The events of yesterday (28 April 2016 ) make one wonder why, with a week to go until the local elections, Ken Livingstone hadn’t already been shut in a cupboard for his and his party’s own protection. It’s not that he wasn’t factually correct – well, if you forgive him for using the word Israel instead of Palestine. In 1933, the Nazi government did indeed do a deal with the Zionist Federation of Germany, backed by the Anglo-Palestine Bank, known as the Haavara Agreement, or Transfer Agreement. By this, German Jews essentially could, by giving up their possessions, emigrate to Palestine (Israel obviously didn’t exist at that point), and then buy their possessions back as German exports, at a very heavy exchange rate. A sleazy deal at best, but it was the only deal in town. The Nazis saw it as a way to counter the very damaging Anti-Nazi economic boycott by European and American Jews that was begun in response to Hitler’s election, and the Nazis’ rabid anti-Semitism. The Haavara Agreement was even so resisted by many European Jews until 1935, when it was ratified by the Zionist Congress, that year meeting in Switzerland. Of course, come 1939, this agreement was abandoned, and the full horror of the Nazis’ preferred ‘solution’ began.
But just because Livingstone was largely factually correct, it doesn’t mean he should have opened his mouth, even less defended Naz Shah, whose two year old comments were barely worthy of a two year old. Again, Ken was largely right, in that those stupid comments were mostly anti-Israel and not anti-Semitic, but he had forgotten the one that did use the word ‘Jews’ and not ‘Israel’. If he had kept quiet, technically correct or not, this could have been contained by removing Naz Shah from the party and had her deselected, regardless of her apology, as should have happened. Frankly she shouldn’t have been allowed to become a Labour MP in the first place, but that’s another story.
But now Ken’s big mouth has ushered in an anti-Corbyn press feeding frenzy, with the BBC at its head, and all Corbyn’s well-documented pro-Palestinian history is back on the front pages alongside the phrase anti-Semitism, which, come next Thursday, is all the public will remember, at least if the press have anything to do with it. Last night’s Question Time was so horrifically biased and reactionary I had to turn it off. Both audience and panel were getting so irrationally hot under the collar they were beginning to remind me of the crowd that wanted to burn the witch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but without anyone to point out the errors in their thinking. One young woman in the audience managed to timidly mention that anti-Israel wasn’t the same as anti-Semitic, but was completely ignored. The crowd were baying for blood.
So why have these two year old revelations about Naz Shah’s stupidity only come out now anyway? Well, so that the Labour party, and Corbyn in particular, is wrongly splashed all over the news as anti-Semitic monsters in time for the elections next week, of course. And who made the Naz Shah revelations in the first place? Guido Fawkes, the right wing political blogger also known as Paul Staines, a former stockbroker whose site was described by the Daily Telegraph as “one of Britain’s leading political blog sites’, and who now has a weekly column in The Sun. Neither publications being known for their left-wing sympathies… He was also a social media advisor to Boris Johnson’s London Mayoral campaign. Probably not on Jeremy Corbyn’s Christmas card list.
Sometimes the important thing is not to be right, Ken, it’s recognising that there is a time for telling people, and a time for keeping quiet.