A few days ago, I noticed on my Twitter timeline some commotion about a tweet that had been posted by a group calling itself “Free Gaza Movement” – and it should go without saying that the group’s goal is NOT to free Gaza from the oppressive and abusive rule of Hamas… Instead, Free Gaza devotes itself single-mindedly to delegitimizing Israeli measures to prevent the smuggling of explosives, rockets and weapons into Gaza, and over the past few years, the group has been organizing “flotillas” to “break the siege of Gaza.”
As with many so-called “pro-Palestinian” groups, this also means that Free Gaza spreads a lot of horror stories about Israel, Zionism and Jews. But the recent Free Gaza tweet that attracted so much attention was particularly blatant, asserting that “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.” Anyone skeptical about this claim could click on a link to a video clip featuring a well-known antisemitic conspiracy theorist.
The details of this story and how it developed over the past few days have been documented by Avi Mayer; and by now, there have also been reports in the media about it. Most notably, the influential Walter Russell Mead devoted a long post to this incident, calling on Archbishop Desmond Tutu – who has endorsed Free Gaza – to withdraw his support of the group and to denounce Free Gaza’s propagation of “ugly filth of the lowest kind, gutter anti-Semitism mixed with genocidal rage.”
As I noted in a related post, Free Gaza reacted by offering various evasions and non-apologies. The group’s co-founder Greta Berlin, who was responsible for several of the antisemitic links provided by Free Gaza, claimed in a disingenuous “apology” posted on the Free Gaza website that this material “was shared to a group of people who were discussing the evils of propaganda and racism.”
Despite the fact that Free Gaza has a long record of posting antisemitic material, some people were all too eager to believe this transparently dishonest explanation. Writing on his +972 blog, Larry Derfner complained about “The slandering of Gaza flotilla activist Greta Berlin,” and on Peter Beinart’s Open Zion blog, Emily Hauser declared herself satisfied with Greta Berlin’s assurances that she was not a Holocaust denier and that, even though she hadn’t watched the video she propagated, she posted it as an example of “EXACTLY what I and others are horrified over.”
There is an ancient proverb I remember from school, which we were taught to illustrate the point that claiming innocent intentions doesn’t necessarily absolve a person of the serious consequences of an action: “though the boys throw stones at frogs in sport, yet the frogs do not die in sport but in earnest.”
Quite plainly, what Derfner and Hauser were doing, for whatever reasons, was defending Free Gaza’s antisemitism – and they could have easily realized that this was what they were doing had they bothered to just quickly scroll through the tweets of Free Gaza from the last few weeks.
Just going back to September 1, we find the following: Israel is “committing slow motion genocide” in Gaza; Gaza is a “‘forgotten’ Extermination Camp” much worse than Auschwitz, the Warsaw Ghetto and Treblinka; the Mossad was behind the man who made a film denigrating Islam; alternatively, it was some conspiracy involving “An Israeli film-maker, 100 Jewish donors and their Salafi allies;” and on September 1, Free Gaza linked – not for the first time – to the writings of Gilad Atzmon, a well-known peddler of antisemitic rants.
Here are just a few screenshots of some of the tweets:
By ignoring the blatantly antisemitic material persistently propagated by Free Gaza and rushing to the group’s defense, Derfner and Hauser illustrated a major principle of Israel’s far-left critics: When it comes to so-called pro-Palestinian activists, the iron rule is “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” – and of course, when it comes to Israel, the rule is “see only evil, hear only evil, and speak only evil.”
No surprise then that, in addition to his defense of Free Gaza’s antisemitism, Larry Derfner’s most recent writings include ruminations about his misgivings that “commemorating the Holocaust” and “Israeli bad taste…unfortunately tend to go together.” Right, let’s rush to dismiss blatant antisemitism propagated by “pro-Palestinian” activists and let’s instead focus on ridiculing efforts to cope with the difficulties of dealing with the trauma of a genocide that, still within living memory, wiped out one third of the world’s Jewish population.
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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.
Please note that the examples of Free Gaza’s propagation of antisemitic material provided here are in addition to the ones already documented by Avi Mayer.
Since I wrote this post, Larry Derfner has responded by doing what presumably passes for real reporting at +972: he conducted a telephone interview with Greta Berlin, and proceeded to publish her lies:
“Regarding an FGM tweet about the infamous film “The Innocence of Muslims” that mentions ‘An Israeli film maker, 100 Jewish donors,’ she said those details were taken from the early reports in the New York Times and other mainstream news agencies, but that since then, of course, the story had changed. ‘The New York Times was fooled, too,’ she said.”
As my screenshot of the tweet documents, the source linked to in the tweet is not quite the New York Times, but a website called Redress; here’s the link provided in the tweet: “An Israeli film-maker, 100 Jewish donors and their Salafi allies.” On this same site, you can also enjoy a follow-up post on “Israel’s Salafi foot soldiers in the wake of anti-Islam film,” where Nureddin Sabir, the site’s “editor”, argues:
“Israel must bear responsibility for creating the climate that gave rise to the anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims’. But it is Israel’s Salafi and Wahhabi foot soldiers behind the violent protests across the Arab and Muslim worlds who may eventually bring Arabs and Muslims down to their knees.”
Can you get any more nutty?
The other tweet on the Mossad being behind “Sam Bacile” links to a website called Cannonfire and a post entitled “Why I believe that Mossad was behind ‘Sam Bacile.’”
Most likely, none of this will impress Derfner, who writes:
“Even if I find some of her terminology about Gaza (‘slow-motion genocide’ and ‘extermination camps’) to be awfully exaggerated and dangerous, I see no evidence that she’s the monster she’s been made out to be. She’s a self-described anti-Zionist, but I see nothing she’s done or said that I, at least, would consider beyond the pale.”
And, concluding by sharing his impression of Berlin, Derfner writes:
“She doesn’t strike me as a person who scares easily, or who would disown something she believes in to stay in anyone’s good graces. If she genuinely believed in crackpot, anti-Semitic ideas, I think she’d say so and stick by it.”
Once I can think of a way to describe this conclusion politely, I’ll post an update.
Just a short while ago, Avi Mayer published installment no.2 about the ongoing Free Gaza & Greta Berlin saga. He deals extensively with Larry Derfner’s embarrassing attempts to defend Berlin, so I won’t go here into any further detail, except mentioning one point: Derfner updated the post where he so faithfully parroted everything Berlin told him with a statement signed by some people who claim to be members of the “secret” Facebook group with whom Berlin was supposedly discussing the “evils of propaganda and racism.”
First it needs to be noted that the group is soooo secret that they are apparently unable to even provide a link to their site on Facebook; and secondly, I think they are (perhaps inadvertently) rather honest when they all but admit that the opinions they were (or would be) expressing on the subjects they were supposedly discussing would really not be publishable:
“Many of us know each other personally; our mutual trust allows discussions to involve subjects that are not appropriate for public consumption, sometimes simply because our opinions are not fully ripe; we experiment with them and bounce them off each other in an attempt to understand the issues at hand, developing a better and more coherent argument.” [my emphasis]
Right, I can see why people wouldn’t want to publish their “unripe” “experimental” opinions about Nazi propaganda…