We condemn the statement (https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2023/09/why-palestine-solidarity-movement.html) you initiated calling for the ostracism of Peter Gregson from the Palestinian Solidarity movement for supposed ‘anti-Semitism’. We note that this accusation is false: the only definitions of anti-Semitism that count are the ones in authoritative dictionaries, such as the Oxford Dictionary which defines anti-Semitism as “Hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people”, or Merriam-Webster which defines it as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.”
It is clear that no such hostility is present in the political activities of Pete Gregson. Nowhere does he advocate hostility or discrimination against Jews. We don’t know what definition of anti-Semitism you are using, but it certainly is not any of these. And these are the only ones that the labour movement should recognise.
Peter Gregson was a Labour Party member of several decades duration until he became a victim of the anti-left witch-hunt in the context of the Corbyn movement. His views are entirely within the framework of a legitimate discussion of the role of ethnic bigotry and ethnocentric political programmes in the hostile right-wing activities that destroyed the Corbyn movement. No stone must be left unturned, no question must be forbidden from being discussed, in analysing that.
You say it is ‘bizarre’ for Peter to say that “The people who foisted the IHRA definition upon us were the Jews in the UK who support Israel” (emphasis added). It is clear from the words highlighted that Peter was talking about Zionist Jews, not Jews irrespective of politics. Given the role of highly vocal Zionist Jewish organisations in bringing down Jeremy Corbyn in large measure because of his criticisms of Zionism in the first instance, this is a question that the entire labour movement has a class interest in free discussion of.
We must not accept any restrictions on discussion of this issue among labour movement activists. The role of Israeli-funded forces in seeking to purge not only the Labour Party, but also the Conservative Party, of critics of Zionism, was recorded on film by Al Jazeera in The Lobby.
As Norman Finkelstein wrote in 2018 in his famous essay Corbyn Mania:
“The three richest Brits are Jewish. Jews comprise only .5 percent of the population but fully 20 percent of the 100 richest Brits. Relative both to the general population and to other ethno-religious groups, British Jews are in the aggregate disproportionately wealthy, educated, and professionally successful. These data track closely with the picture elsewhere. Jews comprise only 2 percent of the US population but fully 30 percent of the 100 richest Americans, while Jews enjoy the highest household income among religious groups. Jews comprise less than .2 percent of the world’s population but, of the world’s 200 richest people, fully 20 percent are Jewish. Jews are incomparably organized as they have created a plethora of interlocking, overlapping, and mutually reinforcing communal and defence organizations that operate in both the domestic and international arenas. In many countries, not least the US and the UK, Jews occupy strategic positions in the entertainment industry, the arts, publishing, journals of opinion, the academy, the legal profession, and government. “Jews are represented in Britain in numbers that are many times their proportion of the population,” British-Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer notes, ‘in both Houses of Parliament, on the Sunday Times Rich List, in media, academia, professions, and just about every walk of public life.’ The wonder would be if these raw data didn’t translate into outsized Jewish political power. The Israel-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute rhapsodizes that ‘The Jewish People today is at a historical zenith of wealth creation’ and ‘has never been as powerful as now.’ It is certainly legitimate to query the amplitude of this political power and whether it has been exaggerated, but it cannot be right to deny (or suppress) critical socioeconomic facts.”
It is very clear that Pete Gregson was referring to exactly the same phenomena that Norman Finkelstein was referring to in this essay. Not only cannot it be right to “deny (or suppress)” these “critical socioeconomic facts”, but it is a basic right of all members of the workers movement to discuss them without restriction. Attempts to restrict debate on this should be regarded as an attack on all members of the labour movement, whether of Jewish origin or otherwise. Participants in such debates also do not have to be completely correct in their arguments and suppositions either: without such differing views there would be only a stilted debate. Your letter is an attack on that labour movement democracy which is in the class interests of all workers, Jewish, Palestinian, or whoever, who are fighting against Zionism.
Then there is the attack on Peter for raising the question of the involvement of the Rothschild family in the creation of Zionism. You quote Peter as saying:
“‘Right from the outset, rich Jewish bankers such as Lord Rothschild backed Zionism. It is unlikely we would have Israel now were it not for his influence.’”
And you come back with:
“The suggestion that Israel owes its existence to ‘rich Jewish bankers’ is a classic anti-Semitic stereotype. It is also untrue. The Rothschilds were a house divided with the majority of the British family opposed to Zionism. For example the President of the anti-Zionist League of British Jews, formed in the wake of the Balfour Declaration, was Sir Lionel Rothschild, a Tory MP.
“The Jewish bourgeoisie were overwhelmingly opposed to Zionism. The only member of the Lloyd George cabinet who opposed the Balfour Declaration was its only Jewish member, Sir Edwin Montagu.”
This statement that “The Jewish bourgeoisie were overwhelmingly opposed to Zionism” is one-sided and overstated. According to the current Lord Rothschild, writing in the Jewish Chronicle in 2017, the Balfour Declaration was addressed to his great Uncle, Lord Walter Rothschild, not least because:
“…Walter had been deeply involved in the Zionist movement. He had been introduced to Chaim Weizmann and the cause through his formidable Hungarian sister-in-law Rozika, a convinced Zionist, who had married his younger brother Charles.
Walter’s commitment to Zionism was fired by his very first meeting with Weizmann. He became convinced that the future of the Jews lay in Zionism and dedicated himself to the cause. After the Declaration Weizmann wrote to him: ‘May I offer you our heartiest thanks in making this possible — I am sure that when the history of this time will be written it will be justifiably said that the name of the greatest House in Jewry was associated with the granting of the Magna Carta of Jewish liberties….’
The current Lord Rothschild goes on:
“…from another side of my family Baron Edmond de Rothschild played a significant if very different role in the years prior to the Declaration.
The Baron had been deeply involved in the resettling of Jews in Palestine following the dreadful pogroms of the 1880s in Russia. He was moved to support the early settlers by a number of factors, such as the increasing antisemitism and violence in the Pale of Settlement which made a refuge for Jews from pogroms and persecution imperative. But he was looking for more than a refuge. Above all he was inspired by the vision of the rebirth of the Jewish spirit in its ancient land. As he would later write to the early pioneers of Rishon LeZion: ‘I did not come to your aid because of your poverty and suffering for to be sure there were many other similar cases of distress in the world. I did it because I saw in you the realisers of the renaissance of Israel and of that ideal so dear to us all, the sacred goal of the return of Israel to its ancestral homeland.’”https://www.thejc.com/news/features/a-family-that-helped-build-a-new-nation-1.448063
There is at least some truth in the view the Rothschild family was “a house divided” over the project of Zionism, and that others in the Rothschild family, including as you point out, the Tory MP Sir Lionel Nathan Rothschild, were strongly opposed to Zionism. However, the anti-Zionist ‘League of British Jews’ that he founded proved ephemeral, it wound up in 1929 just as the implications of the Zionist colonisation of Palestine were becoming obvious with the first major Arab uprising. It can hardly be considered of major importance. Unlike the provenance of the Balfour Declaration, which echoes to this day, it is at best a footnote in history.
It is certainly true that in the early period of the Zionist movement the Jewish bourgeoisie were divided about it, not least about whether the project itself was viable or feasible, but it is also true that the overwhelming majority of those who were sceptical or hostile to it were later won over, and bourgeois opponents marginalised and defeated. The Rothschilds in the early 20th Century were certainly important in getting Zionism off the ground and the Balfour Declaration, addressed to their main figure in Britain just as British troops under Allenby were poised to take Palestine from the Ottomans, making it a viable proposition therefore, is certainly of high importance.
This is an important historical question on which, again, free debate in the labour movement is of paramount importance. The workers movement should not tolerate restrictions on freedom of debate on historical questions involving Zionism. Arming ourselves politically against any repetition of the destruction of the Corbyn movement is too important for that.
You denounce Peter Gregson for in 2019 linking to an article by Ian Fantom whose primary topic was about splits in the Labour Party. It also contained an extensive discussion of the diaries of Theodore Herzl. And the article also contained a link to an article by one Nick Kollerstrom which contained material casting doubt on the Nazi holocaust. In his petition, Pete Gregson condemned Kollerstrom’s article as ‘toxic’. He did not link to it. What is remarkable is that whereas Pete Gregson did not link to this article, but mentioned it and condemned it, in your rush to denounce Pete in an earlier article denouncing him for this, you linked your website directly to the very same article! Of course, you will say that you linked to it in order to condemn it. Fine! But Peter condemned it as ‘toxic’ without linking to it! This is strange, in fact downright weird, ‘logic’ on your part to denounce Peter for this (see this Consistent Democrats article from January on this for full details including screenshots proving this https://www.consistent-democrats.org/uncategorized/hands-off-peter-gregson-for-workers-democracy-and-free-debate-not-bundist-heresy-hunts/).
You also denounce Peter for making the following allegation about Zionist involvement in shepherding Jews to the gas chambers in Hungary:
“…until 1940 most Jews refused to move to Israel on religious grounds. These were the people that Hitler gassed. With Zionist support. Proof? Over the period 1942-44, Rabbi Weissmandl of Hungary made a deal with Adolf Eichmann whereby the Germans would ‘sell’ the Jews to him”
But Peter was not accusing this (non-Zionist) Rabbi of being involved in the extermination. Very much the opposite … he says that this Rabbi tried to put together a scheme to buy the freedom of Hungarian and Slovakian Jews from the Nazis. There were over 720,000 Jews in Hungary at that time, including tens of thousands who had fled from Slovakia, and another 100,000 or more Christian ex-Jewish converts. Weissmandl became an impassioned anti-Zionist because Zionists refused to help with the scheme. This Slovakian Rabbi apparently tried to do this and was rebuffed by Zionist leaders in Hungary. See (https://www.geni.com/people/R-Chaim-Michoel-Dov-Weissmandl-Rosh-Yeshiva-Nytra/6000000004681147394) for an account of this. Quite how it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to mention this defies belief. It seems that anger at Peter’s association with the orthodox Jewish group Naturei Karta, who rightly hold up Rabbi Weissmandl as a laudable figure, is leading you to smear him in a crude manner.
You made the same accusation that Peter cites, against the leading Zionist in Hungary, Rudolph Kasztner, who knowing full well that Jews who were deported to Auschwitz were being gassed, systematically hid this from the bulk of Hungarian Jews, and indeed made deals with the Nazis, with Adolf Eichmann as his chief interlocutor, to allow a small minority of wealthy Zionist Jews to emigrate to Palestine in exchange for offering no resistance to the deportation (to gas chambers) of the majority. He clearly worked with the Zionist leadership in Palestine and its agents in doing this.
You yourself, in your major work, relate that Kasztner “received a copy of the [Auschwitz] Protocols [a detailed account of the Auschwitz extermination process by two escapees] at the end of April . The Protocols were also sent to the Zionist liaison office in Istanbul, as well as to Nathan Shwalb [a leading Zionist in Switzerland]”. You then note that “Schwalb was ‘reluctant to publicise the news about Auschwitz’” and conclude “This reluctance probably stemmed from his desire not to upset Kasztner’s negotiations with the SS.” (Greenstein, Zionism During the Holocaust, pp199-200).
Then you write about the involvement of the Zionist top layers both in this, and in covering it up, in connection with the Kasztner libel trial in Israel in 1954, where some truth about this criminality was aired for the first time:
“Why did the Israeli state insist on a libel action on behalf of Kasztner? Clearly it believed that it could bury the rumours of collaboration between the JA [Jewish Agency] and the Nazis….
“Instead of exonerating Kasztner the trial achieved the exact opposite. Kastner effectively became the defendant. Kastner’s boasting of a special relationship with the SS and his stay as a guest of the Gestapo in Vienna was seen as particularly ‘repulsive’.
“Hungarian holocaust survivors testified that if they had known the truth about the Holocaust then they would have tried to escape… It was estimated that 4000-5000 Jews escaped across the Romanian border in any event.”
“Kasztner and his associates actively dissuaded the Jews of Kolozsvar from escaping. Joseph Katz, a lawyer from Nodvarod, four miles from the Romanian border, testified that its Jews knew nothing of Auschwitz.”p206-7
You then wrote of the verdict against Kasztner in the trial and quote the judge that Kasztner had “sold his soul to the devil”. “It was a damning verdict, not just on Kasztner but the Jewish Agency” you wrote, noting that the decision of the Israeli state to appeal caused the fall of Moshe Shertok’s government in 1955. Kasztner was then murdered, in circumstances that do suggest a state attempt to erase the question, given that Shin Bet withdrew his personal protection even though a government-funded appeal was in train. When the appeal came to court, in 1957, you concluded that:
“If Kasztner were convicted, then the Zionist leadership itself stood condemned.”p213
And when the court overturned the charge of collaboration, you noted that the “judgement was overturned on legal and political grounds”, and then cited the wife of one of the Auschwitz escapers and author of the Auschwitz Protocols, Rudolf Vrba:
“What Kasztner did was unbelievable because people had the right to have this information… Rudolph was very bitter about the fact than Kasztner was regarded as a hero in Israel while he and Wetzler [the other escaper and co-author of the Protocols] went unrecognised”.p214
All this is sufficient to more than substantiate Peter Gregson’s statement that Jews from Hungary were gassed “with Zionist support”. That’s what the collaboration of Kasztner, and the Zionist Agency, implicating the leadership of the Yishuv [the proto-Zionist state in colonised Palestine before 1948], amounted to. That’s what your evidence in your large book points to. It seems that you are flinching from the logic of your own argumentation and throwing abuse at Peter, who is more consistent.
There is a lot more of a case for labour movement activists to campaign against supporters of the dubious, pro-Nazi Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, than against Pete Gregson. It is especically strange to be accepting signatories supposedly denouncing ‘anti-Semitism’ from people like Roland Rance and Pete Firmin who support this campaign. USC supports the West’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, which is being waged on the ground by Nazi militias that are terrorising Russians and Roma, and the population generally, and following in the footsteps of those who fought for Hitler in the Second World War. The scandal in Canada, where Zelensky’s visit to the parliament led to a standing ovation to a 98-year old Ukranian who fought in the SS, just shows what a disgrace this campaign is.
On these grounds the undersigned condemn your open letter as an attack on workers democracy and working-class politics, and call on its signatories, including yourself, to withdraw.
Mark Andresen (Marxist activist, Torquay)
Muhammad Basirul Haq Sinha (Bangladesh)
Anna Brogan (Black Activist and Marxist, London)
John Burr (Thailand)
Paul Collins (Marxist activist, Oxford)
Diana Isserlis (Marxist activitist, Bristol)
Jon de Rennes (Thailand)
Ian Donovan (Marxist activist, London)
Jane Elliot (Palestine solidarity activist, Glasgow)
Ian Fantom (Halifax)
Jim Greenhow (Highlands and Islands)
Henry Herskovitz (Anti-Israel Peace Activitist)
Jackie Jarvis (a non-prejudiced, free Palestine supporter)
Victor Logan (South East London Direct Action Network)
Gareth Murphy (Socialist activist, London)
Georgia Murray (Marxist-Leninist, Ireland)
Kevin O’Connor (Socialist Labour Party, London – personal capacity)
Michelle Thresher (Portsmouth, Supporting and in Solidarity with Palestine)
Dr Joseph O’Neill (Interfaith for Palestine)
George Rendall (Democratic Socialist, Edinburgh)
Stephen Richards (Socialist)
Jurgen Wolf (Workers Party – personal capacity)
Mick Wright (Palestine solidarity activist, Glasgow)
M. R. A. Zaviour
If you would like to add your name to the list of signatories of this open letter
send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and how you want to be described