Fathom 16 | Ken Livingstone and the myth of Zionist ‘collaboration’ with the Nazis

In this meticulous rebuttal of the former Mayor of London’s charge that ‘you had right up until the start of the second world war real collaboration [between Nazis and Zionists]’, Paul Bogdanor, author of Kasztner’s Crime, points to Ken Livingstone’s ‘mutilations of the historical record and of the very sources he cites’ and the politically reactionary character of Livingstone’s version of history which ‘equates persecutors and rescuers, aggressors and victims, the powerful and the powerless, oppressors and the oppressed.’


‘…one of the reasons we make so many mistakes in politics is that so few politicians study history.’  Ken Livingstone (Independent, 2016)

The crisis surrounding antisemitism in the Labour Party refuses to die down. Aside from all the other incidents occurring on a regular basis, Ken Livingstone – the former Mayor of London and one of the party’s best-known members – has been the subject of an internal inquiry for bringing the party into disrepute. Even after being found guilty of this charge in April 2017, he has been given the light sentence of suspension – not from membership but only from holding office in the party for another year, prompting calls from over 100 Labour MPs for his expulsion. The British Jewish community, appalled at his continuing statements that Hitler supported Zionism and that there was ‘real collaboration’ between Zionists and the Nazis, has deserted Labour in droves. (By May 2016, after a series of revelations about antisemitism within the party, only 8.5 per cent of the Jewish community planned to vote Labour. The figure had been 22 per cent a year earlier.)

Livingstone has declined to apologise; he links the Jewish national independence movement with the Third Reich at any opportunity. When challenged, he asserts the existence of a malicious campaign by pro-Israel lobbyists and ‘Blairites’ to silence him. The well-established tactic of diverting attention from the issue of antisemitism by accusing Jews and others of trying to suppress ‘criticism of Israeli policy’ is now known as ‘the Livingstone Formulation.’ (Hirsh, 2010)

The Background

The Livingstone scandal began in April 2016. Asked for comment about statements made by his Labour colleague Naz Shah MP – for which she later issued a retraction and fulsome apology – Livingstone exonerated her of bigotry. Then he added, gratuitously: ‘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.’ (Independent, 2016)

Later the same day, amid the furore over his comments, Livingstone explained why he should not be considered antisemitic: ‘a real antisemite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel, they hate their Jewish neighbours in Golders Green or Stoke Newington, it’s a physical loathing.’ And again: ‘Someone who is antisemitic isn’t just hostile to the Jews living in Israel, they’re hostile to their neighbour in Golders Green, or the neighbour in Stoke Newington. It’s a personal loathing, just like people who hate black people.’ (Independent, 2016) Others did not fail to notice the implication that it was legitimate to hate the six million Jews living in the Jewish state. READ MORE