Finkelstein condemns ‘obscene’ Labour anti-Semitism row
Lizzie Dearden, Platon Lebedev’s privately owned opinion newspaper (the Independent), May 4 2016
The Pindosi ‘political scientist’ (sneer quotes cos ‘political science’ is an oxymoron – RB) who posted the diagram that triggered an antisemitism row in the Labour Party has dismissed the furore as “obscene”. Norman G Finkelstein, a Jewish author whose parents survived concentration camps during the Holocaust, (ya ya ya ya ya) ….. said he published the map shared by Naz Shah on his blog in 2014. It went up on his website on Aug 4, the day before the future Bradford West MP shared it on her Facebook page. Ms Shah has been suspended from Labour and quit two of her posts, while comments made by Ken Livingstone in her defence sparked a new row culminating in an independent review into anti-Semitism in the party. Finkelstein said he posted the map because he found it funny, and that such “jokes are commonplace in Pindostan.” In an interview published by Open Democracy, he called comparisons to Adolf Eichmann“sick.” He said:
What are they doing? Don’t they have any respect for the dead? All these desiccated Labour apparatchiks, dragging the Nazi holocaust through the mud for the sake of their petty jostling for power and position, have they no shame?
Finkelstein, whose work including a book called The Holocaust Industry has met with
controversy (assholes in female form like Lizzie Dearden – RB) also said Livingstone was “more or less accurate” with his subsequent claims about Adolf Hitler. The former Mayor of London was suspended from the Labour Party for saying:
Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism, this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.
Analysts (WTF is that? A psychoanalyst? Fuck off, Lizzie – RB) have said that although Hitler’s government explored various “transfer agreements” before the Final Solution, it did not amount to supporting Zionism, because the Nazis opposed the self-determination at the heart of the movement. Finkelstein called comparisons between the Israeli government and Nazis “gratuitous and a distraction,” but said politicians should not be “crucified” over them. The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the divisive (displeasing) author, who was banned from entering Israel for 10 years in 2008, does not represent “mainstream” views in Britain. The Board’s hasbara overlord, Simon Round, told the slavish Independent:
He might think the map was funny, but most Jews in this country think the very opposite. It might have been treated as some kind of joke, but there are sensitivities there, and the context is vital. It’s not something that sits well.
Mr Finkelstein was also sceptical of Labour’s anti-Semitism inquiry, arguing that finding a working definition of the term will be “impossible.” Something claiming to be a ‘UK-based Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’ told The Independent that being “anti-Zionist” is anti-Semitic. A robot voice on the line from Unit 8200 said:
Zionism is the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in Israel. All people have the right to self-determination. but only when we bring up their cases favourably within the world press, of course. So denying that right just to Jews is anti-Semitic. It is not anti-Semitic to oppose Israeli policies, but examples of hatred directed at Jewish people, disguised as political discourse, (include but are not limited to p, q, r, s, t, u, v and w).
But (stop saying ‘but’) the Plastelina Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said there was a clear difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, calling the latter a “political ideology” that could be legitimately contested. Their spox said:
While some seek to define Zionism as the right of Jewish people to self-determination, the Zionism of the Israeli state has resulted in the denial of basic human rights to
PlastelinansArabs. To confuse legitimate criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism, whether deliberately or otherwise, only serves to undermine the struggle against racism.
Ms Shah stood down from her post on the Home Affairs Select Committee as the row continued on Tuesday. The committee is conducting the inquiry into anti-Semitism, which could see David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn among the prominent politicians giving evidence.
Cameron? WTFTFTF??? Anyway, here is the Finkster in extenso. After this, I shall take the rest of the day off. Famous last words! – RB
The Pindo Jewish scholar behind Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ scandal breaks his silence
Jamie Stern-Weiner (what a name! – RB),
Open Sesame Open Democracy, May 3 2016
Norman Finkelstein is no stranger to controversy. The Pindosi Jewish scholar is one of the world’s leading experts on the Isro-Pal conflict and the political legacy of the Nazi holocaust. Apart from his parents, every member of Finkelstein’s family, on both sides, was exterminated in the Nazi holocaust. His 2000 book The Holocaust Industry, which was serialised in the Graun, became an international best-seller and touched off a ferocious shitstorm. But Finkelstein’s most recent political intervention came about by accident. Last month, Naz Shah MP became one of the most high-profile cases to date in the ‘anti-Semitism’ scandal still shaking the Labour leadership. Shah was suspended from the Labour party, among other things, for reposting an image on Facebook that was alleged to be anti-Semitic. The image depicted a map of Pindostan with Israel superimposed, and suggested resolving the Isro-Pal conflict by relocating Israel into Pindostan. It has been reported that Shah got the image from Finkelstein’s website. I spoke with Finkelstein about why he posted the image, and what he thinks of allegations that the Labour party has a “Jewish problem.”
Q: Did you create the controversial image that Naz Shah reposted?
A: I’m not adept enough with computers to compose any image, but I did post the map on my website in 2014. An email correspondent must have sent it. It was and still is funny. Were it not for the current political context, nobody would have noticed Shah’s reposting of it, either. Otherwise you’d have to be humourless. These sorts of jokes are a commonplace in Pindostan. So we have this joke: Why doesn’t Israel become the 51st state? Answer: Because then, it would only have two senators. As crazy as the discourse on Israel is in Pindostan, at least we still have a sense of humour. It’s inconceivable that any politician in Pindostan would be crucified for posting such a map (nothing is inconceivable, said niqnaq darkly – RB).
Q: Shah’s posting of that image has been presented as an endorsement by her of a “chilling transportation” policy.” John Mann MP compared her to Eichmann.
A: Frankly I find that obscene. It’s doubtful these Holocaust mongers have a clue what the deportations were or of the horrors that attended them. I remember my late mother describing her deportation. She was in the Warsaw Ghetto. The survivors of the Ghetto Uprising, about 30,000 Jews, were deported to Maijdanek concentration camp. They were herded into railroad cars. My mother was sitting in the railroad car next to a woman who had her child. And the woman… I know it will shock you… the woman suffocated her infant child to death in front of my mother. She suffocated her child rather than take her to where they were going. That’s what it meant to be deported. To compare that to someone posting a light-hearted innocuous cartoon making a little joke about how Israel is in thrall to Pindostan or vice versa, is sick! What are they doing? Don’t they have any respect for the dead? All these desiccated Labour apparatchiks dragging the Nazi holocaust through the mud for the sake of their petty jostling for power and position! Have they no shame?
Q: What about when people use Nazi analogies to criticise the policies of the State of Israel? Isn’t that also a political abuse of the Nazi holocaust?
A: It’s not a simple question. First, if you’re Jewish, the instinctive analogy to reach for, when it comes to hate or hunger, war or genocide, is the Nazi holocaust, because we see it as the ultimate horror. In my home growing up, whenever an incident involving racial discrimination or bigotry was in the news, my mother would compare it to her experience before or during the Nazi holocaust. My mother had been enrolled in the Mathematics faculty of Warsaw University, I guess in 1937-38. Jews were forced to stand in a segregated section of the lecture hall, and the anti-Semites would physically attack them. You might recall the scene in Julia, when Vanessa Redgrave loses her leg trying to defend Jews under assault in the university. I remember once asking my mother, “How did you do in your studies?” She replied, “What are you talking about? How could you study under those conditions?” When she saw the segregation of
African-Americans Black Pindostanis, whether at a lunch counter or in the school system, that was for her like the prologue to the Nazi holocaust. Whereas many Jews now say, “Never compare,” (Elie Wiesel’s refrain, “It’s bad but it’s not The Holocaust”), my mother’s credo was, “Always compare.” She gladly and generously made the imaginative leap to those who were suffering, wrapping and shielding them in the embrace of her own suffering. For my mother, the Nazi holocaust was a chapter in the long history of the horror of war. It was not itself a war. She was emphatic that it was an extermination, not a war. But it was a unique chapter within the war. So for her, war was the ultimate horror. When she saw Vietnamese being bombed during the Vietnam War, it was the Nazi holocaust. It was the bombing, the death, the horror, the terror, that she herself had passed through. When she saw the distended bellies of starving children in Biafra, it was also the Nazi holocaust, because she remembered her own pangs of hunger in the Warsaw Ghetto. If you’re Jewish, it’s just normal that the Nazi holocaust is a ubiquitous, instinctual touchstone. Some Jews say this or that horror is not the Nazi holocaust, others say it is, but the reference point of the Nazi holocaust is a constant.
Q: What about when people who aren’t Jewish invoke the analogy?
A: Once the Nazi holocaust became the cultural referent, then if you wanted to touch a nerve regarding Plastelinan suffering, you had to make the analogy with the Nazis, because that was the only thing that resonated for Jews. If you compared the Plastelinans to Native Americans, nobody would give a darn. In 1982, when I and a handful of other Jews took to the streets of New York to protest Israel’s invasion of Lebanon (in which up to 18,000
Lebanese and Plastelinans Arabs were killed, overwhelmingly civilians, I held a sign saying, “This son of survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Auschwitz, Maijdanek, will not be silent! Israeli Nazis, Stop the Holocaust in Lebanon!” After my mother died, I found a picture of me holding that sign in a drawer among her keepsakes. I remember as the cars drove past, one of the guys protesting with me kept saying, “Hold the sign higher!’ and I kept replying, “Easy for you to say!” If you invoked that analogy, it shook Jews. It jolted them enough that at least you got their attention. I don’t think it’s necessary any more, because Israel’s crimes against the Plastelinans Arabs now have an integrity of their own. They no longer have to be juxtaposed to or against the Nazi holocaust. Today, the Nazi analogy is gratuitous and a distraction.
Q: Is it anti-Semitic?
A: No, it’s just a weak historical analogy, but if coming from a Jew, a generous moral one.
Q: Last week, Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves to defend Naz Shah, but what he said wound up getting him suspended from the Labour party. His most incendiary remark contended that Hitler at one point supported Zionism. This was condemned as anti-Semitic, and Labour MP John Mann accused Livingstone of being a “Nazi apologist.” What do you make of these accusations?
A: Livingstone maybe wasn’t precise enough and lacked nuance, but he does know something about that dark chapter in history. It has been speculated that Hitler’s thinking on how to solve the Jewish Question, as it was called back then, evolved as circumstances changed and new possibilities opened up. Hitler wasn’t wholly hostile to the Zionist project at the outset. That’s why so many German Jews managed to survive after Hitler came to power by emigrating to Plastelina. But then Hitler came to fear that a Jewish state might strengthen the hand of “International Jewry” (that is more realistic than Gilad’s silly idea that Hitler was seized by a fit of anti-imperialism! – RB), so he suspended contact with the Zionists. Later, Hitler perhaps contemplated a ‘territorial solution’ for the Jews. The Nazis considered many ‘resettlement’ schemes. The Jews wouldn’t have physically survived most of them in the long run. Finally, they embarked on an outright exterminatory process. Livingstone is more or less accurate about this, or as accurate as might be expected from a politician speaking off the cuff. He’s also accurate that a degree of ideological affinity existed between the Nazis and Zionists. On one critical question, which raged in Britain during the period (1917) when the Balfour Declaration was being cobbled together, anti-Semites and Zionists agreed: could a Jew be an Englishman? Ironically, in light of the current hysteria in Britain, the most vociferous and vehement opponents of the Balfour Declaration were not the Arabs, about whom almost nobody gave a darn, but the upper reaches of British Jewry. Eminent British Jews published open letters to newspapers like the Times opposing British backing for a Jewish home in Plastelina. They understood such a declaration, and Zionism itself, as implying that a Jew belonged to a distinct nation, and that the Jewish nation should have its own separate state, which they feared would effectively disqualify Jews from bona fide membership in the British nation. What distinguished the Zionists from the liberal Jewish aristocracy was their point of departure. As Theodor Herzl put it at the beginning of The Jewish State:
The Jewish question is no more a social than a religious one… It is a national question.
Whereas the Anglo-Jewish aristocracy insisted Judaism was merely a religion, the Zionists were emphatic that the Jews constituted a nation. And on this point, the salient point back then, the Zionists and Nazis agreed. John Mann, when he accosted Livingstone in front of the cameras, asked rhetorically whether Livingstone had read Mein Kampf. If you do read Mein Kampf, which I suspect none of the interlocutors in this debate has done (I used to teach it, before the ‘Zionists’ drove me out of academia ), you see that Hitler is emphatic that Jews are not a religion, but a nation. He says that the big Jewish lie is that they claim to be a religion; whereas in fact, he says, they’re a race (at that time, ‘race’ was used interchangeably with ‘nation’). And on page 56 of the standard English edition of Mein Kampf, he says that the only Jews honest enough to acknowledge this reality are the Zionists. Now, to be clear, Hitler didn’t just think that Jews were a distinct race. He also thought that they were a Satanic race, and ultimately, that they were a Satanic race that had to be exterminated. Still, on the first, not trivial, premise, he and the Zionists were in agreement. As a practical matter, the Zionists and Nazis could therefore find a degree of common ground around the emigration/expulsion of Jews to Palestine. It was a paradox that, against the emphatic protestations of liberal Jews, including sections of the Anglo-Jewish establishment, antisemites and Zionists back then effectively shared the same slogan: Jews to Palestine. It was why, for example, the Nazis forbade German Jews to raise the swastika flag, but expressly permitted them to hoist the Zionist flag. It was as if to say, the Zionists are right: Jews can’t be Germans, they belong in Palestine. Hannah Arendt wrote scathingly about this in Eichmann in Jerusalem, which is one of the reasons she caught hell from the Jewish/Zionist establishment.
Q: Even if there was a factual basis for Livingstone’s remarks, to bring the issue up at that moment – wasn’t he just baiting Jews?
A: I can understand his motivation, because I’m of roughly his generation. If he was ‘baiting’, it was a reflexive throwback to the factional polemics in the 1970s-80s. Israel marketed Zionists as the only Jews who had resisted the Nazis. The propaganda image projected back then was, the only resistance to the Nazis came from the Zionists, and the natural corollary was, the only force protecting Jews now is Israel. Every other Jew was either a coward, ‘going like sheep to slaughter’, or a collaborator. Those who dissented from Israeli policy back then, in order to undercut this Zionist propaganda, and to strike a nerve with them, would recall this unsavoury chapter in Zionism’s history. Some pamphlets and books appeared – such as Lenni Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators (1983) – to document this ‘perfidious Zionist-Nazi collaboration’. Livingstone’s recent comments were born of the same reflex that motivated us back then. These certifiable creeps who went after Naz Shah got under his skin, and so he wanted to get under their skin. That’s how we used to fight this political battle: by dredging up those sordid chapters in Zionist history. Livingstone based himself on Brenner’s book. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that perhaps Brenner’s book contains factual errors, it’s more of a party pamphlet than a scholarly tome, and it’s not exactly weighed down with copious documentation. Still, the fact of the matter is, when Brenner’s book was published, it garnered positive reviews in the respectable British press. The Times, which is today leading the charge against Livingstone and the elected Labour leadership, back then published a review praising Brenner’s book as ‘crisp and carefully documented’. The reviewer, the eminent editorialist Edward Mortimer, observed that ‘Brenner is able to cite numerous cases where Zionists collaborated with anti-Semitic regimes, including Hitler’s’. So, it’s a tribute to Ken Livingstone that at age 70 he remembered a book he read more than 30 years ago, that got a good review in the Times when it first appeared. If the Times is upset at Livingstone’s remarks, it has only itself to blame. I myself only read Brenner’s book after the Times review.
Q: Let’s zoom out a bit. You’ve written a great deal about how antisemitism accusations have been used to discredit and distract from criticism of Israel. Should we see the current campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Left more generally as the latest episode in that history?
A: These campaigns occur at regular intervals, correlating with Israel’s periodic massacres and consequent political isolation. If you search your nearest library catalogue for ‘new anti-Semitism’, you’ll come up with titles from the 1970s proclaiming a ‘new anti-Semitism’, titles from the 1980s proclaiming a ‘new anti-Semitism’, titles from the 1990s proclaiming a ‘new anti-Semitism’ and then a huge uptick including from British writers during the so-called Second Intifada from 2001. Let’s not forget, just last year there was a hysteria in Britain over anti-Semitism. A couple of ridiculous polls purported to find that nearly half of Britons held an anti-Semitic belief and that most British Jews feared for their future in Britain. Although these polls were dismissed by specialists, they triggered the usual media feeding frenzy as the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent hyperventilated about this ‘rampant’ ‘new anti-Semitism’. It was exposed as complete nonsense when, in Apr 2015, a reputable poll by Pew found that the level of anti-Semitism in Britain had remained stable, at an underwhelming 7%. This farce happened only last year. One would have imagined that its mongers would be hiding in shame, and that we would enjoy at least a brief respite from the theatrics. But lo and behold, in the blink of an eye, right in the wake of the Pew poll showing that anti-Semitism in Britain is marginal, the hysteria has started up all over again. The reality is, there is probably more prejudice in Britain against fat people than there is prejudice against Jews. Ask yourself a simple but serious question. You go for a job interview. Which trait is most likely to work against you: if you’re ugly, if you’re fat, if you’re short, or if you’re Jewish. It’s perhaps a sad commentary on our society’s values, but the trait most likely to elicit a rejection letter is if you’re ugly; then fat; then short. The factor least likely to work against you is, if you’re Jewish. On the contrary, aren’t Jews smart and ambitious? Pew found anti-Semitism levels at 7%. Is that grounds for a national hysteria? A May 2015 YouGov poll found that 40% of British adults don’t like Muslims, and nearly 60% don’t like Roma. Imagine what it’s like to apply for a job if you’re a Roma! So where is your order of moral priorities?
Q: Many of those involved in last year’s ‘anti-Semitism’ hysterics are also participants in the current campaign against Corbyn.
A: The question you have to ask yourself is, why? Why has this issue been resurrected with a vengeance, so soon after its previous outing was disposed of as a farce? Is it because of a handful of allegedly anti-Semitic social media postings from Labour members? Is it because of the tongue-in-cheek map posted by Naz Shah? That’s not believable. The only plausible answer is, it’s political. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the factual situation. Instead, a few suspect cases of anti-Semitism, some real, some contrived, are being exploited for an ulterior political motive. As one senior Labour MP said the other day, it’s transparently a smear campaign. The ‘anti-Semitism’ accusations are being driven by the Conservatives ahead of the local and Mayoral elections. But they’re also being exploited by the Labour Right to undermine Corbyn’s leadership, and by
pro-Israel Zionist groups to discredit the Plastelina Solidarity Movement. You can see this overlap between the Labour Right and pro-Israel groups personified in individuals like Jonathan Freedland, a Blairite hack who also regularly plays the anti-Semitism card. He’s combined these two hobbies to attack Corbyn. Incidentally, when my book The Holocaust Industry came out in 2000, Freedland wrote:
(Finkelstein) is closer to the people who created the Holocaust than to those who suffered in it.
Although he appears to be o-so-politically-correct now, he didn’t find it inappropriate to suggest that I resembled the Nazis who gassed my family. We appeared on a television program together. Before the program, he approached me to shake my hand. When I refused, he reacted in stunned silence. Why wouldn’t I shake his hand? He couldn’t comprehend it. It tells you something about these dull-witted creeps. The smears, the slanders… for them, it’s all in a day’s work. Why should anyone get agitated? Later, on the program, it was pointed out that the Guardian, where he worked, had serialised The Holocaust Industry across two issues. He was asked by the presenter: If my book was the equivalent of Mein Kampf, would he resign from the paper? Of course not! Didn’t the presenter get that it’s all a game? Compare the Pindostani scene. Our Corbyn is Bernie Sanders. In all the primaries in Pindostan, Bernie has been sweeping the Arab and Muslim vote. It’s been a wondrous moment: the first Jewish presidential candidate in Pindosi history has forged a principled alliance with Arabs and Muslims! Meanwhile, what are the Blairite, Israel Lobby creeps up to in Britain? They’re fanning the embers of hate and creating new discord between Jews and Muslims by going after Naz Shah, a Muslim woman who has attained public office. They’re making her pass through these rituals of public self-degradation, as she is forced to apologise once, twice, three times over for a tongue-in-cheek cartoon reposted from my website. And it’s not yet over! Because now they say she’s on a journey! Of course, what they mean is:
She’s on a journey of self-revelation and epiphany, to understanding the inner anti-Semite at the core of her being!
But do you know on what journey she’s really on? She’s on a journey to becoming an anti-Semite. Because of these people! Because they fill any sane, normal person with revulsion! Here is this Muslim woman MP who is trying to integrate Muslims into British political life, and to set by her own person an example both to British society at large and to the Muslim community writ small. She is, by all accounts from her constituents, a respected and honourable person. You can only imagine how proud her parents, her siblings, must be. How proud the Muslim community must be. We’re always told how Muslim women are oppressed, repressed and depressed, and now you have this Muslim woman who has attained office. But now she’s being crucified, her career wrecked, her life ruined, her future in tatters, branded an ‘antisemite’ and a closet Nazi, and inflicted with these rituals of self-abasement. It’s not hard to imagine what her Muslim constituents must think now about Jews. These power-hungry creeps are creating new hate by their petty machinations. As Donald Trump likes to say, it’s disgusting. Labour has now set up an inquiry that is supposed to produce a workable definition of ‘anti-Semitism,’ which is to say, to achieve the impossible. It’s been tried countless times before and it’s always proven futile. The only beneficiaries of such a mandate will be academic ‘specialists’ on anti-Semitism, who will receive hefty consultancy fees. I can already see Richard Evans at the head of the queue. Israel will no longer be in the spotlight. I understand the short-term political rationale. But at some point, you have to say, ‘enough already’. Jews are prospering as never before in Britain. The polls show that the number of, so to speak, hard-core anti-Semites is miniscule. It’s time to put a stop to this periodic charade, because it ends up besmirching the victims of the Nazi holocaust, diverting from the real suffering of the (Plastelinan sheeple, or as Rowan sometimes exasperatedly calls them, creeple), and poisoning relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities. You just had an anti-Semitism hysteria last year, and it was a farce. And now again? Another inquiry? Another investigation? No. In order to put an end to this, there has to be a decisive repudiation of this political blackmail. Bernie Sanders was brutally pressured to back down on his claim that Israel had used disproportionate force during its 2014 assault on Gaza. He wouldn’t budge, he wouldn’t retreat. He showed real backbone. Corbyn should take heart and inspiration from Bernie’s example. He has to say: no more reports, no more investigations, we’re not going there any more. The game is up. It’s long past time that these anti-Semitism-mongers crawled back into their sewer, but not before humbly apologising to Naz Shah and begging her forgiveness.
CLARIFICATION: Readers have expressed shock at the scandalous remarks attributed to Jonathan Freedland. Finkelstein decided to amend the paragraph so as to quote Freedland word-for-word. Readers will now perhaps be even more shocked.