as propaganda ammo against Hamas will seem ironic to anyone who has read HRW's reports accusing Israel of illegal property destruction and illegal use of white phosphorous in Gaza, to cite but two examples—reports which have forced the organization to defend itself against cynical charges of bias against Israel! Even if we are to accept the perverse pseudo-logic that Israel's blockade of Gaza is legitimate, its draconian nature violates the legal responsibilities of an occupying power (which Israel remains despite the Gaza pull-out, by virtue of its control over the Strip's land and maritime borders). Writes the Israeli human rights group Gisha, which monitors freedom of movement in Gaza:
By virtue of Israel's substantial control of the Gaza Strip, international law requires Israel to facilitate normal life in the Strip, including by allowing access for civilians and civilian goods. Alongside this obligation, Israel has the authority to decide by which routes both people and goods enter and leave Gaza and to establish reasonable and proportionate security measures to prevent the transfer of weapons and other military activity.
Accordingly, Gisha's position is that Israel must lift the sweeping restrictions that remain and allow entrance of construction materials, sale of goods to the West Bank and Israel and travel of people between Gaza and the West Bank, subject to individual security inspections.
Now, let's return to Goldberg, who closes with a critical point:
I’ve always suspected that many of those on the far left who express solidarity with Palestinians are less interested in helping the Palestinians than in scapegoating their Jewish adversaries. Berlin might have inadvertently helped the world understand that the extreme left has something in common with the extreme right: an obsessive interest in demonizing the Jews.
What makes this point critical is that, for all his journalistic sins just a few sentences back, it is true. It is simply an inevitability—repeat: inevitability—that anti-Semites will be drawn to the Palestine solidarity movement, seeking an acceptable cover to peddle their ideology and ply the uninitiated. Failing to take responsibility for this by remaining vigilant and ruthlessly honest about the phenomenon only plays right into the hands of those who would use the charge of anti-Semitism to delegitimize the Palestinian freedom struggle and those who support it.
Which brings us to the last category, which we will mercifully spend little time on. Professional Jew-hater Gilad Atzmon rallies uncritically around Berlin in a commentary on Salem News (an Oregon news portal which disturbingly seems to give him free rein). There isn't much substance to his "arguments"; they mostly consist of Jew-baiting and mudslinging, such as referring to "Kosher Commissar Ali Abuminah," who "allies himself with the darkest Zionist and Israeli Hasbara forces around." Right, anyone who opposes Holocaust revisionism can only be a dupe of the Jewish Conspiracy.
Abuminah certainly speaks with far greater authority in the Palestine movement than Atzmon, but the movement's fellow travellers continue to cut far too much slack for the latter—or for his bird-of-a-feather Israel Shamir. To the detriment of the cause of Palestinian freedom.
Which is why ritual squawking that "anti-Zionism isn't anti-Semitism" isn't enough. As we have stated before: The cynical "weaponizing" of the accusation of anti-Semitism does not lessen our responsibility to be clear in calling out real anti-Semitism. On the contrary, it increases it.