The battle over Palestinian rights and the oppression of the Palestinian people is being fought out in the Labour Party in the guise of an increasingly vindictive witch hunt against Ken Livingstone. The Zionists supported from the Israeli embassy, backed by the Tories, the Labour Right, the BBC, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel have mounted a campaign to damage Corbyn’s reputation, weaken his leadership and divide the Labour left. They have settled on Livingstone as their prime target.
Last Saturday Left Unity National Council passed a draft resolution which “condemns unreservedly the witch-hunt against Ken Livingstone”. Hopefully the full edited statement will be published in Weekly Worker next week. It is important that we all work together on this.
Left Unity is a separate party. But this is not just some internal Labour Party matter. If the Labour Party cannot take on the Palestine-witch hunt issue and ends up eating itself in a Zionist whirlwind, socialists outside Labour have to step up to the front. This is an issue for the whole working class and for Jewish and non-Jewish workers alike. Already many Jewish socialists in the Labour Party have spoken out against the witch hunt. But their voices are being ignored in the media.
Last Sunday I attended a timely meeting organised by CPGB to oppose the witch hunt. The meeting was addressed by Tony Greenstein and Mike McNair who examined the historical record of Nazi and Zionist politics in the 1930s and the political and legal aspects of the Livingstone case today. It was argued that most of the left had capitulated to the witch hunt beginning with Corbyn and Abbot, Momentum and the Alliance for Workers Liberty and the Socialist Workers Party. Tony Cliff would not be a happy at that.
The Zionists have deployed the weapon of Fake News to create the idea that ‘antisemitism’ has taken over the Labour Party since Corbyn was elected leader. Nobody had the effrontery to claim that Corbyn is antisemitic. So the story was fabricated that Corbyn has been soft and tolerated racism against Jewish members. Thanks to the BBC and the capitalist press everybody has heard about the ‘rise’ of antisemitism now engulfing Labour.
After searching for victims and picking for example on Jackie Walker, a socialist with a Jewish background, the hunters settled on Ken Livingstone. He has a record of support for Palestinian rights. When under attack he said, albeit in a slightly clumsy fashion, that Hitler and the Nazis had made agreements with Zionists to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine in the early 1930s, before the Nazis adopted the policy of mass extermination.
This story is historically accurate. Stating the facts is not antisemitic. It is part of the historical experience of Jewish people and in the interests of democracy and free speech that such facts are more widely known. The Haavara agreement involved the Zionist Federation of Germany and the Nazi government. No doubt it saved the lives of some German Jews sent to Palestine. But it saved the Nazis from a Jewish led international economic boycott which was weakening them.
It is valid to ask whether Zionism in the 1930s undermined the international antifascist movement. Yet this misses the point. This is not really about the 1930s. It is about Palestine and the policy of the Zionist Israeli government today. It concerns a struggle to oust Corbyn and restore a right wing pro-Israel Labour Party. Campaigning to expel Livingstone is a lever against Corbyn.
Zionism justifies colonial expansion, the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories and a Jewish supremacist state. The socialist answer is to condemn the witch hunt against Livingstone, defend the right for free speech on Israel and Palestine, and oppose Zionist ideology. Socialists have to turn the tables by transforming the witch hunt into the biggest Palestinian solidarity campaign the Labour Party has ever known.
Corbyn has to be criticised for failing to bring Palestine into this battle and make racism against Palestinians the central issue for the Labour Party. In the early 1930s a ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ type campaign nearly halted the Nazi regime, not least by giving encouragement to antifascist resistance in Germany. We must redouble our efforts to make sure the suffering of the Jewish people and their resistance to the Nazis can today inspire the Palestinian people and all who want justice and peace in the Middle East.