Despite the best intentions of the likes of Louise Mensch, the wild accusations of anti-Semitism that greeted Jeremy Corbyn’s triumphant election to leader of the Labour Party never really stuck, mainly due to there being no real evidence of the ‘fact’. All that has changed this week with the quite disgraceful behaviour, not of Ken Livingstone or Naz Shah (who is on far shakier ground than Ken), but of John Mann.
The furore began when Naz Shah was pulled up and suspended for a pretty appalling tweet. Her suggestion that Israel be re-located into the US, and especially the use of the word “re-locate” given its connotations with Nazi euphemisms used during the Holocaust, was unpleasant and unnecessary to say the least. However it is important to point out that she was referring to Israel, not Jews. It can therefore be viewed as anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic. Most observers would know this if it weren’t for the likes of the aforementioned Mensch, who seems to feel being married to a Jewish man gives her authority to verbally assault anyone who is critical of anything remotely Jewish, despite the fact she once suggested Herzl (the founder of Zionism) of whom she had no knowledge, was an anti-Semite. In fact, I am sure if I bought a dreidel and suggested it wasn’t very good she would be on my case, as she was when I used the term ‘Jewish lobby’ as opposed to ‘Israeli lobby’. I was unaware that the former term is insulting to some but in my defence, not that any is needed, I used it in the same manner I would refer to the Armenian lobby. Nevertheless, Mensch branded me an anti-Semite. The former Miss Bagshawe has deliberately ( well I hope it is deliberate; if not she has shown a stunning lack of intellect) muddied the waters between all of the above mentioned terminology. For her, being anti-Israeli and being anti-Zionist is the same as being an anti-Semite, which it patently isn’t, because if it were then there are millions of self -hating Jews out there.
This blurring of the lines has been a deliberate ploy on behalf of the Tory party and the Labour right in a bid to destabilise a Corbyn led Labour Party that frankly terrifies them. Naz Shah’s comment, made a couple of years ago, suddenly became an issue in the wake of the Prime Minister’s attempts to mislead the public over his off-shore shenanigans. It is right that Naz Shah has been suspended because Labour does not want to be embarrassed further should a real smoking gun appear as opposed to this manufactured version. If Shah is anti-Semitic she rightfully has to go. However, there is a lack of evidence thus far.
On the other hand Ken Livingstone has done nothing wrong. His suggestion that Hitler supported Zionism (and not that Hitler was a Zionist) is a historical fact. Hitler was quite obviously not supporting Zionism in an altruistic venture, but at a point during the 1930s he definitely supported the idea that Jews move out of Germany and into Palestine, which is what Livingstone suggested Hitler supported. John Mann appeared on television screens the day before the Livingstone comment was blown out of all proportion (by Mann himself) to discuss the Naz Shah story. Mann’s appearance confused me. We can all feel passionate about the blight of racism, but Mann’s particular focus on anti-Semitism seemed a little incongruous especially at a time when anti-Islamic racism is perhaps the major form of racism at the moment. I have not found much written or spoken by Mann on that form of racism, certainly not as strident as his intolerance of anti-Semitism.
Similarly, Mann in his role as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, has links with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. This a Trust that has desperately attempted to ignore/play down the Armenian Genocide, a crime that Hitler gained comfort from in 1939 because the perpetrators went unpunished. Indeed, I have struggled to find the passionate Mann make any reference to that event. Does that make him a denier? Well if he knows about it, I guess it does. At the very least it makes him a Young Turk apologist. On the Holocaust Memorial Day site they talk of ‘Atrocities against the Armenians’, but not genocide. Are they denying genocide? Well, yes.
Speaking of knowledge, Mann’s knowing and televised stalking of Livingstone (just watch how many times he looks to check the cameras are still rolling) resembled a naive and ill educated GCSE student haranguing a Professor who stated a fact that Mann misunderstood. Whilst Livingstone tried to reason with him, Mann responded by levelling the most appalling slurs against the former Mayor of London in what appeared to be a personal agenda (Mann having six months earlier referred to Livingstone as a “bigot”). In calling him a “disgusting racist” and a “Nazi apologist”, Mann made himself look utterly foolish, even more so when he accused Livingstone of re-writing history, which he most certainly didn’t. Mann’s reference to Mein Kampf was laughable too. “There’s a book called Mein Kampf…” as if Livingstone would not know what that was. In Mein Kampf (which wasn’t ‘written’ by Hitler but was dictated whilst in prison) there are numerous references to Hitler’s racism towards both Jews and blacks. The book is also dedicated to Hitler’s loyal friend Max Erwin von Scheubner Richter who died in the Munich Putsch having previously served in Erzerum at the time of the Armenian Genocide, an event he documented. Mann seems blind to anything other than Hitler’s views on Jews? Why? Is he well read on other literature relating to the Holocaust? His ignorance of the Haavara Agreement suggests not.
Both Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone are to the left of the Party and the far left of the Party would include Communists. If Mann was more educated on Hitler’s views he would no doubt be aware that Hitler’s dislike of Communism was partly founded in his view that it was a Jewish construct. There have been a number of leading and outstanding Jewish figures in the history of socialism and yet Mann seems to think that Livingstone (and other colleagues of his) is an anti-Semite simply because he regurgitated a piece of history Mann obviously knew nothing about.
I am heartened that a petition criticising Mann’s behaviour is active. it shows that there are people who understand the nuance of Livingstone’s remarks and rightfully feel that Mann lacked the knowledge or understanding of the point to confront Livingstone about it.
Anti-Semitism exists. Like all racism it is a blight on society and should never be tolerated. However, the likes of Louise Mensch and John Mann are simply making it much more difficult to root out those who seriously hold such abhorrent views, and it might be argued, are using the term as a silencing mechanism for those they dislike.