At 3:35 into this clip, you'll hear Ken Livingstone make the astounding anti-semitic claim that Orthodox Jewish laws of religious conversion are racist and that they originate from the same late nineteenth century German racist exclusivist ideologies that culminated in Nazism.
You wait apparently forever for some unambiguous evidence that, yes, Ken Livingstone really has uttered anti-semitic statements, despite his pious denials, then three eye-popping bits come along at once.
Thanks to the hard work of Joseph K published as a comment on this post yesterday, here's a transcript of the context and the key words used by Livingstone in the course of chairing this 2010 Press TV broadcast reviewing a polemical anti-zionist book on zionism:
Is not the problem here that when Zionism was conceived of back in the 1880s, the world was one that accepted racial division… The Germans talked about anyone of German blood, even if it had been a thousand years since they left, able to come back. The world broadly accepted this racism at all levels, and that was the origin of Zionism – ‘every other group is racially selective, we will do it’.
We see that today in this ridiculous situation that that whereas Christianity and Islam massively goes out there to convert people to its [sic] faith, it’s very difficult to convert into Judaism. I think it’s a real problem, there’s this racial exclusiveness that has its origins in that dreadful time… 1880s, when all nations suffered from it.
As ignorantly wrong about the history he claims to be drawing on as he is about the teachings of Christianity and Judaism, Livingstone targets Judaism as a different religion that is racist and intolerant, unlike Christianity and Islam. His “history” of the conversion rules of Judaism being based on nineteenth century German racial exclusivism is a total and malign fantasy calculated to represent Judaism and Nazism as having the same roots. Equating zionism and Nazism are central features of anti-semitic anti-zionism.
Making Judaism difficult to convert to goes back to Talmudic times, not long after the period of Rabbi Hillel and Jesus of Nazareth and although the Rabbis made it more difficult in the centuries following the Jewish Diaspora, has nothing to do with the rise of political zionism in the mid to late nineteenth century.
Judaism is not interested in race. A child is Jewish if he or she is the child of a Jewish mother, whether he or she is black, like the Jews of India, Ethiopia and many parts of the Maghreb, or pale skinned, blond haired and blue eyed, like some of the Jews of Poland and Russia, frizzily dark haired and curved-nosed like many of the Jews of Germany, or has the characteristic skin colour and eyes of the children of Jewish converts who came from Japan and China. Anyone can convert to Judaism, provided they are not the children of a sexual union ruled illicit in the Torah, such as an incestuous union. All shades of zionist movement (of which there are many, both secular and religious, socialist and economically conservative), have always accepted that anyone born or converted according to Orthodox Jewish rules is eligible for citizenship of the Jewish state, wherever they live in the world.
Religious zionism however goes back to the first Psalms of the first period of Jewish exile to Babylon, which yearn for the return by the entire people to the homeland, both the land of Israel, and Zion-- the City of Jerusalem. They have been sung and chanted by religious Jews everywhere in the world as part of the prayers which accompany every meal they ate for almost two thousand years and continue to this day. Every orthodox Jewish wedding going back to the earliest exile days has begun with an invocation to "Let us go up to Jerusalem" taken from the Song of Solomon and other Hebrew Bible texts
Each and every Orthodox Jewish prayer service is suffused with repeated scriptural readings and prayers which long for the return of the whole people to”our Land” and to Jerusalem, which the Jews have always prayed to be granted “speedily and in our days” and continue to pray for today.
Small groups of religious Jews, including some of the most renowned Jewish Rabbis of history such as Maimonides and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria continued to make pilgrimages to and even settle in various areas of present day Israel and the West Bank, particularly the Old City of Jerusalem, Safed and Hebron going back many hundreds of years. The birth of modern political zionism is manifestly not a copying of the emergence of proto Nazi racism in the 1880s, but a complex series of movements which first started being articulated in the wake of the Enlightenment and the 1848 revolutions.
Modern political zionism first became a mass movement not because of German ideology but because of the rise of new post Enlightenment state-organized forms of persecution of assimilated and unassimilated Jews alike across European countries from republican France to Tsarist Russia. But all were in their different ways rooted in Jewish scriptures and traditions of study leading to action.
There was always a minority orthodox religious current in political zionism that sought to persuade Jews to return to Zion so that they could more fully observe Jewish religious practice, including the Torah religious obligation to live in the land of Israel and the range of religious commandments that can only be observed in Israel and Jerusalem.
Livingstone however strives to smear zionism as a monolithic racist movement explicitly derived and descended from the very same racially exclusivist roots as Hitler’s Nazism. That's anti-semitic enough. But then to smear the ancient Talmudically rooted laws of conversion to Judaism as having the very same roots originating in the same period is on an altogether more malignant form of anti-semitism, falsely smearing Judaism as racist and the racism concerned sharing its origins with Nazism.
That fits very comfortably with the ideologies of the current Iranian regime which Livingstone has professed himself to be so much as in opposition to.
Yesterday, a post on Harry's Place featured this video of Livingstone addressing a meeting of Londoners to organize against the EDL.
He claimed to be speaking against ethnic and religious division, but his speech airbrushes out the inheritance of Judaism, seeking to place the Jewish Talmudic Sage of Israel, Rabbi Hillel in what he refers to as what we like to think of as Palestine, by which he in fact means the present day state of Israel where Hillel lived and studied.
Livingstone then talks of Jesus, likewise of Ancient Israel, also without mentioning that he was an observant Jew who regarded himself as such, as coming along several hundred years later than Rabbi Hillel. In fact, they were virtually contemporaries drawing on identical Jewish scriptures and traditions and there are far more similarities in their religious teaching and practice than there are differences. Livingstone claims that Jesus of Nazareth never once uttered a single sentence of intolerance of anybody. He seems not to have come across these quotations of the words of Jesus from the Christian Gospels which include some of those most at variance with rabbinical Jewish teaching :
“Then shall he also say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting FIRE, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
“It would be better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he was cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble.”
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.’
“For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 3and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
The implications of both this talk and the Press TV one, is that while Christianity to some extent, and particularly Islam (based centrally on one small extract from Mohammed's final sermon, and ignoring some more problematic issues with different interpretations of Mohammed's teachings as a whole by some groups of its followers) are exemplary in teaching racial tolerance, Judaism is not, and incorporates Nazi-style racism in its very conditions for joining the religion.
If we do want to look for some shocking examples of religious bigotry born of ignorance and malice which Livingstone decries in his talk to the Unite meeting, we need look no further than Livingstone himself speaking on Press TV just a year earlier and in this talk.
There are many who swear that Livingstone is not anti-semitic, notably Ed Miliband, who famously declared, albeit meaninglessly, that he "does not have an anti-semitic bone in his body". Actually, I am inclined to believe that were there three or four million Jewish voters in London and Israel owned the oil supplies of the western world and the Islamic countries had none, he might be regularly heard courting Jews and actually learning something about Judaism. Maybe.
In fact the question of whether Livingstone "is" anti-semitic or not is not as relevant as the fact that he chooses to use anti-semitic tropes and smears for political purposes,just as he is currently uttering the expression of believers' piety for the Islamic prophet Mohammed, "peace be upon him". Only in the case of his anti-semitic utterances, his reasons for doing so are malign and utterly discreditable, and over the last few years they seem to run very closely parallel to the anti-semitic views and eliminationist "ideals" central to the politics of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime.