Labour must beware a witch-hunt aimed at undermining its leader and outlawing justified condemnation of the racist Israeli regime
KEN LIVINGSTONE must realise that his radio defence of Naz Shah, the MP for Bradford West currently suspended for allegedly anti-semitic Facebook posts made, has intensified the problem he sought to address.
To say that Hitler “was supporting zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews” is a misrepresentation of early nazi plans to expel Jewish people from Germany.
Livingstone was attacking the political ideology of zionism, not Jewish people.
It is also evident that Shah’s posts — made in 2014 before she was even a member of the Labour Party, and for which she has fully apologised — were foolish, but not racist.
For the former mayor of London to wade into a row over anti-semitism and compare zionists to nazis was a serious misjudgement and could have been predicted to whip up the storm now battering the Labour Party.
But if it’s easy to see why Livingstone should not have said what he did, it is also true that many of the voices raised in anger are disingenuous — if not downright dishonest.
Since before Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader there has been a concerted effort to smear this lifelong anti-racist campaigner as somehow soft on anti-semitism, most infamously in an absurdly biased interview conducted by Channel 4’s Cathy Newman last August.
Anti-semitic smears were also cooked up as part of the campaign to deny leftwinger James Elliott a seat on Labour’s national executive committee, as revealed by the Morning Star on February 26.
Cross-bench peer Baroness Neuberger was banging the same drum this week, claiming that the supposed prevalence of anti-semitism in the Labour Party is “attached to Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader” because anti-Jewish racism was “an issue with the hard left.”
Anti-semitism is utterly unacceptable wherever it is found — but the baroness should note that Britain’s rotten Establishment has a far darker record of this disgusting prejudice than the socialist and communist left, which mobilised to beat the fascists on Cable Street 80 years ago and has been at the forefront of anti-fascist work in organisations such as Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism ever since.
So what’s really at work here?
Scattergun accusations of anti-semitism have long been used by supporters of Israel to shut down criticism of that country’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, rampant colonisation of conquered territory, ethnic cleansing of Arab areas and systematic racial discrimination against its Arab citizens.
A country whose prime minister refers to Palestinians as “wild beasts,” whose Justice Minister calls Palestinian children “little snakes” and whose armies kill Palestinians with impunity on a regular basis might legitimately be considered a pariah.
But David Cameron and his Cabinet cronies aren’t accused of being soft on racism when they appear on platforms with these murderous bigots.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the Labour leadership panics Israel apologists because if he became prime minister he might effect real change in British foreign policy, ending our cosy relationship with Tel Aviv and putting pressure on it to end the occupation and stop sabotaging the prospects of an independent Palestine.
Similarly, Corbyn’s leadership panics the entire Establishment because if elected he might effect real change to an economic system that enriches the privileged few at the expense of everyone else.
Those MPs of all parties desperate to maintain the unjust and unjustifiable status quo do not for a moment believe that Labour has an anti-semitism issue — but they are happy to take aim at the Labour leader with whatever weapon comes to hand.
The left and the labour movement cannot fall into the trap.
We must make it clear that we will not tolerate any form of racism in our ranks — but that slanderous bids to destabilise the Corbyn revolution with concocted scandals will be exposed for the dirty tricks they are.