UK Politics

No apology

Given the kind of people Ken Livingstone has surrounded himself with it is little wonder that his statements read more like NUS Conference resolutions than press releases.

David T adds

My view is that Ken Livingstone referred to the Holocaust not simply because “it is the most extreme example of evil in my own array of moral reference points”, but because he knew that his questioner was jewish. That sort of insult is one which, as I’ve argued earlier, is routinely deployed by left racists against jews: its effectively a charge of ethnic hypocrisy. He wouldn’t have said the same thing to a non-jew, because it wouldn’t have made sense to compare them to a concentration camp guard.

To then go on to point out – as Ken Livingstone does – that similar charges have been thrown about between jews is just about as naff as white racists who tell racist jokes and who seek to justify their conduct on the basis that black people tell them too. When such language is used between jews or between people who are black, we’re pretty sure that they’re being deployed without racist intent. We can’t be as certain when a politician with a record for saying dubious things makes those sorts of statements.

It is either notable or unfortunate that Ken Livingstone chooses as his example of the neutrality of the comparison which he deployed, a letter published in the Jewish Chronicle accusing Professors Hilary and Stephen Rose of being “Kapos”. That comparison, one can infer, would have been thrown as a jibe at pro-Palestinian jews. It is disgraceful, of course, but certainly not racist. Its also, perhaps, an example which appeals to Ken Livingstone, because it allows him to don the mantle of the victim of a jewish smear campaign against opponents of the Palestinian cause.

The theme that he is the victim of a jewish campaign is one to which Livingstone has turned previously. When a Saudi journalist intimated that Ken Livingstone might be made to suffer for his support of Qaradawi by the “people who control the media”, he responded by mentioning the jewish wife of a disgraced press tycoon as if it were an example of that conspiracy at work. It is Livingstone who shamefully identified the nature of the supposed conspiracy as jewish.

A more appropriate analogy – which Ken Livingstone shied away from – would have been with Berlusconi’s similar Kapo jibe, made not at a Jew but – marginally less offensively – at a German. Berlusconi’s less than fulsome expression of “regret” was a particularly dismal response, which Ken is, of course, repeating.

My reaction to Ken Livingstone’s use of language is, as I’ve explaned in past posts, a reaction not simply to that particular use of language, but to a series of incidents which include:

– embracing and defending a cleric who is the religious legitimator of suicide bombing;
– producing a partial and distorted defence of that’s clerics views;
– characterising celebrated human rights campaigner (and supporter of an independent Palestine), Peter Tatchell as a dupe of a Mossad plot;
– toying with the notion that he himself is the victim of a jewish plot.

You know, anybody can use an unfortunate turn of phrase. You’d expect them to be a bit red faced and embarassed about it; but its not a big deal.

But when somebody makes the same kind of mistakes again and again, you do begin to wonder exactly what is going on in their mind.

My view is that Ken Livingstone chose that phrase because it chimed in which his “jews were oppressed but became oppressors” worldview. When that logic is deployed to describe the actions of an IDF soldier of ashkenasi origin who deliberately shoots a civilian, that’s one thing, perhaps. But if that logic is used against a reporter who merely happens to be jewish, its clearly racist just as racist as the right winger who sees every jew in business as proof of the essentially greedy nature of jews.

Livingstone’s response – that he was entitled to make a racist comment because he was being harassed – beggars belief. First, its obvious from anybody who has heard the tape or read the transcript that Ken was not being harassed: he was merely being asked questions at a public event. Secondly, Ken Livingstone’s case is essentially that he can abuse jews by comparing them to nazis because he was being doorstepped by one. If that’s really his view, its Ken, not the journalists, who is “probably in the wrong job”.

Livingstone’s original outburst was a bit off. His conduct since then – culminating in this piece of drek – is an absolute disgrace.

I notice that, in describing the long history of the Mail group’s racist shame, he omits his own involvement with that employer.