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LENNI BRENNER Printer Friendly Page
Anti-Semitism at UC Irvine
By The Anti-Defamation League
June 8, 2007

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  • Marxist, atheist, and anti-Zionist
  • Supported the Black Panthers in the 1960s
  • Charges that "Jews played a significant part in the slave trade"
  • Seeks to "expose Zionism's role in repeatedly collaborating with Hitler"
  • Favors the Palestinian "right of return" to Israel
  • Accuses Israel of practicing "apartheid" against Palestinians
  • Has claimed that all Zionists are racists

A self-described “Trotskyist” and “anti-Zionist,” Lenni Brenner is a frequent guest speaker at “pro-Palestinian” events across the United States. Many of these events are sponsored by the Muslim Student Union and chapters of the Muslim Students Association.

Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in 1937, Brenner became an atheist when he was ten years old and gradually removed himself from Orthodox Jewish society. At age fifteen he declared himself a Marxist. In the mid-1950s he became actively involved with civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, and in the 1960s he joined the anti-Vietnam War movement.

During the Sixties, Brenner was arrested four times for his participation in civil rights sit-ins in the San Francisco Bay Area, and again for his activities in the so-called Free Speech Movement (FSM) at UC Berkeley in 1964.[1]

While serving time in jail for his campus activism, Brenner developed a friendly relationship with fellow inmate Huey Newton, who would go on to establish the Black Panther Party in 1966. Brenner subsequently worked with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver and his wife Kathleen Cleaver. In the 1990s, Brenner and Panther co-founder Bobby Seale defended, without a hint of repentance, the violent radicalism in which the Black Panthers had engaged three decades earlier.

Also in the 1990s, Brenner and Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael), the legendary “Black Power” leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, co-founded the Committee against Zionism and Racism. In addition, they collaborated to publish a screed titled The Anti-War Activist.

Today Brenner focuses his attention most directly on what he views as the present and historical evils of Jews and Zionists. Condemning “the magnitude of Jewish involvement in the slave trade,” for instance, he writes:

“[T]he overwhelming majority of today’s American Jews are descendants of Ashkenazi Jews from central and eastern Europe, who arrived here after the Civil War. Most of them know nothing about the prior Sephardic colonization here, much less the Sephardic role in South America and the Caribbean.… [T]hose Sephardic Jews played a significant part in the slave trade.”

Brenner is the author of four books: Zionism in the Age of the Dictators; The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism from Jabotinsky to Shamir; Jews in America Today; and The Lesser Evil: The Democratic Party. In addition, he edited the 2002 book, 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration With the Nazis, which is his best-known work.

According to Brenner, the Zionist movement in the 1930s and 1940s was composed of many atheists who pretended to be religious while they made common cause with the Nazis:

“Many of the leaders of Zionism were themselves atheists in 1948. But, they, the labor party, who were mostly Atheist, they put in the official -- the Orthodox -- Judaism as the official religion, so that they would get the support of the Orthodox. Otherwise they were worried that the Orthodox would say, ‘Why should we support you if you’re not a religious state.’ And a lot of the atheist[s] figured, look, the Orthodox would come here and they’ll smarten up and abandon Orthodoxy.”

Condemning “Zionist misuse of the holocaust,” Brenner pledges to “expose Zionism’s role in repeatedly collaborating with Hitler.” “Those wanting further material on Zionist misuse of the holocaust since that horror,” he writes, “are referred to … Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering.[2]

Brenner was a great admirer of the late Columbia University professor Edward Said, who once served as a member of the Palestinian National Council and who considered Yasser Arafat’s stance during the Oslo peace negotiations to be unduly moderate. “I know through personal experience that no more honest human exists,” Brenner said of Said in April 2001.

In November 2004 Brenner impugned The New York Times for having run an editorial asserting that Palestinian refugees “must wave [sic] their right of return to their native soil, as a condition for the establishment of a Palestinian mini-state on some of the land subsequently conquered by Israel in 1967.” “But Israel guarantees me,” Brenner continued, “a Jew born in Brooklyn, a right of return, because my ancesters [sic] lived there 2,000 years ago. It even guarantees gentile converts to Orthodox Judaism, with no ancestral connection to the country, the right of ‘return’ it denies Palestinians who still have the keys to their family’s peasant hut.”[3]

Challenging the notion that social customs in Israel are characterized by a greater degree of enlightenment than customs in the surrounding Arab world, Brenner in November 2007 stated:

“In Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, remember that, the only democracy in the Middle East, that’s what they are always babbling about. A Jewish woman cannot get a divorce…. No…. For me to get married or divorced I’ve got to get married or divorced in the Orthodox Jewish synagogue.”

In Brenner’s calculus, Israel’s anti-terror activities commonly involve the “indiscriminate bombing of civilians,” and thus can rightfully be classified as state-sponsored “terrorism.” By contrast, Brenner opines that Hamas should not be considered a terrorist group:

“The Zionists call it [Hamas’ activities] terrorism, and that aspect is there, but what it really is, is martyrdom. They are blowing up themselves. They are killing their own people. It’s a losing thing. They talk about it as evening the score; in other words why should so many Palestinians die and Israelis live, but there is no winning political strategy. Other Palestinians say we need international support and this is not maximizing that support. It provides the Israelis with all kinds of talking points.”

Brenner’s chief complaint, then, is not that suicide bombings in crowded civilian areas are morally reprehensible acts, but rather that they are counterproductive from a public relations standpoint.

In Brenner’s estimation, modern-day Israel practices apartheid against Palestinian Arabs. “[I]f a Jewish state is legitimate in principle,” he asked in December 2007, “how and why did ‘the only democracy in the Middle East,’ as Israel proclaims itself, end up looking like apartheid South Africa and the segregated American south …?” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Brenner elaborated, “wants as big a Zionist state as he can keep with minimal Israeli casualties, with the Palestinians confined in a Bantustan no bigger than a broom-closet.”

Continued Brenner:

 “[U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice is prepared to be a tad more generous. But segregation or apartheid, religious or ethnic, has no right to exist on even one inch of our planet. After decades of struggle, American legal segregation and South African apartheid are dead and gone and we all say good riddance to them. In time, when progressive Palestinians and Israelis get their act together and set up their equivalent of the American civil rights movement and the African National Congress, Zionism will join segregation and apartheid in the cemetery reserved for discredited and defeated colonial regimes.”

In May 2007 at UC Irvine, Brenner gave a speech entitled “Zio-Nazis,” wherein he claimed that all Zionists are racists.


[1] Culminating in the occupation of the university administration building and the arrest of 800 student trespassers, the FSM saw the first “takeover” of a campus building in the history of American higher education and set the stage for political actions on college campuses for the next generation.

[2] Finkelstein is a DePaul University political science professor who contends that the Holocaust has been exaggerated and exploited by Jews to justify Israeli human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

[3] The seemingly benign request for a “right of return” is in fact a veiled attempt to destroy the state of Israel. Palestinian authorities place the number of Arabs who ought to be granted a “right of return” to Israel at five million. This is more than ten times the number of Arabs who actually left the Jewish portions of the British Mandate in 1948, most of whom are now deceased. The incorporation of five million Arabs into Israel would render the Jews a permanent minority in their own country, and would thus spell the end of Israel. The Arabs fully understand this, and that is why they have made it a fundamental demand.


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