Does Ken Livingstone read the Guardian?

I hope so. Because if he does he will have read on 19th May an article about Israel and the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister, in which an Israeli general apparently compared the atmosphere in Israel today to that of Nazi era Germany. I expect the general will have been accused of a lot of things as a consequence but I doubt that anti-Semitism was one of them.

Livingstone’s intervention in the fuss about Naz Shah (Hitler and Zionism) was a bit clumsy but he was right to intervene, right to defend Shah, right to deny the alleged automatic link between criticism of Israel and Zionism and anti-Semitism. Pity there were not more like him.

Why do Labour leaders like Corbyn and MacDonnell run for cover when someone accuses their colleagues of anti-Semitism? McDonnell gives the impression of being genuinely, if stupidly, confused about the issue but Corbyn should know better.

The Jewish lobby is a real threat to free speech. Hang on a minute! Is that an anti-Semitic statement? It mentioned Jews; it didn’t say the Israeli lobby! What a state of affairs when we have to ask ourselves a question like that. It is entirely reasonable to refer to the Jewish lobby because prominent Jewish individuals (Alan Baddiel) and specifically Jewish organisations (Board of Deputies) intervene to denounce politics they do not like as anti-Semitic.

It isn’t just the Jewish lobby, of course, but the Muslim Council of Great Britain and increasingly organisations representing various forms of sexual identity that demand treatment for themselves that consistently narrows the scope of free speech.

That’s a real problem, and it has been made infinitely worse by the craven panic induced in the Labour leadership by the attack on Shah.


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