The latest ‘racism’ hullabaloo

With that flying pig poster barely out of people’s minds, it seems that someone else has made the mistake of “crossing” a certain ethno-religious community. The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, got into a spat with a journalist from the Evening Standard, which he has accused of being too negative about London, at a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the “coming out” of the gay (and also HIV-positive) cabinet minister, Chris Smith. He compared the journo to a German concentration camp guard, after (shock horror!) finding out that he was Jewish. An account of the incident can be found on the BBC’s website, but we’re not told exactly what led up to the exchange. Livingstone asked Oliver Finegold if he was a “German war criminal”, to which Finegold replied that no, he’s not, he’s Jewish and rather offended. The mayor then replied, “Ah right, well you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren’t you?”

The strange aspect of this is that nowhere is it mentioned how old Finegold is. If he’s only old enough to be working for the Evening Standard today, the chances are he’s too young to remember anything of the Holocaust. So one imagines that the insult is not as painful as if it were said to someone who had really been alive at that time (especially if he’s Jewish). On top of this, it’s not racist. Racism is to insult someone because he’s Jewish, not comparing someone to the one-time enemies of his race.

The mayor’s office claimed that the tone of the exchange was initially “relatively light-hearted” but ended when Finegold told the mayor to “f*** off”. As one might expect, the Board of Deputies of British Jews has stuck their two-pennies in:

I find his language appalling and this man’s insensitivity appears to know no bounds at all. I couldn’t begin to fathom what drives this man in the language that he uses but it really is about time that he was brought to account for that language and I would ask that the board for standards in local government considers this latest outburst.

The quote, from Henry Grunwald, then goes off into a discussion about the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust, which is a complete irrelevance given that this isn’t a discussion about Holocaust denial or anti-Semitism, but about someone being compared to Nazis, which although inappropriate given the mayor’s position, is hardly a new phenomenon. Nazi and fascist have been common insults for decades.

I think he should apologise, but it would be depressing if Livingstone were to have to resign over this incident - it would, for one thing, confirm the view of anyone who thinks the Jewish establishment (BDBJ, Community Security Trust etc) are a bunch of over-influential bully-boys. Admittedly, they are not the only guilty parties (I saw this sort of behaviour from Welsh nationalists when I was at college), but this is the second incident in just a few weeks in which a fuss has been kicked up over individual Jews having their feelings hurt. The only people who will benefit from a situation where you can’t cross a given community are, ultimately, that group’s enemies - and I’m not talking about al-Muhajiroun here, but the far right.

Update 12th Feb: there is a full transcript here. I found this at Harry’s Place, which, after the bit about supporting fascism (a bizarre accusation, I have to agree) does not miss the opportunity to link Yusuf al-Qaradawi to fascism by producing a picture of Ken and Shaikh Yusuf embracing. Neither Harry’s Place nor This Is London mentioned that Finegold told Livingstone to f*** off, contrary to the “Livingstone refused to comment further” bit at the bottom of the TIL report (TIL is owned by the Standard).

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