By Spencer Sunshine
A few days ago some Socialist friends alerted me that the new Green Party vice presidential pick Ajamu Baraka had an ugly history of doing media work with a Holocaust denier named Kevin Barrett. Lefty media had already pointed out that Baraka was a vulgar anti-imperialist who has supported Syrian mass murderer Bashar al-Assad and a conspiracy theorist who has labeled various tragedies as “false flags.”
This was not terribly surprising as, by the mid-00s, the U.S. Green Party had been swamped by 9/11 Truthers and various conspiracy theorists, including those who espoused thinly veiled antisemitic criticisms of Israel. In recent years, numerous Green Parties around the world had already had their own scandals regarding Holocaust denial and antisemitism, including in Canada and Britain.
As an antifascist and a critic of the Left/Right crossover movements, I have spent years calling out Leftists who traffic in antisemitism. This had once been a fairly marginal phenomenon. However, now with Baraka’s candidacy, we see those with clear antisemitic links moving into the highest levels of the national Left, and it has been met with silence.
I was going to write a Facebook post about this and leave it at that, but it started to be reposted widely. Then a Green Party national co-coordinator endorsed suppressing the post from Green Party online forums, and came onto my own Facebook page to claim that I was engaged in an attempt to “run interference for apartheid in Israel.” (None of the conversation or criticism had anything whatsoever to do with Israel, Palestine, or Zionism.)
This was the first of many attempts to delegitimize criticisms of Baraka, and thereby kosher the presence of antisemitism in progressive circles (if the Greens can claim to be that anymore). Many Facebook arguments followed, with defenders of Baraka utilizing a variety of arguments to attempt to either shield him from criticism, or simply to justify what he did. Having been through these arguments for years, I decided to write them down as a guide for future debates.
Baraka and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein have refused to answer me via webpage inquiries, contacts, or Twitter. Finally, when Gawker contacted Baraka, he admitted he had been on Barrett’s radio show and had authorized his essay to be in the Holocaust denier’s anthology – but claimed he was unaware of Barrett’s views. In the original interview, Baraka did not, however, acknowledge that the Holocaust happened. (Only later did he send Gawker a follow-up note, affirming that he acknowledged that the Holocaust happened.) See: http://gawker.com/stein-campaign-says-running-mate-didn-t-realize-he-was-1785157203.
It shouldn’t take days of a media campaign to get progressive leaders to acknowledge that it’s wrong to work with Holocaust deniers and to admit that the Holocaust happened.
But it does.
Welcome to #Dystopia2016.
For more information about the links between Baraka and Garrett, and the Green Party’s original defense of this and attacks on me, see: https://radicalarchives.org/2016/08/10/ajamu-baraka-holocaust-denial.
For your reading pleasure, here is a list of the arguments that Leftists have used against me in an attempt to defend Baraka from criticism:
- Denial. Simply deny that there are any legitimate facts involved, which is kind of projection when Holocaust denial is being discussed.
- Attack the platform. Claim the platform where the evidence is presented is unreliable, especially if this isn’t true.
- Livingstone formulation. When the claims of antisemitism have nothing to do with Israel/Palestine, insert this into the conversation and claim you are being attacked because of your views on it. (For more on this technique, see https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/david-hirsh-the-livingstone-formulation).
- Cry “Zionism.” Claim that the source of the information is “Zionist” and therefore should be ignored. Only criticisms coming from anti- and non-Zionists will be acknowledged. Since 99% of Westerners, most Jews, and the vast majority of people who monitor antisemitism believe that Israel has a right to exist in some form (two states, etc.), you can invoke this and delegitimize most critics in one fell swoop – without ever engaging in the substance of their criticisms. This creates an information silo.
- Claim “smear.” Ignore the facts on hand and claim that the call-out is motivated by some other agenda.
- Unfair “guilt by association.” Claim that any link – including appearing directly on a platform with someone and working with them directly, with pictures, video, publishing info., etc. – is simply “guilt by association.”
- Redirect. Claim that the “real” work you should be doing about antisemitism is debunking claims from the Jewish community about antisemitism in the Palestine Solidarity movement.
- Bait and switch. Claim that the callout says something it doesn’t, and then say the critic is a liar.
- Unattainable standards of proof. This has been my favorite and has been used repeatedly. This is also a common tactic used against women who complain about sexual harassment and people of color who complain about racism. The apologist agrees that there IS antisemitism on the Left, but they set the bar so high for evidence, that in no particular instance can it ever be proven. This allows them to have it both ways: seem like they are sympathetic, but in reality koshering antisemitism in every instance.
- Hide behind a Jewish person. Since antisemitism is a narrative, anyone can repeat it, and many Jews will tolerate their colleagues espousing it. So if a Jewish person is around you, claim you can’t possibly be antisemitic.
- Justification through false equivalency. Compare being on a Holocaust deniers’ radio show to being on FOX News. Seriously, multiple people have done this. I was actually flabbergasted by this one.
Spencer Sunshine (www.spencersunshine.com) is an antifascist researcher who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is currently working with the Rural Organizing Project in Oregon to develop community-based responses to Patriot movement and militia organizing. Follow him on twitter @transform6789.