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Ken Livingstone's chopped liver

20 May 2016 by Mark Gardner

Ken Livingstone is a left-wing anti-Nazi anti-racist former Mayor of London. David Irving is not, but was briefly famous for having lost a Holocaust Denial trial. Livingstone and Irving could never be accused of being natural bedfellows. There are, however, similarities:   

  • First, a strange and unpleasant compulsion to keep talking about Hitler, Nazis and the Holocaust.
  • Second, a troubling tendency to spin historical facts and contexts.
  • Third, a curious over-reliance upon unreliable sources.
  • Fourth, an unfortunate habit of making their enemies’ points for them. 
  • Fifth, further to all of the above, when in a hole, they just keep on digging. 
  • Sixth, a new point of similarity. The offering of prizes to those who can prove them wrong. For Irving, it was £1,000 for documentation showing Hitler knew of the Holocaust. For Livingstone, it is “a free meal for anyone who can prove what I said was wrong”. 

Even with the price of kosher food these days, Livingstone’s offer falls some way short of Irving’s.

The serious point, however, is to question whether or not Livingstone is even serious in his offer. What, for example, does he mean by “prove what I said was wrong”? Here is what he said:

[BBC interviewer] Vanessa Feltz: She [Naz Shah] talked about relocating Israel to America. She talked about what Hitler did being legal. And she talked about the Jews rallying. And she used the words Jews, not Israelis or Israel. You didn’t find that to be antisemitic?

Ken Livingstone: No. It’s completely over the top [but] it’s not antisemitic. 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. [He then] went mad and ending up killing 6 million Jews.

Ought we to prove that Ken Livingstone, a veteran anti-Nazi anti-racist, was wrong to say that Hitler’s madness only began when the Nazis started shooting Jews into death pits, developing gassing vans and then ending up with gas chambers.

Prove that he, an anti-racist, was wrong to turn a sensitive debate about antisemitism into his usual crass accusation that it is all, as ever, “a very well orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as antisemitic”. (The quote is taken from the same BBC interview with him, but is his usual shtick, so much so that these evasions are now called The Livingstone Formulation.)  

Prove that he, an anti-Nazi anti-racist, was wrong to echo the offence that he has made before to Jews, regarding Nazis.

Prove that he, an anti-Nazi anti-racist, should not be trying to somehow shoehorn Zionism and Nazism together, as if they are in cahoots.

Prove that he, an anti-Nazi anti-racist, should not risk sounding as if the moral stain lies with those who would have saved European Jews, by giving them physical refuge from Hitler.

Prove that he is wrong to keep on citing the warped historiography of a far left anti-Zionist propagandist, whose work lacks historical context, balance and accuracy. A propagandist who has been debunked by many real historians, including David Irving’s nemesis Deborah Lipstadt, see here and here by Michael Burleigh.

Finally, prove that he, a leading anti-racist, is morally and politically wrong to risk sounding as if he, relishes baiting Jews - as if he still regards their sincere concerns about modern day antisemitism as only being so much chopped liver


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