You won’t find the facts in much of what has been said about the case by pressure groups that allegedly represent Jewish people.
A disciplinary panel of Labour’s National Constitutional Committee found that Mr Livingstone brought the Labour Party into disrepute with remarks he made in an interview with Vanessa Feltz, linking the German Nazis with Zionism. The panel technically imposed a two-year suspension from holding office in Labour, of which one year has already been served. The suspension will end on 27 April next year.
If you’ve read This Site’s previous articles on the subject, you’ll know that Mr Livingstone’s comments were historically accurate and that he made them for a good reason, in response to unreasonable questioning from Ms Feltz, who did not seem to have researched her subject very well.
But the mass media seem determined to force the lies down our throats. Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told The Guardian Mr Livingstone’s comments were “outrageous” and referred to “his shameless, disgraceful and tendentious attempts to link Zionism to Nazism”.
Of course, Mr Livingstone was not trying to link Zionism to Nazism. The agreement to which he referred is a well-documented historical fact.
Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, accused Mr Livingstone of “wilful and unapologetic baiting of the Jewish community by shamefully using the Holocaust as a tool with which to inflict the maximum amount of offence” – which is flat-out untrue.
He – and other commenters – tried to use the case to suggest that the Labour Party remains soft on anti-Semitism. But Mr Livingstone was not accused of anti-Semitism at the hearing. He was accused of having brought Labour into disrepute – a charge that he continues to deny. He claims others, like Labour MP John Mann, brought the party into disrepute by lying about what he had said – and he has a good point. It was Mr Mann, after all, who falsely claimed Mr Livingstone had said Hitler was a Zionist.
Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, accused Mr Livingstone of “inaccurate and antagonistic comments”. Perhaps he’d like to explain which comments were inaccurate, or how they were antagonistic?
Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Educational Trust accused Mr Livingstone of “persistent rewriting of history”. In what way?
The litany goes on and on.
The best This Writer can say about it is that it is true that some Jewish people were offended by Mr Livingstone’s words. However, it seems clear that any offence is due to error, misunderstanding or misinterpretation on their part – not his.
Other Jewish people were not offended by what Mr Livingstone had to say. In fact, they agreed with it. Five of them gave evidence to the disciplinary panel and, after the verdict, Jenny Manson, Diana Neslen, Jonathan Rosenhead, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Walter Wolfgang issued a statement of their own:
“We are appalled by the decision to continue the suspension of Ken Livingstone.
“The case brought against Ken was not that he was antisemitic. Instead it was claimed that he upset a significant part of the UK’s Jewish population. This upset had been caused by his (accurate) statement that some Zionists and Hitler had wanted to get Jews out of Germany, and that prior to the War they reached a temporary agreement to help bring this about. The Zionist motivation was to increase the numbers of Jews going to Palestine.
“If a political party adopts the principle that it suspends every member that upsets some part of the population where would it all end? Labour should respect freedom of expression.
“The decision to continue the suspension [of] Ken is mistaken. It is an attempt to protect Israel from criticism, while simultaneously weakening the position of Jeremy Corbyn, a principled supporter of Palestinian rights.
“It is the verdict, not Ken Livingstone, that has bought the Labour Party into disrepute.”
Mr Livingstone has said he will launch a campaign to overturn his suspension.
This is not over yet.
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