Episode transcript – Zionism and anti-Semitism: Joseph Massad on the sordid historical alliance

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Moderate Rebels episode 9

Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton are joined by Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad, a leading expert on Israel-Palestine and Arab politics and intellectual history. Massad details the long history of collaboration between anti-Semites and Zionists.

We discuss how Zionism was promoted by Western imperialist governments as a bulwark against socialism, communism, and other leftist movements, and how far-right racist movements look to the Israeli ethnostate as a model today.

Episode transcript

Ben Norton: You are listening to Moderate Rebels. I’m Ben Norton. Right now I’m here on the Columbia University campus with Professor Joseph Massad, who’s a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history and a leading scholar on Middle East politics, history, and culture. Professor Massad is also a renowned public intellectual and has written several books, including Desiring Arabs and, most recently, Islam and Liberalism. He also wrote a collection of essays that is really relevant to the discussion we’re gonna have today, entitled The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians.

We have the fortune of being joined by him in person to discuss a very interesting topic that is not really interrogated much, especially in corporate media, but even in a lot of scholarly studies. And that is the century-long relationship between far-right and anti-Semitic movements and Zionism, and how there’s been this almost symbiotic relationship historically.

This topic is also very timely because this November is in fact the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, in which the British Empire pledged Palestine to the Zionist movement for colonization. And Balfour, the foreign secretary after which the declaration is named, was also a virulent anti-Semite and deep, deep racist. So I think it’s a good framing for the overall discussion that we’re about to have.

Max Blumenthal: Joseph, I remember in 2013 you wrote a really widely discussed column for Al Jazeera English. And I found it to be completely factual, insightful. It was written clinically, as you usually write; it’s sort of devastatingly clinical. And it was called “The last of the Semites.”

You wrote that Jewish opponents of, this is a quote from your piece, that “Jewish opponents of Zionism understood the movement since its early age as one that shared the precepts of anti-Semitism in its diagnosis of what gentile Europeans called the ‘Jewish Question.'” And by making this statement and writing this piece you were subjected to censorship. You were subjected first to a massive censorious pro-Israel campaign. And Al Jazeera English acceded to that campaign.

I wanted to start with this piece just to ask you kind of first of all why it’s so difficult to talk about this topic and then if you could just go straight into it and expand on the statement you made in this piece by taking us through some of the early history of Zionist collaboration with pre-war European anti-Semites, and explain how these two ideological currents kind of developed in symbiosis together.

Joseph Massad: All right, well, I’m very happy to be here. I should say that of course while Al Jazeera did accede to that pressure initially, it had to reverse itself as a result of counter-pressure within a few days of having banned my article, and published a sort of makeshift explanation which was not actually an apology and did not necessarily explain the censorious action that they had taken.

All right, well, I think actually the question goes back much earlier than a century ago. Because of course Zionism had a much longer Christian history than it does a Jewish history. So in that sense, Zionism is a Christian idea that was pretty much started by a millenarian Protestants, since the Protestant Reformation, calling for the repatriation quote/unquote of European Jews to the Holy Land as a precursor to the second coming of Jesus Christ. And of course once these purported European Jews are quote/unquote returned to the Holy Land they would have to convert to Christianity, to expedite of course a second coming.

So for 300 years or so, Zionism was a Christian Protestant idea that the majority of Jewish leaders at the time, especially rabbis, had been opposed to, and understood to be a call for the expulsion of Jews. So it took about 300 years before in fact Jewish intellectuals would take it up in the 19th century. Even if of course they remained that minority among Jews.

But also Zionism as a Christian idea for Christians begins much earlier. After all, the Crusades, the very basis of the Crusades of the 9th to the 11th century, was precisely an understanding that the Christian religion to which the majority of European populations had converted, was based on a geography that these European Christians did not control. So the idea was very much of the Crusades is to capture this land of Jesus Christ from which their religion or the religion to which they had converted issued.

This is very interesting of course in light of the fact that no European has ever thought that European Christians, by virtue of having converted to this Palestinian religion, come or are descendants of the original Palestinian Christians. Yet as we know many of them seem to believe that European converts to Judaism must in fact be descendants of the ancient Hebrews.

So on the one hand we have and we have a Christian Zionist idea for European Christians that was popular during the Crusades; then we have a Protestant a Zionist idea about Jews having to quote-unquote return, or at least capture, the homeland of the ancient Hebrews. And then by the late 19th century we begin to have some interest by some Jewish intellectuals in the question of seeing themselves in fact through these Protestant anti-Jewish eyes, if you will, seeing themselves as not necessarily belonging to Europe, as somehow being direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews.

And at the same time that based on these understandings, they could build what they thought was the national idea that they call Zionism.

Max Blumenthal: Right if you look at the early work of Max Nordau, who wrote the influential tract advocating a kind of “muscle Zionism” or “Zionism of the gun,” he was sort of a European racialist. Am I right?

He was he was transfixed by some of the proto-fascist ideas of the late 19th century before he was a Zionist. So you see this cross-pollination of ideas between the early Zionists and the sort of early antecedents of European fascism. Am I right there, that there was this kind of exchange of ideas?

Joseph Massad: Nordau was very interesting in that he sort of advanced ideas that had become popular among social Darwinists, sort of Spencerist ideas, which talked about evolution of different races, different human races. Suddenly of course what he does talk about what he addresses in a major book that he published in the 1890s, called Degeneration, he begins to speak about a reversal of evolution.

Max Blumenthal: Yes.

Joseph Massad: Right, the idea that in fact a human is not only evolved allegedly at different paces, and therefore this explains racial difference, but also they could devolve and go backwards.

And this of course was his and the Zionist diagnosis of what they sort of borrowed from the anti-Jewish Europeans and called the “Jewish Question.”

For Max Nordau, Jews had been degenerating socially, and of course he spoke about racial degeneration. What distinguished Jews for someone like Max Nordau and the early Zionists from other degenerating races was that their diagnosis that the Jewish degeneration was not genetic or biological, and the extent to which it had biological manifestations was an outcome of Jews having lived in the diaspora, therefore they had become culturally degenerate, and if you were to undo the diasporic condition and create a national movement that quote-unquote “returns” them to Palestine to have their own state, the generation would stop, because if it was a cultural degeneration, and indeed the Jewish people could be regenerated, which is what they used.

Indeed, in 1902, there was a German Jewish institute of statistics that was founded by Zionist scholars and most of them were interested in the new science of statistics and demography, sort of what we identify today in Foucauldian terms as the rise of the bio-political state, and began amassing huge amounts of data on the demography of Jews — rates of death, mortality rates, marriage, conversion rates. All of these things were of high concern to them to in fact to prove the theory of degeneration that they talked about.

So we begin to see things of the sort beginning at that time, especially within this sort of pseudoscience.

In a sense of course that the Zionist scientists or social scientists argument was that numbers don’t lie, numbers were objective sort of measures of the condition of Jews, and it is through that that they uncovered what they felt was a pathological and abnormal condition of Jews according to them.

(10:17)

So, for example, the decline in Jewish births signaled degeneration. The idea of the racial purity of Jews became a big issue for the Zionists, and of course several Zionist scientists at the time, people like Elias Auerbach, who was a physician, a fellow by the name of Jute, an anthropologist, both were concerned about the nature of the purity or impurity of the Jewish race at the beginning of the 20th century. So they argued that the Hebrews, the ancient Hebrews, had in fact mixed with other Semites, therefore they remained pure racially and Semitically. Then sort of since the Crusades all the way to the French Revolution, Jews remained racially pure because of ghettoization.

The Enlightenment was of course not a welcome development for racial purity, because it introduced mixed marriages for Jews and therefore as far as these scientists, Zionist scientists, were concerned it introduced impure blood into the Jewish genetic pool. Luckily they felt that most children of mixed marriages remained outside Jewish communities, therefore preserving Jews as pure, racially. And therefore their conclusion was inbreeding had prevented the Jews from degenerating biologically. Therefore it was social conditions and anti-Semitism that were the social causes of mental and physical degeneration of Jews, and which they found to be reversible by moving Jews from Europe to Palestine and having them live in a Jewish state.

So you can imagine this kind of racialist thinking, which of course was popular by also proto German fascists and European fascist at that time, and with the rise of the European science of racialism by mid-19th century, clearly translating into political ideas of this sort.

And remember of course anti-Semitism itself at that time was a new term. It was invented in the 1870s by a minor Austrian journalist and for him it was very important — this is Wilhelm Marr, the German or the Austrian journalist — for him he distinguished clearly between hostility to Jews as a religious group versus anti-Semitism. And he said anti-Semitism is hostility to Jews as a race, not as a religious group.

Sometimes people anachronistically and ahistorically speak of “hundreds of years of anti-Semitism.” Anti-Semitism is about 150 years old, a bit less than that, in terms of the racial basis that this movement decided to target Jews as objects of hatred. Before that you had different kinds of Christian anti-Jewish sentiment and Christian discrimination and biases and violence against Jews based on the distinction of faith and religion, not on race.

Ben Norton: And that racial basis is why figures like Karl Marx, whose family converted to Christianity, were still seen as Jewish, even though religiously and culturally they were not associated with Judaism anymore.

Joseph Massad: Not only that, of course because, for the Hitlerites, for Hitler and the Nazi regime, of course, anyone who was one-eighth Jewish went to the concentration camps. So in fact many Jewish converts to Christianity, whose grandparents or parents had converted to Christianity and had no religious connection to Judaism anymore, ended up in the concentration camps alongside of course Jews who had not converted. Because according to Nazism Jewishness was indeed a racial attribute and not a religious one.

Max Blumenthal: I want to move forward a little bit and start moving closer to the war period and at least into the period where political Zionism gained some momentum.

Max Nordau and Theodor Herzl formed the World Zionist Organization together to advance some of these ideas: an exclusively Jewish state not within Europe but within the traditionally Arab Middle East. This was decided upon ultimately, and Joseph you point out that the state that they envisioned was sort of a replica of the kind of racialist state that some of the proto-fascist and anti-Semitic elements in Europe that they exchanged ideas with envisioned in Western Europe, which ultimately informed the rise of the Third Reich.

I mean we’re not talking about an absolute replica, but these ideas were exchanged at the turn of the century.

So I guess I wonder if you could take us through some of the history of how the ideas that Nordau and Herzl absorbed through figures like Wilhelm Marr influenced their vision of an exclusively Jewish homeland in historic Palestine, and how they collaborated with anti-Semitic figures in Europe, how Herzl lobbied anti-Semitic figures. I mean Herzl even attempted to offer the Pope the forced conversion of Europe’s Jews. So maybe you can take us through some of this history.

Joseph Massad: Yeah but he did that before he was a Zionist. The offer the offer to convert Jews to Catholicism was made to the Pope in 1893, about three years before Herzl had written his pamphlet The State of the Jews, or Der Judenstaat. So that was sort of his last act before he became a Zionist.

Nonetheless, yes of course he was highly influenced by European nationalism at that time. And indeed the early Zionists were fascinated by even some of the proto-German fascist groups. For example, the youth movement called the Wandering Birds, or the Wandervogel, that sort of sought to connect to the Teutonic blood of Germans, we see the Zionists immediately founding their own group at that time called Blau und Weiß, or Blue and White, of course which are the colors of the Zionist flag. It was a youth movement copying in fact the proto-Nazi German group. Both movements of course were based on the German fascist notion of “blood and soil” or Blut und Boden.

Ben Norton: And that’s of course one of the slogans that neo-Nazis were chanting at their hate rally in Charlottesville in August, where a white supremacist killed a young woman and injured several other people in a car attack.

Joseph Massad: Indeed, indeed, this is a time-honored fascist slogan, if you will.

The Zionists at the time insisted of course on not resisting anti-Semitism but on collaborating with it, as their work had Palestine settlement as a priority. So for them in fact there was no point in fighting anti-Semitism because there the diagnosis of Herzl early on was that what causes anti-Semitism were Jews themselves, or the presence of Jews and Gentiles communities.

Indeed he would write that the unfortunate Jews who were going to America at that time and immigrating were bringing with them anti-Semitism to America. So he actually blamed Jews for causing anti-Semitism, rather than blaming the anti-Semites.

And he felt indeed that anti-Semites would be allies. This was not for example some tactical or accidental alliance that Zionists would make; it was actually ideologically anchored in the project itself early on. This was the understanding of Herzl, that indeed, as he had written, the anti-Semitic countries will be our friends and our allies.

Indeed he spoke about the different groups that would support the expulsion of Jews from Europe to Palestine and he also felt that, he wrote that rich European Jews had an interest in supporting poor European Jews moving to Palestine because the presence of poor, especially East European Jews, what he called the Ostjuden, in Western Europe was causing anti-Semitism, and therefore it was the in the interest of rich Jews to finance their movement.

He also thought that poor Christians would be supportive of this because they could take the jobs of the poor Jews whom they felt had taken their jobs.

And finally of course he thought anti-Semites will definitely support this effort because of course they want to get rid of Jews.

So he had a strategy, and I think a sober understanding of the goals of anti-Semitism, and he adopted this understanding by anti-Semitism, that indeed it was the presence of Jews that caused the anti-Semitism, not in fact the presence of racialist anti-Semitic thinking dominating European nationalisms at the time, and differentiating on a national and racial basis between different populations.

So in that sense, his own subsequent collaboration with the Russian anti-Semitic minister of interior von Plehve and many others — and von Plehve of course was responsible for pogroms against Jews — but also with others, it was not just simply tactical but it was indeed ideological, and it was based on what he perceived to be ideological similitude with anti-Semitism, that they both shared the same goal.

(20:06)

Sometimes contemporary Zionists claim that, well, you know you can’t just sort of quote Herzl and then judge the movement after him by the by the words that he wrote. I think they would be correct if that strategy was abandoned. The thing is that strategy would continue from Herzl on. It was never questioned. It continued; it is a continuing ideological cornerstone of Zionism has never stopped. And therefore we are speaking about something that is continuous, and not that was simply interrupted by saying, while Herzl might have had these ideas, later Zionists abandoned it. That never happened in fact.

Ben Norton: This continues right up to this very moment, where you see elements of the Trump administration who are certainly fascistic, figures like Steve Bannon, who are repeatedly invited to speak at the annual gala of the Zionist Organization of America. And then you also have figures like Richard Spencer — who is trying to rebrand fascism for the 21st century, who led chants at a white supremacist conference in Washington, DC of “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” — calling himself a “white Zionist,” in interviews on Israeli television.

So of course there’s a long history of that. But while we were talking about Herzl and his collaboration with some of these very unsavory groups, I was curious if I could interject and also reflect on his collaboration with the British colonial project period.

Not just anti-Semites but, for instance, we have letters where he reached out to Cecil Rhodes — the staunchly pro-colonialist uber-capitalist and mining tycoon with the blood of myriad Africans on his hands — and he referred to Zionism as a colonial project while trying to pitch it to the British empire for support.

Joseph Massad: Not only did he refer to it as a colonial project; he also had institutions that he had sort of designed copying for example the East India Company, among others. And indeed of course there was already a Zionist bank called, there was a Jewish Colonization Association, and it had sort of also a bank, the Colonial Trust, the Jewish Colonial Trust.

So a lot of these, the names were actually borrowed and continued to be used by Zionism until the late 1930s, when they realized that ideologically this may not look good anymore as colonialism was no longer as popular, and began slowly to abandon the use of the term “colonial” and “colonization.”

But for example, the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, preceded by the Jewish Colonization Association, are time-honored associations in the Zionist movement, and certainly cannot be erased from history. These are important and established institutions.

But I would like to add also that not only was the anti-Semitism of Zionism and the colonialism of the British borrowed, but also even German colonialism. Remember, Arthur Ruppin, one of the earlier Zionist leaders, who would also buy a lot of the land in Palestine at the behest of the Jewish National Fund, was born in Prussian-held Polish territory in the town of Posen. And Posen was a very important location for Prussian colonization at the beginning of the 20th century.

Indeed we begin to see how many of the Prussian colonial endeavors in Posen of how to introduce a German-speaking majority and make the Polish natives a minority in their own city were being pursued, all of these would be copied by the Zionists. Indeed Ruppin would invite several members officials of the Prussian Colonial Association in Posen to advise the Zionists on how to colonize Palestine.

So we see sort of already the setting up of the Palestine land development company by the Zionists being based on the German model, and the German land bank, the process of colonization commission, all of which of course would be brought into a sort of the thinking of Zionism and emulated.

So in many ways, a lot of these people ended up serving.

Max Blumenthal: I actually wanted to just add that, Tom Segev mentions in passing in his book The Seventh Million that Ruppin actually engaged in a long correspondence with Houston Chamberlain, who was one of the fascistic intellectuals who influenced the young Hitler. And their correspondence was an exchange of ideas around racial science. So there is also this influence on Ruppin, who is one of the founders of Tel Aviv.

Joseph Massad: Absolutely. And this sense of course subsequently when, remember Arthur Balfour, who had been prime minister at the beginning of the century in 1905, was the British prime minister that issued the Aliens Act to ban Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe to Britain. These were Jews of course fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, especially after the Kishinev Massacre. And he of course, as a fundamentalist Protestant, and later a Zionist, his antipathy to Jews coming to Britain was huge. So much so that the seventh Zionist Congress meeting in Basel condemned Balfour and called him an anti-Semite in 1905, only of course for them to collaborate with him again in 1917, of course notwithstanding or perhaps precisely because of his legendary anti-Jewish sentiment.

And here of course we should not forget Churchill. I mean Winston Churchill of course, who had been an avid supporter of Zionism, had written this tract I think around 1920 or ‘21 speaking of a world Jewish conspiracy, an international Jewish conspiracy as he called it.

Ben Norton: Which was Bolshevism.

Joseph Massad: Which was Bolshevism. He indeed called communism as a Jewish conspiracy to destroy Christian civilization, he told us, and that the Bolshevik Revolution for him was, quote, a Jewish revolution.

And of course, for Churchill, it was Zionism that gave hope to Jews, and that Britain must help these national Jews who were the only good Jews compared to the international conspiracy of Jews which he saw communist Jews and Bund, the Bund, and the socialist Jews as constituting. Zionism for him was the only possible ally for British imperialism ,which is precisely why he allied himself with it.

So again, imperialists and anti-Semites indeed saw in Zionism a kindred spirit of course, and they shared with other anti-Semites the understanding that getting rid of European Jews somewhere else is indeed a goal that they share with the Zionists.

Ben Norton: I’m glad you mentioned the Churchill article, which was published in a newspaper. It’s very significant because it also reflects a larger right-wing outlook on Zionism as a counterbalance against socialism and particularly Marxism.

Joseph Massad: Well it was of course, especially against the Bund.

Ben Norton: The Bundists.

Joseph Massad: Yes. The Bund was the most important of course Jewish organization. It was the founding conference that founded the organization of the Federation of Jewish Workers from Eastern Europe, especially from Russia, was founded about six weeks or so after the Zionist Congress. This is in 1897. So it was clearly in the air that European Jews realized that they needed to organize along socialist lines, as workers.

And remember, the majority of East European Jews were poor, religious, or those in other areas in the cities were workers, they were part of the proletariat.

So the Bund in many ways represented these interests. The Bund was committed also to the cultural autonomy of Jews. The majority of East European Jews not only adhered to the Jewish faith, but also spoke a Jewish language, which they called Yiddish. Remember the word “Yiddish” in Yiddish means “Jewish.” So it was a Jewish religion a Jewish language and the Jewish community in a way, and therefore the commitment to socialism did not detract the Bund from supporting the cultural outlook of Jews as a linguistic and sort of perhaps even ethnic and religious population, but that was limited only to East European Jews. It was not some kind of a pan Jewish movement that included Jews from Germany or Jews from Yemen, for example, but rather simply East European Jews who formed that kind of a community for the Bund.

And the Bund remained the most popular organization, very hostile to Zionism. Zionism of course was hostile to it. My understanding, according to scholarship, until the last elections held in Poland in the late 1930s, consistently the Bund continued to command the majority vote of Polish Jews in those parliamentary elections against the Zionists. The Zionists remained the minority.

And as we know of course they were opposed all along not only by socialist and communist Jews, but also by secular liberal West European Jews. They were opposed by Reform Judaism, which had been a movement that had begun sort of in the 19th century, and part of the Haskalah, or the Jewish enlightenment. And these people of course were very hostile to Zionism, that for them wanted to transform what they consider to be a religion, meaning their Judaism, into a nationality.

Also you have Orthodox Jewry that were appalled at the Zionist project.

(30:02)

Indeed, everyone, or most people who are knowledgeable about the history of this movement, know that the original place for the first Zionist Congress in 1897 was supposed to be in Munich. And the reason why it moved to Switzerland, in Basel, was because the Orthodox and the Reform rabbis of Munich opposed its being held there which forced the Zionists to move to Basel.

So we see a huge coalition of Jews, religious and secular alike, liberal and radical alike, socialist and communist Jews, all opposed to the Zionist project, seeing it as anti-Semitic, as right-wing, and as indeed seeking the self-expulsion of Jews from Europe.

Ben Norton: This is an incredibly important historical fact, without which we can’t understand Zionism both today but also historically. And that is Zionism was cultivated largely as a response against communist and socialist movements. And even if you read Mein Kampf, if you read Nazi propaganda, they discuss communism specifically as a Jewish plot. They speak of Karl Marx as a Jew; they speak of Rosa Luxemburg, and Trotsky, and many of the Bolshevik leaders. The early Bolshevik leaders they were disproportionately Jewish. And this is of course not surprising; you have a very oppressed Jewish nation inside Russia that for decades experienced genocidal oppression. Many of these people are attracted to these liberatory movements like Marxism.

But this is something that we still here today frequently, think with phrases like “cultural Marxism” and the Frankfurt School. They’re thrown around on Fox News and mainstream media, but these are rooted deeply in anti-Semitism and the notion that Churchill himself openly espoused, that communism and the Soviet Union were Jewish plots.

And when you hear genocidal Nazi propaganda later weaponized about how, in Ukraine for instance, it was supposedly Jews who massacred Ukrainians by the Soviet Union, and the genocidal Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators were supposedly just responding to the Jewish aggression led by the Soviet Union, I mean this kind of propaganda is actually recurring a lot today when you see a lot of the alt-right rhetoric, which is explicitly fascist in a complete rewriting of history.

Joseph Massad: Remember, the idea of course, what motivated a lot of anti-Semites at the time was the rise of nationalism and racialism in Europe. And if all these countries were dividing themselves into racially based nations and considered Jews to be racially other, therefore Jews did not have a place to go.

So this of course also explains why many Jewish intellectuals and activists joined the communist and the socialist movements that were opposed to nationalism and where they could actually belong and find themselves part of a community.

Therefore Jewish nationalism was in fact what was weaponized against the majority of Jews. If Jews felt alienated, the anti-Semites thought and the imperialists thought, if Jews were alienated from the rising nations of Europe because they had no place in it and therefore had become communist according to this kind of diagnosis, then nationalism can solve the problem.

That’s why Zionism, as the important and only nationalist Jewish grouping at the time, was very much pushed forward by the British. And it is not coincidental at all that the British Balfour Declaration promising to help Zionism colonize Palestine was in fact, the time it was declared, the date of its declaration, was the same week as the triumph of the Russian Revolution in 1917. It was on November 2nd in 1917.

So in that sense the coincidence between the October Revolution and the Balfour Declaration was not just that. It was actually by design. The idea was to try to sway the Russian empire, the Jews living in the Russian empire, from supporting Russian communism and the Russian Revolution, and giving them another exit, which was Zionism and Palestine.

Max Blumenthal: It seems like you’re saying there was almost a Jewish consensus against Zionism across Europe. It was seen as sort of a radical, sectarian, messianic movement led by this figure Theodor Herzl, who was a bizarre character. I think you’ve written about his struggles with madness, with mental illness, his own personal pathology, his seeing himself as a kind of messiah.

Joseph Massad: Max not only in Europe, but also in the United States. We see after World War One, for, example many American Jewish leaders appalled at the rise of Zionism. In as early as 1919, Julius Kahn, a Jewish congressman from San Francisco, delivered a statement endorsed by about 300 Jewish public figures, both rabbis and laymen, to President Wilson, which denounced the Zionists for attempting to segregate Jews from non-Jews according to the statement, and to reverse the historical trend toward emancipation.

They objected to the creation of a distinctly Jewish state in Palestine as contrary to the principles of democracy. These are 300 Jewish public figures in 1919 in the U.S. objecting to Zionism’s increasing infiltration of the American political apparatus at that time, especially as President Wilson had supported and endorsed the Balfour Declaration and the Zionist project.

So even though Zionism was making strides, especially among some rich American Jewish businessman, some of whom would later come up with the idea as early as the late 1920s and early 1930s of expelling a million Palestinians and funding that project, still the majority, even of American Jews who of course are Reformed Jews and therefore adhere to an identity that is religious and not ethnic, were objecting to Zionism.

Remember, until today, the majority of American Jews call themselves American Jews, not Jewish Americans. Because of the Reformed Jewish background they consider Judaism a religion and not a nationality or ethnicity, which is of course why also American Jews are not counted in the census as a religious group. Had they been an ethnic group, they would have.

So it is most interesting to see how the transformation of American Jews, the majority of whom are Reformed Jews, into Zionists would not happen until in fact 1948 — well after the Holocaust but also 1948. So we see many of them after 1945 beginning to support Zionism somewhat as providing in Palestine a refuge and a sanctuary for the surviving Jews of Europe, less so on a nationalist basis. Although much of that of course will later transform into strong support for Jewish nationalism.

Max Blumenthal: And so the support for Jewish nationalism, I think what really reversed trends in favor of generating Jewish support for Jewish nationalism, was the greatest eruption of anti-Semitic violence in history, the Jewish genocide in Europe.

The Labour Party in the UK just expelled a very significant figure, Moshe Machover, who was a founder of the first Israeli group of Israeli anti-Zionists, Matzpen, someone who’s been a critic of Zionism for his whole life and someone who’s made the connection, as you have, between Zionism and anti-Semitism.

And his sin, according to the Jewish Labor movement, which is conducting this purge throughout the Labour Party, besides being an anti-Zionist, was publishing an entirely factual article, very reminiscent of your piece for Al Jazeera in 2013, and much of your work on this subject, in which he quoted Reinhard Heydrich, who was a Nazi ideologue who was kind of primed to be Hitler’s successor, writing in 1935 that “the Nazi government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement with in Jewry itself, so-called Zionism.”

So I guess I want you to talk here about the relationship that the Nazi Party enjoyed with the German Zionist Federation, and the collaboration between these two elements during the 1930s, and how the Haavara Agreement, the Transfer Agreement, was conceived between these two groups.

Joseph Massad: Well I mean of course this is also important that the collaboration or the cooperation with the Nazis that began in 1933 again was not simply an outcome of some crisis, that it was a sort of a momentary lapse in judgment, or the need of the situation that forced the hands of the Zionists to cooperate with an unsavory party, but rather again an ideological and a historical continuation of the collaboration between the Zionist leadership and anti-Semites.

In this case of course Haim Arlosoroff was the contact with the Nazis as a representative of the Zionists in Palestine. And he concluded this important agreement called the Transfer Agreement on behalf of the Zionist Bank in Palestine at that time and German banks. And the idea was that all Jews choosing to leave Nazi Germany who could not take with them their property, instead of having their property confiscated in fact their property, the value of their property would be used to import German goods into Palestine.

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And of course this was an attempt to sort of undo the boycott of Nazi Germany that had just begun in Europe. And we would see later that a lot of German goods would come through Palestine through the Zionists and would be relabeled as “Made in Palestine” and marketed in Europe precisely to break the boycott of the Nazis.

Remember, as a result of the Haavara Agreement, 60 percent of all capital that was invested in the Jewish settler colonial community in Palestine between ‘33 and ’39, came from German Jewish money, through this Transfer Agreement.

And remember that in 1935, the Zionist Federation in Germany was the only Jewish party that supported the Nuremberg Laws. The majority of course of German Jews were horrified by the racialist basis of the Nuremberg Laws, but the Zionists were not.

Indeed, in many ways German Zionism opposed foreign Jews’ activism and demonstrations against the Nazis, including other West European Jews and even American Jews who had organized the boycott against Nazi Germany, which designers were undercutting.

Indeed the Zionists got preferential treatment by the Nazis. The only Jewish newspaper that was allowed to be published under the Nazis was the Zionist Federation’s newspaper, the Jüdische Rundschau, their newsletter. And indeed it continued to be published until Kristallnacht in 1938.

And here of course the Zionists often tried to conceal the fact that, when they captured Adolf Eichmann and brought him to Israel in the early ‘60s, that was Eichmann’s first visit to Palestine. Indeed he had come as a guest.

Max Blumenthal: Yeah, he responded to his captors in Hebrew, didn’t he? When he was captured.

Joseph Massad: He had learned Hebrew before, back in the 1930s, along with others, like von Mildenstein. And he visited in fact, was smuggled into Palestine so that the British wouldn’t capture him. And a fellow called Herbert Hagen, in 1937, they visited several Jewish colonial settlements in Palestine. It was the Zionist envoy Feivel Polkes who had taken them to Mount Carmel to visit a kibbutz at that time.

So indeed Eichmann’s capture and being brought to Israel to stand court in the early 1960s was his second visit to the country — the first time as a guest, as a sort of honored guest, of the Zionists.

Indeed of course one of the interesting things about how the Zionists tried to justify this, saying that in fact this was an alliance of necessity or not an alliance, a cooperation of necessity, to help smuggle German Jews or get German Jews out of Germany, is belied by many facts. The most important of which, for example, was the quota system that the British had for the number of Jewish immigrants to come into Palestine.

Now the number of Jews that were allowed to come into Palestine was set by the British, but where they could come from was in fact up to the Zionists. So the Zionists had different quotas for each European country from which Jews could come. And you would think, between ‘33 and ’39, under the Nazi regime, that the bulk of that quota should go to the Germans, given the horrific danger they were facing. But that was not to be.

Indeed, American Jews had a similar quota as German Jews, and two-thirds of the German Jews who applied for immigration during this period, were turned down by the Zionists, whose criteria for selection was a person’s commitment to Zionism, youth, good health, and training, as well of course as having money, needed skills knowledge of the Hebrew language, etc.

So we have again a kind of a eugenic project ongoing at that time in terms of the selection criteria.

And of course there was the famous or infamous case of Zionist collaboration with the Nazis in Hungary in 1944.

Max Blumenthal: Through Kastner, Rudolf Kastner.

Joseph Massad: The Rezső Kastner affair. And as you of course know, Kastner was found out by some Hungarian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Israel; they pointed him out. He was put on trial, and the Israeli Secret Service assassinated him before the conclusion of the trial.

And this perhaps brings me back to the British scene. You just mentioned Moshe Machover. In the 1980s, in 1987, the socialist British playwright Jim Allen collaborated with of course the famous director Ken Loach on writing a very important play called Perdition, based on the Kastner Affair.

And as it was set to open in the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1987, it would be banned the day before with a major campaign against Jim Allen and Ken Loach supported by Zionist groups in Britain banning the play altogether.

You would contrast that for example with the British intelligentsia’s support and solidarity with Salman Rushdie a year later, given the Rushdie Affair. But there was no support for Jim Allen in Britain for having his play banned, which was based again on historical fact, on the Rezső Kastner affair.

His play of course was based on the classic book of Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, much of which is dedicated to Zionist cooperation and collaboration with the Nazis in the 1930s.

Max Blumenthal: I saw Ken Loach about three years ago and I asked him if he thought there was any hope for ever making a film about this incredible episode. And he just simply shook his head and said, “It’s impossible. It’s absolutely impossible.” He was completely resigned to defeat after this episode.”

Joseph Massad: I think he said in one of the interviews how he discovered the amazing power of the pro-Israel lobby in Britain when that happened.

Max Blumenthal: Yeah, and then you look at what happened — this hadn’t happened yet when I was talking to Ken, but another Ken: Ken Livingstone was essentially pilloried for bringing up the Transfer Agreement almost in passing in an interview. I thought it was sort of a non sequitur. But what he said was factual.

He was referring to Lenni Brenner’s book. And he was accused by fellow members of the Labour Party of Holocaust denial, when this is just absolutely established fact.

And if you actually open the book, you’ll read about what you just mentioned: that von Mildenstein, who was the head of the Office of Jewish affairs, was Eichmann’s boss, was actually hosted on a tour of kibbutzim in Palestine.

Joseph Massad: Yeah, he went to 1934.

Max Blumenthal: And he returned a huge fan of Zionism, was given a medal by Goebbels to commemorate his visit. I mean this is an incredible history. And just the mere mention of it in public gets you labeled a Holocaust denier.

Joseph Massad: Well, remember, this is in fact, this has been Israel’s propaganda policy since 1948. That basically, Israel insists that any opposition to its colonial policies is motivated by anti-Semitism. So anytime you bring up Israeli colonialism, Israel says, “You’re not opposing us because we’re colonialists; you’re opposing us because we’re Jews.”

So this presumes of course that, had Christians or Hindus or Muslims colonized Palestine, the Palestinian natives would have welcomed them with open arms. And that the only reason why they object to Jewish colonialism is not because it’s colonialism but because it’s Jewish. This is this is the Israeli line all along, you see.

And that’s why Israel has no problem with allying itself with anti-Semites that support its colonialism. The problem is not anti-Jewishness or pro-Jewishness for Israel, but rather it’s pro-colonialism or anti-colonialism — pro-Zionism as a colonial settler movement or not.

We know for example of several anti-Semitic attacks on Jews that Israel never defended.

Ben Norton: You mean never opposed.

Joseph Massad: Yes. The famous situation for example in Hungary in 1956. After the liberal takeover by Imre Nagy and others in Hungary in 1956, the US and ex-Horthy-men, the previous fascist regime, along with the CIA, thought that this was an opportune moment to take over Hungary.

And indeed the CIA was at the time helping and aiding ex-Nazis and ex-Horthy-men, being smuggled from the Austrian border into Budapest and Hungary. And upon arriving there of course they had begun to kill Jews, as they blamed Jews for being communists.

Remember the first and the second secretaries general of the Communist Party in Hungary, Rákosi and Gerő, were both Jewish. And as a result these Nazis claimed that of course all communists in Hungary were Jews, and began to kill Jews in 1956 in Hungary — massacres that of course stopped upon the Soviet intervention, which stopped this horrific anti-Semitic attack, and of course the liberal experiment.

But nonetheless, you do not see the victims, the Jewish victims, of this anti-Semitic attack, or this anti-Semitic pogrom, ever mentioned by Zionism or the Israelis.

(50:07)

This of course also applies to the Rosenbergs, in the US, and their execution on flimsy evidence at that time. And the kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric that equated Jews with communists during that period. Also the Israelis did not raise a voice to that, nor did many pro-Israeli Jewish organizations in the U.S. at that time.

While one could say the American Jewish organizations might have been legitimately scared of the rising anti-Semitic rhetoric that targeted communists with the Rosenbergs, it is unclear why Israel then and now continues to be silent on the question of the Rosenbergs, among others.

So again the question of anti-Semitism for Israel only arises when the question has to do with a Zionist colonialism, and less so attacking Jews qua Jews.

Max Blumenthal: And we just saw a figure who is a member of this Horthy-men cult, the cult of Horthy, Vitézi Rend, who wore a medal of the Rend on election night, after Trump won, who was one of Trump’s inner, in Trump’s inner circle.

Sebastian Gorka was just hosted at the Jerusalem Post conference in New York and hailed as a friend of Israel. This is someone who wore the black uniform of Vitézi Rend and Vitézi Rend’s fascist medals on election night, in nationally broadcast interviews.

So you’re right, now as then, pro-Israel forces accommodate these figures.

Ben Norton: It’s also important to remember that the Hungarian government right now is very far right and not only is inciting against Jews but inciting particularly against refugees and Muslims.

But a point I wanted to make earlier when we were talking about the history of the Holocaust and Zionist collaboration with the Nazis, I think another really interesting aspect of that history that is part and parcel of this historical whitewashing, is looking at the response of the Soviet Union.

Which again, I mean the Soviet Union had a lot of problems; I’m not saying it had no problems. But there’s this stereotype in the West, this I would say blatantly false historical notion, that the Soviet Union was deeply anti-Semitic and that it collaborated with the Nazis, etc. But of course the exact opposite is true.

I mean we don’t even have time to get into the history of the 1930s leading up to the war, and how that has been distorted, but even beyond that. From the time of the Bolshevik Revolution forward, it was in fact the Soviet Union that viciously fought against anti-Semitism for the first time in Russian history.

Before 1917, as you were just acknowledging, under the czar, there were periodic pogroms; there was genocidal violence. It was after the Bolshevik Revolution at which point anti-Semitism became illegalized. You read Pravda in the 1920s and ‘30s where, whatever you think about it, but they say that anti-Semitism will be punished by death. They were very strongly against anti-Semitism.

Joseph Massad: Remember of course, I mean usually the anti-Semitism is attributed to Stalin in the second half of the 1930s because he suppressed, in his Russification campaign, began to suppress all different and national languages, including of course the flourishing then Yiddish theater and Yiddish literature, at that time.

But of course, also one of the important things to remember, is that what saved Soviet Jews is that Stalin moved all Soviet Jews behind army lines so that the Nazis wouldn’t get to them when they occupied the western part of the Soviet Union. What saved the majority of Soviet Jews was precisely this important move by the Soviet leadership.

This is not to say that Stalin did not hold views that were highly Russian nationalistic. The Doctor’s Plot that happened in the early 1950s is usually used as another example.

But of course that also died out with the end of the Stalin period. Yet we begin to see as part of Cold War politics the Israelis and the Americans in the 1960s claiming that Soviet Jews were somehow held captive in the Soviet Union. And the idea was suddenly Zionism and the Cold War became important allies on this question and on the question of totalitarianism, in the sense that liberal political scientists had equated Nazi totalitarianism with what they called communist totalitarianism. And the idea was that since the Nazis were racialist and oppressed Jews, allegedly the Soviets were doing the same. And ultimately were able to exact concessions from the Soviet Union, who was forced to give exit visas to Soviet Jews, which it denied to Soviet Christians and Muslims.

I mean the immigration policies of the Soviet Union are another topic. The point however is that what this did is not deny Jews rights but actually gave Jews privileges that were denied to other Soviet citizens. And many of these Jews who left were in fact economic refugees and not Zionists, and opted to come to the U.S. So much so that Israel was appalled by this and tried to actually force the American Congress to try to thwart their movement by flying from the Soviet Union at the time to Western European countries, and then from there they took their planes to the US. Finally the Israelis brokered an agreement with Ceaușescu in Romania, forcing Soviet Jews who were exiting the country to go through Bucharest and then not be allowed to board any plane except those going to Israel.

So we see a majority of Soviet Jews who ended up leaving, they came to the US. They were not Zionists. They had other reasons to leave, mostly economic, but even religious, and whatever other reasons they might have had. It seemed that a minority of them were Zionist. And those who ended up in Israel at the time were sort of in a way forced to go, not in a way directly forced, in the majority of cases, although perhaps some wanted to go there.

Max Blumenthal: The objective there of Zionists in diverting Jews from the Soviet Union directly to Israel, preventing them the freedom to choose the place where they would seek to emigrate, was explicitly racialist. They needed Soviet Jews to outpace Palestinians in the demographic trench war in order to maintain the project of Zionism, which is sort of predicated on demographic engineering and maintaining Jewish majority of 70 percent or above.

Joseph Massad: Indeed, but not only racialist in relation to Palestinians, which was the primary goal, but also racialist in relation to Arab Jews and Oriental Jews, which had become the majority among the Jewish population.

So by tapping into a European Jewry that had become off limits after World War Two in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, now through the Cold War, Israel was able to bring in white European Jews that could now beef up the numbers of Ashkenazi Jews in Israel to outnumber Mizrahi Jews, in addition to outnumbering the Palestinians. That was the goal, of course.

Ben Norton: Yeah, that’s a very important point. One of the reasons I mentioned the Soviet history there is because there’s this very dangerous trend that is emerging in places like Hungary and particularly in Eastern Europe, but really throughout the world. And it is what Dovid Katz, the Lithuanian Jewish scholar at the group Defending History, has spoken out against for years now: the notion of “Double Genocide,” the notion that the Nazis committed a genocide, but also the Soviets committed the genocide in World War II, and that these are in some way tantamount.

Of course this is part and parcel of Holocaust revisionism, led by fascists, but in some ways facilitated by, as you mentioned, some liberal historians, people like Timothy Snyder and others. And the notion is that, you have the “totalitarian” thesis: the Soviet Union and the Nazis were, if not the same, essentially politically, were actually allied.

Again just grossly distorting all this history, ignoring the fact that it was the Soviet Union and the Red Army in particular that broke the back of the Nazis, as Churchill himself admitted. He said the Soviets “tore the guts out of the filthy Nazis.” Of course the Eastern Front was where 75 percent of Nazis who were killed or wounded.

Joseph Massad: 90 percent of all Nazi casualties were killed on the Soviet front. But I think it’s important to remember that many Jewish survivors of the Holocaust wanted to go back to their homes, in a devastated Europe. Some tried to, especially in Poland.

The case of Kielce is an important one, when Jews tried to go back to their village in Kielce in Poland after the war, only to be massacred by Polish Catholic anti-Semites. About 60 Jews were killed. Only the intervention of the Red Army stopped ongoing massacres at that time.

So again the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe at that time was also trying to undo the fascist legacy and the anti-Semitic legacy that continued after the war, evidenced for example by the Kielce Massacre.

Remember also concerning the question of the anti-Semitism of liberal countries. For example, before the Partition Plan resolution of 1947 was adopted by the United Nations, weeks earlier the Arab countries had introduced a resolution to take in all the surviving refugees from the displaced persons camps that had been lingering in those camps for two years, not being taken or accepted as refugees, and the majority of West European countries or in the U.S.

All the countries that would later vote within weeks for the partition of Palestine and basically the shipping of Jews to Palestine refused to vote positively on taking in the Jewish refugees into their own countries.

(1:00:00)

So again some people think it was guilt that made European countries or the U.S. support the establishment of Israel. It was no such thing. If it was guilt you’d think they would have taken the refugees.

It was in fact support for a colonial project. It was support for Jews as agents of imperialism. And the fact that the majority of Jews had rejected this all along, the only party that could support this, or that supported this and that they could support, was Zionism and the Zionist movement, which is why they supported it. And they strengthened it and tried to make it as hegemonic as possible among Jews.

There are many books already about what Israel and/or the Zionist forces had done between ‘45 and ‘48 to force and to mobilize Jews, surviving Jews in the displaced persons camps to come to Palestine, against a major rejection of that option. Yet as doors were closed for many of them, they had no place to go but Palestine.

And I think, if I may say this, before we conclude, this for me always has been an amazing conclusion as to the utter failure of Zionism to convince or mobilize the majority of world Jews to join its endeavor to colonize Palestine. The majority of Jews who ended up coming to Palestine were not heeding Zionism’s call. These were Jews that had been persecuted and all other doors were closed to them. They had no other place to go. In some cases, of course, the Israelis and the Mossad were agents in the repression at home, to force them to come to Israel.

But as we see today, the majority of Jews who have options, like American Jews, like French Jews, like Argentinian Jews, don’t choose to go there. So in that sense Zionism has failed in fact to have its call to the majority of Jews be heeded. True, a large number of Jews worldwide may be pro-Israel, but they’re not Zionists, in the sense that they will not leave their home countries and move to Israel. They may support Israel from afar. That is not the same as being a Zionist.

Max Blumenthal: Absolutely. Ben-Gurion, in his memoirs, dreamed of all of the Jews of the world, who he condemned as cosmopolitan, gathering in Israel. The Bedouins would be ethnically cleansed from the Negev, from the Naqab. And he would build settlements for 7 million people. That’s what his fantasy was.

And this is utterly failed. Why would anyone want to live in one of the unsafest places in the world for Jews, when they could enjoy this golden age that we American Jews are experiencing?

At the same time, I think there is a desire among Zionists to maintain Israel as an embattled entity. That allows them to continue to engage Jews in a kind of identitarian, nationalistic project, rallies around a flag, and to raise money for Israel.

And one of the issues that’s been used after the Cold War, and is particularly after 9/11, to generate international support for Israel, is Islamophobia. And I guess I want to close by talking about this issue, in light of the conversation we’ve had.

I remember Ariel Sharon whispered to George W. Bush after 9/11, he said “Arafat is our bin Laden,” you know trying to conflate the Palestinian national movement with the kind of jihadist, takfiri theory ideology that al-Qaeda embodied. This really spoke to the direction that the pro-Israel lobby was gonna go in after 9/11.

Suddenly Islamophobia became kind of an industry. And it’s become a major factor in American politics, so much so that I think it helped propel Donald Trump to victory.

Now what I want to ask you, and Ben you can definitely feel free to jump in, is how can we understand Islamophobia as a kind of inversion of historical anti-Semitic attitudes? And what role have Zionists played in manufacturing the Islamophobia industry?

Ben Norton: And it bears stressing that many of the anti-Muslim myths and talking points we hear today are really a kind of inversion of the anti-Semitic tropes in the early 20th century. For many of these racist, anti-Muslim myths, if you take the word “Muslim” and “Islam” and replace it with “Jew” and “Judaism,” it’s exactly the same as fascist, anti-Semitic propaganda a hundred years ago.

Joseph Massad: I actually don’t think it’s an inversion; I think it’s an extension. I do believe that many of the precepts and the axioms of 19th century and early 20th century anti-Semitism continue. And as Edward Said had already shown in his 1978 book Orientalism, just the object of hatred has shifted, even though that object looks almost the same as the previous one.

So in many ways it seems to me that contemporary Islamophobia or hatred of Muslims is a continuation of anti-Semitism which thought of Jews as transnational, cosmopolitan, rootless, and therefore tribal and dangerous to the national configurations of Europe, which of course was extended to communism. After all anti-communism was just an extension of anti-Semitism. The issue of cosmopolitanism was of course thrown in the faces of communists and Jews as one and the same. And as we see Churchill sort of telling us that communism is an international Jewish conspiracy, this sort of makes the extension of those ideas against communists as a group of people who are mostly Jews, according to the anti-Semites, who want to take over the world and have international conspiracies.

Similarly we see at this idea about Muslims being tribal, transnational, dangerous conspirators. If Jews wanted to poison the wells of Christians, it seems Muslims want to throw nuclear weapons or chemical weapons at them. If Jews allegedly controlled the financial markets of the world, and the money of the world, now Muslims and Arabs do through the oil industry.

So we have similar ideas. But what’s most interesting to me is the transformation of the European right from an anti-Semitic right until about 20 years ago to increasingly a pro-Israel, and sometimes pro-Jewish right, mostly based on Islamophobia.

Max Blumenthal: Shared Islamophobia, yeah.

Joseph Massad: There are three things that the European right had always been against: women’s rights and feminism, sexual rights and the gay movement, and Jews. Suddenly all the European right has become feminist, has become pro-gay rights, and pro-Jewish. And in fact these three issues are used to justify Islamophobia and hatred of Islam, as allegedly anti-Jewish, anti-woman, and anti-gay.

Therefore the European right has adopted these views as a way of justifying Islamophobia, pretending that it has always wanted to protect these groups, and it attacks Islam for attacking them.

Max Blumenthal: I wonder if we could just ask one last question just on that note. While we see right-wing groups like the Alternative für Deutschland gaining seats in the Bundestag for the first time, employing those very politics that you described, and receiving massive donations from pro-Israel oligarchs like Nina Rosenwald in the US, you see the US media and the Western media in general looking for evidence of Russian meddling and sort of giving a pass to the neoconservative and pro-Israel elements who are fueling these groups, and also giving a pass to their Islamophobia.

What do you what do you think about this narrative of Russian meddling? It does remind me, it does to me bear some of the disturbing echoes of the past that we’ve discussed. And James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said a few months ago that Russians are genetically primed to subvert our political systems. We know where that rhetoric comes from.

Joseph Massad: This is hardly new. Sovietology used to claim that Russians were prone to supporting dictatorship because they were swaddled as babies. So these kinds of anthropological racist views of American social science are hardly new. In fact they’re par for the course in a way.

My sense of course is that right-wing support for Israel is not alone. Of course there’s left-wing support for Israel. You just spoke about the Labour Party in Britain. Let’s not forget Angela Merkel and her party, and their support, especially financial support, for Israel.

Remember the difference is that Jews as a group, since the late 1950s, early 1960s, along with other ethnic minorities that were not considered white before World War II, had been transformed into whites or honorary whites. In the US this will apply to Irish Americans, Italian Americans, and other groups. I mean remember anti-Semitism in the U.S., at least social anti-Semitism and institutional anti-Semitism, continued until the late 1950s. Ivy League schools, including my own University Columbia University, had quotas for a Jewish medical students until the late fifties.

(1:10:10)

But by the ‘60s, you see increasingly Jews being transformed into another sort of section of white people. So much of the popularization, in film and in history books and in the media, of the horror at the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two, which focuses much of the story of World War II only on the concentration camps and on the murder of 6 million Jews, does so because Jews have been now rehabilitated as white people.

Even though of course as we know the majority of European Jews especially East European Jews who were murdered by Hitler and by Nazism were poor, were religious, and did not look anything like white suburban Americans today. Unless of course you want to believe American Hollywood films that depict them as piano-playing, middle-class, multilingual folks that you can identify with.

The idea is that if they were depicted for the poor religious people that they were, then perhaps today white Europeans and white Americans might not identify with them.

So again it is not as victims of Nazism that today they are mourned, but rather as rehabilitated whites that Nazism should not have targeted that they are mourned. And this tells you of the continuation of anti-Semitism, that indeed the actual Jewish victims of the Holocaust who did not necessarily resemble white European Christians in their religious dicta or in their lives would not be mourned. They’re still not mourned. What is mourned is a fantastical representation of them that resembles white Christian Americans and Europeans today.

Ben Norton: Well that’s a great note to end on. Thanks so much Professor Massad. We really appreciate it. It was I think an excellent discussion. We hit a lot of important points. And of course this is something that, although we talked about the history of it going back 100, and more than 100 hundred years, this is something that is incredibly relevant and important today. So we really appreciate your insight.

Joseph Massad: It’s a pleasure, thank you.

Ben Norton: Thanks a lot.

Max Blumenthal: Yeah, thanks Joseph.

Ben Norton: Thanks for listening to Moderate Rebels. As always, we will have show notes for our episode, and our website is ModerateRebelsRadio.com. If you’d like to support what we’re doing here at Moderate Rebels, and if you’d like to gain access to exclusive content, please consider subscribing at our Patreon page, that is Patreon.com/ModerateRebels. And of course we’re on social media; we’re on Twitter at @ModerateRadio, and we’re on Facebook at @ModerateRebelsRadio. Thanks for listening.

Episode 9 show notes – Zionism and anti-Semitism: Joseph Massad on the sordid historical alliance

israel flag jerusalem

Moderate Rebels episode 9

Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton are joined by Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad, a leading expert on Israel-Palestine and Arab politics and intellectual history. Massad details the long history of collaboration between anti-Semites and Zionists.

We discuss how Zionism was promoted by Western imperialist governments as a bulwark against socialism, communism, and other leftist movements, and how far-right racist movements look to the Israeli ethnostate as a model today.

Show Notes

Professor Joseph Massad’s books

Joseph Massad, The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians, Routledge, 2006

Joseph Massad, Desiring Arabs, University Of Chicago Press, 2007

Joseph Massad, Islam in Liberalism, University Of Chicago Press, 2015

History of Zionism

Joseph Massad, “The Balfour Declaration’s many questions“, The Electronic Intifada, 8 November 2017

Joseph Massad, “The last of the Semites“, Al Jazeera, 21 May 2013

Partial Transcripts

Zionist collaboration with fascism and anti-Semitism

Max Blumenthal, “Exposing the Shocking and Continuing Alliance Between Zionism and Anti-Semitism“, AlterNet Grayzone Project, 26 November 2017

According to Joseph Massad, a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University and the author of the new book Islam in Liberalism, the emerging alliance between Zionists and European ultra-nationalists reflects an ongoing historical development that dates back to the late 19th century.

In a wide-ranging discussion with me and Ben Norton for our weekly podcast Moderate Rebels, Massad explained why, in his words, “Israel has no problem allying itself with anti-Semites who support its colonialism.” He asserted, “The problem [for Zionists] is not pro or anti-Jewishness with Israel, it’s pro-colonialism or anti-colonialism. Pro-Zionism as an colonial movement or not.”

Massad detailed the collaboration between Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, and anti-Semites like Vyacheslav von Plehve, who oversaw brutal pogroms as the police chief of imperial Russia. Arthur Balfour, the former British Prime Minister and author of the Aliens Act that barred the immigration of Eastern European Jews to Britain, was also a key ally of Herzl and his Zionist Congress, which partnered with him on the infamous Balfour Declaration in 1917 “notwithstanding or precisely because of his anti-Semitic sentiment,” Massad noted.

Zionists like Herzl and anti-Semites like Balfour shared the view that the presence of assimilationist-minded Jews on the continent was unacceptable. Herzl “disdained poor Jews in Western Europe and blamed them for anti-Semitism,” according to Massad, and even argued that it was in the best interest of rich Jews to send poor Jews away to a colony in historic Palestine as it would reduce friction with Christian anti-Semites and allow poor gentiles to take their jobs.

Like Herzl, anti-Semitic European elites viewed a Jewish state as a convenient means for reducing the Jewish population within their societies. “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies,” Herzl declared.

“Anti-Semites saw in Zionism a kindred spirit and they shared with other Zionists the understanding that getting rid of European Jews somewhere else is a goal that they share,” Massad stated.

The alliance deepened during World War Two, as the Zionist movement broke the international Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany to embark on a lucrative Transfer Agreement with Hitler’s government that exchanged Jewish property for the bodies the Zionists needed to colonize Palestine. As Massad pointed out, when the fugitive Nazi functionary Adolph Eichmann was captured in 1960 and brought to Israel for trial a year later for war crimes, it was his second visit to the Holy Land. Indeed, Eichmann had been a guest of the Zionist movement in 1937, hosted for a tour of kibbutzim in historic Palestine by a double Zionist-Nazi agent named Feibl Folkes.

“Eichmann quoted Folkes to the effect that Zionist leaders were pleased by the persecution of European Jewry, since it would encourage emigration to Palestine,” the Israeli historian Tom Segev noted in his book The Seventh Million.

When anti-Semitism reared its head in US-aligned nations after the war, the state of Israel generally kept quiet. The disturbing silence was vividly illustrated during the liberal rebellion that momentarily seized power in Hungary in 1956. With assistance from the CIA, which aimed to wrest the country from the Warsaw Pact, the former commanders of Horthy’s collaborationist army were returned to Budapest, where they inspired widespread violence against Hungarian Jews.

As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, “the fact that Hungary’s top four Communist leaders were of Jewish origin — including the dictator Matyas Rakosi, who reigned at the height of the Communist terror in the early 1950s — lent credibility to the idea of communism as Jewish revenge for the Holocaust.” (Herbert Aptheker’s 1956 book The Truth About Hungary is one of the most thorough chronicles of the return of fascism to the country during its anti-Soviet revolt, and can be read here for free).

While Soviet tanks put an end to the crisis, Israel drew critical benefits from its fallout. Thousands of Jewish refugees streamed out of Hungary and into the hands of an Israeli government desperate for fodder in its demographic trench war against the indigenous Palestinian population. It was not the first time that an eruption of anti-Semitism would serve the interests of the Zionist movement, and it would hardly be the last.

“That strategy would continue from Herzl on,” said Massad. “It was a continuing ideological cornerstone of Zionism, it has never stopped — we are speaking about something that is simply continuous.”

You can listen to our full conversation with Massad as well as previous episodes of Moderate Rebels here. And if you happen to like the work we’re doing, you can support us at our Patreon page.

Ali Abunimah on Zionism

Ali Abunimah, “Video: Ending the Zionist system“, The Electronic Intifada, 21 November 2017

This week, the Moderate Rebels podcast with Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton features an hour-long discussion with Massad. It’s a fascinating, in-depth conversation that expands on many themes in his article.

“For 300 years or so, Zionism was a Christian Protestant idea that the majority of Jewish leaders at the time, especially rabbis, had been opposed to and understood to be a call for the expulsion of Jews,” Massad explains. “So it took about 300 years before Jewish intellectuals would take it up in the 19th century, even if they remained a minority among Jews.”

Massad also provides rich background about the long history of Zionist collaboration with anti-Semites, which was not merely fleeting or deviant, but anchored in a shared worldview.

For Zionists, Massad explains, “there was no point in fighting anti-Semitism because the diagnosis of [Theodor] Herzl early on is that what causes anti-Semitism were Jews themselves, or the presence of Jews in gentile communities.”

As Massad states, Herzl, the founder of Zionism, “actually blamed Jews for causing anti-Semitism, rather than blaming the anti-Semites.”

Massad, whose latest book is Islam in Liberalism, also speaks about the similarities between European anti-Semitism and present-day Islamophobia.

“Many of the precepts and the axioms of 19th and early 20th century anti-Semitism continue, and as Edward Said had already shown in his 1978 book Orientalism, that just the object of hatred has shifted, even though that object looks almost the same as the previous one,” Massad states.

“Contemporary Islamophobia or hatred of Muslims is a continuation of anti-Semitism, which thought of Jews as transnational, cosmopolitan, rootless and therefore tribal and dangerous to the national configurations of Europe.”

Listen to Moderate Rebels episode 9

Watch: Russia’s Plot to Make America Racist

russia's plot to make america racist

“Russia’s Plot to Make America Racist” is a satirical documentary film on how the Kremlin has desperately tried to turn the US into a racist state.

This video segment is excerpted from Moderate Rebels episode 8: “Puppy memes & Pokemon: How Russiagate went off the rails, with Aaron Maté.”

You can listen to the full episode below: