Ken's spent 30 years upsetting and offending British Jews

25 March 2011

Published in The Jewish News: 25th March 2011

Judging by his recent comments, Ken Livingstone remains unrepentant about his support for Sheikh Qaradawi. The cleric, he recently declared, represented “the main progressive strand of Islam” and “the main theological opposition to the real hate preachers.” He accused those who condemn Qaradawi of “smear” tactics and unthinkingly accepting propaganda from pro Israeli websites.

But Qaradawi is a very strange kind of Islamic progressive. As well as advocating domestic violence against ‘disobedient’ wives and supporting female genital mutilation, he has expressed repugnant views on homosexuality. In a recent book, he condemned homosexuals as “perverted” and “abominable” and declared on Arabic websites that the correct punishment for them was execution.

He has regularly praised Palestinian suicide bombings, regarding every Israeli citizen as a legitimate target. Such wholesale demonisation is hardly surprising when you consider Qaradawi’s views on Jewry. He recently said that Holocaust victims were “divinely punished for their corruption” and promised that their next punishment “would be at the hands of the believers.” With progressives like these, who needs extremists?

Livingstone has tried to distance himself from Qaradawi’s homophobia. But when it comes to Israel, the former mayor has often parroted the Sheikh’s warped views. For one thing, Livingstone’s condemnation of suicide bombing frequently stops when it comes to the Palestinians. Shortly after the 7/7 bombings, he said: “Given that the Palestinians don't have jet fighters, they only have their bodies to use as weapons. In that unfair balance, that's what people use.” This was a direct attempt to justify the mass murder of Israeli civilians, a sentiment Qaradawi could scarcely have improved upon.

Then in an interview after the 7/7 bombings, he asked why it was that “a young Jewish boy in this country” could legitimately join the IDF and “end up killing many Palestinians” while “a young Muslim boy in this country” would be “branded as a terrorist” for defending “his Palestinian brothers and sisters.”

Leaving aside the slur about divided loyalties, this comparison between fighting for an internationally recognised army and carrying out terrorist acts for a Jew hating terrorist organisation would have struck many as odious, absurd even. More to the point, such language in the aftermath of a callous act of mass murder was intensely provocative. He was inviting British Muslims to view their Jewish counterparts, not as co-nationals, but as potential recruits for a foreign war. To stoke up community tensions in this way was reprehensible.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg as Livingstone has a long track record of making incendiary remarks about the Jewish state. He has charged Israel with using “systematic violence and terror aimed at ethnically cleansing” and likened Ariel Sharon to a “war criminal”. During Operation Cast Lead he accused Israel of the “slaughter and systematic murder of innocent Arabs” while on an earlier occasion, he decried how Israel’s actions were “fuelling anger and violence across the world.” There was of course very little global anger when thousands of rockets were raining down on Israeli towns.

Livingstone always denies making direct comparisons between Israel’s actions and those of Nazi Germany. But during the 1982 Lebanon war, the Labour Herald, a paper he co-edited, printed a cartoon depicting Menachem Begin as a demented Nazi.

Begin was shown wearing an SS uniform and as he stood upon a pile of corpses, he raised his right arm in a Nazi salute. Below him the caption read, ‘The Final Solution.’ In 1983 he offered further gratuitous offence to Holocaust survivors by saying that Britain’s treatment of Irish Catholics was ‘worse than what Hitler did to the Jews.’

He was at it again in 2006 when he likened the debate on the Muslim veil to “the demonology of Nazi Germany” in relation to its Jewish population. And there were his comments to Evening Standard reporter, Oliver Finegold, in which he compared the journalist to a concentration camp guard. In all these cases, the experience of Jewish suffering was trivialised by specious comparisons.

In many ways, Livingstone is a thoroughly typical member of Britain’s hard left. This conspiracy addicted political grouping has long had a problem with Israel, Zionism and the purported political power of ‘the Jewish lobby.’ But in other respects, he is a typical Westminster politician with a careful eye on gathering the city’s Muslim votes.

It would be pointless asking Ken Livingstone to apologise for his offensive comments. But if London’s Jews abandon him in next year’s Mayoral election, he should not be surprised.


31 December, 2013

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