Two little victories, and one backstabbing
I'VE known Tony Greenstein for more than 25 years. Back in 1981 when it was rare to come across a Jewish name on a letter criticising Israel and Zionism, I noticed his, and we corresponded for a time. I found we disagreed on the PLO and Yasser Arafat's willingness to accept a state alongside Israel, which I supported as a step that could lead to a peaceful solution, whereas Tony suspected it would prove the formula for a sell-out. In 1982, we both campaigned against Israel's invasion of Lebanon, but soon parted when Tony took part in a walk-out from the Labour Committee on Palestine which he had helped found, while I was elected to its committee.
The breakaway with which Tony was linked was inclined to support a rejectionist Salvation Front that challenged Arafat's leadership, and was outspokenly anti-Zionist. That the two committees were also tied to different factions in the British Left only intensified the bitterness and suspicions accompanying our differences. We can still argue. I am a member of the Jewish Socialists' Group, Tony founded the more specifically oriented Jews Against Zionism.
Our approaches differ. But back in the 1980s both Tony and me took blows from Zionist thugs, not content with libelling us in their hate lists, and over the years whatever our differences, we have remained essentially on the same side, against Zionist oppression, for Palestinian rights, and against antisemitism and all forms of racism. We were both in the Socialist Alliance, too, and opposed to its liquidation by the SWP and allies for their ill-fated venture into Respect.
So I was naturally pleased to see a couple of victories scored by Tony Greenstein and his comrades in Brighton towards the end of last year, and count them for our side. First, came in the form of an apology from ex-Communist Party moderniser turned Murdoch 'Times' columnist David Aaronovitch, for retailing, along with some psychobabble about Jewish anti-Zionists not liking their parents, a claim by one "Mikey", said to be a Michael Ezra, that Tony Greenstein had been bullying Jewish students for thirty years. Anybody who knows Tony Greenstein, brave perhaps but not exactly a towering "shtarke", and knows Jewish students, might have found the accusation ludicrous. But Tony was not amused, and sought redress.
Since Aaronovitch moderates comment on his own blog, he had to take responsibility for what was on it. And in November he issued this apology:
At the beginning of July, an item was posted on my weblog which stated that Tony Greenstein had been "intimidating" or "harassing Jews’ at NUS conferences for 30 years. Tony Greenstein believed that this accused him of committing an offence of incitement to racial hatred under s.3A of the Race Relations Act 1976 and that it also implied that he is anti-Semitic.
While Tony Greenstein and I have had our differences, notably at NUS conferences, neither I nor The Times meant to suggest that he has been breaking the law for thirty years or that he is anti-Semitic. Our apologies for any embarrassment caused.
By way of recompense, Tony requested that Times newspapers paid an appropriate sum to the Friends of Bir Zeit University. Quite a satisfactory outcome then.
Secondly, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has upheld two complaints against Chief Superintendent Kevin Moore, Divisional Commander of Brighton Police, over the handling of a demonstration about the Lebanon war in Brighton in August 2006. The IPCC rebuked Moore for trying to justify the heavy police presence (outnumbering demonstrators) and behaviour by branding the peace and solidarity campaigners as "antisemitic' and accusing them of trying to "provoke" incidents.
Pointing out that many Jewish people like himself took part in the march, Tony has called for a formal apology from the Sussex police. He is also bringing a separate legal action against the police for assault and battery.
One doesn't have to be Tony Greenstein's greatest fan - and I'm certainly not - to be pleased about these victories. They are gains for all of us who are fighting for justice and peace for the Palestinian people, against Zionist propaganda, and against media lies and police repression.
But Tony has made other enemies besides the obvious ones. He has dared to expose the real antisemitism being purveyed behind the pretensions of Gilad Atzmon, his master Israel Shamir(who doubles as a Swedish antisemite), and ally Paul Eisen (who turned aside from his supposed aim of promoting the memory of Deir Yassin, to champion the Nazi holocaust denier Ernst Zundel). Whatever really motivates these characters, Tony believes quite reasonably that they are a godsend to the Zionists, and that the Palestinian solidarity movement is well-advised to steer clear of them.
This has brought attacks on him and left-wing Jews generally from Atzmon. (I don't question the Israeli's talents as a musician but I have my doubts as to whether he writes all his own material), But perhaps more worryingly this is being followed up by, among others, a Mr.Paul de Rooij, on the website of Cork PSC, of all places, though Mr.de Rooij apparently lives in London. In reply to a complaint by Tony he has written that he has "difficulty distinguishing your actions from those of Engage. Furthermore, lately I only hear about you when you are railing about 'anti-Semitism', but seldom hear anything dealing with Palestinian solidarity. ", going on to explain that Zionists have exploited antisemitism and the Holocaust, and suggest that Tony "turn your attention to those who have wrapped themselves in the flag of the holocaust...", claiming he can find no such articles.
I know that Tony Greenstein has not only been active on Palestine for many years, but has written extensively on Zionist collaboration, as well as abuse, of the Holocaust, and long before messrs. Atzmon and Eisen appeared on the scene. If Paul de Rooij is genuinely unaware of this then rather than proclaim his own ignorance as the last word he needs to get out a bit more, do some proper research, and learn from those who know what they are talking about. Instead he tells Tony "I think you and your friends owe GiladA, PaulE, MaryR an apology".
That last is Mary Rizzi, whose website "Peace Palestine" features pictures of Tony Greenstein and three other individuals, with quite different politics, and in case its readers wonders what they have in common, has the simple label "JEW" on each of them. Now that's what I prefer, someone who does not beat about the bush with pretentious pseudo-intellectual arguments, but gets right down to business. That way we know where we are.