The recent remarks of the first ever and former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone supposedly in support of another British Labour politician, Naz Shah, who had shared a social media post depicting a map of Israel transferred to the United States has ignited a debate on the extent of anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party.
In defence of Shah, Livingstone felt compelled to remind people that certain Zionists in 1930’s Nazi Germany came into an agreement with elements in the Nazi regime to transfer German Jews to Palestine. And indeed there is nothing remotely mutually exclusive about being both anti-Semitic and pro-Zionist. But, why he needed to drag this minor episode of European Zionist history, the Haavara agreement, into the mix in a supposed defence of Shah is bewildering.
More bewildering when one considers the fact that British imperialism was the most consequential partner to the Zionist colonial settler project in Palestine in the inter-war period. In 1917 when the British government issued the Balfour Declaration there were between probably 70,000 Jews in Palestine as opposed to at least 700,000 Palestinians. The British Empire’s policy was to establish a “national home for the Jewish people” and use its “best endeavours to facilitate” this achievement. Continue reading