Ken Livingstone: gobshite yes, antisemite no

Ken Livingstone’s intervention in defence of suspended Labour MP Naz Shah was a political disaster.  He should have accepted that some of what Shah did was wrong; and pointed out that the reaction has been hysterical, that Shah is by all credible accounts not an antisemite,[1] that the party leadership responded swiftly and firmly, and that, while antisemitism must always be taken seriously, claims that Labour has an ‘antisemitism problem’ are devoid of factual basis.  Instead, he decided to bring up Hitler and Zionism.  The result is that a prominent Corbyn ally has been suspended, while the ‘antisemitism’ smear campaign has advanced to within an inch of Corbyn himself.

But while Livingstone’s comments were politically inept, claims that they were antisemitic—or even that they exposed Livingstone as a ‘Nazi apologist’—are absurd.

Here is what Livingstone said:

[When] Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.  This was before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

He subsequently clarified:

Back in 1932 when Hitler won the election that brought him to power, his policy then was to deport all Germany’s Jews to Israel.  That’s not because he was a Zionist, it is because he hated Jews.  And he then had a dialogue with the leaders of the Zionist movement, private, not him personally but his officials, privately discussing whether or not to proceed with that policy.  In the end, of course, he didn’t – he chose instead to kill six million Jews.

There are several historical inaccuracies in these statements, but the basic point—that in the early- and mid-1930s the Nazi regime and the Zionist movement engaged in talks and reached agreements to expedite the emigration of German Jews to Palestine—is supported by mainstream scholarship.

As early as 1933, the Nazi administration began discussing and implementing measures to promote ‘Jewish emigration from Germany’, while government ministries facilitated the work of Germany’s Zionist Federation.[2]  According to historian Francis R. Nicosia, there was ‘[t]hroughout the 1930s . . . almost unanimous support in German government and Nazi party circles for promoting Zionism among German Jews, and Jewish emigration from Germany to Palestine’.[3]   Here is one account:

The SD (Sicherheitsdienst), the [Nazi] party’s intelligence service . . . stated the matter clearly in 1934: to encourage the departure of the Jews from Germany, it was necessary to develop in them the consciousness of a separate identity.  Zionist organisations therefore received favoured treatment; their interests coincided here with those of a regime only too happy to see the proliferation of Hebrew schools, sporting clubs, and professional retraining courses geared to emigration to Palestine.  One of the Nuremberg laws, that concerning ‘the sanctity of German blood and honour’ which forbade the Jews to display the swastika, expressly authorised them to fly the blue and white Zionist flag stamped with the Star of David.[4]

Meanwhile, the responses of ‘some Zionist leaders’ in Palestine to the new regime in Germany ‘were not negative’, reflecting ‘a widespread hope that the Nazi policy of furthering Jewish emigration from Germany offered great opportunities for the Yishuv’.[5]  Indeed, ‘some of the earliest ideas and policy initiatives for the effective achievement of the Nazi goal of Jewish emigration came from Jewish, that is, Zionist, sources, and not from the Nazis themselves’.[6]  The Haavara (Transfer) Agreement of August 1933 was one example.  This accord permitted Jewish emigrants to Palestine to transfer with them part of their assets; as a result, ‘some one hundred million Reichsmarks were transferred to Palestine’ and ‘most of the sixty thousand German Jews’ who arrived in Palestine between 1933 and 1939 were able to secure ‘a minimal basis for their material existence’.[7]

To be sure, Nazi-Zionist cooperation was ‘instrumental’ rather than heartfelt: Zionists sought German Jewish capital to build up the Yishuv and believed emigration was ultimately the only hope for German Jews; while the Nazi regime desired Jewish emigration in itself and also expected the transfer agreement to yield political and economic benefits.[8]  This convergence of interests provided the basis for talks and a measure of cooperation until Nazi policy turned from emigration to extermination.

Labour MP John Mann accused Livingstone of ‘rewriting history’.  He might try reading some.

*

Livingstone’s other comments from the two interviews yesterday have been misrepresented in what has become the standard fashion.  (In the verbatim quotes below, italics indicate a question from the presenter.)

  1. What do you think ‘over the top’ really means? When I say, ‘was it [i.e. Naz Shah’s comments] antisemitic?’ and you say ‘no it wasn’t, categorically no, anyone who says it was is a liar, but it was “over the top”’—over the top of what?  Well, I mean, basically, you think of antisemitism and racism as exactly the same thing.  And criticising the Government of South Africa, which is pretty unpleasant and corrupt, doesn’t make me a racist; and it doesn’t make me antisemitic when I criticise the brutal mistreatment by the Israeli government.

The right-wing gossip blog Guido Fawkes, which is apparently unable to publish a sentence without an egregious falsehood, cherry-picked the first line of Livingstone’s response and glossed it as follows: ‘Ken: anti-Semitism is not racism’.  In spoken presentations, sentences are often imprecise, and meanings can be misconstrued.  (For instance, Prime Minister David Cameron today demanded that the Labour Party ‘recognise that antisemitism is like racism’.  Like racism?—somebody call John Mann!)  But in context, it is obvious that Livingstone was saying the precise opposite of what Fawkes alleges: that, in determining the line between legitimate and illegitimate (‘over the top’) remarks, one ought to treat antisemitism like other forms of racism; and therefore, just as criticising South Africa does not make one a racist, so criticising Israel does not make one an antisemite.

  1. What worries me is this blurring of antisemitism with criticism of Israel undermines the importance of tackling antisemitism. Someone who is antisemitic isn’t just hostile to the Jews living in Israel, they’re hostile to their neighbour in Golders Green, or the neighbour in Stoke Newington.  It’s a personal loathing just like people who hate black people.

Presumably, what was going through Livingstone’s mind here was: if a person is really antisemitic, rather than just opposed to Israeli policies, wouldn’t they also hate Jews in the UK?  This may be clumsily expressed, but in what universe is it antisemitic?

Livingstone did err in refusing to acknowledge that Shah’s use of the phrase ‘the Jews’ to warn about the results of an online poll (see here for details) was wrong.  This aside, the attacks against him—like the allegations of Labour Party antisemitism more broadly—are without foundation.

*

The only truly outrageous comments in Livingstone’s interview were made by presenter Vanessa Feltz.  At the outset of the exchange, Feltz led listeners to believe that Naz Shah MP had defended Hitler’s actions as ‘legal’.  This is simply false.  In 2014, before she was an MP, Shah shared the following image on Facebook:

shahpic

The quote is from that notorious antisemite, Martin Luther King, Jr.  In context, it reads as follows:

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal’.  It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.

I suppose, in the midst of this hysteria, it does need saying: King was defending civil disobedience, not Hitler.

It is easy to laugh at all this.  But it really isn’t funny.  After all, if Ken Livingstone is truly a modern-day Himmler, and if Naz Shah is truly akin to Eichmann, then might not their supporters and constituents conclude that maybe Himmler and Eichmann weren’t so bad?  This crude and opportunistic exploitation of antisemitism cheapens the memory of the Nazi holocaust and creates new antisemites who are sick and tired of the browbeating and bullying tactics.  Let’s be clear.  The problem is not that those prosecuting this dishonest and cynical smear campaign against the elected Labour leadership are oversensitive to antisemitism.  It’s that they are so profoundly contemptuous of Jewish suffering that, for the sake of their petty vendettas and tawdry factional jostling, they are prepared to put at risk the living and traduce the dead.

 


[1] Rudi Leavor, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and chair of the Bradford Reform Synagogue in Shah’s constituency, says forthrightly: ‘she’s not antisemitic’.

[2] Nicosia, Zionism, pp. 75, 79-80; cf. Yehuda Bauer, Jews for Sale? Nazi-Jewish negotiations, 1933-1945 (New Haven: Yale UP, 1994), p. 5.

[3] Nicosia, Zionism, p. 80; cf. p. 89.

[4] Philippe Burrin, Hitler and the Jews: The genesis of the Holocaust, introduction by Saul Friedländer (London: Edward Arnold, 1989), p. 46.  I am grateful to Norman G. Finkelstein for this reference.

[5] Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany & the Jews, 1933-1939: The years of persecution, vol. 1 (London: Phoenix, 1998 [1997]), p. 64.  The ‘Yishuv’ was the Jewish community in Palestine.

[6] Nicosia, Zionism, p. 78.

[7] Friedländer, Nazi, p. 63.

[8] Friedländer, Nazi, p. 63; Nicosia, Zionism, pp. 78-82.  Cf. Yehuda Bauer: ‘The Nazis wanted to get rid of the Jews, didn’t they?  And the Zionists wanted to absorb them gradually in Palestine—as moneyed settlers, not impoverished refugees.  Both sides, for opposing reasons, needed to maintain contact with each other, as only real friends and real enemies do.  The result was negotiations over the orderly exit of Jews with capital from Germany’. (Bauer, Jews for Sale?, p. 8)

30 comments

  1. […] “Ken Livingstone: gobshite yes, antisemite” (April 29, 2016) […]

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  2. Another very good piece. The only thing I’d add to the final bit is an observation I’ve made elsewhere before. Yes, the exploitation of a horrific phenomenon to dethrone Corbyn is cheap and cynical. But the other chilling racist belief buried in this tawdry formulation is that the only reason one might conceivably support Palestinian rights is anti-Semitism, and not an acknowledgment of their basic humanity and entitlement to the protection of international law.

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  3. “Instead, he decided to bring up Hitler and Zionism.” Well, no, he responded directly to a question which referenced Hitler – it was the interviewer who brought Hitler into it. Rather like your comment about Feltz’s misrepresentation of Shah’s comment on Hitler’s legality, Livingstone’s meaning was to say that ‘supporting zionism’ no more absolves you from being an anti-semite than opposing it makes you one. Clumsily expressed, to the point where it took me a long while to figure it out, but he was in no way expressing any approval of Hitler

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  4. […] KEN LIVINGSTONE: GOBSHITE YES, ANTISEMITE NO  https://jamiesternweiner.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/ken-livingstone-gobshite-yes-antisemite-no/ […]

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  5. Howard Harris · · Reply

    An excellent piece, but your treatment of the Facebook image used by Naz Shah is disappointingly limited, if not inadequate. Indeed, the article might be interpreted as suggesting the Facebook posting by Naz Shah is in some sense innocent or fair comment. First, the context you provide for the quote used in the image is entirely missing from the image itself: not only is there explicitly no reference to civil disobedience, the word legal is not placed in quotation marks. Second, the image is purposefully headed #Apartheid Israel. Now you do not require a PhD in hermeneutics to understand the intention of the Facebook posting is to suggest/imply/state, using conventions widely used in political posters and the like, an equivalence between Apartheid Israel’s policies towards Palestinians and those of Nazi Germany. It is important to recognise this has very little to do with reasoned discourse: at best this is a politically infantile gesture masquerading as witty politics; at worst, it is intentionally offensive, trawling in a familiar sewer. Feltz’s interpretation was, indeed, boneheaded, and misses the main point of the Facebook posting/image, but you are wrong to place ‘legal’ in quote marks as though this was in the image used by Shah and deliberately ignored by Feltz. Effectively you have criticised Feltz and exonerated Shah for using the image in the way she has. The article should have made it clear it is Naz Shah’s Facebook posting, not Feltz, which has perverted the intention of Martin Luther King, using him via a distortion of his words and his image to imply an equivalence between Israel and Nazi Germany.

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    1. Ian: Feltz mentioned Hitler, but it was Ken who decided to bring up the issue of Hitler and Zionism. That was politically stupid, for the reasons mentioned. Of course, I agree with you that he wasn’t expressing approval of Hitler: if I thought otherwise the headline to this post would be very different!

      Howard: Shah’s intention may well have been to make a comparison between the Nazis and Israel. So what if it was? You say it is intentionally offensive and/or infantile. Again, so what if it was? The accusation against Labour is not that it has an ‘intentionally offensive’ problem. It’s that it has an antisemitism problem. Shah’s posting has been cited as evidence for that claim – wrongly. You say that the image does not place ‘legal’ in quotes, as King’s original letter did. I hadn’t spotted that, but don’t think it changes anything; and I don’t see where I wrongly put quotes around the word. The image was made by some Tea Party supporter to compare Obama to Hitler and, presumably, imply the legitimacy of civil disobedience against him. The comparison was not intended as a complement to Obama. Equally, Shah did not intend the analogy, if indeed she was making an analogy, as a complement to Israel. If Shah, as you allege, distorted King’s meaning, this distortion would have to do with her comment above it, not the failure to include quotes around ‘legal’. Feltz’s implied ‘interpretation’ was not ‘boneheaded’, it was a despicable smear. It is not a trival difference of ‘interpretation’ whether someone (i) approved of Hitler or (ii) apparently compared Hitler to Israel in order to condemn the latter and/or justify civil disobedience against it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Howard Harris · ·

        “Shah’s intention may well have been to make a comparison between the Nazis and Israel. So what if it was? You say it is intentionally offensive and/or infantile. Again, so what if it was? The accusation against Labour is not that it has an ‘intentionally offensive’ problem. It’s that it has an antisemitism problem.”

        So what? If you check out the College of Policing (2014) Hate Crime Operational Guidance https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/major-investigation-and-public-protection/hate-crime/ you will see it incorporates The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) working definition of antisemitism, including “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” as one of the “examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel”. Further, this working definition was urged on the British government in September 2006 in the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Anti-Semitism, “26. We recommend that the EUMC Working Definition of antisemitism is adopted and promoted by the Government and law enforcement agencies,” a report which just happens to have been “commissioned by John Mann MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism.” (This working definition has also been recommended for use and guidance elsewhere in Europe and the US). The fact I do not accept this definition of antisemitism, which is why I intentionally did not use the word in my comment preferring instead infantile/offensive, doesn’t make it go away; nor does it mean everyone who does accept and use it is deliberately smearing people as antisemites. That’s what.

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      2. Adrian Lee · ·

        “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” as one of the “examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself … ” etc

        This is an example of badly framed legislation that leaves the ground open to blanket misinterpretation and misuse.

        I have no quarrel with the statement per se in that it is obvious to me that a person with a virulent anti semitic attitude and intent can and will use comparisons between the Nazis and Israel to (most often with a shrill and ugly triumphalism) declaim the awfulness therefore of, by implication, all Jewish people etc etc.

        However, in those instances where Israeli policies and actions of the Israeli authorities regulate the life (and death on the occasions where use of force in line with policy leads to this) of Palestinians in such a way as to be genuinely reminiscent of the laws and processes used by the Nazis (various examples abound such as collective punishment, expropriation and destruction of property, certain forms of incarceration, some of the armed actions resulting in death and injury, refusal of permission to build, expulsions, the invasion and holding of territory with the intention to declare it to be ones own inviolable national territory, etc) then in these instances it is patently not anti semitic to discuss the comparisons and nor is it necessarily anti semitic to be morally troubled or displeased about this and to express ones feeling on the matter.

        The law cannot have been framed to outlaw all such discourse as anti semitic hate speech or if it was it is a very bad law that needs to be repealed.

        If the citation is referred to in order to give an example of a scenario where the person speaking and making the comparison could have an anti semitic intention and that in real life this does happen frequently then that’s certainly a relevant way to elucidate what the law intends to cover, however it then needs to explain that not all instances of such comparisons should be taken as anti semitic.

        Overall the explicit description of such comparisons as falling within the ambit of anti semitic hate speech in contravention of law brings us very close to promulgating laws against thought crime – which is its own very thorny issue.

        Alas I don’t know whether Naz Shah or Livingstone were being anti semitic when they said and did what they did. I’m not inside their head so I really genuinely could not know that.

        I suppose the point of the law and the disciplinary processes within the Labour Party etc will be to test out what exactly can be concluded but there is certainly no reliable conclusion that can be presently drawn except that in both cases great offence has been taken by many people who feel that they are the target, unjustifiably, of the things that were said or posted.

        The Labour Party enquiry needs to look not just at the specific cases but also draw conclusions and express regulations about what constitutes not just anti semitic and other specific hate speech but the kind of aggressive rudeness in the expression of political points that in itself is outside the mores of and therefore inconsistent with membership of the Labour Party.

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  6. Adrian Lee · · Reply

    Finally some properly researched, careful and incisive analysis on this topic. A topic that only seems to elicit the baying of the mob – whether mainstream journalists who should be capable of this quality of coverage but almost universally refuse to or cannot do the job right; or the majority of our ‘great and good’ making facile pronouncements on the matter in service to their ulterior motives, or just plain stupid. Thank you, I’ve bookmarked your site, looking forward to hearing more on other topics too.

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  7. Mark1957 · · Reply

    Careful Jamie, though I agree entirely with your excellent assessment of all this, even ironically saying;

    “The quote is from that notorious antisemite, Martin Luther King, Jr.”

    Will leave you open to exactly the same spin and smear tactics. I would advise pointing out that irony, before the likes of Guido Fawkes turns their gaze this way…

    Like

  8. Ian1951 · · Reply

    Excellent debunking of the current media storm. And well written and researched. I only wish that an article like this would make it into the main stream media. I too have bookmarked your blog.

    Like

  9. […] Ken Livingstone, a former Mayor of London, appeared on LBC and the BBC to defend Shah against the charge of anti-Semitism. In doing so, he claimed that ‘when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy… was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism’. It is true enough that the Nazi regime and the Zionist Federation of Germany signed the Haavara Agreement in 1933. Nevertheless, Livingstone’s comment was crass and ill-considered, and Jewish listeners were right to rail against the suggestion that Hitler was ever anything other than an absolute and rabid anti-Semite whose support for Jewish emigration to Palestine was purely incidental. But can the former Mayor, who was also suspended from the party, reasonably be called an anti-Semite himself for what he said? The opinion of Jamie Stein-Werner — who has written perhaps the finest and most comprehensive analysis of the row so far — warrants quotation here: ‘gobshite yes; anti-Semite no’. […]

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  10. Valerie Goldthorp · · Reply

    I am a socialist, a member of the Labour Party and am Jewish by birth , Humanist by choice.
    I am amazed at the number of people who are rushing to Ken Livingstone’s defence…a man who likened a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard when he said he was just doing his job.
    Of course the Tories have sat on this story until the time was right to deflect attention from their dreadful , destructive policies…dismantling of the NHS, junior doctors dispute, compulsory academisation of schools etc. and inflict maximum damage on Labour.
    What a gift Ken Livingstone’s contribution has made!
    A naive young woman retweeted nearly 3 years ago…anti-Semitic nonsense, offensive and distasteful.
    By all accounts she has learnt a lot since, apologised, engaged with the Jewish community and has been suspended pending an investigation…action taken less than promptly but a situation that could have been contained and led on to rule changes ensuring swift action in future.
    What did she tweet?
    That Israel should be relocated, all Jewish inhabitants transported to America, where they would be welcomed, not hated as they were in the Middle East.
    This is anti-Semitic as it treats all Jews in Israel ,and implies all Jews everywhere, as if they all share responsibility for the policies and actions of the right-wing Israeli government including the shameful treatment of the Palestinians trapped in Israel and the occupied territories….land therefore need removing en masse.
    Many Jews inside and outside Israel do not support these policies and actively campaign against them.
    Not everyone in England supports the policies of the Tory government, only 24% of voters voted for them and many of them are shocked at what has been done in their name.
    Ken Livingstone defended her by announcing that in the early 1930s Hitler was a Zionist and had taken part in brokering a deal to expel all Jews from Germany where they were hated and persecuted and send them to live in Palestine.
    I can only assume KL was trying to say that we mustn’t jump to conclusions that people are anti-Semitic when they have the best interests of Jews at heart….Hitler, like Naz Shah, was trying to help them by getting them to a place of safety as an act of altruism!
    Shame that he then went mad and changed his solution to torturing and starving them, then gassing them and cremating them in ovens.
    However hard KL was pressed to apologise he refused and just kept repeating that his words were historically accurate.
    No one is denying that even though gassing was his preferred option 10 years earlier when he wrote Mein Kampf, ( an episodic mental illness obviously) but wondering how this is a defence of what the perpetrator, Naz Shah, has described as an anti-Semitic tweet for which she is deeply sorry?
    KL has made sure that this story will undermine the progress Jeremy Corbyn has painstakingly made in building a Socialist party to counteract the horrors of this right-wing government hell-bent on dismantling our society into profit-making opportunities for their grubby mates.
    KL has been suspended. I am sure he will continue to seek the attention he clearly craves.
    Perhaps we need to think of a country to transport him to where he will be loved, as an act of altruism obviously.
    Off hand, I can’t think of one.

    Like

    1. Anthony · · Reply

      Dear Valerie, I cannot with respect agree regarding Ken. He was 100% correct. The Stern Gang outlawed by the British during the Mandate of Palestine, had approached the Axis Powers. Please see below.

      http://articles.latimes.com/1989-03-07/news/mn-330_1_stern-gang

      Israel’s Jerusalem Post broke a national taboo today by writing of a 1941 link between Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Stern Gang and Nazi Germany.

      The episode, known to historians, is almost never mentioned in a country that reveres the memory of 6 million European Jews, including Shamir’s entire family, killed by the Nazis during World War II.

      The respected English-language daily, which bitterly opposes Shamir, broke the silence in an editorial blasting “obscene attacks” by the premier and other right-wingers on the Peace Now movement’s contacts with Palestinians.

      Noting that Shamir said there would be “no KGB in Israel” to hunt down Peace Now activists, the
      Post commented:

      “That might be reassuring, but for the disturbing memory (of the Stern Gang) . . . which, with the Final Solution already under way in all but name, sought out German cooperation in the setting up here of a Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis.”

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/on-the-middle-east/2014/apr/23/israel-palestinian-territories

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  11. […] week, Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves to defend Naz Shah, but what he said wound up getting him suspended from the Labour party. His most […]

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  12. […] week, Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves to defend Naz Shah, but what he said wound up getting him suspended from the Labour party. His most […]

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  13. If KL is an anti-Semite, that must be the first and only time that one has admitted to 6 million Jews dying in the holocaust. I’ve had the misfortune of wasting my time talking to real, actual anti-Semites, and I’ve never heard them say anything of the kind.

    I totally agree with the title of this post – if this leads to KL now sitting down and shutting up, nobody would be more pleased than me.

    As to Shah – it appears that she was reposting a map produced by Norm Finkelstein which superimposed Israel onto the USA, it happened a long time ago and she’s since apologised in public and in parliament for it. I’m not sure it is provable that this is an indication of out-and-out anti-Semitism on her part (she could, it appears, to be trying to use it as a not-funny joke like an Englishman saying that Scotland should be sawn off after an Independence vote and towed to the mid-Atlantic to see what Independence really feels like), but she should have had the political nouce to realise the way this would have appeared long before being caught up in this scandal. Even if it was fairly innocent, it seems fairly clear to me that real anti-Semites could have seized upon it as evidence of support for their wipe-Jews-off-the-map views.

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  14. Valerie Goldthorp · · Reply

    I have never heard a definition of anti-semitism that includes the proviso that one must also be a holocaust denier.

    Like

  15. Howard: Shah has been smeared for doing something she never did, namely, praising Hitler and the Nazis. As for what she did do: you’re right that the EUMC definition, which has been endorsed by some UK institutions, frowns upon the Nazi analogy. But even the EUMC definition does not say that all comparisons between Israel and the Nazis are antisemitic – it says that one must ‘[take] into account the overall context’. In this case, the analogy would seem to be: that both the Nazis and Israel made legal conduct which was nevertheless unjust, and, therefore, that civil disobedience was/is in both cases legitimate. I don’t see what about this ‘overall context’ evidences antisemitism. More generally, the EUMC working definition is a politicised joke (other examples it gives of likely antisemitism: applying ‘double standards’ to Israel; denying ‘Jewish people their right to self-determination’), and was dropped by the EUMC’s successor organisation, the European FRA. It has zero value for discerning antisemitism, but is tremendously useful for smearing critics of Israel and other political opponents, which is why it has gained such traction. (Incidentally, even the EUMC definition’s lead drafter has expressed ‘worry that some Jewish organizations’ are using the definition ‘in an inappropriate way’, i.e., ‘with the subtlety of a mallet‘.)

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    1. Howard Harris · · Reply

      I actually agree with what you have said. My point, which I could have made easily in face to face speech and am finding agonising here (!) is that this awful working definition has provided a context for many of the people who are pointing the finger at others and has seeped into various parts of the British state. Indeed, my own union UCU passed a motion rejecting the EUMC working definition in 2011 on the basis of the statement “Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus” and not long after John Mann called on the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) to examine whether UCU was institutionally antisemitic!

      Anyhow, I’ve taken up enough of your time. I will close by saying you are doing invaluable work and I am passing on links to your articles to all those I feel are capable of thinking about these matters. Sorry if I have caused any confusion in the way I have been expressing myself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No apologies necessary! I agree with you that the EUMC definition and its successors have helped shape how people interpret ‘grey area’ remarks. And certainly, not everyone who believes what Shah said was antisemitic, does so for cynical reasons. In general, I would make a distinction between the political operatives who have clearly orchestrated a campaign here, and everyone else. Cheers.

        EDIT: And there is also a third category, namely, journalists who repeat misrepresentations and falsehoods because they had no time or inclination to check them against the facts. I’d guess Feltz falls into this category.

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  16. Adrian Lee · · Reply

    Jamie and Howard – oh I see your subsequent dialogue between you has shed light on anything I was speculating about and commenting as to the framing of that legalistic definition that seems to equate comparison of Israel with the Nazis as antisemitism. I’m highly impressed with the quality of analysis and discourse on here and the fully referenced information that can be gleaned – so much better than what nowadays passes for ‘quality journalism’ in the Guardian. Thanks.

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  17. […] Labour antisemitism story” Really excellent piece by Adam Ramsay – essential reading. Jamie Stern-Weiner, “Ken Livingstone: gobshite yes, anti-semite no” Does what it says on the […]

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  18. […] week, Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves to defend Naz Shah, but what he said wound up getting him suspended from the Labour party. His most […]

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  19. […] week, Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves to defend Naz Shah, but what he said wound up getting him suspended from the Labour party. His […]

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  20. […] elle est faite par un Juif, c’est une analogie morale et généreuse.   La semaine dernière, Ken Livingstone a pris le micro pour défendre Naz Shah, mais ce qu’il a dit a provoqué sa suspension du parti […]

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  21. […] semaine dernière, Ken Livingstone a pris le micro pour défendre Naz Shah, mais ce qu’il a dit a provoqué sa suspension du parti travailliste. Sa […]

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  22. […] week, Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves to defend Naz Shah, but what he said wound up getting him suspended from the Labour party. His most […]

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  23. […] Source: Ken Livingstone: gobshite yes, antisemite no […]

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  24. […] The claim that there was a degree of cooperation between Nazi officials and the Zionist movement is in line with mainstream scholarship; to present it as somehow pro-Nazi is a […]

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