The spotlight on anti-Semitism on the Labour fringe seemed to have culminated with Naz Shah’s revelations. However, Ken Livingstone has taken the row to new heights.
‘Hitler was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews’ he claimed. Does Ken actually believe this? As though Mein Kampf was but a small blip in his otherwise egalitarian political life? An hour later Ken rang Sky News to claim he was ‘quoting historical fact’.
Ken also claims he has ‘never heard anybody say anything anti-Semitic’. He must have missed Gerry Downing’s ‘the Jewish question’ comments on the Daily Politics only a few months ago.
As many defending him are pointing out there is a difference between being anti-Semitic and criticising the Israeli government’s actions. It is true – there is – and the Israeli government should be criticised for its horrendous atrocities and human rights abuses in the Gaza conflict. But you can be a critic of atrocities in Gaza without appearing anti-Semitic. Rather simply, and seemingly obviously, we should always do so without positing some sort of Jewish conspiracy, as some who are defending Ken have, and without invoking Hitler as though he were a Zionist hero.
We must not accept the use of the atrocities in Gaza as a smokescreen for racist comments – just as we do not accept UKIP’s xenophobia, which they often hide behind the guise of ‘pressure on public services’. Doing so makes it much more difficult for credible criticisms of the human rights abuses to be taken seriously. It in fact damages the cause of a free Palestine.
It’s important for the leadership to be seen to be taking swift action on perceived anti-Semitism. This could be sink or swim for them. They have a choice between doing the right thing and protecting a friend.
Last November Simon Hardy of Left Unity claimed that Corbyn represented anti-racism and somehow this was a break from previous Labour ideology. He received a serious dressing down from Alan Johnson – ‘I’m an anti-racist … those are the principles at the heart of the Labour Party!’
Now is the time that we must prove both of them right. Ken must be suspended for his outrageous comment as must the small proportion of supporters who regularly say much worse. For the credibility of the party and the campaign for Palestinian justice Labour must demonstrate that in our modern society there is no place for any form of racism.
The whole Livingstone interview can be read here: https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/social-affairs/discrimination/news/74365/ken-livingstone-bbc-radio-london-israel-lobby-tries