This article is not exclusively about Ken Livingstone who, apparently, has made a volte face and apologised for remarks he made earlier this month in a meeting with central Jewish party activists. As we all know, Ken is a political animal; adept when he needs to be, opportunist if required and,well, if there is a slip of the tongue that is going to stop him being elected, he will be out there trying to repair the damage. Therefore, the apology, after a backlash over leaked remarks which were interpreted as saying that Jewish voters would not vote for him because they were rich, might be taken with a pinch of salt. However, this is not neither exclusively about Ken, nor his political opportunism or even whether his original remarks were right or wrong.
It is also about the reactions of certain people after the closed meeting held between a group of local Jewish leaders, including veteran Labour supporters, rabbis and pro-Israel lobbyists and Ken Livingstone, which was an attempt to find common ground between the mayoral candidate and Jewish Labour supporters , where the “offensive” remarks were apparently said.”
“Pro-Israel lobbyists”, yes, you got that right and apparently those pro Israel-lobbyists are upset that at various points in the discussion “Ken used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli, interchangeably, as if they meant the same”. Now, whether Ken actually thinks the three things are the same, I don’t know. However, equating Israel, the “Jewish state” with Zionism, would appear to be logical. Indeed, is that not indeed how Israel sees itself? Is that not Israel’s raison d’être? Of course, it is, even if it must be emphasised that many Jews are anti-Israel, many more are against its policies and, indeed, quite a few are anti-Zionist.
Still, Ken knows when damage has been done and we might even view his listing a range of initiatives he promoted when in office, including opposing the academic boycott of Israel, as pure political expediency, even if we might think that an academic boycott of Israel is no bad thing. However, if we put on our thinking caps we might also realise that this is also about something else. Apparently, in the letter of concern sent to Ed Milliband by some of those who attended the meeting, Livingstone suggested “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”. Well, you know, being rich, the “Jewish community”, might just not vote for him but then, who knows, it might not have to, after all as Ken implies when he says, “Jewish voters are not one homogenous block,” “it” might not even be that important. After all, there are a lot of voters out there, Jewish and otherwise, who might just like to think for themselves. Nevertheless, a little less of the collective huff, please!