BY VICTOR LIEBERMAN
Everyone knows that Donald Trump’s election has given new life to racist and homophobic groups. But too few Ann Arborites know that one of the most notorious of such groups is active in our own city – yes, in Ann Arbor, famous for its liberalism.
The group in question, Deir Yassin Remembered, was first listed in April 2016 by one of America’s leading civil rights organizations on a national register of Active Hate Groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, publishes an annual list of American “hate groups” that malign people on the basis of race, sexual orientation, or religion. The SPLC first became famous for bankrupting and destroying in court the United Klans of America, whose members had lynched an African-American teenager and bombed an African-American church, killing four little girls.
This year for the second time Ann Arbor’s own Deir Yassin Remembered has again made the SPLC list. Why? What evidence supports this characterization? Whom do they target?
Although no doubt the beliefs of individual supporters vary, the leaders of DYR are tied to activists who vilify Jews in particular, but also gays, lesbians, and black people. These, of course, were the classic targets of the Nazis, and the SPLC’s Senior Fellow Mark Potok – after a year’s research – has explicitly described DYR as defenders of Hitler’s “Germany and National Socialism,” that is to say, Nazism.
Consider these all-purpose, equal opportunity obsessions:
Hatred of Jews
DYR leaders campaigned for the release from prison and the rehabilitation of Ernst Zundel, an ani-Semite jailed in his native Germany for “inciting racial hatred.”
During his trial, Zundel’s lawyer signed court motions with the words “Heil Hitler.” Zundel co-authored a book “The Hitler We Loved and Why,” published by White Power Publications, which explained “It was never Hitler’s Germany. It shall always be Germany’s Hitler….Today, [Hitler’s] spirit soars beyond the shores of the White Man’s home in Europe. Wherever we are, he is with us. WE LOVE YOU, ADOLF HITLER.”
To express their admiration for Zundel, Henry Herskovitz, who is a member of the Board of Advisors and Directors of DYR, together with Daniel McGowan, Executive Director of DYR, visited Zundel in Mannheim Prison in Germany. In 2014, Herskovitz also posted a picture of himself greeting Holocaust survivors at a memorial ceremony organized for their murdered families with a sign reading “Free Ernst Zundel.”
Herskovitz appears at the Ann Arbor City Council to explain why the Holocaust is a fraud. He, McGowan, and another DYR Director Paul Eisen founded an organization “Jews for Justice for Germans,” which calls for an end to German reparations to Jews, Jewish reparations to Germany to atone for the suffering inflicted on that country by lying about the Holocaust, and the repeal of all Holocaust denial laws. Unsurprisingly, Holocaust denial is a recurrent, indeed central, theme on the DYR website, and the SPLC has explicitly identified DYR as Holocaust deniers.
Every Saturday for 13 years DYR has picketed a synagogue in Ann Arbor. In person outside the synagogue and on their website, DYR activists promote an array of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories: Jews built gas ovens in the death camps after World War Two to frame the Germans. Jews created and now control ISIS. Jews destroyed the Twin Trade Towers in New York City on 9/11.
Jews have organized all the chief terrorist attacks in Europe and America. According to a report in the Washtenaw Jewish News, while standing outside Beth Israel in 2012 a leader of the weekly picket summarized his views in these exact words: “I hate Jews. Whatever happened to them in World War II, they brought on themselves. They deserved everything they got.”
Hatred of Gays
In Nazi ideology, anti-Semitism was tied to hatred of gays. In a recent letter to the Washtenaw Jewish News, Herskovitz identified Larry Brayboy of Ann Arbor as “a close friend” of the synagogue picketers and proposed a debate between Brayboy and a local Jew so that Brayboy could “prove” there was no such event as the Holocaust. Who is Brayboy? He is a homophobe who regularly sends unsolicited mass e-mails to prominent figures in Michigan and the US with such lovely messages as that of April 14, 2017: “Exposing Bernie Sanders Neocon Dick Sucking Jew Faggot.”
DYR Director Paul Eisen appeared on the radio show of David Duke, the Louisiana anti-Semite, white supremacist, and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Said Eisen to Duke on the air, “I never heard you, David, say anything that I didn’t think was true.” One can only conclude that Eisen accepts Duke’s oft-stated view, expressed for example on DavidDuke.com on Aug. 22, 2013, that Jews have masterminded the campaign to undermine Western morality by promoting homosexuality in the courts, forcing homosexuals into the Boy Scouts, spreading pornography, and above all, by legalizing gay marriage.
Duke described Tel Aviv as “one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities.” He concluded his on-line posting with twelve pictures of what he called “particularly repulsive specimens” of Jewish gays and lesbians.
Since DYR denies that the Holocaust occurred, they have no reason to accept that gays were victims of the Holocaust. The truth is that 100,000 gay men were arrested in Nazi Germany, an unknown number were castrated to “cure their sickness,” and up to 15,000 were sent to concentration camps, where a great many were murdered.
Hatred of Blacks
David Duke, whose worldview, we just saw, DYR Director Paul Eisen endorsed, is arguably American’s best known white supremacist. Among the former KKK Imperial Wizard’s more notable quotes is the following comment to The Sun newspaper of Wichita, Kansas: “White people don’t need a law against rape, but if you fill this room up with your normal black bucks, you would, because niggers are basically primitive animals.”
And consider these sweet recent e-mail postings by Larry Brayboy, whom Henry Herskovitz identified as the “close friend” of synagogue picketers and the man whom DYR wants to represent its views in public debate.
Here is how Brayboy describes his political foes:
“Dem Howard Dean ANOTHER JEW NIGGER…” (April 11, 2017)
“HEY OBAMA FUCK YOUR DAUGHTERS IN THE ASS YOU SLIMY FUCKING NIGGER WAR CRIMINAL” (April 17, 2017)
“DIRTY FUCKING CRACK WHORE MICHELLE DIRTY FUCKING WAR CRIMINAL FUCKING NIGGER” (April 17, 2017)
“Multiple examples of JEW NIGGER MEDIA FUCKING your Mothers in the Ass” (April 24, 2017)
When asked recently by Michigan Radio-WUOM for his reaction to the SPLC’s listing of DYR as a hate-group, Herskovitz sought to frame the issue as one of free speech. “I feel very fortunate to live in America, where free speech is protected. If I were in Germany or France, I’d be in jail just for speaking my mind. That’s not right to me.”
His response is doubly ironic. First, he uses free speech to defend the policies of Nazi Germany, whose practices were the antithesis of free speech. If you regard liberal values as sacred, you don’t endorse a regime which posed the 20th century’s most fundamental threat to those same values. Second, no one, certainly not the SPLC, has ever questioned DYR’s Fist Amendment rights.
The issue is not free speech, but the purposes to which speech is directed. The SPLC – seconded over the years by Ann Arbor clergy of all faiths, the Ann Arbor Mayor and City council, and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice – decries efforts by DYR and allied individuals to instill hatred, to malign entire categories of people on the basis of religious, racial, or sexual identity.
DYR’s new slogan, reminiscent of a certain presidential campaign, is “America First. Not Israel.” It’s hard to imagine a group more hostile than DYR to the principles of inclusion and tolerance basic to American democracy.
Victor Lieberman is the Raul Wallenberg Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan.
For documentation of this piece and further information, see the following:
– http://www.splcenter.org – go to Hate-Map (then search All Groups, Holocaust Denial) and Hate Watch Intelligence Report: The Year in Hate and Extremism, SPLC, Spring 2017, issue 162
– Michigan Radio logged broadcast of Feb. 28, 2017
– The Hitler We Loved and Why, Christof Friedrich (pen-name for Ernst Kunzel) and Eric Thomson (Reedy, W. Va.: White Power Publications; rpt., York, SC: Liberty Bell Publications, 2004)
– https://davidduke.com/ and “The David Duke Show ” May 30, 2014 -YouTube
– http://blog.deiryassin.org, including Archives
– Wikipedia entries for Ernst Zundel, Germar Rudolf, Paul Eisen, David Duke, Barnes Review, Southern Poverty Law Center
– David Duke – Wikiquote