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.

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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.)

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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.

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Notes:
  • Note: Some of Ken's defenders have pointed out that the Haavara arrangement cost the Reichsbank money in its first two years. This is true of the first two years, but the Reich made a significant profit over the life of the project, as historians  Rafael Rosenzweig and Yehuda Bauer have shown.
  • Added note: It is also worth adding that the Zionists involved in the Haavara agreement both the leadership of the mainstream German Zionist movement (whose priorities included saving German Jewish lives) and of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine, whose priorities included securing precarious Jewish settlement and agricultural self-sufficiency) - but it was bitterly opposed both by leaders of the global mainstream Zionist movement (e.g. Stephen Wise of the American Jewish Committee, which was leading the anti-Nazi boycott) and the right-wing "Revisionist" part of the Zionist movement, such as Jaobotinsky. 
Further reading: 

10 comments:

migreli said...

The Mossad leAliya Beth (Bureau for 2nd-wave of Immigration) was a branch of the Hagannah which was founded in 1938 to facilitate immigration of Jews from Nazi-dominated Europe to Palestine. It was disbanded in 1952.

Ken Livingstone, George Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn, Jim Allen and their friends all believe that it would have been preferable for the Jews to remain in Europe and be exterminated by the Germans than for them to flee to Palestine and "usurp" the Arab "natives". The British Government believed that too. To this day they attempt to impose an anti-Jewish apartheid in Palestine, and work towards the establishment of a Jew-free Arab Palestinian state, and to flood the Israeli state with the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees and make the Jews a disempowered minority there. They are contemporary collaborators with Nazi principles.

bob said...

On Twitter, Riz Mokel says "I read Bob's post as implying that Zionism is an indivisible package, so that one can only "support" it if one signs up to every element. Hitler certainly personally supported one core objective of Zionism at certain critical times, viz, transfer of European Jews to Palestine. That seems to me sufficient on a fair reading to vindicate KL's claim that Hitler supported Zionism. If I "support the Democrats" in the US, that does not imply that I support each key element of their platform."

A quick response: Quite the opposite. Zionism is not an indivisible package. Some Zionists (the American Jewish Committee, led by Stephen Wise, who criticised the Haavara agreement for breaking the anti-Nazi boycott; the right-wing Revisionists, who may even have assassinated Chaim Arlosoff for his involvement in the negotiations) were opposed to the agreement. When Ken says "Hitler supported Zionism", he speaks as if there was only one Zionism, and all Zionists were complicit in the agreement.

The key thing is that Ken said "Hitler was supporting Zionism, not "Zionist organisation", not "some Zionsts", not "a Zionist initiative". Zionism is not a political party with a programme you can pick and choose from (like the US Democrats), but a philosophy, an ideology, whose core element is not emigration out of Germany but a Jewish national state in Palestine. It was precisely this core element that Hitler emphatically did not support, but consistently opposed.

Boffy said...

Let's assume that Livingstone in his statements and arguments is wrong. The question is whether he is knowingly wrong, i.e. is he deliberately lying and fabricating in order to make a point for anti-semitic purposes. I don't know that anyone has shown that to be the case by any stretch of the imagination. I think the most that could be said is that the "Left Anti-Semitism" framework (which is not the same as straightforward anti-semitism) he operates within, i.e. a tendency to hold Jews to a higher standard than anyone else, in relation to questions concerning Israel, inclines him to accept such arguments, and "facts".

However, there is a danger here of simply falling into the "safe spaces" nonsense that closes down all real debate, simply because someone somewhere might take offence at the views that someone else might hold, and purvey. If I am a Christian, I may honestly and earnestly belief in the Holy Trinity, and seek to convince others of that belief. Whether my belief in the Holy Trinity is justified or not, is not the question, but only whether I hold it honestly. If in reality, I do not believe it, but argue it simply to to fool gullible people into handing money over to my ministry, that is a different matter.

I don't think honestly held, even fallacious views, bring anything into disrepute, what brings organisations, and intellectual freedom into disrepute is trying to close down debate around those ideas, by censorious and bureaucratic means.

bob said...

Thanks Boffy. For myself, I think the jury is out over whether he was deliberately lying and fabricating, and if so whether the purposes are antisemitic. As I've repeatedly said, I don't think intent matters all that much, compared to effect. Apart from a handful of ideologically committed people for whom antisemitism is at the heart of their worldview (the Ian Millards, David Dukes, Charles Friths, Gilad Atzmons and Lady Renoufs), I don't think it is helpful to identify who is "an antisemite", but rather for us all to be reflexive and rigorous in identifying and avoiding antisemitic tropes and discourses.

I don't think, actually, that Ken is deliberately dishonest; I think he imbibed Lenni Brenner's views at a formative moment, and his whole interpretation of history is skewed into an ultimately dishonest narrative, such that he perceives facts (and false facts) very selectively (so he reads the words "retraining camps" and "SS" on the same page and jumps to "SS camps", or sees the word "Mossad" on a page and doesn't think to check if it's the same Mossad ("Mossad" just means something like Bureau in Hebrew). So, I agree that as far as we can go is that the "Left Anti-Semitism" framework (which is not the same as straightforward anti-semitism) he operates within, i.e. a tendency to hold Jews to a higher standard than anyone else, in relation to questions concerning Israel, inclines him to accept such arguments, and "facts". David Rosenberg of JSG goes into considerable detail on this in his recent blogpost which I will add as a link to the post after posting this comment, and Norman Finkelstein's recent interview is also illuminating in how Ken's views on Israel were formed in a very particular context in the 1970s.

As for the danger of "safe spaces", I have some sympathy with what you're saying. But I don't think it's quite right in this context. It's fine to debate historical interpretations about the Holocaust, but to repeatedly bring discredited fringe pseudo-historians into the public sphere, however honestly, or to repeatedly equate values many Jews hold dear with the man that came closest to eliminating them, well, you start to embarrass the party: you become unfit to hold senior office in it (e.g. sit on the NEC), and if you keep doing it without the party censuring you, you start to bring the party into disrepute. Most of Ken's critics aren't saying his views should be banned from being uttered (I certainly don't think that), just that they shouldn't be allowed to be publicly associated with the party. (I can think of lots of other examples of behaviour that shouldn't be outlawed, but which wouldn't be appropriate if repeatedly and unrepentantly done by a public representative of the Party.

Boffy said...

Thanks Bob. I'm not sure what this means or what the implications of it are.

"Most of Ken's critics aren't saying his views should be banned from being uttered (I certainly don't think that), just that they shouldn't be allowed to be publicly associated with the party. (I can think of lots of other examples of behaviour that shouldn't be outlawed, but which wouldn't be appropriate if repeatedly and unrepentantly done by a public representative of the Party."

Does "not associated with the party" mean expelling him, or in that case anyone else who espouses views that might be felt to offend some section of the population? In that case the witchhunters will have a field day expelling anyone who espouses "Trotskyist" views, for example. Does it mean barring him from holding office, but in that case, aren't we simply enabling the party bureaucracy to determine what views can be advocated, and thereby override party democracy, taking us back again to the 1980's/90's, in a way that has already been seen in Brighton and elsewhere with branches and constituencies being told who they can elect, and democratic ballots overturned, and meetings suspended?

It seems to me that obviously the party has some basic ideological principles, even as a broad church, that must set some limits on membership etc., but that has not prevented many Tories being members, and even automatically becoming Ministers, as with Sean Woodward, Digby Jones et al. We might well argue, and indeed should argue that espousing openly racist, sexist, homophobic etc. views should lead to immediate expulsion, but I can think of many, many people in the party who that would apply to long before you got to Ken Livingstone. And that brings us full circle back to the difference between "left-wing anti-semitism", and for want of a better expression open anti-semitism, as a hatred of Jews simply for being Jews, and again back to the question of intent.

levi9909 said...

There are two glaring problems with all the detail you have gone into here. One is that without meditating on the letter m in Zionism you'd have to admit that what Ken said was broadly accurate. The other is that if the Labour Party NCC could have made such a cut and dried case against Ken for his expulsion they would have done so. That they couldn't or at least didn't was actually a favour to a Zionist movement that usually fails to stand up to forensic scrutiny, hence all the recent political shenanigans over redefining antisemitism to make criticism of Israel and Zionism all but impossible.

Also it's funny how you go into excruciating detail in Ken's case whereas Naz Shah's "offences" and "apologies" are glossed over and your paraphrasing of Jackie Walker's comments is at a tangent to the things she actually said.

But since you're such a seeker after truth Bob, get this down you. http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.782827?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

It might be behind a paywall but in it there is a link to this essay on Ha'avarah: https://www.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%203231.pdf

It's a pdf.

bob said...

Boffy, I'm really sorry your comment got stuck in moderation. I am not sure why I missed it.

To clarify what I meant: when I said "Most of Ken's critics aren't saying his views should be banned from being uttered (I certainly don't think that), just that they shouldn't be allowed to be publicly associated with the party" I meant that most of Ken's critics don't think his views should be outlawed in general rather than just "banned" in the party. The argument is not over what speech is permissible in general, but over what speech is permissible for a representative of the Labour Party. By "not associated with the party" does, I think, mean expelling him, or at least certainly if he keeps on saying it without showing any awareness of why it's wrong to, which is what makes it an embarrassment to the party.

It's not about "offending some section of the population". All political views will probably offend some section of the population. Racism and sexism and disablism are not offending random sections of the population; they are part of bigger structures of power. I could make that point at more length, but it seems bloody obvious to me. So, there's no comparison with Trotskyism.

I don't think there's any alternative, really, to "enabling the party bureaucracy to determine what views can be advocated" (with guidance, obviously, from policy set by the leader and by conference, including as informed by inquiries such as Chakrabarti's), unless you argue that ALL views can be advocated, such as, e.g. supporting the KKK. There is simply no other way of enforcing even the most basic ideological principles otherwise.

Are there party members who are homophobic, racist, etc enough to be expelled before Ken? Sure. But that kind of whataboutery is irrelevant here. When we discuss their cases we can discuss their cases on their own merits. It'd be relevant to look at precedents, but that's all.

On your final sentence: I don't see why "left-wing anti-semitism" should be treated any differently from it's right-wing variety. I think I've answered the intent issue already. I don't think intent matters all that much, compared to effect. If a Labour Party member repeatedly punched women in the face, it wouldn't really require deep psychoanalysis to find out what was going through his head while he did it. Same with sophisticated forms of racism.

bob said...

Re levi9909: One is that without meditating on the letter m in Zionism you'd have to admit that what Ken said was broadly accurate. That's just not true, as the article argues in detail. Some (not all) of his factoids were broadly accurate, but he added them up to a narrative that is wholly untrue, the narrative that he conveyed in his first sentence, that Hitler supported ZionISM before he went mad, the sentence he has repeatedly stood by. There's nothing narrowly or broadly accurate about that.

The other is that if the Labour Party NCC could have made such a cut and dried case against Ken for his expulsion they would have done so. Why is this the case? The NCC is not some committee of Blairites or Zionists. There's at least one activist of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy on the NCC, a group which spent the proceeding weeks campaigning for Ken's exoneration. The NCC is at least as likely to bend over backwards to find ways not to expel him, as happened.

Also it's funny how you go into excruciating detail in Ken's case whereas Naz Shah's "offences" and "apologies" are glossed over and your paraphrasing of Jackie Walker's comments is at a tangent to the things she actually said. Why is this funny? Naz Shah's "offences" were trivial, and her "apologies" immediate and fulsome - really nothing to discuss. I don't mention Walker in this post, and I'm not sure why I need to in order to discuss Ken's analysis of Hitler.

bob said...

Re Levi cont.
I've read Rosenhead on the FSOI site. I don't find anything at all convincing in it. A cynical, manipulative, short-term and very narrow unity of purpose is not the same as supporting a political philosophy or its core aims. Again, the issue is not the factoids (although again not all of them were true) is not the issue; quoting facts selectively and stringing them into an untrue narrative is the issue.

I've also read Yf’aat Weiss (and by now quite a large number of other articles and chapters on the Haavara agreement). It is quite striking that Weiss barely mentions Hitler, and doesn't mention Hitler being involved in the agreement, or say anything to the effect that Hitler supported Zionism. If you want to quote me the passage in Weiss's article that shows that Hitler supported ZionISM before he went mad, please do.

levi9909 said...

For all your pseudoforensics here Bob, according to the Jewish Chronicle, clearly Zionists are fearful of a truly forensic hearing over what Ken actually said:

https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/ken-livingstone-faces-new-investigation-after-hitler-comments-1.441974

They prefer the safer position that the truth hurts the Zionist movement and is therefore "offensive". And of course they're right.