Norr responds to Ash: Who is trying to get the solidarity movement back on track and who is merely fanning the flames of division?

Gabriel Ash’s diatribe reminds me of an adage that seems to become truer by the week: “Anti-semites used to be people who hate Jews; now they’re people Jews hate.”

Among the 1,614 words Ash uses to denounce my 116-word paragraph criticizing the Swedish Boat to Gaza’s “disinvitation” of Col. Ann Wright, the central allegation is that I “consider antisemites who support Palestinian liberation to be valuable voices, demand their inclusion, defend their legitimacy, and challenge refusal to tolerate them misguidedly as ‘silencing.’”

I can’t imagine where Ash got all that from, especially considering that (as far as I know) he and I have never met nor even had any dealings in cyberspace. The views he attributes to me are certainly not in my “two cents” about the exclusion of Ann Wright from the Estelle, nor in anything I’ve ever written, here or elsewhere.

In fact, his allegations are entirely bogus – if we’re talking about real antisemites, people who hate Jews simply because they’re Jews. Ash apparently has a much broader definition of antisemitism, and I suspect it’s true that some people he brands antisemites I consider valuable and legitimate voices it’s important to defend. But since he never spells out his definition or identifies the individuals he accuses me of supporting, it’s hard to understand or clarify the differences between us.

In my book, though, no one becomes an antisemite simply because she or he is so labeled by self-appointed tribal watchdogs – or their non-Jewish allies, even Palestinians. Nor does one become an antisemite just by criticizing aspects of Jewish culture, tradition, and even theology, or by exploring how they relate to the vicious crimes perpetrated by the Zionists and the “Jewish state.” (Are we supposed to believe there’s no connection?) Hell, I’ll even say – knowing the abuse I’m inviting – that questioning conventional wisdom about the Holocaust, including such sensitive matters as Jewish collaboration, isn’t by itself proof of antisemitism. We take it for granted that re-examining received truths about every other aspect of history is not only legitimate, but necessary and important, because it’s potentially productive of new insights. Why isn’t that equally true when it comes to the Holocaust?

What’s crazy-making in this whole controversy is that of all the people involved, I know of only one who actually deserves to be call an antisemite, by my standards: Eustace Mullins, the man speaking in the video Greta Berlin linked to. (And I concluded that Mullins was an antisemite only after reading the Wikipedia entry about him – in the video in question, he disparages only bankers and Zionists and speaks of other Jews not as villains but as victims.) Even Ash doesn’t try to claim that Greta Berlin and Ann Wright are antisemites. So whom exactly is he accusing me (and Greta and “others”) of defending? Where is the antisemitism we’re allegedly incapable of recognizing?

In the second half of his piece Ash veers off into a bizarre attempt to claim some constitutional high ground. First, he says that I (and Greta Berlin, but I’m speaking only for myself) “read rejection of bigotry, falsely, as an unacceptable challenge to ‘freedom of speech,’” then that we “seek to deny the rest of the movement the freedom of association.” Where on earth does that come from? I never questioned the right of the Swedish Boat committee (or anyone else) to reject what they consider bigotry, nor their freedom to associate with whom they please. I simply expressed my opinion about the way they used these rights in this case – i.e., that disinviting Ann Wright from the Estelle was deeply misguided (“sheer madness”) because she’s one of our movement’s most competent leaders and credible spokespeople, because excluding her certainly won’t ward off charges of antisemitism against the Estelle crew, and, overall, because dividing the movement this way does nothing to further the cause of justice in Palestine.

Ash also accuses me “bullying” because I invoked the phrase “guilt by association.” To me its applicability is self-evident: the Swedish Boat to Gaza group excluded Ann Wright not because of anything she herself has done or said, but because of her association with Greta Berlin. Ash counters this logic by arguing that Col. Wright actually bears personal responsibility because she, like Greta, is a member of the Free Gaza board and contributed to a board statement  about the controversy that’s been whipped up around the misbegotten tweet. According to Ash, the statement “characteriz[es] all those who took issue with them, including the approach of the former board members, longstanding and respected Palestinian and solidarity activists, [as?] ‘vicious attacks.’ … The word for this is bullying.”

Unfortunately, the statement has been posted at Mondoweiss only in a comment, but it’s entitled “We support justice in Palestine not demonizing each other,” it repeatedly acknowledges that Greta made a mistake, and it does not accuse “all those who took issue” with the board of “vicious attacks” – it simply says that Greta has been “viciously attacked,” an assertion I don’t see how anyone can deny. Here’s the essence of it:

We, the new board of Free Gaza II would like to add our comments and support for Greta’s work and for the ongoing work we need to do to keep the illegal blockade of Gaza front and center. For, after all, our work has always been about freedom and justice for the Palestinians.

It’s time we got back to work and stopped battering one of the leaders of the non-violent direct action Palestinian solidarity movement.

And here is Ann Wright’s personal contribution:

I have known Greta Berlin  and have worked with Free Gaza for several years.  In neither word or action have either Greta or members of the Free Gaza movement been anti-semitic.  They challenge Israeli policies, but that is not anti-semitic.

The word for that is bullying?!? In whose language? And the statement is what justifies Ash’s argument that Ann’s exclusion was not a case of “guilt of association”?

I strongly urge everyone to read the statement in full. Then go back, re-read what Ash says about it, and decide for yourself who is trying to trying to get the solidarity movement back on track and who is merely fanning the flames of division.

Posted in Activism, Israel/Palestine

{ 57 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. ToivoS says:

    I have to agree with Henry on this one — Gabriel is unnecessarily fanning the flames of division. At a fairly abstract level he makes the case why the left at certain times should ally with those who hold objectionable positions, but that under other circumstances, such compromise is wrong. Different circumstance, different political conditions lead to different resolutions of this question.

    Then he dives in and criticizes Norr and Ann Wright for making the wrong decision. It left me confused as to why.

    In any case the whole Greta Berlin fiasco certainly has raised the question as to where the line should be drawn. However, I still think something more like a power struggle is going on here. One sign of a power struggle is when the arguments become so theoretical that a rational person begins to suspect exercises in straw splitting — that is a sign that the real struggle is being hidden in the excessive verbiage.

    • ritzl says:

      Well said, ToivoS. Lines are drawn all the time on what is or isn’t objectionable and to whom.

      Ali Gharib has a post up at The Daily Beast citing the fact that the very letter Palestinian activists signed equates Zionism with racism. That is red-cape antisemitism — to some.

      link to thedailybeast.com

      “The minute they put [Zionism] on the level of bigotry or anti-semitism, they’re saying that there’s no room for your support of Zionism unless you’re willing to own up to being bigoted,” said Steven Bayme, the director of the Contemporary Jewish LIfe department at the American Jewish Committee. He said that pro-Palestinian activists have long sought “a cover of saying, ‘We’re not anti-Jewish.’” The Palestinians’ release, irrespective of intent, “remained a statement aimed at the delegitimization of Israel, equating Israel with policies of racism and apartheid,” he said.

      I asked Bayme if there existed any anti-Zionism that was not anti-Semitic, according to his definition. “While theoretically there may very well be a distinction, in practice the two often become collapsed” into one, he said.

      Ironically, the distinction between theory and practice was exactly the explanation I got from Abunimah when I asked if he worried that lumping in Zionism with these other forms of bigotry would dilute the effect of the message. “I think I have a long record,” he said, “of explaining how Zionism—however people conceive of it in theory—is racist in practice, that Zionism depends on pracitices of racism, that in the 21st century the practice cannot but be considered racism.”

      I don’t agree totally with Gharib here. He’s trying to balance something that is inherently unbalance-able. I do agree with you that something is going on behind the scenes here. FGM may have exceeded its shelf life in some circles. But what I still don’t get, barring the movement politics explanation, is what the line is between the acceptability of inviting scorn by poking a group of people in their collective chest with the Zionism=Racism finger, and kneecapping a high-profile movement facet (one which drew tremendous attention to the rationale for BDS, if it did nothing else) because someone mistakenly (is that the rub? that it wasn’t a mistake?) posted a vile video?

      Oh well.

      • ritzl, i read Ali Gharib’s article earlier today and immediately was struck by, what i considered, a flaw in his argument. the paragraph directly after the one you quoted is this:

        The sides here are talking past each other: Bayme’s notion that anti-Zionism, in practice, must be anti-Semitic seems to me just as absurd as the notion that Zionism must be in its essence bigoted. I don’t buy either claim. The Palestinian activists and intellectuals could have rejected anti-Semitism in their movement—even while stating opposition to Zionism—without equating it with Isalmophobia and anti-Semitism. That move, in turn, made it difficult for Jewish pro-Israel activists like Bayme to accept the Palestinians’ statement for what it is: an attempt to purge bigotry.

        Abunimah was very clear tho. he didn’t address the essence of zionism, in fact he specifically* addressed zionism “in practice”. this is an argument i have made in these threads before. there may be some idealistic concept, some cultural zionism or self determination etc etc..but in practice, it is the way zionism acts, zionism in practice, being addressed. and zionism in practice, is and has always been wrt palestinians and the conquering of palestine, racist. so let’s morph Gharib’s logic inserting Abunimah’s actual words, sans Gharib’s translation and see how it plays out:

        Bayme’s notion that anti-Zionism, in practice, must be anti-Semitic seems to me just as absurd as the notion that Zionism must be bigoted in practice. I don’t buy either claim.

        really? if Gharib wants to argue Zionism is not bigoted in practice then he should try doing just that and not morphing quotes. zionism, in practice, is easily as bigoted as Isalmophobia and anti-Semitism. in fact i am not aware of any institutionalized, federally funded, congressionally supported bigotry of either Isalmophobia or anti-Semitism. the same cannot be said for our support of the occupation of palestine which is in its essence, zionism in practice.

        * Abunimah: “I think I have a long record,” he said, “of explaining how Zionism—however people conceive of it in theory—is racist in practice, that Zionism depends on pracitices[sic] of racism, that in the 21st century the practice cannot but be considered racism.”

        • check this out again from Gharib’s text.

          “The sides here are talking past each other: Bayme’s notion that anti-Zionism, in practice, must be anti-Semitic seems to me just as absurd as the notion that Zionism must be in its essence bigoted.”

          just as an exercise try switching the insertion of “in essence” to Bayme’s argument instead of Abunimah’s. (remember both used the term “in practice”)

          The sides here are talking past each other: Bayme’s notion that anti-Zionism, in essence, must be anti-Semitic seems to me just as absurd as the notion that Zionism must be, in practice, bigoted.

          notice how this really weakens his argument. it is much much harder arguing anti ethnic nationalism is bigoted as compared to ethnic nationalism.

        • ritzl says:

          I agree, Annie. Gharib was trying to use mirror logic and it didn’t/doesn’t work for the reasons you point out.

          I was just reflecting on ToivoS’s observations of discretionary lines, that that discretion is routinely exercised, and that someone is always affected/offended by that discretion using Gharib’s reporting (but not his conclusions, the para you cited) as an example.

          My hope/view of this is that in this situation lessons could be learned about the more productive application of that discretion. I don’t think what Berlin did is as binary as it’s being made out to be. She did deal the flotilla effort a stunning uppercut by even remotely associating herself with that video, but the reaction, to me, was the left hook that put it down. There was a recovery option here, in the early going, if recovery was the intent.

          Anyway, it’s been decided, and I’m probably not smart enough to “get it,” so FWIW. Appreciate ya.

      • seafoid says:

        a”sked Bayme if there existed any anti-Zionism that was not anti-Semitic, according to his definition. “While theoretically there may very well be a distinction, in practice the two often become collapsed” into one, he said.”

        BS. International law is very clear on what Israel can get away with.
        Torture is not Jewish.

      • pabelmont says:

        I don’t like saying “Zionism” and wish we could all ignore it. Consider: Is torture consistent with “Americanism”? Hunh? Must be, presidents of two parties do it! But wait, are they practicing (or exemplifying) “Americanism” or something else?

        So too with “Zionism.” Some people think Zionism is precisely a state-forming national liberation movement for the “Jewish people” (the who?), which sounds nice. Others, Judah Magnes for one, wanted nothing to do with a Jewish state. Some think “Zionism” is the fulfillment of a religious duty or right (and seek to “redeem” for the “Jewish people” the land from the Nile to the Euphrates or some such) and there must be still other views of what “Zionism” “is”.

        Useless term.

        Look only at what Israel does. Don’t mention “Zionism”. Don’t say “Jewish country”. Don’t mention Jews or Jewish at all. Do you insist on mentioning that Mickey Cohen was Jewish? Or is it enough that he was a mobster?. Especially if what you are mentioning him for is to comment on his mobsterism.

        Leave it to those who think [1] that Israel is a criminal enterprise and [2] that that is OK because it is the fulfillment of a national liberation effort on behalf of a nation — to say what they believe.

    • marc b. says:

      In any case the whole Greta Berlin fiasco certainly has raised the question as to where the line should be drawn. However, I still think something more like a power struggle is going on here. One sign of a power struggle is when the arguments become so theoretical that a rational person begins to suspect exercises in straw splitting — that is a sign that the real struggle is being hidden in the excessive verbiage.

      but if the motivation for the analysis of berlin’s communications/commentary is ‘a power struggle’, then that necessarily undermines the legitimacy of criticism of berlin, doesn’t it? if this is a power struggle, then berlin’s conduct is almost irrelevent, and it certainly calls into question the sincerity of the critics.

    • demize says:

      This coming from the one man Auto de Fe. Unbelievable.

  2. Danaa says:

    Good for you, Henry Norr. Glad you took Ash on with a few words of reason. I have an idea though why he may have attacked you so underhandedly: were you by any chance seen within a block of a venue where Gilad Atzmon was playing and/or speaking? have you inadvertently said anything semi-non-accusatory about the man? or, god forbid, have you ever known anyone who has known Gilad – including his kindergarten teacher – and was overheard to make any statement that was insufficiently dismissive? because all of these could get you ostracized, you know. Spinoza got kicked out for much less, I believe…

    BTW, a great comment on your previous post from Hostage – who pointed out that deKlerk has still not really repented in his heart of hearts. yet, there he is still feted as the one who ‘accepted reality” and helped put an end to the apartheid regime – his very own. The rest of the comment is good too. I would have supported that comment except that they are holding up most comments on your previous piece – good, bad and neutral (I know that for a fact – heard from a number of people to that effect). It would have gone to 200 by now surely had that not been the case. I am not sure they let this comment through either but no harm in trying, right?

    More power to you Henry – don’t let the silly internecine battles get to you, OK?

    • ToivoS says:

      Very perceptive of you Danaa. Part of Greta’s problem is that she did associate herslef with Atzmon. I think this is why many in the movement came to the conclusion that she should not hold a leadership position in the Western faction of the movement for Palestinian rights. Atzmon’s biggest booboo was sending out on his list-serve an essay by Paul Eisen. This piece included support for Ernst Zukel’s most egregious pieces of holocaust denial. I spent the time to read that dreck. We should not be debating holocaust denial. But if we allow Atzmon, and now Greta with her poor decisions, in the room then that is what happens.

      Send them into the corridors and let them leaflet the rest of us with their crazed positions.

    • >> I would have supported that comment except that they are holding up most comments on your previous piece – good, bad and neutral (I know that for a fact – heard from a number of people to that effect).

      Yes, comments are being held up on that thread but I am not sure they are being held up uniformly. A few of my posts have been pending while those of others, written later, have been posted. One just has to look at the timestamps to figure this out.

      I guess it is fair to slow a debate down but it is not so fair when this is done selectively.

      I am at least glad Norr got the chance to respond here. He makes a better case than I could anyway. –N49

  3. Nevada Ned says:

    OK, here’s my two cents:
    Greta Berlin did something that seriously damaged the reputation of the Free Gaza movement. In my opinion she should step down as a spokesman for the Free Gaza Movement. One of her defenders on Mondiweiss said she’s not an antiSemite, she just did something dumb. Well, do you want someone who does something dumb – seriously damaging the Palestinian cause – as a leader?? I think not.
    The other side (of course) is going to claim “anti-Semitism”. So don’t give them any ammunition! How hard is this to understand?

    That’s why a large number of Palestinian activists signed an open letter, saying they are opposed to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

    I disagree with the move to disinvite Ann Wright, but that’s the kind of divisive action that is going to happen.

    For what it’s worth, that’s my two (make that three) cents.

    • peeesss says:

      Nevada Red. The other side is going to claim “anti-semitism.” So don’t give them any “ammunition.” “How hard is this to understand.” Really. Really. They{ those against Palestinian liberation} need any particular “ammunition.”? The racism of the Gellers, CAMERA, and the Hasbara gang is more than enough to set off firestorms and cries of “anti-semitism.”

  4. Dan Crowther says:

    I hope this is the end of it – not just because Norr delivered a pretty thorough beating here – I just can’t take anymore of this

  5. pabelmont says:

    It has long been my sense that pro-Palesetine people must be more correct than correct on facts, on quotations, on everything in order to “get away” with being pro-Palestinian, and pro-Israel people who are also anti-Palestinian have been able to “get away” with carelessness, mistakes, lies, etc. That, it seemed to me, was the way it “is”.

    This whole problem about stupid statements getting people attacked as anti-Semites seems cut from the same cloth. How often have Israelis or their American friends and supporters got in any serious trouble for their racism (or for their carelessness or stupidity)? Don’t we (at MW) spend a lot time pointing up such things, generally to little avail?

    The sense I’ve got from all this hoo-haw is basically the discomfort of all of us which arises from this sad out-of-symmetry in the battle for Palestine. Some of us are fearful of being discredited and that fear sometimes leads to blackballing allies.

    News flash: the battle for Palestine isn’t fair, not even (or particularly) in Palestine. Think of those who go to demonstrations and get beaten, teargassed, arrested. That’s not fair either. They are brave and we must also be brave.

    Speaking up for Greta Berlin may be an act of great bravery for some of us. Not for me to say.

  6. AlGhorear says:

    I think the reason why this whole thing resonates with so many of us here is that by the standards used to vilify Greta Berlin, most of us could easily be found guilty of antisemitism by these same accusers and many amongst our ranks already have been, including Ali Abunimah who ironically led the charge against Greta and now appears equally intent on destroying those who defend her. And the worst thing is that’s it’s being used to silence or limit those who are on the front lines of this fight and have been very effective in exposing Israeli crimes and injustice against the Palestinians, like Greta Berlin and Ann Wright. That’s why they are such important targets for the Zionists. And one thing I hope Palestinians like Ali Abunimah will realize is that like it or not, sometimes the voices of people who are not Palestinian, including those of Jewish Americans and Jewish Israelis who oppose Israeli policies, carry more weight in some important political circles in the US is because when condemnation comes from someone who is not Palestinian and they criticize Israel, it takes away the self-interest and when someone is Jewish, it negates the antisemitism charge, which is the kiss of death in Palestinian solidarity work. That’s why I think it’s so important in our movement that no one is ever tainted with that label absent a whole lot more than what was used to throw Greta Berlin under the bus. I keep thinking back to the comment from ToivoS to the effect that if it “appears” Greta was antisemitic, then get rid of her. “Appears” is just not enough. I agree with Paul Larudee that Greta shouldn’t have to prove she’s innocent, her accusers have to prove she’s guilty and they should have done so before smearing her. And despite being asked by many commenting on this blog (including the ever reasonable Donald), the reasoning from has not yet been forthcoming. Again, it’s because I truly despair at seeing effective people like Greta Berlin and Ann Wright silenced over what I see as undeserved criticism that I feel compelled to respond.

    • Breath of fresh air.

    • marc b. says:

      what i find particularly galling in all of this AG, is that many of those demanding unalloyed ‘transparency’ from berlin to disprove her guilt seem to believe that the same standard doesn’t apply to them and their ‘critique’ of berlin (and now by extension, wright). these public disavowals didn’t erupt from a vacuum. i’ll presume that there were extensive communications and analysis shared between critics beforehand.

  7. American says:

    I’m with Harry.
    Well said Harry.

  8. pianoteacher says:

    If Greta Berlin, Ann Wright and now Henry Norr, three activists whom I greatly admire for their tireless work and their dedication to helping end the suffering of others, are now being described as sympathetic to antiSemitism, then sign me up, I want to be antiSemitic too when I grow up.
    P. S. Does anyone know what antisemitic means?

    • alan says:

      Hi pianoteacher. I’m willing to have a go…

      It’s Judaeophobia as understood by people who still believe in the Nazis’ definition of a Jew (or pretend they do because they find it useful in furthering their ends).

      Most Zionists fall into this trap and so do many others.

      Embracing this false concept innocently is every bit as destructive as subscribing to it with malign intent. Imo the action of seeking to stick an ‘antisemitic’ label on someone implies the latter motivation rather than the former – it becomes itself the very thing it supposedly seeks to denigrate: so it appears to me that, inasmuch as it is meaningful to say so (ie. not at all!) it is Gabriel Ash who is peddling ‘antisemitism’ here.

      btw I think a good way of identifying crooked thinking (however motivated) in this or any debate is to measure the eagerness with which the deed is ignored in favour of attacking the doer.

      Free Palestine!

  9. Nothing like a bit of notoriety to produce a best seller! As long as people like Mr Ash keep fanning the flames, sales of Freedom Sailors go up.
    Keep it up, keep this circus going for as long as possible, please.
    It is no coincidence that this smear campaign is happening at exactly the same time as Greta’s book launch. Funnily enough, though, it is not harming the sales. Have you all read the book? It is terrific.

  10. W.Jones says:

    Thank you, Henry.

  11. Gogo says:

    If there are ‘flames of division’ ignited by agents provocateurs of every stripe, the appropriate response is to address them, not sweep them under the rug in an effort to ‘get the movement back on track’. The latter is the method of mindless partisanship in which the champions of hegemony are always most poised to win or to reconstitute themselves. This has been true of a multitude of movements, from civil rights in the United States, to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, to the ongoing Egyptian revolution. There is no room for the amnesiac fetishization of objects in a movement for justice.

    Let us be very loud and clear on this point: this movement is about decolonization. Its methods must reflect that.

    It is not clear to me at this point whether Norr and others who subscribe to the line of thinking he represents (which reeks of Gilad Atzmon’s poisonous politics) speak out against Israel because they support Palestinians’ struggle for justice and self-determination, or because of other reasons.

    Norr uses this kind of language:

    “people Jews hate.”

    and

    “real antisemites … people who hate Jews simply because they’re Jews.”  

    and

    “Nor does one become an antisemite just by criticizing aspects of Jewish culture, tradition, and even theology, or by exploring how they relate to the vicious crimes perpetrated by the Zionists and the “Jewish state.” (Are we supposed to believe there’s no connection?)”

    So, again…. ‘Jewish culture’, ‘Jewish tradition’ or ‘Jewish theology’ are not existential and autonomous categories that can be homogenized and ‘criticized’ much less ‘explored’ for their relationship to a political project and its methods. And yes, you are not only supposed to ‘believe’ but you are supposed to know, and raise awareness about the fact that Israel and Zionism and the self-proclaimed ‘Jewish state’ do not in fact represent ‘Jews’ writ large. You are supposed to know this because the scientific racism that accompanied the birth of European nationalist ideologies (of which Zionism was one) was discredited many, many decades ago. You must not subscribe to it, Henry Norr, not unless you subscribe to Zionism itself and wish to legitimize those who insist on conflating Zionism with Jewish identity. So long as you dare to speak in such violently Orientalist (which is to say, yes, anti-semitic) terms as to essentialize Jewish-Anything, you have no place in a movement whose objectives are resistance to imperialism and its effects at home and abroad.

    Norr, again:

    “Hell, I’ll even say – knowing the abuse I’m inviting – that questioning conventional wisdom about the Holocaust, including such sensitive matters as Jewish collaboration, isn’t by itself proof of antisemitism. We take it for granted that re-examining received truths about every other aspect of history is not only legitimate, but necessary and important, because it’s potentially productive of new insights. Why isn’t that equally true when it comes to the Holocaust?”

    If that is not anti-semitism, then that is Jew-baiting. There is a difference between historiography (only tenuously and arrogantly impregnated with all the delightful Enlightenment innocence you attribute to your honorable quest for knowledge, Mr Norr) and historical revisionism. The former is undertaken to rethink historical categories, the relationship between them, and the theoretical and systemic meanings that can be generated from them. Historical revisionism is more often than not concerned with the manipulation of facts to propagate a particular political cause. Invariably the cause is a rotten one. Gilad Atzmon and his supporters (Greta Berlin, and by extension, you, Mr Norr). That was Ash’s point, is that unless you distance yourself from the crazies, you are allowing them to shit on this movement (and in your case, Mr Norr, I would say you have done enough shitting of your own, that I don’t actually need you to go on and endorse other crazies). Ash’s response to you was the most painstakingly lucid and clear outline of what the problem is viz. Greta Berlin and her gang. And you have conveniently illustrated in your childish and inciting response, each and every one of his points – especially the one about the bullying.

    • marc b. says:

      really, gogo, let me have a crack at this.

      Norr uses this kind of language:

      “real antisemites … people who hate Jews simply because they’re Jews.”

      this statement appears to make a straightforward statement about what qualifies one as an anti-semite, people who hate jewish people on the basis of some alleged essential jewish quality. is there a particular word used that causes you to believe this is an anti-semitic statement, or, at minimum, ‘jew baiting’?

      “Nor does one become an antisemite just by criticizing aspects of Jewish culture, tradition, and even theology, or by exploring how they relate to the vicious crimes perpetrated by the Zionists and the “Jewish state.” (Are we supposed to believe there’s no connection?)”

      henry refers to aspect of jewish identity, as those aspects may relate to zionism. are you honestly suggesting that zionism can be completely divorced from some species of jewish beliefs? and if so, what are we to make of the comments of fervent zionists who ascribe their support for zionism to their judaism? again, this doesn’t mean that ‘jews’ and ‘judaism’ are inextricably linked to the crimes of zionism, and some persuasively argue that zionism is an affront to judaism. as i understand it judaism can exist without zionism, but not the other way round. if i’m mistaken in this regard, please explain.

      questioning conventional wisdom about the Holocaust, including such sensitive matters as Jewish collaboration, isn’t by itself proof of antisemitism.

      again, i’m at a loss as to how objective historical inquiry into the nazi genocide could be considered anti-semitic or ‘jew baiting’ (your term). i have just read a review in the LRB of a recent biography of himmler, and one of the points made, of a myth dispelled, is that the extermination of european jews was the primary goal of the nazis. it was not, the ultimate, ideal result was the complete cleansing of eastern europe of the far more numerous slavs, the barren land to be repopulated by aryan types. link to lrb.co.uk
      snyder makes the point in his ‘bloodlands’ as well. is this revision of ‘history’ somehow anti-semitic?

    • American says:

      “Let us be very loud and clear on this point: this movement is about decolonization. Its methods must reflect that.”…Gogo

      Decolonization is it?…rotflmao…..
      Is that new or old hasbara for Israel’s zionist domination, occupation and confiscation of Palestine and their ‘actual war crimes?
      Decolonization…how western, how mild, see the zios are really no different than those old western colonizers, gee whiz how alike Israel is to the old colonizers so don’t anyone go singling Isr out in the 21 century..after all it’s just an old shared value with Western empires and democracies.
      Bull.

  12. marc b. says:

    good for you henry, i’m a fan of ash, but this is certainly not his finest hour. for whatever reason, he seems to have decided that ‘atzmon’ is some sort of litmus test. i said it before, and i’ll say it again, i have read atzmon (and mullins) and the only thing that i have learned from reading atzmon (and mullins) is that it is a waste of time reading atzmon (and mullins). and it was generally a waste of time reading ash’s analysis of henry.

  13. seafoid says:

    What a waste of time. Israel is confining 80% of Gazans to 2000 calories. The space will run out of water by 2016. And there is an argument about antisemitism.

  14. chrisjj says:

    Thank you Henry. This ridiculous McCarthyism being practiced by those who should know better than to divide the movement with their false accusations, would be laughable if the consequences were not do serious.

  15. PilgrimSoul says:

    The people involved with the Estelle may very well have good reasons, including some safety considerations, which caused them to “dis-invite” Ann Wright. But there’s no doubt that the reason she was asked to step down was because of her association with Greta Berlin. Therefore, however necessary that may have been, the motive for it was guilt by association–Ann’s association with Greta, and the fact that she likes Greta and wants to continue working with her. We might as well be honest about that.

    I believe that for Gabriel Ash and some people in his group, the entire controversy really is about Gilad Atzmon. Greta Berlin liked Atzmon’s book, and Ann Wright likes Greta and is willing to work with her, so Ann Wright is the enemy, to him. So her modest statement about what happened becomes words of anathema to Mr. Ash, and anybody who defends her, such as Mr. Orr, likewise become spawn of the devil. For people who want to know more about Gilad Atzmon, and why so many nominally sane people are barking mad about him, you might want to read my long essay on same, to wit:

    link to pilgrimsoulblog.com

    Of course, Atzmon is a complete madman, but he’s been effectively exiled from any political position of leadership, so he’s not a threat to anybody anymore. Sadly, however, Mr. Ash has what in my opinion amounts to an obsession concerning Atzmon. Mr. Ash’s circle in Britain has engaged in, among other things, an attempt to launch a boycott against his publishers; letter-writing to newspapers demanding that they not review his CDs and musical performances without discussing his politics; and they spend a lot of time and energy engaged in hating Atzmon and doing other things that strike me as both self-defeating and unnecessary.

    That’s why Mr. Ash’s statement is so full of anger–it’s the old curse of sectarian political activists. Being unable to influence events in the real world, they can only vent their rage at each other. I hope we can rise above that. What were missing were some kind words about Ann’s worth, both as a human being and as an extremely courageous campaigner for human rights and human decency. But you don’t get that from sectarian types, because they are too busy trying to figure out the right response to their enemies.

    • ritzl says:

      That last graf is a keeper…

    • American says:

      PilgrimSoul..

      Excellent comment, very fair.

    • kamanja says:

      Bravo PilgrimSoul. Your blog post, apart from being a great read, has Atzmon down to a T. Shame I hadn’t seen it when a call by leftist non-Zionists went out a couple of days back to write and complain to the BBC about an interview they did with him on his music that also touched on his controversial persona.

    • Donald says:

      “Of course, Atzmon is a complete madman, but he’s been effectively exiled from any political position of leadership, so he’s not a threat to anybody anymore. ”

      Then why does it matter what anyone says about anything in this thread or at JSF or anywhere? (Hmm, maybe you have a point.) Most of us aren’t leaders. If you think Atzmon is a complete madman and yet some people in the anti-Zionist movement think highly of his writings and don’t see the madness that you see, doesn’t that mean there’s a problem somewhere?

  16. You know, you people really do sound like a cult.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “You know, you people really do sound like a cult.”

      You want to read someone who sounds like a cult, pudracist, go read giladg on the how the myths of the bible are real.

    • Donald says:

      “You know, you people really do sound like a cult.”

      What do you think your self-chosen pseudonym makes you sound like?

      To be fair, I think there’s a cult-like atmosphere to some degree at almost any political blog where people discuss some emotional issue. But you rightwing Zionists exist in some epistemologically sealed container, where no fact that would disturb your fantasy world is allowed entry.

  17. wes says:

    i came to this site because i read that mondoweiss site was antisemitic

    since the gb affair it seems that it is not and is willing to purge those that are from its ranks- that is a good thing because only jews can change the behaviour of our fellow jews in israel -thats my personal belief.
    putting pressure on jews to bring about change in israel will come up against resistance i.e. ” self hating jew ” etc but that will easily be defeated if the the movement that brings about change has clearly defined goals and strong leadership
    so the next step will be to

    1.a new movement that brings together all jews world wide that seek change
    2.election of a council of three to lead
    3.a charter that states its goals clearly

    i myself am willing to spend time and money to get this stared

    anyone else ?

    • demize says:

      Lol “only Jews” are invited to the Liberation of Palestine party. Is that like you broke it you own it policy? The narcissicism is something to behold, it really is.

    • Rusty Pipes says:

      No, Wes, you came to this site because you are a troll. I don’t know why Phil tolerates your outright lies unless he thinks it’s educational for the rest of us to sample the latest hasbara talking points. On another thread, you claimed that Obama is a Sunni Muslim:

      besides blaming the obvious why not consider a continous sunni empire from turkey to morocco along the meditterean
      the arab (Sunni) spring started in morocco with the lighting of a match and in 2 years it has started to become a reality
      lebanon and israel are the last two so expect all out war in lebanon
      qatar is already moving into gaza as we speak.the americans have a fondness for all things sunni including there oil and obama a sunni himself is in a position to turn the tide on israel if he wins the election

      You should be banned.

  18. Keith says:

    HENRY NORR- I fully agree with you on this, however, not being diplomatic like you, I would go even farther in my criticism of Gabriel Ash. As far as I am concerned, his vile screed is a borderline libelous misrepresentation of reality. Not that unusual for him when the unspoken object of his wrath is Gilad Atzmon, and anyone who doesn’t join in his anti-Atzmon Jihad. Ash is obsessed with Atzmon, and has devoted an inordinate emphasis on Jews sans frontiers to demonizing him. Greta’s defense of Atzmon caused her to become Ash’s enemy to be attacked if and when able, honesty and intellectual integrity be damned. Perhaps Ash was upset over Gilad’s essay titled “Tribal Marxism for Dummies.”

    I have provided a small sample of Ash‘s outrageous comments from his screed: “This tolerant attitude towards bigotry is the most likely cause for Berlin’s mistaken tweet…..There are many reasons why a person would defend bigots….Those who cannot recognize anti-Semitism….”

    Please notice that his entire post is one huge straw man where he talks in general terms about bigotry and anti-Semitism thereby implying that Berlin and Wright are somehow guilty of all of this, yet without actually providing specific examples and proof. It is extremely dishonest. If Greta had joined Ash in his Atzmon obsession, would he be so critical now? One is hard put to imagine a similar situation involving Max Ajl in which Ash would be anything other than supportive.

    • Yep, Ash’s article is riddled with speculation and assertions which are entirely a product of his own fevered imagination, none of them supported with any evidence. It is a diatribe, a farrago of smears and ludicrous statements about what people think, when he clearly has no knowledge of what they actually think, or has bothered to ask them. It is the holier-than-thou stance of the true believer (in his own fantasy world of black and white), who seeks to decree what others must think or do. How someone like Ali Abuminah, who has done a lot of good work, can align themselves with factionalists and divisive BS like this is beyond me. A sad and entirely unnecessary episode, where some people seem determined to take it upon themselves to administer some sort of loyalty test, entirely determined by their own prejudices and urge to take control. While the zios laugh at the self combustion.

      • seanmcbride says:

        justicewillprevail,

        You said this much better than I did. Once again, damned straight. The sheer wankery of this addled and off-center campaign is amazing. And it may well indeed be the product of a sophisticated government op — it has a look and feel about it which arouses that suspicion.

    • seanmcbride says:

      Keith wrote:

      Please notice that his [Gabriel Ash's] entire post is one huge straw man where he talks in general terms about bigotry and anti-Semitism thereby implying that Berlin and Wright are somehow guilty of all of this, yet without actually providing specific examples and proof. It is extremely dishonest.

      *That’s* damned straight, and it is good of you to point it out without mincing words.

      But also notice that Ash has shifted the focus of discussion from a concern about physical human rights violations against Palestinians (on a massive scale) to nitpicking about what constitutes unacceptable verbal insults to Zionists! Talk about self-obsession and narcissism. All of this is of course damaging the Palestinian cause.

      • Bumblebye says:

        In fact, this shift of focus is exactly what Atzmon refers to as “AZZ” – “anti-Zionist Zionists”.
        Tongue, of course, firmly in cheek.

  19. Red says:

    What Henry Norr and far to many commentators om Mondoweiss seemed to have missed either by accident or deliberately is the fact that within the movement there are some real issues at stake which Greta Berlin’s tweet has brought to the surface.

    Unfortunately, as Gabriel Ash notes there are among some in the movement (albeit a minority) who promote the mistaken idea that in the name of “inclusion” and “diversity” we need to accommodate dodgy ideas, bigotry (including anti-Jewish chauvanism, which may not necessarily be anti-semitism but does come very close to it) and frankly nutcase conspiracy theories. Such ideas, however, do harm to our movement and the Palestinian cause.

    However, in his response to Gabriel Ash, Henry Norr completely ignores this issue.

    Instead, there is a refusal by some to recognise that this is an issue within the movement (and I would place Henry Norr and his supporters in this category, along with Greta Berlin and her supporters) and that it is one that needs to be dealt with. Instead, people want to bury their head in the sand and pretend it nots a problem and that to allow it to continue causes harm to the movement and the Palestinian cause.

    Yes, there is a power struggle going on in the movement at the moment – a struggle to determine what politics the movement should promote and support.

    Do we allow the movement to normalise ideas which reek of conspiracy theories, bigotry, chauvinism and yes, even racism or do we support and build a movement which unequivocally opposes such things and build a movement based on the principles of decolonisation, anti-racism and an opposition to all forms of bigotry.

    Unfortunately, Greta Berlin and those supporters (including Henry Norr) have failed to step back, clear their heads and put their egos in check. They have lost sight of the fact that this movement is NOT ABOUT THEM, that it is about the Palestinians people and THEIR struggle.

    They seem to have forgotten that the first ‘rule’ of this movement should always be to DO NO HARM to the Palestinian struggle.

    Its time for Greta and co. to put their egos in check and recognise that it is them who are harming the movement and the Palestinian cause, not people such as Gabriel Ash and Ali Abunimah who have consistently taken a principled and correct political stand on these issues.

    • American says:

      @ Red

      That is funny. You admit that the management of FG is seriously incompetent, has issues and this lackadaisical management allowed some questionable people and comments into FG that caused this incident to surface.
      Then you say it’ s Harry’s bad and everyone’s bad who doesn’t condone what has been from the start a totally incompetent handling by management and escalating of the incident by airing your dirty laundry in public.
      And Harry needs to keep his ego in check and realize it not about him?…lord gawd.
      The mistake those of us not totally in step with you on this made here was in joining in this discussion in the first place and letting it get so big.

      • Red says:

        American: I never mentioned the FG movement or its management. I was refering to the broader Palestine solidarity movement and pointing out that Greta Berlin’s post brought to the surface issues that have been ignored by some for to long in the Palestine solidarity movement.

        As with most social justice movements, the Palestine solidarity movement is a decentralised one and people come it with different levels of political consciousness and understanding. This is perfectly fine, as there should be inclusive and there should be room in the movement for a diversity ideas. However, if you are serious about building a SOLIDARITY movement with AN OPPRESSED PEOPLE (ie. the Palestinians in this case), then the absolute first rule should be DO NO HARM to their cause. Normalising the inclusion of ideas which reek of bigotry, racism, prejudice and conspiracy theories does nothing to aid the Palestinian cause, instead it harms it immensely.

        Everyone makes mistakes and many people, including myself would have been perfectly happy to accept Greta’s explanation if she had not changed her story about what happened at least 8 times and if she had actually posted screen shots relating to the mistaken post. If she wanted to protect people’s privacy, she could have easily have redacted the names of the people in the group. However, it now has become clear that within these groups, which Greta has played an active role, there has been a systematic refusal to address posts, comments and material that promote not only anti-Jewish bigotry, but also racism and anti-Semitism.

        As Bekah Wolf demonstrates in her article posted here on Mondoweiss, the “Our Land” Facebook group is rife with this sort of crap and Greta along with the other moderators failed to nip it in the bud link to mondoweiss.net ). Instead, Greta and the other moderators allowed such comments to be normalised as acceptable.

        This is the real issue here – the normalisation and acceptance within in some sectors of the movement of this sort of bigotry. And it is an issue that Gabriel Ash spells out quite clearly and which Henry Norr completely ignores in his response to him.

        Now that this sort of bigotry and condoning of it has been widely exposed and people are demanding that Greta and others who have condoned this sort of behaviour be accountable for their behaviour, Greta and her supporters including Norr, you and many others are blaming those who have taken a principled stand against bigotry in the movement.

        This has become “so big” an issue precisely because it is a very real issue which needs to be dealt with. And as painful as all of this has been for the entire movement, it is far better that it has finally all come out in the open and clarity can be achieved about what sort of movement we are building and what sort of politicals and principles should guide the Palestine solidarity movement.

        As far as I am concerned, we need to take a very clear and absolutely strong stance against the normalisation of bigotry in the movement, as Ali Abunimah and more than 100 Palestinians have noted in their statement.

        Perhaps if Greta, Henry Norr and others put their egos in check, they may actually recognise they are in fact underming the Palestine solidarity movement. However, instead it appears fairly clear that they would rather allow their egos to run rampant and make it all about themselves and not the movement or the Palestinian struggle.

        • Cliff says:

          Red said:
          However, if you are serious about building a SOLIDARITY movement with AN OPPRESSED PEOPLE (ie. the Palestinians in this case), then the absolute first rule should be DO NO HARM to their cause.

          —–

          Bullshit. The US and Israel have supported and support and will support in the future, resistance movements that have not been careful to play the identity politics game so ‘appropriately’.

          Not to mention the Establishment rarely (if ever) gives a shit about the sensitivities if its political enemies. We actively support propaganda, racism, violence and terrorism and do so without being ‘sensitive’ to the feelings of the ‘offended’.

          This is an expectation heaped upon the un-favored segments of the Third World. It has nothing to do with right or wrong views and political correctness.

          It’s simply because the standard is so much higher for us. People hate the Palestinians because they aren’t favored. It’s our own societal norms working against us. It’s easier to say something critical when everyone else is doing so or when certain pressures aren’t applicable.

          These expectations are just another oppression the Third World has to put up with. If they aren’t being expect to immolate themselves to emulate Gandhi – then they are being expected to kneel down before the cynical identity politics of their masters.

        • Red says:

          @Cliff – seriously WTF are you talking about? Your whole post made absolutely no sense!

        • American says:

          @ Red

          Yea Cliff did make sense in his way.

          I tell you what…call me when Palestines occupy Israel, take peoples homes and land and kill and starve them and imprison them…….then I will get all excited about anti semitism……and I won’t wait for them to have done this to Jews for 65 years before I start advocating for the Jewish Israelis human rights.

  20. Red says:

    Today Mondoweiss has published an article by Bekah Wolf, one of the founders of the Palestine Solidarity Project based in Beit Ommar in Occupied Hebron. The article is called “If only it was just one tweet: One activist’s experience in the ‘Our Land’ Facebook group” – I suggest Norr and those supporting him and Greta Berlin go and read it. link to mondoweiss.net

    As Bekah notes: “While I am personally disappointed in Greta the stakes here are much higher than one person’s lack of judgement. This moment is a challenge to the Palestine solidarity movement and for us to define the movement we want to be, and the rhetoric and ideas we are willing to embrace”.

    AND she then goes on to explain in length:

    “Several people, particularly Palestinians in Palestine, have criticized the amount of attention Greta and her tweet have gotten. Some have criticized her for making this about her and drawing attention away from the people who are actually suffering. Others have criticized those in the movement who have tried to hold Greta accountable. What people seem to be missing, however, are two key reasons why we cannot tolerate this rhetoric in our movement.

    First, as a movement based on universal principles of human rights, freedom, and dignity, we should not allow any bigotry, racism, Islamophobia or anti-Semitism in our midst. This was a point eloquently made in recent days in a statement signed by more than 100 Palestinian activists, academics and cultural workers.

    Secondly, there are some utilitarian reasons why we should avoid this kind of rhetoric. Every time a Palestine solidarity activist takes on the issue of Holocaust and its connections to Zionism, every time they conflate Judaism with Zionism, they are making an inherently Zionist argument. The horrific historical reality of the Holocaust does not, and never can, trivialize or justify the dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people. But Greta and others, by insisting on making such topics a primary concern are tacitly conceding a key Zionist claim that the legitimacy of Zionism and its past and present deeds in Palestine stems from the Holocaust.

    As an anti-Zionist Jew who has been active in Palestine for 10 years, Greta Berlin’s statements and the content of “Our Land” not only offend me, but they have damaged my ability to combat Zionist rhetoric by claiming that I cannot be both religiously Jewish and anti-Zionist. Zionists routinely argue that to be Jewish is to be Zionist and the kind of rhetoric displayed on “Our Land” concedes this important point and supports this fundamental Zionist claim. In addition, this episode regarding Berlin’s tweet has damaged our movement as a whole and has shown deep short-sightedness by opening us up to attack and dismissal by Zionists who are desperately trying to paint us as a movement as anti-Semitic. Palestinians have not asked the solidarity movement to concern itself with notions of Jewish identity, authenticity, and the Holocaust, but to offer active and effective solidarity in restoring their rights in their country”

  21. yourstruly says:

    1) zionism does not = judaism, so it is not anti-jewish to be anti-zionist?

    2) zionism = racism

  22. anomalous says:

    Thank goodness I found this sensible comment. Greta Berlin, I woman I have known for the last decade or so to be a courageous and indefatigable advocate for human decency, and who has sacrificed much of her private and professional life to this struggle, deserves our thanks, not this silly witch-burning hysteria. There is not one single person writing on this site who has not issued dozens (and if you’ve been at it as long as I, hundreds) of statements, tweets, status updates, or verbal comments that could be taken alone or collectively scrutinized and found wanting by this or that skeptical anti-racist. This collective “knowledge” which periodically erupts in our communities about who is or is not an anti-semite, or who is “harming the struggle” is something I find deeply suspect, and it appalls me to watch these periodic eruptions of pious, ostensibly anti-racist indignation. These spasmodic episodes of collective shaming seem to reflect deep unresolved conflicts – not within our communities, but within those who find themselves moved to issue these cries of heresy and those who choose to light torches and join in. I have great respect for Gabriel Ash but his essay strikes me as having a bizarrely smug, monolithic and essentialist conception of what an “anti-semite” is.