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Media Microscope: Stephen Strikes Back

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Jamie Hyams

Stephen Strikes Back

As mentioned last month, Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld appeared on Radio National’s “Religion Report” to comment on the British and Australian “Independent Jewish Voices” groups. As Rosenfeld was critical of these groups, the following week, on Feb. 21, the program gave equal time to Tony Lerman, a supporter of the British group. While disagreeing with those who label Israel’s policies in the West Bank as apartheid, Lerman claimed, “However, if you look at the segregated roads, if you look at the way land is being confiscated, if you look at the checkpoints, the fortress-like settlements, the fence, there are too many parallels for Jews to feel comfortable.”

Of course, the major important difference is that the South Africans took their measures purely out of racism, whereas the Israelis act purely out of security needs that have been forced on them by the Palestinians. So, for example, none of these measures are applied against Israel’s million plus Arab citizens. 

Lerman also agreed with host Stephen Crittenden that Revisionist Zionism, which he says has now largely taken over Zionism today, drew on the ideas of race that produced fascism in Europe.

However, this was apparently not enough balance for Crittenden, so on March 21, he had another program on the topic. He explained, in his introduction, “You may also remember that I interviewed Professor Alvin Rosenfeld from the University of Indiana, who was scandalised by my use of the term ‘Blut und Boden Zionism’, or ‘blood and soil Zionism’. He denied that Revisionist Zionism in the ‘20s and ‘30s and its leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, had been influenced by fascist ideas about race.”

Crittenden was obviously determined to use (or abuse) his show to have the final word on this issue, so he searched for someone who shared his views, and found a beauty; Lenni Brenner. Crittenden described Brenner as an “American civil rights activist” but could have equally described him as an unrepentant Marxist crank, infamous for writing books that allege the Zionists conspired with the Nazis.

Crittenden’s first question was, “But is there any doubt that early Zionism was shaped by the same ideas about race that shaped Fascism?” Brenner of course had no doubt at all.

Brenner’s speciality seems to be taking documents from the Nazi period out of context to prove his theories. For example, he quoted a letter the Zionist Federation of Germany wrote to the Nazis shortly after the Nazis assumed power. Of course, in writing to a hostile government, the extent of whose antisemitism was not fully appreciated, the Federation was quite sycophantic. To Brenner, however, the Zionists regarded the Nazis as “these guys who like us [believe in] - ‘blood and soil’…and opposition to mixed marriage. I mean it was a Zionist dream.”

Similarly, a naïve and widely condemned attempt in 1940 by the tiny and ultra-extreme Stern Gang in Palestine to co-operate with the Nazis to get Jews out of Europe to Palestine (at a time when the British were blocking all immigration and leaving them in Europe to be killed) is regarded by Brenner as further proof of the pro-Nazi sympathies of Zionism.

Crittenden then moved on to the present day, suggesting that American Zionists had been quiet lately, and asking whether it was “because several American Zionists have been indicted over spying for Israel.” (This is untrue. Two former AIPAC officials have been charged with “communicating national defence information to people not entitled to receive it” in a crackdown on verbal government leaks widely viewed as unprecedented. There has been no allegation of “spying”.)

Brenner replied, “Well, let me put it this way. There’s one American Jew named Pollard who’s been in jail for about 20 years as an Israeli spy. OK. And now AIPAC which is the American Israel Political Action Committee, [actually it’s the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - shows what Brenner knows] several [actually two] of their leaders are waiting trial on charges of getting information from the State Department and illegally passing it on to Israel. And everybody understands that there are Israeli spies all over the American government, etc. But the Zionist establishment is not silent… They hardly defended themselves against those charges because the politicians here are in their pay…”

Crittenden had asked Tony Lerman about the point where criticism of Israel becomes antisemitism. Lerman replied that “you can usually tell they’re antisemites by the language they use: they talk of Jewish power and control and so on.” Given the above rant there’s no doubt that, by Lerman’s test, Brenner, though born Jewish, fails.

If there was any doubt that Crittenden was revelling in the offence he knew he was causing, his final statement, “We await your letters,” dispelled it. In 2003, Crittenden was suspended by ABC management for publishing an article without prior permission, which some Muslims found offensive. It will be interesting to see how they respond to this.

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