Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mayor Livingstone I Presume

Last week, Mayor Ken Livingstone of London received a suspension by the Board of Standards from his mayoralty for egregiously insulting a Jewish journalist, Oliver Feingold, by comparing him to a a concentration guard even after he learned the man was Jewish. Since the suspension there has been a ruckus in the press, with people commenting in various directions, with some of them deploring Livingstone's speech, but also deploring the legal action that suspended him from his job for four weeks as a breach of free speech.

Andrew Sullivan, for example, with typical over-exuberance, went so far as to call this a case of "Sharia law from the Jewish lobby in England". A charge which Melanie Phillips demolishes.

Today, by the way, the suspension was blocked by the UK High Court while Livingstone mounts a legal challenge. And in typical fashion, turns the complaint back against the Board of Deputies of British Jews, accusing them of using "the tactic of McCarthyism" to silence his criticism of Israel.

Ah, so it turns out, this is all about Israel. Heh! It's another Zionist plot! And it's not about the Mayor's public behavior at all, which was extensively covered in the Press and which he could have handled at any point by issuing a perfunctory and meaningless apology. Which is the typical way these minor scandals are dealt with by public officials who want them to go away.

Norm Geras hosts Shalom Lappin responding to the flap that has arisen in the wake of Livingstone's suspension, by reminding us of some of the facts of the matter.
[Livingstone's] comment to Oliver Feingold may have been an ill-considered act, but the manner in which he dealt with the reaction to it was not. Livingstone's subsequent conduct was an integral part of a cynical campaign of divisive ethnic politics that he has been pursuing for electoral advantage.

The current defence of his insult as legitimate if offensive political expression indicates a general refusal to take seriously the deeply racist nature of his political strategy. He systematically provokes Jews in order to curry favour with a variety of political and religious constituencies. Interestingly, he incurs no serious political damage for this policy. While one can agree that it is unacceptable for an unelected administrative committee to suspend an elected official for a non-criminal act, this does not conclude the matter. Where is the general public opprobrium that one would expect as a corrective to such behaviour in a genuinely liberal society? Its absence suggests that for a large part of British public opinion this behaviour is entirely acceptable and offers no cause for alarm.


David T at Harry's Place points out in The Boy Who Called 'Zionist' that Livingstone and 'the Zionist plot' meme is old news.

Also of interest at Norm Geras' site, something I meant to post about last week, is Norm himself debating with Canon Paul Oestreicher about sanctions and boycotts against Israel imposed by the Anglican Church on the BBC World Service programme 'People and Politics'.

Norm is too modest to tell us, but he wipes the floor with the Canon, who is caught at one moment providing more than tacit justification for Palestinian suicide bombers against Israel, and when out doing this, piously proclaims himself a pacifist.

Well worth a laugh.

UPDATE: Heh, I just read in the comments at Harry's Place that Livingstone did exactly the same thing. Provide tacit support and understanding for suicide bombing at one moment, and when confronted, piously proclaim himself a pacifist.

This meme about virtuous pacifism from Canon Oestreicher and Red Ken is interesting in light of the fact that just such an ideology was encouraged by the Communists as a way to fight against free, capitalist societies, to undermine them from within.

For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.

When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to ... understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
It's a matter of bitter irony that the ideological framework set up to destroy the freedoms of the West by the Communists are now being equally well exploited by the Moslems.

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