In the wake of the Labour Party antisemitism scandal, on Tuesday the House of Commons held an inquiry into antisemitism, at which witnesses appeared both from the Jewish Community and Ken Livingstone himself, the former Mayor of London who was one of the main triggers for the antisemitism with his outspoken and scandalous comments. After Jonathan Arkush of the Jewish Board of Deputies spoke, Livingstone did not help himself at all as he refused to apologize and doubled down on his claims.
From the Telegraph link above:
Ken Livingstone has been condemned as a “pinup for prejudice” as Labour MPs and the most senior representative of the British Jewish community criticised his unrepentant stance over allegations of anti-Semitism.
The former London mayor was labelled a “political pariah” and “repellent” by Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, for claiming Adolf Hitler supported the creation of a Jewish state.
Mr Livingstone was also told he had “betrayed” Labour and his legacy as mayor through “needlessly and repeatedly offending the Jewish people” by Chuka Umunna, who ran for the party leadership last year, in a series of heated exchanges.
However Mr Livingstone remained defiant during his hour-long appearance, repeatedly refusing to apologise and claiming his initial comments were as accurate a “two plus two equals four”.
[Mr Arkush] expressed concern that “people on the far Left are trying to smear Jews by saying they behaved like Nazis” and called the historical basis for Mr Livingstone’s comments “completely wrong and false.”
Mr Arkush added: “I find it astonishing he can have made those remarks and still stand by them. Anyone who exhibits that sort of bigotry I think is clearly anti-Semitic and his views are utterly repellent to our community.
And the second (which in my opinion is more interesting):
Sarah Brown at Harry’s Place has a good summary of the proceedings if you don’t want to listen through the entire debate. The following points that she mentions are the essence of the “Anti-Zionism-not-Antisemitism” argument, as they clarify the obsessiveness of anti-Israel “activists”: (emphases are mine):
Vaz then turned to the EUMC working definition and asked whether it was correct to include criticism of the foundation of the state of Israel as antisemitic.
Arkush responded that it would be important to know whether someone opposed all forms of nationalism or just Jewish nationalism., and affirmed that of course one could criticise Netanyahu’s government without being antisemitic.
He also confirmed that he believed the main problem lay with the Labour Party rather than other mainstream parties and that in his opinion statements made by Malia Bouattia (President of the NUS) were also antisemitic (14:15).
MP Ranil Jayawardena raised concerns about the obsessive scrutiny of Israel, and the readiness of some to cosy up to antisemites. Arkush then made the important point that Corbyn’s meetings with groups such as Hamas were not arranged simply with a view to making peace, and that Corbyn has failed to acknowledge a problem with such alliances.
One of the heroes of the debate was Labour MP Chuka Umunna, Labour’s former shadow business secretary, who unreservedly condemned Livingstone:
Arkush also remarked most aptly that “Zionist is code word for Jew”; “history has shown that what starts with the Jews does not end with the Jews” and delivered a stark warning to Britain that antisemitism is “normally a sign of some greater ill in society”.
Arkush did express optimism that Britain will end up “in a better place” if it confronts this antisemitism and deals with it properly. If more MPs like Mr. Umunna and John Mann speak up, there is a good chance that he is right. We had better hope so for all our sakes.