The furore over Ken Livingstone and his remarks about Hitler and Zionism last year has resurfaced. Finally the verdict is in: Livingstone has not been expelled from the Labour Party for his comments, but he has been suspended for another year. Before all this happened Ken was on the NEC and posed as a key ally to Jeremy Corbyn. Now he is out of the game until the summer of 2018.
The story has been covered as if the Labour Party should have stripped Livingstone of his membership and anything short of this makes them cowards. The Blairites and Brownites have been queuing around the block to hurl dog muck at the Labour leadership. One anonymous MP told the New Statesman: "Years from now, the foul stench of anti-Semitism will become one of the defining characteristics of the Jeremy Corbyn era in the Labour Party. A shameful and totally unforgivable chapter in our history."
Every wing of the British media establishment has taken part in the shit storm around Labour and anti-Semitism – from the BBC and The Guardian to The Telegraph and The Spectator. The Naz Shah scandal, and Ken Livingstone’s unhelpful intervention, is just the latest to be picked up. The British press has manufactured this scandal in a bid to create a crisis and, in turn, undermine the Labour leadership. But this hysteria also represents the high emotional stakes in Israel among the commentariat.
As a critic of the Israeli government, I have defended the Palestinian cause and its supporters against charges of anti-Semitism. And I have defended Ken Livingstone and his loose lips on more than one occasion. Still, I wish Ken had not brought up Hitler and Zionism in the middle of the Shah case. I do not think it was anti-Semitic, though I do think it was reckless and played into the hands of the Blairites.
Ken Livingstone ran into the Shah scandal like a bull into a china shop. Hopefully, we have just heard the last vase smash against the floor. Plenty of leftists have pointed out the Haavara agreement, the Nazi plans to deport European Jews to Madagascar and elsewhere. However, the facts of Nazi Germany are not really relevant or helpful here. The real controversy is over Livingstone’s use of the term ‘Zionism’ to describe Nazi policy.
Laying out the historical record cannot dispel the outrage (even as much of it phony). The damage is done, sadly. Even before this, Livingstone was rated as an anti-Semite by certain people thanks to the media. Vilification campaigns are successful because it is virtually impossible to resist mudslinging. If you explain yourself, deny the claims or even apologise, you’re screwed. It’s too late. It’s never enough.
In this sense you can understand why Ken Livingstone has not apologise or concede ground, he just fires back against the press and his opponents in the party. Journalists kept asking him: "Do you recognise that you caused offence?" He does not, clearly. Much like the honey badger, Ken Livingstone don't give a fuck.