Ken Livingstone is a fool, but Zac Goldsmith is exploiting religious divides and Boris Johnson is racist
Let's first get one thing out of the way. Former London mayor Ken Livingstone is stupid for what he said about Hitler being a Zionist in 1933. At best, he was completely insensitive. At worst he defended the indefensible - the idea that Hitler was somehow happy for Jews to leave Germany and to go off to form the state of Israel. As if they would be allowed free will. As if their exit would be free of intimidation and of confiscation of their worldly possessions. As if Mein Kampf had never been written. Whatever agreement Hitler made for Jews to leave, the fact that there had to be one speaks volumes for the conditions faced by German Jews. Admittedly, Livingstone's bizarre historical references cloud a legitimate argument about the current state of affairs surrounding Israel, where any criticism of that country's actions in the occupied territories is often met with accusations of anti-semitism. Yet he chose the blatantly racist tweet of disgraced MP Naz Shah, who in 2014 lent her support for Israel "relocating" to the US, to make this point. In doing so, Ken Livingstone has done harm to his own legacy of embracing people of all faiths, and of promoting equal rights for ethnic minorities, women and the gay community.
Yet there is a foul stench of Conservative bias that hangs over the media's reporting of this issue. Why have the comments of present London Mayor Boris Johnson been largely forgotten, when a little over a week ago he dropped into conversation that the US president was "part Kenyan", a not-so subtle nod to Donald Trump's birther movement that sought to question the legitimacy of America's first African-American president? All of a sudden, we are fighting the Mau Mau all over again, when all the president did was say what previous white US president have called for - Britain to remain in the EU. What's next, Barack "Hussein"Obama swearing a blood oath to kill white highlanders with Kikuyu war dancing in the West Wing?
And then there is the current Tory hopeful to succeed Johnson, Zac Goldsmith, who has deemed it fit to send publicity material to Hindus (and not Muslims), warning that his rival, Labour's Sadiq Khan, would put their security at risk. It is not so difficult to deduce from this move that the Tory MP is looking to play on Hindu prejudices against Muslims, and to spread Islamophobia. The Goldsmith campaign has consistently attempted to link Khan, the Muslim son of a bus driver, to extremism, in a clear play on religious stereotypes. The Guardian's Dave Hill has tried repeatedly to challenge the Goldsmith campaign on these tactics, as the paper's Politics Weekly podcast covers in this week's episode.
Surely, if Livingstone is supposedly anti-Semitic, then Goldsmith can be accused of stirring up communal hatred and Johnson is, well, racist? Pointing the finger at one is not to excuse the other, but why aren't more fingers pointing at more than just the former mayor, and largely ignoring the incumbent and potential future leader of the Britain's capital city?