Suddenly, all the talk in Britain is of anti-Semitism. For the past few years, despite the firestorm of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish prejudice that has been raging, any protests have been slapped down as paranoia. Yet in last few days, a lot of people are discovering the phenomenon. The cause is Labour’s supremely politically correct mayor of London, “Red” Ken Livingstone.
At a publicly funded party he threw to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Labour MP Chris Smith coming out as gay, Livingstone was door-stepped by Oliver Finegold, a reporter for the London Evening Standard. The mayor responded by asking whether he had previously been a German war criminal. When Finegold protested that he was Jewish, Livingstone observed: “Arrr, right, well you might be Jewish but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren’t you?”
The train of thinking behind this remarkable outburst was that the Standard, which Livingstone hates because it opposes his policies, is owned by Associated Newspapers, which also owns the Daily Mail (for which I happen to write). In the 1930s, the Mail supported Oswald Mosley’s fascists.
Livingstone’s seamless connection between that episode 70 years ago and a Jewish reporter from the Standard asking him a question about a gay party in 2005 struck people as both beyond comprehension and deeply objectionable.
It is bad enough call anyone a German war criminal. Likening Finegold to a concentration camp guard when Livingstone knew he was a Jew was unforgiveable. Not only was it deeply offensive, but in calling a Jew a Nazi it trivialised the Holocaust and denied the history of Jewish suffering. And this from a mayor whose professed “anti-racism” defines his politics.
It has all been made even worse by Livingstone’s refusal to apologize. The Greater London Assembly, the mayor’s “parliament,” is appalled. The promoters of London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics, which was being assessed by the International Olympic Committee this very week, are aghast. The mayor’s own advisers have told him to apologize. Prime Minister Tony Blair, has told him to say he is sorry. The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Commission for Racial Equality have reported him to the Standards Board for England, which could ban him from office for five years.
Yet Livingstone has not merely refused to apologise but brazenly justified his attack on Finegold. Spraying ever more extravagant insults, he also rambled on about his opposition to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila in 1982. Many have been left wondering whether he has lost his mind altogether.
So why has the normally politically adroit Livingstone, who reinvented himself from being the leader of the “loony left” in the 1980s to become the cheeky chappie who was elected mayor of London on a wave of popular affection in 2000, not only fallen into a hole but kept on digging? The immediate explanation surely lies in the Qaradawi affair and the mayor’s embrace of Islamist extremism.
Last summer, Livingstone hosted in London Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced Islamic jurist who has supported homicide terrorism by the Palestinians and expressed poisonous and even murderous prejudice against Jews, gays, and women (a set of attitudes more befitting the 1930s).
Qaradawi was in London to preside over the annual meeting of the European Council for Fatwa and Research and a conference on the hijab, both at Livingstone’s invitation.
Livingstone’s warm public endorsement of Qaradawi managed to unite against himself an extraordinary coalition of protest by those who felt directly threatened by the Islamist’s views. This coalition remarkably included Jews, gays, Hindus, bi-and-transsexuals, Sikhs, women’s rights organisations, progressive-minded Muslims, and students, who produced a thick dossier charting Qaradawi’s terrifying attitudes.
Livingstone hit the roof at this, and no wonder. For among those now ranged against him – and accusing him, no less, of condoning the most violent and virulent prejudice, the crime of crimes – were the very constituencies of the victim-culture on which he had constructed his entire political platform. The rainbow coalition of minorities had now turned against their erstwhile patron.
Without these minorities, Livingstone has no power base. That is surely why he threw the otherwise baffling extravaganza for Chris Smith, to mend his fences with the all-important gay rights lobby.
But the Qaradawi affair had thrown up another very disturbing feature. For Livingstone produced his own utterly bizarre counter-dossier defending his right to host Qaradawi, whom he described admiringly as “one of the most authoritative Muslim scholars in the world.”
In this, he carefully distanced himself from Qaradawi’s views – while managing, offensively, to equate them with those held by Catholics and Jews — while claiming that Qaradawi was neither a supporter of terrorism nor a social reactionary, but instead “one of the Muslim scholars who has done most to combat socially regressive interpretations of Islam on issues like women’s rights and relations with other religions.”
Let us briefly remind ourselves of some of the highlights of the “progressive” Qaradawi’s oeuvre. He has said that Europe will be conquered for Islam by preaching and ideology. He supports democracy, provided it is driven by the laws of Sharia.
He approves of female circumcision. He supports the “light” beating of wives by their husbands. He has lent his name to discussions about the most appropriate method for executing homosexuals. He sits on the Shariah [Islamic Law] Board of al-Taqwa Bank which was designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and its assets frozen, by the U.S. government.
He is rabidly Judeophobic. His sermons regularly call for Jews to be killed, along with “crusaders” and “infidels.” He has spread the lie that the Torah permits Jews to spill the blood of others and to seize their land. He has insisted that all Jews are responsible for Israel’s actions, and on al-Jazeera’s website stated: “There is no dialogue between us except by the sword and the rifle.” Although he disapproves of al-Qaeda’s terrorism, he supports human bomb terrorism against Israel. He said: “The Israelis might have nuclear bombs but we have the children bomb and these human bombs must continue until liberation.”
Horrifying stuff. But according to Livingstone, it isn’t true. The allegations against Qaradawi, he claims, amount to nothing more than a conspiracy. And here his document veers into the utterly irrational. He claims that since some of Qaradawi’s utterances have been translated by the MEMRI translation service, whose founder was once an Israeli intelligence officer, Livingstone claims that the attack on Qaradawi is a Mossad plot. So in other words, the evidence about Qaradawi is a conspiracy by Jews to lie about Muslims. The mayor’s document states:
It may seem difficult to take such material seriously, but in some respects the approach of MEMRI, echoed in the dossier, is reminiscent of the various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories – this can be seen very easily if one simply substitutes the words "Jewish" and "Judaism" for "Muslim" and "Islam" throughout the dossier.
This is, of course, preposterous. There has never been a shred of doubt that MEMRI’s translations are accurate. And having claimed that these truthful renditions of Qaradawi's hair-raising utterances are merely evidence of a Mossad plot and equate this with classic anti-Jewish false conspiracy theories is simply mad.
More than that, in this demented attempt to equate Israelis with anti-Semites, or accuse all his opponents of being Mossad agents or their dupes, Livingstone’s wording has more than an echo of the paranoia pouring out of the Arab world itself.
This is surely no accident. The mayor is said to be very close to precisely such Islamists. In particular, his court includes several cadres of a tiny, hard-Left sect called Socialist Action, which is thought to have links with British groups that follow the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood.
Certainly, the mayor is being strongly supported in his current travails by Islamist extremists. The Muslim Brotherhood-influenced Muslim Association of Britain, which has links to Hamas and says Qaradawi is a moderate, strongly supports Livingstone in that controversy.
As for the furor over Oliver Finegold, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee website says Livingstone must be supported against “this vicious attack by our Zionist enemies… Ken Livingstone is a faithful and tireless friend of Muslims. And now the Zionists are closing in for the kill – what will Muslims do?”
This website also says that “Jewish Zionists” abuse their power to influence foreign policy against Muslims, and that those Muslims who attended the Holocaust Day ceremony were “Uncle Toms”; and in a feature on the men around Tony Blair, it singled out only prominent Jews in public life or people with connections with Jews. Livingstone has said he is “virulently” hostile to anti-Semitism. With supporters like MPAC and the MAB, what on earth would he look like if he admitted being hostile to Jews?
But then, Livingstone already has form in this department, with a long history of accusing Israelis of being “Nazis” or British Jews of being “neo-fascists” if they support Israel.
And this illustrates the far wider issue – that the Left, of which Livingstone is such a shining ornament, has gotten into bed with radical Islamism. Subscribing to its twisted narrative of “oppression,” the British Left routinely libels the Jews of Israel as “the new Nazis,” has breathed life into Muslim Jew-hatred (which itself borrows deeply from Nazi propaganda), and prompted a terrifying increase in anti-Jewish feeling ranging from muttered social prejudice, through public accusations of the “global Jewish conspiracy,” all the way to record levels of physical attacks on Jews, synagogues, and cemeteries.
Tony Blair has been embarrassed by London’s mayor. But this is a chicken that has simply come home to roost. Livingstone was formerly kicked out of the Labour party on account of his extremism. But when it became clear that he was going to win the London mayoral race as an independent candidate and humiliate Labour, Blair readmitted him to the party to ensure that Labour won that election.
Now Livingstone has re-emerged in his true colors. So, too, has the rest of the Labour movement, with posters and articles disgracefully using anti-Jewish stereotypes in order to appease Muslim sentiment, peddling anti-Jewish prejudice.
For Blair’s government, Britain’s 280,000 Jews are now utterly disposable, to be traduced and abused to buy 1.8 million Muslim votes. That is the real embarrassment of the Livingstone affair — to have hung out the dirty washing of the Left, which grovels before prejudice and terror to stay in power.