Greta Berlin’s Damage Control: More Damage Than Control
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:
In the past few days there have been a flood of attacks on Greta Berlin, based on an incident that was blown out of proportion, a reaction to an innocuous post that was taken completely out of context. When Greta saw the original post published in one Facebook group, she intended to share it with our group in the context of an ongoing discussion. Unfortunately, she forgot to change the setting on the Facebook sharing feature, bringing the post to her wall instead of landing in our closed group. Since Greta’s wall was linked with the Free Gaza Movement Twitter account, the post found its way to Twitter. Isolated from our discussion, the post was understood completely out of context, leading readers to believe that Greta herself was endorsing the content of the post.
Ours is a small and secret Facebook group, 37 members strong, consisting of a very diverse set of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and opinions. Many of us know each other personally; our mutual trust allows discussions to involve subjects that are not appropriate for public consumption, sometimes simply because our opinions are not fully ripe; we experiment with them and bounce them off each other in an attempt to understand the issues at hand, developing a better and more coherent argument.
One such topic involves the role of the Zionist movement during the Holocaust. Numerous historians before us made the claim, that leaders of the Zionist movement gave higher priority to the realization of their national project, sometimes missing opportunities to save European Jews. These priorities were made explicit in a famous quote by David Ben-Gurion, their consequences analyzed by historians such as Tom Segev and others. In this context Greta wished to highlight that anti-Semitic remarks have exaggerated and distorted this argument, claiming that Zionists have actively “run the concentration camps”.
Naturally nobody in his or her right mind would adopt such a claim, least of all Greta Berlin. Greta is highly respected and trusted by a large community of human rights activists, a co-founder and one of the leaders of the Free Gaza Movement. She’s faced down the IDF on the high seas a number of times, and is obviously no coward. If she hated Jews and denied the Holocaust, she would not be afraid to say so in public. But that’s not what she thinks, and her personal courage is a matter of record. So there is no reason for anyone to doubt her word.
Many in the media accused Greta of actually endorsing this false claim. Being familiar with the relevant discussions, we attest that understanding the context makes it plain that she does not endorse it, nor are we aware of her ever suggesting that she does.Others accused Greta of failing to provide the required context that supports her position. In the paragraphs above we tried to shed more light on this context, explaining the technical glitch that resulted in the publication of an isolated fragment of discussion, decontextualized from the rest. We hope that this will contribute to the clarification of this unfortunate affair.
Members of the Facebook group:
Adam Rawat, London, UK
Fadwa Othman, Nablus, Palestine
Ian Raven. Leicester, UK
Kyle O’Laughlin, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Mary Hughes Thompson, Manchester, UK
Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestine
Mike Burch, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Moe Tamim, Montreal, Canada
Mona Affaneh, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Nadia Mansour, Los Angeles, California, USA
Ofer Engel, London, UK
Rim Selmi, Tunis, Tunisia
Robby Martin, Dublin, Ireland
Sam Siddiqui, Mumbai, India
Walid Jabari, Bethlehem, Palestine
Yani Haigh, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Again, I call BS on Berlin’s latest explanation.
- If publishing discussions from this so-called private Facebook group would provide context and potentially exonerate her, why won’t Berlin provide screenshots as proof?
- Even if Berlin mistakenly posted it to her Facebook wall, why did she leave it up there, along with the comment in support of the antisemitic video’s contention?
Tellingly, Berlin’s explanation of the Atzmon endorsement, actually demonstrates her antisemitism. As mentioned, “The Wandering Who?” is widely considered antisemitic, and for good reason. Berlin’s explanation, in which she tells of finding the book “fascinating, funny, sad”, coupled with her lame “I was being funny” excuse for her “Methodist” comment, as well as denying there was anything anti-Jewish in that book, should be seen to be the final nail in the coffin.
Update: Grab your popcorn, folks.
— Free Gaza Movement (@freegazaorg) October 8, 2012
@sazzleuk Sadly, it is those who think they can mislead and lie there way out of a serious situation that perpetuate damage.
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) October 8, 2012
Update: Meanwhile, check out this post showing how Free Gaza tweets for terror and a world without Zionism.