This hysteria over Hitler, anti-Semitism and Ken Livingstone has to stop

Today's Ken Livingstone photograph. [Image: REX/Shutterstock].
Today’s Ken Livingstone photograph. [Image: REX/Shutterstock].

The controversy over Ken Livingstone’s remarks about Naz Shah, anti-Semitism and Hitler is becoming increasingly unreasonable, it seems.

This Blog’s comment inbox is full of opinion about it, and I should apologise for my slowness in moderating the correspondence. Some is from people who support my earlier article, some is from those who oppose, some is from people who are generally anti-Semitic and many are highly emotive, if not downright offensive in certain respects. Where people are quoting sources to support them, I have to look up the material and check it before deciding whether to allow the comments. It’s a verbal minefield.

And that is what this issue has become – mostly because people are keen to add their own interpretations to what was originally said. So the debate has mutated to such a point that people who should know better have been reduced to discussing whether Hitler was a Zionist, for example. Of course he wasn’t.

Let’s remind ourselves of Ken Livingstone’s original, controversial interview with Vanessa Feltz:

https://youtu.be/KrH0SXGwiPo

When he mentions Hitler and Zionism, he is responding to a question about the statement “Everything Hitler did was legal”, which had been retweeted by the MP Naz Shah, along with an image suggesting that Israel should be relocated to the American Midwest. Ms Shah has been suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation into whether her actions were anti-Semitic.

It seems likely, to This Writer, that Livingstone only mentioned Hitler because of that comment, “Everything Hitler did was legal”. We’ll come back to the meaning of the comment itself later. It seems to have sparked a memory of the Haavara agreement mentioned in a previous Vox Political article.

I would suggest that he mentioned it as a tangent to any argument about Ms Shah. She had retweeted an (offensive) image about relocating Israel and she had retweeted a comment about Hitler, and Livingstone recalled that Hitler’s Nazi government had entered into an agreement with Zionists to relocate German Jews to what was then Palestine.

We can safely take it that he said “Israel”, rather than Palestine, in an attempt at clarity and to prevent confusion with the current Palestine, but of course this has been attacked by his critics as well.

Here’s the background to that comment:

Zionists came to the Nazis with a plan to move as many Jewish people as possible from Germany to Palestine. The Nazis agreed, most probably because an international agreement like this was likely to grant them legitimacy on the world stage, and also because there were economic benefits to be had. They then devoted resources to the project, which lasted six years until the outbreak of World War II.

So they were supporting Zionism, in that way.

Hitler himself was anti-Semitic to the core, and had been at least since World War I. He wanted the Jews out of Germany, one way or the other, and my opinion – based on what I’ve seen in the last couple of days – is that he had no problem running his genocidal policies against the Jews (and many other people) alongside this one. We should not expect rational or reasonable behaviour from such a creature.

The only questionable aspect of Livingstone’s comment is where he said this happened “before [Hitler] went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. Was he mad, or simply evil? He was certainly unreasonable, as mentioned above, but the level of derangement is debatable (and a side issue).

We should also clarify our terms here. Zionism was originally a movement for the re-establishment of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel. I don’t think we can equate the people who signed the Haavara agreement with the debatably supremacist movement that many Jewish people oppose today.

Hitler, as an anti-Semite, clearly did not want the Jews to establish a state of their own. My opinion is that he agreed with them leaving Germany because it allowed him to concentrate on creating the power base he wanted, from which to launch his war of genocide against everybody who didn’t conform to his narrow definition of humanity (one in which he himself didn’t fit, which tends to support the argument that he was mad) – including, if he had the chance, the Jews who had moved to what was then Palestine.

Now let’s look at John Mann’s confrontation with Livingstone on a BBC(?) stairwell. Mr Mann appeared while Livingstone was carrying out a phone interview, with a camera crew in tow – is that normal behaviour for a Labour MP? – and berated him for being “A disgusting racist” for “re-writing history”, “a Nazi apologist”, “factually wrong” and a “calculated lie” put about by “conspiracy theorists”.

We can see that these accusations simply aren’t true. Nothing Livingstone said in his Feltz interview was racist; he didn’t re-write history but merely quoted it; so he wasn’t being a Nazi apologist. It was factually accurate, so could not be a calculated lie, no matter who Mann said put it about.

Mann also quoted Nazi acts including the creation of Dachau concentration camp and the race purity laws. He was right that these were created in 1933, although Dachau did not at first admit Jewish prisoners and the race laws were initially moderate. Both these attitudes changed as the Nazi grip on Germany tightened but the fact that the situation was different in the early 1930s supports what Livingstone said, rather than undermining it.

Livingstone’s later comment that he was echoing what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said is correct up to a point, as the BBC reported. But Netanyahu was trying to claim that Palestinians persuaded Hitler into the Shoah and This Writer doesn’t believe that for a second. In Netanyahu, we’re seeing a manipulator who was trying to wrap a falsehood inside a fact in the hope that people would believe it. The same could be suggested of John Mann.

The BBC put a curious spin on it. Presumably trying to find a rationalisation for Livingstone’s comments to Vanessa Feltz, a report states: “Mr Livingstone defended the Bradford West MP, saying anti-Zionism was not the same as anti-Semitism.

“He told BBC London: ‘When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.'”

Livingstone had said on the stairwell that Hitler was anti-Zionist, and it may be hard for some to reconcile that with his government signing an agreement with Zionists. Consider this: Every government signs treaties with other governments or organisations it opposes. That’s politics. Chamberlain signed an agreement with Hitler, and we all know how that ended.

The claim that Livingstone said anti-Zionism was not the same as anti-Semitism appears to be false, although the statement is accurate. They aren’t the same, as the Jewish Socialist Group has made clear.

Getting back to Naz Shah, some have pointed out that she has admitted her tweets were anti-Semitic and apologised for them – the aim being to undermine Livingstone by pointing out he was defending someone who had admitted her own guilt. My problem with that is, I’m not surprised she caved in to pressure. I’ve had two days of people screaming at me on Twitter and This Blog’s comment column, in increasingly shrill ways, because I said something they didn’t like; undoubtedly she had people doing it to her face. In that situation, the urge to give them what they want, if only to have an easier life, can be highly persuasive. Whether that’s why she agreed her behaviour was anti-Semitic or not, I can’t say.

But that doesn’t mean Livingstone had to agree with her. The Labour Party has opened an inquiry into the matter, at which one hopes more level heads will prevail and the evidence will be studied very carefully.

Ms Shah made her retweets at a particularly emotive time in 2014, when Israelis and Palestinians were fighting each other viciously (see Scriptonite‘s reports including, but not limited to, this one). Emotions were extremely strong, and it is in this context that Ms Shah’s behaviour should be examined. There’s a reason we have the saying, “Act in haste, repent at leisure”, and it seems likely that a person who normally would not act in such an inflammatory way ended up doing so in a spontaneous reaction to reports from the Middle East, that would not reflect her normal reasoning.

This has become a very complicated subject very quickly, but one can see that much of the problem is that what actually happened is not a clear-cut as some commentators want us to believe. Hitler could happily pursue two apparently contradictory policies at the same time, but people like John Mann seem keen to deny that.

The moral of this story is: Don’t believe the people who deal in broad absolutes. The facts are in the details.

Oh yes… Getting back to the retweet stating “Everything Hitler did was legal”. Here’s a little test for you: If someone posted up an image with somebody who had died after losing money due to the Conservative Party’s “reform” of sickness and disability benefit, or an image of someone who had committed suicide claiming the Bedroom Tax was the cause, overlaid with the words, “Everything Cameron did was legal”…

What would you think then?

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33 Thoughts to “This hysteria over Hitler, anti-Semitism and Ken Livingstone has to stop”

  1. Sid

    A clear and concise review of this “smoke and mirrors” Hitler issue.
    I see nothing wrong (at worst, clumsy) with what Livingstone said. I see NOTHING right with the McCarthy-style witch-hunt by the Bitterites.

    Meanwhile, TORIES get away with murder, in Election Week!!

    1. Bill h

      what is it with the Israelis and criticism have they some thing to hide ,guilt ,911 ,AIPAC corruption or msm control.or all the above.

  2. David Young

    A very clear rational summation – -extremely helpful in this emotively charged atmosphere. Thank you.

  3. If they can suspend Ken and Naz instantly they shouls re-instate them straight away as it as been proved Ken was right and said nothing wrong, this a been blown up by the Media and a load of blairits Mann should be suspended and if it was upto me I would kick him out of the party what for me was a setup job as he for playing up to the Media he should take up a new job as an actor

  4. John

    There is one very recent development that may well help to explain much of the hasbara-style hysteria currently taking place and that is the appointment of Mark Regev – Netanyahu’s former spinmeister – to the post of zionist state “ambassador” in London this very month of April 2016.
    Just a coincidence he takes up his post and all this nonsense starts breaking out?
    I don’t think so.
    I believe he is part of an evil and orchestrated process of attacking the Corbyn leadership in league with malcontents like Mann and others of his ilk, all of whom share such a visceral hatred for Corbyn and a mania for Blairism they are prepared and determined to wreck any and all electoral prospects for the Labour Party.
    With “friends ” like Regev and Mann, who needs enemies?

    1. Mike Sivier

      By “Zionist state”, are we to take it you mean Israel?
      It should be pointed out, if so, that this is just your opinion and others may differ.

      1. John

        The world did not accept Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence for Rhodesia.
        Why should a similar act by ben Gurion be any more acceptable?
        Britain was driven out of Palestine by acts of zionist terrorism.
        Why should zionist terrorism be rewarded with respectability?
        On a number of critera, so-called “israel” is not recognized by a number of other accepted world states.
        Palestine is under military occupation by zionist terrorists.
        Terrorists who sided with Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
        They have lied, cheated, stolen and murdered to get their ends.
        There are some of us who have studied this area in great detail.
        You acknowledge you got the Livingstone facts wrong initially.
        Perhaps you should be guided by those with more knowledge?
        Perhaps you should also be looking at Regev’s role in all of this?

      2. Mike Sivier

        I always endeavour to be guided by those with more knowledge.
        I hope you do, too.

  5. Chris Bergin.

    This whole silly performance strikes me as being along the lines of ‘have you stopped beating your wife yoet?’ Anti-semitism has benn endemic in this country from medieval times when the Jews were expelled so that tha monarchy and nobles didnt have to repay the money that had be borrowed ( extorted would be a better word). Money borrowed to pay for the wars and excesses of that time. What has changed? Nothing as the richest still dont want to pay their taxes!

  6. I’m afraid this business is becoming typical of the way we conduct out politics these days. Frenzied, biased reporting by most of the media is partly to blame, but also the way our polits get elected these days. Very few in the Commons has ever held a proper job. Some are media or P.R. people who have spent their lives working with money or making it, or in many cases have simply inherited their wealth. Not a sound base for running a country where the vast majority work week in, week out for a wage or a salary. God knows how we’ll ever get back to a point where we elect men and women with an experience of the world of work, or heaven help us, the likes of Jacob ‘Mystic’ Mogg. God also knows how, or if ever, we’ll ever get a set of newspapers which, whilst expressing a fair opinion, can stick to the facts in their reporting and report all of the news instead of the dross which seems the currency of most of them.

  7. Lets face it, Mann is a Blairite that believe in Thatcher policy. At the moment there is a battle going to smear all Corbyn supporters, The Blairites are also trying to make Labour lose seats in this local election. This is all part of the same thing.
    Mann is the one that had lost it keep repeating the same thing over and over again, that is the actions of a person that been brainwashed.

  8. Even taking into account his long record of incompetence, nothing has done more to undermine Corbyn than this fiasco. He’s a Red Man Walking. I expect him to be out by the summer.

    Livingstone is a washed-up has been. No one should really care what he says any more, to be honest. Naz Shah was an aspiring MP at the time she shared the objectionable content on social media. She should have known much better, although perhaps her contrition – and her bravery at standing up to George Galloway – should allow her a second chance.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Anyone reading your words should of course bear in mind that you are a dyed-in-the-wool right-winger and you believe you have something to gain from seeing Corbyn undermined and removed, along with his supporters.

      1. Sorry Mike, you are kidding yourself here. I can assure you I find no need, whatsoever, to put any energy into “undermining Corbyn” Labour’s problems are entirely self inflicted, and I know I speak for many of my fellow Vote Leave activists. We are far too busy converting the remaining undecided for the June 23rd Vote: many of course are from the Left, who are indeed waking up to the bill of goods being sold by Corbyn and Abbot trying to fool their followers we can stay in the EU but stop TTIP and reverse Austerity. Labour’s pollution with subconscious anti Semitism in its desire to appease and keep on side its favoured ethnic block postal voting group. But, of course, its all the fault of “the Blairites” and/or “the Zionist media”: it simply couldn’t be that Labour has lost its way…from a UKIP POV a Labour Civil War on top of a Tory Civil War while both parties back the wrong side in the referendum is music to our ears for OUR chances at forming the next majority government of this country! ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS KEEP SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: we don’t worry about smear attacks in the media because we understand the power of Keep Buggering On without indulging in tears of self pity. Roll on Friday morning’s results 🙂

      2. Mike Sivier

        If Labour’s problems are self-inflicted, then why was right-wing blog Guido Fawkes used to create them?
        I smell bull by-product.
        Ah, but you’re discussing the EU referendum, which has been pushed onto the back-burner by all this talk of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and expenses fraud.
        No, Labour does not have subconscious anti-Semitism. A certain number of Labour members may be anti-Semitic, but that’s a characteristic of those people, not what may be considered a common, or problem, trait among party members.
        I agree that we should all speak truth to power – in fact I have been considering changing the subtitle of This Blog to those very words – but I don’t think UKIP can seriously suggest that this is what it does.
        For example, Nigel Farage was on TV on Sunday saying how diligent UKIP councillors/Assembly members/Scottish Parliament (are they putting up any candidates there?) members will be, but in south Bristol, where they’ve had a UKIP councillor, he didn’t turn up to important meetings and insulted the electorate. What a disgrace!
        Yes, roll on Friday’s results, when the smear tacticians will discover they’ve shot themselves in the feet.

  9. John

    Personally, although I’m not in the least surprised by Mann’s conduct, I’d like to see Mann issue a written formal and public apology to BOTH Corbyn and Livingstone with regards to his recent confrontation. It was nothing short of highly unprofessional and just downright disgusting. I’d also like to see Mann de-selected. However, I think that’s blue sky thinking at present.

  10. Excellent piece Mike, very eloquently put in order for people like me to understand.

  11. I am just a bit worried about the anti-semitism Hypocrisy, lets pause for a moment and remember the 3000 uninvestigated deaths in mental health Assessment and Treatment Units here that no-one has called for an investigation and prosecution for Corporate Manslaughter.

  12. This little brouhaha has served to distract attention from the Tories’ multiple woes at precisely the wrong time for Labour with the local elections a week away. No wonder the Tory media have pounced on it. Whatever the rights and wrongs it was a massive own goal, but what is illuminating is the way some anti-Corbynite MPs are using the issue to drip further poison. Their rationale would seem to be that poor results for Labour next Thursday will assist their campaign, never mind the damage such results will cause. They are locked into the belief that Labour can only win a General Election on a centrist platform, seemingly oblivious to the likelihood that deposing Corbyn against members’ wishes would destroy the party altogether.

  13. Thanks Mike for your explanations without any ulterior motives like so many others. It is now time to get back to the events of today and I hope to make better history for future readers in time to come; for me that will be all the easier with Jeremy as our leader and, personally speaking of course, I do not feel he took too long to deal with sacking one of his best friends in the interest of the party.

    1. John

      By ‘best friend’, I assume you mean Ken? If so, unless I’m missing something here, he’s been suspended NOT sacked? There is a MASSIVE difference.

  14. I rarely agree with any of the articles posted here, but Palestine and Israel is a different case. Ken did speak the truth but put it across very badly. Hitler did consider expelling Jews to Palestine, but to say he was a supporter of Zionism was unfortunate and wrong. Hitler considered a number of solutions to rid Germany of Jews, which is why killing them was called the ‘final solution’.

    Antisemitism should always be condemned, but being anti Israel does not make anyone antisemitic. Israel’s problem is its government and not its people. The original Jewish settlers in Israel were not religious. They were secular socialists and started the Kibbutz movement as secular cooperatives. The Zionist movement, which started in the late 19th century has effectively hijacked the country and is rapidly absorbing what remains of the West Bank. There is no intention to negotiate a two state answer. It is like discussing how to divide a pizza while one party is eating it.

    Unfortunately for Ken, he suffers from foot in mouth problems. This current fuss has probably ended his career. There is too much outrage over what he said for a variety of reasons with some of them politically motivated. However, the real problem for Ken is that once again he has displayed bad political judgement.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Support from an unexpected source. Thank you.
      I’ve been having the conversation about Hitler supporting Zionism with Hugo Rifkind on Twitter. He reckons Livingstone meant Zionism as a concept; I reckoned he meant Zionism as in ‘German Zionism’ – the Zionist organisation that negotiated Haavara with the Nazis. For Livingstone to be referring to Hitler supporting those people seems much more plausible to me than supporting a conceptual movement within a faith he abhorred.

    2. Carol E

      Well said Hayfords. It is a prime example of a reply that wasn’ t carefully considered. Anti Israel is certainly not anti semitic as you say. When you know the eyes of the world are on you, it is wise to think carefully before speaking.

  15. Brian

    Semitism & semantics apart, this is interesting, why, because it’s raising issues of belief in right & wrong. Whether doctrines are held responsibly in the face of history, each individual makes their choice. These are the same political/moral/humanity choices the Tory party are actively pursuing, the similarity can not be more convincing. Consideration of this issue is one that must force opinion, opinion that can fall only in one direction. Whatever the outcome of Livingstone’s comments, the conclusion remains the same, that elimination of the innocent is wrong. It simply needs the connection, that Tory philosophies are ‘legitimized’ elimination. A conclusion that can not fail to be made by any but the most stupid.

    1. Mike Sivier

      You mean, like the connection I made at the end of the article?

  16. John

    One other good thing about this controversy is the extent to which it reinforces the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on the illegal apartheid zionist state.
    Netanyahu and his fellow zionist thugs are clearly concerned over the successes of the BDS campaign globally, which is why they are pursuing this desperate campaign.
    This is why Mark Regev has been posted to London to co-ordinate all this hasbara.
    They will continue to lose their struggle to gain any moral high ground while BDS advocates will continue winning against them.
    The Tories are the willing accomplices of the zionists so let’s all see them get one huge great kick in the pants next Thursday, May 5th!

  17. Art

    Ken Livingstone’s sell by date expired years ago. To be honest his behaviour lately reminds me of my late mum who suffered from vascular dementia. Like John Prescott it’s time for Ken to spend more time with his family and possibly devoting his time to good. Sadly he’s finished himself this time.

    1. WordPress.com Support

      Why? It seems Jewish people are lining up to support him. It seems odd that people who aren’t Jewish should be allowed to banish him from Labour over alleged anti-Semitism.

      1. Brian

        Well it’s really not odd, the populace has been conditioned for decades to rejoice any mantra that’s espoused in the name of political correctness; To such an extent that it’s stifled honest debate. This no doubt suits the politicians that rush to exploit events in full knowledge of widespread approval, terrorists, public safety, scroungers, right thing to do, hard working, etc. Problem for these people though is that they cannot escape the inevitable transgressions that connect them to their own diatribe.

  18. The tories and the the red tories won’t let it stop, distracts the British sheep from what’s really going on, like why is that tax dodging waster of a PM still in power?!
    Why doesn’t the JSC come out to defend him on national tv and radio, because no one seems to be listening to them, they should call for a press conference and say that they are supporting Livingstone and what he said was correct.

    1. Mike Sivier

      They were on ITV news on Sunday evening, if I recall correctly.

      1. They’ll have to do more than just a Sunday Mike, need to get out there as much as possible.

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