Open Zion

10.07.12

The Tortuous History Of The Greta Berlin Tweet Controversy

After Free Gaza Movement co-founder Greta Berlin tweeted a clearly anti-Semitic movie, the group made brief comments saying that the video was not intended to be disseminated publicly, and had been posted to a private Facebook group "discussing propaganda and racism." In the statement, Berlin seemed to apologize only for the fact that the tweet had gone public. That clearly wasn't enough, and we had our frequent contributor Emily Hauser write up the tweet. She wrote an eloquent post, covering the Free Gaza statement and denouncing the way anti-Semitism hurts both Jews and the Palestinian cause.

The Berlin story broke on Monday, and Emily's post had given the activists days to offer a more full explanation, with none forthcoming. Then shortly after we published, Berlin came out with a broader personal statement denying that she was a Holocaust denier and arguing that she’d posted the video because it embodied the kind of “propaganda that our group was discussing." Since Emily's post was pegged to the Berlin's non-apology, we all agreed that it would be best to write an update. In that update, Emily noted Berlin's troubling history—linking to Berlin's glowing endorsement of Gilad Atzmon—and said Berlin should release the full context of the discussion on private Facebook group. Choosing to keep her focus where it had always been, on the content of the tweet itself, Emily wrote, “I am sorry that in writing about a real problem, I used Greta Berlin as the example around which my thesis was built.” Blogging is, of course, a fast-paced enterprise, and sometimes you react to news even as it’s developing.

Circumstances have again changed. The prominent pro-Palestinian activist and writer Ali Abunimah, who had led the charge to condemn Berlin's tweet (pending exculpatory hard evidence), chased down an instance of the same anti-Semitic video being posted to a private Facebook group that Berlin administers. On his blog at the Electronic Intifada, he wrote:

When the video was posted [by another user] on 28 September it 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.

Emily took to her own blog this morning, linking to Abunimah's post and explaining why she'd updated her first post: because, as best as we could tell at that moment, the Berlin's more full explanation rendered the thrust of Emily's first post "absolutely inaccurate." Emily added that she regrets using the qualifier of "absolutely" (which we should have caught on the editing end).

Abunimah's reporting cast doubt on Berlin's version of events. But now Berlin tells +972's Larry Derfner that Abunimah doesn't have the right Facebook group, producing a statement from some 16 members of the purportedly correct group backing up Berlin's account, and deflecting charges on other accounts of tweets and writings. (I find some of her statements, including explaining the Atzmon endorsement, unconvincing.) Abunimah hasn't yet reacted to the Derfner story. On twitter, others are seeking verification about the purported signatories of the statements.

No matter how private Berlin's Facebook group, with nearly half its membership outed, she should release screenshots of the original context of the video posting. The privacy of the discussion was compromised when Berlin, if her version of events is on the level, linked her Facebook to Twitter and accidentally posted an anti-Semitic video to Free Gaza's twitter account. Releasing a reliable rendering of the Facebook discussion would put this to rest. The onus is on Berlin.