Sunday, January 13, 2008

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 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.

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At 1:00 AM, Anonymous TonyGreenstein said...

Yes Charlie gives a potted history of our political background and relationship. I might add that together with Andrew Hornung, who seems to have disappeared, we formed the Labour Committee on Palestine. After the split we formed the Labour Movement Committee on Palestine.

But much water has flowed under the bridge and neither organisation exists today. The original LCP actually managed to get a motion passed by the 1982 Labour Party Conference supporting a democratic, secular state in Palestine.

I had my differences with the Jewish Socialists Group, of which Charlie has been a stalwart. In particular I disagreed with Steve Cohen and his argument about 'left' anti-Semitism. I didn't accept there was such a creature (& still don't!). I only met Steve, with whom I'd had many battles and disagreements (he criticised Lenni Brenner and myself in his book 'so you don't think you are an anti-Semite') but of course did it comradely. I still disagree with Steve on many things but I recognise that he is a dedicated anti-racist and met him about five years ago at the Barbed Wire Europe conference which was set up to build an organisation to take on the increasingly hostile atmosphere to asylum seekers.

And as Charlie says, I was always opposed to a 2 State position and with the greatest respect I think that I have been vindicated. Roland Rance and myself, amongst others, resigned from Palestine Solidarity Campaign (of which Roland and I were also founder members and which is now in its 25th year) when it decided to support the Oslo Accords.

But on one thing Roland, Charlie, Dave Rosenberg, Steve and myself have always been clear. You can't build support for the Palestinians on the basis of tolerating racism. Those who use the ideas and symbols of anti-semitism, of which Gilad Atzmon Israel Shamir and Mary Rizzo are the main proponents, don't harm Jews particularly. What they do is damage the cause of Palestine that they profess to support.

It is no wonder that Bricup, the main group organising for a boycott of Israeli universities, decided to have nothing to do with Paul Eisen's Deir Yassin Remembered or those around them. If you support anti-Semitism you will not get a hearing in the trade union movement. When I spoke at UNISON's AGM in support of a Boycott motion, UNISON being one of only 2 unions at present to support such a position, the main attack from the Zionists was that we were anti-Semitic. Nothing would have suited the Zionists more than to equate us with Atzmon, Rizzo et al.

Yes it was particularly pleasing to get David Aaronovitch to apologise for labelling me as an anti-Semite. The person who posted this, Mike Ezra, is a regular poster to Rizzo's site & Harry's Place and is also on drinking terms with Atzmon (google HP if you don't believe me).

The Police in Brighton have now apologised too for associating a march against the bombing of Lebanon with hostility to the Jewish community. Again this would not have been possible if we took up the logic (indeed the arguments) of Atzmon and attacked synagogues. In the Observer of 15th April 2005 Atzmon is reported as saying that 'I'm not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act.',6903,1461699,00.html

This, unfortunately, is someone that the SWP still believes is fit to invite to front its events.

The Cork PSC dispute is minor beer but is instructive. They maintain a database of many articles by anti-Zionists and Zionists. That is a worthy enterprise. I have a page devoted to some of the things I have written. Of course that gives me no control, just as I can do nothing when far-right sites purloin what I right for their own nefarious purposes.

However their London 'editor' (vandal would be a better description)Paul Rooij has added his own comments to the page, which are a tissue of lies. It suggests that I am closer to the anti-boycott Engage group. Strange indeed that the man I'm supposed to apologise for calling an anti-Semite, Gilad Atzmon, has an interview on Rizzo's site in which he labels an academic boycott 'book burning'.

So what I'm asked to do is to apologise to someone who certainly is close to Engage! Oh and I am supposed to have called him a Nazi. Now I'm particular in how I use this term and he isn't a Nazi. Rooij's explanation is that my 'sidekick' one Sue Blackwell, one of the key leaders of the Academic Boycott, had Atzmon originally on a page entitled 'Nazi Alert'. That was her decision. Nothing to do with me. But guilt by association is good enough for Rooij and his boss James Bowen.

What this shows is that as the Palestinian situation becomes ever more desparate and people feel demoralised, there are some who as much out of despair as anything turn to easy explanations. And 'the Jews' are that explanation.

And when they blame 'the Jews' they let George Bush, Blair/Brown and those who, regardless of religion, exercise control in this world, completely off the hook. And that, of course, is their real intention.

Tony Greenstein

At 2:02 AM, Blogger Madam Miaow said...

That last para is truly chilling, Charlie.

I've learnt much from Tony's posts over the years and I admire his spine. Good to see him vindicated like this.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

To correct Tony on a misconception, the Jewish Socialists' Group was not responsible for Steve Cohen's "That's Funny, You Don't Look Antisemitic", which was published outside after considerable discussion in the Group.
We did not agree with Steve's historical analysis or approach nor regard the publication as helpful, particularly as it would have been the JSG's first published work at a time when we did not even have our magazine, and would have given a false impression both of our views and our priorities.
Since then Steve Cohen has rejoined the JSG, and is a well-respected member, particularly for his work on racism and immigration issuues, which he has continued despite serious illness. But Steve's work on "Left antisemitism" was reproduced by Engage, and in my view it was a mistake on his part to let them do this, though I know he wrote a new introduction.
I agree with Tony that there is no such thing as "Left-wing antisemitism" , (Atzmon is certainly no man of the Left, and Shamir is obviously with the far Right). But that does not mean the Left and movements it supports are immune from what is a right-wing excrescence, any more than socialists were free of other forms of race prejudice and backwardness.
(take the attitude to women, and treatment). Rather than let these issues be used by our own reactionaries to attack socialism and ourselvest(particularly as they
can confuse people over Jews, a people formed historically, Israel, a state, and Zionism, an ideology and nowadays organised arm of that
state) we must expose the reactionary character of antisemitism as other prejudices,even when it shows up in disguise. But above all, this is a matter of dispelling the fog of ignorance and fighting for an internationalist perspective. The answer to the "socialism of fools" is the real thing, intelligent socialism.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both camps are a joke! Tony & Rizzo.


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