Former Labour Mayor of London Ken Livingstone is back in the news, getting sidetracked in his defense of his friend hit by rent boy allegations to double down on previous remarks he made linking Hitler with Zionism.
Livingstone is again being dishonest. Let’s look a bit closer at some of his claims.
Claim: He never said Hitler was a Zionist
Let’s look at what Livingstone actually did say back in April.
Vanessa Feltz: Do you still maintain that they [Shah’s remarks] were not [antisemitic]?
Ken Livingstone: No. She’s a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over the top. But she’s not antisemitic. And I’ve been in the Labour party for 47 years. I’ve never heard anyone say anything antisemitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of Israel and its abuse of the Palestinians, but I’ve never heard someone be antisemitic.
Feltz: She [Shah] talked about relocating Israel to America. She talked about what Hitler did being legal. And she talked about the Jews rallying. And she used the words Jews, not Israelis or Israel. You didn’t find that to be antisemitic?
Livingstone: No. It’s completely over the top [but] it’s not antisemitic. Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism. [He then] went mad and ending up killing 6 million Jews.
OK, so Livingstone did not word it exactly “Hitler was a Zionist” but he did claim Hitler “was supporting Zionism.” Not a huge difference. He did not just say “Hitler made a practical agreement with the Zionists” – he was deliberately trying to give the impression Hitler supported them. Suggesting Hitler supported Jewish aspirations for a home in their historical homeland of Israel is crazy – so I suggest Livingstone makes that doctor’s appointment anyway.
Claim: Chairman of the Board of Deputies opened his comments to antisemitism committee by claiming Livingstone said Hitler was a Zionist
Livingstone claims the Chairman of the Board of Deputies opened his comments to the antisemitism committee by saying “For Ken Livingstone to have said that Hitler was a Zionist is deeply offensive.” This is what the President of the Board (Jonathan Arkush) said:
Simply as a British citizen who lives and works in this country, as I have done all my life, I could not believe that I was hearing someone in political life say that Hitler was a Zionist. To me it was not just the most absurd and ridiculous thing, but it was a hateful thing to say.
So technically, he did word it similar to what Livingstone claims. But he did not open his remarks with this. You can see for yourself, or look at the transcript (it was a response to the 28th question). It might sound like nitpicking, but the way Livingstone frames it, it sounds like this is the main thrust of what Arkush said. It is part of what he said, but not all of it. I believe it is another example of how Livingstone subtlety plays with the truth to manipulate his audience.
Claim: The Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem sells pamphlets to tourists about the deal Hitler made with the Zionists
Early on in the clip, Livingstone claims Yad Vashem sells pamphlets to tourists, one of which is about the deal Hitler made with the Zionists. Perhaps it is the stench of Jew hatred emanating from Livingstone’s pores, but that struck me as containing subtle antisemitism in that it suggests Yad Vashem is somehow profiting from the Holocaust by selling flimsy pamphlets (as opposed to, say, history books). I have reached out to my friend who works there and she does not recall any pamphlets being sold there. Nor do I see it online.
(On this point, I might be reading too much into it, but again, given Livingstone’s other comments, I cannot rule out my theory).
More dishonesty and manipulation
Let’s go back to Livingstone’s statement in April.
Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism. [He then] went mad and ending up killing 6 million Jews.
Clearly, Livingstone was giving the impression that a sane Hitler was a supporter of Zionism before he “went mad” and killed millions of Jews. Compare to his message in the latest interview:
“[He] loathed and feared Jews all his life.”
Again, a subtle change in his message now, as he lies to save his political career.