Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Ken's sources disagree with him

UPDATE: As you'll have seen by now, Ken was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute, but given an extra year suspension. I've added a conclusion in bold at the bottom of this post. 

As I write this Ken Livingstone is awaiting a judgement on his expulsion from the Labour Party for bringing it into disrepute by his obsessive invocation of Hitler. Note, the charge is not antisemitism (I don't think Ken is "an antisemite", although he seems to have something of an obsession with Jews these days). Nor is the charge getting historical facts wrong, so in a sense this post, which is about facts and their interpretation, has no bearing on the separate question of whether he should be expelled or not.

Ken has seized on some facts about Nazi-Zionist co-operation, and interpreted them in a very particular way. I have already pointed out that his interpretation is at odds with his first source - the highly controversial and fascist-promoted pseudo-historian Lenni Brenner.

This week Ken has been citing, instead of Brenner, a 1970s article by Francis Nicosia. The trouble is, while Nicosia does detail a lot of co-operation between individual Zionists and parts of the Nazi machine, his interpretation of the facts is sharply at odds with Ken's.

Remember, Ken's claim is that Hitler "was supporting Zionism - this is before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews." So, to be clear, that's Hitler, not the Nazi Economics Ministry, and supporting Zionism, i.e. the aspiration for a Jewish national state in Palestine, and not (some) Zionist organisations. However, here's Nicosia, who has earlier in the article described how the Haavara Agreement was developed by Nazi officials without Hitler's involvement, with Hitler finally endorsing the project in 1937:
Hitler's initiatives in 1937 and early in 1938 in the emigration question and Palestine can best be understood in terms of Uwe Dietrich Adam's phrase Hitlers Verknupfung von Kriegsnlanung und Rassenpolitik. There is little likelihood that Hitler troubled himself to any extent with the theories and arguments of those involved in the debate over Palestine in 1937; nor is there any evidence that he expected an independent Jewish state to emerge as a result of the Peel Commission recommendations, or that he believed that German emigration policy affected the course of events in Palestine one way or the other. There can be little doubt, however, that Hitler's initiatives in all aspects of Jewish policy, especially after 1937, were prompted by the ideological requirements of a National Socialist Weltanschauung which made racial doctrine the ultimate basis of German foreign policy. That foreign policy was geared toward an eventual war for the achievement of a new racial order in Europe; its prerequisite was a new racial order in Germany. However, by early 1938, this had not yet been accomplished. The decision to continue pushing Jews to Palestine was part of an effort in 1938 and 1939 to complete the new racial order in Germany before embarking on a war for a new racial order in Europe. It was to be accomplished through the final elimination of Jewish participation in the economy, and through the forced mass-emigration schemes of the SS.  
On several occasions after 1933, Hitler expressed his intention to wage war to achieve his aims in Europe. In his speech before the Reichswehr generals on 3 February 1933, his address to an assembly of Gauleiter and Party officials in Munich in September 1935, his memorandum announcing the Four-Year Plan in August 1936, and his famous Reichskanzlei meeting of 5 November 1937, Hitler indicated that he would go to war in the near future. He also believed that a domestic consolidation was a prerequisite to waging war successfully. As early as 1924, Hitler had asserted that only nach dem innern Sieg would Germany be in a position to break die eiserne Fessel seines Susseren Feindes. In his Zweites Buch, Hitler described the racial foundations of National Socialist foreign policy objectives, and the domestic pre-conditions for the success of that policy. In January, 1937, Hitler again referred to the necessary domestic ends in the Jewish question for the successful attainment of Germany's future political and military objectives. Finally, in a speech in Munich on 24 February 1938, Hitler alluded to imagined gains reaped by world Jewry in past wars, and indicated that the Jews of Germany would no longer be in a position to aid the conspiracy from within.  
By early 1938, the Jews of Germany had already been removed from the political, social and cultural life of the nation as a result of legislation between 1933 and 1935. Yet, with some restrictions, Jewish participation in the economy continued to be tolerated through 1937. Moreover, there were still some 350,000 Jews in Germany by the end of 1937, although upwards of 130,000 had emigrated by the early weeks of 1938. The so-called Jewish question had not yet been solved in Germany after five years of Nazi rule; this fact was evident to the Nazi leadership as it prepared for a war which would dramatically transform the scope of that question.
What this means is clear. Hitler belatedly came to support the agreement (possibly decisively, when other Nazis were questioning it) and Jewish emigration to Palestine at a very particular point. This point was not "before he went mad", but rather after it looked like the policy did not run the danger of creating a Jewish national state (something which Hitler and other Nazi thinkers strongly opposed), and before the Nazi state had the ability to move on to Hitler's ideal solution to the Jewish question. That preferred solution was of course elimination, the solution that was already outlined in Mein Kampf before Hitler had even come to power, on which the Nazis embarked once war started in 1939.


Ken has also embellished Nicosia's claims. Ken says “The SS set up training camps so that German Jews who were going to go there could be trained to cope with a very different sort of country when they got there [Palestine].” Nicosia only says the SS approved of the Zionist policy of setting up training camps.

And now Ken says the "Gestapo worked with Israeli agents in Mossad”, which Nicosia obviously doesn't say, as Mossad was not formed until 1949. (Nicosia refers intead to Mossad LeAliyah Bet, a completely separate agency, focused on illegal immigration into Palestine, disbanded I think in 1952.)


Ken's original claim - Hitler "was supporting Zionism - this is before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews" - was historically illiterate, misleading, inaccurate and offensive. Historically illiterate, misleading and inaccurate because the narrative it sketches simply does not accord with the weight of the complex evidence we have. Offensive because of the flippant way it deals with the genocide of the Jews, not to mention mental health issues. And offensive because it effectively uses the Holocaust against its victims, the Jews. 

Ken could easily at this point have simply clarified, apologised, said that he misspoke, that he was speaking off the cuff on the radio and then stated a more careful position, e.g. that there was some evidence of co-operation between Zionist officials and Nazi officials. Instead, he doubled down. He compounded the offensiveness. This is what brought the party into disrepute. He became an embarrassment, clutching at straws to put Hitler and "Zionism" together. He kept talking about "collaboration", a pretty loaded term, as a description for efforts made to save the lives of German Jews.  

First he reached for a discredited pseudo-historian favoured by the far right, Lenni Brenner. When it became clear Brenner was, as Ken admitted, "not authoritative", he turned to the internet and to Nicosia's obscure but authoritative 1970s article - but he cherry-picked them for facts that fit his narrative. Now, in defending himself, he is not even getting these facts straight, throwing in references like "SS camps", "Gestapo" and "Mossad" which hit buttons with those with a conspiracist worldview.