The bad news is, we all have to wait until Tuesday (April 4) to find out whether the disciplinary panel, convened by Labour’s National Constitutional Committee, believes he was wrong to defend MP Naz Shah after she was accused of anti-Semitism.
If the panel rules against him, it will put Labour in a position that is very difficult to defend, as Ms Shah was readmitted to the party last summer, within weeks of the allegation being made against her.
After the two-day hearing, Mr Livingstone told the BBC the hearing was “an amazing debate about the meaning of words. I feel now I could qualify for a degree”.
This rings true. When This Writer published a series of articles defending Mr Livingstone, Vox Political came under attack from detractors among the pro-Zionist lobby, most (if not all) of whom were keen to tell me the words he had used did not mean what he had clearly intended them to mean.
We have seen this in their actions since then, as well. The attacks on Momentum’s Jackie Walker were all about twisting her words, too. Read This Site’s articles on the subject for the facts.
Now Mr Livingstone says he is optimistic that Labour will not expel him for the crime of relating a historical fact during an interview. This is to be welcomed – but will Labour tighten up its rules to ensure that similar wild allegations cannot be made against others people who want the facts to be known?
Mr Livingstone made his comment about Hitler supporting German Zionists in an interview with Vanessa Feltz, when she had asked him to defend Naz Shah’s re-posting on Twitter of an image of a black man’s “mug shot” (taken by police after an alleged criminal offence) and the words “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal”.
What Ms Feltz either did not know or was not telling was that the man in the image was Martin Luther King, probably the most famous campaigner for civil rights of the 20th century, and his words were intended to show that, just because a government makes an act legal, it isn’t always right.
Ms Feltz had also attacked Ms Shah for retweeting a tongue-in-cheek image suggesting that Israel should be relocated to the United States of America. Again, she failed to mention the context: It had been suggested that Israel should forcibly move all Palestinians from their homes to either Jordan or Saudi Arabia and the image was intended to challenge those who would uproot Palestinians against their will whether they would want the same thing to happen to them.
Mr Livingstone responded by pointing out that Hitler had moved Jewish people from their homes in Germany to what was then known as British Mandate Palestine. He was saying there is a world of difference between making a satirical suggestion in response to an offensive one, and actually going through with what was suggested – with the power of a nation’s legislature to back it up.
Were the Nazis right to “transfer” (that was the word used for this forced deportation) Jewish Germans to Palestine? No – they were forcing people out of their homes and into an uncertain future. On that level, we can see that Mr Livingstone’s comment is in line with the sentiments expressed in both the images Ms Shah had retweeted.
Hindsight tells us that it was fortunate for those who did travel to Palestine, in the light of what happened to Jews who remained in Germany or who fell under the power of the Nazis, and we know that the German Zionists approached the Nazis with the plan to move people, precisely because they could see what was coming – and also because it suited their own plan to re-settle the Holy Land.
It was an occasion in which Hitler’s desires and those of the Zionists coincided – although for entirely different reasons. But the fact remains that Hitler was supporting the Zionists – on that occasion and in that way.
Finally, Mr Livingstone is right in his assertion that he never said Hitler himself was a Zionist. In fact, he said, “Hitler was a mad anti-Zionist; his policy was to kill all Jews.”
Following Friday’s hearing, Mr Livingstone said it was nonsense to suggest he ever said Hitler was a Zionist.
“They now accept I didn’t say it,” he said.
“The only issue is, was it right to defend Naz Shah? And I was simply saying Naz Shah isn’t anti-Semitic.
“If she was anti-Semitic, they wouldn’t have readmitted her to the Labour Party.”
On the subject of Ms Shah, many people have taken the fact that she apologised for her tweets as an admission of intentional anti-Semitism. This is not true.
In another tweet, asking people to respond to a poll by John Prescott on whether Israel was committing war crimes (in 2014, before she became an MP), Ms Shah had tweeted, “The Jews are rallying,” meaning she believed supporters of Israel were flooding the poll with responses in the hope of skewing the result.
It was wrong for her to have said “Jews” were doing this, and that is what she acknowledged in her apology. She said: “I fully acknowledge that I have made a mistake and I wholeheartedly apologise for the words I used.” She was not admitting any deep-seated problem – and her actions as an MP have shown that she believes anti-Semitism is racism and has a personal commitment to support relationships between people of all faiths.
In the light of the above, will Labour’s disciplinary panel make the correct decision?
We must wait and see.
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