Karl Stead's got it right - let's reject the anti-semites
Despite the protest's repudiation of anti-semitism, an ad hoc group calling itself Kiwis for Israel issued a press release which claimed the event was an exercise in Jew-bashing. Kiwis for Israel ignored the words of Minto and other protest organisers, and instead focused on the presence of Jonathan Eisen, the leader of a group of conspiracy theorists that publishes a widely distributed colour magazine called Uncensored. Eisen attended the rally wearing a T-shirt claiming that '9/11 was an inside job', and distributed copies of the December-March issue of Uncensored, which claims that Barack Obama is the tool of Jewish conspirators and that Mossad was responsible for bringing down New York's Twin Towers. Eisen is not the first anti-semite to try to infiltrate Aotearoa's peace movement. Veteran neo-Nazi Kerry Bolton and a group of followers took part in some Wellington protests against the invasion of Iraq, where they distributed anti-semitic literature. Bolton was thrown out of the anti-war movement as soon as organisers realised what he was up to.
The latest issue of Uncensored employs the same tactic that Eisen and Bolton used on peace rallies - it mixes genuine criticisms of Israeli and American foreign policy with anti-semitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial.
Uncensored reproduces fragments of commentary on the recent attack on Gaza from the London Review of Books, the liberal Israeli paper Haaretz, and the website of the Swiss Red Cross. All of these publications have made justified criticisms of Israel's bloody and futile incursion into Gaza. But the April-June issue of Uncensored includes not only rational critiques of Israeli foreign policy but a series of rambling and paranoid articles pulled straight from neo-Nazi websites. Consider, for instance, the article 'The Diary of Anne Frank: some Honest Questions' by Jeff Rense, who is a frequent contributor to Uncensored. Rense often uses his website and a radio show he runs in the US to promote the views of neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers. One of the more frequent and notorious guests on Rense's radio show is Mark Weber, a senior figure at the innocent-sounding Institute of Historical Review, an organisation which specialises in producing claims that the Jews started World War Two and invented the Holocaust after the war.
Rense's article in the latest Uncensored claims that Anne Frank's diary was written by her father. Rense relies for 'evidence' against Anne Frank on Robert Faurrison and Arthur Butz, two of the most notorious Holocaust deniers alive. Butz and Faurrison's claims that the Frank diary was hoaxed have been demolished time and time again. Faurrison has repeatedly claimed that the attic where the Frank family hid was too small for them, ignoring the fact that the SS officer who arrested the Franks in the attic later confessed to the crime. Butz's claim that Otto Frank wrote his daughter's diary after World War Two was comprehensively discredited by forensic tests two decades ago.
Predictably enough, Rense's article slides from baseless claims against the Anne Frank diary into wholesale denials of the Holocaust. According to Rense, the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other death camps were actually showers, and the Zyklon B which killed Jews in the gas chambers was actually used to cure them of lice. According to Rense, conditions at Auschwitz 'couldn't have been that harsh at all', because Anne Frank's father emerged from the place alive in 1945. Rense neglects to mention that no other member of the Frank family was so lucky.
Rense believes that the Nazis' 'well-intentioned efforts' to look after Jews at places like Auschwitz were turned into 'the most transparent lies' by the 'Holocaust industry' that was set up after World War Two when the Jews realised that 'Zionism must be propped up'.
In the past, Jonathan Eisen has sometimes responded to criticisms of material in Uncensored by saying that he does not necessarily agree with everything he prints, but is only circulating it so that 'people can make up their own minds'. But the Rense article and the other anti-semitic pieces in the new Uncensored are full of deliberate distortions of the historical record, which make it harder for readers to develop well-informed opinions, and no attempt is made to balance the views the anti-semites advance.
It is not as though it would be hard for Eisen to locate material which refuted the ravings of the Holocaust deniers. There is a broad and straight road leading from Hitler's earliest pronouncements, to the genocidal rhetoric in Mein Kampf, to Nazi actions during their early years in power, when Jews were excluded from public life and harrassed, to the massacres of Jews and Slavs by SS units working in the rear of the German advance into Poland at the beginning of the Second World War, to the beginning of industrialised slaughter at camps like Auschwitz in the early forties.
Holocaust deniers cannot explain why five or six million Jews went missing in Europe during World War Two, if there was no campaign to exterminate them. They cannot explain the tens of thousands of Jews and gentiles who have testified to the existence of the death camps. They cannot explain the thousands of documents - plans and photographs of camps and gas chambers, deportation orders, notebooks in which deaths were recorded by the thousand, memoranda from camp commanders - which the Nazi bureaucracy secreted during its war against the Jews. The Holocaust deniers also struggle to explain why there were vast piles of bodies lying about at camps like Auschwitz when these camps were liberated in 1945. If, as the Jeff Rense claims, Auschwitz was a hospital, then it clearly didn't do a very good job.
In most courts of law, the eyewitness testimony of a single witness to a crime is sufficient to bring a conviction. The crime of the Holocaust had innumerable witnesses. Why do the Holocaust deniers and the editor of Uncensored completely ignore these voices? We can only answer this question by referring to anti-semitism. For the likes of Rense and Eisen, Jews are not capable of giving reliable testimony, because they are by nature duplicitous and conspiratorial. Hitler was right to hate and fear them.
Eisen himself shows his hand when he appends an editor's note to the sequence of anti-semitic articles in the latest Uncensored. In his note Eisen makes a series of utterly false claims about Jewish and European history. He asserts that, by the time that Zionism began to emerge as an ideology in the second half of the nineteenth century, 'Jews had largely assimilated into the mainstream cultures' of Europe, and 'persecutions has passed into history, at least in Western Europe'.
In fact, in many nineteenth century European nations Jews were still subjected to laws that prevented them from assimilating - in Russia, for instance, they were banned from entering vast areas, and from working in certain occupations. Even in relatively liberal Britain, Jews were still barred from parliament, the leading universities and the law profession for most of the nineteenth century.
The meaning behind Eisen's false claims about assimilation and an absence of persecution is clear: he is suggesting that it was Zionism that was responsible for the prejudice that Jews encountered in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Like Jeff Rense and so many other contributors to Uncensored, Eisen appears to believe that the anti-semitism of the Hitler regime was a response to the evil machinations of Zionists. Such a view bears no relation to reality: whatever we think of Zionism as a political ideology, it posed no threat at all to the German people in the 1930s and '40s.
Eisen, though, seems determined to endorse the neo-Nazi argument that Jews, and not the Hitler regime, were responsible for World War Two. His editorial dwells on the Rothschild family, long a bugbear for anti-semites, and claims that they 'helped to engineer' the war of 1939-45. Eisen's own words, then, condemn him as an anti-semitic conspiracy theorist. It is good that his paranoid pronouncements met with no discernable support at the peace rally a couple of months ago.
In a recent, semi-coherent interview that one of his followers has posted to youtube, Eisen complains about the 'stupidity' of the protesters who refused to accept the ideas in Uncensored. Eisen is particularly angry at senior New Zealand writer Karl Stead, who attended the rally against the attack on Gaza but bluntly refused Eisen's offer of a free copy of Uncensored.
Eisen raves about Stead's 'blindness', but the author of Smith's Dream should be commended for clearly distinguishing legitimate criticism of Israeli policies from rabid anti-semitism. People like Eisen do a disservice to genuine critics of Israel, and give succour to the right-wing argument that all critics of Israel are anti-semites. The entire left should follow Stead's example and blackball Eisen and Uncensored, in the same way that it has rejected Kerry Bolton and his neo-Nazi friends.