The Labor Party in Britain is mired in the muck of antisemitism, but it’s a self-inflicted wound.
In the past few days, two of its members have been suspended for having brought the party into “disrepute.”
Naseem Shah, an MP of Pakistani descent who represents the riding of Bradford West, stirred outrage following the disclosure that she had written an inflammatory Facebook post about Israel in 2014, before her election to Parliament. When news of it was leaked to the press, she issued a profuse apology in the House of Commons, condemned antisemitism and promised to build better relations with Jews. But the damage had been done.
After Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn suspended Shah, a Muslim, Ken Livingstone — a former mayor of London, a member of the party’s national executive and a close associate of Corbyn — took to the airwaves to defend her.
In a reference to Shah’s asinine proposal that Israel should be “relocated” to the United States and designated as its 51st state, in the interests of peace and lower oil prices, Livingstone admitted her remarks had been “completely over the top.” But he stubbornly denied they had been antisemitic.
Having lightly rapped her on the knuckles, Livingstone — a bitter opponent of Israel — claimed that the “Israel lobby” customarily smears critics of Israel with the brush of antisemitism. He went on to denigrate Israel as a “most brutal” state and drew an analogy between Shah’s comments and Nazi Germany.
As he observed, “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.”
Livingstone’s foray into history was rightly condemned as “appalling and inexcusable” by Sadiq Khan, the Labor Party’s candidate for the mayoralty of London.
Aside from being utterly stupid, Livingstone’s observations on the Nazi era were monumentally inaccurate and grossly misleading.
The Nazi Party, being pathologically antisemitic, called for the emigration of Jews from Germany, but not specifically to Palestine, then a British Mandate. Before Hitler banned German Jews from emigrating in the autumn of 1940, they were free to leave. Some went to Palestine, but the majority immigrated to countries like the United States, Britain, Argentina and Australia.
Contrary to Livingstone’s claim, Hitler did not encourage German Jews to settle in Palestine. He sought to remove them from Germany, period. Some German officials backed the idea of concentrating Jews in Palestine, but in the main, this was not Germany’s policy.
Nor did Hitler ever support Zionism, as Livingstone claims.
It’s true that the immigration of German Jews to Palestine was facilitated by a “transfer” agreement signed in August 1933 by the Zionist Federation of Germany, the Jewish Agency and the German regime. This much-criticized accord can best be described as expedient — a marriage of convenience. It most definitely did not mean that Germany had aligned itself with the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine.
The Nazis, in fact, supported the Palestinian national movement, as led by Haj Amin al-Husseini , the Mufti of Jerusalem. Being vehemently opposed to Jewish statehood and Jewish immigration to Palestine, he firmly cast his lot with Nazi Germany. In 1941, he was granted a meeting with Hitler in Berlin.
Aghast at Livingstone’s facile “analysis,” John Mann, his Labor Party colleague, branded him “a Nazi apologist” and a “disgusting racist.”
Sadly, the latest ruckus in the Labor Party is a reflection of the hard-left direction in which it has lurched and of the hatred a considerable proportion of British Muslims reserve for Israel and Jews.
Corbyn says he’s “totally opposed to antisemitism in any form within the party” and claims “the very small number of cases that have been brought to our attention have been dealt with swiftly and immediately.”
Labor Party MP Wes Streeting, however, believes that the party’s response to antisemitism has been “flat-footed and ineffective.” Corbyn bears some of the responsibility for its leftward shift because his sympathies lie with the Palestinians and with Muslims. It’s clear that the party under his leadership has a lot of work to do in disciplining MPs who can’t tell the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and venomous calls for its destruction.
Beyond Corbyn, Muslim leaders and MPs have an urgent moral duty and obligation to combat classical forms of antisemitism and antisemitic manifestations of anti-Zionism.
Unless these changes occur, the Labor Party will doubtless be convulsed by yet more anti-Israel and anti-Jewish eruptions from within its ranks.