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The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - ?dcVi]Vc ;gZZYaVcY

IMAG­INE A hostage sit­u­a­tion. The cap­tive’s fam­ily mem­bers are wracked with anx­i­ety, des­per­ate to come up with almost any so­lu­tion that might bring their loved one out alive and in one piece. They are ter­ri­fied at what the kid­nap­per might have in mind. He has made clear his loathing for both the hostage and his en­tire fam­ily. He has vowed to seek their “de­struc­tion”. As al­ways in such a cri­sis, there is con­tact be­tween the two sides. At one point, a pro­posal sur­faces that will keep the hostage alive for one more day. The kid­nap­per agrees be­cause he has spot­ted a way in which those ex­tra 24 hours might al­low him to profit from his hostage. The fam­ily say yes be­cause they think the ad­di­tional day might just al­low them to ar­range a res­cue. On the nar­row mat­ter of those 24 hours, there is agree­ment be­tween the two sides. On this one is­sue, their in­ter­ests co­in­cide.

As it hap­pens, the fam­ily’s plan does not work out. Their dreams of res­cue come to noth­ing be­cause the kid­nap­per turns out to be a ruth­less, in­sa­tiable killer. In the end, they see their loved one — along with many other rel­a­tives — bru­tally mur­dered.

Now imag­ine that, many years later, the fam­ily is as­sailed by crit­ics who say that the deal they struck with the kid­nap­per over that ex­tra day proves that the two sides were in­volved in “real col­lab­o­ra­tion”. In­deed, it proves that the kid­nap­per was re­ally “sup­port­ing” the cap­tive’s fam­ily all along, that he was, in ef­fect, an ally of their res­cue plan.

You’d hope that most peo­ple would laugh such a view out of court. That they would see im­me­di­ately its ba­sic er­ror: the fail­ure to take ac­count of the two sides’ ut­terly dif­fer­ent in­ten­tions. That they would un­der­stand that the kid­nap­per and the fam­ily were worlds apart be­cause, while one side sought the cap­tive’s tor­ment, the other sought his res­cue.

Of course no anal­ogy is ex­act, and many will spot the gaps in this one, but per­haps you can see the ba­sic par­al­lel. The claim by Ken Liv­ing­stone that Hitler was “sup­port­ing” Zion­ism — for which he has been sus­pended but not ex­pelled from the Labour party — rests on the Ha’avara agree­ment reached in 1933 be­tween the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion of Ger­many and the Nazi au­thor­i­ties and, cru­cially, on a read­ing of that ac­cord that chooses to ignore the po­lar op­po­site mo­tives of the two sides.

For the Nazis, the pact was a way to get Jews out of Ger­many be­cause, as Hitler had al­ready said pub­licly, they wanted to be “rid of them.” For the Zion­ists, the pact was a way to get Jews into Pales­tine, where they hoped to build a na­tional home where Jews might sur­vive and thrive in safety. One side sought Jews’ evic­tion, the other sought Jews’ es­cape. One side wanted to tor­ment Jews, the other to protect them.

This dif­fer­ence in in­ten­tion is the heart of the mat­ter. It’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a women’s refuge which urges an abused woman to leave her home and the abu­sive hus­band who pushes her out the door. They both want her out. But that does not make them al­lies or in­volved in “real col­lab­o­ra­tion”, any more than a hostage’s fam­ily be­come al­lies with a kid­nap­per when they try to ne­go­ti­ate a deal for their loved one’s free­dom.

Even to have to ar­gue about this is painful. To taunt Jews over a res­cue ef­fort, a sur­vival strat­egy, that went hor­ri­bly wrong is cru­elty be­yond mea­sure. To pre­tend that those who yearned for Jewish death were, in fact, “sup­port­ing” a project to se­cure Jewish life is not just log­i­cally ab­surd. It also seeks to put Jews and their geno­ci­dal mur­der­ers on the same moral plane.

It lo­cates Jews’ mor­tal wound, which is still weep­ing, and pokes and prods at it with sadis­tic glee.

And since mo­tive mat­ters, it’s worth not­ing the mo­tive of those who push this twisted ver­sion of his­tory. It is surely to de­prive Zion­ism of what they fear might be its trump card: the no­tion that the Holo­caust proves be­yond doubt why Jews needed, and might need again, a place of safety. If they can re­verse that logic, taint­ing Zion­ism by as­so­ci­a­tion with Nazism, they hope to erode for­ever the case for Is­rael’s ex­is­tence.

It’s hard to know how to deal with this at­tack. Should we get into the arena with Liv­ing­stone and his sup­port­ers, trad­ing foot­notes and dates from the 1930s, even though such an ex­er­cise is fu­tile against those who refuse to look at ei­ther con­text or in­tent? Or is the risk that, sim­ply by de­bat­ing it, we give this al­le­ga­tion of col­lu­sion the oxy­gen of pub­lic­ity, thereby do­ing Liv­ing­stone’s work for him?

Had Labour ex­pelled the for­mer mayor, it would have de­clared that such bo­gus his­tory, what a Guardian editorial rightly called “vin­dic­tive re­vi­sion­ism”, is un­wor­thy of de­bate. But Labour did not do that. So we have to do it in­stead — de­fend­ing our dead from the ac­cu­sa­tion that their killers were, in fact, their friends.

One side wanted to tor­ment Jews, the other to protect them

Jonathan Freed­land is a colum­nist for the Guardian

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