Monday, April 03, 2017


As someone who was accused of being anti Semitic (by a right wing Tory blogger), suspended and then found innocent by the Labour Party NEC. I recommend the following article by A German Jew called Walter Wolfgang who fled Nazi Germany at the age of 13 years and is now in his 90's. He gets it right about Ken Livingstone and those who continue to try to damage him. 

:- AS A Jewish member of the Labour Party, who escaped Nazi Germany, I take the issue of antisemitism extremely seriously. I am 93 years old. I was born in Germany in 1923. My family were persecuted by the Nazis. So in 1937, at the age of 13, I left and came to live in Britain. The Nazis embraced antisemitism and exterminated six million Jews. Their vile ideology must be fought and defeated. It was the strength of my commitment to Judaism and Jewish ethical values of human equality which caused me to join the Labour Party in 1948.I was a member of its national executive committee from 2006 to 2008.

Allegations of anti-semitism should be made only when people express hostility to Jewish people because they are Jewish. Such allegations should not be made when this is not the case. It is not anti-Semitic to hold or express views about the government of Israel or about Zionism. Anti-antisemitism is hostility to Jews because of their religion, race, culture or ethnicity. Many Jews, Zionist and non-Zionist — including myself — disagree with the present policies of the Israeli government, many of which are clearly contrary to UN resolutions and against international law. #In terms of the current international situation, those who confuse opposition to the policies of Israeli governments with anti-antisemitism render a great disservice to all Jews around the world and to the Palestinians, but also to Israelis who, like the Palestinians, need a peaceful settlement.

Indeed, the lack of international pressure on Israel to make the necessary concessions to achieve a two state solution which respects Palestinian rights has prevented a resolution of the last colonial conflict — the Palestinian-Israeli one. Political views on this conflict, such as opposing the policies of the government of Israel or opposing zionism, are entirely legitimate opinions for people to express.Zionist political opinions — that is support for the state of Israel or its policies — are views held by Jewish people and non-Jewish people. It is also the case that anti-zionist views are also held by Jewish people and non-Jewish people. Freedom of expression of such views should be defended by the Labour Party. It is important that the Labour Party does not conflate antisemitism and anti-Zionism. It should uphold the distinction between opposition to a person or people because of their race, religion, culture or ethnicity (racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia) and opposition to a political view such as Zionism.

Within this context, Labour’s national constitutional committee hearing into Ken Livingstone this week is a travesty. His observations about the 1933 Transfer Agreement are broadly and historically correct. At that time Hitler was in favour of Jews leaving Germany for Palestine. The agreement reached between the Nazis and some Zionists are simply indisputable facts. It is not anti-semitic to discuss this period of history. Advocacy of Jews leaving for Palestine was made by some Jews who were Zionist, some non-Jews who were anti-Semitic, by some non-Jews who were friendly and some who were indifferent to Jews.

Livingstone has an outstanding record of fighting against racism and anti-semitism, including in his time as leader of the Greater London Council and two terms as mayor of London. Thanks to Livingstone, Jewish community organisations and cultural events received significant support and the annual Holocaust Memorial Day was appropriately marked by the capital’s government. And these initiatives against antisemitism were one part of a widely acknowledged broader programme of activities celebrating multiculturalism and our diversity, including through the promotion of public, free, celebrations and commemorations of all the main faith and secular cultural festivals and anniversaries observed by London’s communities.

In Livingstone’s own words: “The purpose of such events was twofold. On the one hand to celebrate the cultural and social contribution of London’s diverse communities and on the other to encourage inter-faith and inter-community awareness to reduce prejudice born of ignorance and promote understanding.To me, it is evident that Livingstone is being attacked because of his long record as a leading figure in the left and because he supports the Palestinians, and not because he is either offensive or anti-Semitic. His suspension this past year has been entirely unjustified. The Labour Party owes him an apology and should restore his membership forthwith.

Monday, January 02, 2017


THE fourth session of the Scottish Parliament is now coming to an end. This was a parliament dominated by the referendum — a referendum that took up such a huge amount of time and effort by all concerned that making real, lasting and radical change was placed firmly on the back burner.
But we did see one real and very significant act of social change with passing of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill — supported across the political divide in a debate that I believe showed the Parliament at its best.
Contrast that with the absurdity of The Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill, which resulted in a group of people — largely working-class young men and women — denied the same rights as other citizens by virtue of them purchasing a ticket to a football match.
This Act should be repealed at the earliest opportunity. In so many ways the parliamentary session represents a huge missed opportunity with little in the way of radical change. There was no use of the parliament’s tax powers to redistribute resources to tackle Scotland’s appalling health and wealth inequalities. The gap between rich and poor has in fact grown. Budget decisions made by the Tories at Westminster were largely passed on, with local government forced to sign up to even greater cuts than George Osborne has imposed on English councils and do the government’s dirty work with cut after cut or receive a penalty should councils choose to protect services.
Some 60,000 council jobs have gone but these have been dismissed by SNP trade union group convener Christina McKelvie and Finance Secretary John Swinney as “exaggerated” and “made up.”
Only days later SNP councils announced hundreds more job losses following another half billion of cuts imposed on them.
In Scotland’s further education sector there are 156,000 fewer student places following Mike Russell’s shambolic college reforms. Some £90 million has been paid out in redundancies to over 3,500 staff who have lost their jobs.
Across our NHS, staff and budgets are under pressure like never before and the failed social care system leaves people in hospital for weeks on end when they could and should be at home recovering.
In the police service the new organisation that is Police Scotland has made what can at best be described as a very shaky start with one chief constable having already been dispatched.
So across public services we see problem after problem and cut after cut. Against this background you would expect any government — but more so one that claims social democratic credentials — to be putting forward a suite of proposals to address the pressing demands of our vital public services.
But alas, no. There will be no redistribution, no progressive use of the Parliament’s tax policies to inject much-needed cash into our essential services, no “scrapping of the unfair council tax” — just tinkering — no commitment to tax high earners.
Cuts to benefit the wealthy — no 50p tax rate for high earners, no progressive or redistributive measures, just the scrapping of air passenger duty as a gift to big business. At this election Scottish Labour is offering an alternative that puts clear red water between us and the managerialist establishment of the SNP.
We will end austerity with a 1p tax increase while protecting lowpaid workers, set a 50p rate for high earners, reject Osborne’s amendments to thresholds for those at the top and cancel any cut to air passenger duty as both an economic and environmental policy — with all that we will be putting money back into the vital public services that civilise our society. This is good for jobs, good for services and good for our country’s future prosperity and wellbeing.
In the run-up to May’s election, socialists will have to decide whether they choose to support a Labour Party that is arguing for a progressive economic policy that asks those with most to pay more to fund the services that help those in need, or a nationalist party committed to little change and a steady-as-you-go strategy that fails to challenge the social and economic inequality that scars our society.
  • Neil Findlay is Labour MSP for Lothian.