Marcus Dysch

Livingstone case has opened the floodgates for antisemites

The publicity around Mr Livingstone’s hearing and its outcome has given carte blanche to those with antisemitic views

April 05, 2017 09:43

The outcome could hardly have been worse. Guilty of disrepute, but Ken Livingstone’s punishment is barely worthy of the name. 

A suspension without effect, for a member of a party without a moral backbone. 

There are no positives to be taken from this unsightly case.

Others can assess the invalidity of Mr Livingstone’s completely unfounded claims about Jewish-Nazi collaboration. I can tell you this: the publicity around Mr Livingstone’s hearing and its outcome has given carte blanche to those with antisemitic views.

It has allowed cranks and nutters, whose pathetic expressions were once dismissed out of hand, to feel as though they are part of normal society, and that the matter of Jew-hatred is open to the same sort of rigorous debate as Brexit, house prices and the football. 

Mr Livingstone’s case has, to a large degree, normalised antisemitism. It is no longer a taboo subject. 

It is open season for racism, and Labour’s past year of struggling to contain its antisemitism problem has created numerous frontmen and women around whom Jew-haters can congregate. 

No longer are these people consigned to the sewers. They have observed this country’s official opposition party spending its days embroiled in these matters, and believe it is normal practice for them, too, to have a voice in the supposed debate. 

Take the following examples.

The news that Mr Livingstone’s case would not conclude until this week broke shortly before Shabbat came in last Friday. I tweeted that the delay at least meant Labour had managed “not to offend more Jews by announcing the news on Shabbat”.

Returning to Twitter 25 hours or so later, I found my stream of mentions clogged by a torrent of abuse, much of it antisemitic, emanating from accounts belonging to those claiming to support Mr Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn.

I had thought my comment about the delay was relatively innocuous, but their responses were unhinged, focusing on claims of global Zionist conspiracies and assorted ways of excusing their antisemitism.

One claimed: “Many don't like to see #kenlivingstone being mobbed. Not antisemitic, just anti-zionist and anti-Israel.”

Mr Livingstone was “mobbed”? And has Hitler now been reinvented as merely “anti-Israel”?

Another tweeted: “You can be critical of Israeli govt policy without being anti-Israel.”

True, but who said anything about Israel?

These views – there were dozens more like them – are now standard responses from antisemites on social media. It is the new normal.

Meanwhile, in the so-called mainstream media, you could see the Guardian running an image from its cartoonist Steve Bell depicting Mr Livingstone in front of a kangaroo court.

Never mind the fact Labour staff worked tirelessly to ensure the hearing was run professionally, in accordance with party rules and legal requirements. Never mind that the case related to Adolf Hitler and accusations so utterly offensive to Jews that it is almost beyond comprehension that the panellists from Labour’s National Constitution Committee could even bring themselves to sit through a disciplinary hearing with straight faces, giving Mr Livingstone the time of day, let alone a fair hearing.

We have reached the point where we have to question our own sanity. Is this even real? Am I actually sitting at a computer, typing these words, or have I, and all of you, disappeared into a vortex leading to some sort of parallel universe where, 72 years after the Nazis finished slaughtering millions of Jews across the continent, it is “normal” for a former Mayor of London, one of Britain’s most recognisable politicians, to have the sheer audacity to spend a year arguing that we collaborated with the SS?

What happened to honour, to shame, to decency? Mr Livingstone should have crawled off to play with his newts years ago – after the concentration camp guard jibe, after the sickening comments about Jews being too wealthy to vote for him, after his invitations to Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, and after all the other actions which remain completely repulsive in the eyes of the vast majority of British people. 

But no, here we are, with him, Mr Bell and their online trolling comrades reducing the whole sorry mess to nonsensical cartoons and tweets which allow them to believe they are reasoned people in an honest debate.

Forget about the exodus from Egypt – this farce has left me yearning for an exodus from the entire planet.

April 05, 2017 09:43

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