by Jay Knott, with input from Francis Clark-Lowes
Tony Greenstein is a campaigner for the unemployed, the homeless, etc.. He’s been involved for decades in helping the poor in England’s progressive capital, Brighton.
He is also involved in more complicated issues like anti-fascism and Palestine solidarity. He follows Lenni Brenner’s discovery that the Nazis co-operated with Zionists in the 1940s, and tries to apply the conclusion to Britain in the 2010’s (Brenner 1983).
The relatively new English Defence League seem to reinforce that analysis. Not only are they “fascists” (they oppose black immigration), but they are Zionists too (they harass Muslims and Palestine Solidarity groups).
The other main far-right group in the UK is the British National Party. It claimed it was the only party in Britain to unconditionally support the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-9 (Shaviv 2009).
The BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, frankly admitted that his party was once anti-Semitic, but said it had changed. If you’re a far-right leader, and want to prove you’re not anti-Semitic, what do you do? Support Israel! Most people aren’t aware of Lenni Brenner’s view, that fascism and Zionism are twins, and tend to think in simplistic terms. For them, anti-Semitism implies opposition to Israel.
So why did Griffin feel the need to prove his party is not anti-Semitic? Because Zionists and anti-fascists had been screaming “Nazis!” at the BNP, and its predecessor, the National Front, for decades. The leader of the Anti-Nazi League once confided to me that it wasn’t strictly true to say these parties were National Socialist, but, as he put it, “the shit stuck to the blanket”. To attract wealthy Jewish support, the anti-fascist left exaggerated their opponents’ anti-Semitism. To grab nationalism back from the fascists, the anti-fascists harked back to World War II. It worked. Posters of the leader of the NF, next to a picture of Goebbels and a pile of bodies, did the trick, leveraging both Jewish fear and British patriotism. The far right had to change its tune.
The pro-Semitic, Islamophobic, English Defense League is, in part, the result. Despite this achievement, and despite its falsehood, lefties still shout “Nazis!” at the far right. They don’t shout “Zionists!”. The implication is that white identity politics is worse than Jewish supremacy.
An important component of anti-fascism is the claim that “appeasement” in the 1930s toward Germany was a mistake. In other words, war was better. Anti-fascists tend to be rather sheepish about this. The successes of the left on the streets against the British Union of Fascists, which was against war with Germany, may have helped prepare the way for Britain’s entry.
Today, we might begin to ask what was so good about the Allies, why the war was “necessary”. This will not harm modern Britain. But undermining the Allied narrative is dangerous for the state of Israel. Why this is so, was indicated, unconsciously, by an anti-fascist, who said that, if you mention the holocaust in the same breath as other crimes of World War II, you ‘eviscerate’ the holocaust’s ‘historical meaning and importance’ (Knott 2012).
Without the holocaust’s ‘historical meaning and importance’, Israel is nothing more than the only remaining apartheid state.
Back to Tony Greenstein. In his blog, he describes a recent meeting to promote his new book on the history of opposition to fascism on the South Coast (Greenstein 2012). The book describes “working-class people” preventing the anti-war BUF from meeting in Brighton in 1936, another battle with the same people in 1948, then the NF in the 1970s and 1980s.
The EDL threatened to picket the meeting. The Quakers said they wouldn’t let him use their hall, because they were worried about “anti-fascist aggression”. Tony says that it’s always fascists who initiate confrontation. This is not true. Much of the fighting between the two sides consists of anti-fascists trying to prevent their opponents holding legal, peaceful, meetings and marches. This is not to imply supporting the things the EDL say at these meetings, or the right to say these things. It doesn’t even imply criticizing violence against them. It just means “anti-fascists tell lies”.
Anyway, Tony’s meeting was held in the Brighthelm Centre. It wasn’t Tony’s first intervention in that building. Four years ago, Gilad Atzmon had an appointment there to give a talk entitled ‘The Primacy of the Ear – The Road from Music to Ethics (An Alternative Take on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict)‘. Tony is an obsessive opponent of Gilad, so he fly-posted the Centre, claiming Gilad is a racist, and calling for a picket of the event. No doubt he also wished to persuade the manager of the Centre to cancel the booking. The organizer, Francis Clark-Lowes, decided to have the meeting at his house instead (Clark-Lowes 2008).
The reader is probably thinking this is all a storm in a teacup. But the story has more wide-ranging implications. Why has Palestine solidarity been so unsuccessful, when the fight against white apartheid was so successful? The oppression of the Palestinians is roughly the same problem – racial supremacy supported by the West – and roughly the same kind of people are opposing it, i.e. leftists. But, whereas there are “Jews Against Zionism”, there never was “Aryans Against Apartheid”. We need a critique of Palestine solidarity as it currently exists. Gilad is a leader in this critique. He’s shaking the movement out of its complacency.
The above is a rather complicated argument, so we have to explain what we’re not saying. We’re not saying that fascism is an acceptable political philosophy. Though we say the BUF was against war, this doesn’t mean we think they were right on any other issue. We disagree with Tony’s claim that the EDL is a new BUF; it is not a serious political movement. We’re just defending the hypothesis that, today, Jewish racism is so important in comparison with white European racism, that concentrating on the latter, or even making them equal (“against all racism”), occludes this vital truth.
- Knott, Jay. (2012, March 13). Zionist Bullying in the West Coast Co-op Movement. http://www.deliberation.info/zionist-bullying-in-the-west-coast-co-op-movement
- Shaviv, Miriam. 2009, October 23. BNP Leader Nick Griffin, friend of Israel? The Jewish Chronicle. http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/bnp-leader-nick-griffin-friend-israel
- Greenstein, Tony. (2012, 18 March). Successful Anti-Fascist Book Despite EDL Threats and Quaker Cowardice. http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2012/03/successful-anti-fascist-book-despite.html
- Clark-Lowes, Francis. (2008, January 9). Brighton Rocked – Gilad Atzmon event a success. http://peacepalestine.blogspot.com/2008/01/brighton-rocked-gilad-atzmon-event.html
- Brenner, Lenni. (1983). Zionism in the Age of the Dictators. http://www.marxists.de/middleast/brenner