The Guardian defends Ken Livingstone

In reviewing British media reports today on the decision by the Labour Party not to permanently expel Ken Livingstone for his toxic and historically inaccurate claims alleging a “collaboration” between Hitler and Zionism, one thing stood out: There was almost nobody – either in the media or politics – who was willing defend the former London Mayor or the party’s decision to let him off with a temporary suspension.  Indeed, those condemning Labour for their failure to employ a “zero tolerance towards antisemitism” included scores of Labour MPs, and even Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson.  

Note that we said “almost” nobody was willing to defend him. 

Yesterday, the Guardian published this, by their long-time cartoonist Steve Bell, suggesting that all Livingstone did was mention Hitler too often.

Today the Guardian published another cartoon by Bell, characterising the Labour Party proceedings as a kangaroo court and mocking the allegations of antisemitism against Livingstone.

Bell’s sympathies are also clear in this retweet of Livingstone’s claim that he was being unfairly smeared for ‘standing up for Palestine’.

Let’s be clear. Though the row began with Livingstone’s widely refuted claim that Hitler “was supporting Zionism…before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”, and included the even more offensive allegation that the SS trained German Jews, this was not a one-off.  Livingstone has a record of evoking Nazis to demonise Israel and abuse British Jews.  As David Hirsh reminded us, in 1982, Livingstone, as editor of a Workers Revolutionary Party paper, published a cartoon of Menachem Begin giving a Nazi salute and wearing an SS uniform while standing on Palestinian skulls. In 2005, he accused a Jewish reporter of acting “like a German war criminal”. And, in 2009, Livingstone characterised Gaza as a modern Warsaw Ghetto.   Though Livingstone has always maintained that he’s not antisemitic, just anti-Zionist, his 2012 claim that Jews were rich and thus not likely to vote Labour belies that claim.

Of course, those familiar with the Guardian cartoonist wouldn’t be surprised by his sympathy for Livingstone, as he has a history of both ridiculing claims of antisemitism and, at times, drawing upon antisemitic motifs. Let’s recall his most notorious work, in 2012,  playing upon the narrative of Jewish (puppet-like) control over non-Jewish British politicians, which was later criticised by the Guardian readers’ editor – but not removed.

Guardian, Nov. 15, 2012. “Tony Blair and William Hague’s role in Israel-Gaza clash”.

Bell’s body of work includes cartoons which seemed to mock charges of antisemitism, and a couple depicting Jews pejoratively as the ‘chosen people’.

Whilst we disagree with those who suggest that hyper criticism of Israel at the Guardian reflects institutional antisemitism, these cartoons by Bell certainly indicate his own lack of seriousness about anti-Jewish racism by employing graphic depictions of Jews historically associated with this prejudice.

It also raises serious questions about Guardian editors’ judgment in publishing cartoons offensive to British Jews and clearly at odds with their mission as a bold, progressive, anti-racist voice which speaks truth to power. 

Related Articles:

18 replies »

  1. “Whilst we disagree with those who suggest that hyper criticism of Israel at the Guardian reflects institutional antisemitism” – ROFLMAO.

    • I suppose Livingstone was an enthusiastic super zionist together with his mentor and co zionist Adolf Hitler at an earlier time. I cannot cope now with the nausea I develop just looking at or reading about Livingstone. Takes a good vomit to get my health back on track.

  2. It all seems to hark back to the days of the Third Reich. Very worrying indeed that this sort of thing is considered acceptable. I bet the situation wouldn’t arise if the subject of the discussion was the black population and slavery.

  3. Unlike some here I met Ken Livingstone decades ago and remember his antics as Leader of the GLC. I’ve also had the opportunity to talk to former Labour members of the GLC and have been aware for a long time of Livingstone’s antics as Leader, not just the way he ‘back-stabbed’ to become Leader but the way he was always prepared to steal other peoples ideas and claim them as his own.
    One of the things that sticks in my memory from decades ago is the way that Livingstone used to regard Mario Puzo’s fiction novel “The Godfather” as some kind of guide book for politics! I can clearly remember at the time the late Denis Healey, one time Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, berating Livingstone for it.
    For those of you with short memories, how convenient for you, this is from ‘The Independent’ of March 17th 2008.

    ” When darling of the Left in the 1980s, a moustachioed Ken Livingstone eulogised Mario Puzo’s The Godfather as “a much more honest account of how politicians operate than any of the self-justifying rubbish in political biographies”.
    Now 62, he plots his political survival from the glassy bowels of City Hall – and his obsession with the Corleone family persists. “I interviewed Ken seven times and he came out with this Godfather stuff,” explains BBC journalist Andrew Hosken, whose unauthorised biography, Ken: The Ups And Downs of Ken Livingstone, is out next month.”

    • Don’t forget that the utter POS Healey, after Israel bombed Osirak, fulminated vilely against “the regime in Tel-Aviv”. He was no better than Livingstone.

  4. A bitter old man has to spend his plentiful spare time somehow, and there is a limit to how much time anyone can spend on a great crested newt.

  5. As the examples above and others published in The Guardian show, Bell has a history of channeling Der Sturmer. Great cartoonist, rotten-to-the-core politics when it comes to Jews.

  6. Please, please can we keep away from the discourse of “offence” as in “serious questions about Guardian editors’ judgment in publishing cartoons offensive to British Jews.”

    This is the framing used by Corbyn et al to avoid confronting the real issue of antisemitism; Corbyn used it only yesterday in explaining why Ken’s case had to be reopened, and even Ken himself used it to avoid culpability, saying it was the MPs who had caused offence. This, and its stablemate “hurt.” signal that this is about subjective feelings, and the corollary is invariably that Jews are touchy, whiny manipulative people who need to be appeased.
    Here, Mediawatch has dented its usually impeccable critiques by a particularly narrow use of this; not just Jews who are the offended group, but British Jews.
    The criterion of judging Bell’s cartoons, and Ken’s utterances, should be objective: Did they deploy antisemitic tropes, with reference to known historic usage and its historic consequences, and current instrumentalised usage with regard to Israel etc.

  7. The final cartoon that is published might change the interpretation of the “kangaroo court” cartoon at the top. Since “Jews” was made to rhyme with “Druse” and “kangaroos”, it makes me wonder if that link was not, in some subconscious way, meant to suggest that a “kangaroo court” is a “Jewish court” in a Cockney rhyming slang kind of way.
    On a more fundamental level, it is a mistake to frame this issue as one of Livingstone offending British Jews. While that may be true, the manner of his going about it is to spew lies – plain and simple. What he says is simply untrue as a factual matter and it is that which should be the focus of the stories. Corbyn is taking the “offense” angle whose only purpose is to suggest to the true believers that the truth hurts or, to borrow from “A Few Good Men,” “Jews can’t handle the truth.” That entire line of defense is offensive, but Livingstone’s comments are malicious inventions that need to be called out for what they really are.

  8. Ken doesn’t “stand up for Palestine,” he bends over for it, and wants the Jews to bend over for him.
    It’s 2017 and this schmuck is busy rewriting the 1930’s to justify antisemitism. Very “progressive.”