‘Is telling the truth anti-Semitic?’ Zionists should be careful how they answer

Ken Livingstone arrives at his Labour party disciplinary hearing [Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images].

One of the principle arguments against Ken Livingstone is blown away by the following letter, signed by 547 Labour Party members and supporters (it would have been 548 if This Writer had been offered the opportunity).

The principle point is this:

“Support for Zionism can go hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism” (emphasis mine).

It is supported by:

“Throughout the 1930s, as part of the regime’s determination to force Jews to leave Germany, there was almost unanimous support in German government and Nazi party circles for promoting Zionism among German Jews.”

This is, of course, what Ken Livingstone has been saying, so if anybody claims any kind of historical inaccuracy at all on his part, I think we all need to start asking serious questions about that person’s motives.

There remains the question of Mr Livingstone’s motives in mentioning the connection between German Zionism and the Nazis in response to a question from Vanessa Feltz.

Some have claimed that he was wrong to mention Adolf Hitler – but of course it is they who were wrong; Ms Feltz brought Hitler into the conversation.

Some have claimed that he was trying to stir up anti-Semitic feeling – but this implies a misunderstanding of the nature of the conversation.

It was about images re-posted on the social media by a woman who was later to become a Labour MP, in response to disproportionate aggression against Palestinians in 2014 by the government of Israel (a state which, while consisting of many Jews, includes gentiles in its parliament and which cannot, therefore, be considered to be representative of Judaism in itself).

One image suggested relocating Israel in the United States of America as a solution to the conflict. It had originally been created in response to an Israeli plan to move Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank to neighbouring Arab countries, whether they wanted to go or not, as a satirical “How would you like it?” comment on that issue. Naz Shah’s use of it emphasized the unhealthy relationship between Israel and US foreign policy.

Another image showed the police mugshot of a man of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity over the words “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal”. Ms Feltz referred to this as Ms Shah talking “about what Hitler did being ‘legal'”, omitting – by ignorance or design? – the fact that the gentleman in the image was civil rights icon Martin Luther King and his point was to condemn people who follow laws that are against human rights. Ms Shah’s words – “Apartheid Israel” – make it clear that she was highlighting Israeli policy towards Palestinian settlements, which was to put a wall around them. Of course, it was perfectly legal to institute apartheid against Palestinians because the Israeli government made all the laws in this regard.

So, faced with questioning about the legality of a government’s actions, and about the possibility moving an entire population from one land to another, why is it so appalling to some people that Mr Livingstone responded by quoting an instance from history in which a government actually did move many people from one land to another, entirely legally? It is a logical choice, if you know the facts of the matter. Think of Occam’s Razor – no more assumptions should be made than are necessary, when explaining a thing.

I thought at the time – and still think – that the real cause of the outrage is not the claim that Mr Livingstone’s words had any anti-Semitic context, but simply the possibility that many people had not realised that the German Federation of Zionists had worked with the Nazi government. Again, it’s the simplest explanation.

Perhaps that fact conflicted with what they thought they knew about history and prompted a strong reflex action against it? Then, when the story was proved to be correct, these people felt unable to back down, for reasons of their own?

Is it not possible that one or both of those explanations might just be correct?

I think so.

Or shall we all just sit back while history gets revised into nonsense because somebody has arbitrarily decided that the facts are anti-Semitic?

As Jewish and non-Jewish members and supporters of the Labour Party, we reject the call for the expulsion of Ken Livingstone. Those who call for a new disciplinary hearing simply because they didn’t like the conclusions of the previous one demonstrate contempt for democracy and due process.

A year ago Livingstone, responding to a question from Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London, said: “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.” There is nothing whatsoever antisemitic about this. Francis Nicosia, the Raul Hilberg professor of Holocaust studies at Vermont University, wrote in his book Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany (p79) that: “Throughout the 1930s, as part of the regime’s determination to force Jews to leave Germany, there was almost unanimous support in German government and Nazi party circles for promoting Zionism among German Jews.”

Is telling the truth also antisemitic? Support for Zionism can go hand in hand with antisemitism. What the campaign against Livingstone is really about is his longstanding support for the Palestinians and his opposition to Zionism and the policies of the Israeli state. Those who hope to throw Livingstone overboard today are preparing the way for Jeremy Corbyn’s removal tomorrow.
Miriam Margolyes Lambeth & Vauxhall constituency labour party
Oliver Gaggs Cambridge CLP
Rita Gaggs Cambridge CLP
Professor Richard Seaford Exeter CLP
Professor emeritus Moshé Machover Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Philip Wagstaff On behalf of South West Norfolk CLP executive
Professor Bill Bowring School of Law, Birkbeck College
Professor emeritus Jonathan Rosenhead Hackney South and Shoreditch CLP
Professor Haim Bresheeth School of Oriental and African Studies
Dr Tanzil Chowdhury School of Law, University of Manchester
Professor emeritus Wade Mansell Thanet North CLP
Professor Chris Knight Streatham CLP
Tony Greenstein Brighton Kemptown CLP
Jackie Walker South Thanet CLP
And 533 others
Full list of signatories at http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/letter-guardian-reject-call-expulsion-ken-livingstone/#more-3000

Source: We reject the call for Labour to expel Ken Livingstone | Letters | Politics | The Guardian

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11 thoughts on “‘Is telling the truth anti-Semitic?’ Zionists should be careful how they answer

  1. Jt Zoonie

    Zionism is political. Being Jewish is a religion. It’s a belief based on the old testement. And ansestorial teachings.
    The agreement between Hitler and the zionists existed. What is this silly argument about.
    I think this is a big indicator of how truth has disappeared to make way for sound bites and selling pappers

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The current version of this argument (v.3 or v.4, or maybe more, I’ve lost count) is about Ken Livingstone’s motive in mentioning a historical instance where a government legally moved people from one country to another, in response to questioning about a satirical image suggesting people could be moved from one land to another – and to questioning about the legality of what national leaders do.
      But keep your wits about you because it will probably all change again tomorrow.

  2. jeffrey davies

    ken spoke the true history yet for the blairites the greedie ones this is made into a lie against judism but then we can see it but like a dog with a bone the greedie ones will attack ken has he stands alongside corbyn hmmm

  3. Zippi

    I, too, wish that I had been given the opportunity to sign the letter!
    Vanessa did stir up trouble and I cannot remember the man’s name who came on the [first] programme, later. The media played and published an edited version of the interview – just what Ken said – and Vanessa’s programme played this all week, I recall, on her show, thus continuing to pour fuel onto the fire, which leads me to suspect her motives, because she was there, she knows what was said, she knows the context. Most people who commented on this issue had not heard the interview, only that edited clip and so did not know the context in which Ken’s comments came. The following day, Vanessa said these:
    “she [Naz Shah] posted a picture of a map of America with Israel superimposed on it and said, “it would solve all the problems in the Middle East if all the Jews were repatriated to America and her actual words were: if we get rid of foreigners from the Middle East, then we’ll have peace in the Middle East.”” UNTRUE.
    “She also said that Hitler was legal.” UNTRUE
    that Naz Shah said that [A.H.] “was right” UNTRUE
    and was “legally elected.” UNTRUE.
    Naz Shah said none of those things.
    If you look at the first image, of Israel sitting in the midst of the the U.S.A. and read HER [Naz’s] comments (of which there is but one), you can see, quite clearly, unless you choose not to, that it is a JOKE! the origin, as we know is Jewish and having re-examined it, after a year, it is even funnier, because, now that the nonsense surrounding Naz Shah has dissipated, it is clear how ridiculous it is.
    The second image, that of Dr. Martin £uther King Jr. and a quotation from his letter from Birmingham Jail is slightly different; it is not funny, nor is it intended to be. All that Naz wrote was #APARTHEID ISRAEL. Not only is the image of Dr. King but the quotation even credits him and the source and gives the year, 1963. Naz Shah had nothing to defend, or apologise for. Hypocrisy twofold. Even Vanessa’s political correspondent, Susana Mendonça, noted that Ken still didn’t want to apologise for “bringing Hitler into the equation.” Had she done her job, she would have known that Ken DIDN’T bring [A.H.] into the equation, Vanessa did, so, was she simply lazy, ignorant, or was she, too, deliberately misrepresenting the facts, in order to steer the audience in a particular direction?
    Anybody, today, who is still calling for Ken’s suspension, or expulsion, because of this, either does not know the truth, or does not care for it; the result is the same, to deny the truth.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I would make only one point in response: Naz Shah did have reason to apologise – for her comment in a third tweet, that “The Jews are rallying” in response to a poll about Israeli aggression against Palestinians. It was a poor choice of words and she later apologised for her mistake.

  4. Dave Rowlands

    “To single out Jewish self-determination for condemnation is itself a form of racism. “A world that closed its doors to Jews who sought escape from Hitler’s ovens lacks the moral standing to complain about Israel’s giving preference to Jews,” wrote noted civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz.”

    Quote from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/is-zionism-racism

  5. jcashbyblog

    I agree with the general tone; despite some very strange spelling…..
    Its a bit like Christians contradicting the New Testament on who crucified Christ in order to have a better relationship with those of Jewish faith.

  6. Roland Laycock

    At the end of the day its a sick Labour Party and Zionists seem to have a very strong hold over the Labour Party as they say money talks and the Zionists have an abundance of it

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