A final word on Greta Berlin and the Free Gaza controversy

On 6 October I published a post casting doubt on Free Gaza movement co-founder Greta Berlin’s explanation of how she came to tweet a link to a video of an anti-Jewish diatribe by notorious anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist Eustace Mullins, from the @freegazaorg Twitter account.

Like others, I had at first accepted Berlin’s explanations that it had all been a mistake, just one single tweet posted in the wrong place, that was supposed to have been part of an anti-racist discussion in a private Facebook group.

But as the versions of the story began to vary, my doubts grew. Once I saw the content of the “Our Land” Facebook group that Berlin administers, I was certain we were dealing with a well-established pattern of exchanging, tolerating and indulging truly racist material that has no connection to Palestine solidarity work.

Today in an article on Mondoweiss, Bekah Wolf has published some of the racist material I saw in that group.

Even though I knew about this material, I did not elaborate on it in my 6 October post. Instead, other than the Mullins video, I restricted my comments to what was not in the group, rather than what was there:

This evening I had an opportunity to spend several hours with full access to a private Facebook group of which Berlin is an administrator, and where the video was first posted by another administrator on 28 September with the comment “This will be a real thought provoker for some.”

When the video was posted on 28 September it was neither preceded nor followed by any interactions that would fit the description that it “was shared with a group of people who were discussing propaganda and racism, and this link was an example of the terrible propaganda that could be spewed on websites.” This context does not exist.

Contrary to various claims I’ve seen, I never labeled Berlin an “anti-Semite.” Yet as Wolf writes:

Greta is an active administrator of a Facebook group that is full of unabashedly anti-Semitic rhetoric and has been called out before by activists for it but has never done anything to challenge or stop it.

And as Wolf shows, Berlin often went beyond that.

Should I have been more explicit about what I saw? Perhaps, but I had my reasons to take a more restrained approach. I had hoped that by sounding the alarm, and signaling that Berlin’s explanations were not credible, Berlin herself would begin to take the issue seriously, and that the new Free Gaza board would do the same. Sadly that did not happen.

The most dispiriting spectacle over the past two weeks was seeing Berlin disseminating, and a small group of people embellishing, outlandish stories intended to distract and shift the blame on to those who were asking for accountability.

Almost every day, I’ve received emails alleging, among other things, that I am a “Zionist agent,” that I’ve been “conned” by Israel into attacking Berlin so that Israel can steal Gaza’s natural gas, that I am engaged in a “vendetta” because Berlin endorsed a book I didn’t like, and so on. A few of these messages came from people I had previously believed to be reasonable and sensible, which added to the disappointment.

Berlin herself has used Islamophobic epithets against me, accusing me of issuing “fatwas” and mocking me as “Ali Ayatollah.” But for me this is not and has never been about Greta Berlin. I knew that what I saw in the “Our Land” group could not be more damaging and discrediting to the Palestinian rights movement.

I also received tremendous encouragement and affirmation that was far louder. I am thankful to individuals including Élise Hendrick who understood what was at stake from the start, and has helped illuminate some of the disturbing connections that have come out of this.

As someone who is frequently accused by Zionists of being “anti-Semitic,” I do not take these matters lightly. But this episode also helped me gain some clarity about the symbiotic relationship between Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Many Zionists constantly claim that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism, while anti-Semites try to convince us that their hatred of Jews as Jews is actually anti-Zionism. So both Zionists and anti-Semites constantly collude to blur the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and between Zionism and Judaism. We should do nothing to help them.

The movement I am proud to be part of eschews racism and bigotry in all their forms, and doesn’t seek the support of those who trade in them.

Comments

Greta has been an anti-Zionist activist for longer than Ali or most of her detractors have been alive. I myself have been an active anti-Zionist for more than 30 years. Both of us have been jailed and risked our lives for our efforts. I am part of that "small group" standing unconditionally, unapologeticly behind Greta, contesting the accuracy of most of what Ali alleges and agreeing that neither he nor anyone else has a right to label her or anyone else with such courageous credentials; and though I find Ali's allegations disgusting and unconscionable, I have never called him any names nor would I do anything to weaken the movement - especially not launder dirty linen in public as has been done in this case.

She is an old fashioned anti-Semite

The question is not if Greta Berlin has an ethical issue but rather whether Gilad Atzmon's book has any legitimacy. As has been proven previously, the book does not have legitimacy and is considered to be catering to Judaeophobia and Antisemitism. Unless stated otherwise, the sympathizers with Greta Berlin seem to have supported her support for Atzmon's book, and for Antisemitism. That is the issue!
We object to the association made with racism in the name of anti-racism. There is a principle involved here and it must be maintained in support of the Palestinians - otherwise the pro-Zionist propaganda will use the fact of Antisemitism to support racism.
It should also be said that Antisemitism is injected into the consciousness of those who oppose the Zionist occupation of the Palestinians, this populist mentality acts out as if it were Leftist even while it promotes right-wing ideology including racism, while presenting itself as anti-racism. This double-faced character is not in the same movement of solidarity with the Palestinians.
During my 44 years of solidarity work in Toronto, Ottawa, & Montréal.. we have had to dissociate from such attempted hijacking of the Arab & Palestinian revolutions on repeated occasions. We may also care to remember the Nazi propaganda machine in the Arab countries during the Holocaust when Embassies circulated 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'. This 'Zeitgist' pop politics is an ideology that has right-wing roots.
Being from a Jewish Bundist family, Zionism never had an appeal to me, but my Jewish identity is crucial to me since it comprises the memory of my people and family lost in Poland where 90% of the poor Jewish working class was eradicated.
The freedom of the Palestinians does not mean the suppression of the Jewish People and such propaganda does not aid the Palestinians, that undermines this People.

After sitting through two hours of Greta Berlin, Alison Weir, and Jeff Blankfort defend Jew-hatred, it is impossible to believe anything but that Berlin and company do indeed despise the Jewish people. They spoke at the First Unitarian Church in Berkeley last Thursday. Several people taped the presentation, including me.

This was just such a beautiful, moving, and powerful post that I wanted somehow to say thanks for writing it. And thanks also to Bekah Wolf. This whole painful incident I think has, in the end, strengthened the Palestinian solidarity movement in ways big and small. Thank you.

I remain a liberal Zionist, and regard the urge to gather and to form a coherent society, in Israel/Palestine as a liberation, accompanied by zero-sum war and later unnecessary suppression.

The political arguments about solution are of four possibilities:
1. Zionist dominated single state
2. Anti-Israeli single Palestinian state
3. Mutual healthy national states
4. Genuinely democratic single state

Your comments opposing the presence and invocation of racially hateful statements as a component of advocacy for Palestinian human rights and for advocacy of a single democratic state, have added to the credibility of your conclusions, and provided a basis for Zionists and others to listen respectfully to the experience and range of political proposals by Palestinians.

I personally believe that only with efforts at mutual humanization is either a viable single state or a viable two-state approach possible.

She is just an old fashioned nasty anti-Semite, thats right, a Jew hater through and through. She does not get pardoned because she screwed up.

And what are you? deborah no name

It's intense to focus our skills within the movement. I think many people who know Greta have caution about condemnation due to respect, as with the poster above. As the movement grows, some correction is required. However, is it worth the effort? Is there a real threat posed by these bad judgments made in social media frontiers that lead to flirting with racists? Is the consequence lessened any by thematizing and debating our borders of what is acceptable and not? I mean, isn't FGM dead now as a result? Does anyone have concern of this consequence when linking to anti-semitism is already assumed by our adversaries? They believe anti-Zionism is anti semitism, so what are you trying to win exactly, that the Zionists are actually wrong because we expel Greta Berlin? I think there is no difference and
Now FGM is destroyed.

". However, is it worth the effort? Is there a real threat posed by these bad judgments made in social media frontiers that lead to flirting with racists? Is the consequence lessened any by thematizing and debating our borders of what is acceptable and not? I mean, isn't FGM dead now as a result? Does anyone have concern of this consequence when linking to anti-semitism is already assumed by our adversaries?"

As a movement, our credibility is damaged every time Zionists can point to antisemitism without resorting to any kind of fabrication. Our ability to engage in effective solidarity is damaged by white supremacists hijacking the movement for their own battle against imagined "Jewish world domination".

Our credibility and effectiveness can only be enhanced by being the ones to deal with this issue openly and honestly.

Greta Berlin is not the Free Gaza Movement. She is one person. Whether this results in the "destruction" of the FGM or not depends entirely on all of us taking responsibility to make sure that the work goes on, with credible people speaking for it, and is not further hijacked.

Ali, thank you so much for this excellent article. I have seen bits and pieces of the recent controversy regarding Greta Berlin and your article has helped to fill in the blanks. I believe I was added to this 'Our Land' group on Facebook and I will check this right away. If indeed I was, I will be posting there your article and then removing myself from the group. Best, Diane

I fail to see why Ali continues to say Greta has changed her story. Her comments have been posted in dozens of places already. It's interesting that Ali either blocks the commenter, blocks the TWEETS from them, or blocks the people who have testified that they have seen Greta's consistent comments.

I'm sure he won't post mine either.

Why does Ali refuse to print this statement from Greta? Posted to several sites....

This is ALL that happened regarding a video I wanted to park in a small group and watch later

1. I grabbed the video out of a group of 1000 people, a group that is private
2. I meant to park it into a group of 30+ people that is secret (to watch it later), but I never checked the settings before I hit SHARE, because I was in a hurry.
3. I did not watch the video. Why would I have watched the video? I was in a hell of a hurry and was traveling like crazy those four days. I would have watched it in the small group. Would we have had a discussion on it? Probably. We discuss all kinds of things as you can see from the attached conversation
4. I did not know my personal Facebook page was connected to the Free Gaza TWITTER page. There are 3300 TWEETS on the Free Gaza page, and you all attacked me for this mistake without even giving me a chance to clarify or figure out what had happened.
5. Free Gaza apologized on the front page of the website, using the language that Ali Abunimah gave us.
6. I apologized on the front page of Free Gaza after I figured out what had happened. That should have been the end of it.

I never said a word about the video. I never hit LIKE. In fact, I have been demonized, not for the mistake I made, but for the assumption that surely I MUST have said something to merit all of this hatred. I assure you, I did not.

Greta Berlin

I find it interesting the argument that we should ignore Greta Berlin's activities that threaten the movement, not to mention her anti-Islamic slurs against Ali and her approval of antisemitism, as if she is so important to the movement that she is the only one capable of defending Palestinians. The defense of Greta seems to be more about making her into a figure that rises above everyone else (including Palestinians themselves) than it is about her defense.

This is not about Greta Berlin except to those who worship her.

Ali says, "When the video was posted on 28 September it was neither preceded nor followed by any interactions that would fit the description that it “was shared with a group of people who were discussing propaganda and racism, and this link was an example of the terrible propaganda that could be spewed on websites.” This context does not exist."

Ali was in the wrong group (he managed a convoluted apology in the middle of some excuses posted by Benjamin Doherty). However, he failed to acknowledge that he was in the wrong group and continues to lie about it. As Greta repeatedly has said, she took that video from the large group and meant to put it into the small group. She posted on her wall instead, so of course there was no conversation in the small group. There was, however, the beginnings of a conversation in the larger group called Our Land.

If anything Ali has verified Greta's story

A comment that to me suggests the author is resisting with all her might against what is plain to see. I have absolutely not verified Greta’s story. And more important look at the material people were exchanging in the Our Land group. I found it disgusting. 

Thank you, Ali, for the excellent work you've been doing on this issue since this debacle came to light. Thank you also for the acknowledgement of my article "Plumbing the Depths of Greta Berlin's "Secret Group"". This is part I of a series, based on research done by myself and several good friends, that will examine in greater detail the sort of people and organisations that have managed to insinuate themselves into the Palestinian solidarity movement.

I would like to say that there is someone else worthy of recognition, indeed worthy of much more recognition than I.

Emma Rosenthal of http://cafeintifada.wordpress.org has been addressing the issue of the white supremacist attempts to hijack the Palestinian solidarity movement for much longer than I have been.

The thanks she has received thus far for her work over the past several years have been decidedly underwhelming. In addition to being placed on the Masada2000 SHITList and blacklisted by her union for her work raising awareness of the oppression of the Palestinian people, she has found herself smeared, attacked, and ostracised by supposed comrades in the movement for her work addressing the white supremacists who have been tolerated in our midst (more than once, her surname alone has been used as an "argument" against her).

Emma has educated a lot of people on this issue over the years, myself included. As the rest of this sordid tale unfolds, we would be righting a great wrong - not just to Emma, but to the movement as a whole - by acknowledging that the concerns she has been attacked, smeared, and ostracised for raising are justified.

The mess we are cleaning up now is largely a result of people dismissing these issues, which have long been raised by Emma (as well as by myself, Jinjirrie of http://www.kadaitcha.com, and a number of others). This moment will be utterly in vain if we don't learn from it the importance of Granting No Quarter to white supremacists and bigots.

through all this we've heard about how courageous greta berlin is. how could someone who has courageously stood up to the IDF have anything to hide? since when is it courageous to be racist openly or secretly?

I deeply appreciate your analysis of this, and your ongoing work to end the occupation without descending into anti-Semitism. Ken yirbu - may there be more like you.

Thanks, Ali, for your tenacious spirit and to all the other people who have supported this effort for your clarity, honesty and humanity. Your examples are inspiring.

While the current revelations have caused discomfort to some, the path is illumined and affirmed when there's accountability to the principles underpinning movements for justice and freedom.

All I hear is antisemism when racist would be more appropriate , to give Jews their own form of racism is surely singling them out from the rest of humanity and is in itself antisimetic

Thank you Ali for your standing tall, firm, generous and inspiring for others, including me, in this very bruising episode.

I posted the video in "Our Land" with the text.
“This will be a real thought provoker for some.”
Our land has 30-40 Zionists in it ..... out of over 1000 members.
Does Ali seriously believe that is the secret group Greta had in mind.
Is it possible Greta is in more than 1 secret group.
Do you think Greta's secret group would have over 100 members in it & include Zionists.
Well I wouldn't & if anyone doesn't have serious doubts about Ali's version of events , you would have doubts about Greta's ability to keep secret 2 large boats that the might of the Israeli forces couldn't find.

Ali Abunimah needs a reality check.
All credit to Ali if he allows this to be pasted.
It would be one step for his credibility to be restored.

This is another silly attempt at distraction. The question is not where Greta claims she wanted to post the racist Eustace Mulluns video, but what was actually going on in the “Our Land” group regardless of what other “secret” groups she may be involved in. What I saw in the Our Land group, administered by Greta, is a bunch of racist trash. Lots of it. Vile stuff, especially by Martillo. I suspect group admins knew how vile it was which is why efforts have been made to scrub it. And that’s all well documented by Bekah Wolf. Now do I believe for a second that there was some secret anti-racist discussion going on in another group which happens to contain the same people who administer Our Land? Not for a second, especially when those vouching for it are the likes of “Yani Haigh” who never ceases to spout poison about how awful Jews are. 

Ali does not post critical of his enthusiasm in defending the bogus label of anti-Semitism which is used, or rather abused, by the Zionists to silence justifiable criticism, or exposure of the crimes committed by Israel against the people whose lands it has stolen!

Are you trying to claim antisemitism is a bogus concept? Distinct discrimination against Jews goes back far before Zionism existed because of the complicated relationship between Jewish religion and ethnic identity. Claiming antisemitism no longer exists because of its abuse by Zionists is just as dangerous as claiming antisemitism and anti-Zionism are the same thing, because both blur the lines between Jews and Israel.

All you have to do is go to Stormfront for 5 seconds to see that antisemitism still exists.

Terrible car bomb in Beirut. Many wounded, some killed.

Jane, what on earth does that have to do with the topic of this post?

Roger Salisbury claims there are 30-40 zionists in our land. There was one, Rafi, who has waved the flag of a centrist and has similar views to myself. On Roger's challenge I entered the group and saw, in the 3 weeks I was there, Jews blamed for African slave trade, Bolshevikism, Stalin, manufacturing the holocaust, inflating the number of victims of the holocaust, being responsible for 50% of US debt and even responsible for the degradation of christian moral values and the spread of homosexuality. It is a hate group. To Greta's credit, Joachim martillo was booted(but then he had been booted and reinvited previously) when I left. I have always had civil discourse as Greta and we both want a one state solution(though different ways of achieving those aims.) Still, she has made the comments about zionists working with the Nazis previously, so I do not think this video posting was something unusual-just its wider release.

These are the words of Roger Salisbury who is defending Greta at present, with friends like this who needs enemies:

"Roger G Salisbury
NAZIS
- Who Knows that the Roman Empire was the longest running empire in the world?
- Who Knows it demanded Caesar worship?
- Who knows the ONLY people not required to bow to Caesar were the Jews?
- Who Knows that The Jews infiltrated the Corridors of Power within the Roman administration
- Who Knows that The Jews STILL infiltrate the Corridors of Power of many administrations .(some say most)
- Who knows Jews are a divided people & always have been?

- Who knows in WWII that they collaborated against themselves & with the NAZIS?"

2 of the people who made the supporting "statement" for Greta, are fake accounts, One person has told me that his name was used on the statement without his knowledge or consent and one of them is Roger salisbury who posted this morning " yes I am an antisemite" when I asked him if he was an antisemite.

Sam siddiqui deleted her acct not as Yani Haigh says " because fb was being mean" but because there was so much antisemitic effluence posted by that account she couldnt hope to delete it all.

I am impressed with some of the Pro palestinians who have stepped up and said this is unacceptable, I have far more respect for them.

This situation is so frustrating. Ali Abunimah is doing and has done awesome work in shining the light on the human rights and civil rights violations of Palestinians by the illegal Apartheid state of Israel. Greta Berlin has spent decades opposing the illegal Israeli Occupation of all of Palestine. I respect both of them. It is sad that so much attention is being spent on Greta by people who are dedicated to pro-justice for Palestine and Palestinians and to end the illegal Israeli collective punishment/blockade/siege of Gaza, West Bank and al-Quds - aka Jerusalem.

It is always important to stop racism whenever it shows up. I still have a very difficult time seeing from what I have read in all of this that Greta is anti-semitic/anti-Jewish.

I stand in solidarity with Greta, she has dedicated her life to oppose the horrible illegal Apartheid Israeli Occupation/collective punishment that is ongoing. Does she make mistakes? Yes. Is she sometimes flippant? Yes. But I don't believe and haven't been convinced that she is secretly anti-semitic.

I have understood that Ann Wright was removed as a passenger on the Estelle, which is on its way to Gaza, because she expressed support for Greta and is on the Advisory Board of Free Gaza Movement. Ann would have been the sole American citizen onboard the ship. This has really gone too far.

When Gilad Atzmon was doing his book tour regarding his book "The Wandering Who?" there was a lot of attacking going on. Sometimes we need to agree to disagree without the mudslinging.

Donna, It is not necessary to believe that Berlin is “secretly anti-Semitic” in order to understand the damage done by the bigotry and racist trash that she was indulging and trafficking in to the movement for Palestinian rights, and her utter disregard for the damage her actions have had on Free Gaza and her reaction to criticism and calls for accountability. I’m quite tired of people making this about Berlin and personal loyalty to Berlin and putting that before the question of the damage this sort of bigotry does to Palestinians and refusing to ask for accountability. For weeks, people denied there was a problem and now that the evidence is in the open of the kind of vile trash that was in that Facebook group, a few people continue to make excuses for it. It’s also disingenuous to claim that when someone defends their basic principles they are “mudslinging.” Many Palestinians have spoken out against bigotry repeatedly and clearly and don’t want it associated with their struggle. That’s not “mudslinging” and I reject the suggestion that it is.

Watching this story unfold, I've been profoundly shocked - time and time again- by the attempt to marginalize Palestinian voices within what is supposed to be an international solidarity movement. Its been hard not to feel that part of the outrage among Berlin's defender stems from the fact that they expect to be viewed as selfless heros battling on behalf of some poor, helpless, non-white, voiceless Palestinian public. As if this struggle is somehow about them, as opposed to being about what Palestinians need and demand? As if the fact that 100+ prominent Palestinian leaders signing a letter condemning bigotry is just a sign that they've either fallen trap to zionist-conspiracy-mongering or else simply failed to show proper respect to those heroic white people who've supposedly been "fighting on their behalf." And anyone who disagrees with them is also, likewise, dismissible. Even someone like Ali Abunimah - someone who has dedicated years of his life to this movement - gets to be dismissed and disparaged. It's really shocking, but also very telling about what the Berlin crowd actually thinks and believes.

Donna, for goodness' sake. Atzmon the "ex-Jew" wants "the goyim, the gentiles, basically -- find within ourselves the powers to contain this sinister ideological collective."

(Listen below at 56:55.)
http://adamholland.blogspot.co...

he boasts that "when we studied the middle age blood libels, I again wondered out loud how the teacher could know that these accusations of Jews making Matzo out of young Goyim’s blood were indeed empty or groundless"
http://hurryupharry.org/2011/0...

and you're actually accusing people who criticize his blatant racism of mudslinging? what's wrong with you?

Greetings Ali,
I apologize, I didn't mean that you had slung any mud. I should have been more direct in my comment. I think that Greta's comment to you, calling you Ali Ayatollah, was totally uncalled for and absolutely disrespectful to you.

I know that Greta can be flippant, and this is part of the problem.

Donna

It is terribly easy to understand how one may carry racist baggage into 45 years of struggle for human rights. Flippancy, on the other hand, cannot be excused.

I still think the decision to disinvite Ann Wright on the Estelle signals that this has gone too far. I agree that it's not about Ann Wright, Greta Berlin or any of these activists as individuals. It's about the cause. However, deciding that someone like Ann Wright is too 'toxic' to sail merely because she put in a mild word of support for Greta is a disastrous organizing principle. She clearly has partaken in none of the questionable activity or made such statements as Greta has. We shouldn't cut good people out of the movement in our efforts to expunge the racists intruders.

Ali, since you are leading the charge against the laissez-faire attitude towards racist and bigoted interlopers (which is necessary), it would be helpful if you also expended an effort to contain the damage done to the rest of us, such as the decision by the Estelle crew to suddenly throw Ann Wright overboard. That was simply stupid and it sets a bad precedent.

It’s absolutely not my place to second guess the crew of the Estelle. I find it perfectly understandable that they did not want to deal with all the negative publicity and controversy of having on board a representative and board member of an organization that had handled things so badly. Entirely their call. FG is solely responsible for the negative fall out of their poor decision-making. Also, notably, Ship to Gaza did NOT announce that Wright had been disinvited. FG did that, thus creating controversy where none would have existed. It’s really time people started asking FG to be accountable rather than constantly seeking to cast the blame elsewhere.

Unfortunately my PC crashed just as I had sent off a comment and now it seems to be lost, however, it is important to reiterate that the Palestinian struggle for freedom is not a single issue matter that excludes all other considerations. The principle of anti-racism cannot be negated by excusing Antisemitism. Those who cannot or will not recognize that Gilad Atzmon's book is anti-Jewish are not aiding the Palestinian cause. Are such people seriously asking others to create a hierarchy where one people have more rights than another. Is that not the reason why one opposes Zionism in the first place!