One day after it suspended MP Naz Shah for saying that Israelis should relocate to the United States, Britain’s Labour Party has suspended former London mayor Ken Livingstone for saying that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism.
In 2014, the year before she was elected to Parliament, Shah shared a Facebook post saying that Israel should be moved to the United States and tweeted a link to and article that compared Zionism to al-Qaeda. Her comments only came to light on Tuesday; by the following day, she apologized on the floor of the House of Commons after being criticized by Prime Minister David Cameron, only to be suspended by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn hours later.
Livingstone appeared on BBC Radio on Thursday defending Shah, saying that he never heard anyone in Labour say anything anti-Semitic. He then added: “When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
Livingstone has previously been accused of anti-Semitism. A High Court judge ruled in 2006, when he was mayor, that he had made “unnecessarily offensive” and “indefensible” remarks when he compared a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard. The Labour Herald, a party newspaper that he co-edited in the 1980s, was criticized for publishing a cartoon that depicted then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin as a Nazi officer trampling on Arab corpses, as well as publishing an article saying that Jewish leaders had “Used the sympathy stirred up…after the Holocaust for their own devious ends.”
In response to criticism of his most recent comments, Livingstone said that he acknowledged that Hitler was “a monster from start to finish” and didn’t mean to suggest that the Nazi leader was a Zionist, but maintained that he was citing historical “facts.”
Labour MP John Mann later confronted Livingstone in public and called him a “Nazi apologist.”
Mann was reprimanded by the party for initiating the confrontation.
I'm told that Team Corbyn wanted John Mann suspended but the whips office said no.
— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) April 28, 2016
Corbyn announced that Livingstone had been suspended due to “very grave concerns about the language he used in the interview this morning.” Corby also defended his conduct of the party in a BBC interview, saying, “Anybody that thinks this party is not cracking down on anti-Semitism is simply wrong. We have suspended where appropriate, we have investigated all cases. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form whatsoever in the party.” When asked whether Labour was suffering from a crisis due to its recent string of anti-Semitic incidents by party members in recent months, Corbyn pushed back, saying “It’s not a crisis. There’s no crisis.” He suggested that those who thought the party had an anti-Semitism problem may have ulterior motives because they are “nervous of the strength of the Labour Party at local level.”
“Ken Livingstone’s comments are appalling and inexcusable,” asserted Sadiq Khan, the Labour Party candidate for mayor of London. “There must be no place for this in our party.” Khan said earlier this month that the expressions of anti-Semitism in the party was “a badge of shame.”
Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC Television, said last week that a Jew voting for Labour under Corbyn would be like a Muslim voting for Donald Trump. Local Labour activists Gerry Downing, who had written about the need to “address the Jewish Question,” and Vicki Kirby, a former parliamentary candidate who once tweeted that Adolf Hitler might be the “Zionist God,” were readmitted to the party under Corbyn, only to be re-expelled in March following public outcries.
Reports emerged last month that most Jewish Labour MPs were on Corbyn’s “enemies list.” Longtime Labour MP Louise Ellman, who is the vice chair of Labour Friends of Israel and was reportedly on that list, said two months ago that Corbyn “has spoken out clearly that he is against anti-Semitism but it is not just about words, there has got to be some action, and we haven’t seen enough of that.” Ellman has been the target of abuse from Momentum, a grassroots organization founded to support the opposition leader. Corbyn himself has been criticized for praising Hamas and Hezbollah and meeting with Holocaust deniers and promoters of the blood libel before reaching his current position.
Liam Hoare predicted the rise of anti-Semitism under Corbyn’s Labour Party stewardship in Western Europe’s Most Powerful Anti-Zionist, which was published in the October 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine:
I do not believe that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite—although, at the very least, the sheer number of anti-Semitic individuals and organizations with whom he is connected calls his moral judgment into question. His associations show him to have been a bloody fool, an ignorant dope, or someone with a malevolent streak and a rotten core. I do not believe that he will ever be Prime Minister, which, in a sense, limits the damage he can do; damage to community relations between Jews and Muslims, the legitimacy of Israel in British public opinion, or to British foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Nevertheless, I cannot suppress my fear that Corbyn’s victory represents the final decoupling of Labour from both Israel and the mainstream of the British Jewish community. It may now be a relationship beyond repair. I worry that Corbyn, unable to see anti-Semitism on the Left or the correlation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, unable to even say the word “Israel” at a Labour Friends of Israel meeting, will not take Jewish concerns seriously; concerns not just over the British political climate regarding Israel, but over security for Jewish individuals and institutions.
[Photo: Channel 4 News / YouTube ]