Red and green meet brown­shirts

Dr Koller­strom emerged from a small but dis­tinct po­lit­i­cal move­ment. That should worry us

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - DAVID AARONOVITCH

IDON’T IMAG­INE that many JC read­ers had heard of the UCL hon­orary fel­low and Holo­caust­de­nier, Dr Ni­cholas Koller­strom, be­fore his sack­ing graced last week’s front page. But, for var­i­ous rea­sons, I had come across his name while re­search­ing my book on con­spir­acy the­o­ries (which will be pub­lished next spring). He had fig­ured in a 2006 in­ter­net film made by the for­mer MI5 desk clerk David Shayler — who has since com­pleted an Ick­ean trans­for­ma­tion from dis­si­dent to Mes­siah — claim­ing that the 7/7 bomb­ings were an inside job. In that daft movie, he was cap­tioned as “lec­turer and re­searcher”, I sup­pose to con­fer some spu­ri­ous ex­per­tise on the en­ter­prise. In fact, I dis­cov­ered, he was a lec­turer on the ef­fects of astrology on alchemy and an au­thor on the sub­ject of crop cir­cles.

Silly old hippy, I thought, whilst won­der­ing once more about the cal­i­bre of some of those em­ployed in our univer­si­ties. Even so, I was amazed by his re­cent trans­mu­ta­tion into a fully fledged Holo­caust re­vi­sion­ist, com­plete with all the nec­es­sary as­ton­ish­ing ob­fus­ca­tions, links to neo-Nazi publi­ca­tions and fun­da­men­tal be­lief in the ca­pac­ity of Jews to man­u­fac­ture and sus­tain a vast his­tor­i­cal swindle. His ar­ti­cle, School Trips to Auschwitz (“by Ni­cholas Koller­strom PhD”), in which he in­vokes the im­age of a But­lins­esque work-camp, com­plete with swim­ming-pool and orches­tras, is one of the most jaw-drop­ping pieces of in­sult­ing stu­pid­ity that I have ever seen — and I have a seen a few. How could he, at the most ba­sic level, talk about the orches­tras and have missed out on Fa­nia Fenelon’s di­aries? Had he never, even from cu­rios­ity, picked up a book by Primo Levi? And if he hadn’t, why hadn’t he? We’ll come back to that later.

In his re­cent ex­cel­lent book on pseudo-schol­ar­ship, Coun­ter­knowl­edge, Damian Thompson sug­gests that there is a kind of non­sense mind­set, in which some­one who buys into, say, ho­moeopa­thy or crop cir­cles, finds it easy to make the nec­es­sary leap to 9/11 con­spir­acy the­ory and — though Thompson doesn’t specif­i­cally say so — to Holo­caust de­nial. Koller­strom starts by seem­ing to be­lieve in astrology, not as the reader of Rus­sell Grant might, but as a form of pseudo-science, con­struct­ing an aca­demic ra­tio­nale for ir­ra­tional be­lief. His next step ap­pears to an ac­cep­tance of alchemy; from that he moves to con­spir­acy the­ory (9/11 and 7/7); this takes him to his­tor­i­cal re­vi­sion­ism; and, in turn, finds him not just dab­bling, but im­mersed, in the most ex­treme form of Holo­caust de­nial. And all the way along, he con­vinces him­self that he is one of a small band of seers who, al­most alone, un­der­stand the real un­der­ly­ing pat­terns of the world.

Thompson is right, I think, but there is also a con­tem­po­rary po­lit­i­cal di­men­sion to this, and one that should worry us. In self-ex­cul­pa­tion, Koller­strom (who is prob­a­bly half-en­joy­ing his no­to­ri­ety and mar­tyr­dom) tells us that, far from be­ing a Nazi or an an­ti­semite, “I have al­ways be­longed to things like the Green Party, CND and Re­spect.” And it is cer­tainly true that, not so long ago, it would have been dif­fi­cult for some­one to both be anti-Jewish and a mem­ber of the or­gan­ised hard left. Not im­pos- sible, as the Work­ers’ Revo­lu­tion­ary Party briefly sug­gested, but pretty hard. But to be a mem­ber of the Green Party and the largest far-left or­gan­i­sa­tion in Bri­tain, and be a Holo­caust­de­nier and never to be aware of any con­tra­dic­tion? That is new.

It’s not as if Koller­strom’s in­no­cent frol­ics in the batty archives have sim­ply left him with a few ques­tions about his­tor­i­cal method. “Is­raeli nu­clear subs sold by Ger­many now stand ready to launch their nu­clear mis­siles against Iran,” he writes else­where, de­mand­ing, “How could Ger­many have done such a thing? Be­cause it’s con­trolled by Zion, that’s why.”

“Con­trolled by Zion” is not some un­lucky phrase, but is rather the real McCoy, the full Monty, the ganz an­tiJud. And it emerges, I think, from a unique po­lit­i­cal move­ment, made pos­si­ble by the in­ter­net and ex­ist­ing as an in­for­mal fu­sion be­tween far­left and far-right forces; forces which re­gard them­selves as anti-im­pe­ri­al­ist, anti-war (or, rather, since they have a re­gard for “re­sis­tance” fight­ers in Ha­mas, Hizbol­lah and the Tal­iban, “an­tiWestern”) and anti-Zion­ist.

It is where Gi­lad Atz­mon (the an­tiJewish Jew), the folk of the “pro-Pales­tinian” Deir Yassin Re­mem­bered who sym­pa­thise with the old Nazi Ernst Zun­del, meet the So­cial­ist Worker’s Party, hook up with Dieudonne Mbala, link to old US left­ies like Ralph Schoen­man, hob­nob with be­liev­ers in the blood li­bel such Is­rael Shamir. The right-wingers at share col­umns with the sup­posed left­ies at Coun­ter­punch, and are ref­er­enced by pro-Milo­se­vic Serbs, Rus­sian na­tion­al­ists and con­spir­acy loons.

They are, in elec­toral or mass terms, in­signif­i­cant. Whether they poi­son the minds of too many silly Koller­stroms is an­other ques­tion. I think they do.

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