* 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-professed anti-Zionist and Trotskyist, Lenni Brenner is a frequent guest speaker at “pro-Palestinian” events across the U.S., including some sponsored by the Muslim Student Union and chapters of the Muslim Students Association.
Born into an Orthodox Jewish family on April 25, 1937, Brenner became an atheist when he was twelve years old. At age fifteen he joined the Young People’s Socialist League, the youth section of the Socialist Party. And in 1958 he met the civil-rights activist Bayard Rustin, a fellow Socialist Party member.
Brenner never attended college, because, as he puts it, “I was always busy with work in the civil rights and antiwar movements.” His antiwar activism began in the early days of the conflict in Vietnam, when he spoke frequently at peace rallies in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Brenner was arrested four times for his participation in Bay Area civil-rights sit-ins during the early Sixties, and again for his activities in the so-called Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in 1964.1 While serving jail time for those infractions, he developed a friendly relationship with fellow inmate Huey Newton, who later established the Black Panther Party in 1966. In 1968 Brenner cultivated an alliance with Kathleen Cleaver, the wife of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver.
Brenner has long advanced the false charge that Zionists in the Hitler era collaborated with German Nazis to protect the interests of certain elitist Jews and to pressure most of Europe’s Jews to leave the continent, thereby setting the stage for the creation of Israel. This type of historical revisionism was aggressively promoted by Soviet propagandists in the 1970s, and Brenner spelled out his own case for the theory in his 1983 book, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators. In 1986 the neo-Nazi publishing house Noontide Press, which has produced a large amount of anti-Jewish hate literature, reprinted Brenner’s book.2
In the 1990s, Brenner and Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) co-founded the Committee against Zionism and Racism, an organization that advocated boycotts against Israel and refused to recognize the latter’s legitimacy as a sovereign state. In addition, Brenner and Ture collaborated to publish a book titled The Anti-War Activist.
In 2001 Brenner condemned “Zionist misuse of the holocaust” and pledged to “expose Zionism’s role in repeatedly collaborating with Hitler.” He cited Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering as a reliable source of information on this subject.3
At a 2003 anti-Zionist conference sponsored by the New England Committee to Defend Palestine, which had taken “no position” on the legitimacy of Palestinian suicide bombings, Brenner re-asserted that Zionists and the Nazis had collaborated in many endeavors, including the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. He also called Judaism “the mother of all segregationist ideologies.”
The Zionist movement in the 1930s and ’40s, said Brenner, included a large number of 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.’”
Brenner supports the Palestinian Right of Return, which, if enacted, would necessarily spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. “Israel guarantees me, a Jew born in Brooklyn, a right of return, because my ancesters [sic] lived there 2,000 years ago,” Brenner once wrote. “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.”
By Brenner’s telling, Israeli anti-terrorism measures are themselves a form of state-sponsored “terrorism” because they commonly involve the “indiscriminate bombing of civilians.” By contrast, he rejects the notion that Hamas should be classified as a terrorist group: “The Zionists call it [Hamas’s activities] terrorism, and that aspect is there, but what it really is, is martyrdom,” Brenner said in 2004. “They are blowing up themselves. They are killing their own people…. [T]here is no winning political strategy…. It provides the Israelis with all kinds of talking points.” In short, Brenner’s chief complaint is not that suicide bombings in crowded civilian areas are morally reprehensible acts, but rather that they are counterproductive from a public-relations standpoint.
Modern-day Israel, says Brenner, has imposed a form of apartheid on Palestinian Arabs in the tradition of “apartheid South Africa and the segregated American south.” In 2007 he accused then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of seeking to create a massive “Zionist state” while keeping “the Palestinians confined in a Bantustan no bigger than a broom-closet.” “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,” Brenner predicted, “Zionism will join segregation and apartheid in the cemetery reserved for discredited and defeated colonial regimes.”
Brenner also emphasizes what he calls “the magnitude of Jewish involvement in the slave trade.” As he wrote in 2012: “[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.”
In February 2014, Brenner signed on to a petition titled “‘Jews For Palestinian Right of Return’ Endorse American Studies Association Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions,” which read as follows:
“We salute the American Studies Association’s courageous endorsement of the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli academic institutions, which are leading accomplices in more than six decades of ethnic cleansing, colonization, war crimes, and apartheid. As Jews, we refuse to remain silent as a so-called ‘Jewish state,’ armed by the U.S. and its allies, commits these injustices with impunity in our name.
“Contrary to baseless charges of ‘anti-Semitism,’ BDS resembles the boycotts that ‘singled out’ similarly racist regimes in Jim Crow United States and apartheid South Africa. Applying the same standards to apartheid Israel, BDS demands nothing more — nor less — than freedom and justice throughout all of historic Palestine, by calling for: [a] An end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories; [b] Full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; [c] Right of return for Palestinian refugees, as affirmed by UN resolution 194.
“We call on Jews of conscience everywhere to honor our own proud heritage of resistance to oppression and injustice by standing with the Palestinian people, BDS, the ASA, and the growing international movement in support of these fundamental human rights.”
Other notable signatories of the aforementioned petition included: Max Blumenthal, Hedy Epstein, Jeff Halper, Jennifer Loewenstein, Barbara Lubin, Ilan Pappé, and Michael Ratner.
For additional information on Lenni Brenner, click here.
1 Culminating in the occupation of the university administration building and the arrest of 800 student trespassers, the Free Speech Movement saw the first “takeover” of a campus building in the history of American higher education, and it set the stage for political actions on college campuses for the next generation.
2 Other books published by Noontide include: The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry by Arthur Butz, and Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard Harwood. Noontide has also reprinted The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which claims that Jews are plotting to take over the world.
3 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.