Livingstone on antisemitism

28 Aug
this post also features on offguardian

Back in April 2016, at the time of the suspension from the British Labour Party of Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone, I wrote:

Thinking people can go into a tailspin of despair when confronted with the stark truth they’ve overestimated the power of reason. Yesterday self righteousness, pack instinct, unthinking emotionalism, malice and rank opportunism swept reason aside in the Labour Party.

I took the matter seriously, but not seriously enough. At the time the brouhaha seemed just one more attack – of a piece with those on bombing Syria, shooting terrorists for Laura, losing Scotland for Labour, Virgin Traingate (did you spot the anachronism there?) and lamentable dress sense – on what Jonathan Cook recently and with characteristic cogency called “an old school socialist Labour Leader, whose programme threatens to loosen the 40-year stranglehold of neoliberalism on British society”.

In short I was complacent. I failed to foresee that the antics of John Mann – who under Labour rules should have had the whip withdrawn, while finding himself on the losing end of a slander writ – would prove an opening shot in the most damaging line of attack to date on a leader with the biggest mandate in living memory. That was dim of me. The coming together of two powerful forces, the Israeli lobby and right wing Labour, both with the full blooded support of ‘liberal’ media, should have sounded warning bells louder than they did.

Since Corbyn had few high profile allies, the loss of Ken Livingstone was a serious blow and he’s been on the back foot – too much say many of us – ever since in respect of the antisemite smears. All the more reason then, with the slurs coming much thicker and very much faster than in April 2016, to hear from Livingstone himself, writing today in Russia Today.

Smearing critics of Israel undermines importance of tackling genuine anti-Semitism

Ken Livingstone: Smearing critics of Israel undermines importance of tackling genuine anti-Semitism

Whilst the issue of Britain leaving the EU has dominated our media for the last two years, a close runner-up has been much of the media claiming the Labour Party has a major problem with anti-Semitism.

Last week an opinion poll found that whilst 36 percent of Brits think there is a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, 38 percent disagree, leaving 26 percent undecided.

In nearly 50 years as a Labour Party member I never saw a Labour MP raise a single issue of anti-Semitism until two and a half years ago when the left-wing candidate for the youth seat on Labour’s National Executive Committee was accused of being linked to anti-Semitism. Weeks later an independent report revealed there was no such problem, but the smears led to the defeat of the candidate.

Eighty Jewish Labour Party members wrote a letter stating that in all their hundreds of years in the party none of them had ever heard or seen a single incident of anti-Semitism. I had been doing many interviews, pointing out that this was a distraction to undermine the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – our first socialist leader in over a generation …

Read the rest of Livingstone’s article here …


Postscript the following day, August 29. This morning the Guardian runs a decent opinion piece by Ahmed Samih Khaladi. It’s pretty good and I don’t want to sound churlish, really I don’t. I wasn’t born with a mistrust of the Guardian, you know. I came to it slowly and with reluctance. But this is how liberal media shore up reputations for fairminded and fearless truth-seeking, committed to plurality of viewpoint. They toss a progressive bone or two when it’s affordable and when their reputations have come under particularly heavy fire.

I note too that the piece has not been opened up for comment, but enough of the carping. Here’s a couple of extracts from Khalidi’s piece, which I recommend reading in full.

Jewish opposition to Zionism has a long and distinguished history. Furthermore, the Palestinian historical narrative has been largely vindicated, in part by Israeli and Jewish historians, and Jewish voices in support of Palestinian rights today abound. Using the charge of anti-Zionism as a tool to silence critics of today’s Israel is the last resort of those seeking to deflect attention away from the egregious path that Israel appears to have chosen. It wants to have it both ways, on the one hand to charge with racism those who conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism. On the other hand,it accuses those who refuse this conflation, of antisemitism on the grounds that anti-Zionism denies the Jews the right to self-determination. By this token, any criticism of Israel or Zionism becomes a slur on the Jewish people. The insidious goal of the “anti-anti-Zionist” campaign is to silence the Palestinians and their supporters and to smother them with the charge of racism. No one should fall for this or accept it

And a little further down …

The Labour party’s Zionist roots run deep – its intellectuals and party leaders have all been deeply immersed in a Zionist/socialist ethos that has long been bent to defend and serve the Zionist enterprise both pre- and post-state. The party’s 1943 adoption of ethnic cleansing (“let the Arabs be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in”) sent a strong signal to the Jewish leadership as to the boundaries of the possible in Palestine. Today Corbyn stands alone among Labour leaders for his open support of the Palestinian cause. This is a remarkable historical turnabout and one that the Palestinians should be unequivocally grateful for. The trouble is that he has singularly failed to make the case in his own defence. Under a barrage of attacks on the antisemitism issue, he has retreated and backtracked, mumbled and fumbled as if he has something to hide, thereby undermining his credibility as leader and peacemaker alike.

Note those last two sentences. Khalidi elaborates on the point I make about Corbyn being too much on the back foot. Many will see this as a personal criticism. Not me. What I see is a decent and principled man locked in by the painfully narrow limits of the ‘parliamentary road to socialism’. Somebody please help me out here, since (a) capitalism is killing us all, and (b) none of the other roads on offer have a shred of credibility.



11 Replies to “Livingstone on antisemitism

  1. Thanks for this. I was on Mondoweiss and Norman Finkelstein wrote an excellent article on why the Labour Party should have nothing to do with this new IHRA “anti-semitism” malarky. It’s worth a read.
    • Why the UK Labour Party should not adopt the IHRA Definition or any other definition of anti-Semitism
    Mike Sivier has a post which provides a link to the PDF showing the egregious Change. org petition, most of which is outright lies and certainly all distortions. It has been suggested that a complaint to the Charities Commission, who are apparently looking into it, would help, but I can’t see it myself. I left Avaaz(George Soros funded) and precisely because they were bought and paid for by billionaires and therefore promoting spurious agendas.

    • Finkelstein’s a voice that needs to be more widely heard, Susan. Thanks for the link. Yeah, well, less said the better.

  2. You do well to publicise Ken’s excellent article. And RT did well, too to publish it.
    Had a malicious political scientist set out to reproduce the optimum conditions in which to foster an anti-semitic mass movement he would have acted as the Israeli government and its allies in the UK, including both neo-liberals, afraid of the programme of reform advanced by Jeremy Corbyn, and warmongers, committed to supporting the regime in Jerusalem have done in the past months.
    Millions of ordinary people in the UK and hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members are seriously invested in the election of a government which will restore not only institutions such as the NHS but a long list of traditional rights in the workplace and the community which have been taken from them in the last few decades. This is a campaign entirely situated within the constitutional and Parliamentary framework – rickety and unreliable though it has proved to be.
    To be faced, at a time when a long awaited victory appears to be in sight, a victory which has required the patient redconstruction of democracy within the Labour Party, and comes after long years in which the aspirations of the poor and the marginalised have been trivialised and ignored, with a campaign to decapitate the popular movement, is calculated, among the millions whose futures depend upon a socialist government and a thoroughgoing reform of society, to cause enormous anger.
    The fact that this campaign against Corbyn has one of its centres in the Israeli government, is financed by Israeli ministries and is directed by the Israeli Embassy is not passing unnoticed.
    That the campaign is entirely spurious and without the tiniest shred of legitimate basis in reality is bad enough ; what makes it particularly dangerous is that this shallow and dishonest essay in the sort of propaganda expected of fascists appears to be espoused by those claiming to be the elected representatives of the Jewish community..
    Thus on one side of the equation are millions of ordinary and, particularly young people attempting to use their electoral rights to change society better for themselves and for the weak and vulnerable in general. And on the other side, using every dishonest trick in the book and employing the vast power of a media dominated by oligarchs bent on preserving the status quo and supported with the bottomless resources of an aggressive foreign power, are persons claiming that they act on behalf of British Jews. That this is a lie and that a substantial minority if not an actual majority of Jews is actually appalled by the behavior of the likes of Rabbi Sacks, and regards Corbyn as a long time friend of those victimised by antisemitism, is hardly open to doubt. But it may not be enough in an intellectual climate in which truth telling is regarded as a weakness and the dark arts of fascist propaganda are acceptable in public discourse.
    Almost all the charges laid against German Jews by the Nazis were lies and falsehoods, so, we all know, are those being laid against Corbyn and Livingstone. Those making these false charges are playing a very dangerous game, not least because what is really at stake here is the future of the United Kingdom and its people, currently being jeopardised in order to spare Israel the embarrassment of behaving itself decently.

      • The hypocrisy and/or stupidity of the Labour right is all the more sickening given its cheering on – in the name, naturally, of True Democracy – of the CIA backed Orange Revolution in Ukraine. The one that brought real antisemites – but NATO friendly ones – to power in Kiev.

    • Just checked him out, Sue. I see he’s based in Yorkshire and works for the Co-op. It’s 04:00 and, unable to sleep, I’m reading his interview with Marc Ellis.

      Ellis’s judaeo-theology slant is a tad off my radar. I think of myself – no doubt with a scintilla or two of grandiosity – as a dialectical materialist who hasn’t totally lost sight of the spiritual, but it’s a fascinating read and I’m extending your recommendation. Thanks for the pointer.

      Now I’ll get back to Cohen on Ellis, while normal folk sleep their sleep and dream their dreams …

  3. According to Craig Murray the government may be planning to move the British embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That would be a pretty generous payment to the likudniks for the campaign against Corbyn.
    Note too the entirely gratuitous addition, by Frank Field, of ‘anti-semitism’ to the reasons he has given for resigning the Labour whip. I am beginning to suspect that MPs who accuse Corbyn of anti-semitism receive cash payments- say 5 thousand in a brown envelope- every time that they do so.

    • What?!? £5k a pop for calling JC an antisemite? I’ll do it – every man has his price!

      Oh, hang on … I just knowed there’d be a catch. You gotta be a Labour MP to collect? Damn.

      On a serious note, glad you mention Frank Field, bevin. Some of us have memories as far back as the 1987 general election, when Labour activists backing left candidate Lol Duffy worked their arses off to challenge Wallasey incumbent, Cabinet Minister Lynda Chalker. From neighbouring Birkenhead Frank urged Wallasey to vote Chalker, who scraped back in by a margin of 279 votes. This, as anyone who’s studied ‘parliamentary socialism’ – Ralph Milliband’s book of the same name is excellent on this and related matters – is by no means isolated. Right wing (‘moderate’ in media speak) Labour has a record long as your arm of preferring Tory over left Labour candidates.

      Was Frank subjected to party disciplinary proceedings for such egregious disloyalty? Answers on a postcard please to Steel City Scribe …

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