Israel’s opposition leader Isaac Herzog responded furiously Saturday to the ongoing row over anti-Semitism in Britain’s Labour Party, inviting its senior officials to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem for a reminder of the results of anti-Semitism.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union as well as its senior partner Labor, slammed the “repulsive” comments made Thursday by former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said that Hitler supported Zionism “before he went mad.” Herzog also castigated Livingstone’s “anti-Semitic colleague” MP Naz Shah. The latter was this week revealed to have posted a message on Facebook in 2014 calling for the dismantling of the State of Israel, and to have post pro-Hamas tweets and compared Israelis to Hitler. Both have been suspended by the party.
“Hitler was a Zionist?!” Herzog wrote at the start of his post, which included a copy of a letter he sent to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, inviting him to Yad Vashem.
“This is what a senior official in the British Labour Party says. A miserable and contemptible anti-Semitic statement,” Herzog continued.
“This morning I sent a sharp letter to the head of the Labour Party and the party leadership, in which I warn against the disease of anti-Semitism and its consequences. There are no words to express how repulsive are this statement and others voiced in his party in recent days.
“But it is not not enough to condemn and to be shocked. I decided to invite the heads of Labour, precisely on the week of [Israel’s] Holocaust Remembrance Day, to visit Yad Vashem to understand how shocking Livingstone’s statements are.
“When they arrive, I myself will give them a tour, to remind them of the painful realities that they have perhaps forgotten, but we remember every day.
“To Livingstone, who said that Hitler supported Zionism, and who would not apologize, and his anti-Semitic colleague Shah, who suggested that we relocate to the United States, I offer this reminder: The last time someone drove Jews from place to place it was by train to concentration camps, but this will not happen again. It will not happen because we have learned the lesson from such anti-Semites, and we will deal with them before they try to harm us.
‘To Livingstone, who said that Hitler supported Zionism, and his anti-Semitic colleague Shah, who suggested that we relocate to the US, I offer this reminder: The last time someone drove Jews from place to place it was by train to concentration camps, but this will not happen again’
“It is important for me to say, many in the (UK) Labour Party are true friends of Israel and fight anti-Semitism, but it is enough that a vocal, rejectionist minority such as Livingstone and Shah continue to cultivate anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel.
“This is a danger that must be countered with every educational, political and legal tool. These are seedbeds in which grows the despicable BDS movement… which must be dismantled.
“When we utter on Holocaust memorial days the sentence, Never again!, it is these anti-Semites that we are referring to!”
Former Labor party leader Amir Peretz also weighed in on Saturday, expressing shock at Livingstone’s remarks, and praising his suspension.
“The Labour leadership did well to suspend him, and it would be better if it removed him permanently from its ranks,” said Peretz, Channel 2 television reported on its website.
Facing intense pressure over alleged anti-Semitism, Corbyn on Friday announced an independent review into racism within the party, less than a week before his leadership is tested by local elections.
“There is no place for anti-Semitism or any form of racism in the Labour Party, or anywhere in society,” Corbyn said. “We will make sure that our party is a welcoming home to members of all minority communities.”
Under intense criticism and calls to expel him over his claims on Hitler, Livingstone doubled down on the statements on Friday, saying they were a “truth” that isn’t taught “in Israeli schools.”
Roger Moorhouse, a prominent British historian specializing in Nazi Germany, Hitler and World War II dismissed the assertions as ignorant and “historically illiterate.”
Added fellow historian Andrew Roberts: “The idea that Hitler ever wanted a fully-functioning successful Jewish state in Palestine – the dream of Zionists – is ludicrous, as Mr Livingstone undoubtedly knows. The sole reason Ken Livingstone brought up the Fuhrer in his interview was to be as vicious and loathsome as he possibly could to any Jews listening, rather than genuinely intending to make some valid historical point about the migration policies of the putative Third Reich in the 1930s.”
The Labour party’s shadow chancellor MP John McDonnell told the BBC on Saturday that an inquiry into anti-Semitism within the party, as announced by Corbyn, would help set up a system to provide “guidance” and “training” for MPs and introduce a “procedure where we root out any form of anti-Semitism or any forms of racism.”
McDonnell said he wishes Livingstone would have “apologized for some of the offense that he’s caused,” admitting that the recent statements were a “setback” for the Labour party.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell: "I wish Ken Livingstone would have apologised today for the offence he's caused" https://t.co/or6ssie7Nh
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 30, 2016
The dispute over anti-Semitism in Labour has been simmering for months — since Corbyn was in September elected party leader by grassroots supporters, despite opposition from many MPs — with a stream of party officials shown to have made anti-Semitic statements.
Corbyn has himself been criticized in the past for referring to Lebanon’s powerful Shiite terror group Hezbollah as “friends” and urging dialogue with the Hamas Islamist terrorist group.