Why David Baddiel has it so wrong over Ken Livingstone and Hitler

‘The real problem is the tone of Ken Livingstone when giving this interpretation’ – except it wasn’t an interpretation. The interpretation is what David Baddiel has applied in his article [Image: Lauren Hurley/PA].

Wow. I just read David Baddiel’s Guardian article attacking Ken Livingstone, and Baddiel has it SO wrong in SO many different ways.

Nobody said Hitler supported Zionism as a matter of principle, but Baddiel seems to want us to think so – he refers to Hitler writing Mein Kampf “before he went mad… so exactly in that period when he was, as we know, supporting Zionism”. Except he ONLY supported Zionism in the matter of transporting German Jews out of Germany, as was made perfectly clear to anybody with ears to listen or eyes to read. And he was only persuaded to support it by others – Hitler’s own attitude to the Haavara agreement was characterised by ambivalence until around 1937, when he is documented as having accepted it.

He says Hitler’s support of Zionism is not a fact but an “interpretation”. Wrong. It is a clear fact – in the instance mentioned. The German Zionists would not have been able to get 60,000 Jews to relative safety without that help. There was actual support for the Haavara agreement – not interpretative support (whatever that may be).

He suggests that “the forced emigration of Jews from Germany was pushed further along by various Nazi economic incentives”, which is plain wrong. German Zionists came to the Nazis with a plan to move Jews to British Mandate Palestine and the Nazis supported it because they wanted Jews out of Germany. Baddiel put the cart before the horse there.

Ken Livingstone never said Adolf Hitler supported the idea of a Jewish state. I wonder where Mr Baddiel got that idea.

And Livingstone wasn’t trying to make a point “that Zionism is bad”. He was answering a question that referred to a satirical plan to force-remove Israel (in its entirety) to the USA – and was itself a response to a genuine Israeli plan to force-remove Palestinians to Jordan, Egypt or other neighbouring Arab countries – by pointing out that the Nazis had actually gone through with such a plan.

And Baddiel uses an example of a Twitter user who doesn’t even support Livingstone’s position to support his case. Sorry, but that guy has nothing to do with any of the arguments in this case. He clearly has his own issues but there’s no reason to link them with Ken Livingstone just because his name is mentioned.

I’ll be kind, and choose to believe that Baddiel is merely misinformed, rather than having decided to fabricate a lot of nonsense.

But this is another example of an opinion-former deviating from the facts in order to skew public opinion. He should publish a correction at the very least.

The statement “Hitler supported Zionism” is not a fact. It’s an interpretation. An interpretation of a particular historical moment, in the 1930s, when the forced emigration of Jews from Germany was pushed further along by various Nazi economic incentives allowing those who fled to Palestine to get some of their stolen assets back.

That is not Adolf Hitler supporting the idea of a Jewish state (even writing that sentence looks ridiculous). It is the Nazis taking advantage of the terror and despair of fleeing refugees to get more of them to leave the country. It is just the thin edge of the wedge of Nazi horror.

the problem is that an awful lot of antisemites – often unconsciously – do conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism. Indeed, they often just conflate Israelis with Jews. Yesterday on Twitter, a chap called Kenard told me: “Ken is an irrelevance with little influence, unlike a large number of Israeli’s [sic] who dominate the media and have done for decades.”

It seems clear what Kenard really wants to say: Jews. But because he has a vague awareness that isn’t allowed any more, he just substitutes the word Israelis. Or Israeli’s, because he doesn’t understand grammar as well as racism.

So that’s the problem with Livingstone’s statement. The interchangeability of Zionist with the word Jew means that in saying “Zionism is bad”, which is what Livingstone wants to do, he emboldens Kenard, and all those like him.

I’ll leave with the words of Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, before he went mad, according to Livingstone. So exactly in that period when he was, as we know, supporting Zionism.

I may have as much of a tin ear for meaning as Livingstone has for antisemitism, but I can’t, for the life of me, make this out to be as pro the idea of the creation of a Jewish state as Livingstone insists it is.

Source: Why Ken Livingstone has it so wrong over Hitler and Zionism | David Baddiel | Opinion | The Guardian

Additional: As a courtesy, I tweeted the above article to David Baddiel. Here’s his response:

I include it as an image because these things have a habit of being deleted. For now, the original is here.

You know, I was actually quite concerned about the reaction this article would get because of my experiences last year. On Twitter, might certainly makes right and I did attract the ire of people with enormous numbers of followers who also attacked me. I thought the article might attract something similar.

But to have a huge amount of careful research dismissed as “internet shite” by someone who hasn’t even taken the time to read it (and after a tweet from me that said, simply, that I wished he’d checked the facts)?

In the circumstances, I think the best reply is to note that I’m not the one who has reacted unreasonably.

Still, let’s not be overly judgemental – it’s that kind of attitude that caused the furore over Ken Livingstone’s comments in the first place. Perhaps Mr Baddiel is responding in this way because he has received more antagonistic tweets.

Maybe he’ll reconsider his position later.

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13 thoughts on “Why David Baddiel has it so wrong over Ken Livingstone and Hitler

  1. gfranklinpercival

    Mr Baddiel is still trying to be a comedian, it would appear. I did not find him up to snuff as such in the 90s, less so now. A historian he most certainly is not.

  2. Rusty

    I think everyone has “missed the point!” Nobody wants Israel to be criticised! Facts do not matter! Not every Jewish person supports Israel and not every zionist is Jewish but facts can be dismissed and will be by Mr baddiel!

  3. Paula

    Thank you for this commentary Mike. What I find deeply sad is that Baddiel had an opportunity to use his profile to provide some light on the situation, to build bridges, but instead he chose to ramp up the hysteria with an ill-thought out piece that is full of contradictions. If he cares so much about anti-semitism, why is he supporting a witch-hunt against someone whom even he doesn’t think is an anti-semite? I’ve put a link to this piece on the ‘Writeyou.co.uk’ website here http://www.writeyou.co.uk/jewish_members_alarmed

  4. anubeon

    “The interchangeability of Zionist with the word Jew means that in saying “Zionism is bad””

    Mr Baddiel ought to be equally furious with the efforts of overtly and uncritically Zionist organisations to conflate the two and cement the assumed link between Zionism and ‘jewishness’ at every corner then.

    Organisations like the ‘Jewish Labour Movement’ (in reality just a rebranding of the until recently defunct Poale Zion affiliate to the UK Labour Party) which has on at least one occasion made clear that an avowed belief in Zionism is a pre-requirement for membership (even to long-standing Jewish Labour members). So there we have it, a Zionist organisation masquerading as a ‘Jewish’ organisation, lead by those who would present themselves as the authentic voice of ‘The Jewish Community™’. That surely risks conflating Jewishness and Zionism, as much as the frequent mis-labeling of Antizionists, critics of Israeli policy or revealers of historically inconvenient truths as antisemites does also.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        There has been a certain amount of debate about this.
        According to Habonim Dror, a Socialist Zionist, Culturally Jewish youth education movement, Mr Baddiel is one of its graduates.
        He says he is not a Zionist, and in religious terms is atheist.
        But he has written an article that, as anubeon points out, works hard to mix anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism (by accusing supporters of the one with practitioners of the other). Of course, his premise relies on an underlying belief that all Zionism is bad – and that premise is false.

      2. Rusty

        True! You seen how the PLP has been over ran with right wingers, to me they are not true labour people with labour values, it’s the same with the zionist movement! They are now controlled by bad people so are no longer true zionist! But they use the name and now it has become a dirty word!

  5. Zippi

    Grrr! It is **** like this that makes me so mad! It is clear to me that Mr. Baddiel did not listen to the interview, just the edited clip so, he does not know what was said, nor the context in which it was said. Ken £ivingstone said, quite clearly, that it was [A.H.s] p o l i c y ! ! ! His policy! As for the conflation of Jew with Zionist, it seems that only those who claim this conflation have the ability to read people’s thoughts. Most people don’t know what Zionism is. As a black man, I can tell you that most racists are not calculated, nor are they that clever; if they mean Jew, they will say Jew. People who criticise Israel, as a political entity, will do so, because they feel it deserving. Not all Zionists are Jews.
    I am fed up of people accrediting to Ken things that he did not say, Vanessa did exactly the same thing with Naz Shah. I am fed up of influential people condemning Ken with no knowledge of the facts, merely ire, based on skewed media reporting and Vanessa Feltz’s lies, gross misrepresentation of the the facts and inflammatory presentation; it is like a form of mass hysteria. I am fed up of Dr. Martin £uther King Jr.’s words being used to further injustice. Seriously, what did Ken £ivingstone do that was wrong? I cannot believe that a year on, the lie is still being told! Vanessa has a lot to answer for!

    1. Harley Price

      I think he was the stooge to his brilliant parner Frank Skinner, he was the Eddie Little to Franks brilliance. They wheel him out every time we manage to get into an international football competition and they need to play the 3 lions on yr shirt video.

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