British Media Take U.K. Labour to Task Over anti-Semitism, Nazi Comments

Shortly after ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone's expulsion for linking the Nazi leader with Zionism, commentators openly accused the party of crossing the line.

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Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn waits to launch the local election campaign in Harlow, Britain April 5, 2016.
Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at a local election rally this month.Credit: Reuters

British press commentators were quick to condemn Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s bungled responses to a growing tirade of anti-Israeli remarks by political peers that some claimed cross the line into anti-Semitism.

Within hours of Corbyn’s suspension of former London mayor Ken Livingstone for suggesting that Hitler had embraced Zionism, Telegraph View posted a scathing response titled: “Labour MPs need to confront Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism.”

“Many on the hard-Left subscribe to the view that Israel is an imperialist power that bears legitimate comparison with other authoritarian regimes,” the Telegraph commentary said.

It reminded us of how Corbyn had “once described militant anti-Israeli organizations Hamas and Hizbollah [sic] as 'friends' and how he courted trouble in 2005 for comparing a Jewish reporter to a ‘concentration camp guard."

The commentary went on to say that MP Naz Shah, suspended by Labour on Wednesday for her “endorsement of a cartoon advocating the removal of Jews from Israel – which began this row – was not a one-off. It was indicative of a philosophy that has been validated by Mr Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party."

It concluded with the question: “What are Labour’s moderate MPs going to do about it? How can they continue to remain in a shadow cabinet run by a man who is handing out the keys of the asylum to the lunatics? It is surely time for them to take a stand. If not now, when?”

The Economist’s Bagehot Notebook offered an explainer on why politicians should steer clear of “introducing Hitler into debates about Israel,” saying references to the Holocaust in regards to Israel “should be considered anti-Semitic.”

Firstly, the blog post said it saw a vast difference between the oppressive policies involved in Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, and the Holocaust.

“Even in the worst possible interpretation of what Israel has done to the Palestinians, it does not remotely resemble what the Nazis did to the Jews. The scale and purpose are incomparably different, in ways so glaring that they ought not to need spelling out,” the Economist blogger wrote.

“Israel’s abuses against the Palestinians occur within a territorial and political conflict, albeit one in which, unquestionably, great and indefensible wrongs have been done; the Holocaust was an attempt at ethnic annihilation in which 6m people were murdered,” it went on.

The Bagehot Notebook piece went as far as to suggest that comparisons of Israeli policy with the Nazi era also committed the sin of hinting that there may have been some justice in the World War II annihilation of so many Jews.

“The comparison is inexcusable because it suggests some sort of cosmic karma. ‘The Jews,’ the thinking often goes, have failed to learn the moral lesson of Nazism and so are uniquely deficient... the motif implies that the Holocaust was almost a form of rough justice."

BBC's Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said Livingstone's comments on Thursday "crossed a line," leaving no choice for Corbyn to suspend him.

"No one believes that Jeremy Corbyn himself tolerates discrimination against Jews. But on repeated occasions Labour has been slow and clumsy in closing down cases of anti-Semitism among its members when they emerge," Kuenssberg wrote.

The BBC's political editor went on to say that denying that there's a problem, just as Corbyn did Thursday, could makes things worse. "Perhaps in politics as in normal life, the first step towards fixing a problem is acknowledging that it exists."

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