Former London mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended for effectively a year following the Labor Party tribunal hearing into his comments linking Hitler with Zionism – a grossly lenient punishment for something where only outright expulsion from the party would suffice. And now Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing demands to force him out.
This is what Corbyn had to say about Livingstone’s remarks (even though he also said he respects the panel’s decision):
“Ken Livingstone’s comments have been grossly insensitive, and he has caused deep offence and hurt to the Jewish community. It is deeply disappointing that, despite his long record of standing up to racism, Ken has failed to acknowledge or apologise for the hurt he has caused. Many people are understandably upset that he has continued to make offensive remarks which could open him to further disciplinary action.”
I say all of this as background for a piece on Ali Abunimah’s schmatta Electronic Intifada by one of their writers, the aptly named Asa Winstanley.
But Israel lobby elements within the party had pushed hard for Livingstone, long a supporter of Palestinian rights, to be expelled outright.
Livingstone vowed in a statement to fight the suspension.
“Today’s Labour Party panel extended my suspension for another year because of my political views, not because I have done anything to harm the Labour Party,” he said.
Livingstone is a left-wing veteran of Labour, and for decades led anti-racism efforts in local government in London.
The new suspension is “an attempt to protect Israel from criticism, while simultaneously weakening the position of the pro-Palestinian left in the party,” a statement by Jewish members of the Labour Party said.
“It is the verdict, not Ken Livingstone, that has brought the Labour Party into disrepute,” they asserted.
In April last year, Livingstone was asked in a BBC radio interview if a Labour lawmaker’s comments about Hitler’s actions being “legal” had been anti-Semitic.
He replied by referring to the 1933 Ha’avara agreement between the Nazi government and the Zionist Federation of Germany as Hitler “supporting Zionism” by transferring Jews to Palestine.
Moving the goalposts
After initially being suspended for “anti-Semitism,” the charges against Livingstone were changed to “bringing the party into disrepute.” Now he is accused of having “revised the history of the Holocaust.”
His suspension was the peak of a witch hunt manufactured by right-wing Labour lawmakers and their allies in the Israel lobby.
But the media obsession with the “anti-Semitism crisis” in Labour was highly exaggerated and, in some cases, outright fabricated.
Livingstone’s historically accurate comment about Zionism was met with a storm of attacks by right-wing Labour lawmakers and anti-Palestinian activists.
At the time, these forces were seeking to undermine the Labour leader in the run-up to May 2016 local elections.
Gloating over Ken Livingstone’s lenient punishment for outright antisemitism? Check
Justifying his comments linking Hitler and Zionism? Check
Painting the tribunal as a witch-hunt orchestrated by
the Jewish lobby “Israel lobby elements”? Check
Putting “anti-semitism crisis” in scare quotes, as if it is also something orchestrated by you-know-who, and not the real thing that it is? Check
Well done, Asa! I am really glad you wrote this, and that Ali published it. This vile piece shows what you guys and the EI are really all about.