by Rob Marchant
“Can’t get the stink off/He’s been hanging round for days”, wrote Thom Yorke in 1993. “You do it to yourself, you do/And that’s what really hurts”. Lines that could have been written for Labour’s troubled, Stockholm-syndrome relationship with one man. A man who is still hanging round a party which somehow cannot seem to shake him off, either.
Last Tuesday, Ken Livingstone was, essentially, let off. A man who for years has ridden perilously close to anti-Semitism in his behaviour – we shouldn’t forget the “concentration camp guard” incident with a Jewish journalist in 2005 – finally crossed the line a year ago when he decided to argue that Hitler was a Zionist.
It is difficult to overstate how offensive both remarks was to Jews.
First, the obvious: mentioning Hitler in this context immediately spells “Holocaust” in the minds of most Jews.
Second, because the term “Zionist” has lately become a term of abuse on the left and code for “Jew”, rather than its literal meaning of someone who believes in Israel’s right to exist (hardly a high bar for most people – if you don’t believe it has a right to exist, you must believe it should be destroyed and, presumably, all its inhabitants either killed or deported).
Third, because it is grossly insulting to pretend that Israel, for all its many faults, is directly comparable to a regime which systematically massacred a whole people – themselves – on grounds of their race.