Much of what he said today about the Naz Shah controversy was perfectly reasonable and deserving of debate – but this will now be buried.
Why? Because he had to add comments that his opponents could use to discredit him.
His claim that the Israeli government could avoid criticism of its actions because of “double standards”, that allow it to claim anti-Semitism when people are not attacking the Jewish people, seems reasonable.
If somebody wants to criticise Benjamin Netanyahu for an entirely disproportionate military strike on Palestinians, that is not an attack on the Jewish people or their religion, it’s a criticism of a political decision.
And while some may want to nitpick the numbers, Livingstone’s claim that between 60 and 100 Palestinians are killed for every Israeli is more or less accurate. See what I mean about military strikes being “disproportionate”?
Likewise with the alleged smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn. This Writer has seen a certain amount of commentary suggesting that Corbyn is anti-Semitic – and dismissed it as an over-reaction to criticism of the government in Tel Aviv.
Livingstone’s assessment of the Israel government as “one of the most brutal regimes going” is his own opinion – an objective assessment would have to consider it in the context of Middle East politics generally – and should be treated as such.
However, the claim that Hitler supported Zionism because he wanted Jews moved to Israel was the first This Writer has heard of it. I admit I haven’t read Mein Kampf, but subsequent comments by others seem to support my belief that it isn’t accurate.
It seems highly unlikely that Hitler wanted to do anything other than kill Jews, due to a resentment dating back to the First World War – and it was foolish to mention the Nazi leader in connection with the current issue. Why does discussion of anti-Semitism always have to mention the Shoah?
Was the reaction against Livingstone too strong? It’s debatable. It isn’t anti-Semitic to be mistaken about Hitler’s early beliefs, nor is it anti-Semitic to criticise the government in Tel Aviv, and I don’t think he has any inherent prejudice against Jewish people.
But there is an argument that Livingstone was connecting Nazism with Zionism (which was originally simply the movement to re-establish a Jewish nation).
As Rabbi Danni Rich from Liberal Judaism, a progressive Judaism body, stated: “Claiming Hitler was a Zionist is not only a huge historical perversion, but it directly equates Nazism and Zionism. It suggests they share objectives and values; it is guilt by association. It is hard to think of a more offensive linkage.”
He added: “Livingstone is a symptom, not the cause.”
This seems to be the heart of the matter, with the cause being: Ignorance. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as the saying goes – and it seems likely that too many people have heard snippets of information but never actually researched the facts.
Unfortunately, Rabbi Rich went on to suggest Labour has an “institutional problem” which, in my opinion, is mistaken.
Labour has suspended Livingstone, “pending an investigation” for bringing the party into disrepute. I don’t know about that; it’s possible the Labour politicians who reacted to him have done more harm in that respect.
That being said, some of the comments made in response have raised good points, such as Chris Bryant’s tweet, using his Shadow Leader of HoC account: “Frankly, it is no better when a senior politician looks at the President of the United States and only sees the colour of his skin and his ‘part-Kenyan ancestry’. Or when Tory candidate for Mayor of London runs a deliberately racially charged campaign against his Labour opponent. It is profoundly irresponsible. It offends the fundamental decency of the British people. So I say to racists in my party and every party – leave, go, you’re not welcome.”
Then again, I would agree with attacks on Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith that echo my own words on the matter, wouldn’t I?
David Cameron’s claims are a different matter. He’s just jumping on a bandwagon to divert attention from his own party’s problems.
I await your comments with interest. My brother blogger, Beastrabban, may be particularly knowledgeable.
Labour has suspended the former London mayor Ken Livingstone“for bringing the party into disrepute” after he was accused of antisemitism and making offensive comments about Hitler supporting Zionism.
More than 20 MPs, including Sadiq Khan, Labour’s current London mayoral candidate, had called on Jeremy Corbyn to expel or investigate Livingstone over remarks made while trying to defend suspended Bradford MP Naz Shah.
The chief whip is also calling in John Mann, a Labour MP and the chair of the all-party group on antisemitism, to discuss his conduct after he confronted Livingstone at the BBC and called him a “disgusting Nazi apologist”.
A Labour spokesman said: “Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour party, pending an investigation, for bringing the Party into disrepute.
“The chief whip has summoned John Mann MP to discuss his conduct.”
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