Yesterday, Ken Livingstone returned to Vanessa Feltz’s show to repeat his bizarre, offensive claims first made in April, about Hitler’s relationship with Zionism. This, notwithstanding the fact that his claims had been ridiculed and torn to shreds by credible historians in the interim. He went as far as to say that since he made the claims “I couldn’t walk down the street for people stopping me and saying ‘We know what you said is true.’”
Ken Livingstone’s absurd opinions are not themselves the issue. British Jews are, sadly, accustomed to all sorts of accusations, from the notion that Rothschilds’ banks control the economy, to the idea (however laughable) that Jewish lizards control the planet from a base on the moon. Such conspiracy theories should be opposed and rationally discredited, but they will sadly always persist.
What matters in this case is the issue of political leadership: because it is only by poor, malicious or a deliberately indulgent leadership that such mendaciousness can flourish and gain currency in a population, particularly when that populace is casting around for a scapegoat for their economic or other ills.
The Labour Party is now rapidly becoming the political home of antisemites. From rampant antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club, through to the suppression of Baroness Royall’s report, to Shami Chakrabarti’s whitewash report at the launch of which antisemitism took place, its senior leadership characterising allegations of antisemitism as Jewish lies, to the obscene 25,000 abusive messages sent to a Jewish MP for opposing the antisemitic abuse she has received, the onward march of an institution failing to act rather is chilling.
What is shocking is not that Ken Livingstone is repeating his claims, but that in post-war Labour a former close colleague of its leader has been allowed to stay a member long enough to feel emboldened and repeat this garbage.