Falling Into A Pit Can Increase Your Wit:
The Controversy Over Greta Berlin's Free Gaza Tweet
By Lenni Brenner
By now, a huge percentage of folks following Israeli/Palestinian affairs on the internet have read something about Greta Berlin’s 9/30 twitter on the Free Gaza Movement’s @freegaza.org official feed: “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.” The post linked to a video by the late Eustace Mullins, claiming, among other things, that ‘Nazi’ is an amalgam of ‘National Socialist’ and ‘Zionist.’
The post was deleted and a 10/4 “Apology regarding Tweet” was put up by FG.
"A TWEET from the Free Gaza TWITTER account was posted several days ago that had a link to a lecture titled, "Zionists Ran the Holocaust and the Concentration Camps." This TWEET did not come from Free Gaza, and does not represent FG's position in any way whatsoever; in fact we condemn its content. It came from Greta's private Facebook page and was to be 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. For some reason, Facebook connected our Free Gaza account to her personal Facebook account, and the link was posted.
Greta has added, "I apologize that I did not watch the video before hitting SHARE on Facebook. I was in a rush to get to a book event and simply reposted. The fault is completely mine. Free Gaza had nothing to do with the post at all."
The Free Gaza movement is a human rights group that is an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct action, confronting Israel's ongoing abuses of Palestinian human and political rights and will continue to challenge Israel's illegal siege on Gaza. In the future, we will work to ensure that material posted from our account relates only to FGM's activities, including Gaza's Ark.
Free Gaza had nothing to do with the post and apologizes unreservedly for the post and its content.”
Verbal World War III then broke loose over whether Berlin’s post really represented her opinion. After a flood of emails, a zillion original messages long, it became practically impossible to keep track of who was saying what, so the Middle East Crisis Committee commissioned me, as the author of Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators, to write this article about Berlin’s tweet.
I contacted her:
“My policy is always to try to directly quote someone, rather than dig out a quote from a secondary source. So could you please copy whatever you wrote in the original twitter into a regular email and send it to me. And could you also send me whatever you’ve written since about it and the controversy about it.”
“Delighted that someone actually wants to fact check. I have sent this explanation out to several people, including Gilad and a few others, and I've sent it to mondoweiss as well. They did not print it. My story has not changed.
My story is consistent and always has been. They just don't like the story and are desperately hoping that it MUST have been something else. It wasn't. It was a dumb mistake on my part, compounded by the fact that the Free Gaza TWITTER account was connected to my personal Facebook account, and I didn't know that.
1. I grabbed the video out of a group of 1000 people, a group that is private.
2. I meant to park it into a group of 30+ people that is a small affinity group (to watch it later), but I never checked the settings before I hit SHARE, because I was in a hurry.
3. I did not watch the video. Why would I have watched the video? I was in a hell of a hurry and was traveling like crazy those four days. I would have watched it in the small group. Would we have had a discussion on it? Probably. We discuss all kinds of things, including homophobia and racism.
4. I did not know my personal Facebook page was connected to the Free Gaza TWITTER page. There are 3300 TWEETS on the Free Gaza page, and I was attacked instantly for this mistake without even giving me a chance to clarify or figure out what had happened.
5. Free Gaza apologized on the front page of the website, using the language that Ali Abunimah gave us. It was Ali who insisted that I apologize and that Free Gaza apologize, even though Free Gaza had NOTHING to do with the misplaced video that I had put on my front page on my personal Facebook account.
6. I apologized after I figured out what had happened. That should have been the end of it.
And that's it. The title of the video is what everyone is screaming that is my comment, it is not my comment. I made no comment. I did not hit LIKE on the video. I simply meant to park it for later discussion. I believe we all have that right to talk about what happened in WW II.”
I sent her another note:
“You wrote that
"The title of the video is what everyone is screaming that is my comment, it is not my comment. I made no comment."
“Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews” is the title of the video. Am I correct?”
I also added that
“Some people are citing a 2007 attack on you by Ava E. Berlin on
She says you are her "ex-stepmother." Are you her ex-stepmother? Don't misunderstand the purpose of my question. If she had a familial relationship with you, it gives her no authority re your attitude towards Jews, then or now. Indeed the fact that you were married to a Jew is a good argument that you aren't anti-Jewish. I'm only asking so I can correctly deal with her attack on you.”
“Thanks for the follow up Lenni. OK, the title to the video is ‘Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.’
I made no comment on the video, because I had not seen it.
My lovely step-daughter lived with us for three months in 1992 and damned near broke up our marriage. Al and I had no Israeli friends and only one Jewish couple as friends. We liked them a lot. Ava, for whatever reason, has made up the entire comment.”
I meant what I wrote re Ava having been her step-daughter not making her an authority on Greta. I once was on a radio talk show when a relative phoned in to denounce me.
She added a PS saying that “Larry Derfner wrote the best article about this whole mishigosh,” and gave me the link. Mishigosh is Hebrew/Yiddish for craziness. I went to his 10/5 article and then a 10/6 piece by Derfner. The 10/6 piece quoted her
“I am not a Holocaust denier. And I am not a supporter of the video that I posted, nor would I ever have been. It was, in fact, an example of propaganda that is EXACTLY what I and others are horrified over. The video (although I didn’t watch it then) seemed like the kind propaganda that our group was discussing. And I passed it on because of the title. Ironically I am caught in the same propaganda hysteria that I was trying to fight. It was my mistake that I didn’t post to the small private group on Facebook and the video ended up on my wall.”
Derfner quoted her about Mullin’s video which she says she finally listened to after the controversy erupted:??“‘It’s disgusting!’ she exclaimed. ‘This is what upsets me more than anything [that such a video could be associated with her and FGM]. The man is a nut.’”
I then went to the video:
As a scholar, I read weird things re the holocaust, as when Deborah Lipstadt was sued for libel by holocaust denier David Irving. But Mullins’ speech is the wackiest holocaust fairytale ever. Nazi war criminals were executed after the post-war Nuremberg trials so they wouldn’t reveal the Nazi-Zionist plot to kill all the non-Zionist Jews. Wow!!!
Listening to him convinced me that Berlin told the truth when she said she posted it without listening to it. I can’t believe she was trying to convert Free Gaza to his lunacy.
Looking for more on the affair, I found that British socialist anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein had severely criticized Berlin and printed her October 14th response on his
“I never said a word about the video. I never hit LIKE. In fact, I have been demonized, not for the mistake I made, but for the assumption that surely I MUST have said something to merit all of this hatred. I assure you, I did not.
This witchhunt is not about my stupid mistake. It's because I endorsed Gilad Atzmon's book, “The Wandering Who," a book I personally liked. If everyone is going after me for my endorsement, then they need to go after the famous endorsers of Gilad's journey, including Richard Falk, John Mearsheimer, Karl Sabbagh, William Gates and Dr. Samir Abed-Rabbo.”
Atzmon, born in Israel, now a British citizen, has described himself as a “proud self-hating Jew.” Berlin’s claim that the attacks on her stem from her liking his book sent me to Atzmon’s website to catch his angle on the controversy.
In an article titled “Abunimah Did it Again,”
Atzmon declared that
“Berlin had been subject to a vile Israeli and Zionist smear campaign following her facebook post containing the following message: ‘Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.’ Berlin also added to her facebook post a link to a video of a lecture by Eustace Mullins. I am not familiar with the work of Mullins but I guess that he is far from being a popular political thinker in Tel Aviv or Golders Green…. But clearly there is no Holocaust denial in Berlin’s message. Furthermore, the views expressed by her are consistent with many experts including Jewish Marxist archivist Lenni Brenner who tells the same story in his book 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration With the Nazis.”
Readers must understand that it never occurred to me to connect Atzmon to this matter until I read Berlin’s explanation for the attacks on her. And I was absolutely surprised that he dragged me into the controversy.
I have detailed Zionist collaboration with Nazism from 1933, when Hitler came to power, through to the holocaust, but I never say anything like “Zionists operated the concentration camps,” and neither did Berlin. That’s Mullins.
Readers might think I’d be pleased by Atzmon’s citing me as an expert, but I’m also an expert on Atzmon. He tried to use my scholarly reputation to defend Berlin only because she is on record as liking his book. Before this episode, I was a non-stop fool in his The Wandering Who, where he tells the world, at length, that
“The American Jewish Marxist historian Lenni Brenner is fascinated by the collaboration between Zionists and Nazism. In his book Zionism in the Age of Dictators, Brenner presents an extract from a book written by Rabbi Joachim Prinz:
“Everyone in Germany knew that only the Zionists could responsibly represent the Jews in dealings with the Nazi government. We all felt sure that one day the government would arrange a round table conference with the Jews, at which – after the riots and atrocities of the revolution had passed – the new status of German Jewry could be considered. The government announced very solemnly that there was no country in the world which tried to solve the Jewish problem as seriously as did Germany.
Solution of the Jewish question? It was our Zionist dream! We never denied the existence of the Jewish question! Dissimilation? It was our own appeal! … In a statement notable for its pride and dignity, we called for a conference.”
Atzmon continued on:
“Brenner then cites extracts from a memorandum sent to the Nazi Party by the ZVfD (Die Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland, or Zionist Federation of Germany) on 21 June 1933:
“Zionism has no illusions about the difficulty of the Jewish condition, which consists above all in an abnormal occupational pattern and in the fault of an intellectual and moral posture not rooted in one’s own tradition … On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race, we wish so to fit our community into the total structure so that for us too, in the sphere assigned to us, fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible … Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial realities. Precisely because we do not wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we, too, are against mixed marriage and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group… We believe in the possibility of an honest relationship of loyalty between a group-conscious Jewry and the German state.”
Brenner doesn’t approve of Prinz’s point of view, nor of the Zionist initiative. Filled with loathing he writes:
“This document, a treason to the Jews of Germany, was written in standard Zionist clichés: “abnormal occupational pattern,” “rootless intellectuals greatly in need of moral regeneration,” etc. In it the German Zionists offered calculated collaboration between Zionism and Nazism, hallowed by the goal of a Jewish state: we shall wage no battle against thee, only against those that would resist thee.”
Atzmon then sticks his critical knife into my book. Oh, the pain, the pain!
“Brenner, a Marxist and totally unfamiliar with the culture and ideology entangled with his subject matter, fails to see the obvious. Prinz and the ZVfD were not traitors, they were genuine Jews, adhering to a very Jewish cultural code. They followed the Book of Esther, assuming the Mordechai role. They tried to find a way to collaborate with what they correctly identified as a prominent emerging power.”
Atzmon twists his knife further: ??“Whether Brenner or anyone else likes it or not, Prinz proves his authenticity as a Jewish leader, possessing a highly developed survival ‘radar’ mechanism that fits perfectly well with the exilic ideology.
In 1981 Brenner interviewed Prinz. Here is what he had to say about the ‘collaborator’ rabbi:
“[Prinz] dramatically evolved in the forty-four years since he was expelled from Germany. He told me, off tape, that he soon realized that nothing he said there made sense in the US. He became an American liberal. Eventually, as head of the American Jewish Congress, he was asked to march with Martin Luther King and he did so.”
Once again, Brenner fails to see the obvious. Prinz didn’t ‘evolve’ – he remained a genuine Jew, and an extremely clever one, a man who internalized the essence of Jewish émigré philosophy: in Germany be a German, and in the US be American. Be flexible, fit in and adopt relativistic thinking. Prinz, a devoted follower of Mordechai, realized that whatever is good for the Jews is simply good.
Listening to this invaluable interview, I was shocked to find out that Prinz actually presents his position eloquently. It is he rather than Brenner who provides a glimpse into Jewish ideology and its interaction with the surrounding reality.”
Atzmon’s references to the Book of Esther’s Mordechai, a Jew who used Persia’s Queen Esther, a secret Jew, to get her hubby to crush Hamen, the enemy of the Jews, have nothing to do with Prinz. He was the opposite of Mordechai and indeed a traitor to the Jews in his 1930s efforts to collaborate with Germany’s Hamen. Moreover, Atzmon never met Prinz but I did. I still insist that he evolved into the not perfect but vastly better person who marched at Martin Luther King’s side.
Readers, please forgive my quoting Atzmon’s monkey chatter about German Zionism and my critique of it. I only did it to show that Berlin sometimes read junk and liked it. But note that when she finally read Mullins she saw him as a “nut,” while Atzmon tried to defend her by claiming that I tell “the same story” as Mullins.
Berlin would do well to look hard at Atzmon’s defense of Mullins’“Zionists operated the concentration camps,” and then examine his other writings.
According to Atzmon’s 2008 “Swindler’s List: Zionist plunder and the Judaic Bible,”
“Sadly, we have to admit that hate-ridden plunder of other people’s possessions made it into the Jewish political discourse both on the left and right. The Jewish nationalist would rob Palestine in the name of the right of self-determination, the Jewish progressive is there to rob the ruling class and even international capital in the name of world working class revolution…. Were Jewish Marxists and cosmopolitans open to the notion of brotherhood, they would have given up on their unique, exclusive banners and become ordinary human beings like the rest of us.”
The above declaration would not be out of place in an avowedly anti-Semitic newspaper. Berlin’s insistence that “This witchhunt is…. because I endorsed Gilad Atzmon's book,” guarantees her the distrust of his legion of left enemies, Jews and gentiles. Indeed Atzmon’s “Abunimah Did It Again” ends with an attack on Ali Abunimah, cofounder of the Electronic Intifada:
“[W]hen I heard about the Zionist slandering of Greta Berlin I thought to myself that within less than a week Abunimah would join the party. I was wrong, in fact it took him less than 24 hours. I don’t know who Abunimah’s pay masters are, but I guess it ain’t the Islamic Jihad.”
Of course I then went to Abunimah’s 10/6 “Greta Berlin’s statement is not correct”
Abunimah tells us that Berlin and Free Gaza’s apologies
“did not calm the growing controversy. In order to dispel any doubts, many people, including me, asked Berlin to publish screenshots of the discussion from Facebook to show the context in which the video was posted. Berlin, who controls the @freegazaorg Twitter account, refused.
This evening I had an opportunity to spend several hours with full access to a private Facebook group of which Berlin is an administrator, and where the video was first posted by another administrator on 28 September with the comment “This will be a real thought provoker for some.”
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.
I have no doubt that other members of the Free Gaza Movement took Berlin’s explanation in good faith. Now is the moment for them to demand proper accountability.
As members of a broad and diverse Palestine solidarity movement, our loyalty to one another can only be based on trust and honesty.”
I quoted the above at length because Abunimah is a prominent Palestinian activist and his statement confirms that left of center Palestinians want nothing to do with Mullins’ notions. But he got into Berlin’s “group of 1000 people,” where she found it, not her “group of 30+ people” where she thought it would be discussed.
Berlin sent me an example of that group’s discussions of “all kinds of things, including homophobia and racism.” Below is a snippet, just enough to show that the 30+ group did deal with such matters:
“Everyone is talking about Pierce Morgan's interview of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!!! It's supposed to be extraordinary stuff!….
JW - Notice P Morgan did two things: ??1. He told him that people are born homosexual, it is not a question of choice and therefore should not be punished. Ahamdinajad rejected this point completely.??2. He asked him what would he do if his son/daughter were to become homosexual. Ahmadinajad said, well, what am I to do if my son becomes a thief? This is a question of education.”
Berlin was also severely criticized by Bekah Wolf in her 10/18 “If only it was just one tweet: One activist’s experience in the ‘Our Land’ Facebook group.”
“Four months ago, I was added to a Facebook group called “Our Land” much of which, when I finally looked at the content, immediately struck me as anti-Semitic in nature, so I complained to the person who had added me. That person was Greta Berlin ….
After I began to engage in the discussion, challenging the anti-Semitic claim that Jews orchestrated the Holocaust, I was immediately attacked by a prolific poster to the group: Joachim Martillo. He posted to the group often; his area of interest seemed to be the inherent viciousness and evilness of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews.”
Wolf acknowledges that Berlin came to her defense:
“I just posted this to the idiots ganging up on you in Our Land.... Sorry Bekah …. And, for everyone else in here, Bekah has more cred in her little finger than many of you do in your entire body. She is an amazing women who works nonstop for the Palestinians....
Berlin went on regarding Martillo:
“He has his good moments but his head is sometimes up his ass...ertions.”
Wolf ultimately concluded that she doesn’t “think that Greta is a Nazi-sympathizer, but I have seen her engage, accept, and encourage anti-Semitic rhetoric, and this is incredibly damaging to the Palestine solidarity movement.”
By now, readers must feel that I should plead guilty to my own charge, that I’ve produced a flood of quotes, wherein its “practically impossible to keep track of who was saying what.” So permit me to close down this sad tale.
I’m convinced that Berlin didn’t view Mullins’ trash before she accidentally sent it to Free Gaza, and she repudiated it when she did listen to it. She had no anti-Semitic intent re it being posted on FG’s site. But she got up in the court of public opinion and ‘broke into jail’ on the serious charge of hailing Atzmon’s scribbles.
In her statement on Greenstein’s blog, she said that if folks go after her they should also “go after the famous endorsers of Gilad's journey.” Yes, she and they should clean up their act by repudiating Atzmon.
Abunimah, who Atzmon hates, correctly aspires to build “a broad and diverse Palestine solidarity movement.” Let’s work this. Since the downfall of apartheid South Africa, the movement denounces ‘apartheid Israel.’ The hideous South Africa regime was defeated by the African National Congress only after the ANC directly recruited White and Asian South Africans into its ranks. Similarly, it is IMPOSSIBLE to politically defeat Zionism and replace Israel with a democratic secular binational state without recruiting a large percentage of Israelis into a bi-national movement for such a state.
All readers will agree that we can’t win over any Israelis and Jews elsewhere to a movement concocting Mullins-style fables about Zionism. And why should we do that when we can quote exactly what Prinz, the ZVfD and other Zionists actually ranted? But let’s go further. Can we recruit leftists anywhere, Jew or gentile, to a movement that would rave on like Atzmon about how
“the Jewish progressive is there to rob the ruling class and even international capital in the name of world working class revolution.”
After reading Atzmon’s ‘defense’ of Berlin, I felt that she could regain anti-Zionists’ confidence by repudiating him and saying that she will reexamine his book. In that spirit, I sent her a pdf of Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators.
The next day she left San Francisco, returning to her home in France. She phoned me from Dallas while waiting for a connecting flight to Paris. She started reading the book on the plane to Dallas. “It's excellent.” Before this, she had never seriously looked at European Zionism. “My concern had always been Zionism’s role in the Middle East.” As her first husband was a Palestinian, this is quite understandable.
“Read it through. Then look again at what Atzmon wrote about German Zionism, about me, and about the Jewish left.” “I will. My father got into trouble as a teacher because they thought he was a Communist.”
Now she has finished the book and has written a review of it:
“A One Way Ticket to Palestine: Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators
In 1983, Lenni Brenner wrote a well-researched book called “Zionism in the Age of The Dictators.” At the time, the book description read,
“much has been written about the Second World War, the age of the dictators, and the Holocaust, but this is the first book to relate the history of Zionism to these events and to show the interaction between Herzl's movement and the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe. Brenner searches through the Zionist record -- and finds evidence that it sought the patronage of avowed anti-Semites. In a carefully researched and closely reasoned work, Brenner shows how, from the beginning, Zionism's leaders were prepared to go to almost any length to achieve the goal of a separate Jewish homeland.”
But that description doesn’t begin to tell the story of how Zionists collaborated with the most racist elements in Europe to guarantee, “young, healthy, qualified and committed Zionists who were wanted in Palestine.” Since Zionists did not want the bulk of German Jews, it might be assumed that Zionists in other countries would find havens from the horrors against the Jews of Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Hungary. But Zionists across the board had only one objective -- send Jews to Palestine under any circumstance and make sure they were either wealthy or able-bodied.
From the Transfer Agreement to the mendacious behavior of Quislings like the banker, Georg Kareski, Brenner has meticulously researched and footnoted his findings. “While the leftists were trying to fight the brown-shirts in the streets of Germany, the Zionists were busy collecting money for trees in Palestine.”
The double tragedy of Zionist collusion against its own people and its consequent determination to send Jews to Palestine at the expense of Palestinians is one of the most Machiavellian stories to come out of WW II, and it is a story that has not been told,pushed under the radar for fear that people who talk about it will be called anti-Semites.
Brenner may not have had an audience 30 years ago, but the times have changed, and his seminal book should be reissued and taught in every university which holds courses on WW II and its aftermath. For, in fact, the Palestinians have been the final victims of Zionism and the horrors of ‘The Age of The Dictators” in Europe. The book should be read by every historian who wants the truth and not the myths surrounding one of the most evil of times during the 20th century.”
After reading Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators, she knew enough to reexamine Atzmon’s tieing me and her into Mullins’ crap. “I agree with you that he, like many others, did NOT get it right about the TWEET.”
But he is, "first of all, my friend, long before he wrote the book….For me, loyalty is above all, the highest virtue, so I will disagree with Gilad's assessment after your thoughtful analysis, but I won't distance myself from him any more than I would now distance myself from you, my new friend.”
There is no problem with this. Now she asks me serious questions about the holocaust. In the future, if Atzmon says something that I disagree with about any issue re Zionism, I’m certain she will carefully consider my perspective in such a clash of ideas. That’s all I or any of his critics have a right to expect of her.
In any case, if Zionists try to use the TWEET incident against her, she now knows enough to best defend herself, by challenging them about about Zionism’s holocaust role.