Steve Beauchampé doesn’t much like Ken Livingstone, John Mann or the policies of successive Israeli governments.
Ken Livingstone is an idiot. When asked on BBC Radio London about the suspension of Labour MP Naz Shah over alleged anti-Semitic remarks he should have answered: “Naz’s words were clumsy and ill-advised, but she’s made a full and heartfelt apology and I’m sure that she’ll be given a fair hearing by the party, However disciplinary proceedings are being undertaken so that’s all I’m prepared to say on the matter.”
To questions about whether the Labour Party has a problem with anti-Semitism, Livingstone might have responded with: “Yes, but these problems aren’t just confined to the Labour Party or the Left. Nonetheless anti-Semitism is always unacceptable and I’m sure that the leadership will get a grip on it and I hope and trust that all political parties will act as decisively as we will be doing.”
Issue laid to rest; now move on. Of course Livingstone didn’t, not at all. Invoking Adolf Hitler to bolster your argument is never a good idea and whilst there may have been a morsel of truth about Livingstone’s claims regarding Hitler and the possible deportation of a small number of Jews, at best this meant that the Fuhrer was fleetingly prepared to consider a degree of ethnic cleansing that didn’t involve genocide. Which would still have made him a heinous war criminal in the minds of every sane person on the planet.
The subsequent intervention of arch-Blairite, anti-Corbyn Labour MP John Mann, haranguing and harassing Livingstone in Millbank Studios, home to political correspondents from BBC, ITV and Sky News and thus a location where Mann knew a phalanx of camera crews and reporters would likely be on hand, was premeditated grandstanding with a sinister purpose.
As has been widely reported, that coterie of Labour MPs who have never accepted the decisive democratic mandate Corbyn secured last autumn realise that they have at best 4-5 months to try to oust him (almost certainly via some rather scurrilous means that involves keeping Corbyn’s name off the ballot paper), before reforms anticipated at this September’s party conference transfer crucial powers from the party hierarchy into the hands of members.
Given that any Labour losses (or even perhaps limited gains) in this week’s council, devolved and Mayoral elections will be used by Corbyn’s adversaries as an excuse to try and replace him, Mann’s very public intervention can be interpreted as a calculated move to undermine the party’s electoral chances this Thursday.
That said, Labour clearly needs to confront anti-Semitism amongst a small section of its supporters, and the appointment of Shami Chakrabarty to oversee an independent review into the issue of racism within the party is likely to ensure that it does. One can argue whether Corbyn responded swiftly enough initially (although decisions taken in haste are often the wrong ones), and debate the extent of the problem within the party, but Corbyn should at least now be commended for acting decisively.
Divorcing legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy, in particular as regards Palestine and the Palestinians, from racist remarks against those of the Jewish faith shouldn’t be difficult. But this is an undeniably and understandably emotive subject where issues are readily tangled up and conflated. Israel continually contravenes international law and ignores legally enforceable UN resolutions.
It defies human rights treaties and daily entrenches further its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, not least by constructing new settlements. It practices apartheid, discrimination and arguably racism.
Israel has killed, injured and displaced many thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians (in addition to those forced into ghettos or refugee camps for life following its inception almost seventy years ago), denied Palestinians clean drinking water and effectively imprisoned whole swathes of civilians behind a wall and intensive and invasive border controls.
That it does all this with impunity, with either the tacit or open support of the world’s most powerful nations (including the UK), that those same nations readily arm and train its military, that they ignored Israel’s development of nuclear weapons whilst threatening other states who try to develop the same, brings forth emotions and anger that some find hard to contain.
In an age where the immediacy of global personal communication tools allows, perhaps encourages, rushed, ill-considered and unedited responses, it seems inevitable that on this of all subjects some will engage in remarks that are offensive, or worse. Yet if we truly want to eradicate anti-Semitism then the most effective way is to address the monumental injustices that are committed against the Palestinians in Israel’s name. But the world’s superpowers aren’t even close to doing that.
So get angry about that Mr Mann!