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Ken Livingstone: 'I would not have created an Israel'
Last uploaded : Thursday 25th Jan 2007 at 01:29
Contributed by : Carol Gould


( A separate report on the entire conference will be published shortly.)

Carol Gould
24 January 2007


On Saturday 20 January in London the Mayor of this great city made a remark that felt like a knife going through my gut. Attending the 'World Civilisation- Clash of Civilisations? ’ debate between Mayor Ken Livingstone and the eminent American scholar Dr Daniel Pipes on the success of multiculturalism in London, I was supposed to be an impartial observer.

However Livingstone, whose legendary pronouncements about Israel and the United States, not to mention his calling a Jewish reporter a ‘concentration camp guard’ last year decided to make a new pronouncement:

'I would not have created an Israel.’

He went on to say that the creation of Israel was a ‘travesty’ seemingly perpetrated by a United States determined to enhance its image abroad. He added that the USA and UK ought to have taken in the Jewish refugees and not displaced the Arabs for sixty years.

Notwithstanding the courage and brilliance of Pipes and of Douglas Murray of the Social Affairs Unit, this comment, met with some loud protest from a smattering of listeners, was the defining moment of the day for me. Perhaps this is because I come from an American background. Time and again one finds that American non-Jews, even those who at the moment are sympathetic to Jimmy Carter’s views on ‘apartheid Israel,’ at least have a deep knowledge of Jewish history and struggle and understand the context of the formation of the Jewish State.

The idea that a non-Jewish Englishman without any apparent sympathy for Jewish aspirations, as Ken Livingstone has shown many times, could make a statement like this sent chills down my spine. A friend married to a Holocaust survivor gave Livingstone’s comment clarity the next day when he said, ‘ Taken one step further this means he would not raise a finger to save London’s Jews in a future Holocaust if their only salvation was transport to Israel.’

After the event various Anglo-Jews said ‘Well, Livingstone supports a two-state solution.’ So what? The idea that as the ashes of Auschwitz still smouldered he would have joined the chorus of gentiles who felt -- even after most of Christian Europe had willingly sent its Jews into cattle trucks and crematoria -- those pesky Jews ought not to be allowed to go to a land of milk and honey is repugnant.

Yes, it would have been wonderful if the United States and Great Britain had opened their doors to millions of Jews as the Third Reich devised and implemented the Final Solution.

Yes, my late mother’s absolute idolatry of Franklin Roosevelt meant she could never see with clarity his abject failure to help European Jewry in its hour of need. Yes, I love Britain but am pained by its refusal to accept masses of Jewish immigrants during the Holocaust and after.

What is so vile about Ken Livingstone’s comment is that he can dismiss a nation as if it was some sort of merchandise -- ’an Israel’ -- that he, had he been buyer, would not have bought for the shelves of a chain store. Mr Livingstone, during the agony and slaughter of Partition, would you have ‘created a Pakistan?’

Why do Britons have so little understanding of what Israel means to every Jew, and most particularly to those born after 1945? Is the British educational system and are its media so starved of scope that they have not explained the origins of Zionism, which was a direct outgrowth of centuries of European and British anti-Semitism? Do Britons not know that England has the distinction of being the birthplace of the Blood Libel? No, not Spain, not Germany, not France -- Britain is the country in which the idea that Jews drank the blood of Christian children first took hold.

Here is some potted history for Ken Livingstone to give him some background on why a Jewish homeland came into being. The legends of William of Norwich and later the blood libel of Lincoln resulted in hideous pogroms and forced conversions, culminating in the York Massacre and the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 that lasted for 370 years.

Even after readmission Jews in England were not given any sort of enfranchisement afforded other men. In colonial America Jewish men and women had infinitely more rights and privileges. Meanwhile, Europe had been sizzling for centuries with regular mass-pogroms against Jews. In the nineteenth century the Pale of Settlement in Russia inspired hundreds of thousands of Jews to escape to the United States.

At the end of the nineteenth century the famed Alfred Dreyfus Trial inspired non-Jew Emile Zola to write ‘J’Accuse’ and in turn the secular Theodor Herzl to establish the cause of Zionism, as he saw not future whatsoever for his people in Europe. Dreyfus had been a valiant French officer but had been charged with disloyalty. It became a cause celebre because so many observers could see this was a show trial for a wider anti-Semitism.

So, Ken Livingstone, the Zionist movement began long before 1948 and gained momentum with the Balfour Declaration. The small band of Jews who trickled into Palestine to join the indigenous Jewish population there ( yes, Ken Livingstone, Jews have lived there without a break for five-thousand years) caused an Arab observer of the time to marvel at how the entire region could be brought out of its abject squalor and into the modern world by these ‘enlightened Europeans’ who were introducing modern agricultural and scientific ideas as well as sanitation and medical acumen.

Pierre van Paassen’s remarkable book, (Eleanor Roosevelt’s favourite, it is said) and number one bestseller in 1939, ‘Days of Our Years,’ chronicles the remarkable transformation of Palestine when the Jews started to farm and build and nurture that barren wasteland that had lain fallow for centuries under Arab control. (His book, ‘The Forgotten Ally’ also about the extraordinary band of Jewish settlers who brought Palestine out of the dark ages, has recently been reprinted and I have written the Foreword to the new edition. )

So, Mr Livingstone, the idea of ‘creating an Israel’ was one that captivated the imagination of scores of non-Jews like Orde Wingate and Pierre van Paassen and Emile Zola, people who, I am sad to say, will continue to be remembered long after you are gone. Thank God you were not around in 1948 to ‘not create an Israel.’

Yitzhak Rabin, never known for his sentimentality, once observed that the one thing that made him weep throughout his life was the idea that in the 1930s there was no country to which the Jews of Europe could escape and find safety. He said that had the State of Israel existed during the Shoah millions would have been saved from extermination.

Mayor Livingstone was supposed to have been promoting cultural cohesion at this conference but -- in addition to scheduling it on the Jewish Sabbath, precluding the attendance of even Reform Jews and their rabbis -- instead he chose to insult to the core of their being every Jew in the world by suggesting he would have rejected Jewish statehood in those terrible, dark years after the War and the Nazi genocide.

I am supposed to be a detached journalist but the Mayor has attacked the one thing that has given my generation of Jews a sense of hope, the State of Israel. As a person of Jewish ancestry who, like every member of that faith lives the memory of the Holocaust every day of my life and will until I die, I repudiate the Mayor of London and his despicable remarks about the creation of the Eretz Israel, and will never, ever forgive him for this slur upon the remnant of post-Holocaust world Jewry.

Carol Gould is a Philadelphia-born documentary producer who spent ten years at Anglia TV Drama during the golden age of British television. She is the author of 'Spitfire Girls,' about the women pilots of World War II.


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