The creation of the State of Israel was fundamentally wrong, because there had been a Palestinian community there for 2000 years”.
“The creation of the State of Israel was a great catastrophe. We should have absorbed the post World War II Jewish refugees in Britain and America”.
These are the words of former London mayor and UK Labour Party member and activist, Ken Livingstone in a recent interview that he conducted with Arabic station Al Ghad Al Arabi. The fact that Livingstone, or “Red Ken” as he is known by the British establishment, is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic is not new to most of us. His own Labour Party recently suspended him on accusations of anti-Semitism, along with more than 50 other members of the party.
What is surprising is the fact that a former mayor of a capital city of one of the world’s leading and progressive nations, can utter such factual inaccuracies in support of his anti-Semitic rant. What is perhaps even more astonishing is that so many around the world accept these inaccuracies as fact, and find his open anti-Semitism (dressed up as anti-Zionism) to be perfectly acceptable.
Even though Red Ken was only a babe at the time that the State of Israel came into existence and will probably not be able to remember its details, it is incumbent on a man in his position and who is as outspoken as he is, to get the facts right before taking strong public positions. Instead, he is using inaccuracies to justify his bias. If he had learnt the facts, he would know that there was no Palestinian community in 1948, and so there could not have been a Palestinian community for 2000 years. The concept of a “Palestinian people” or community only arose after the 1967 Six Day War when the Arab countries lost control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem after trying to drive the Jews into the sea once more. After they realised that they had little chance of defeating Israel militarily in order to gain control over the land held by the Jews, the notion of a “Palestinian people” was born as a tactic to beguile the world into feeling sympathy for their cause. This has now translated into an “occupation” of their land, a misconception believed by a vast majority of the world’s citizens and used endlessly at the UN and other international bodies to criticise Israel.
It is ironic that he makes a statement that the creation of the State of Israel was a catastrophe. Why a catastrophe? Does he believe that peace would have prevailed in this region had the State of Israel not come into being? In the same interview, Livingstone refers to Libya and Iraq. In those cases, he tries to blame western intervention for the conflicts that arose in those, and other Middle Eastern countries. He claims that the West is equally to blame for the rise of Islamic terrorism, which has come about because of “western double standards in the Middle East” in Livingstone’s opinion. According to him, this is what has been encouraging angry youth to fight alongside ISIS and other terror groups. Even he is smart enough to recognise that Arab and Muslim groups have fought amongst each other for hundreds of years, and that Western intervention was not required to trigger terrorist activities.
We only need to witness the most basic split between Sunni and Shia Muslims to understand this, not to speak of the numerous tribal and political splits in evidence around the Middle East. Does Livingstone believe that the Middle East would have been more enlightened and more developed without the existence of the State of Israel? Once again, we have numerous examples where Muslims have failed to capitalise on opportunities to enlighten and develop their countries and their people. Should this be blamed on Israel? Can we blame the terror state that has been constructed in Gaza, and funded by foreign aid, on Israel? The catastrophe that Ken talks about is the same catastrophe that the Palestinians speak about. It is the catastrophe that the Jews have a free homeland in which they can find self-determination.
It is strange that Mr. Livingstone thinks that Britain and America should have absorbed all the post World War II Jewish refugees, and their failure to do so caused the “catastrophe” of the creation of the State of Israel. In reality, it was exactly because of bigoted anti-Semites like Red Ken, that these countries and others refused to accept Jewish refugees, both during the war (when they really needed place to go) and in its aftermath. Even those who were allowed to escape to western countries were made to feel like they were “guests”, who may be sent out at any moment. The exposure of endemic anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in Britain is not as a result of a recent development. This manifests itself as a result of decades of institutionalised anti-Semitism in many areas of British society. Who would believe that, even as recently as the 1980’s, some large government-owned companies in the UK had a policy of not employing Jews? This anti-Semitism has been cleansed by the political acceptability of being anti-Israel. The anti-Semites finally found a legitimate cause that allows them to openly express their anti-Semitism in the public arena. Even if they claim to oppose Israel’s actions and policies while being Jew lovers.
It should be clear that anybody who denies the right of the State of Israel to exist, or supports groups who seek Israel’s destruction, is an anti-Semite. This has little to do with the so-called occupation or the rights of the Palestinian people. There are millions of Palestinians in refugee camps in the region, whose human rights are being denied in a much more systematic way than anything that Israel has ever done. No criticism is issued about these human rights abuses, or about the abuses by the Palestinian leadership of its own people. Instead, this has everything to do with the right of the Jews to be masters of their own destiny, and to have the right to protect themselves and their Jewish homeland. It can be dressed up as anti-Zionism or support for the Palestinian people, but the real root cause is well understood, and will not hidden from sight.
UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is on record calling Hamas and Hezbollah his friends. And he is the one who has suspended more than 50 members of his party for their anti-Semitic behaviour. This is evidence of how deep the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party runs. The fact that those who support groups calling for Israel’s destruction are the ones suspending the anti-Semites is ironic. The anti-Semites have succeeded in galvanising support for hating the Jews and Israel around the issue of human rights abuses against the Palestinians. This has filtered into the left-wing arm of the Jewish community, giving even greater strength to the mantra that being anti-Israel does not necessarily equal being anti-Jewish. Each meeting of the UNHRC is forced to discuss agenda item 7 covering human rights violations by Israel. How does it transpire that, amongst all human rights violators in the world (of which there are many), Israel is the one and only country that is forced to endure a torrent of criticism and abuse at each and every UNHRC meeting? My contention is that it is rooted in institutionalised anti-Semitism at this organisation, and many others.
Although Red Ken is a classic example of anti-Semitism in its ugliest form, he is unfortunately not the only example. And he is sufficiently unashamed to be prepared to make public statements in support of his argument that are factually inaccurate and incorrect. The problem is that, when senior leaders like Livingstone make such statements and contentions, many of their followers believe it without any doubt and this perpetuates the unbridled hatred without cause.
When Livingstone refers to the “catastrophe”, we understand what he truly means. It has nothing to do with the so-called “nakba” or catastrophe that has befallen the Palestinian people. This could easily have been avoided if they had accepted the Palestine Partition Plan agreed by the UN in 1947, instead of choosing to try to destroy the Jews. The two-state solution that we continue to fight over today, could already have been implemented at that time. If this is indeed what the true desire is. Instead, Livingstone is referring to the catastrophe of the Jews having their right to independence and self-determination, and how much this has served to strengthen the cause and the presence of Jews around the world. I imagine that he may have described it as an even greater catastrophe had the UK absorbed more Jews in the period after the Shoa as he suggests, and had a greater presence and influence in the UK today. The mix of strong Jewish presence and influence, along with virulent anti-Semitism was exactly the recipe that brought the Nazis to power, and led to the Shoa and the massacre of 6 million people. So, while I don’t tolerate this form of bigotry from Livingstone and I am happy that there is a State of Israel to call him out and provide protection to Jews against his ilk, I still prefer this form of a catastrophe to the alternatives that Livingstone suggests.