Ken could be i]Z ÒcVa higVl

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - IgVXn"6cc DWZg­bVc

IWAS HON­OURED to pre­sent the award for best sup­port­ing ac­tress to the bril­liant Noma Dumezweni at the Olivier Awards. It was a won­der­ful night of cre­ativ­ity. But along­side a large num­ber of my fel­low Jewish writ­ers, per­form­ers, pro­duc­ers and de­sign­ers there was re­ally only one topic of con­ver­sa­tion — Ken Liv­ing­stone’s ob­ses­sion with 0.2 per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion and Hitler. The for­mer MP for Brent East, for­mer Lon­don Mayor and for­mer ra­dio host (note: he has a lot of spare time th­ese days) has used the down­time to warm to his theme.

Is­raeli pol­i­tics is a mine­field and jus­ti­fi­able crit­i­cism is de­served. Ev­ery car­ing per­son longs for a peace­ful so­lu­tion to the de­press­ingly end­less con­flict. But Ken goes above and be­yond to make a “point”. In the ’80s, as editor of the Labour Her­ald, he sug­gested that Zion­ists pre­vented the res­cue of Europe’s Jewry from an­ni­hi­la­tion. He al­lowed a cartoon of Me­nachim Be­gin, in full Nazi re­galia, to be pub­lished. In analysing why there was a sup­posed drop in Jewish sup­port to the UK Labour Party in the mid ’80s, he said it aligned with Be­gin’s lead­er­ship: “The Jews be­came re­ac­tionar­ies, turned Right, nearly to be fas­cists”. That’s Jews, not Is­raelis.

I, for one, can never forget Ken­neth turn­ing on a Jewish Evening Stan­dard re­porter and com­par­ing him to a “con­cen­tra­tion camp Guard”. And of course there’s the now in­fa­mous re­mark he made con­cern­ing Hitler: “He was sup­port­ing Zion­ism… this be­fore he went mad and killed six mil­lion of them”. Talk about a re­duc­tive state­ment of the world’s most hor­rific in­dus­tri­alised geno­cide.

Of course, he has form on this mat­ter, de­scrib­ing Jews as pre­dom­i­nantly rich. (He should meet some of the fam­i­lies I’ve met). He clearly be­lieves that the es­tab­lish­ment of the heinous State of Is­rael was birthed out of the smoul­der­ing corpses of the six mil­lion of Europe. One way to go for com­plete dele­git­imi­sa­tion and shame for any­one who sup­ports the coun­try’s need to ex­ist.

Pre­sum­ably, em­bold­ened by his friend Jeremy Cor­byn, and the com­rades in arms from the Old School Left days, Ken has spent a year loudly stat­ing as “fact” that the Nazis and the Zion­ists were in col­lab­o­ra­tion to set up a Jewish state. Any­one who can dis­tort the Ha’avara Agree­ment of 1933 to sig­nify Nazi sup­port for Jewish self-de­ter­mi­na­tion in hav­ing a home­land, has a prob­lem with Jews. Ken has played his “Zion­ist”card and it ap­peals to both Left (Ge­orge Gal­loway) and Right (Nick Grif­fin).

As my friend David Bad­diel pointed out, ref­er­enc­ing the twisted in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ha’avara, “there’s no sym­pa­thy, no com­pas­sion, no sense of tragedy”. An­other ar­ti­cle pointed out: “It’s akin to say­ing the Na­tional Front in the ’80s sup­ported the Bri­tish Afro Caribbean com­mu­nity by of­fer­ing to pay their fare home”. Put Ha’avara into your search en­gine and see the fa­nat­i­cal racist an­tisemitic sites that it links to. To ma­nip­u­late its ex­is­tence as em­piric ev­i­dence of a con­spir­acy and col­lab­o­ra­tion is to prop­a­gate a racist trope.

Liv­ing­stone has re­peated his “fact” end­lessly even since his sec­ond year of sus­pen­sion from the party. So much so that a web­site has been set up called Days Since Ken Liv­ing­stone Has Men­tioned Hitler. You’ve got to laugh.

Ken was my MP for years. I met him on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. I voted for him. He wasn’t the most like­able man on the planet but he did some great things. It is all marred for me now.

My im­mi­grant East End her­itage, that of Harold Pin­ter, Bernard Kops and my men­tor Arnold Wesker, was steeped in Labour. Fol­low­ing in­ci­dent after in­ci­dent, not just in­volv­ing Ken, I ask the ques­tion on be­half of ev­ery­one I know. Why is the Labour Party not chal­leng­ing this par­tic­u­lar strand of racism harder? I my­self fully ex­pect a bar­rage of abuse by writ­ing this piece: it’s hap­pened be­fore by those buoyed up by the Labour’s Party choice not to take real ac­tion. I feel po­lit­i­cally or­phaned, and come this elec­tion I’m very torn. Ken may have been the fi­nal straw.

He did great things. It’s marred for me now

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