When Baroness Tonge opens her mouth to speak on a subject involving Jews, then it is near-guaranteed that her utterances will cause offence. Her track record, from invoking the blood libel to hosting an event in Parliament where Jews were blamed for the Holocaust, is without parallel for a peer, and has earned her — along with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party — the second-highest spot on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s global top 10 antisemites of 2016, as well as jumping before she was pushed following suspension from the Liberal Democrat party. Her views are vile and discredited. We were therefore unsurprised that she signed up to a petition proposed by notorious antisemite Tony Greenstein, demanding that the Charity Commission shuts Campaign Against Antisemitism down.
In a Daily Mail article yesterday morning, Mr Greenstein’s petition was scorned by both MPs and peers alike with comments including that it was “a sad comment on the rise of hate speech”, “a ridiculous attempt to close down an organisation fighting antisemitism”, “…absurd, and perhaps motivated by fear…[which] demonstrates just how effective the Campaign Against Antisemitism has been…”, “The CAA deserves every support and we need real antisemites to be shown up for what they are, even if they try to disguise their Jew-hatred” and “abject nonsense that has no place in public life”. We are extremely grateful to Baroness Deech, Bob Blackman MP, Matthew Offord MP and Mike Freer MP, all of whom rushed to defend our work.
At Campaign Against Antisemitism, we have experience in combating the many variants of antisemitism of both far-right and far-left. They are united by certain constants, for example a well-worn belief that when Jews complain about antisemitism, they are lying to cover up some other hidden motive in order to further ‘Jewish power’. In this case, we have been challenged by an antisemitism of the far-left which indulges the discredited historical distortion that Hitler in some way supported Zionism. The arguments involved are arcane, but most Britons are now familiar with the derision with which that assertion was met by expert historical opinion when articulated by Ken Livingstone, especially when he owned up to basing his statements entirely on his reading of a single notorious book by a journalist called Brenner decades earlier. Livingstone was later forced to admit that Brenner himself was an antisemite, and that his work was badly flawed.
Brenner’s intent was to somehow historically decontextualise Zionism, paint a particular group of Zionists of the 1930s and 1940s as fascistic co-travellers with Hitler, and by association paint all Jews associated with the creation of the Jewish State — then and now — as alien fascists, acting at the expense of ‘real Jews’. This bizarre and long-discredited distortion of history is an attack on the Jewish community of this country: it attempts to diminish Hitler’s responsibility for the Holocaust, shifts that blame on to Jews, and by demonising Zionism as a fascistic movement and contemporary Israel in the same breath, it attempts to coerce British Jews into choosing between being labelled as ‘good Jews’ by rejecting Israel or being labelled as ‘bad Jews’ by supporting it. This means of classification is hurtful, insulting and a completely false and distorted version of history.
Even Jon Lansman, the leader of Momentum, has now called out this false distinction between Zionists and Jews. He knows that the overwhelming majority of Jews of all political persuasions support the existence of Israel. However, none of this prevented Mr Greenstein from writing that “Ken Livingstone got it right”. Mr Greenstein regularly returns to this theme in his blog, and never misses an opportunity to abuse others who debunk his ideas, by characterising them as “Zionist scum”. By backing Ken Livingstone’s Nazi apologism in saying Hitler “supported Zionism, before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.” Mr Greenstein is to be squarely defined as an antisemite under the International Definition of Antisemitism, which states that “Denying the…intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany…during World War II” is antisemitic.
Mr Greenstein is to be classified as an antisemite on other grounds too. He openly and readily admits to Holocaust inversion (calling Jews Nazis). This breaches the International Definition of Antisemitism by “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
Mr Greenstein regularly characterises the creation of Israel as “racist,” which is also in breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism by “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour)”. To boot, on his blogs he claims that Jews inflate the Holocaust in order to defend Israel, writing: “The holocaust has…been the alibi for every atrocity of the Israeli state.” However, under the definition: “Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust” is antisemitic.
On all these counts, and more, Tony Greenstein is also guilty under the International Definition of Antisemitism of “Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews”.
Mr Greenstein, unsurprisingly then, has been previously expelled from the Labour Party, silently readmitted (as many antisemites were when Jeremy Corbyn became leader) and then, when publicly exposed, re-suspended by the Party, where he remains alongside other Labour antisemites against whom the Labour Party refuses to act, safe behind the cloak of anonymity afforded by Shami Chakrabarti’s whitewash report on antisemitism.
Mr Greenstein may be known also for the company he keeps: often appearing supporting Jackie Walker, who has also (twice) suspended by the Labour Party for antisemitism. Ms Walker’s antisemitism is well known, and Mr Greenstein embraces her as a colleague and friend, as does Jeremy Corbyn. Tony Greenstein is also allied with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign — an organisation which our recent investigation shows to be a viper’s nest of antisemitism — recently speaking with Jackie Walker at the Brighton and Hove branch.
Mr Greenstein is not above lying. In letters to The Guardian he has stated that the International Definition of Antisemitism prevents criticism of Israel, when, in fact, it explicitly states that it does not, confirming that: “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” He has claimed that Campaign Against Antisemitism is a lobby group acting on behalf of the Israeli government, a ridiculous allegation that would not stand up to any examination or audit. In this context, then, it is entirely relevant to mention that Mr Greenstein has previous criminal form for brazen deception, having past convictions for credit card theft and subsequent use, vandalism, drug possession and a number of other petty crimes. He also appears to also be a misogynist, for example saying about a woman who challenges him “I suspect when [you] drop your knickers everyone runs away”.
All antisemites have to maintain a level of denial and self-deception. Without it, their beliefs cannot bear contact with the light. Mr Greenstein is no exception — for him, in order to prove to himself that our own charity is “a McCarthyite Zionist propaganda organisation whose aim is to smear and libel opponents of Israel’s apartheid regime”, he has had to deny reality by brazenly lying to the Charity Commission, claiming that Campaign Against Antisemitism is “…a nakedly right-wing political Zionist organisation” that is not concerned with “fascist groups, who are antisemitic Holocaust deniers.” When Mr Greenstein’s charges arrive on the desk of the Charity Commission, this will no doubt raise eyebrows, as it is well known that challenging fascist neo-Nazis is a primary focus of our work, and has been since our campaign was founded. We can only imagine the mental somersaults he has had to turn in order to avoid acknowledging this, but he must, for if he acknowledged our fight against fascists and Holocaust deniers, his whole thesis would collapse.
Perhaps he would like to come to court in March, to see members of our organisation and pro bono lawyers — who have suffered violent threats and intimidation — unflinchingly challenge alleged neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers, and witness a private prosecution we have brought against a reluctant Crown Prosecution Service, which has refused to prosecute open-and-shut cases of fascist antisemitism. There, in the public gallery, he will (if previous hearings are a guide) rub shoulders with some of Europe’s foremost Holocaust deniers — or even Gilad Atzmon — who have made the same charge as Mr Greenstein: that Campaign Against Antisemitism is the hidden hand of a ‘Zionist’ conspiracy to repress free speech.
Mr Greenstein and those neo-Nazis are nothing more than two sides of the same antisemitic coin, and we will continue to challenge them both.