Tony Greenstein, Zionism during the Holocaust – The Weaponisation of Memory in the Service of State and Nation (2022 – self-published).
This is a major work, meticulously researched obviously over decades, and will become a reference for anyone dealing with the explosive subject of Zionist complicity in, and collaboration with, the Nazi genocide of Jews. It had to be self-funded through informal means and self-published, as the mafia-like Zionist lobby sought to suppress it, even sabotaging the use of a public self-funding platform (GoFundMe) to raise funds for it, so afraid are they of its contents. None of the several left-wing publishers in Britain were willing to publish it, either due to ideological softness on Zionism or fear of the power of the Israel lobby, which is considerable. But part of their power is derived from complicity by those who fail to stand up for basic democratic and socialist principles against it.
In seeking to prevent its publication, the Zionists only underlined their own similarities to the Nazis and their book-burning proclivities. No doubt if they were able to have the print run of this book burned, they would do so.
Well, they should be scared, since the memory of the millions of Jews who were killed by the Nazis in their gas-fuelled extermination camps or mobile extermination squads (Einsatzkommandos), along with other targeted groups such as Gypsies, Russians, Poles, has been systematically abused to justify and excuse Zionist crimes against the Palestinians over the last seventy years and more. This was tested on Russian and Polish POWs before being used as a method of general extermination. The abuse of the memory of these victims in the service of Zionism is becoming more widely understood for what it is.
Furthermore, that has become a spearhead of reaction against the entire working-class movement and a weapon of the ruling class to tame and defeat movements of organised labour. The smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn by Zionist racists, purporting to find ‘anti-Semitism’ in the left-reformist movement that brought him to the leadership of the Labour Party between 2015 and 2020, and in 2017 put him close to being elected, is a case in point.
The Zionist lying against Corbyn was done in plain sight of millions of working-class people who saw Corbyn’s movement as their only hope of salvation against the neoliberal regime of British capitalism, that has systematically destroyed the standard of living of many millions of working-class people over the past 50 years ago, starting from Thatcher. All these have ample grounds to hate the Zionist liars, along with their partners in crime, the Labour Right-wing, the Tories, and their fellow travellers in smaller bourgeois parties such as the Lib-Dems and Greens, and a large, capitulatory layer of the ‘Far Left’ itself.
As well there are some issues that need to be clarified, as comrade Tony himself has sometimes been a source of confusion, not clarity, on some aspects of these questions. While we have considerable regard for his work in this volume, it would be wrong and opportunist, if we were to gloss over these questions and not use this opportunity to address them. We will always seek to push things further towards clarity, as clarity of programme and analysis is the only way to build a revolutionary movement.
Hitler’s Genocide was Zionism’s Opportunity
But first it is necessary to elaborate on the much that is positive in this work. For a start there is the extensive evidence cited that right from the very beginning of the Nazi regime, Zionists saw Hitler’s genocidal programme and its ascent to political power in Germany, not as a danger to the people they claimed to represent and lead, but as an unprecedented opportunity to implement their own reactionary nationalist programme. They positively gushed about it, as Tony’s many references in Chapter 4 particularly cite. Just a small sample: he cites from early 1933 “Bert Katznelson, a founder of Mapai [ie. Israel’s ‘Labour’ Party] and editor of Davar as well as Ben-Gurion’s effective deputy” as seeing “the rise of Hitler as ‘an opportunity to build and flourish like none we have every had or ever will have.’” He notes that Emil Ludwig, a “world famous biographer … ‘expressed the general attitude of the Zionist movement’”:
“Hitler will be forgotten in a few years, but he will have a beautiful monument in Palestine. You know, the coming of the Nazis was rather a welcome thing. …. Thousands who seemed to be completely lost to Judaism were brought back to the fold by Hitler, and for that I am personally very grateful to him.”p55
Even more shockingly, Greenstein notes another Zionist ideologue, Nahman Bialik, saying that “Hitlerism has perhaps saved German Jewry, which was being assimilated into annihilation” and Tony himself comments that “Germany’s remaining Jews were of course annihilated, but not by assimilation”. What is missing is a fully worked-out explanation of why a movement that rose to prominence in such a terrible context could behave so treacherously and yet gain, and largely maintain, the loyalty of the lion’s share of its surviving people, but that must wait for later in this review.
Sabotage of the Boycott
Tony’s evidence is unimpeachable: the Nazi regime came very close to economic and likely political collapse in the face of the boycott organised by diaspora Jewry in the aftermath of Hitler’s 1933 rise to power and the creation of the Third Reich. Concrete examples abound in Chapter 6, particularly surrounding one of the first major anti-Jewish actions of the Nazi regime – the picketing of Jewish shops by the SA in April 1933. “The reaction of the capitalist representatives in the German Cabinet was one of horror” fear “its potential for disrupting the government’s economic policies” as one historian noted.
“The reaction of the population to the blockade of Jewish shops was hostile. Jewish shop owners reported that many protesters chose to shop specifically at Jewish-owned stores to express their rejection of national socialism. … A boycott of Nazi Germany strengthened the pressure on the Nazis and increased the disaffection of the German people…”p110
It gained huge support around the world, even in places that few would have expected:
“In Poland the Boycott was popular and the Jews of Vilna and Warsaw launched their own campaign. The Nazis were ‘astonished’, given the record of Polish anti-Semitism, that the advent of the Nazis had given birth to a widely-supported Boycott movement….”
“For the entire first half of 1933 exports were down 51%. Exports to France decreased by 25%. Egypt had an almost complete boycott. Exports were also down 22% to America compared to 1932 levels ”
“The German Foreign Office was flooded with letters from German firms expressing alarm over the intensity of anti-German feelings abroad. Bosch had lost the whole of its South American market”
“On 6 May, IG Farben … confessed to ‘an extraordinary slump’ because of the Boycott. On 8 May German Economics Minister Hjalmar Schacht threatened to stop paying interest on American loans and then to default entirely on its foreign debt”p111
“By June 1933 the spectre of collapse was hovering over the Third Reich. The Reichsbank had only RM 280m in gold and foreign-exchange reserves, less than half of that of 1932.”p113
The Zionists broke the boycott in the name of an aspiration to create a Jewish state in Palestine, and effectively undermined it. Noting that “The Jewish bourgeoisie & the Zionist opposed the boycott”, he elaborated in the following pages, “In Britain and the USA, the biggest obstacle to a successful boycott movement was the bourgeois Jewish leadership…” […] on 23 July Neville Laski, President of the Board of Deputies, announced that he would be attending the Zionist Congress as an observer … the anti-Zionist Jewish establishment had committed itself to a Zionist solution of the German-Jewish crisis. The BOD voted 110-27 against the boycott campaign. […] Correspondence between … the German Consul in Palestine, and the Foreign Ministry showed that destroying the boycott was the main reason for the Nazis agreeing to Ha’avara [The Zionist ‘transfer agreement’ with Nazi Germany] […] The Zionist movement in Palestine waged war on the Boycott…” […] “on 2 July” a Zionist “Conference of Institutions … met to discuss how best to coordinate opposition to the Boycott…”, and as was noted:
“The Zionist movement found itself in a profound conflict between transfer and boycott and, in the broad sense, between the needs of the Yishuv and the sentiments of the Jewish people”p113-115
“On 9 June 1933 [Yishuv organisations] began negotiations with the Nazi government to secure a trade agreement. The Yishuv’s leaders had opposed the Boycott because ‘Zionist priorities … awarded precedence to the realisation of Zionist goals and the building of Palestine over the struggle to preserve Jewish civil rights in the Diaspora’ … a leading Labor Zionist observed ‘In these negotiations, we are reaping the fruit of the boycott we oppose’. But for the Boycott there would have been no Ha’avara.” (p116) […] Nazi propaganda exploited Ha’avara to undermine the Boycott. Whilst world Jewry was doing its best to undermine the German economy and remove Hitler, ‘the Nazi party and the Zionist organisation shared a common stake in the recovery of Germany. If the Hitler economy fell, both sides would be ruined”.p115-117
In return for a few thousand Zionist Jews being allowed to emigrate to Palestine, with much of their property, giving the nascent economy of the Yishuv a large boost indeed: “Ha’avara led to the selling of German merchandise throughout the Middle East and Cyprus, as the Palestinian market became saturated. The ZO [Zionist Organisation] set up the Near and Middle East Commercial Company to sell Nazi Germany’s wares. The Zionists had become Nazi Germany’s export agents. Another transfer company, INTRIA, was formed in 1937. By the summer of 1939, there were transfer agreements in six European countries.” (p119) This obviously decisively undermined the Boycott and saved Hitler’s regime from being toppled by what had originally been a highly effective boycott. All this had catastrophic consequences for millions of German and European Jews in the years to come.
Zionist Collaboration and Cover Up for Extermination Camps
Subsequent chapters deal with the huge complicity of the Zionists in the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people, the people they were supposed to lead and represent, driven by the same considerations that drove their opposition to, and sabotage of, the Jewish Boycott of Nazi Germany. That is, the position that the Nazi persecution was an opportunity to create a Jewish state in Palestine, and that the creation of such a state was more important that saving the millions in the diaspora who were in deadly danger from the Nazis. Indeed, their escape to anywhere else apart from Palestine was at odds with the interests of Zionism as it would take mass impetus away from the idea of the Jewish state as the only sanctuary. For this reason, Zionists lobbied against large-scale sanctuary for Jewish refugees in the United States, or even Britain. But at the same time, the Yishuv had the same callous attitude as most bourgeois states had to prospective immigrants and rejected many of those impoverished Jewish refugees who really were most in need of sanctuary, on the grounds that they would need looking after, and would not be productive enough. They wanted only hardy pioneer types, or the wealthy as per the Ha’avara agreement. In many or most places, by that time, the official leaders of Jews under Nazi occupation, were the Judenrate, local bourgeois leaders of the various ghettos etc, that the Nazi herded the Jewish populations into. Almost invariably, they were in touch with Zionist centres, in part because the Nazis allowed such communication as it was in their interests to do so as Zionist leaders were usually cooperative.
This centres on the revelations of two heroic escapees from Auschwitz-Birkenau, the super-sized death camp in southern Poland, where at least 1.1 million people, a million of whom were Jewish, were murdered, most frequently by gassing, but also through shooting, sadistic torture, terrible malnutrition and disease. This had been reported on as early as 1942, by a Polish Home Army agent, Jan Karsky. The Bletchley Park cryptographic facility in Britain had broken Nazi codes and thus British and other allied governments were aware of what was happening in Auschwitz and no doubt other camps. But the most detailed account of the methods used at Auschwitz was catalogued by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wexler, the two anti-Zionist escapees, in 1944, in what was known as the Auschwitz Protocols.
Tony catalogues considerable, and decisive, evidence that what evidence was in the hands of the Zionists, which was considerable, was hidden from Jewish people on the ground in the occupied countries, by the Zionists. It had been sporadically covered in the Allied imperialist media, but not exactly trumpeted far and wide, as the imperialists fighting the Third Reich were not keen on seeing an influx of Jewish refugees.
The Zionist leaders, the Judenrate etc, on the ground, when they obtained information about the mass extermination of Jews in the countries occupied and terrorised by the Nazis, were very reluctant to inform the Jews of those countries of what was happening in camps in Poland, etc. Huge numbers of Jews received no information about their fate if they were deported, and so were sent to places like Auschwitz unaware of what awaited them. The Zionists were better informed than many non-core members of the German bourgeois state. So, it appears that when Admiral Doenitz was appointed to succeed Hitler and implement a surrender after Hitler’s suicide, he did not know the full details of the genocide that had been carried out, but the Zionists knew all about it, yet kept most of their ‘own’ people in the dark
Plenty of evidence is presented of Judenrate enforcing Nazi orders to present Jews for deportation, of them hunting out hiding places of Jews than had gone ‘missing’ to ensure Nazi orders for such deportations were carried out ‘efficiently’, etc. This treachery was legion in Poland, and the desperate Warsaw Ghetto uprising was not only against the Nazis but also the Judenrate. The Judenrate in Warsaw set up a labour brigade to provide the Nazis with a stream of potential labourers/deportees so that the wealthier Jews could hope to escape. The question of fear of the Nazis’ military might, and fatalism of bourgeois leaders played a role in this. In revolt against the fatalism and treachery of the leaders of the Warsaw Judenrate, young Zionists: both ‘Labour’ Zionists, and the near-fascist Revisionists, found themselves with no choice in 1943 but to resist in alliance with Communists and the Socialist but semi-separatist Jewish Bund.
Their resistance was heroic, but as is well known the relationship of forces was against them. However, in Hungary, where the home-grown fascist regime of Hitler’s ally Horthy often wavered under pressure from other forces, the possibilities were better for resistance. The treachery of the Zionist leadership there, headed by Rudolf Kasztner, was an incredible scandal and act of collaboration. With all the familiar motives, as mentioned earlier, they kept Hungary’s more than 800,000 Jews (including converts) largely in the dark, while Kasztner negotiated with Adolf Eichmann and the SS to further the aims of Ha’avara and allow a stream of the wealthiest to go to Palestine. The quid-pro-quo being, as mentioned, to ensure the bulk of Hungarian Jews would not know to resist deportation. Because of Horthy’s position as initially an ally, rather than simply an agent, of Hitler, and his susceptibility to the pressure of other governments and ‘public opinion’, the deportation of Hungary’s Jews was delayed until 1944. By that time, Hitler was already losing the war and in retreat particularly on the Eastern front, meant there had to be a prime opportunity to at least save Hungarian Jewry, as the Nazis had to march into Hungary and remedy Horthy’s derelictions at the same time as organise the destruction of Hungary’s Jews.
It was not to be, and Kasztner’s collaboration with the SS played the major role. This issue later erupted in a major scandal in Israel, as Kasztner sued those in Israel who accused him of collaboration and lost the case. Then the government sued to overturn the verdict against Kasztner, fearing it discredited the entire Yishuv leadership, while simultaneously withdrawing Kasztner’s state protection, allowing him to be murdered. This affair prompted the Jim Allen play Perdition, which portrayed the whole horrendous story in 1987, was accused of ‘anti-Semitism’, and then effectively banned in a fairly early case of such censorship, which is today widespread.
Encyclopaedia of Zionist Collaboration
Chapter 11 contains a useful, and encyclopaedic, rundown of the Nazi holocaust, and Zionist activities in 21 European countries. Part 2 of the book, the narrative of Zionist activities in the genocide, then concludes with a wider exploration of the obstruction by the Zionist movement internationally of attempts that were made to rescue the victims, and concludes with a comparison of the records of the Catholic Church and the Zionist movement, in which, notwithstanding the often obsequiousness of the Vatican to the Nazi regime, the Zionist movement comes over as the worst. A relatively short part 3 then concludes the work with an expose of Yad Vashem and the Zionist ‘Holocaust Industry’, echoing themes already addressed by Norman Finkelstein, and a number of historical topics and disputes surrounding it, it includes the attack on Hannah Arendt and Eichmann in Jerusalem, the exploitation of the genocide by the Zionists today, the Goldhagen thesis, and more. It then goes through the further weaponisation of the Nazi holocaust by the mainstream bourgeois right today, Zionism’s close relationship with fascism and the extreme right, Zionism, Islamophobia and the myth of Palestinian culpability for the holocaust, and finally the way the Zionists collaborated with the military regime in Argentina in the 1970s, when leading figures fairly openly sympathised with Nazism. A straw in the wind for today, when Zionism is funding Nazi forces in Ukraine, also funded by the West.
Left-Bundism and Centrist Contradictions
Tony is not merely a historical author, but a political activist whose authority goes well beyond that of a mere individual. He is an influential figure on the Jewish left, which in turn for a number of both good and bad reasons has influence on the wider left. His politics are often quite close to a genuinely Marxist position, but at the same time frequently influenced by the prejudices of the Jewish Bund, which was heavily criticised by the Bolsheviks for positing the need for a separate, Jewish socialist movement, which was for them the only force that was entitled to politically lead the Jewish proletariat. Tony would scoff at the view that his politics are like this, but nevertheless he has frequently involved himself in promoting or in some cases setting up separate Jewish-left pressure groups like Jews Against Zionism, and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Tony’s frequent self-contradictions are an expression of centrist politics: “crystallised confusion”, as Trotsky put it, or in a slightly different sense “revolutionary in words, opportunist in deeds”. If he were not tied to Bundism, he might be in a more mainstream centrist left-wing group. Instead, he plays an important role as an influential individual on a fragmented left where the larger sects – the SWP, Socialist Party, etc have little authority. So, he is more much more important than any isolated individual. He appears as seemingly the most radical critic of Zionism on the British left, and therefore an analysis of his contradictions is important to the struggle against centrism more generally.
One very welcome statement in this work is Tony’s use of a crucial quotation from Israel Shahak, the seminal Israeli fighter for civil rights and Warsaw ghetto survivor, about the abuse of the Nazi genocide by Zionists:
“Its not an awareness of the holocaust but rather the myth of the holocaust of even a falsification of the holocaust (in the sense that ‘a half-truth is worse than a lie’) which has been instilled here (in Israel)”Shahak, Falsification of the Holocaust, 19 May 1989, Kol Ha’ir, Jerusalem, cited in Greenstein, p 346
In this chapter, Chapter 14 of the book, on Yad Vashem – Weaponising the Memory of the Holocaust he appears to go very far towards an understanding that ‘the Holocaust’ has become a kind of new Jewish religion. On page 372 he actually says, regarding a particular piece of Zionist propaganda that made non-too-subtle use of the Nazi holocaust as an ideological weapon in the West, that “It was with good reason that Laor [another critical author] castigated the wilful blindness of one of the high priests of the holocaust religion.”
In this chapter, one of several nodal points in the book, Tony examines the mystification of the genocide from a variety of angles, both as a means of indoctrination of Jewish youth in Israel into a virulent, nationalist hatred and contempt for non-Jews, which of course has terrible results for Palestinians. He also goes into some detail as to the use of the genocide as a means of warding off criticism from elsewhere. He approvingly quotes a Ha’aretz writer attesting that:
“The holocaust … serves the right’s proto-fascist, racist, victim-centred discourse, meant to whitewash the ongoing crime against the Palestinians and to put the Christian world in a position of eternal apology.”p363
It various places Tony elaborates on what he means. One powerful example of this is when he writes of the brainwashing of Israeli youth:
“Auschwitz has supplanted Masada as the site of Israel’s indoctrination of its young. Instead of a murky battle 2000 years ago, the Holocaust provides the setting for Zionism’s national myths. Auschwitz is used to impart the message that Jews too can be racists and pogromists.
“Shulamit Aloni, Israel’s former Education Minister, described how these trips ‘were turning students into aggressive, flag-waving xenophobes. The final ceremony for such trips was in Warsaw where a poem from Haim Gouri was recited in which the Holocaust victim and the partisan in the [Polish] forests is merged with the ‘IDF Paratrooper taking revenge against his enemies”. The Holocaust reinforced Zionism’s tribal racism….”p354
All this is very true. One point he does not highlight properly in the book is that the exploitation of the Nazi genocide to justify Zionism’s own genocidal treatment of the Palestinian people has actually tarnished the memory of its victims and created a situation where there are reasonable doubts in the mind of many of Zionism’s victims, and even a layer of their sympathisers of Jewish origin, about the historical truth of the Nazi holocaust. This has been aided by the extensive cover up of forensic evidence of their crimes by the Nazis from the time when they began to lose WWII. The destruction of extermination facilities was the prime method used, in the hope that they could avoid being held to account.
Because of this, much of the most powerful evidence of the genocide and the working of the Nazi regime that carried it out consists of eyewitness evidence, including in pride of place the Auschwitz Protocols of Vrba and Wexler. Tony does note that Zionism’s suppression of their evidence played into the hands of genocide deniers when he writes that:
“The silencing of Vrba and Wexler was exploited by holocaust deniers such as Arthur Butz, author of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century [1975 – ID]. Butz argued that if the content of the Protocols were true, Israeli historians would certainly know their names and publicise their report. Butz argued that the Protocols were invented by the WRB [the US War Refugees Board]. Another holocaust denier who adopted this line of argument was Robert Faurisson [initially also in the 1970s – ID].”p196
This evidently gave some ammunition to Nazis and their sympathisers in the first few decades after WWII, when the magnitude of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians was not widely known. During those decades, Israel had a carefully cultivated ‘socialist’ image, centred on the pseudo-socialist ethos of the kibbutzim (racist settler colonies in ‘socialist’ disguise) to the extent that the most leftist figures in the British Labour milieux, such as Tony Benn and Eric Heffer, were members of the Labour Friends of Israel. They broke from that after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the mass slaughter of Palestinian old men, women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut by Israel’s Lebanese Falangist auxiliaries (at night, working under illumination from flares fired by the Israeli army), came to widespread public notice and exposed the real, genocidal nature of Zionism.
Today, the same Zionist suppression plays the same role for a whole new layer of holocaust sceptics whose motivation is not sympathy for Nazism at all, but simply revulsion at Zionist crimes that increasingly resemble those (rightly) attributed to the Nazis. The use of devices such as the IHRA pseudo-definition of anti-Semitism to suppress those who notice the resemblance of Zionist behaviour to that of the Nazis, or who define the Zionist project as necessarily racist, is a flagrant provocation of such sentiment. Such techniques have a much longer pedigree in the Middle East and are the source of much popular holocaust-scepticism. Their insistence that the genocide was only against Jews, when in fact Slavs, particularly Poles, and Roma and Sinti were also targeted for extermination, also makes the Zionists who often dominate the discourse on the Nazi genocide look simply self-serving and gives credibility to the idea that the Nazi holocaust of Jews is in some way historically problematic.
This widespread misunderstanding is purely a result of Zionist crimes and mendacity, and the virulence of many of those on the Western left against those who, as a result of the Middle East conflicts, refuse to believe in the Nazi Judeocide, is severely misplaced, and even can be called an example of social chauvinism. Protestations about the supposedly oppressed, persecuted state of Jewry today cut no ice as everyone can see today that Zionist Jews, who are by far the dominant political trend among Jews today, are a massively privileged grouping vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and are able, in all the Western countries, to persecute Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinians with all kind of measures of ‘lawfare’, with the fulsome support of the bulk of the ruling classes of the Western countries.
Tony now recognises that there has been a material change in the condition of the Jewish people. He wrote in an earlier article that:
“Anti-Semitism, like all forms of racism, has changed as society has changed. Jews in the West today, unlike Blacks and Muslims, are not the targets of state racism. Anti-Semitism today is largely a marginal prejudice…. […] much of what is called anti-Semitism is fuelled by the actions of Israel, whose atrocities are perpetrated in the name of all Jews. Every time the BOD issues a statement in support of Israel’s war crimes, it reinforces the perception that Jews are responsible for what Israel does.”
“Anti-Semitism in Britain and the USA today, excluding the Neo-Nazi White Supremacist fringe, is not based on racial hatred or state scapegoatism. Anti-Semitism is political not economic. Anti-Jewish prejudice has no roots amongst those social and economic groups which traditionally embraced anti-Semitism, the petite-bourgeoisie and middle class, for whom it was the ideological expression of economic competition. Nor does anti-Semitism today come equipped with ideologues, journals, papers and parties.”p376
“What is not mentioned is that Jews are the perpetrators not the victims of racism. The level of Islamophobia, especially anti-Arab racism, among British Jews is high. It is no accident that surveys of Jews deliberately omit asking questions about their attitude to Muslims. Instead they ask Muslims questions about Jews!”p381
Previously he had written an article titled Why Anti-Semitism is no longer a form of racism –it’s a Marginal Prejudice confined to the fascist fringe The ‘fascist fringe’, as shown above, has since been relegated to the ‘fringe’ of this valid point. In that article he wrote:
“It’s true that Jews are a minority but they are not an oppressed minority. Millionaires are also a minority but they are not oppressed. Racists are also a minority which is why the far-Right identitarian movement uses the language of identity politics.”
“There is no offence of driving whilst Jewish but driving whilst Black is a crime. Jews are not victims of police violence, imprisoned or found dead in police custody because they are Jewish. There is no discernible discrimination against Jews.”https://tinyurl.com/mw82dnp7
The Imperialist Nature of Zionism
Yet for all the encyclopaedic character of this work, there is still something substantial missing from it in Marxist terms. A coherent class explanation of the nature of Zionism for a start, and why it was able to treat ordinary Jews in a purely instrumental manner, and even connive at the extermination of millions of their supposedly ‘own’ people, to achieve their project.
He more or less equates Zionism with the Garvey movement among former black slaves in the Americas towards the close of the book:
“Zionism was not unique. Amongst all oppressed peoples a section of the petite-bourgeoisie comes to accept the terms of reference and ideological framing of their oppressors. In the United States this was true of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association which collaborated with the KKK. The same was true with Elijah Mohammad’s Nation of Islam, which used hired thugs to murder Malcolm X. C.L.R. James, the famous Black writer and historian, wrote that ‘all the things that Hitler was able to do so well later, Marcus Garvey was doing in 1920 and 1922. Garvey applauded the KKK’s belief in segregation and spoke favourably of the organisation that ‘lynched race-pride into the Negroes’. Little wonder that Garvey’s movement was termed Black Zionism.
“But whereas Garvey’s movement never managed to form an alliance with a colonial power, Zionism did. It was this that ensured that the Zionist movement conquered the Jewish establishment in the diaspora. Whereas the damage that Garvey did to black communities in the United States was minimal, the damage that the Zionist movement has been able to do to Jews in the diaspora is almost infinite.”p424
The lack of political understanding in these paragraphs is quite staggering, and reveals a weakness in Greenstein’s politics that subliminally, notwithstanding the subjective ferocity of his antagonism to Zionism, reveals a latent political softness on the same Zionism. It reveals an inability to properly and consistently distinguish between an ideology of an oppressed people who are unable to escape their oppression under capitalism, and an ideology of an oppressed people whose ideologues had a realistic strategy for escaping from that oppressed position and joining the world’s main oppressors, the imperialist bourgeoisie, even if they were prepared to sacrifice a large layer of their own population in order to do so. In a somewhat complex dialectical-evolutionary sense, this indicates the inability to distinguish between a backward-looking ideology of the oppressed, and a predatory ideology that always was pushing hard, with a coherent strategy, for ‘its’ people to become one of the world’s chief oppressors.
This is not a simple matter of syllogism, but a complex process of evolution, which is not easy to analyse. But as is said: theory is grey, but green is the tree of life. The real world throws up such complex problems, and if Marxists fail to analyse them properly, we must fail.
Tony treats the difference between Zionism and Garveyism as a secondary difference, that the Zionists, unlike Garvey, managed to “form an alliance with a colonial power”. The project of a black-ruled colony of ex-slaves from the US in particular long pre-dated Garvey, and Garveyism was one of a whole series of Black movements that sought some kind of redemption in a return to Africa. Indeed, by the time Garveyism came on the scene, ‘Back to Africa’ sentiments among the US black population had been considerably weakened by the experience of Liberia, which was basically a middling American colony or near-colony (its status was often ambiguous, but its real nature was clear). A similar semi-colonial project, Sierra Leone, existed among ex-slaves in the British slaveowning sphere. Both collapsed into chaos and poverty in the 20th Century. One thing is clear however, they were nothing like Israel. Israel is one of the world’s oppressor, imperialist states.
That is why Zionism is completely different from superficially similar movements among the black masses. Without overthrowing capitalism, the Black population of the US have no hope of overcoming the oppression that is built into Western societies. But Zionism had not just a hope of that, but also a strategy. To create a Jewish-Zionist faction in the imperialist bourgeoisie, and to create their own imperialist, colonial state. Israel is a player in its own right and is quite different from semi-colonies like Liberia.
For all the crimes of Zionism in sacrificing the most oppressed sections of their own population, what Tony says about Jews in the modern imperialist world today can never be true of black people:
“What is not mentioned is that Jews are the perpetrators not the victims of racism…”
“Jews are a minority but they are not an oppressed minority. Millionaires are also a minority but they are not oppressed. Racists are also a minority which is why the far-Right identitarian movement uses the language of identity politics.”
“There is no offence of driving whilst Jewish but driving whilst Black is a crime. Jews are not victims of police violence, imprisoned or found dead in police custody because they are Jewish. There is no discernible discrimination against Jews.”
Garveyism could never, its wildest dreams, have brought about a situation when anyone could say that about the black population. It would have been fantasy, simply beyond the possible. But it always was a possibility for Jews in the West, because of their fundamentally different class history. It is not a biological determinist matter of colour (a secondary feature that certainly impedes hiding one’s origins), but fundamentally about class. Whereas the black population had its origins in an abducted slave class, Jews had their origins in an often-powerful pre-capitalist merchant, commodity-trading class. Once some historically grounded contradictions had been overcome and worked through, therefore, they had the potential to escape from that oppression to a point whereby Tony himself can opine, accurately enough, that “Jews are the perpetrators not the victims of racism”.
That is what made the Zionist project a predatory imperialist project right from the late 19th Century, whereas Garveyism and its antecedents were always just forms of capitulation to the racist status quo, or illusory attempts at an escape. Even when the Zionist predators were prepared to sacrifice a sizeable chunk of their own people to genocide, that was itself an indication of their own ruthlessness a proto-imperialist movement. They had contempt for, and instrumentalised, the sizeable portion of their ’own’ people who were still oppressed victims of other imperialisms. It also explains the contempt in Israel, which Tony documents at length (following Tom Segev in The Seventh Million) for Jewish survivors and victims of the Nazi holocaust.
And it does appear, that this aspect of Zionism was picked up on, and feared, by anti-Semites, dimly and in a barely coherent form, in such literature as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was clearly a malicious caricature of Zionism. These racists, also reflecting along with Zionism itself a political trend within nascent imperialist capitalism, feared the development of a Jewish-Zionist imperialist-bourgeois faction as a rival and antagonist for the future. Compounding this further is Tony’s entirely valid point that it is not clear whether anti-Semitism or anti-Communism was Hitler’s true motive for the genocide (p80). The peculiar form of his anti-Semitism was a belief that Jews were the “political parents” of Bolshevism, i.e., that Jews were organically inclined to communism. The toxic mix of all of these goes some way to answering the terrible question asked by a variety of writers about the Nazi holocaust, from Deutscher to Raoul Hillberg – what on earth can explain the sheer barbaric bloodlust of the Nazis against the Jews?
Tony is completely disarmed by his insistence that “Today there is no specific socio-economic function that is specific to Jews. That is why there is no ‘Jewish Question’” (p47). He links that to another point, quoted above, that “Anti-Jewish prejudice has no roots amongst those social and economic groups which traditionally embraced anti-Semitism, the petite-bourgeoisie and middle class, for whom it was the ideological expression of economic competition.” But that was only a phase in the evolution of the Jewish Question, as Zionism and capitalism have raised the social status of Jews above the level of a lower middle-class layer competing with a ‘native’ middle class. This upward mobility is also a manifestation of the legacy of the people-class, and thus of the ‘Jewish Question’ mutatis mutandis.
Tony rejects any use, in terms of analysis, of the insights of classical Marxism on this question. But when Abram Leon wrote his classic work The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation, it was also true then that by that time there was “no specific socio-economic function that is specific to Jews”. But without understanding the role that history played in the subsequent evolution and class differentiation of the Jews, it is not possible in hindsight to understand the fundamental difference between Zionism, and the likes of Garveyism. The difference is in the disproportionate representation of Jews in the bourgeois establishment, a legacy of the Jews’ pre-bourgeois role as a commodity-trading class, which evidently later gave rise (under capitalism) to a different class composition from many other national-ethnic groups that they lived alongside. Whereas, in the United States, to this day, blacks are massively underrepresented in the imperialist bourgeoisie, to the point that their representation is negligible. Similar things are true elsewhere under imperialism.
The Elephant in the Room
That different composition and its origin is something that Abram Leon wrote about at length in his seminal work, even if he did not live to see the creation of the Zionist state (he was murdered in Auschwitz). As indeed was prefigured by Karl Marx in his 19th Century essay The Jewish Question, which capitulators to Zionism to this day shudder at for its uncompromising materialist insights.
Or as I summarised in my 2014 Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism:
“Zionism always was a quasi-national movement of the Jewish bourgeoisie, which had been initially pretty painlessly successful in gaining a major share of the fruits of expanding capital in the era of progressive capitalism, only to see this come under threat when the imperialist epoch began. The problem is that this bourgeoisie did not have a territory to build a nation around. And in any case, it was not necessarily in favour of migrating and tearing out its roots in other countries even if a territory were somehow miraculously given to it. But it felt it needed a territorial asset, a home base to call its own even if it did not want to reside there all the time. This is easily comprehensible in terms of bourgeois consciousness and a Marxist understanding of the national question, it just demands a degree of flexibility in the understanding and application of Marxist tools of analysis, that can be most effortlessly applied to other, more straightforward national questions.
“In the early period of Zionism, obviously this quasi-national project appeared problematic and there was not unity among the Jewish bourgeoisie as to whether it was viable or not. But the project was bourgeois, and was extensively funded by part of the Jewish bourgeoisie abroad, particularly in the USA. The lack of unanimous Jewish bourgeois support for the Zionist project in the earlier period meant that it had to rely on support from various pseudo-left Zionist currents…”
“There is a common ethnocentric project between the ruling class of Israel and the various hegemonic pro-Israel bourgeois Jewish organisations in a number of imperialist countries, centrally the United States. This pan-imperialist Zionist bloc within the bourgeoisie plays an active role in the oppression of the Palestinians. This bourgeois current, which extends from the ruling class of Israel to penetrate deeply into the US ruling class (and to a lesser extent the ruling classes of several European imperialist countries also) has some of the attributes of a national bourgeois formation without a single territory exclusive to itself.
“But this is unstable, and depends for its coherence on the maintenance of Israel as a Jewish state. Without that ethnocentric entity in the Middle East, the Jewish layers in the ruling classes in the imperialist countries would have no focus to unite them; their ‘internationalism’ (in reality tribalism) would collapse, and the Jewish bourgeoisie would simply over time disappear through assimilation into the national ruling classes of the imperialist countries.”https://www.consistent-democrats.org/draft-theses-on-the-jews-and-modern-imperialism-sept-2014/
The fundamentally imperialist nature of Zionism as a movement can only be fully understood by this classical Marxist, materialist method. Though its interests often fit in with those of its wider imperialist allies, including various imperialist forces whose ideology is some form of Christianity, Jewish-Zionism is today an imperialist force in its own right. This is the explanatory ‘elephant in the room’ that is missing in Tony’s otherwise extremely useful book, which will no doubt be referred to for many years to come.