CST Blog

Ken Livingstone: Dragging us through the dirt

5 April 2017

This opinion piece, by CST's Mark Gardner, appeared in the online edition of the Jewish News on 5 April 2017. You can see the full article here.  

Ken Livingstone has dragged our Jewish community, Zionism and the Labour Party through the dirt. Labour’s NCC disciplinary panel agreed, finding he had brought the Party into disrepute.

The punishment for this? A slap on the wrist, a fudge, a suspension not an expulsion, a two year suspension of which one year has already been served. So, guilty? Yes. Punished? Well, kind of, but not really.

And found guilty of what exactly?

The NCC did not fundamentally rule on whether or not Livingstone is an anti-Semite. It did not rule on whether or not he pushed anti-Semitism. It did not rule on the impact of his actions upon both anti-Semites and Jews.

And so, we are left with more of the same from this current Labour Party. As with the horribly compromised Chakrabarti Report into Labour anti-Semitism, we have a nod to the fact that these things are not so good for Labour: but it just deepens our anger at the striking absence of any deeper understanding, sympathy and action in favour of mainstream Jews, Jewish Labour members and supporters.

As before, there are many Labour MPs who are furious and totally in our corner on this. They know what these controversies mean about the Party that they represent and belong to.

For now, however, this is all about Ken Livingstone. So, let us be clear on what he is doing. You do not need to be a Holocaust historian to understand it.

The Soviet Union and its Arab allies needed to remove the Holocaust from Zionism and Israel’s right to exist. The far left was only too keen to help, such as Lenni Brenner, the Jewish anti-Zionist who wrote the book that got Livingstone started on this.

The tactic was to tie Zionism with Nazism. It undermines the simple human conclusion that the Holocaust shows why Jews needed, and still need, a state in which they could decide their own destiny.

History is further twisted by how all of this helps to hide the immeasurably greater links between Arabs and Nazis, whether before, during or after the Holocaust.

Naturally, we argue back against Livingstone. History and morality compel us to do so. We must, however, realise that every time we oppose him, we are also doing his work for him. We are giving him the attention he craves. More importantly, we are giving his Nazi-Zionist claim even more publicity.

This repeats what is happening right now with another suspended Labour activist, Jackie Walker, who links Jews with black slavery, as if this was somehow more important than, or could even be measured next to, Christian and Muslim responsibilities for the slave trade. How many thousands of people are now aware of Livingstone and Walker’s claims, where previously they had not even considered such things?

Then, there is what has become known as “The Livingstone Formulation”. It is literally named after Ken Livingstone, because he has said, so many times, that what we call anti-Semitism is merely anti-Israel criticism. He adds that our complaints are being made, not in defence of Jews and morality, but to deliberately cover up whatever crimes Israel is being accused of. Basically, we are accused of being liars, working on behalf of a foreign country in order to conceal its alleged war crimes and racism.

Or, consider how quick Livingstone and his allies are to side with victims of racism, other than Jews. Think about what this means for how Jews are instinctively regarded and suspected in such left wing circles, both in their own right and also when compared with how other minorities are treated.

Finally, there is what brought us here. Livingstone’s comments were made in unwanted response to Naz Shah MP (Labour) being condemned for offensive social media posts. Naz Shah’s reaction was to be horrified at having done something anti-Semitic. She had no intention of being an anti-Semite. So, she apologised. She went further, meeting with many Jews to understand why they had been so offended. She altered her behaviour.

Naz Shah’s reaction should not to be extraordinary or even noteworthy. It should, in a place like the Labour Party, be utterly routine. Instead, it is in stark contrast with Livingstone’s repeat behaviour and how the Party currently stands.

[Image: adapted from Brisbane City Council

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