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

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

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