In an egregious and all too revealing faux pas, Amy Goodman appears to have put a mouthpiece of the German far right on Democracy Now as a "former UN expert" to discuss Venezuela. This is one Alfred de Zayas, who is given Goodman's typical sycophantic treatment—all softballs, no adversarial questions. We are treated to the accurate enough if not at all challenging or surprising line about how the US is attempting a coup with the complicity of the corporate media. Far more interesting than what he says is de Zayas himself. His Twitter page identifies him as a "Former @UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a #Democratic & Equitable #International Order," and this is confirmed by his bio page on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website. Further digging reveals that he is on the board of the Desiderius-Erasmus-Stiftung, a Berlin-based foundation established last year as the intellectual and policy arm of Alternative für Deutschland, the far-right party that has tapped anti-immigrant sentiment to win an alarming 94 seats in Germany's Bundestag.
It also, last December, appointed Alfred De Zayas as one of its leading advisors, despite the fact that his books on World War II portray Germans as victims and the Allies as perpetrators of "genocide." De Zayas, while not denying the Holocaust himself, has nonetheless become a hero to many Holocaust deniers, and his sayings are featured on many of their websites. He has called for Israel to be expelled from the UN, while he has defended the ruthless Iranian regime.
De Zayas is also called out as the "Hero of Holocaust Deniers" by the UN Watch website, which provides some context on his appointment as the HRC's "Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order." This is characterized as "an anti-Western mandate created by Cuba's Communist regime." Now, we have no problem with challenging US hegemony, and we may not share the apparently pro-Western politics of UN Watch. But the assembled quotes from de Zayas do point up how an unprincipled anti-Americanism can lead to extremely problematic territory. To wit:
• The Old Testament is characterized by "cruelty" and "profound unreligiousity," its patriarchs "equipped with divine legitimacy and justification to take our promised Lebensraum by force." (Original source now deleted by Zayas — see instead Alternative Source.)
• Churchill and Roosevelt connived at "a form of genocide" against the Germans.
• The World War II Allies who fought Nazi Germany should have been prosecuted for “barbarous” and “gruesome” crimes; the Nuremberg Court that judged Nazi war criminals had "hardly any legitimacy."
• "Nuremberg was an exercise in hypocrisy. A continuation of hate and war… a corruption of legal norms and procedures, a pollution of philosophy, a truly Pharisee tribunal." Original source now deleted by Zayas Alternative Source
• "Israel emerged out of terrorism against the indigenous population" and its representatives should be denied U.N. accreditation. Source
• America bears "responsibility for the destabilization of… countries in the Middle East."
• "Moses had such a rough time bringing the Jewish people across the Red Sea because half of them were busy picking up pretty shells." Source
OK… whatever valid points there may be about Allied atrocities in World War II, the entire question has been hijacked by neo-Nazis in Germany in recent years, and de Zayas reveals his hand as their fellow traveller first by engaging in implicit Holocaust-relativization with his "genocide against Germans" talk, and (if that didn't make things clear enough) with his barely coded anti-Semitism ("Pharisees," seashell-grubbing). This similarly taints whatever points he may have about the origins of Israel (although it is hardly the only state to have "emerged out of terrorism against the indigenous population," and a double standard on this question is a sure sign of bad faith). One also senses an intentional and odious irony in his use of the Nazi term "Lebensraum" to describe the Old Testament cleansing of the Canaanites.
And indeed, the Zeitgeschichtliche Forschungsstelle Ingolstadt, an openly historical-revisionist outfit that skirts the edges of outright Holocaust denial so as to remain within the bounds of German law, gave de Zayas an award for his "research" in 2002.
For what it's worth, UN Watch also calls de Zayas' 2017 supposed fact-finding mission to Venezuela a "fake investigation" by "the only UN human rights expert to be allowed in by the Maduro regime after 15 years of it rejecting repeated requests by separate monitors on arbitrary detention, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, independence of the judiciary and arbitrary executions." (The "15 years" presuambly includes the Chávez era.)
All this should cause you to rethink your assumptions about what's going on in Venezuela. Yeah, the presidential pretender Juan Guaidó is being backed by fascists like Trump and Bolsonaro, while the left throughout the hemisphere is (with rare exceptions) behind Maduro. But is it that simple? Maduro is also being avidly backed by the also fascistic Vladimir Putin. And the "Bolivarian" regime has always been embarassingly cozy with the outright fascist Bashar Assad. Hugo Chávez even hosted the Syrian despot at the presidential palace in Caracas n 2010, and honored him with replica of Simon Bolívar's sword. This is the same Bashar Assad who is beloved of the neo-fascist right, both in Europe and in America.
So maybe things aren't that simple, eh? When Chávez died in 2013, we warned that his fondness for dictators ultimately did not bode well for democracy in Venezuela. At the start of the Syrian Revolution in 2011, he even called the democratic opposition then mounting to Assad a "fascist conspiracy," oblivious to his own absurd irony. (An example of the alarming phenomenon we have identified as fascist pseudo-anti-fascism.)
Note also that last year, supposedly left-wing political parties across Europe, including Germany's Die Linke and the Greek Syriza, joined with Alternative für Deutschland and other neo-fascist formations to vote against a Euro-Parliament resolution calling on Russia to free imprisoned Ukrainian and Tatar opponents of the Crimea annexation. And the same Putin who is backing Maduro has been pouring money into the Continent's anti-European right.
Note: The ugly background of Amy Goodman's latest darling was first brought to light in a tweet by writer Alexander Reid Ross, who has been dogged in exposing the growing popularity of such sinister Red-Brown politics on the contemporary American left.
Image via Democracy Now