Reinstate Ken Livingstone
Corbyn must fight back against Britain’s Cointelpro, urges Tony Greenstein
The late Phil Agee revealed in his book Inside the company1 how the CIA went around Latin America destabilising governments and parties it did not like. In American domestic politics there was a similar programme aimed at dissident and radical organisations known as Cointelpro (counter-intelligence program) - a series of covert projects conducted by the FBI that infiltrated, surveilled and disrupted domestic political organisations.
For the past few months the Labour Party has been subject to a similar programme of destabilisation - a programme in which the Zionist movement has played and is still playing a major role. From July 2015 onwards, when it became increasingly clear that Jeremy Corbyn would win the Labour leadership election, we had a campaign, initiated by a Daily Mail “exclusive”, in which Corbyn’s “long-standing links” with a “notorious holocaust denier” was “revealed”,2 and fronted by the Jewish Chronicle under Stephen Pollard, its far-right editor and member of the Henry Jackson Society.3 The aim of the campaign was to paint Corbyn as a ‘friend’ of ‘terrorists’ like Hamas and Hezbollah, with links to anti-Semites.
When Corbyn became leader, the campaign shifted to an attack on Gerald Kaufmann for having said that it was “Jewish money” that was responsible for the pro-Israel policy of the Conservative government. Groups such as the misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, an overtly Zionist political organisation masquerading as a charity,4 waged a prolonged campaign against Kaufman, as if he was the most notorious anti-Semite since Adolf Eichmann. As an example of Zionist hypocrisy, on May 1 a former prominent Jewish funder of the Labour Party, Michael Foster, was given nearly 10 minutes of airtime on BBC Radio 4’s World at one programme to explain why Jewish people were not going to be funding the Labour Party whilst Corbyn was leader.
Of course, the phrase ‘Jewish money’ is only anti-Semitic when used by opponents of the state of Israel. Jewish Chronicle columnist Geoffrey Alderman called for Kaufman’s excommunication from the Jewish community, in spite of having used the term twice himself in the same article.5
Despite this outburst Alderman had been remarkably tolerant of David Whelan, the former owner of Wigan Athletic football club, who stated that “there is nothing like a Jew who sees money slipping through his fingers” and, when challenged, added: “I think they are very shrewd people … I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.” To most people this would count as anti-Semitism, but Alderman’s take was that the condemnations of Whelan represented “a sad and miserable tale of political correctness taken to new depths of absurdity”.6 After all, he wrote, “it’s certainly true that the Jewish view of money differs considerably from that of Christianity”.
In February there began the new phase in the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign. It centred on Oxford University Labour Club, whose co-chairman, Alex Chalmers, resigned, claiming that his fellow Labour Club members were anti-Semitic. The occasion of this resignation was the club’s decision to support Oxford’s Israel Apartheid Week.
Since then we have had the case of Vicky Kirby, the former mayor of Bradford, who tweeted that, although six million Zionists died in the holocaust, even greater incidents of genocide did not receive the same attention. And now, of course, there is Ken Livingstone’s reference to Hitler’s support for the Zionist ‘solution’ to German anti-Semitism.
In what is the first comprehensive investigation of these allegations, by Electronic Intifada researcher and journalist Asa Winstanley, it becomes clear that none of them are what they might have seemed.7 Winstanley reveals that Alex Chalmers was an intern with the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, a pro-Israel propaganda group.
As for Vicky Kirby, whose case was presented as one of the worst examples of ‘anti-Semitism’, this turns out to be someone quite innocent being fitted up. Her “big noses” comment was nothing more than a quote from the 2010 comedy filmThe infidel. It turns out that the far-right Conservative website Guido Fawkes had cropped a screenshot of her tweet to make it appear that these were her own words.
Then there was Livingstone himself. On April 28, in the course of defending suspended MP Naz Shah from accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ in an interview with BBC Radio London, Livingstone remarked: “Let’s remember, 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.”8
There is no doubt that Ken made a number of mistakes here. First, Israel did not exist in 1932 - the area was then called Palestine, a British mandate territory. Secondly, Hitler did not win any election in 1932. On the contrary, his vote in November, compared to the July 1932 election, dropped by two million to 11.74 million (33.1%), as against a combined total of 13.23 million (37.3%) for the Communist and Social Democratic parties. Despite this, Hitler was put into power on January 30 1933 by reactionary political and military forces intent on the destruction of the German labour movement. Thirdly, the ‘final solution’ was not a product of Hitler’s ‘madness’. Even without Hitler it would still have taken place. It was the product of war, imperialism and the fanatical anti-Semitism of a section of the Nazi Party. It had a logic and momentum of its own. When the expulsion of Jews was no longer an option after 1939, the countdown to the destruction of European Jewry had begun.
Livingstone’s comments were not the wisest to have made in the course of an ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt. However, in essence his point was correct. The Nazis singled out the Zionists as their favourite Jews. For example, on January 28 1935 Reinhardt Heydrich, the “real engineer of the final solution”,9 issued a directive to the Bavarian Gestapo that “The activity of the Zionist-oriented youth organisations ... lies in the interests of the National Socialist state’s leadership ... [they] are not to be treated with that strictness that it is necessary to apply to the members of the so-called German-Jewish [assimilationists].”10
The Zionists were allowed to organise, hold meetings, fly flags and publish newspapers, whereas the ‘assimilationists’ were repressed. The Zionists used the patronage of the Nazis to encroach on the position of the majority of the Jewish community, demanding parity in the Reichsvertretung - the Jewish communal organisation in 1935. Indeed they took over all the positions on the officially recognised Reichsvereinigung, established in 1939.
The Zionist policy was that Jews should flee to Palestine or nowhere. Their twisted logic was that if the crisis of anti-Semitism in Europe was resolved then the ‘Jewish homeland’ would be redundant. But they believed that was unlikely, since anti-Semitism, being a disease, would continue to spread and only Palestine could provide a long-term solution. The Zionists, with this racial concept of humanity, therefore lobbied the Gestapo not to allow Jews to emigrate to countries other than Palestine. It was a consistent Zionist policy to oppose the emigration of Jews to other countries - such as Santo Domingo, which had offered to take 100,000 refugees following the Évian conference.
In a memo to the Jewish Agency Executive, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, wrote:
if the Jews are faced with a choice between the refugee problem and rescuing Jews from concentration camps, on the one hand, and aid for the national museum in Palestine, on the other, the Jewish sense of pity will prevail and our people’s entire strength will be directed at aid for the refugees in the various countries. Zionism will vanish from the agenda and indeed not only world public opinion in England and America, but also from Jewish public opinion. We are risking Zionism’s very existence if we allow the refugee problem to be separated from the Palestine problem.11
It is essential that socialists defend Livingstone. The suspension of a national executive member, a former MP and London mayor, and a figurehead of the Labour left for the last 30 years, marks a new stage in the witch-hunt. According to reports, Corbyn was extremely reluctant to suspend Ken, but he was bullied into it. Popular opinion holds that it is John Mann, not Livingstone, who should have been suspended for staging the confrontation. Mann is chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Semitism, which devotes its time to opposing boycott, divestment and sanctions, as well as support for Palestinians.
To the humourless and vindictive squad of Progress MPs, Naz Shah was the next worst thing to Eva Braun for sending that tweet and she was forced to resign her position as John McDonnell’s parliamentary private secretary. She was suspended from the Labour Party and forced to make a humiliating apology like a prisoner in a Stalinist re-education camp. When I was asked why she would confess to anti-Semitism if she was not guilty, I explained that there have been many false confessions in history, such as the defendants in Stalin’s purge trials. It is not difficult to persuade someone that they are guilty if you apply enough psychological pressure - and they see their career disappearing before them.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland in particular has played a despicable role in the witch-hunt.12 Freedland, a ‘liberal’ Zionist, berates the left in particular for not accepting the Israeli state.13 What if, he asked, Israel were the only black state in the world. Would we oppose it then? Professor Kamel Hawwesh of Birmingham University answered yes: Palestinians would reject any coloniser, whatever their colour.14 But Freedland demonstrated both his ignorance and his malevolence when he compared a Jewish Israel to a Christian Britain. In Britain Christianity is an adornment: it does not entitle people to special privileges. It does not mean that the planning application of an ‘outsider’ will be rejected, as is the case for Palestinians in the Jewish town of Afula.15
The BBC has also lived up to its reputation. It has afforded the Labour right every opportunity to air their allegations, whilst denying anti-Zionists a platform. There has been an almost one-sided media barrage. One of the few exceptions was the BBC Big questions programme on Sunday May 1, which has relatively few viewers. On that programme Moshé Machover, Daphne Baram and myself were widely considered, even by Zionists, to have trounced those who alleged that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are one and the same thing. I also did an interview with Vanessa Feltz, BBC London’s Zionist interviewer, where I refused to be diverted from explaining why Israel is an apartheid society. But these are very much the exception.
One of the most egregious examples of BBC bias was that of Andrew Neil’s Sunday politics show on March 18. This gave MPs West Streeting and John Mann the opportunity to talk at length about Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism problem’. Neil himself is a former Murdoch editor and Conservative Party research assistant. James Schneider, a supporter of Corbyn was given just 25 seconds to sate his view, whereas Streeting and Mann were allowed almost seven minutes between them.
Andrew Neil, rather than subjecting his claims to cross-examination, urged Mann on to greater excesses. Take, for example, this penetrating question: “Why has [anti-Semitism] come back?” Note that Neil assumes the very thing he is supposed to be investigating.
But in response Corbyn has shown not only spinelessness throughout this affair, but a culpable failure to understand what is at stake. If Livingstone is expelled from the Labour Party, Corbyn will not last long as leader. He has continuously rowed back from the positions he adopted in previous years. Alongside MPs such as the late Joan Maynard, he was a sponsor of the Labour Committee on Palestine and the Labour Movement Campaign on Palestine, both of which I chaired. These organisations supported a democratic, secular state solution in Palestine. We opposed a two-state solution, which at that time was supported by George Galloway’s Middle East Council. (George has now come round to our way of thinking!)
John McDonnell has taken an even worse position. He backed off last September from his comments over Ireland. Now he has added Palestine to his list of retreats. Rather than sacking Naz Shah, he should have backed her. Instead, with his ‘out, out, out’ remarks about alleged anti-Semites, he has encouraged those making false allegations to greater efforts.
Momentum under Jon Lansman has been equally abysmal. Lansman has held secret talks with Labour Friends of Israel and the so-called Jewish Labour Movement, the British branch of the racist Israeli Labor Party, in order to reach some form of agreement. This is like the chicken negotiating a safe pass from a fox. Lansman openly criticised Livingstone and supported his suspension. On Left Futures Lansman argues that we should drop all mention of Zionism.16 The movement that founded the racist settler colonial state of Israel should not be mentioned, even though the World Zionist Organisation is alive and kicking, funding the settlement of the Palestinian territories. (In the meantime, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu proclaims that in the name of Zionism he cannot admit refugees to Israel, because it would undermine the national identity of the Jewish state.17) Lansman argues that if we pretend there is no such thing as Zionism then all the fuss about ‘anti-Semitism’ will go away. Such is the craven attitude of left social democrats when they come under any pressure.
It is not necessary to defend everything that Ken Livingstone said in order to oppose his suspension. Defending Livingstone goes hand in hand with opposing what is a new McCarthyite witch-hunt. However, whereas Joe McCarthy was an anti-Semite, his disciples today come in the guise of opponents of anti-Semitism.
4. See http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/exclusive-lifting-lid-on-campaign.html.
5. www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/columnists/149670/a-man-who-deserves-banning; see http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/geoffrey-alderman-and-gerald-kaufman.html.
7. See https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israel-lobby-manufactured-uk-labour-partys-anti-semitism-crisis/16481.
9. G Reitlinger The final solution London 1968, p13.
10. L Dawidowicz War against the Jews London 1991, p118, citing H Mommsen Der nationalsozialistische Polizeistaat pp78-79.
11. Y Elam Introduction to Zionist history Tel Aviv 1972, pp125-26.
12. See, for example, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/18/labour-antisemitism-jews-jeremy-corbyn.