Strange alliances: Jeremy Corbyn and the Holocaust deniers
many sympathetic to his domestic political agenda) have raised concerns about his continued association with antisemites within and beyond the anti-Israel movement. On the other hand, supporters have argued that these charges represents guilt by association, that Corbyn couldn't have known about the antisemitism of those he has associated with, or that they were only slightly antisemitic anyway.
Nobody serious has suggested that Corbyn himself has an ideological commitment to Judeophobia or that he is personally prejudiced against Jews. But even among Corbyn's more serious supporters, there is an acknowledgement that there is something to be concerned about. Owen Jones, for example, has a very good piece in the Guardian about the need to confront antisemitism in this milieu. Corbyn supporter Jane Carnall links to a Tumblr called "How to criticize Israel without being anti-semitic", which goes through some of the issues.
Sarah Brown suggests that even Jones' clear denunciation still seems to suggest that those calling out Corbyn's associations are doing so in bad faith (as a "convenient means to undermine political opponents", as Jones puts it), which means not taking antisemitism seriously. And David Paxton takes on the "guilt by association" argument, showing that it is failure to root out the prevalent antisemitism in the anti-Israel and pro-Corbyn scenes that is the issue.
Eisen and Atzmon
Yesterday, I posted on Jeremy Corbyn's connections with the LaRouche movement. Today, I turn to a second allegation: that he has repeatedly endorsed a small group of Holocaust deniers who have attached themselves to the Palestine solidarity movement. At the centre of this group is an organisation called Deir Yassin Remembered, its organiser Paul Eisen, and Paul Eisen's associate Gilad Atzmon.
I mentioned Paul Eisen frequently on this blog in its early days in 2005. In 2004, he was arguing that "Jewish power" is destroying the world. Late in 2004 he began flirting with Holocaust denial. In 2005, he became a supporter of Holocaust revisionist and Hitler fan Ernst Zundel.
Deir Yassin Remembered was founded by the American Daniel McGowan, a retired professor and Holocaust denier. Also connected to DYR and Eisen is Israel Shamir, a Swedish Holocaust denier now based in Moscow. Their supporter Gilad Atzmon is a jazz musician who in 2004 told SOAS students that burning synagogues is rational and has been circulating antisemitic conspiracy theories for the last decade or more. All of these people are regularly published by fascists such as David Duke.
From 2007, here is Tony Greenstein on Eisen and DYR:
The British Director of DYR, Paul Eisen, has penned three essays - Jewish Power,The Holocaust Wars (a tribute to Nazi apologist and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel who was sentenced last week to five years in a German prison for inciting racial hatred and defaming the memory of the dead) and In Clear Sight of Yad Vashem.In fact, when Atzmon spoke to the SWP in 2004, many members noticed he was dodgy (Richard Seymour called him a disgraceful crank). The SWP, however, continued its association with Atzmon until 2010, due to his friendship with its secretary Martin Smith.
The latter essay argues ...
Over the last 50 years, revisionist scholars have amassed a formidable body of substantial evidence, which runs in direct opposition to the traditional Holocaust narrative. "Where is the evidence," they say, "for this alleged gargantuan mass-murder? Where are the documents? Where are the traces and remains? Where are the weapons of murder?"
Eisen's views regarding Holocaust denial are quite clear. Among DYR's supporters is Gilad Atzmon, a musician whose album, Exile, won the BBC Jazz Album of the Year in 2003. In an email to me of June 6, 2005, he described Eisen's Holocaust Wars as a "great text".
Atzmon, although not himself a Holocaust denier, is certainly a believer in the world Jewish conspiracy theory. In his web article, On Anti-semitism he wrote: "We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously." After attention was drawn to this quote, Atzmon changed "Jewish people" to "Zionists" but the in the context of his argument the meaning is clearly the same.
This was why, when the Socialist Workers Party first invited Atzmon to give a talk at their Bookmarks bookshop in London in June 2005, a large picket was organised by Jews Against Zionism.
Corbyn's connection to these people is a bit hard to disentangle. Louise Mensch puts the prosecution case in the second part of this post, building on the Daily Mail's attack. It seems that Corbyn associated with Eisen in 2005, when it was just emerging that Eisen was a Holocaust denier, and again in 2013, by which time the mainstream Palestine solidarity movement had long severed all links with him. Gilad Atzmon performed at the 2005 event organised by Eisen which Corbyn attended; again, this was at the time when it was becoming clear Atzmon was antisemitic. It seems that attending the event is the only connection between Atzmon and Corbyn.
Eisen has claimed that Corbyn stood by Eisen during the period when the Palestine solidarity movement was ostracising him, but there is no evidence of that beside his words. Charlie Pottins, who was there at the time, gives a clear account of how Eisen's toxicity became clear at this time, but questions whether Corbyn had any continued association with the man.
The first issue then is the extent to which Corbyn should have been aware of Eisen or Atzmon's racism at this time, April 2005.
My view is that he probably should have been becoming aware. The Palestine solidarity movement, Jews Against Zionism, LabourNet and others were starting to raise the issue at exactly this time. But it was only a month or two later that these criticisms were really gaining momentum and the full scale of Eisen's toxicity became clear. For example, if we look at Joel Finkel's response to Eisen's "Jewish Power", written in early 2005, he is starting to raise the problems of the metaphysical, raciological vision of Jews at the heart of Eisen's worldview, but it is only in a June 2005 postscript that he notes that Eisen has gone full fascist. This account by Mark Elf from June 2005 lays out the timeline, showing that people were noticing Eisen's racism but that the full extent of it was only becoming clear.
My verdict, then, is that Corbyn should have listened more carefully at that time to those who were raising alarm bells, but that there was not yet a strong case being made in April 2005 - so this does not constitute a serious error of judgement.
|Corbyn at 2013 DYR event
I agree that Corbyn could have put more effort into weeding these kinds of people out of the Palestine solidarity movement. But Tony Greenstein reports that Corbyn supported the moves to expel DYR supporter, Francis Clarke-Lowes, from PSC at the 2012 AGM for holocaust denial. And one of Eisen's posts claiming association with Corbyn that Mensch cites is actually bemoaning Corbyn's support for John Mann's EDM implicitly criticising of Paul Flynn for being antisemitic about the British ambassador to Israel. In short, I don't think this part of the case against Corbyn is particularly strong if taken alone.
If the 2005 part of the story was all there was, then, I'd say we need to chill out. But the problem is Corbyn seems to have gone back to a Deir Yassin Remembered event in 2013 (along with Labour MP Gerald Kaufman) - see Express, Jewish Chronicle, DYR website.
That Corbyn should be associating with DYR six years after the PSC formally severed links with DYR because of Holocaust denial does not mean Corbyn is an antisemite (and noone serious is saying so). But it does seem really worrying. Just four months earlier Eisen had written a blogpost “How I became a Holocaust denier”. Corbyn should have abided by the PSC decision and kept well away from them. That he didn't says something very depressing about him - either that he doesn't believe serious anti-racists when they talk about Holocaust denial, or he doesn't care.
What about the Tories?
Jane Carnell's criticism of Mensch's take on this spends a lot of time on some of the parallel associations others have had with Holocaust deniers. She spends time in particular on Tory links with Polish right-wing politician Michal Kaminski, to which Louise Mensch has never objected and which Stephen Pollard has defended.
I wrote about this at the time, and linked to several pieces attacking the Kaminski link, including several by those who are attacking Corbyn now. Consistent opponents of antisemitism were right to raise the alarm against Kaminski; they are right to raise the alarm against Corbyn now. Just because Tories have dodgy links does not mean we should let Corbyn off the hook for his dodgy links.
- Joel Finkel on Paul Eisen and "Jewish power", 2005
- Engage on the 2007 PSC motion to sever links with Paul Eisen and Deir Yassin Remembered
- David Gehrig on Atzmon and Eisen, 2008
- Andy Newman in 2011 on Atzmon, antisemitism and the left
- Zero Books authors statement on Atzmon, 2011
- Hope Not Hate on Gilad Atzmon, 2011
- ADL backgrounder on Gilad Atzmon, 2012
- Palestinian solidarity activists statement on Atzmon, 2012