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Open Letter to Counterpunch: Who’s Afraid of Gilad Atzmon and the Holocaust Deniers? or Why Alex Cockburn Refuses to Print a Reply to Mary Rizzo

Tony Greenstein (Jews Against Zionism)

In Britain, even the most right-wing of the quality capitalist press normally accept that if you malign someone, they should grant the right of reply. No doubt the situation is different in the USA, though one would expect that the radical press would not take their lead from Fox and the Washington Post.

On 17 June Counterpunch, which styles itself "America’s Best Political Newsletter", printed an article, ‘Who's Afraid of Gilad Atzmon?’ by one Mary Rizzo. It was a strange article, since it consisted primarily of an ad hominem attack by Mary Rizzo upon someone, myself, whom 99.99% of Counterpunch readers had never heard of. But Rizzo was furious that Jews Against Zionism (JAZ) was organising an extremely successful picket of a talk by Gilad Atzmon at the Bookmarks bookshop of the Socialist Workers Party that very day.

The Case of Mary Rizzo
According to her, Atzmon was merely "engaged in deconstructing the supremacist nature inherent in an ideology like Zionism..."

And what was the purported reason for our picket? Apparently I had "put forth an edict that Atzmon is an anti-semite ... (as well as anyone who supports him), that he is associated with anti-semites ... and that he is a Holocaust Denier or at the very least, an apologist for them".

Why do I do these things? Because I "desire to weed out the movement, and divide it into Tony-friendly or not [because] Atzmon distributed through his mailing list a paper ‘The Holocaust Wars’ written by Paul Eisen. Greenstein, having decided that it is classified as ‘Holocaust Denial’..."

Rizzo explains just how undemocratic we are. "Regardless of the content of the paper, which should be debated properly ... the very appearance of the paper is unfathomable for Greenstein ... Those responsible for it should not have voice in the Palestinian solidarity movement, because they would contaminate it."

And why do I and my "small group of comrades" wish to ban Atzmon? Because "Greenstein decides who he likes or not, who has the right to speak or not ... he dictates what it is they talk about. He wants to be master of discourse; the most vocal, most pure, and official voice of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement. Those who disagree with him and his agenda ... having fallen into anti-semitism."

That’s clear enough. Indeed the real reason why we wish to silence Atzmon is because he "wrote an article exposing the attempts of some of the members of this group to undermine an important Palestinian Solidarity group, Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), which has the crime of hosting people on its board of whom Greenstein and his close allies do not approve..."

Indeed "Greenstein seems to know what is best for the Palestinian people, but what precisely gives him this information is a real mystery." And Ms Rizzo cites Atzmon as to the real reason for Greenstein’s arrogance: "Why do you do it? Because you are a supremacist Jew. You must believe that you know better.... You must think that you know better than the Palestinians what is right for the Palestinian people."

As Rizzo explains, "One might not like what he says, whether the critic be Zionist or anti-Zionist, but shutting him up seems to be very old school left, right out of Stalinism."

Reply to Mary Rizzo
It seems an open and shut case. Big Brother Greenstein, probably a direct relation of his counterpart in 1984, has determined who can and cannot speak. He is, at best, a rotten, undemocratic Stalinist, an opponent of free speech. It’s little wonder that Alex Cockburn, despite railing at the New York Times for refusing to print alternative views, have decided that this was one article that didn’t merit a response.

It is difficult to know where to begin with the tissue of lies and evasions that characterise Rizzo’s article. The suggestion that Atzmon is merely engaged in deconstructing the supremacist nature inherent in an ideology like Zionism and that I have put forth an edict decreeing Atzmon is an anti-Semite would be amusing if it wasn’t so absurd.

For example in his article ‘On Anti-Semitism’ Atzmon writes: "we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously..." and that "American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy... I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus."

Ms Rizzo is also somewhat disingenuous about Paul Eisen’s ‘The Holocaust Wars’, also to be found on the site of Israel Shamir. This is a full-blooded defence of Holocaust Revisionism and in particular, Ernst Zundel, a neo-Nazi presently incarcerated in a German prison. The article is written primarily in the third person, in order to effect deniability. But Eisen’s views shine through. He uncritically cites Zundel to the effect that:

"In the 1960’s ... I experienced my first doubts about some details of the Holocaust story. Further study, mostly at night, convinced me that many segments of the story were highly exaggerated, and the number of Jewish losses were wildly inflated."

Eisen asks: "How do those Germans now nearing the end of their lives, feel when told that what seemed so right then and perhaps even still seems so right was in fact so wrong? And how do those Germans today, born and educated in postwar Germany, feel when told of the shame and disgrace of their parents and grandparents? How might it feel, to be forbidden, alone amongst the peoples of Europe, to recall your recent history with anything but shame?"

The only conclusion one can draw from this paragraph is that the "shame and disgrace" of the parents and grandparents of German children born today is worse than what happened to, e.g. Germany’s Jews and all the other victims of the Holocaust, including Gypsies and Gays.

Eisen demonstrates where his sympathies lie when he writes that:

"Ernst Zundel was once involved in the publication of a book called The Hitler We Loved and Why, but Ernst Zundel was not the only German who loved Hitler and is probably not the only German who still loves Hitler. Millions of Germans loved Hitler who for twelve years impacted on them as no German has or probably ever will, and, though they never say so, must, deep down still cherish his memory."

Perhaps one should tell that to the families of German socialists and communists murdered in Dachau, or the descendants of the physically and mentally handicapped, gassed from 1939-41? Millions of Germans opposed Hitler to the very end, but Eisen has forgotten about this history.

Eisen insists that: "It bears repetition that the denial of the Holocaust revisionists does not extend to the entire Holocaust narrative. Revisionists do not deny that the National Socialist regime brutally persecuted Jews....

"In making their claims, Revisionists have offered a considerable body of work. To what degree they are right, everyone must judge for themselves. Many will take the view that Holocaust revisionism is but pernicious nonsense motivated only by a hatred of Jews and a desire to rehabilitate Hitler and National Socialism specifically, and fascism in general and therefore not even worthy of scrutiny. I don’t agree, and those with sufficient curiosity to wish to research the subject can visit the website of the premier Revisionist think tank the Institute for Historical Review..."

It is clear that Eisen is in sympathy with one of the world’s leading Holocaust revisionists and Hitler lovers. Holocaust Denial came about because today’s generation of neo-Nazis found it impossible to gain a mass base if they were tarnished with the crimes of Hitler. So they merely denied them.

Indeed it was Atzmon’s attack on members of Jews Against Zionism, quaintly titled ‘The Protocols of the Elders of London’ which led to the picket of Atzmon’s meeting in London. This purported to be the secret conclave of "undercover Zionist agents" such as myself. In the course of asking Atzmon about the London Elders article I inquired as to whether it was true that he had distributed Eisen’s ‘Holocaust Wars’. He replied: "my take on the subject is slightly different than Paul’s one... Let me assure you that if I ever see a great text written by yourself I’ll be the first to circulate it."

But does this merit banning Atzmon? The answer is no. He is not a fascist, he says he is not a Holocaust Denier and although what he writes is clearly racist, he denies being a racist. We did not call for Atzmon to be banned but rather we called for a socialist bookshop, Bookmarks and a socialist organisation, the SWP, not to provide him with a platform. That remains our position.

For once Ms Rizzo is right when she says that the view of JAZ and many others is that "Atzmon is a liability ... to the Palestinian Solidarity Movement and that his voice is leading towards a dangerous path and has no place in it".

Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial can have no place in the Palestine Solidarity movement. It was anti-Semitism that directly led to Zionism. Without anti-Semitism there would have been no Zionism. Zionism was a reaction to anti-Semitism but a reaction that accepted the ideological framework of anti-Semitism, hence the racist nature of the Israeli State. In the words of the founding father of Zionism, Theodore Herzl: "In Paris ... I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism" (Diaries, p.6). Strange as it seems, no greater supporters were there of the Zionist project in Palestine than the Nazis themselves. The Zionists were the "racial Jews". Eichmann himself described himself as an "ardent Zionist". What kind of folly and stupidity is it that believes that anti-Semitism is going to be of any help to the Palestinians?

And if Ms Rizzo does not accept our word for it, maybe she can accept the word of Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish, two prominent Arab-Americans, in their ‘Serious Concerns About Israel Shamir’:

"1) Yesterday we received an ‘Easter Message’ from Shamir in which he repeats the most odious characterizations of Jews as ‘Christ killers’, the staple of classic European Christian anti-Semitism.... We cannot agree that Jews ‘deserve’ to be called ‘Christ killers’, or that this kind of rhetoric has anything whatever to offer of value to the movement for Palestinian liberation and human rights.... How could we do more to discredit ourselves than by allowing such ideas to proliferate on behalf of a movement that has no need whatever to stoop to vilifying others to justify itself?

"2) Shamir recently gave a speech at Tufts University. He is quoted as saying at that speech: ‘Palestinians are perfect mammals; their life is deeply rooted in the ground.... Israeli people represent a virus form of a human being because they can live anywhere’."

Israel Shamir
The spider in the web is Israel Shamir and what is most dishonest about Rizzo's article is that not once did he make an appearance in her article. Shamir runs his own web site www.israelshamir.net. His web pages are a veritable gold mine of anti-Semitic calumnies. You would have to plumb the depths of the worst neo-Nazi publications to find a defence of the Easter Blood Libel accusation (that Jews slaughtered non-Jewish children to make the Passover bread at Easter). Shamir however disagrees:

"The frequent and tendentious use of the horrifying label (together with ‘antisemitism’ and ‘protocols of the Elders of Zion’) brought a certain depreciation of its value, but it is still going strong. You can’t ever-ever consider that there might be some truth to the Blood Libel, the accusation of ritual murder of children. Or can you?" (‘Bloodcurdling Libel’)

Another contributor, Joh Domingo states that "Left wing anti-Fascists have limited appeal". Which might explain why Domingo posts another little gem on the site, ‘White Nationalists – A Possible Ally?

Maybe none of this would matter, but Shamir was appointed as one of the Board of Advisors of Deir Yassin Remembered, a group set up to support the Palestinians. Professor Jeff Halper resigned from the Board because of Israel Shamir. Shamir believes that the salvation of the Palestinians lies in the conversion of the Jews, who he calls Christ-killers, to Christianity:

"There is no ‘tainted blood’ – acceptance of Christ is the Final Solution of the Jewish Question, while assimilation and intermarriage is the way to undo the vestiges of Jewish separatism." (‘The Marxists and the Lobby – Part II’)

Shamir has no trouble working with the far-right. For example he attended an "anti-Zionist" conference in Kiev in early June 2005 alongside David Duke, ex-KKK Grand Wizard. In a report of the Kiev Conference "our friend, a Polish philosopher Marek Glogoczowski" attacks Duke because "although superficially fighting against ‘Jewish supremacy’, in a deeper reality [he] tries to assure that the wealth of the former Soviet Empire will safely land, like a ‘ripe fruit’, in hands of heavily Judaised world plutocracy!" It takes some doing for David Duke to be accused of not being anti-Semitic enough! (Shamir Readers, 14 June 2005)

Mary Rizzo, Shamir & Co
It was in the context of the outing of Shamir and co. that Ms Rizzo wrote her article for Counterpunch. On the JustPeaceUK list, Mary was the only defender of Shamir. "I know Gilad to be completely anti racist. I don't know Paul, but my opinion is that he is not racist." (Just Peace UK, 11 June 2005)

Not only is Gilad Atzmon "completely anti-racist" but so is Paul Eisen. When some of us criticised Israel Shamir and asked Mary for her opinion, she shot back: "Why should I be obligated to join in on the smear campaign [against Shamir]? ... I am convinced that there are indeed attempts made at ritutal defamation both against Shamir..." (Just Peace UK, 18 April 2005)

Jeff Blankfort is also a Board Member of DYR. I asked him whether or not he denied that the Holocaust had taken place. His reply of 24 June was that: "I do not believe there was any official Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews because had there been, there would not have been close to a million left alive." Well that’s clear enough. And Mary’s reaction?

"Dear Jeff ... I am in awe ... I bow down a the altar of your most excellent reasoning and communication skills. wow. wow. wow. How much shall we wager he will get snide and irritable with you rather than address even one of your thoughts in a reasonable manner?"

So maybe Counterpunch, the radical voice of the American Left, can answer a few questions? How is it that it can publish, uncritically, an article by Mary Rizzo, an ardent supporter of the anti-Semites, fascists and Holocaust Deniers around Deir Yassin Remembered and yet refuse to take a response to her article? Counterpunch’s editor, Alex Cockburn, whose father Claude must be spinning in his grave, refused even to acknowledge my correspondence. Maybe others will have greater success in eliciting a response.