Tuesday, January 03, 2017

On Alison Weir, the CNI, and Holocaust Denial

It is perhaps unsurprising that the international Palestinian Solidarity Movement (PSM) is fertile ground for anti-Semitism generally and Holocaust denial specifically. Any area in which Jews play a role as villain will lend itself to generalization of anti-Jewish sentiment, and when the Holocaust has been exploited by often cynical Israeli governments to justify occupation, settlement, expansion, and expulsion, the simplistic conclusion that removing the Holocaust as a factor in the creation of Israel could help the Palestinian cause might seem self-evident. To be fair, the PSM has generally done a good job of identifying and censuring anti-Semites when they emerge, going way back to Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish's exposé on Israel Shamir more than a decade ago.

However, the PSM has seen unusually high levels of conspiratorial anti-Semitism in the last couple of years, with a good measure of Holocaust denial thrown into the mix. What's remarkable about this escalation is that a large number of people around whom controversy has emerged have been Jewish: Gilad Atzmon, Paul Eisen, and Henry Herskovitz are among the people who have been censured to some extent by elements of the PSM, in addition to non-Jews like Ken O'Keefe, Greta Berlin, and others.

Eisen and Herskovitz in particular have been explicit in denying the Holocaust. Along with Daniel A.McGowan, Ph.D., a former economics professor (now retired) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, these two men sit on the board of Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), a PSM organization originally founded to draw attention to the massacre of around 250 100 Palestinian civilians by right wing Zionist militias in 1948. McGowan, for his own part, drew attention a few years ago when he was targeted by colleagues at Hobart and Smith for a defense of Holocaust "revisionism" published in a local upstate New York newspaper. McGowan has since gone on to author material for the CODOH concern Inconvenient History.

Perhaps the most newsworthy event of the last year was a public statement by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a visible participant in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that chooses, as its name suggests, to emphasize that its members identify as Jewish, that they would no longer coordinate their activities with either If Americans Knew (IAK) or its public face and leader, Alison Weir. Their decision, as they stated on their Web site, was motivated by what they considered to be a consistent failure on Weir's part to be discriminating in her choice of venues in which to get the message out. According to JVP, this behavior constituted a serious liability. Weir responded to the public attack, and since last year, the matter has been pretty quiet.

Since 2010, Weir has been president of the Council for the National Interest (CNI), which was founded in 1989 by former U.S. Representatives Paul Findley (R-IL) and PeteMcCloskey (R-CA) -- the latter who addressed the IHR in 2000. Browsing the CNI Web site the other day, I found a familiar name among the directors: Daniel McGowan. A bit more digging found that McGowan provided the voice for the audio version of Weir's book Against our Better Judgment. Clearly the two are well acquainted. The presence of McCloskey and McGowan would bring to two the total of people with questionable associations with Holocaust denial organizations on the board of CNI.

I contacted Weir (CC'ing McGowan) and asked her to clarify her relationship with McGowan. I heard back from McGowan but not Weir. Among McGowan's revelations in our conversation was that he, like myself, is a convert to Judaism, although my question regarding when he converted and under what auspices went unanswered. Moreover, in debating the point of whether Jewish children were thrown alive into burning pits at Birkenau, as alleged by Elie Wiesel in Night, McGowan stated that he believes that bodies were burned in pits in Birkenau in 1944. Whether that means he accepts the standard history of Auschwitz specifically or the Holocaust generally I cannot say, since he has not responded to me since the weekend.


  1. Alison Weir has an interview on a weird show.

    Alison Weir "Theresa May Criminalising Antisemitism Shows That Boycotting Israeli Goods Is Working!"



Please read our Comments Policy