Ken Livingstone and “Hitler Zionism”
16 January 2019
Last week, CST and the Antisemitism Policy Trust released the report, Hidden Hate: What Google Search Tell us About Antisemitism in the UK, authored by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. This used Google search patterns in the UK since 2004 to reveal attitudes in this country towards Jews. Searches about Zionism in the UK, including those that searched for “Hitler Zionism”, were included in this work.
In 2016, Google searches for Hitler and Zionism shot up after former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone was suspended by the Labour Party for saying that “Hitler was supporting Zionism.” Searches relating to Zionism rose 25-fold in April 2016, shortly after Livingstone’s remarks; 14 per cent of all searches relating to Zionism during that month were looking for information on Hitler and Zionism. Overall since 2004, the days with the biggest interest in “Hitler Zionism” searches were those following Livingstone’s statement in April 2016 and his subsequent disciplinary hearing the following year.
The United Kingdom ranks third in the world for searches relating to Zionism, behind only Israel and Lebanon. Searches related to Zionism are 29 per cent higher in the United Kingdom than in the United States. Most of these searches express curiosity about Zionism - the top searches include “Zionism definition” and “what is Zionism?” But the fourth most popular search is for “Hitler Zionism.”
Though it is likely that Livingstone provoked increased interest in “Hitler Zionism”, in fact, this phenomenon dates back much further. In March 2004, 25 per cent of searches in the United Kingdom about Zionism were looking for information related to Hitler and Zionism. It is important to view Livingstone’s statements as a symptom of a broader, pre-existing interest in Hitler and Zionism that was shared with others in the United Kingdom. However, the sharp increase in searches about Hitler and Zionism following his comments in 2016, suggests he may have brought this theory to the attention of an increased number of people who had previously not been aware of it.
Prior to the Livingstone statement, the period in which there were most searches for “Hitler Zionism” were July and August 2014, when there was a conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and southern Israel. While the research does not point to an increase in overall antisemitic sentiment during this war, there was clearly an increase in searches relating to Hitler and Zionism. Similarly, searches for “anti-Zionism” rose 9-fold during the 2014 conflict in Gaza and Israel. CST recorded a spike in antisemitic hate crime at that time, with 542 incidents recorded during July and August 2014. This is in contrast to the previous six months combined, where CST recorded 307 antisemitic incidents. During the conflict, CST saw the hashtag #HitlerWasRight trending on social media, implying that people are not only interested in understanding what is going on, but many hold deeply prejudiced views.