Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tony Greenstein banned from Indymedia UK for being Jewish

What's happened to Tony Greenstein, now banned from Indymedia UK, is a lot like what's happened to me. Expect more Jews to be discriminated against in the future.
Greenstein has been the most high-pitched and abusive of those who say that when AWL argues against left anti-semitism, we are just belabouring an invented straw man, and de facto helping the ruling circles in Israel.

Well, now Greenstein himself - a vehement supporter of boycotting Israel, etc. etc. - has fallen foul of people on the left who take even further the idea that Israel is a nation so bad that it cannot be allowed to continue to exist.

He has been banned from the left-wing Internet network Indymedia for protesting - obstreperously, to be sure, but that is the right way to protest in such cases - at Indymedia carrying anti-semitic comments from ex-Israeli musician and SWP associate Gilad Atzmon.
(It may be useful to read How Indymedia UK Lost Its Way and became a safe haven for Anti-Semitism at Socialist Unity for some background.)

Tony Greenstein's case is sharper than mine, but I'd like to draw connections between them and view them together. It's useful to note both a case in Britain with an explicitly leftist site banning an anti-Zionist Jew together with a case in the US with a mainstream site recently bought by MSNBC banning a left-Zionist Jew. I think that helps to suggest the scope of the problem is or is becoming both global and mainstream.

The debate over at Engage has questioned whether Tony Greenstein is worth defending. [Update: The page has been accidentally deleted. Here is a google cache of the discussion page.] The general response has been that he is in this case because he is being attacked for his Jewishness. In that way, it is an attack on every Jew. If attacking Indymedia while refusing to defend Greenstein means that we should defend him as a Jew without defending any of his arguments, I would agree. His venomoous anti-Zionism only serves to demonstrate how outrageous his banning is. But to defend Jews against antisemitism is to defend Tony Greenstein here.

On the other hand, a friend suggested that in some way Greenstein's case is worse. It is certainly sharper and more obvious because Greenstein himself is someone few Jews could be comfortable with. In fact, a commenter at Engage quotes Greenstein:
Tony Cliff said many years ago "If i saw a bunch of skinheads beating up a rabbi , i'd beat up the skinheads , then i'd beat up the rabbi"
In other words defend the rabbi against an antisemitic attack , then beat up the rabbi for being a rabbi.
And Gilad Atzmon, whom Greenstein attacked for being an antisemite, is a prominent antisemite so that the stakes are a bit higher there. It's like saying a white supremacist is a multiculturalist because he doesn't want to participate in a lynching. But we cannot allow some border where the inclusion of antisemitic stereotypes or the exclusion of Jews is acceptible so long as it isn't too extreme. It would be like saying McCarthyism is okay if people really are a bit pink. Or allowing "There's blacks, and there's n*****s. I only hate n*****s."

While Greenstein was surely obstreperous -which is not only his right (in the circumstances) but also his style regardless- it was made quite clear to me that my being disrespectful to others, for which I was banned from Newsvine, amounted to nothing more than to use the word "antisemitism."


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tony greenstein said...

I don't know anything about this site but I assume from the article that it is pro-Zionist.

Let me make it clear that I didn't ask for anyone, AWL or Engage to 'defend' me and as I said on the former and a Ruth said on the latter, before David Hirsh deleted all the comments, the 'support' I received was akin to that of a rope supporting a hanging man! (Lenin)

I was not banned from Indymedia for being Jewish and it is therefore unfair to say that. I was banned for repeatedly criticising their willingness to publish anti-Semitic nonsense from Gilad Atzmon. There is a difference. I made a thorough nuisance of myself, garnered publicity (with some help) worldwide and caused the biggest crisis, according to what they themselves say, in their whole history. Hence the banning.

I am NOT a Jewish martyr nor even a Socialist one.

But UNLIKE Engage I take a principled position. If you are opposed to racism and anti-Semitism, you cannot then endorse Zionism which from its very beginning discriminated against non-Jews and Arabs. In Israel the choice is increasingly between a Jewish State and a Democratic State or in the words of the KKL/JNF site, the Jewish people haven't dreamed of a democratic but a Jewish state for 2,000 years. (they took that one down but there's much else still there!).

So I have a simple question. If what happens to Palestinians in Israel were to happen to Jews in Britain, would that be anti-Semitic? Answer is of course yes.

And to be blunt, the main reason for Engage reprinting what AWL started, was to hand ammunition to those like Atzmon who believe that Jewish anti-Zionists are really crypto-Zionists. Another example of the congruence between anti-Semitism and Zionism.

Tony Greenstein

Matt said...

Well, Tony, unsurprisingly, I disagree with almost everything you say. Yet you're stuck with the rest of us thinking there's been an injustice.

"I was not banned from Indymedia for being Jewish and it is therefore unfair to say that. I was banned for repeatedly criticising their willingness to publish anti-Semitic nonsense from Gilad Atzmon."

That's funny. Somehow, if it were other than Jews banned for making a fuss about racism, I think you'd take a different stance.

tony greenstein said...
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tony greenstein said...

Yes Matt but there's an irony where the victim denies that there is a personal injustice. Sometimes a stiletto is better than a blunderbuss.

If I'd made the same fuss and I wasn't Jewish I would still have been banned. I use a simple test used in the law of tort. It's called the 'but for' test. But for me being Jewish would I have been banned. Answer yes.

But the fact that I don't think the ban was for anti-Semitism doesn't mean I don't think they haven't behaved in a manner to give comfort to anti-Semites. They certainly have and at least one moderator, ftp (Roy Bard) is clearly anti-Semitic.

But I also have to say that repeated Zionist accusations of anti-Semitism against any and everyone has, I'm afraid, immunised people to legitimate charges of anti-Semitism, as I was saying 20 years ago and Antony Lerman was saying more recently. That is also a problem.

And when I was more active in anti-fascist work I regularly got hate mail etc. Sometimes it was difficult to know if it came from fash or Zionists because the latter would say to you, which the fascists never did, that it was a pity the Nazis didn't get you or your family. Please don't deny this because you know that hatred against anti-Zionists is greater than that against anti-Semites for Zionists. You only have to look at the Engage blog, which is reprinted on Jewssansfrontieres, since David Hirsh deleted it, to see how some choked on the idea of 'defending' me.

Tony G

Matt said...

(Hope you don't mind that I deleted your duplicate comment.)

Yes Matt but there's an irony where the victim denies that there is a personal injustice. Actually, no. It happens all the time. But, in this case, it isn't that you reject that there's been an injustice done.

And, it's clear you don't know much about the sort of anti-racist background I come from. That sort of victim-blaming will never fly with me.

tony greenstein said...

No Matt. I don't know anything about your background. I dip in and out of these blogs without any comprehensive overview I'm afraid.

I feel it trivialises what happened at Indymedia to portray it as an injustice to me. Maybe there was one, though I doubt that was AWL's concern, still less that of Engage. I am not oppressed by virtue of being Jewish. That's not to say that I don't take offence at anti-Semitic comments and arguments, but that doesn't oppress me. Is that strength or weakness? I'll leave you to decide.

No what happened at Indymedia is symptomatic of a bigger problem. The ability of racism to thrive in the current 'war against terrorism', the acceptance of racist discourse, much of which is promoted by adherents of Zionism, which Engage and AWL ignore of course. It's also about the weakening of the Palestinian struggle and of the position of the Jewish diasporah.

I don't know your view on Zionism, but its attitude to the J diaspora is not too different from that of anti-Semites. Both want it wound up. The question is whether the J diaspora, which is susceptible to anti-Semitism can assert its own interests independently of the interests of the Israeli state. And that is the context for what happened at Indymedia.

Matt said...

I didn't mean that you should know anything about me personally. (Though it's curious you would continue to argue with me without availing yourself of this resource right under your nose.) I meant that you don't seem to know much about the sort of critical race theory that informs my views. Like this article here (my post on it is here). Your apologies on behalf of Indymedia are notably missing such an analysis of privilege. Worse, your arguments seem to me to accept that privilege as right.

I don't know quite what you mean by it, but when I talk about racism, I'm talking first and foremost about these sorts of systemic biases that prejudice the debate from the outset and justify more overt expressions. And I'm afraid I find a lot of that in your comments here, including your refusal to accept left-Zionism as sincere (let alone plausible) and engage with what left-Zionists actually argue. Actually, I don't see it as terribly different from Atzmon's refusal to accept your anti-Zionism as sincere.

And, as I noted above, I'm particularly disturbed by your willingness to blame Jews (Zionists) for antisemitism.