It is quite clear, from the trajectory of the discussion over the last few days, that there are some people who simply see nothing wrong with Ken Livingstone’s “Rich Jews” statement.
The leaked letter records the following:
Ken toward the end of the meeting stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels
Make no mistake about this. What Ken is saying is not simply that richer people tend to vote for “right wing” parties. He is specifically claiming that “the Jewish community” as a whole will not vote for him, because Jews are rich.
“The Jewish community” is not rich. There are sufficiently high numbers of Jews with average, modest and poor incomes to make this universal judgement politically meaningless. Communities in any case don’t ordinarily vote as “blocs” – not unless they’ve been pushed into sectarianism. And that, of course, is precisely Ken Livingstone’s electoral strategy.
However, it is antisemites who trade on the stereotype of the rich Jew.
People who are defending Ken Livingstone did so on two bases. First, they suggested that Ken’s argument had been misreported. See for example, the rubbish printed by Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy:
Categorically, Ken Livingstone did not state that he believes Jews will not vote Labour because they are rich.
It is absolutely not the case that Ken believes Jewish people will not vote Labour – on the contrary, Jewish Londoners are an important part of the Labour vote in London and constitute many of our most important and effective campaigners.
However, if you listen to the tape below, you’ll see that he confirms that this is precisely the case he is making. So, Ken Livingstone got his campaign staff to lie on his behalf.
“It’s not antisemitic to say that”
As a fall-back position, the defenders of Ken Livingstone are now arguing – with him – that there’s nothing wrong with saying the “the Jewish community” are rich, Tory voters. Forget that Jews tend to vote Left, disproportionately, even when they are rich. Forget that this point was made in a private meeting to a bunch of Labour activists, who are Jewish, who have spent their entire adult political life working for a Labour victory, and biting their tongues at Ken Livingstone’s antics. Forget that Ken Livingstone himself is rich, but still (from time to time) supports Labour.
This is what they’re defending.
As Dan Hodges – another Labour supporter who is worth reading in full – points out:
In Britain, in 2012, that is the pitch coming from a mainstream political candidate to his supporters: “The Jews are opposed to me – and us – because of their wealth.” Just to be crystal clear on this point, here is what Livingstone said when first presented with the allegations, following a letter of protest from prominent members of the London Jewish community to Labour leader Ed Miliband: “[the letter is] a bit of electioneering from people who aren’t terribly keen to see a Labour mayor.” What people, Ken?
The stereotype of the rich, socially divisive Jew is so offensive, so burdened by historical prejudice, that it is on a par with the ignorant but sexually virile black or the scheming, untrustworthy Oriental. And yet it has not been evoked by Nick Griffin or one of the English Defence League’s plastic stormtroopers, but Labour’s official candidate.
To be honest, I don’t think that a candidate who supports murderous antisemites, invites them to London, and allies with their supporters in the United Kingdom is Left wing, in any recognisable sense. That some on this thread, who were once proud to call themselves Left wing, will disagree is an indication of the damages that Livingstone has done.