On Wednesday, Ken Livingstone was suspended from membership for a further year for bringing the party into disrepute for comments he made in the defence of MP Naz Shah on a radio programme. The right and Israel’s defenders in the Labour Party have seized on this to demand Livingstone’s expulsion and to get acceptance for a new definition of antisemitism which would make criticism of Israel antisemitic. It was unnecessary, but not antisemitic, for Livingstone to refer to Hitler in a discussion about Palestine and Israel, even when the historical reference is accurate. It distracts from the cause of justice for Palestinians. Nevertheless, Livingstone should be defended against this witch-hunt, which is part of a broader attack against the left in the party. In this context, Corbyn should stand firm, and not make concessions to this renewed attack by asking for the NEC to carry out a further investigation into Livingstone.
We re-post below a letter sent by Mark Findlay of Brighton Pavillion CLP to Jeremy Corbyn, in response to the suspension of Ken Livingstone from the Labour Party.
Dear Mr Corbyn,
I am one of those who recently rejoined the Labour Party having been a member for many years in the past (1979 to 2000). I rejoined because I was and still am enthusiastic for your anti-austerity policy and opposition to Trident.
I would like to register my deep disappointment that you have decided not only to back the so-called “disciplinary hearing” into Ken Livingstone, but apparently to refer him to the NEC for further investigations. This was of course for his comments that link Hitler to the pre-war Zionist movement. These comments are based on truth. They also refer to events that are historical and have no direct effect today. Ken is not denying the holocaust or that the Jews killed during it included many Zionists. But pre-war Zionism was a minority movement amongst Jewish people. Most Jews apparently wanted to boycott Germany following his coming to power. But parts of the Zionist movement were prepared to come to an unholy agreement with the Nazi government to enable some 60,000 German Jews to move to Palestine . While Hitler himself equivocated, it appears that he supported the agreement between 1937 and 1939. There are of course many other documents supporting this and I am sure you are aware of them. The fact is that Ken has for many years opposed racism and I cannot agree that he is an anti-Semite in any shape or form.
The action of suspending Ken Livingstone from the party gives strength to the “Jewish Labour Moment”, which is the Israeli state’s hidden arm within the UK Labour Party. As can be seen from the comments by Tom Watson and others (“Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said it was “incomprehensible” Mr Livingstone had not been expelled, while former leader Ed Miliband said he was “appalled” at the lack of remorse being shown.”), many of your opponents in the party are still not satisfied with his suspension but would have him expelled permanently. By not taking them on, I believe that you are allowing your opponents breathing space and this will strengthen them against you and your more progressive policies.
For the record, I am Jewish by descent. My mother was a refugee from the Nazis who came to the UK in 1938. Nearly all her family were killed in the death camps. I do not believe that Zionism and support for the Israeli state are in the interests of Jewish people. The so-called “Jewish” state is one which has racism against “non-Jews” at its core, and currently is actively building more settlements in the West Bank. By its horrible actions, it actually builds support anti-Semitism.
I support the Palestinians; they should have equal citizenship and compensation if not restoration of the lands taken from them by force in and since 1948. The land now called Israel should have equal rights and laws for all citizens and should regard Palestinians (and other non-Jews) as equal. Not all Jews are Zionists; even amongst those that are, many are appalled by the treatment of Palestinians and are like myself ashamed of what is being done in our name. Far from “bringing Labour into disrepute”, Ken has drawn attention to the issue of the pervasive influence of Zionism within the party and throughout society.
Mark Findlay (member Withdean Branch, Brighton Pavilion Labour Party)
Further reading on this:
From Free Speech on Israel: Jewish Labour Party members slam decision to suspend Ken Livingstone
From Dave Rosenberg in Rebel Notes: Hero or villain? The Livingstone question