Ken Livingstone, the intolerable former mayor of London – and presently the Labour Party mayoral candidate – has done it again. ‘‘It,’’ meaning an anti-Semitic outburst, and ‘‘again’’ referring to his long history of inflammatory and offensive statements and behavior. To wit: referring to a Jewish journalist as a concentration camp guard; embracing extremist Islamist cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who promotes the destruction of the Jewish people; telling the Indian-Jewish Reuben brothers to ‘‘go back to Iran;’’ obsessively venting hate for Israel and Zionism, as manifest, for instance, in his autobiography; and so on.
His current contribution to this contemptible catalogue stems from a meeting on March 1, where he stood by his embrace of Qaradawi, as well as his employ at Press TV, a notorious Anglophone network funded by the Iranian government and anchored by, among others, George Galloway. That’s just context though; the problem was, according to Jewish observers, as follows:
Ken toward the end of the meeting stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn’t vote for him.
Not only is the undertone of this statement anti-Semitic, but it is factually false, on two counts: first, one cannot help recalling Milton Himmelfarb’s observation that, contra Livingstone, Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans — which, to the chagrin of British conservatives, is also applicable to the Jewish community in the UK; and second, plenty of British Jews do earn like ‘‘Puerto Ricans’’ (perhaps substitute a different ethnicity here, though!) and vote accordingly. Indeed, the Jews at the meeting were Labour supporters! The indubitable falsity of the statement accentuates the anti-Semitic sentiment.
The Jews present have penned a letter to Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, and the Jewish community’s leadership is due to meet with the Opposition leader later this month. No doubt this issue will be high on the agenda, and with the recent forced retirement of Baroness Jenny Tonge as [junior governing coalition partner] Liberal Democrat whip in the Lords for the most recent of her recurrent anti-Jewish eruptions, Miliband might be under greater pressure. Nevertheless, with the mayoral election less than two months away, expectations shouldn’t be high.