Column JN issue Dec 17 2021
Prepare to get out the smallest violin you can find and play a requiem today, for two men at entirely opposite ends of the political spectrum.
One is an egregious and avid Jewish antisemite, the Brighton-based Tony Greenstein. And the other is the former Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Both men have – and continue to have – manifold legal troubles. Netanyahu is currently defending himself on three separate corruption cases at the Jerusalem District Court. Last week his former family spokesman and confidant, Nir Hefetz, testified that his boss tried “to rob the state’s funds for personal needs” on dozens of occasions. According to Hefetz, Netanyahu’s appetite for “gifts” from billionaires and reluctance to pay for anything out of his own pocket nudged the guidelines of legality.
It’s not been a fun-filled week for Netanyahu, and, indeed, his entire family. First, former president Donald Trump turned on his ostensible former friend in an expletive-laden attack, sulking because Bibi had the temerity to congratulate new US president Joe Biden on his electoral victory. The fact that it took Bibi long after other world leaders to make the call to Biden is an inconvenient factor which plainly was ignored by Trump, his usual modus vivendi when truth got in the way of his own narrative.
Then came a spot of sustained whining by Bibi about the decision to remove the security detail for him, his wife Sara and their sons, Avner and Yair. It had been due to expire on 12 December; Bibi claimed that there had been death threats against him, Sara and Yair, and noted that only two days after the removal of his security detail, the right-wing Israeli politician Rehavam Ze’evi, better known as Gandhi, was assassinated.
I am absolutely sure that there have indeed been death threats against the Netanyahus, which I am equally sure the police are taking seriously. But some portion of the blame for creating this volatile, febrile atmosphere, and the whipping up of extremist positions with inflammatory rhetoric , must be laid at Bibi’s door.
In deepest Brighton, meanwhile, there is moaning from Greenstein, whose Crowdfunder appeal for his book, Zionism during the Holocaust, was abruptly terminated by the web platform after only two days of fundraising, in which £710 was raised towards a potential £6,500.
I must say that even if Greenstein had not, as an undischarged bankrupt, breached the Crowdfunder guidelines (although this has not been spelled out), the book does honestly just sound dreadful. It is, he boasts, “550 pages and some 190,000 words” long, and in a way I think anyone who is prepared to pay for it to be published ought to be condemned to read it on a weekly basis.
A martyred Greenstein blames “the Zionist bookburners” for the demise of his Crowdfunder appeal, asking: “What is the difference between Joseph Goebbels and the Zionist lobby? Answer: Goebbels burnt books after they were printed. The Zionists try to burn the books before they are printed”. Gosh, how witty.
But Phoenix Greenstein is determined to rise again, and is now soliciting individual donations “if you want to help defeat the Zionist Censorship Machine”. Anyone who is the least bit tempted ought perhaps to know that disgraced former MP Chris Williamson, who was suspended from Labour over allegations of antisemitism (and then resigned from the party before he was expelled) is an admirer of Greenstein’s and has urged people to donate.
I ought perhaps to add — before the usual suspects begin to foam at the mouth — that in criticising Netanyahu I do not question his true and lasting love of Israel. I just question his methodology. What he and Greenstein have in common, I am afraid, is an overweening sense of self and rightness. Neither is attractive.