Ken Livingstone’s ‘Hitler backed Zionism’ comment not antisemitic, say over 500 Labour supporters

Defenders of former London Mayor claim party’s new disciplinary proceedings against him demonstrate a “contempt for democracy”


Over 500 Labour Party supporters have signed a letter defending Ken Livingstone over his comments on Hitler and Zionism.

The letter, which was published in the Guardian, was organised by Free Speech on Israel, an organisation run by Mike Cushman, a vocal anti-Israel activist.

Its signatories describe themselves as “Jewish and non-Jewish members and supporters of the Labour party”, and it includes the names of some of the most vehemently anti-Israel voices in the UK, including Jonathan Rosenhead, promoter of boycotts against Israeli academics, and Tanzil Choudhury, a key organiser of the picket outside the Israeli Kedem cosmetic store in Manchester in 2014.

It has also been signed by Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker, both of whom have themselves been suspended from the Labour Party over alleged antisemitic comments.

The letter claimed that there was “nothing whatoever antisemitic” about Ken Livingstone’s comments, made in April 2016, that “when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism”.

It cited Francis Nicosia, the Raul Hilberg professor of Holocaust studies at Vermont University, apparently quoting a claim in his book, Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, that “throughout the 1930s, as part of the regime’s determination to force Jews to leave Germany, there was almost unanimous support in German government and Nazi party circles for promoting Zionism among German Jews.”

The signatories also rejected calls for Mr Livingstone to be expelled from the party. “Those who call for a new disciplinary hearing simply because they didn’t like the conclusions of the previous one demonstrate contempt for democracy and due process,” the letter said.  Earlier this month Mr Livingstone, was suspended for a further year from Labour rather than being expelled, with over 100 of the party's MPs subsequently signing a letter calling for him to be ejected. 

Mr Livingstone’s claims about Hitler “supporting Zionism” have been debunked by a number of prestigious historians. Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University has described Mr Livingstone’s words as “categorically false and revealing a total and fundamental misunderstanding of what Hitler’s antisemitism was all about”.

Yehudah Bauer, professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has accused Mr Livingstone of using “partial facts” and “distortions”, adding: “Partial truths are more dangerous than outright lies”.

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