We are alarmed that the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee has bowed to demands for the suspension of Ken Livingstone, excluding him from the life of the party until April 2018.
Having failed to make a case that he was guilty of antisemitic conduct, his accusers alleged that he was nonetheless guilty of conduct grossly detrimental to the party because, according to them, he had upset the UK’s Jewish population. The grounds put forward for this were Ken Livingstone’s references to a temporary agreement prior to World War II, between some Zionist leaders and Hitler’s Nazi Party, to facilitate the emigration of a number of Jews from Germany. The Zionist motivation was to increase the numbers of Jews going to Palestine.
In our evidence to the NCC we explained that those claiming offence on behalf of all Jews have no justification for doing so. Such a claim deliberately ignores the views of large numbers of Jewish people, both in the Labour Party and in society at large. These are people who, like us, find their identity in a different tradition to the Zionist one; or who, while continuing to believe in the Zionist ideal, are deeply uncomfortable about ongoing inroads into free speech and believe that the history of the Zionist movement must be open to scrutiny.
According to a legal opinion(published on March 27) on the ‘definition’ of antisemitism adopted by the government and the Labour Party, criticising Israel for its ill treatment of Palestinians cannot be taken as evidence of antisemitism. For a political party to adopt the principle that causing offence to some part of the population is a reason for expulsion, would be to deny freedom of expression for what are legitimate political opinions.
The decision to suspend Ken is mistaken. It is an attempt to protect Israel from criticism, while simultaneously weakening the position of the pro-Palestinian Left in the party. It is the verdict, not Ken Livingstone, that has bought the Labour Party into disrepute.
We support calls for his reinstatement.
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