Socialist Worker

Ken Livingstone, Labour and the fight against antisemitism

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2549

Newspaper coverage last year of Livingstones remarks about Zionism and Hitlers policies

Newspaper coverage last year of Livingstone's remarks about Zionism and Hitler's policies


Everyone should stand against the attempt to force the Labour Party to expel Ken Livingstone.

On Tuesday Labour’s disciplinary panel found Livingstone guilty of bringing the party into disrepute. This followed remarks he had made about Zionism and Hitler’s polices in the early 1930s.

The panel’s sentence was that he be barred from holding office within the party or attending meetings for a further year.

It reached no conclusion on his claims about Zionism. The panel simply agreed he had caused widespread offence.

That was not nearly enough for many Labour figures. Deputy leader Tom Watson said the decision to allow Livingstone to return to the party was “incomprehensible”.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said it was “deeply disappointing”.

Over 100 Labour MPs have signed an open letter calling on the party to expel Livingstone, who it accused of “antisemitism and Holocaust revisionism.”

It is a disgrace that such an important topic is being used for political gain.

Livingstone has a strong anti-racist record. He used his position as Mayor of London to support anti-racist causes at a time when they were far less widely officially accepted than they are now.

As an MP and campaigner he has continued to back initiatives against racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.

This does not mean that everything Livingstone has done is right or helpful.

Discredit

Livingstone wanted to discredit Zionism and the Israel state. But the way he has gone about it has made life easier for the supporters of Israel.

As John Rose wrote in Socialist Worker last year, “Traps must be avoided which favour our opponents.

“Ken Livingstone created then walked into precisely such a trap. The argument about Zionist collaboration with the Nazis has been around for a long time. It is rightly ignored by solidarity activists with Palestine.

“Ken, as a seasoned campaigner, should have known that. It’s true that when Hitler came to power some Zionist leaders stupidly thought that they could do a deal with him that would enable some German Jews to go to Palestine.

“But Ken should have known that this disgraceful manoeuvre bitterly divided the Zionist movement.

“Many young Zionists, in particular, were outraged. They took for granted you had to fight Hitler to the death.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Pic: Garry Knight)


This issue is being used for two main purposes: to push back against solidarity with Palestine and to carry on the battle against Jeremy Corbyn.

Terrified

Israel is terrified that more and more people (including many Jews) are sickened by its oppression of the Palestinians, the illegal settlements, the savaging of Gaza and the remorseless suppression of protests.

Its leaders fear the growing strength of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Therefore they seize on every opportunity to say that attacks on Zionism and Israel are always antisemitic.

Such lies have to be confronted. Socialist Worker will continue always to oppose antisemitism.

But it is not antisemitic to argue that Israel was created as an agent of imperialism in the Middle East and continues to play this murderous role.

Support for Israel is a rallying issue for the Labour right and the Blairites. They are particularly keen now to use the issue of alleged antisemitism against Corbyn.

That is why he is making a gross mistake by not standing up to the storm. He has denounced Livingstone and said that the national executive will consider further disciplinary measures against him.

Such compromise with his enemies, has happened far too often. It will not satisfy his critics, it will embolden them.

Over this issue it will ensure that anti-Zionists come under even greater pressure. For example, Jackie Walker, who is also suspended for alleged antisemitism, will be sentenced in the near future. She is unlikely to have any sort of fair hearing.

And the calls for Corbyn to go will grow stronger. The Labour right and the Zionists have to be pushed back.


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