Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the Labour Party for making allegedly “antisemitic” statements. But Livingstone claims that he was not saying anything antisemitic and was only relating historical events when he said Hitler supported Zionism when elected to the leadership of Germany in the 1930s.
So: what did he actually say? According to the Independent, Livingstone said:
“[Naz Shah] is a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over-the-top but she’s not antisemitic. 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 the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians but I’ve never heard anyone say anything antisemitic.“It’s completely over the top but it’s not antisemitism. 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 – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.
“The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians; and there’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.”
About the “Hitler supporting Zionism” point (which I have emphasized above): that’s not an antisemitic statement, it’s about what Hitler said and did “before he went mad”. Interestingly, in 2015 the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Hitler wanted to deport German Jews to Palestine, and that the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, opposed this and told Hitler to kill them instead:
In a speech before the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu described a meeting between Husseini and Hitler in November, 1941: “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (to Palestine).’ According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: “What should I do with them?” and the mufti replied: “Burn them.” [link]
If we are to take Livingstone’s statement as antisemitic, we must also say that Benjamin Netanyahu is an antisemite. I think it’s ridiculous to claim that the prime minister of Israel has antisemitic views. The worst that can be said is that Netanyahu, and Livingstone, were incorrect in what they said.
Looking at Livingstone’s statement, he says “Israeli”, not “Jew”. He is opposed to some of Israel’s policies. Why is it that anti-Israeli arguments are equated with antisemitism? “Israeli” does not mean “Jew” or “Jewish”. Israel is a nation, whose population consists of members of many (or no) religions. There are Israeli Arabs, who are Muslim. There are Israeli Christians. There are Israeli atheists. Are these people Jewish? Of course not. If you make statements against any of these people are you being antisemitic? Of course not.
You can look at the Wikipedia article on the “Haavara Agreement”, which basically says the same as Livingstone. Yes, I know Wikipedia is not the font of truth. But it does tend to support the suggestion that Livingstone is not antisemitic.
However, it was not very politic to say these things at this time. And as Livingstone is a politician, he really ought to have known better.