After being accused of promoting a video which places the blame for the Holocaust on the Zionists, Greta Berlin tells her side of the story.
I just finished about a 20-minute phone interview with Free Gaza Movement spokeswoman Greta Berlin, who spoke from Los Angeles. I exchanged some e-mails with her, I asked her several questions, I read quite a bit of the criticism and condemnations of her from left and right, and the bottom line is that I find her defense to be completely credible. She is not, to my mind, any kind of anti-Semite or wacko. 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.
To recap in brief: Berlin has been accused of promoting a video by a crazy, dead Jew-hater, Eustace Mullins, who says the Zionists were behind the Holocaust. The accusation is that Berlin promoted the video on Sunday by tweeting it on the Free Gaza Movement’s Tweeter account. On its website, the FGM apologized for the tweet, condemned the video’s content and said it “came from Greta’s private Facebook page and 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.” Berlin stated on the website:
I am not a Holocaust denier. And I am not a supporter of the video that I posted, nor would I ever have been. It was, in fact, an example of propaganda that is EXACTLY what I and others are horrified over. The video (although I didn’t watch it then) seemed like the kind propaganda that our group was discussing. And I passed it on because of the title.
Ironically I am caught in the same propaganda hysteria that I was trying to fight. It was my mistake that I didn’t post to the small private group on Facebook and the video ended up on my wall. Greta
It seemed the easiest way to determine if Berlin was telling the truth or lying would be for her to publish the Facebook group discussion of the video, in whole or at least in part. On Friday night, Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada wrote that he had just spent several hours on a discussion group where the video was posted (though, he noted, not by Berlin):
[I]t 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.
I asked Berlin if she would publish the group discussion, in full or in part, and she reiterated what she wrote on FGM’s website – that the video never made it to her discussion group. She said the group discussion Abunimah monitored has over 1,000 members, while the group she meant to send the video to has 37. In other words, she said, the group discussion for which she’d intended the video never took place, so there’s no discussion to publish. (See statement from group members in UPDATE below.)
I saw part of the Facebook discussion that Abunimah evidently referred to, and from what I saw, his description was right – but it’s not the group Berlin says she meant. She said the smaller group has been together for nearly a year, and in the last month some of its discussion topics included “homophobia in the Middle East,” “the tragedy of the Jews from Arab countries – it’s an inseparable part of the Zionist story,” the Israeli 12th grade draft resisters, Pamela Geller, and a Tel Aviv historical exhibition on “Nakba perpetrators.”
She says she didn’t watch the Mullins video when she tried to send it to her group – which she did on the basis of its title, “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews” – but said she has watched it since. “It’s disgusting!” she exclaimed. “This is what upsets me more than anything [that such a video could be associated with her and FGM]. The man is a nut.”
I asked about her endorsement of Gilad Atzmon’s book “The Wandering Who?” which is widely considered anti-Semitic (and which I haven’t read). She said she’s “not a big fan of what he writes,” but that as she wrote in her endorsement, she found the book fascinating, funny, sad “and by the end I was exhausted. When I wrote that after reading all that I was ‘glad I’d been brought up a Methodist,’ that was meant to be funny.” I asked if she thought the book expressed hatred of Jews, and she said, “I found nothing anti-Jewish in that book,” adding that she felt Atzmon had been “demonized.”
I asked about the FGM tweet of a 1943 Nazi propaganda movie, and she said she didn’t recall seeing the movie or sending the tweet. 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.
I asked her about an FGM tweet of the “slow-motion genocide” in Gaza. She said: “That’s a term I’ve been using for a long time, I use it in my presentations. That is my view of what’s happening.” I asked her about the FGM tweet regarding the “extermination camps” in Gaza. She said: “I think if something isn’t done about Gaza pretty quickly, I think that is what’s going to happen. There are lots of reports, UN reports, that say Gaza is going to become uninhabitable. I am pretty upset by the situation in Gaza.”
Berlin, who’s 71, apologizes for hitting the wrong button on Sunday’s tweet, but not for anything else, certainly not for anything she’s said with FGM. 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. But she says she doesn’t believe in such ideas, in fact she finds them disgusting, and there’s nothing remotely close to any definitive proof that she does believe them, and I think the reason for that is because she doesn’t.
UPDATE: Statement by members of Berlin’s FB discussion group: