Ken’s adventures in Israel

4 November 2011

3:24 PM

4 November 2011

3:24 PM

There is a very peculiar passage in Ken Livingstone’s memoirs, "You Can’t Say
That", about a visit he made to Israel as leader of the GLC. He had been invited by the Socialist-Zionist party Mapam, which has since merged with Meretz. Livingstone had already been
identified as someone who was hostile to Israel and so the comrades took him on "an exhausting round of meetings with all with all Jewish and Arab political factions". He also visited Yad
Vashem, the Golan Heights, Masada and a kibbutz.

He remained unimpressed. As I have written in the Jewish Chronicle this week,
Livingstone rarely changes his mind about anything and never admits he’s wrong.


But his account of his Israel visit is more than a little peculiar. Livingstone explains that from the moment he arrived in Tel Aviv "journalists discovered I wasn’t the anti-Semitic
monster I’d been painted". But then he writes:

"Mapam’s optimism about peace was infectious but polls showed that over 40 per cent of Israelis were in favour of the forced eviction of all Arabs living within the 1948 borders. At the
farewell dinner with Mapam they were more shocked when I suggested that a second bottle of wine at a dinner for four wasn’t excessive in a land where Jesus turned water into wine."

So let’s get this right: Livingstone is saying his hosts and fellow socialists were less concerned about the fate of the Palestinians than about the GLC leader’s demand for more wine.
 What exactly is he suggesting? Were these people brutes? Un-Christian? Or just plain mean? Thank goodness their ungracious guest wasn’t anti-Semitic, otherwise heaven knows what clichéd
Jewish tropes he might have come up with.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice think.

  • Patricia Shaw

    We have a very large number of self proclaimed Zionists in teh cabinet. From Shapps to Vaizey to Gove to the Neocon pipsqueaks like Patel – a strangelehold on this country’s foreign policy that becomes all the more apparent with illogical and baffling decisions such as Hague’s inability to recognise Palestine.

  • john woods

    Personally I think he was lucky to even get one bottle out of em.

  • David Lindsay

    Sorry, “this site” should have read “my own ite”. But you get the gist.

  • David Lindsay

    Quite so, Patricia Shaw.

    William Hague gave a very good summary of why Britain would vote on Friday for the UN to give de jure recognition to the de facto State of Palestine. But at the end, he declared, with absolutely no relationship to the rest of his statement, that our representative would be abstaining. Morning Crescent. I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue.

    Except, of course, that I have, and so have you. The number of Soviet agents on the Labour benches, occasionally requiring to be purged, was always tiny; there were probably far more on the other side, having sat at the feet of certain Oxbridge figures, and enquiring as to a gentleman’s political opinion having been the nadir of vulgarity in his progress up the Conservative Party. Still, they would always have been a fairly small minority.

    But within that latter party today, 80 per cent of MPs are known, mostly because they say so openly, to be members of the Israeli party that leads a coalition including the denaturalisers of Yisrael Beiteinu and the racist loonies of Shas. Our own dear Prime Minister is one such avowed Likudnik. And then there are the payments from Mossad.

    The matter-of-fact pointing out of this blatantly obvious treason, since confirmed by the enforced resignation of a Defence Secretary who was and is a key figure in it, once got me removed, admittedly from an unpaid position with no higher a profile than this site, by a someone who either thought that he was still employed by Conrad “Jailbird” Black, or else had motives altogether more sinister, if not both. He then embarked on a demented and deranged campaign of defamation and abuse against me, in alliance with strong adherents of the nominally Labour or Labour-inclined Likudniks, namely the supporters of David Miliband.

    Such as there still are, since today even Tristram Hunt spoke from below the gangway, the bench also occupied by Dennis Skinner and Ronnie Campbell. Hunt, furthermore, is a member of the most un-Blairite Balanced Migration. I wonder if he, and others cajoled into nominating the wrong Miliband last year in order to advance their careers, might not be so neoliberal at home and neoconservative abroad after all? One of them certainly isn’t, and her career is coming along nicely.

  • Patricia Shaw

    Jesus – what a pathetic post from somebody from whom we expect better.

    What about a post on Hague burying bad news on Palestine recognition on a bad news day, where Italy and Greece will surely conceal it?

    Why is the Spectator so notoriously supportive of the far Israeli Right?

  • Stephen Peach

    ….or for ousting Lord Mackintosh as Leader of the GLC just after Labour won control. Ken has form on this.

  • John Edwards

    I think Ken Livingstone is actually trying to make a joke. However, some people have never forgiven him for ousting Reg Freeson from Brent East and will try and make an issue out of anything Ken says or does.

  • Thomas Paine

    ‘What on earth was he trying to say?’

    I think he was cracking a joke, dear boy.

    Though you’d never guess from the humourless chumps who seem to have a full-time job commentating one way or the other on every Israel-Palestine thread that comes up in any publication whatsoever.

    Sometimes a joke is just a joke ….

  • David Lindsay

    DavidDP, the Vichy regime denaturalised the Jews, and the party of the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister wants to denaturalise the Arabs and the Haredim (the “ultra-Orthodox”). That is its key, its signature, policy. And it is on a roll.

  • DavidDP

    “before Israel makes any formal attempt to do to them what the Vichy regime did to the Jews.”

    I think it’s now quite clear that, as a political class, the UK left’s derangement regarding Israel has reached biblical proportions, given they now appear to be concerned that Israel will start shipping Jews off to genocidal camps.

  • David Lindsay

    Adam Nixon, within the pre-1967 borders, half of children starting school are now either Haredi or Arab. Yet the party of the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister wants to denaturalise both of those categories. At the very least, pursuant to her responsibilities as set out in the Balfour Declaration to defend the rights both of the non-Jewish people of Palestine and of Jews everywhere, Britain must legislate to issue British passports to any denaturalised Israeli.

    Quite conceivably, British passports should be issued to the Haredim and the Arabs, both of which are already legally recognised as distinct, before Israel makes any formal attempt to do to them what the Vichy regime did to the Jews.

  • David Lindsay

    RCE, David Cameron is about to legislate for Ken Livingstone’s signature policy of same-sex marriage (with which I do not agree), regarded as the quintessence of the “Loony Left” in those days.

    Tony Benn’s signature policy of abolishing the House of Lords (with which I do not agree) is also at least nominally that of the Conservative Party, though arguably not of the Labour Party.

    And whereas Livingstone was vilified for nothing more than he was for dealing with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the groundwork leading inevitably to their and their party’s inclusion in government (with which I do not agree) goes all the way back to John Major.

    Further than that, in fact. The same Margaret Thatcher who gave Britain the Single European Act, the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the Children Act, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs, also signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, was in continuous contact with the IRA while claiming that she was not, and mysteriously escaped unscathed from the Brighton Bomb.

    The 1980s Counterrevolution simply never happened. If anything, the reverse is the truth. Left and Right both need to face up to that fact. But neither shows any sign of doing so.

  • Adam Nixon

    “Livingstone is saying his hosts and fellow socialists were less concerned about the fate of the Palestinians than about the GLC leader’s demand for more wine.”

    Well, perhaps they were. He was there, and you weren’t. So how on earth can you know?

    “Were these people brutes?” If 40% of Israelis (i.e. 64% of Jewish Israelis) are in favour of evicting all Arabs from their homes within the 1948 borders, the case for their being “brutes” while certainly not proven, has a prima facie value.

    One could sum your entire artcle up by quoting “You can’t say that”.

  • RCE

    David Lindsay –

    The Right did win. That’s why the left had to import millions of votes from the third world, pace Nether.

  • David Lindsay

    Noa., everyone should read Ken Livingstone’s memoirs in order to find the roots of what are now, for good or ill, the policies of all three parties.

    Think of anything, not from the Bennite parliamentary programme of that period, nor from the Scargillite union one, but specifically from the world of “Loony Left” local government of which Livingstone was the public face. It would certainly now be mainstream opinion, and almost certainly the policy of a Conservative Government.

    The same is true of Livingstone’s cavorting with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, as it is of Tony Benn’s constitutional proposals that once caused Jim Callaghan to threaten to resign as Labour Leader.

    Smug Thatcherites who think that “the Right won” in the 1980s need to ask themselves some very searching questions indeed.

  • adam

    Are you trying to imply that Ken Livingstone has a drink problem? If so it’s rather below the belt. Tony Blair said in his book that he(blair) used to polish off a bottle with dinner.

  • Noa.

    You found time and tolerance enough to read the little sod’s memoirs?
    Surely a study of Calliphoridae would be more interesting?

  • David Lindsay

    A mere two bottles of wine for four people strikes me as extremely un-Jewish, and I mean that as a compliment.

    Anyway, perhaps Livingstone, for all his many and undeniable faults, might put himself at the head of a movement for Britain to fulfil her longstanding obligations? “The civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” were “not to be prejudiced”, according to the Balfour Declaration. But they certainly have been, and are being.

    The Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and for that matter the East Bank, are all one or more other stories. But when it comes to Israel proper, why did we not do for those “existing non-Jewish communities” what we later did for the East African Asians? Is it still too late to do that, not with a view to flying them over here, but in order to create that possibility while making it clear that, while they remained where they were, then they enjoyed the full undertaking that we gave to them?

    An undertaking given when they legally owned most of the land, rather than when their villages appeared on no official map, therefore enjoyed no amenities, and could look forward, either to being demolished by the State as such, or at the very least to having their places of worship and de facto community centres (churches as well as mosques) burnt down by the strongest supporters of the Government, if not by actual agents of the parties of government. We promised them that nothing like that would happen. We owe them. We owe them a hell of a lot.

    If the Arab labouring class ever were to be evacuated to Britain or anywhere else, then the Israeli economy would simply collapse, as the South African one did when the black working class just stopped working. Let that possibility exist on a permanent basis.

    And if we are finally to make good Balfour’s promise to defend “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, then are we also finally to make good his promise to defend “the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”, now and increasingly no less “prejudiced”, and that for the same reason?