Reply To: Leaked Labour report on antisemitism in the party

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Dear Mr Murray,

Months ago I read your detailed and in-depth analysis (in Consortiumnews) of the Labour Party Report into allegations of antisemitism in the party, and more specifically against Jeremy Corbyn.

There was a particular point though that I disagreed with you. It was your criticism of Ken Livingstone’s reference to Nazi/Zionist links.

You could not see the point of that and attributed these links to “misguided Zionists”. In fact you said:

“On Ken Livingstone, I do not think in the least that Ken is an anti-Semite. I do however think he is wrong. I have always found the discourse around Nazi/Zionist links disturbing and generally anti-Semitic in motivation. Of course there may have been contact at some early stage between Nazis who wished to eradicate Jews from Europe, and Zionists who wished Jews to move to Israel. But what purpose is there in pointing that out? Jewish hatred of the Nazis is indisputable, and any misguided Zionist who tried to deal with them was not therefore a Nazi supporter. It is a pointless discussion with highly unpleasant undertones. How Ken was entrapped into it I struggle to understand.”

My disagreement with you is that querying Zionist/Nazi links is not, and cannot be, ipso facto, evidence of antisemitism; and, that there is a legitimate purpose in pointing out the links.

Antisemitism is a form of racism that posits that people identified as Jews are essentially different – and malevolent – from people identified as Gentiles. Introducing a discourse about possible links between Zionists and Nazis is a legitimate historical question, that should be subjected to scientific scrutiny, regardless of the intentions of the originators of such discourse. In the same way it is not inherently antisemitic to ask for evidence of the holocaust – in my opinion a question which is more than adequately answered by Raul Hillberg’s magisterial study “The Destruction of European Jewry”.

Edwin Black, in “The Transfer Agreement”, demonstrates that Zionists who collaborated with, or supported collaboration with, the Nazis were not some “misguided” off-mainstream types, but included leaders of the Zionist Organisation of Germany, British Board of Jewish Deputies and the American Jewish Congress. They included names like Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Goldman and David ben Gurion.

The specific purpose of the collaboration was to undermine and destroy a growing and successful international trade boycott of German goods. This was in protest against the Nazi policies against Jews and ‘others’ in the country, and also Hitler’s expansionist, aggressive intentions. The boycotters, who included many Jews (many of whom were Zionists) and Gentiles in their ranks, were demanding that all in German society should form part of the German nation. It was against the relegation some “others” to second —class citizenship. (I appreciate the moral and intellectual force of this demand having grown up in South Africa and participated in the broad anti-apartheid movement inside the country during the 1970s to the 1990s). Instead, had the boycott been strengthened it would certainly have placed enormous pressures on Hitler’s regime in its early years, before it could consolidate. We can only speculate what the outcome of that could have been, but in combination with other anti-collaborationist forces it might have helped to alter the course of history.

There is another legitimate purpose in exploring the history and meaning of these links. Both Zionism and Nazism are ethno-nationalist, i.e. they posit a biological ethnos, in one case “German Aryan”, in the other “Jewish Semitic”. It is clear from Black’s book that the similarities in their ideologies gave them a mutual understanding and acceptance of each other’s weltanschauungs. Regardless of their negative (or whatever) feelings for each other, they were speaking the same meta-language and this was an important factor in enabling them to make a “deal” with each other. You can contrast this with the Dietrich Boenhoffers’ of this world, for whom on principle there could be no compromise with Nazis and their ideology. Such a reflection would also cast interesting ideas about Israel’s current relationship with extreme right-wing parties like Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) (which sometime ago called for the dismantling of the holocaust memorial in Berlin), right wing Ukrainian military forces (identified by Max Blumenthal of the Gray Zone) and Poland’s right wing government.

I can include for your information a diagram of the Transfer Agreement about which Black (an ardent Zionist, I should add) writes, with some short notes that summarise the storyline that he sets out. (unfortunately I do not see a way to attach this file to this comment, but I have mailed it to your address – have yet to hear from you though….) Black’s work is meticulously referenced and annotated. I have also come across Lenni Brenner’s “51 documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis”, which is equally comprehensive and detailed, but does not seem to be sourced referenced. Nevertheless in scrutinising these I did not get the impression that he was contradicting what Black and some others (like Hannah Arendt, in “Eichmann in Jerusalem”) have argued.

I would be very interested to hear your response to this correspondence.

Kind regards,

Paul Hendler (Stellenbosch South Africa).
I am a Jewish South African against the demonisation of the Palestinian People and for a rational discussion of their circumstances.