There is a German expression about framing something odious — like antisemitism — in a way that would make it "salonfähig," i.e. fit for the living rooms of 19th-century intellectuals.
Salon — a website that claims to have "driven the national conversation since 1995 through its fearless journalism" — has just given an example of such an effort to legitimize bigotry, by giving Max Blumenthal a platform to mainstream some particularly vile claims that are already popular among Jew-haters on the far-right and far-left.
Under the title, "The shocking alliance between Zionism and Anti-Semitism," Max Blumenthal promises Salon readers an "in-depth discussion with renowned Palestinian scholar Prof. Joseph Massad." The article is illustrated with an image of President Donald Trump flanked by Israel's President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As Salon editors could have easily found out, Blumenthal's 2013 book Goliath promoted the antisemitic notion that Israel is today's equivalent of Nazi Germany; the book earned a well-deserved listing in the category "The Power of the Poison Pen," by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Blumenthal could thus be described as an award-winning antisemite, and it is hardly surprising that he's gone on to enhance his reputation as a "gonzo journalist" — who has fans on neo-Nazi forums and many other outlets that cater to Jew-haters — by writing a book that reflects his admiration for the Palestinian terror group Hamas.
So the idea that any truly "renowned" scholar would have an "in-depth discussion" about Zionism and antisemitism with Blumenthal is a priori questionable. Indeed, renowned scholars with expertise in these subjects will all know that talk about a "shocking alliance between Zionism and Anti-Semitism" is primarily popular among Jew-haters, who love to accuse Jews of profiting from disasters — even if the Jews are the victims of the disaster.
Enter Columbia professor Joseph Massad, whose obsessive quest to tar Zionist Jews as eager Nazi collaborators was widely noted in May 2013, when he wrote a column under the title, "The last of the Semites," for Al Jazeera. Jeffrey Goldberg called it "one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory," and the resulting outcry prompted Al Jazeera to temporarily delete the piece — though it was soon restored and remains on the site as an impressive testimony of Massad's vile views. It is noteworthy that the article was based on a lecture that Massad had delivered a few days earlier at a "Palestine Solidarity Conference" in Germany.
Just some two weeks before Al Jazeera first published Massad's screed, The Algemeiner had published an article in which I documented that the material Massad relies on to make his case against Zionist Jews happens to be the same material that is used on neo-Nazi forums like Stormfront to make a very similar case.
But while the far-right's fabrications are widely recognized and denounced as Jew-hatred, the far-left is often given considerably more respect for spouting comparable antisemitic nonsense, thinly veiled as "anti-Zionism." As a result, we now have numerous articles where some of the world's most respected historians see a need to explain in all seriousness that "History shows Hitler never was a Zionist," and that it is preposterous to claim that "Hitler supported Zionism," and that "the Haavara Agreement does not mean the Nazis were Zionists."
None of this has deterred either Blumenthal or Massad. Quite obviously, Blumenthal has no reputation to lose, while Massad has tenure at Columbia University, and is thus free to embarrass his employer as much as he likes — though it is by no means clear that Columbia is embarrassed by Massad given that the university has assembled a whole crew of Jew-baiting professors.
So here is a glimpse of the combined effort of Blumenthal and Massad to convince Salon readers that the Nazis, who murdered 6 million Jews — i.e. almost as many Jews as live currently in Israel — and the Zionist Jews, who desperately tried to reestablish a Jewish state as a refuge for their persecuted people — were eager collaborators that saw eye to eye on the so-called "Jewish question."
'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.
The obvious implication of Massad's view is that it's a pity that the Nazis killed only six million Jews — after all, if those evil Zionist Jews hadn't escaped Europe on time and did whatever they could to enable others to join them, the Nazis might have succeeded in killing some more.
And then consider what Blumenthal adds: there was an "alliance" between the Nazis and the Zionist Jews that "deepened" while the Nazis were busy killing most of Europe's Jews; and the Zionist Jews even managed to clinch a "lucrative" deal "with Hitler's government that exchanged Jewish property for the bodies the Zionists needed to colonize Palestine."
Every Jew-hater will nod along when reading about Jews cutting "lucrative" deals — and only a Jew-hater will neglect to mention that — at the same time — the crematoria in Auschwitz could barely cope with the bodies of murdered Jews.
Every Jew-hater will also nod along when they are told that the deal was "lucrative" because it "exchanged Jewish property for the bodies the Zionists needed to colonize Palestine." But while Blumenthal conveniently ignores the dead bodies of the Jews murdered by the Nazis, he cynically uses the term "bodies" as a nod to fashionable progressive jargon. So "bodies" in the sense used here refers to living Jews, who — to Blumenthal's and Massad's obvious chagrin — managed to escape the Nazis thanks to Zionist Jews.
As Professor Yehuda Bauer, one of the world's leading Holocaust historians, put it so well last year when he talked about anti-Israel activism: "[O]f course, they love Jews. Especially dead Jews. The ones who died in the Holocaust, they're marvellous, they were terrific. Live Jews is something else."
If you think this take is perhaps a bit too cynical, consider what Massad wrote in his notorious Al Jazeera screed — to which Blumenthal linked in his Salonpiece.
According to Massad, "the majority of Jews" in Europe were virtuous Jews because they "continued to resist" what Massad calls "the anti-Semitic basis of Zionism and its alliances with anti-Semites." But then the Nazis "killed 90 percent of European Jews" — which means, as Massad put it, that the Nazis "killed the majority of Jewish enemies of Zionism who died precisely because they refused to heed the Zionist call of abandoning their countries and homes."
You can't say it much clearer: good Jews are dead Jews, while the bad Zionist Jews survived.
Incredibly enough, Massad goes on to argue that "the horror at the Jewish holocaust [sic!] did not stop European countries from supporting the anti-Semitic programme of Zionism. On the contrary, these countries shared with the Nazis a predilection for Zionism" and "would be the ones who would support the United Nations Partition Plan of November 1947 to create a Jewish State."
Massad is driven to such downright lunatic claims by his all-consuming desire to delegitimize the world's only Jewish state as a Nazi project. But in reality, those who want to see Israel eliminated are advocating for a Nazi project. To the great satisfaction of the notorious grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, the mufti's Nazi allies were preparing, "to wipe out the Jews who had been living in Palestine since time immemorial as well as the new arrivals from the beginning of the modern Zionist movement in the nineteenth century and following the Balfour Declaration in 1917."
When this plan became infeasible after the battles at El Alamein, and the Allied landing in French North Africa, the grand mufti proposed "to bomb Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in November 1943." The Nazis considered the mufti's proposal, but it "was eventually turned down in summer of 1943 by Hermann Göring, only because of practical, not political much less ethical, considerations."
Let me cite one more point that illustrates how utterly ludicrous claims about collaboration between Nazis and Zionists are: more than 30,000 Jews from British Mandate Palestine volunteered to fight in British units during World War II — which is a staggering figure considering that the entire Jewish population of British Mandate Palestine numbered about 550 000 in 1945. It really requires breathtaking bigotry to write, like Blumenthal, that the Nazi-Zionist "alliance deepened during World War Two."
If you publish the vile views of Blumenthal and Massad under the hideous headline "The shocking alliance between Zionism and Anti-Semitism," you have only yourself to blame when decent people wonder if you perhaps agree that dead Jews are better than living Jews. And it is hardly a surprise to see that among the few unlettered comments that Blumenthal's piece attracted, one asked: "Do you think the Holocaust really happened in the numbers that are commonly accepted?"
Salon claims to have "approximately 20 million monthly unique visitors," and they have over a million followers on Twitter, and almost as many of Facebook. However, the site's reputation is another matter. A Politico reporton "The fall of Salon.com" noted last year that "in liberal intellectual and media circles it is widely believed that the site has lost its way." Recycling the bigoted stories from Blumenthal's alternate universe at AlterNet may be cheap, but it's perhaps not cost-free.