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.