Livingstone’s suspension is a joke

Ken Livingstone’s suspension was an awful day for democracy and for free speech

Ken Livingstone has refused to say sorry for mentioning Hitler in his now infamous radio interview with Vanessa Feltz. Good for him. He has absolutely nothing to apologise for. All he said was that Hitler’s policy in 1932 was to move Jews to Israel, which was enough to provoke a media storm in a teacup with politicians and large sections of the press accusing him of being anti-Semitic.
I have no idea how anti-Jewish sentiments could be gleaned from his interview and I’ve listened to it several times now. Livingstone was basing his words on a school of thought, albeit a controversial one that has been circulating for years.
Books and essays have been written on Hitler’s support of Zionism, and last year at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu told the assembled crowd: “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews”.
Now the Labour Party has suspended Livingstone for effectively saying the same thing. Seemingly, by the party’s own criteria on this issue, the Jewish head of the Jewish State of Israel is guilty of hostility or discrimination against Jews.
In his interview, the former London mayor also pointed out the huge disparity in the number of people killed on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He said: “in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes…”
I have just done a little internet digging and figures from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization reveal the total number of dead from 1987 to 2014 are 1,512 Israelis and 8,441 Palestinians.
So why was Livingstone suspended? I have two theories. The first is just a bit of good old political stabbing in the front and back by his enemies. The behaviour of MP John Mann who confronted him on his way into a BBC building was as disgusting as it was disingenuous.
The other, more disturbing theory is that the powerful Jewish lobby tries to silence critics of Israel and its policies by accusing them of being anti-Semitic. But what detractors are doing is legitimately pointing out the horror the state sometimes inflicts and the wickedness of its actions. If you cannot criticise Israel for fear of being labelled an anti-Semite, all is lost.
Ken Livingstone’s suspension was an awful day for democracy and for free speech.

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