UK Politics

Changing the subject

So Livingstone decides that now, in one of those rare moments of slight hope in the Middle East conflict, it is the role of the Mayor of London to launch a political attack on Israel.

It’s not that there is much to particularly disagree with in Livingstone’s views on Israel’s behaviour in the past but what suddenly makes him want to raise the issue now, particularly when it seemed that the Evening Standard affair had finally blown over?

Could it be he has decided to change the subject to Israel in a blatant attempt to try and leave the collective memory of this affair as this:

Ken criticised Israel.
People called him an anti-semite.

When in fact exactly the reverse is true?

Of his dispute with the Board of Deputies, following his comparison of a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard, he says: The fundamental issue on which we differ, as Henry Grunwald knows, is not anti-semitism – which my administration has fought tooth and nail – but the policies of successive Israeli governments.

And the response?

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies last night accused Mr Livingstone of seeking to deflect attention away from his own behaviour by attacking Israel.

That’s more a statement of the obvious than an accusation.

I’m reminded of this little exchange Johann Hari reported recently.

At a recent debate about Iraq, one person in the audience came up to me afterwards and said: “Your skullcap is slipping, Mr Hari.” Now, as it happens, I’m not Jewish (although a few of my relatives are). I asked him if he realised he was an anti-Semite, and he replied indignantly: “Criticising Israel isn’t anti-Semitic!”

UPDATE: Also recommended is Norm’s take on the issue.

Gene adds: I suppose I could spend all day writing a detailed response to Livingstone’s misrepresentations and double standards. Most of them have been addressed here before. But if I may touch on a couple of points, for what it’s worth:

Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister, is a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office.

Judge Livingstone has found Sharon guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to prison; but he was prepared to invite Yasser Arafat to London in case the city held a St. Georges Day procession, on the grounds that St. George “was the most famous Palestinian.” Arafat– who oversaw the the murder of hundreds (at least) of Israeli civilians– would no doubt have been an “honoured guest.” I’d like to believe this was a clever ruse to lure Arafat to London, where he could be arrested and put on trial for his crimes. But I suspect not. (Thanks to Venichka in the comments.)

For 20 years Israeli governments have attempted to portray anyone who forcefully criticises the policies of Israel as anti-semitic.

Examples? And I don’t mean people who have called for the abolition of the State of Israel, and only the State of Israel; I mean, as Livingstone put it, those who forcefully criticize the policies of Israel.